How Fortunate

The word Fortunate is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as:

1. Having good luck, lucky.

2. Bringing, or coming by, good luck; favorable; auspicious.

Fortunate comes from the word Fortunatus.  It was originally a Roman proper name turned into Greek (Phortounatos). It is the same as the Latin adjective fotunatus, meaning “blest,” or “fortunate.”

The reason that I bring this up is that I have taken a lot of time lately to reflect, and the one word that keeps popping into my head is fortunate.  Not so much the “having good luck” or the being “lucky” version, but more of the original Latin version of being “blest.” image

I drove up to Saginaw this past weekend for a family reunion.  It was my mom’s side of the family and this was the 78th year for the reunion.  As I made the almost two hour drive to where the reunion was being held I was reminiscing about years past.

I’ve been able to attend the majority of these events for the past 55 years.  I thought back to when I was maybe 7, 8, or 9 years old.  All the Aunts and Uncles, cousins, parents, and grandparents.  How they looked to me as a child.  There was always a lot of laughter and joking going on.  Along with some crying and reminiscing of years gone by and relatives that were no longer with us.

I thought about this year’s reunion as I made the drive.  My mom would not be there.  My grandmother would not be there.  Nor my uncle Don or my cousin David.  Nor countless other relatives that were no longer here.

I was filled with sadness for a while but the more I thought about it and the more the memories kept coming back, the more joyful and uplifting the drive became.  I came to realize how fortunate I am.  Not just because of this reunion and all the family and relatives that have touched my life over the years, but for everything.

– How fortunate (blest) I am I have been able to spend the time that was allotted with my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to have Janet, a wonderful wife, friend and partner of 32 years.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to have John and Jennifer, two beautiful children.  My son-in-law Mike, and our grandson, Lucian.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to wake up every morning.  A gift that only He can provide.
– To be able to go to work and shine shoes.
– To say hello to people with a smile and hopefully brighten somebody’s day.
– How fortunate (blest) I am every time my heart beats one more time, or I take in one more breath.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to be alive.

imageI’ve come to realize that I should take nothing for granted.  Tomorrow is not promised to us and every moment is a gift.  God allows us to be here for a reason, for a purpose.  Only He knows what that reason or purpose is and it is up to us to be thankful for every moment that we have and to use each of these moments for His glory.

It is comforting (to me) to know that someday I will get to see my relatives again in a better place.  A place that has been promised to us.  A place that will last for eternity.  Sometimes that is hard to imagine.  I get so caught up in what I want to do today, what I want to have, that I forget that all of this is just temporary anyway.  None of this is going with me.  It all stays here.

I thank God daily for everything that He provides for me and the time that He has given me on this planet.  I thank Him for how fortunate (blest) I have been.  I thank Him for 78 years of the “Shay Family Reunion” and for His promise of a reunion to come unlike anything that I could possibly imagine.

I thank Him right now for the ability to put into words how grateful I am to be a part of His family.  Something that I could not have done or would not have done just a few short years ago.

I asked everyone at our family reunion this past weekend to take a moment, when they had the chance, and to close their eyes and think back over the years to some of their memories of the reunion.  I am asking you imageall right now to take a moment, when you have the chance, and close your eyes and think about what it is you are thankful for.

How fortunate (blest) we all are.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

God bless you all,

John Early

 

 

 

John Early
The ShoeShine Guy

Memorial Day

Way back in the old days, in my previous career as a financial consultant, I used to send out a quarterly newsletter to my clients. It was called “The Early Report”.

I would give updates on the economy and what was going on in the stock market. Report on any special seminars or meetings that were coming up.  And give out general information that had to do with our company or the services we provided.

I would also always write about something other than financial news that I thought was important or that would be of interest.  I was looking through some of my old newsletters the other day and came across one that I thought was important to mention again.  It was from the June 2008 “Early Report” and the following is what I wrote:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died  in our nation’s service.  It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his general order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of union and confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873.  By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.  The south refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).  It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May.

imageAfter just having gone through this past Memorial Day and enjoying the good weather, good barbecues and hanging out with friends and family, I started to think about how fortunate we are in this country to be able to enjoy a lot of what we have because of the sacrifices of so many.

