Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stop It!

This blog post is written specifically to my Christian and clergy friends. All are welcome to read it but it might make more sense if one realizes to whom it is directed.
Before reading this post I strongly encourage you to watch this video.
With that in mind, every time something terrible happens in our country (mass shootings, cops shooting a unarmed suspects, riots, etc.) and you:
·         Immediately post on Facebook some mime, picture or post expressing the popular opinion about who is at fault – STOP IT! Instead, step back, take some time for an investigation to be done, for facts to be uncovered so that an intelligent conclusion (Instead of an emotional conclusion.) can be arrived at and then, if you must, weigh in with your thoughts.
·         Speak out about how heartbroken you are about what has happened, piling on the words to sound even sadder than the last person who expressed their sadness. STOP IT! Of course you are heartbroken. Any caring, mentally balanced, emotionally healthy, clear thinking person is heartbroken. You are adding nothing helpful to the corporate conversation. You are not helping.
·         Support a rally sponsored by BLACK LIVES MATTER or any other special interest group. STOP IT! Of course Black lives matter. I haven’t done the research but I feel comfortable saying that less than 5% of the American population doesn’t believe that black lives matter. And holding a demonstration on the subject is going to do absolutely nothing to change the minds of the bigoted jackasses who don’t believe that black lives matter. Because such demonstrations hold such great possibilities of descending into violence, and do so little to effect change, they are generally a bad idea.
·         Trot out your diatribe that if we would past some more laws on gun control, all of this madness would cease. STOP IT! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that guns are not our core problem – not even close. Hatred, lack of aggressive treatment of mental health problems and attempting to live as a society in a spiritual vacuum are at the heart of our violence problem. Could we do better with the control of guns in America? Of course we could. Would it make a huge difference? Probably not. Certainly we are not naive enough to believe that, are we? Gun control is just an obvious and easy topic to debate. Take away the guns and the hatred, racism and killing would stop? Of course not.
·         Use the opportunity to plug your favorite politician. STOP IT! In my lifetime I have watched politicians of all ilk’s promise the moon, rise to power and nothing much has changed. The sad truth is if they have the power to procure a significant office, they don’t really care about us. (No matter what the TV ads might say.) Our political system is so dysfunctional that real change has become an impossibility. And my observation over the decades has been, if you want something to get profoundly screwed up, put the federal government in charge of it. No matter how badly you want to believe it, the reality is your candidate for office is not going to fix our country.
·         Express your shock that a police officer has done something inappropriate, improper or contrary to the protection of the public he or she is sworn to protect. STOP IT! Is it a shame? Yes, of course. Is it shocking? Not really. Cops are people and people make mistakes. In any given group of people one will find some that are not too intelligent, some that are mean people, some that are bigoted people, some that are thoughtless people and some that are emotionally unhealthy people. That would be true for police officers. My research tells me that as of last year there were 1.1 million police officers in the United States. If there were just 1% of these officers who fell under the unhealthy descriptions I just shared that would work out to about 10,000 possibilities of something going very wrong. So, is misconduct by a police officer horrible and unacceptable – yes. Do these bad apples need to be weeded out, absolutely. But is this bad behavior shocking, no.
All of the above is so easy to do. For many of us these are our default responses. Talk first and think later. Knee jerk to our default political position. Respond emotionally instead of intelligently. Talk much and do little. It is just what we do. It is also profoundly ineffective. So just STOP IT!
Let me suggest what we Christians and clergy could do that would make a difference. Do what God put us on this earth to do. Apply our theology that tells us that we live in a fallen and broken world that needs the wholeness and healing that comes only from God through a relationship with Jesus. Get out of your office, your home, your church, your comfort zone and engage some people in real and vital relationships and conversations. Within the strength of those relationships share the love, healing, forgiveness, mercy and salvation that is made available to them through the love of God in Jesus Christ. Take some great advice from my son, David. “Want to do something about racism? Befriend a racist. Don't think racism is a problem? Surround yourself with minorities. Want to change the world? Get off Facebook and engage your fellow man. You won't change someone's mind by arguing with them.” Even if he is mine, I think the man is brilliant.
Want to change the world? Change hearts and lives. That is done one-on-one in relationships. Want to see hatred end? Change lives. I know it works because it worked in me. I grew up angry, hostile and basically a hater. If I met you I didn’t like you. My brother introduced me to Christ and Jesus changed my heart. I can’t explain the process but I know it happened. Politics didn’t. Arguments didn’t. Lectures didn’t. Those things may change circumstances but they won’t change hearts and lives. Jesus did it for me and millions of others and He can do it again in this dark and chaotic world in which we live. Things change. People don’t. Not without lots of work and the touch and power of God.
It is our calling as Christians: we are Ambassadors for Christ. We must get out of our Christian ghettos, connect with people who do not yet know God and are struggling with hurt, hatred, racism, brokenness, sin, lack of purpose, confusion, addictions, crappy relationships, fear, poverty and share with them the good news that there is a God who loves them and intends more for their lives.
Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.
He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Name Game

