Big Shoes

Big Shoes

I received a few phone calls, concerning my dad’s health, from my mom in Brighton, Michigan. The calls inadvertently let me know to get out to MI because dad did not have much time to live. July 1st of 2022 began the the wait for us that many families have faced when their loved one is in Hospice care at home.

My dad has two names that he is known by, Frank the most common, and Clem for any one who knew him growing up in Chicago and close family. As I wait for his passing I thought of the big shoes that one has to fill when someone is gone. So that’s why the name of this blog, and many more to come, is called “Big Shoes.”

My mom and dad would visit Janell and I and the kids when we lived in our HUD housing apartment in Northern Virginia in the mid to late 80’s. We had two kids at that time, a boy and a girl. I remember clear as a bell one evening coming home from my job as a youth pastor and sitting down as soon as I came in. My dad, who was visiting, looked at me and said, “What are you doing?” I knew that what he really was saying is, why are you sitting down? Then he instructed me that when you come home to your family you first go to your wife and kiss her, and then you play with your kids and you do not sit down until you have spent a good amount of time with your family.

My dad was wanting me to wear big shoes. He was teaching me that the most important thing you can do when you come home is to spend time with your family.

I  remember as a kid it was my dad who played red light green light after dinner with me and all the neighborhood kids.Now, as my dad lay waiting to pass from his worn-out bag of bones to his Heavenly body, I thought, where did he learn to wear big shoes? Dad grew up on the second floor of a tavern on the north side of Chicago. He knew first hand all the in’s and out’s of things that went on in the tavern world. His dad would get drunk regularly and beat up his mom and he would have to pull his dad off of his mom. And yet, he was a great dad.

Shortly, after getting out of the Army, dad went to (as he would say) some special preaching at Moody Bible Institute. There, he discovered that life could be different with a personal relationship with God through asking for forgiveness for his sins and believing in Jesus as his redeemer. He said it took him a minute to understand because he was brought up with the “balance scale” religion. But he finally understood grace and it radically changed his life and all of those around him and also those he would meet throughout his 92 years. My dad knew first hand what little shoes looked like and at first he started wearing them. But after meeting Jesus and studying the Bible, getting involved in the churches he (and family) attended, well, he got bigger shoes.

One of my friends, who now knows where he is going when he dies, displayed to me that he is getting big shoes. I had been doing some work for him and his wife and while I was talking to him in his office he let folks know that later that afternoon his daughter was to run track and nothing was going to keep him from going to her meet, not even closing a large financial deal. I thought to myself, he is wearing Big Shoes.

Ken Johns

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