We want to thank those who have served in the military, past, present, and future.  We are especially grateful for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women who protect this great country and who continue to serve with honor.

It is now Sunday afternoon, (May 18th, 2014, a week before Memorial weekend), and I happen to be sitting on the deck in my backyard.  After having a nice barbecue lunch with my wife Janet and a friend, I am now just enjoying  the sounds that the birds are making and listening to the rustling of the trees in the wind,(and what seems to be the barking of a small dog a couple of houses away).

How peaceful this is.  How relaxing.  How free.  How thankful I am to be able to live in this country.  How thankful I am for my father and father-in-law who both served during WWII.  How thankful I am for my brother Paul and sister Anne who both served in the military.  For my brother-in-law who served and was wounded in Vietnam. For my two nephews, Thomas and William, who are both serving now.  And for the millions of other men and women, past and present, who have served in the military in order to protect the freedoms that have been afforded to me.  To all of us.

imageI thank God for giving them the courage and the fortitude to step up to this brave calling.  And I will be praying this coming Memorial Day for all of them. A prayer of thanks, of gratitude, of protection.  I pray that we will all keep them in our thoughts and prayers and remember them, not only on this one special day, but every day.

For all of those who have served, who are serving, and who will be serving, I say thank you and may God bless you all.

John Close-Up (498x700)

 

 

 

John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

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Community

Do you live in a community? Of course you do, we all do.  Some of us live in big communities.  Some of us live in small communities.  But we all live in a community.  I looked up the different definitions of community in Webster’s Dictionary and here are a few of what I found.

  • A group of people living together as a smaller social unit within a larger one and having interests, work, etc, in common.
  • Society in general; the public
  • friendly association; fellowship

I think most people believe (I know that I used to) that their community is the part of town where they live. “I live in the Canton community.” “I’m from the community of Dearborn.”  “Troy is my community.” And so on.   But community is much more than where we live.  It’s much more than the four or five blocks surrounding our homes.  Community is made up of our families, our friends, our coworkers.  The people we share faith and church with.  The people we come into contact with every day as part of our jobs. I’d like to think that my community is much bigger than just my neighborhood.  I’d like to think that I’m part of the Michigan community as well.  And the United States community.  And the world community.  That’s a pretty big community! But it wasn’t always that way.
imageWe can all have different beliefs, ideas, and theories about how everything all began.  But I think one thing is pretty clear.  We didn’t start out with our current community of 7 billion people.  At some point in time, long ago when everything here on earth began, there were a lot less people.  Maybe only a couple.  That very small community grew to the current total of today.  It is also estimated (by the Population Reference Bureau, I looked it up) that since the beginning of the human race, over 100 billion people have left this earth. 100 BILLION! I guess when you really stop and think about it, it makes sense.  There are 7 billion people on earth today (give or take a few million). Our life expectancy is around 80 years.  So 100 years from now the vast majority of the current 7 billion will be gone and there will be a new group of 7 billion or so.

Why does any of this matter.  Why am I even bringing this up.  We all know that the world is huge.  One giant community of people.  There are good ones and bad ones.  The friendly and the not so friendly.  All different races, ethnicities, religions, sizes, shapes, and colors.  There are 7 billion individuals living together on this planet.  So why does it matter? I think it matters a lot.  At least it does to me.  If I can see everyone, EVERYONE, as part of my community (and this is not always easy for me to do) then maybe I will treat them a little nicer, a little friendlier, with a little more respect, a little more love. Jesus tells us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” He is not just talking about our families, our friends, or our actual neighbors.  He is talking about everyone.  The giant community, the whole world. This can be a difficult task. For myself, I tend to compartmentalize.  To shrink things down. I’m not a big crowd person.  To think of my community as 7 billion people can be overwhelming.  I have to look at it as one person at a time.  If I can be just a little friendlier, a little more courteous, a little more respectful to each individual that I come into contact with, then maybe I can help make my community a better place. What if we all started to do this? To expand what we think of as our community.  We all have the power, the gifts, the opportunity to make a difference.  All of us do. I heard a great sermon by our pastor not long ago and in it he talked about the misuse of two words, “Just a.” As in, “I’m just a stay at home mom.” “I’m just a dad.” “I’m just a secretary.” “I’m just a janitor.” “I’m just a shoe shine guy.” None of us are “Just a’s.” We were all created as individuals with our own unique gifts and purpose. He has a plan for each and every one of us.  We may not know what that plan is, but He does. Don’t sit around and wait for your purpose to be revealed to you.  Start making a difference in your community now.  Your community of 7 billion.  One encounter at a time.  And whenever there is any doubt as to what you should say or do, just think to yourself, “What would Jesus do?” image There was a song written and recorded by Bill Withers in 1971 called, “Lean On Me.”  It talks about being a friend.  Being someone that others can lean on in times of pain and sorrow.  I don’t have to be a CEO or a “very important person” to be that friend to someone.  I can be “just a” shoe shine guy. And just maybe that is my purpose.