Names were simple when I was a young’un. Bob, Bill, Linda, Kay, Liz, Carol, Tom, Barry or Larry would suffice. But, just are parenting has become a difficult science, the naming of the child has become a big deal.

We contemplated the naming of our children for several hours. We named one with a longstanding family name from my side. The next we named for her maternal grandmother and aunt. The next was named for my best friend and his grandfather. The last was named what she was named because we liked the name. (I guess we had run out of relatives we liked.) The spelling was basically straightforward: William Thomas, Margaret Francis, David Nelson and Robin Lynn. Nothing difficult here.

But then the following generations have decided to make parenting and child naming much more difficult. I honestly feel sorry for the children of today. They are never left alone… and I mean NEVER. It is considered bad parenting to let your children out of your sight. To make things worse, the government has gotten involved. (That is a guarantee that things will get goofy.) Treat a child like I was treated and now you might get charged with child endangerment.

I remind parents that the best times, the most fun they had as children, their parents were not present. I am a part of those generations that, on summer days, left the house after breakfast and didn’t come back in until it was dinner time. We camped out for days at a time. We shot bow and arrows, BB guns and rifles without adult supervision. We built campfires and cooked our own dinner. We carried pocket knives and hunting knives and knew how to use them safely. We could hunt, clean the game, butcher it and cook it. I got crappy jobs I did not like and kept going to them. I drank out of a hose and didn’t die… went canoeing on the Ohio River without a lifejacket and still lived… I even rode a bike without a helmet and lived to adulthood. The parents weren’t there. My childhood was an unplanned, unstructured adventure. It was great.

When my brother was 16, I was 14 and my sister was 10, we loaded up in the family car (sans parents) and drove to Washington D.C. to visit an aunt and uncle. Contrary to popular beliefs, we all lived through childhood, basically unscathed, and learned to overcome fear, become self-reliant, think for ourselves, develop maturity and not depend on our parents to always be there to make sure nothing bad ever happened to us. Back then we called it growing up.

Many of our children today, ever supervised and overseen, are growing up without a spot, chip, or emotional scar – perfect. Like fine crystal they are lovely to look at but easily shattered. It takes little to blow their worlds apart. They need “safe spaces.” Bullying can be life threatening. If a boss speaks unkindly they must leave that job. In other words, they have survived childhood but have never really grown up – never matured.

Did bad things sometimes happen to us? Of course they did. I got cut from a Little League baseball team and it broke my heart, but it didn’t end my ball career. I learned to take rejection and get up and try again. (We called that dating.) I got bullied in school. So I gathered up some friends for a come to Jesus meeting with the bully and the bullying stopped. The school administration and my parents never heard about it: I took care of the problem. I learned how to function in my real world. My parents didn’t need to run interference for me and fix all that was broken. I thank God for my parents and their parenting style.

Back to naming kids. We were named for revered loved ones, best friends, important people. The uniqueness in our names came from linage. Now it seems that name game is about giving your child a unique name because my little treasure is special and deserves a name that sets him or her apart from others. Good idea? Probably not.

First I noticed seeing some unpronounceable, unspellable names tacked onto some young people I encountered. Then came the great idea of naming a child with a relatively common name and then spelling it in an odd way. William became Wyllyam. Timothy became Thymothee. What these parents have failed to take into account is that they have sentenced their little darlings to a lifetime of repeating and spelling their names over and over and over again. For the first time I am aware of, this model of child naming has invaded my family. I have a great grandchild coming who has been tagged with the moniker, Karsyn. I think it is a girl and her name is Carson. Oh well Karsyn, enjoy spelling your name a few million times in your lifetime. Each time you do, be sure and glare at your parents.

