Monthly Archives: September 2021

Please Welcome the newest member of the Two-Shoe Club

In my family, I was the sole member of an infamous club. The “Two-Shoe” Club.  Apparently the socially acceptable practice is to wear two matching shoes in public. I broke this societal norm, by wearing two different (but similar) shoes. Twice. Down through the years, being the only member of this club brought much derision and ridicule from my usually loving family. Most often my dear, not-always-so-sweet wife, Karla, began the conversation like this, “Do you remember, boys, when dad…” Hilarious laughter followed. 

But glory, hallelujah, there is a new member of the club. Please welcome, Karla Prince, to the Two-Shoe Club. Last week, we were at an event where I was speaking, Karla looked down and discovered that she was wearing one black shoe with a big silver buckle on top and on the other foot was an ever-so-slightly-different-shaded black shoe with no buckle. She explained the faux pas by saying she was trying on both shoes to determined which went better with her outfit and then forgot to decide between the shoes.  The result: the newest member of the Two-Shoe club.

My suspicion is that the Two-Shoe mockery will be a thing of the past in our family now that the instigator, Karla, has joined the club. Please let the record show: my two-shoe wearing experiences happened on Sunday mornings, when I was putting on my shoes early in the morning, in the dark, as to not awaken a certain sleeping beauty; her two-shoe episode happened in the light of day. “Aha,” I want to say, “looks like the shoe (literally) is on the other foot.”

It’s not in the Bible (it might be a Native American proverb) but we’ve all heard the saying: Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. It’s a call for empathy. The great theologian Steve Martin once said, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” I don’t think that’s the point. 

The author of Hebrews tells of Jesus and wrote: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15). In other words, Jesus knows what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Jesus empathizes with the weak, tired and broken. We should too.

Empathy is a lost emotion these days. People would much rather lash out than have empathy. But as we strive to be Christ-like, we would do well to empathize with the plight of others. Paul wrote “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15). In other words, we need to walk in one another’s shoes, whether they match or not.

Called vs. Hired

The Central Church body did not “hire” me nearly eight years ago. They “called” me. There’s a difference. But before, I get to that, please allow me to walk down memory lane.

As a pre-seventh grader, I was sitting around a very non-cool campfire at family camp. It was supposed to be an “all teen afterglow” following an evening service. The four other nerds and me that showed up, didn’t know that “all teen afterglow campfire by the ‘girl’s lake’” (no mixed swimming in those days) was code for “Nerds Only Need Attend.” Fittingly, I was there. A pastor named, Roy Quanstrom (the father of Kankakee College Church pastor and Olivet Nazarene University professor, Mark Quanstrom), who was very cool, probably thought, “Why am I hanging out with these five nerds?” I don’t remember what Pastor Quanstrom said that night, but I remember looking up at the great big sky and sensing that God had bigger plans for me than All-Star Baseball second baseman for the Detroit Tigers that I had dreamt of becoming (with my athletic skills and size, the only professional athletic competition I might have been qualified for was “jockey.” Besides being a nerd, I had unrealistic expectations of my athletic abilities. Sadly, my golf partners in this Saturday’s Central Church golf tournament are about to learn this fact, but I digress). God called me to become a pastor that night, and I’ve never lost that calling.

Being called by God doesn’t mean “easy.” Ask the prophet Jeremiah or the Apostle Paul as they were sitting in a jail or ask the thousands of Christian martyrs when you reach heaven’s shores. Being called by God doesn’t make you rich. Have you seen the Nazarene pastor’s retirement plan? Too words: “Pa Thetic.” Being called doesn’t make you immune from criticism. Check out my inbox on any given Monday. Being called doesn’t make you perfect. Ask Karla, she can give you a long list of my imperfections.

In my case, being called meant that God (for reason only known to the Almighty) had determined that the very uncool, Garden City, Michigan kid with his unrealistic hopes of becoming the next Sweet Lou Whitaker just might be used by Him in ways only known to the Almighty. It has been that calling that kept me focused when we were living below the poverty line while pastoring in Bad Axe and kept me determined when the harshest carnal critics (believe it or not, pastoring isn’t for sissies. Thank you, social media) come at me with double barrels. That night at the campfire, has sunk deep into my bones and I cannot shake it. God Almighty (for reasons only known to Him) called me.

As such, the church board of Central Church didn’t “hire” me. God called me. God put an unshakable urgency to minister in Flint, even though that meant leaving a great church and our sons behind in Kansas. God calls others too. I was talking to a social worker this week. God called her. I know a police officer who is called by God. My doctor friend, God called him too. There are plenty of non-clergy divine callings that God has placed on people’s lives. God calls people to places of service. We aren’t hired hands doing a job. We are servants fulfilling a calling.

God called me to pastor Central Church and I am so glad He did. I would have been a lousy second baseman.

The Enemy’s Scheme: DIVIDE and conquer

I was a whiz at math growing up. From an early age, my mom and dad had me counting– adding and subtracting. Math was a game for me. I loved it. In the fourth grade, I had a 12th grade math competency level. That led to my skipping over fourth grade and going directly from the third grade to the fifth grade. (It’s a long story, but my parents were not informed of this and did not want me to be in the fifth grade. I would have been the smallest fourth grader, so I was an extra, extra small fifth grader. As a result, I stayed in the fifth grade a second year. I may be the only kid in history to have been “double promoted” and “flunked out” a year of school). All this to say, I was good in math back in the day.

I’m not so crazy about it now–especially division. That seems to be our world’s specialty. Our Enemy will use anything possible to divide the church (see the debates over masks and vaccines as “Exhibit A and Exhibit B”). The devil’s strategy seems to be divide and conquer and he has been working overtime to accomplish this evil agenda. Don’t be a party to it, my brothers and sisters. The church must be united! Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25).

Our world is crazy, angry, and in many ways a tinder box. It seems like folks are ready to explode. Moreover, people’s opinion on the things of God are at an all-time low. More folks than ever claim no religious affiliation. More folks than ever claim to be an atheist. More folks than ever are walking away from faith. In other words, the world needs true followers of Jesus more than ever. We must be united. We must always exhibit the love of Jesus. Let’s not lose sight of the Master!

We have a big job to do! Let’s add love to our world. Multiply God’s blessings. Subtract anything that keeps us away from Jesus and determine to not divide God’s people!