Lean On Me by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me, brother, when you need a handimage
We all need somebody to lean on I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long ‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load
You have to bear that you can’t carry
I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load
If you just call me

 

Have a blessed day,

John Close-Up (498x700)

 

 

 

John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Great Recipes

You know who was a great cook? My mom was a great cook.  I have vivid memories to this day of coming home from school and walking into our house to the smells of something awesome that she was putting together.  Whether it was green pea soup or lasagna, chop suey or tuna noodle casserole, or even her delicious liver and onions (and you can be sure that if a mom is making something like liver and onions that her kids will actually eat, she must be good), everything always smelled and tasted great.

momkitchenI’m not saying this just because she was my mom.  In fact, my wife Janet is a pretty great cook as well.  But Janet would be the first to tell you that my mom was an outstanding cook.  She had probably hundreds of recipes that she had put together over the years, and when she prepared a meal it seemed as if she did it almost effortlessly.  I’m sure this was not exactly the case and that a lot of effort went into every meal, but as a kid you just somehow thought that she must have magically whipped up another great dinner.

She also had a lot of practice.  She was always cooking for at least eleven people (nine kids and mom and dad).  I say at least eleven because there always seemed to be somebody else showing up for dinner.  A friend, a relative, a neighbor, somebody unexpected. This didn’t seem to faze my mom.  She was a good planner and always managed to have enough for everybody.Recipe1

But my mom’s cooking just tells part of the story of who she was and what she did. Her greatest recipe was her recipe for success.  I know she never thought of it this way but she was the CEO of our household.  Between cooking meals she made sure the laundry was done, the house was clean, the bills were paid and the kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing (and if not she became the chief of police).

She always seemed to do all of this with a smile on her face and a kind word from her heart.  She was a great manager of her time and of people.

In Webster’s Dictionary, two definitions of the word recipe are: 1) A list of materials and directions for preparing a dish or drink.  2) A procedure for accomplishing or achieving something.

The first definition my mom was keenly aware of and was very good at.  The second definition she would not have been consciously aware of but was outstanding at it.

I have been a student of business my entire working life.  I have read hundreds of books on business and management, marketing and branding, and the art of dealing with people.  I have held positions in sales, marketing, and management over my career and have owned or been a shareholder in 3 different companies.  I’ve enjoyed my career and the people who I worked with and all the different experiences that I’ve had.  My idea of success has changed a lot over the years and especially over the last five or six years. With the first two businesses that I was a part of helping to build we talked a lot about strategic execution, competitive advantage, business models, goals, and P & L’s.  These are all very important and an integral part of putting a viable business together.  But when I decided to start my current business 3 years ago I was in a different place in my life.  I thought long and hard about the “recipe” for this new business and what ingredients I wanted to incorporate into this business model. recipeforsuccess

There is a famous quote by philosopher George Santayana that says, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I thought a lot about my past and the businesses I had been a part of.  All the books I had read and the classes and seminars that I attended.  I thought about all the “successful” people I had known and those that had “made it.”

I kept thinking about one of the most successful people that I ever knew, my mom.  Even though she never put together a business plan, I tried to reconstruct what hers would have looked like purely by her actions and how she managed her business of being a mom.