Next time you see me be sure and call me Byll.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, July 1, 2016

One, Two, Three Up

I couple of weeks ago I went to our church’s Adult Conference. It is like church camp for old people. I had been recruited to preach at the evening Vesper Services. I dreaded going for several reasons.

1.      I would have to spend a week away from my loving wife.

2.      I would have to have dialysis in a strange clinic where I didn’t know the technicians who would be putting needles the size of a ball point pen in my arm.

3.      I don’t sleep well on a strange bed.

4.      It is difficult to monitor my food and fluid intake while hanging around with a bunch of people.

5.      I am an introvert going to spend a week in a room with a bunch of people I didn’t know.

6.      And, as I complained to my Board Chair, I wasn’t looking forward to spending a week with a bunch of old people. She gave me the strangest look that might have said, “Look who’s talking?”

I was right: there were lots of old people in attendance. She was right: I was one of them. Let me give you a couple of examples.

It was the second day at the conference and lunch time rolled around. They set out an amazing table of meats and cheese. My mouth was watering. Visions of the sandwich God would serve for lunch in heaven formed in my mind. Since they didn’t have bacon, a BLT was off the table. My mind went to the second choice: ham and cheese on rye with lots of mustard. As difficult as it was, I waited my turn. (It was a Christian conference after all.) I started my work of art with the perfect bread. Added a few slabs of some nice sharp cheddar cheese, but when I arrived at the meat platter there was no ham. Oh no, Mr. Bill. I kept my cool, engaged those in line with me in conversation. It was less about being friendly and enjoying Christian fellowship and more about killing time. Almost immediately Larry showed up with more ham. God is good. The Senior moment came when I returned to my table and dug into my treat. I was almost half way finished with my sandwich when I realized I was eating a cheese sandwich. I forgot the ham. My quandary - Is it old age or ADD? Probably both. If it wouldn’t have made me look like “Pig of the Year”, I would have gotten back in line.

The high point of the conference for me was the morning Bible Lectures by Dr. Ron Allen. He was consistently interesting, engaging and informative. Following the Thursday lecture I found myself chuckling as the old folks arose from their chairs. One after another took three tries to stand up. First try; up about half of an inch. Second try; pretty close to six inches. Third try was charmed. Every time, on the third try the senior citizen would pop up out of his or her chair. It was interesting and I was enjoying the show. Suddenly I had a hankering for a nice cup of coffee and set off for the coffee table. It wasn’t until I was standing that I realized it had taken me three tries to stand up.

So I report that me and the other old people had a great time at Adult Conference.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Dog Died

During my years in ministry occasionally I have been given incorrect information… the church hot line wasn’t so hot. This can be especially troubling if it is a premature report of the death of a church member. Unfortunately, the follow up done on such misdirection can be just a tad embarrassing.

When told of a death I usually call the deceased one’s home to express my condolences to the bereaved family members and to offer to assist with the making of funeral arrangements. With the subject family member still alive, my call was generally not well received. On one occasion the supposed deceased person happened to answer the phone. That made for a rather clumsy conversation with me having very little to say.

I had started calling ahead because of an experience I had during my student ministry days. Even though it was before the days of speed dial, someone must have had the parsonage number on some form of speed dial. Answering the phone one afternoon, a voice I did not recognize said, “Bobbie Glenn just died,” and hung up. A little short on information I headed for the Glenn’s home, located on the outskirts of our tiny Kentucky community. After a very short drive, I arrived and found the front door standing open. I stepped inside and a profoundly distraught family ran to me and said, pointing down the hallway, “He’s in there.” I walked down the hallway, dodging wailing family running around in circles and calling out incoherently, and looked into the first bedroom. I then glanced into the bathroom and saw Bobbie sprawled on the floor and, indeed, looking quite dead. This was before my many years working in EMS and was my first time seeing a freshly dead body. I considered just getting back in my car and returning home. Pride forced me to seek to be more helpful and I suggested to the family that it might be a good idea to call the funeral home; which they did. Good sense dictated that in the future I call before going.

We had a premature announcement of a death in our family. When our two oldest children, Mack and Meg, were just entering grade school we lived in Stanford, a small town in central Illinois. It seemed a good time to get a dog. We purchased a beautiful little Shetland Sheep dog (They look like miniature collies.) and named her Kelly. She was a joy and the whole family just adored her.