When I thought of how she worked and took care of her business (our home) I thought of her core values, which are one of the most important aspects of any business.  There was integrity, wisdom, happiness and humor, inspiration and most importantly, faith.  These core values seemed to come naturally to her and were a part of who she was.  I decided when I started my current business that these same core values were going to be an important part of what our company was about.  These would be the main ingredients in our recipe and we would add the other stuff like, strategic execution, goals, and P & L’s later.

Starting any new business is not easy.  There are always bumps in the road and unforeseen problems.  But I will say this,  I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my life.  And after thinking about what my mom did all those years for our family, in that house, and all of the hard work it took to make our home a success; I can now understand why she always seemed to have that happy and fulfilled look on her face.

Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”  My hope is to bring some of the values that my mom brought into our lives into the lives of those that we deal with.  If that happens for us, we will be successful.

eat or drink

Have a blessed day,

John Early

John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Happy New Year !

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Wow! Another year gone by.  That sure happened fast.  It feels like the older I get, the quicker the years go by.  I don’t know if it is just me, or is it like this for everybody?  Another birthday, an anniversary, a first grandchild, a new knee, a little skin cancer removed, and BAM! the year is over.

Beach-2013_2014

It seems not that long ago that I wrote my first blog, which was titled, “Begin With the End in Mind,” and was actually written one year ago, last January.  Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to write 23 other blogs covering various topics, thoughts, and ideas.  I wasn’t really sure when I started writing this blog where I would go with it, or even what I would end up talking about.  I just knew that I had 54 years of life experience and wanted to share some of that with others.

The response, for the most part, has been overwhelming.  People approach me all the time now, even those that I don’t know personally, and say “you’re the guy that writes that blog, the shoe shine guy!”  It has given me the chance to meet a lot of good people, and to connect with them, if only just a little bit, on a personal level.  People have been able to share some of their stories with me as well, and how a particular blog hit home with them.  They’ve shared their sorrows and their joys; how some topics made them laugh, and how others made them cry.  I had a large number of people share with me their love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (blog #16).  But the most common responses that I have received over the past year were people thanking me for getting personal and for sharing my faith.  This is not where I had intended to go with all of this when I started writing the blog a year ago.  I realized though, early on, that as I was sharing my journey with others, that my faith was the most important part of who I am.  My family, my friends, my customers, everything that I have and do, is only made possible because of Him.

So I will continue to share my thoughts and ideas with you.  The successes, the failures, the milestones, and the mishaps.  The good times and the bad.  And as long as He keeps prompting me to write, and putting these thoughts and ideas into my head, I will continue this blog and we will see where the journey leads.

Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me as well.  Getting personal is a two-way street.  I like to know what people are thinking.  What inspires them.  We are all very similar creatures, created by God, just trying to make it through this short journey here on earth the best way we can.

2014 will also go by way to fast.  Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to cherish every day, every  moment, with my wife, my children, my grandson.  To make the most of friendships.  To work hard and to bring a smile to all those I come in contact with throughout each day.  To share my personal journey and my faith.

today-is-a-giftTomorrow is not promised to any of us.  I know I need to always be thankful for the “now,” and to continue to look forward to the rest of the journey that He has in store for me.

I pray that your journey will take you to the place you need to be, and that when you get to the end of this relatively short road, you can look forward to the “forever” journey that He has waiting for you.

Have a Blessed Day,

John EarlyJohn Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

A Good Leader Can Make All The Difference

I’ve been thinking quite a bit over the last couple of weeks about what I wanted to write about in my next blog.  There are lots of different ideas and thoughts that will pop into my head as I’m going through my day. I’ve always got a lot of alone time on the truck while I’m shining shoes for people and this makes for good “thinking” time.  I actually have people come up to me quite often now with their own suggestions on what I should write about .  I don’t mind this.  It lets me know that more than one or two people are reading the blog.