One summer week we sent the kids off with their grandparents to spend a couple of days in the country with the great grandparents. Kids are great but sometimes a little break from them seemed a good idea. After a couple of days my wife and I made the trip Kentucky to pick the kids up and bring them home. My mother-in-law (Who was such a sweet person.) met us at the door and tearfully told us she was so sorry to hear that our dog had died. I was surprised at the announcement since the last thing I had done before leaving home was to feed the dog. And she seemed very much alive at the time. I asked her where she had heard that news. She said, “Mack told me that Kelly died.”

Mack. How does one describe Mack? Even as a child he was an interesting and complex person. I good looking kid with bright red hair, big blue eyes and a patch of freckles scattered across his nose. He had a wonderful laugh and, even as a toddler, loved a good joke. He was the leader of the other children and often led them into some very imaginative play scenarios. He was smart with a great imagination.

I was the father and one of my children had obviously told a big old hairy lie. Something must be done and it was my job to address this misdeed. So I called Mack in from whatever he was doing for a confrontation. I took a seat on the couch, up close to the edge so I could be nose to nose and eye to eye with the little liar. I stood him right in front of me for the questioning to begin. Knowing Mack, I knew I would have to catch him off guard. I thought I had the perfect approach. I looked directly into his deep blue eyes and said, “Mack, I just heard that Kelly died.” Without batting an eye, with the sweetest, most sincere look on his face, he replied, “You know, I heard that too.”

Good Lord, how do you respond to that? I was the father… the disciplinarian… the regulator of his moral compass. I had only one choice. I laughed until tears ran down my face and my abdomen cramped. Mack just smiled at me and went back to playing. The dog lived and so did the child. It was a good day.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, May 20, 2016

Touchy, Feely

This is a difficult time for me to live. I am not a “touchy, feely” kind of guy and we live in a (hopefully short lived) time that is run on emotions.

When I say I am not touchy feely I don’t mean I don’t have feelings. I love the guts out of my siblings. I am crazy about my wife and kids; I dream about them, pray for them, smile about them and weep over them. I have loved every church I have ever served. I will admit that I rarely get fired up over any athletic competition but I have been known to cry during a movie. (Field of Dreams gets me every time.) I enjoy children and love to hold babies. Puppies are adorable. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets give me chills. The best times of my life are sitting around the table chatting with my family and friends.

When I say I’m not touchy, feely, I mean I don’t run my life by my emotions. I have discovered that naking emotional decisions is generally a really bad idea. Think first. Think again and then spend some time thinking about it. It seems that every time I watch the news I see people making emotion decisions with poor results. I’m not just talking about the idiot who attempts to rob the local quick market armed with a toy gun and gets blown away for his efforts. Though there always people who get all emotional about it and cry on television news and want to know how that could happen. Let me tell you; it happened because he was an idiot. Boohoo, blame it on the gun. Boohoo, blame it on the system. Boohoo, blame it on the schools. No, blame it on the guy who did a really stupid thing. Life is dangerous enough without making bad decisions. Decisions have consequences.

The news hits that someone was shot. We feel bad about it so we hit the streets in protest of something (Guns, police, the schools, the government, the family – there is just a huge group of things to choose from.) or post our unhappiness on Facebook. Do we wait to hear what really happened, wait for all the facts to come in, wait for the investigation? Oh, hell no. It makes us feel bad so we fire off in all directions. And the reality is, whatever the investigation proves, it we don’t agree with it, we won’t believe it. What’s interesting is that the same scenario happens over and over again and we never seem to learn from our experiences. Perhaps it is because our collective attention span is so short we are not aware that the investigation proved our jumped to conclusion to be incorrect. We’re too busy emotionally responding to the next thing that strikes us wrong; rushing out to throw a hissy fit over something we know almost nothing about. We don’t need any facts cause we run on feelings.

It is how we got to the whole transgendered bathroom fight we are now having. I have several good hearted friends who are aghast that some state passed a law requiring men to use the men’s room and women use the women’s room. As for me, I will never set foot back in that state – unless I have to or want to. I can’t think of a single adolescent boy who doesn’t feel that he should be allowed in the girls’ room. My good feeling friends don’t want anyone to feel left out or unaccepted or looked down on or unloved or treated poorly. I don’t want to do that to anyone else either. But does feeling that way mean I can’t draw a conclusion that tells me you are wrong? Loving someone doesn’t mean I always agree with them or think what they are doing is right. My understanding of love is just not that shallow.

It seems to have started with the lady who claimed she was black because she felt black. Really? Well if she FELT BLACK SHE MUST BE BLACK. Ignore the facts that both of her parents are white and no one found any black people in her family tree. We know that she is black because we are ruled by our feelings. Now if I was born a male but feel like a female I must really be a female – I’m transgendered. Feelings are what life is all about. Feelings rule. Okay, I can go with this. Today I feel like a 6” 8’ professional basketball player who has women falling over me. I can easily dunk the basketball, run the 40 yard dash in just over 4 seconds and have a full head of hair. I feel it so it must be true. If that sounds stupid to you, you probably need to rethink the whole transgendered bathroom thing.

How about we go back to an earlier way of thinking. (I realize that is heresy for many of my readers.) Instead of jumping to conclusions based on our emotions, I suggest that we mix together some reason, logic, reality, a whole lot of thought, add just a tiny dab of emotion and then draw a conclusion.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Mother Wasn't June Cleaver

Tomorrow would have been my mother's 100th birthday. If you didn't know her, you missed out on a treat. In her honor I share this blog.

I grew up watching several “perfect” families on television. Two of my favorite characters were
Wally and the Beaver. They were two clean-cut screw-ups with a perfect set of parents, Ward and June Cleaver.

Ward and June never said anything mean. They rarely became upset and yelled at the boys. Whenever problems arose they always had quiet, meaningful, wisdom filled talks with them. The house was always spotless. The meals were delicious, nutritious and always on time. Ward always wore a suit with a white shirt and tie. That family gave me the creeps.

We weren’t the Cleavers but there were some similarities. My dad wore a shirt and tie every weekday. It was his business attire. One day, after he had retired, he showed up at the kitchen table in a shirt and tie. When I asked why he was dressed up, he looked surprised and took off the tie. Old habits die hard. We and the Cleavers were also similar in that my mother’s name was June.

But my Mom was no June Cleaver. The mother of my growing up years was many things -- interesting, funny, unpredictable, a wonderful cook, willing to try almost anything, good with kids (especially teenagers), counselor, fixer of tragedies, painter (of walls and canvases), seamstress, dog trainer (our dog loved to bring her "ripe" dead rabbits), and resident theologian. Mother was not known for her nurturing skills. If one stayed home from school, one spent the day in one’s room – ALONE. At noon she might slide a sandwich under the door, but there was no other interaction.

She was many things, but a perfect, plastic reproduction of a mother wasn't one of them.  She was June McConnell, NOT June Cleaver.

One picture of my childhood stamped indelibly on my memory is of my mother, in gaudy, golden house slippers, with her housecoat flapping in the breeze, disappearing over the hill on the back of my best friend's motorcycle.  He had come to show me his new Triumph cross-country cycle.  The one his mother was afraid to look at, and certainly would not ride on.  He made the mistake of jokingly asking Mom if she would like a ride on his bike.  She, of course, took him up on his offer. He was shocked. I was not. That was just Mom.

I believe my mother forged my father's signature on every paycheck my father ever brought home. That was especially humorous when you realize that, as treasurer of the company, Dad's signature was on the front. And friends, she made no attempt whatsoever to make the signature on the back even remotely bear a resemblance to the signature on the front. She then took that check to the bank, cashed it and proceeded to work miracles with the money in taking care of five kids who were black holes that money disappeared into.

With it they paid for a beautiful home in the country, fed five children (two teenage boys) who could consume vast quantities of food at a sitting ("While you're up would you get me another glass of milk?"), put nice clothes on our ever-growing and changing bodies, shod our constantly expanding feet, came up with weekly lunch money and allowance, paid for the "little extras" that seem to mount up into the millions, and saw to it that a college education could be a reality.

And then there was Mom's home cooking. When we children were in the house, mother was a cooking machine. After we grew up and left, not so much. After cooking for a herd, it was difficult to get motivated to cook for two. The menu changed.