As fate would have it, (and if you know me at all by now you know I don’t believe in fate, but that all things happen because of Him) I went to listen to a speaker the other night talk about leadership.  It was a 45 minute talk in front of about 150-200 people.  He talked about different types of leadership and different styles of leadership.  A giving leader – Mother Theresa.  A leader who takes – Osama Bin Laden.  A peaceful leader – Martin Luther King Jr. A brutal leader – Adolph Hitler.  He talked about leaders who were admired and leaders who were despised.  He talked about what kind of leader we should be and that we are all leaders in one way or another.

We can lead at work.  We can lead at home.  We can lead our children, our friends, our peers. We all have the opportunity to lead at any given moment.  The question is, what will we do when that moment presents itself, and how will we lead? What will be our style or our type of leadership? Will we be admired or will we be despised?

It was a great talk on leadership, and I could tell by looking around the room that this speaker had the attention of all those in attendance.  I could see that they were hanging on every word and that they were looking at this person as a leader.  As I was watching this tears were welling up in my eyes.  I was getting all choked up.  I was looking at the speaker and seeing the leader that this man was.  I was, all of a sudden, not seeing the boy that I had known for 29 years but the man that he had become.  My son was the speaker and this was his first sermon in front of a large group of people.

At that moment, as a father, I could not have been prouder of him.  He was speaking from his heart to a group of teenagers who were craving leadership.  My son, John, is part of the youth ministry at our church, and his passion is helping high school kids to find their way.  His goal, and what he is working toward, is to become a youth pastor so that he can do this full time.

moby-dickPart of John’s talk had to do with one of his favorite books: Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” He talked about Captain Ahab’s ongoing struggle with the mighty whale, Moby Dick.  And as the leader of the many men aboard the ship he led them away from their true calling and into tragedy and death. This story and what it represents means so much to John and the struggles he went through, as a young man, that he has a scene from Moby Dick  tattooed on his upper arm.

People will ask him all the time; what is the significance of the tattoo? This gives him the opportunity to share his faith and to let people know, especially teenagers, that life can be tough and that there will be struggles, but if you keep your eyes on Him and continue moving forward, that all will be well.

Psalm 23:4 says: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

We all have a leader within ourselves.  We can all lead in some way, shape, or form.  Look for ways to lead.  Start out small if you have to, but look.  I saw a leader the other night who is touching lives and inspiring a lot of young people.  He also touched and inspired one old man, and I love him dearly for that.

Have a blessed day,

John Early

John
The Shoe Shine Guy

Whaddya gonna do about it?

It’s Thursday evening. I’m at home. Had a little dinner, changed out of my everyday work clothes, and sat down to relax on the couch.  The Detroit Tigers are playing tonight.  Game 5 of their ALCS playoff game against Boston.  The series is tied at this point 2 games a piece, so this should be pretty exciting.

The problem is, I can’t seem to get five words out of my head that someone mentioned to me yesterday. This someone was an old high school buddy that I hadn’t seen for over 35 years until about six months ago, when we happened to connect on LinkedIn.  I was at his office yesterday shining some shoes and we were talking about our extended families and getting caught up on things, and then he mentioned something about my last blog, “Time in a bottle.” He said that it really hit home with him for a number of different reasons.  As he was reading it he asked himself this question, and continues to ask the question, “Whaddya gonna do about it?”

keep-calm-whaddya-gonna-doThe blog talked about how much time we really have (or don’t have) here on earth.  Tomorrow is not promised to us.  Each moment and every day is a gift.  He mentioned that he now asks himself quite often, if not daily, “Whaddya gonna do about it?”

This really stuck with me.  For most of yesterday and today I couldn’t get those words out of my head. “Whaddya gonna do about it?” I truly believe that absolutely every moment that I have is a gift from God.  I take the time several times throughout each day to thank Him for those moments.  Now, Whaddya gonna do about it?

If tomorrow is not promised to me, what do I do today? How do I treat my wife, my children, my grandson? How about my friends? What about the new customer who walks into our store? Where do I go? Who do I spend time with? What do I do?

Life is zipping by at a pretty good clip. I realize that more of my “moments” are behind me than what will be in front of me (especially after talking with my old high school buddy and realizing that 36 years have just gone by).

How do I figure out what my purpose or reason is for being here? How do I make the best of each moment? I try not to over think this but do ask God regularly to give me direction.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t put here to find the cure for cancer or heart disease.  Maybe it is to be the best shoe shine guy there is.  Maybe He wants me to continue working at being a good dad or husband, to make up for the times I wasn’t that person with some of my “moments” that I have left.  Maybe it’s to be a good grandfather to Lucian, to finally learn how to change a diaper.Lucianwithshoes

All I know is that there is a reason for everything and for everyone of us.  We all have a purpose and we all have some “moments” left to make a difference.

In the most recent Superman movie that came out a few months ago, there is a scene where Superman’s earthly father, played by Kevin Costner, has a talk with his adopted son, who is struggling with his identity and purpose for being on earth.  He says to him: “Somewhere out there you have another father and he sent you here for a reason.  And even if it takes the rest of your life you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”

There is still time for all of us to find our reason, if we haven’t already, and to make the most out of each moment that we have left.  And the one thing that I am going to start asking myself everyday (thanks old buddy) is, “whaddya gonna do about it?”

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ” Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

You have a great day and don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “Whaddya gonna do about it?”

John EarlyJohn Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Time in a Bottle

time-in-a-bottle

Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them…………

If we could only save time in a bottle, wouldn’t that be great! Time is a precious thing and the older I get the more I come to fully understand this gift of time.  When we take a moment to really stop and think about it, I think we all realize that our days are numbered; that we all only have a limited amount of time here on this planet.timeisprecious

My son lost a friend a couple of weeks ago to cancer.  He was 29 years old, married, with two young children.  My sister lost her husband and the father of her two children at the age of 39 over twenty years ago.  My mom passed away at 63 and my father at 85.

Who knows the time that we are allotted here on earth.  I certainly don’t.  I don’t think anybody does.  Every day, every hour, every minute and every moment is a gift.  A gift that we all too often take for granted.  I know that I do anyway.

Our time is referenced several times in the Bible.  In Psalm 39:5 David writes:

“You have made my days a mere hand-breadth; the span of my years is nothing before you.  Each man’s life is but a breath.”

And in James 4:14 he says:

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

We are a mist.  Here for a brief moment and then gone.  In the grand scheme of things we are just a speck.  So what does this mean?  Why even think about it?  It would probably make life much easier not to think about it.  But I do.  I think about it often.  For me it helps to try and focus in on what is truly important.  I know that someday my number will be up.  I will be called from this place.  I will be no more here on earth.  And that is my conundrum.  As much as I am looking forward to spending eternity with Him, I can’t put aside the thoughts of wanting to always be with my wife, my children, my grandchildren.  I have to keep telling myself that as great as it is to be alive and with the people that I love, that it will be that much greater with them in eternity.now-is-precious

So I thank Him every day that I wake up.  I thank Him for all the moments that He gives me.  I ask Him to please show me what it is that He needs me to be doing with the time that I have.

In Chris Tiegreen’s book “Walk with God” he says: “In the grand, eternal scheme of things, we are a small point on the timeline.  By the time we learn what we need to know and are equipped to serve, we have but a moment left.  But God has given us an awesome privilege.  We can accomplish in that moment works of such significance that they will last forever.”

Take the time to think about your moments; about the gifts that you have to offer; about your time here on earth.  In the movie “Gladiator,” General Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, speaks to his fellow soldiers before a big battle.  He says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

I hope that I don’t just go through life.  I hope that what I do here will be echoed in eternity.  I need to keep that in mind when I wake up tomorrow morning.  Correction, I need to keep that in mind right now.

I hope you have a great day filled with awesome moments.

John Early

Grace

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My wife, Janet, has taught a Bible study class out of our home for more than 15 years. Hundreds of people have gone through the study, and many several times.  Both men and women have attended, people of all ages.  Some have attended that were in their mid to late seventies, to a few years back when she led a group of women athletes from U of  M that were in their late teens to early twenties, and every age in between.

Janet will still get a card or a letter every so often from someone who attended long ago, maybe 10-15 years ago.  They will express their thankfulness and gratitude for what they learned and how the experience somehow changed their life.