To give you an idea how unusual it was, my children always looked forward to trips to their grandmother's house so they could have her gourmet jumbo hot dogs and micro waved White Castle hamburgers.  When she did cook, it is not that she didn't fix scrumptious, nourishing meals, it is just they were not necessarily traditional.  Sure, Mom could fry chicken with the best of them and she made a mean pot roast.  Sunday dinner, which was usually shared with company, was traditional fare with homemade pie for dessert. (Chess pie was my favorite.) Umm, umm, good.  But lord only knew what would show up on the table weeknights. Good stuff. But not things I would feed to children. Shrimp cocktail, Reuben sandwiches, chef salad, liver, Kentucky Hot Browns and of course, our all time favorite, rubber duck.

The rubber duck is another story. My father occasionally got the urge to "provide" for the family in the tradition of his ancestors and went hunting or fishing.  He rarely returned to the house with much game. Once he arrived at the door with a stringer full of beautiful fish in his hand and a strange look on his face. We still suspect he bought those fish. On this occasion, Dad (bwana, Capt. Ahab, great white hunter), went duck hunting on a cold, drizzly, nasty early winter day and returned with one sorry-looking duck. We boys were dispatched to the back yard where we dutifully plucked and cleaned it and Mom cooked the thing. It smelled awful. Dad couldn't slice it to serve (no heartbreak to the assembled tribe) because he couldn't get his fork in it. My brother Bob suggested the duck had "Goodyear" stamped on the bottom. We threw it out for the dog. The dog buried it. The entire family agreed that the dog made a good choice.

I don't want the reader to get the wrong idea. Mom wasn't weird. She was just unique. My sisters loved to tell her that if she ever suffered from Alzheimer's we will never be able to tell. She did all of the things one hears about moms doing. Mom fixed our meals, bound up our wounds, kissed our "owies," listened to our problems, dried our tears, mended our torn clothes and broken hearts, told us about God, threatened to turn us over to our father when he got home, and ran interference for us when the task or problem was more than we could handle. 

An example I clearly remember was the time I, a teenage driver, brought home my first and only speeding ticket. I ceremoniously laid it and the car keys in front of my father as he sat at the kitchen table.  He looked at the ticket, at me, at the keys, back at me and took a deep breath to begin what promised to be a monumental and endless lecture on topics as varied as safe driving habits, my attitude (he always threw the attitude part in for good measure), the cost of living, his childhood, and, of course, how I would be welcome to use the car again sometime just before I reached middle age. But at that moment my mother's voice, like a warm, gentle, sweet summer breeze, floated gently into the room and Dad deflated like a cheap balloon.  She simply said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." End of lecture… return of car keys.

My Mom was not June Cleaver. And for that I will be eternally grateful.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, May 13, 2016

I Love a Parade

My father died 30 years ago and rarely does a week pass that I don’t wish I had a chance to talk to him. He is my most often mentioned person in my sermons. Tomorrow we will celebrate the 101th anniversary of his birth. A few years after his death, I was motivated to write the first piece I ever had published. Allow me to share those thoughts with you at this time.
I love a good parade. I even like bad parades. I have seen both kinds. Some really stick in my memory.
The 1970 Memorial Day Parade in Waddy, Kentucky (yes, that is the town's real name) immediately springs to mind. The town folks had been talking about the Memorial Day Parade for weeks before the event and I was getting rather excited about it. One couldn’t spend any time in the local grocery store without the conversation turning to the parade. Plans and preparations were being made. It seemed that most of the people in the little town were going to be participating.
My family and I passed up several offers so we could be sure to be there for the "big" parade. I will admit that the offers we received were not all that tempting. But we did make a conscious decision to be around for the big parade. At the appointed time we took our places on the sidewalk of the main drag. I must be fair and tell you that Waddy in 1970 was a community of about 255 people and the main drag was the only drag. And there were not very many feet of sidewalk to get on. Since most of the residents were in the parade, finding a place to watch it wasn’t difficult. We didn’t have to come down the night before and stake out our space. Showing up ten minutes before parade time worked out fine.
We didn’t have to wait long before the action started. Here came the parade. It was absolutely wonderful. Strung out for several feet behind the town's antique and only fire truck were two shiny, brand spanking new pick up trucks. The owners had obviously spent a lot of time washing and waxing their pride and joy. One of the trucks was pulling the only float in the parade which was carrying some of the local veterans riding on a tobacco wagon. The other truck was hauling a young girl – perhaps she was Miss Waddy or Miss Shelby County. The entire local Cub Scout Pack, all six of them, were the color guard. There were bicycles and wagons and baby strollers and balloons and crept paper and sparklers and dogs, some horses and a couple of ponies. My, it was grand. One the finest parades I have ever seen. My heart was touched. I wouldn't have missed it.
There have been several other parades in my life. All of them were larger and longer. Many were more exciting and colorful and entertaining. Some were so long they became boring. A couple of them have been just plain stupid. No offense is intended (Really) but have you ever attended a gay rights parade? There is a bad idea. But none of them grander... except one. That is the parade that wandered through my parents’ kitchen in the fall of 1986.