The format or outline of the study is always the same.  There are 23 different “cards” or topics, and she goes over a different one each week for 23 weeks.  How Janet teaches each card every week though is not the same.  I know this because for the last 4 years I have attended the study, and have never seen her teach the same card the same way once.

My wife is an amazing person.  I’m not saying this because she is my wife (although that never hurts). I’m saying it because I’ve been to a lot of seminars over the years, attended dozens of lectures and conferences, gone to quite a few classes, and met hundreds of professionals from all walks of life. No one has impacted me more from a human standpoint than my wife.  And as we are out and about, whether it be at church, the mall, the grocery store or wherever, it usually never fails that we will run into someone who comes up to my wife, gives her a big hug, and starts thanking her for something she did for them.

What is this study she teaches? It’s called “Gracestoration.” It’s about restoring grace into our lives.  It’s about accepting God’s grace which is never ending and being able to extend grace to others. This is not an easy thing to do.  As humans we want to be in charge of our own lives.  We want things to go our way. We don’t especially like it when others don’t go along with “our” plan.

Accepting grace from God and being able to extend grace to others is something that I have to continually work on (hence the reason I have been going to her Bible study for the last 4 years).  This comes easier to some people than others.  I do want to say this; as a lot of you know I had major knee surgery 4 weeks ago (total knee replacement). I knew that I would be out of commission for a while and was worried about the business and what people would think.  The outpouring of support and wishing me well has been overwhelming.  People have extended me all sorts of grace and have wished me nothing but the best.

These are the times that continue to drive my faith in humanity.  When I hear people say, “Take care of yourself, my shoes can wait; I’ll see you when you get back,” that is grace.  That strengthens my faith.gracedefinition2

Grace is mentioned over 50 times in the Bible.  We are promised by God that His grace will never leave us. There are two definitions that I like in the dictionary about grace.  The human definition: a sense of what is right and proper; decency; thoughtfulness toward others. The theological definition: the unmerited love and favor of God toward man.  This second definition means that God always gives us His love and extends us His grace even though we don’t deserve it.

I wanted to end this with the words to a song that they sang at the end of our church service this past Sunday.  It is one of my favorite worship songs and reminded me of God’s pure grace for all of us.

Grace to you,

John Early

“I Lift My Hands” by Chris Tomlin

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak

Let faith arise
Let faith arise

I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me

So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God
You are faithful, God, forever

A Short Note

This blog message will be somewhat shorter than my usual writings. It’s Wednesday night and I wanted to get something out but wasn’t exactly sure about what to write about.

I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last week or so because I’m having some surgery done tomorrow and I’ve been trying to plan out how the next 4-6 weeks will play out. I’m getting a brand new knee, and by the time you read this it will have already been installed. People have asked me if I’m nervous or anxious… and I don’t feel like I am. I guess I’m thinking more about the rehabilitation process than the actual surgery itself. I’ve had two heart procedures in the last seven years (cardio ablations for atrial fibrilation) that lasted about eight hours each. This is only supposed to take an hour to an hour and a half, so it will almost seem like a routine checkup.

Philippians4-13I do know that it is more serious than that and would ask, if you are so inclined, to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I’m a big believer in prayer and want to thank all of those who have already reached out to wish me well.

One of my favorite verses from the Bible and one of the first that I memorized after accepting Christ into my life was Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’ I say this to myself often and it continues to help me through all kinds of situations, but it is still comforting to know that there are others out there as well praying and pulling for you.

I had thought about waiting until Thursday night after surgery or on Friday to write something for the week. I would be resting in my hospital room and have some time on my hands. But then I realized I will be on some pretty heavy pain medication and that is probably not the best time to write a blog. If that were to happen, I might end up sharing my views on what I thought about politicians, or the economy, or who knows what else, and that is probably not a good idea.

So I just wanted to keep this short and simple and somewhat to the point. I’m looking forward to not having any more pain in my knee and getting back to my regular routine of shining shoes, repairing soles (and maybe some souls), and hopefully helping to put smiles on faces.

Thanks, everybody – and the next time you see me I will have a bouncier step in my walk.

God Bless,

John Close-Up (498x700)

John Early
Shoe Shine Guy