My father was very busy that fall dying of cancer of the God-knows-what. The doctors couldn't tell where the cancer had originated but it wasn't difficult to see where it had gone. It was everywhere and Dad was so skinny by then that much of it stuck out on various parts of his body. It was horrible to watch a strong, robust, commanding man reduced to a skeleton struggling to live through each day seeking to find ways to have as little pain as possible. It was horrible, but riveting – like those slasher horror films young teens flock to watch. It was also a wonderful time of quiet conversations and opportunities to do for my father; a man who had always done for others, especially his children. Though the role reversal was a bit challenging for both of us, it was a wonderful God gift to be able to serve my father during a very difficult time.
As cancer took more and more from him and more of him from us, we were completely centered on his well being. Though not unusually tall, my dad was very strong. As a high school kid he had a job picking up milk cans from the local dairy farmers. He could hang on the back of the truck with one hand, lean out and grab a milk can in the other and swing it up into the back of the truck. That is about 140 pounds per can. Whoa, strong guy. Dad played baseball and basketball well and taught his boys how to play.
Because the degeneration of his physical body and our all consuming struggle to make him as comfortable as possible had so captured my attention, the parade that had begun had been passing before my eyes long before I noticed it.
But one those beautiful cloudless, bright blue sky, breezy autumn afternoons it burst upon my sight. For a parade, it was difficult to spot. There were no fire trucks or Cub Scouts or floats or marching bands or riders on horseback.  There were no pretty young beauty queens seeking our attention or politicians seeking our votes. Most of the faces in this parade were familiar to me, although some were strangers. But they all knew my father. He was the "theme" that held this parade together. This was a parade of people, passing through my parent's spacious, warm, welcoming kitchen, in front of the reclining chair that had become Dad's chief place of residence.
They came from near and far. As close as the next door neighbor and as far as several states away. They all came to say the same thing in many different ways.  They came to say, "Thank you, Mr. McConnell.  You have made a difference in my life."   What a wonderful thing to say!  "Thanks for living and letting me be a part of your life.  Your life counted for something in my life." “You have lived a life that was significant because your life powerfully impacted my life.”

And what a strange mix of people it was that carried this message to my father. There were the preachers and church leaders from all over the state that Dad had prayed with and for and taught so much about how to be sensitive to the needs of others and the leading of the Lord. He helped them have more than a theoretical Christianity. There was the alcoholic who lived next door who was snubbed by the community but was proud to be called "friend" by "Mr. Mack". There were the young men of the community that had looked to my father for advice and counsel on subjects ranging from family budgeting to how to win an argument without losing a friend. There was the single mother and her children who were helped through some hard times by a man they hardly knew. There were the old people that came to thank the man who brought them meals when they were too sick to cook for themselves. There were the business associates that had worked with him for over a quarter of a century – folks who really knew him and thus knew him to be a man of integrity, courage, compassion, wisdom and humor. There were his law clients who received much more than just good legal advice from their attorney. There were the students from more than 30 years of Sunday school classes that came to thank the man who helped make God real and understandable to them. There were the Little League ball players who had become middle-aged men, wanting to thank him for being a fine baseball coach and an even better example.

They came from all over. They loved and appreciated my father and came to tell him. Dad was sick, but he was having a wonderful time. He had invested his life well. And though it was coming to, what many of us considered, a premature end, it had been a great, meaningful, full life. My dad had been successful. He grew up on a little hill farm in Robertson County, Kentucky. He had served his country in World War II. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. He worked his way through law school and was the Vice President and Treasurer of a very successful life insurance company. He had provided very well for his wife and children. He was successful. But more importantly, his life had been significant.

Fortunately, I recognized what was happening in time to join this wonderful parade. I grasped the opportunity at hand and thanked my Dad for being a fine father, good friend, wonderful teacher and excellent example. What a parade! My, it was grand. One the finest parades I have ever seen. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.
He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon