Monday, May 8, 2017

Comfy Cozy

My thanks to Chaplain Doug Mitchell of the Christ Hospital. His thoughts, shared with his volunteers, motivated the writing of this blog.

The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees several rights, including the pursuit of happiness. It seems an obvious observation that all are seeking happiness but few are finding it. Perhaps it is the smart ones among us who have given up the chase.

There also seems to be a common pursuit of comfort. We all want to be comfortable… we expect to be comfortable and are somewhat offended when we are not. Untold times over my years of ministry I have been approached by people announcing to me, in an accusing voice, that it is too hot or cold in the sanctuary. It would seem to be a most grievous mistake that must be immediately corrected and the culprit at fault must be punished. How dare anyone cause the offended party any discomfort? Like the pursuit of happiness, comfort has become a right.

I will admit that I am a huge fan of comfort. I like a comfortable chair; a comfortable car; a comfortable house; and, having grown up without it, I love air conditioning and forced air heat. This week I am driving a nice, new rental car while mine is in the shop and I hate it because the seat is not comfortable. I read many posts by friends on Facebook that he or she is comfy cozy on the couch watching television with a warm drink and a warm body (cat, dog, spouse or friend) under the blanket with them. Sounds good to me.

Here is my question: Is comfort what we should be pursuing? Should our personal comfort be a, if not the, central issue of our lives? Is comfort what God desires for us? I think not. If you have listened to me or read much of my writing you know it is my belief that God is not only NOT interested in your comfort, if you are comfortable you are probably outside of the will of God.

I believe Scripture is clear that God’s basic purpose for our lives is not that we be rich and comfortable, but that (My apologies to Joel Olsteen.) we are conformed to the image of Christ… for us to become more Christ-like. For that to happen we, you and me, are naturally going to experience much discomfort. The changes in our lives will be difficult, frightening, challenging and certainly uncomfortable. It is no wonder that Facebook, where we “share” our lives, is filled with hateful, selfish, meaningless garbage. It is no wonder that our politicians are only interested in getting reelected and we, the voters, are motivated in our allegiance by the motto, “What can you do for me?”  Our collective lack of maturity is having devastating effects on our society. Perhaps it is time for us to move beyond comfortable to the discomfort of growth and maturity.

Comfort sounds and seems so… comfortable… so desirable. But is it? Perhaps comfort and our pursuit of it is in fact dangerous. C. S. Lewis gave this insight: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth… only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.” Just as pursuing happiness rarely, if ever, leads one to happiness, pursuing comfort is counterproductive.

Pope John Paul II said this about the danger of comfort: “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” I have seen and experienced this to be true. Comfort also leads us to conclusion that we are self-sufficient and not in the need of God. While sitting in the perceived comfort and safety of our warm, dry, locked homes we come to believe we have no need of God. There is nothing like a healthy natural disaster to scour that confusion out of our minds.

The very thoughtful writer, Khalil Gibran, gives a short and pointed warning. “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” Again quoting, this time Chaplain Doug Mitchell, “Comfort itself is not bad, but trying to get a hold of it can lead, as has already been said, to a misleading proposition. Unfortunately, too many people believe they deserve to be comfortable (They have a right to it.) – to the degree that this entitlement drives just about every choice we make.”

Please know that I am not saying that God wants us to miserable. But if the pursuit of comfort is a major quest in our lives; something that informs and guides most of our decisions, we are about guaranteed to miss God’s will for our lives. Growing up is uncomfortable. Working to become stronger is uncomfortable. Learning how to do something new takes practice and is uncomfortable. Being honest with ourselves about ourselves is uncomfortable. 

Following God and doing His will is uncomfortable. But it is so worth it. Oh, so very much worth it.

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lives of Significance

Christians are called by God to grow to spiritual maturity. At the heart of growth are spiritual disciplines. In the past we have looked at the reality that if we ever want to find the time to spend with God; if we want to find the time to nurture our relationship with God and family and brothers and sisters in Christ, we are going to have to simplify our lives.

If we are ever going to have the resources, the time, money and energy, to be able to do meaningful ministry and reach out to our community in the name of Christ, we are going to have to simplify our lives. I want to encourage us to take a fresh look at our lives; what we own, where we live, how we live, how we use and invest our time and money. To ask the simple question, “Why do I own this or why am I doing this?” “Why am I living like I am living?” I have been trying to think of a way to help make this real to you. Instead of just irritating you, I want to motivate you.

When we decide to simplify our lives, what will happen? What would that look like? I believe we will be freed to do what we are designed to do. We are designed to live lives of significance. Think for a moment about this quote from Wild at Heart Field Manual, by John Eldredge. "When it comes to the story of your life, how it will be told ages hence around the campfires of the kingdom…"

 I just want to share with you about three men I have known who impacted my life and I believe the way they lived could inform all of us. 

The president of my fraternity was a fellow from Cincinnati named Ron Pinsenschaum. He was a quality guy in college. Mr. Popularity, All Conference Baseball player on full scholarship while making great grades. After college we lost touch and I didn’t hear anything about him until around 1994. The fraternity alumni decided, through the miracle of the internet and e-mail to reestablish contact. It was about that time that I learned that Ron had died. No details, just that he was gone. I was amazingly saddened by the news and decided to honor Ron by paying his alumni dues each year.

A few months later one of the brothers decided that it would be a good idea to nominate Ron, an outstanding athlete, to the Eastern Kentucky University Athletic Hall of Fame and asked if anyone had any info on Ron after he had left school. No one answered so I decided I would take a stab at some research. I googled his name and got 6 hits. All but one of those weren’t about Ron Pinsenschaum. The one was an article from the Dayton Daily News about a soccer game played in the Ron Pinsenschaum Memorial Stadium. The article said the stadium was at the Dayton Christian High School. So I googled that and found a generic e-mail address and sent a request for information.

This was the reply the next day. “Dr. McConnell, I forwarded your email to our former Superintendent, Bud Schindler, as well as Ron's widow, Jan. I believe they will give you all of the information that you are looking for plus more! I personally knew Mr. P as a teacher when I was in High School and I have to say that he has definitely left a legacy with all of us who knew him or had the privilege of sitting under his teaching.”

Then I received this note: Dear Dr. McConnell, Your email was forwarded to me – you were inquiring about Ron Pinsenschaum. You do indeed have the same Ron Pinsenschaum. He served the Lord faithfully at Dayton Christian Schools until God chose to take him home some years ago. I consider without hesitation he would be a strong, strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. No man had a greater impact upon the students in our community and in the State of Ohio than Ron did during his tenure here at Dayton Christian Schools. In His Service, Bud Schindler, former Superintendent of Dayton Christian Schools

Ron died in 1987 at the age of 42. After college, He served in Viet Nam, was promoted to Captain. Won several metals including the Silver Star for valor and 4 Purple Hearts. He went to seminary and became a Youth Minister and taught school at Dayton Christian High School. He introduced Soccer to the school system – In fact, the year he passed on he was selected by the public and private school coaches as Soccer Coach of the Year for the State of Ohio. An award for the coach with the best character was named for Ron and has been awarded every year since 1988. The soccer and track stadium at Dayton Christian High School was built and named in his memory. At his death, several newspaper columns appeared in the Dayton Daily News. Literally thousands of people attended his visitation and funeral. As dozens spoke of a life that mattered one student put it like this, “Mr. P loved out loud.” Ron lived a life of significance.

The ultimate use of our time and resources is not to produce more for ourselves; it is not to consume as much as we can manage to consume in our lifetimes; it is not to do everything within our power to remain as comfortable as possible. A life of significance is a life that is invested in others. Ultimately to help them know and love God. We do that by sharing life with others. Whose life are you impacting for Jesus?

This is a picture of a young sailor. I believe the picture was taken some time in 1942. The world is at war and he has joined up to serve his country. He is a college graduate, recently married with two little girls. He is away from home with time on his hands to think about the meaning of life. There is a better than good chance he won’t live to see his girls grow up. I have a letter in my possession that he wrote to his cousin Chester. He calls him Check. I will share just a little of the letter.
“My time is up here around the 1st of September and I guess I will be shipping out then. I have my fingers crossed that maybe something will happen by that time… The only thing that worries me is that something will happen to me and that I won’t be able to spend the rest of my life with my wife and my kids. Check, I have learned one thing in this Navy that I will hopefully never forget. I used to think that a big job and money were essential to a happy family – but that was all wrong. When I get out of this mess I am going to spend the rest of my life doing the things that I want to do which are making my family happy and enjoying my friends. I have though a hundred times that I would like to build me a nice home out in the country – fairly close to my work and have you and the girls and Mildred live with us.” (And though this young man is a part of a generation of men who don’t share much emotion, he signed his letter), “All my love, Bill”

This sailor is my father. What he hoped for happened. Remember that he hoped something would happen? The night before his battalion was shipped out to go to war, a battalion that suffered more than 90% casualties, my dad’s throat got sore. He was sent to sick bay and diagnosed with the mumps. He didn’t ship out that next morning and survived the war. And he did exactly what he dreamed of doing. When he got back from the war, He spent his life making his family happy, built a home in the country and I lost count of all the relatives who came and lived with us over the years. It was a home filled with love and people and fun and sharing. It was a place where I lived with a man who learned a lesson in war and never forgot it. He learned what is important in life. People! He impacted my life. His was a life of significance.

Scientists and God tell us that Human beings are designed to live in community. Life is to be shared. At the present time we are, generally speaking, living our lives in isolation.

Dr. Will Miller wrote a book titled Refrigerator Rights. In this wonderful book he asks,
“Who do you know, other than family, who can walk into your home, walk to the refrigerator and pour themselves a glass of tea? In whose home can you do the same?” These are called Refrigerator Rights. Other than family, few people ever earn Refrigerator Rights. Because we never allow them to be that close.

While serving a church in a small town in Iowa, I shared refrigerator rights with several people. These people deeply impacted my life and my walk with God. My best friend was Gary Lawrence. He was a former All American hammer thrower from Kansas State. We worked together, prayed together, coached together, ran together, rebuilt a house together, and destroyed a perfectly good piano together. We shared life together.

Gary and Sue Lawrence came to visit a few weeks ago. I had not seen them in 30 years. He was one of the best friends I have ever had. At dinner Gary got up, went to the refrigerator, poured himself a glass of tea and asked if anyone else needed anything. After 30 years, he still had refrigerator rights in my home. It was a different home but since it was my home, he had Refrigerator Rights. It felt good. Human beings are designed to live in community. Life is to be shared. Gary has lived a life of significance.

That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (Acts 2:41-47)

Those in the New Testament Church lived lives of significance in community and it was a powerful thing. It could and would be just as powerful today.
So, I am encouraging you to ask yourself some questions. These are important questions. We have an opportunity to decide what is important in life and how that decision will inform how we live life. And we don’t have to live thru a war to figure this out.

A life of what the world defines as success or a life of significance, a life that really counts. It is our choice. Don’t allow anyone to make the decision for you. Just honestly answer these three questions.
1.      With whom are you sharing your life?
2.      "When it comes to the story of your life, how it will be told ages hence around the campfires of the kingdom…"
3.      Whose life are you impacting for Jesus?

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Count the Cost

For the past several weeks I have been leading a course of the Financial Peace University. My wife and I took the course several years ago and it was an eye opener. I would encourage everyone who reads this to immediately sign up for the course. It is amazing. We will be joining another church in hosting another one this summer… sign up and show up.

Though I took Algebra, Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry, Trigonometry and Statistics in high school, I have never been real good at old fashioned arithmetic. I find writing a budget to be challenging. Following it is easy but getting it all on paper is no fun at all. But there is such wisdom in making a plan… especially a plan for your money. It is especially empowering when you adjust your spending to fit the plan you have for your life. As Christians, we are called to live differently than others and that includes our spending, saving and giving. Living differently in how we deal with money will NOT happen if we don’t plan for it. It just won’t.

There is great wisdom in planning. Before beginning any project, ministry, building or implementing a new idea we need to make a plan. Jesus put it like this: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' (Luke 14:28-30) If we take Jesus seriously, which we rarely do, most of us are ridiculous. We just rush through life with little thought or planning, bouncing from one thing to another, one project to another, one person to another, one interest to another and, in the end, wonder what we have done or accomplished.

I see this same phenomenon in churches. We rush from one ministry to another, following one promising idea after another, without a clear mission, vison or clearly stated long-term goals. Like the culture in which we exist, the church seeks to be “relevant” and with it. And we wander from our mission and calling. BTW, our calling is to make disciples… to produce fully functioning mature Christians.

In the life of the church, a mission or a ministry might be suggested; it sounds good so we immediately engage and rush into it. The first issue that must be addressed and question that must be asked is, “Is this what God wants us to do?” Unfortunately, that is a very difficult question to answer. The proposal must to looked at in the context of the mission of the church – does it fit – does it help us fulfil the church’s mission? Though it is a theological catch phrase, we really do need to pray about it and listen intently for God’s guidance. Doing this takes time, patience and some quiet reflection.

Next, before beginning a new ministry, the church must count the cost. Can we do this with excellence? Not perfection, but excellence. All we do is in the name of God and we certainly don’t want to represent God as in the business of sloppy, crappy ministry. After seeking God’s leading, I follow a simple formula when considering if we can, in fact, implement a ministry. It is: Vision + Resources = Ministry. If it fits your vision, then you must honestly look at your resources to see if you can do the ministry well. A church’s resources are: talents, energy, availability of personnel, time, money and facilities. If you have enough of these to do the ministry with excellence, go for it. If not, begin praying for God to provide your needs. Expect Him to and when He does, move ahead.

Don’t just move ahead and presume God is going to fill in with what you need. There is a fine line between faith and presumption. If you are tuned in God follower, you will know when to move ahead on faith and when to wait.

This is a topic I often consider because I serve a church that is strong in the desire to do ministry and weak in the resources to get those ministries done. I have a great bunch of people but we tend to lack the needed energy to do some desired ministries. I am praying for God to send resources – talented, energetic, committed people. Is God speaking to you about doing some ministry in the life of the Norwood Christian Church? Just askin’.

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


It is a bright, warm, beautiful day and I am in a foul mood. Perhaps you are wondering how anyone could be in a bad mood on a glorious day like today. My mood will make more sense if it is remembered that today is Tax Day. Of course I’m unhappy. Allow me to explain.

Most people have filed their tax returns long before Tax Day. That is because they are excitedly awaiting a tax refund. They wouldn’t be so happy if they realized that they have loaned the state and federal governments their money as an interest free loan. It was the taxpayers’ money to start with and they allowed the government use of it for a year for no return. Some people would call such actions stupid. But not me… okay, yes I will. Getting a refund is stupid.

As a minister, the Internal Revenue Service treats me as self-employed. Trust me, they are not doing me a favor. My taxes are not withheld from my paycheck. I have to set that money aside myself and send a check to the government quarterly. Being self-employed, I also pay my entire Social Security withholdings myself, instead of sharing the payment with my employer. Such a deal!

So, today I find myself writing the state and federal governments very large checks to pay my past year’s taxed. Ouch. In addition to that, I also write checks to the state and federal governments for the first quarter taxes on my present year’s estimated income. Ouch, ouch. I sit here feeling as empty and depleted as my checking account. Spent. And violated.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a great believer in paying my fair share. I am not along for the ride and long ago learned that there is no such thing as a free lunch (or college or health care.). Somebody is going to pay and I am willing to do my part. Here is where I feel violated: Much of the tax law is passed hidden in other legislation or tax code is just written by bureaucrats in the Internal Revenue Service. I am, like our founding fathers, a believer in no taxation without representation. And the representation I do have doesn’t give my concerns, needs or desires a second thought when voting in Congress. Let me put it this way: my representatives in Washington don’t give a rip about me. And, by the way, they don’t give a rip about you, either.

I am in a foul mood today because I hate wasting money. I like to purchase useful, quality products and I love a bargain. I am getting none of that out of my tax dollars. Much of the government’s income is being farted away paying on a ridiculous amount of debt, senseless boondoggles, being eaten away by layers and layers of bureaucrats’ overblown salaries and dropping a $16,000,000.00 bomb to kill 64 perceived enemies. And the list could go on. Stupid is stupid and the government’s use of our tax dollars, in many ways, is stupid. And stupid depresses me.

So, it is a glorious day and I am depressed. Fortunately, I will get over it.

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Parents' Good/Bad Parenting

I grew up a longtime ago in what many people believe to be a different world. It was different and it was the same.

Way back then we didn’t have cell phones, computers, color television or cable. We didn’t have 250 channels of worthless crap to watch on TV and could actually walk around without our faces buried in an electronic device. We didn’t have instant messaging and Facebook (Thank you Jesus!) 

We did have some things then that we don’t have now: front porches to sit on and talk to neighbors; milk and newspapers delivered to our doors, meals as a family with meaningful conversation; neighbors we actually knew; the ability to play outside; the exercise of walking to school; friends we actually talked to and unfriended by telling them to buzz off. 

But we did have several things back then that we still have today: criminals; perverts, kidnappings; crime; guns; drunk drivers; senseless killings; child abuse; broken homes; spousal abuse; inept governments; sports teams and rabid fans; and much more. Much has changed but then very little has changed. It was observed long ago – “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

One thing that has changed are the philosophies and methods of child rearing. And in some cases, change is not necessarily progress or improvement. My parents practiced what could be benign neglect. There were few interactions between parents and children and, as far as the children were concerned, the fewer the better. Most parent-child interactions were not cause for celebration. Parents didn’t feel the need to entertain their children. Many of today’s parents are called “Helicopter Parents,” who hover over their children 24/7. In light of today’s methodology, my parents’ methods were archaic and somewhat frightening. But I would say in their defense, I lived to adulthood as a healthy, happy, independent and well-adjusted person. I would say they did something right. Allow me to share some of their good bad parenting decisions.

First, each and every time they caught me doing something wrong, they punished me. Fortunately for me, they didn’t catch me every time, but when they did something very unhappy happened. If nothing else, they were consistent. I learned the concept of cause and effect. Good behavior brought good results and bad behavior brought bad results. What the Bible calls sowing and reaping. I also learned accountability. The results of my behavior, good or bad, were my doing. There was no one else to blame.

They held me to high expectations. Anything under a B on a report card was unacceptable. When we worked on a project we worked on it until it was finished. If I went out for a sport I didn’t quit that sport until the season was over. All of the summer jobs my father found me while I was in high school were hard work. I was ALWAYS ON TIME to work, never missed work and NEVER GOT FIRED. From this outdated parenting, I learned a great work ethic.

If I got into trouble at school, I got in trouble at home. If I got in trouble with the law I would rather go to jail than go home and face my father. I called all of the adults in my life Mr. or Mrs. or sir and ma’am. And thus, I learned to respect authority and respectful behavior in general.

The best things my parents taught me were independence and fearlessness. They did this through trusting me to make good decisions and allowing me to be in uncomfortable situations, make mistakes and suffer the consequences of those mistakes. Here are a few examples of their craziness:
  • ·      Beginning in the first grade I walked over ½ mile to school and when we moved to the country I walked a mile to the school bus stop with no adults along for the walk.
  • ·     During the summer, I left home to play with friends immediately after breakfast and came home in time for dinner. And, no, I didn’t have a cell phone so they could track me. They had figured out I wasn’t some idiot child who had to be constantly watched.
  • ·      I learned how to safely handle a gun by age 12 and went rabbit hunting with friends.
  • ·    When I was 14, my brother was 16 and my little sister was 10, we all (sans parents) loaded up in the family car and drove from Louisville, Kentucky, to Washington, D.C. to see the sights and visit relatives.
  • ·     While in college my brother and I left home one summer for 2 ½ months to tour the country. We ate one meal a day (Which we prepared because our mother had taught us to cook.) and slept out on the ground. We checked in once a week via phone.

Were my parents perfect parents – or course not. But I would choose their methods over the accepted parenting methods of today. My siblings and my friends grew up happy, secure, mature and independent. Many of the children of today who have received trophies for showing up for a sport and been under the constant shadow, presence and (over) protection of their parents need safe places at college and to go un-criticized and coddled at school and the work place. They are unable to function in real life in the cold, cruel world and the parents need to take the blame for that.

Our children must learn that success is earned, criticism is healthy and helpful, disappointment is a part of life, defeat and failure are necessary motivation to attain success. Our children need to grow up and if they are protected from difficulties, challenges, heartache, loss, and disappointments, they will never mature. And if they fail to mature life will just chew they up and spit them out. Is that really what we want for our children? I think not.

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Line Behind a Republican Legislator


Just a couple of days ago, I found myself in line at Chipotle behind a Republican Legislator. 

I didn’t recognize his face. I never heard his name. I am really only guessing that he was a Republican Legislator by his actions – or inactions. Here’s my story.

It was lunchtime and I had a hankering for a burrito so I headed off to the local Chipotle. There was the usual ten-minute line so I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted. Chipotle doesn’t give one too many choices to start with and it is one of the reasons I like eating there. The guy in front of me was a little past middle aged and was busy fiddling with his phone. In a few minutes, he arrived at the “start your order place”. The young man behind the counter looked up and asked, “May I help you?” I had been there many times and knew the best response was, “I want a bowl to go with brown rice and black beans and steak.” Simple and quick. The initial server takes care of that part of the order, slides the bowl down the counter and then I tell the next server what else I want. Obviously, the fellow in front of me didn’t know about simple and quick.

He responded to, “May I help you?” with, “Yes.” So, the waiter waited. Perhaps that is why they call them waiters. Finally, (and I mean f-i-n-a-l-l-y) Mr. Ready said, “I want a bowl to go.” So the counterman got out a bowl with a to-go lid. Mr. Ready, “No, I think I’ll eat it here.” The to-go lid goes back into the lid pile. Mr. Ready thinks some more and says, “No, I think I’ll have it to go.” Back to the lid pile. Counter guy, “Do you want brown rice or white rice?” In the time it took Mr. Ready to decide this difficult question, I am pretty sure I could have come up with the answer to dealing with the nuclear threat from North Korea. Finally white rice was ordered. Next question, “Black beans or pinto beans?” I figured this question would take a while to answer. I was not disappointed. I was thinking about pulling over a chair so I could sit while the legislator in front of me finished his order. For reasons that escape me he had failed to prepare his order in his head while he waited in line. It didn’t seem to have occurred to him to do so. Instead he stepped up to the counter with both an empty stomach and an empty head. When I got in line I was inclined to believe that sooner or later I would make my way to the front of the line and be required to submit my order. I have no idea what he thought would happen when his turn at the front of the line came, but when it happened he was obviously completely unprepared.

Thus, I concluded he was a Republican Legislator. For seven years, the Republicans in Congress have been constantly repeating the mantra, “Repeal and replace Obama Care.” It seemed to be all they cared about and all they talked about. Over and over and over and over again we heard “Repeal and Replace.” It is what they told the news media. It was what they told the voters. And then the time was ripe. The Republicans have a majority in Congress, in the Senate and a Republican President in the White House. What could possibly go wrong? What could stop them? Nothing but… them.

I guess in the seven years they spent talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act they must have been busy fiddling with their phones. That seems like enough time to have come up with a health care act that they all could have agreed on. The Republican Congress’s failure to act makes them look like inept, ill prepared, nincompoops. This Congress reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” I guess some things never change.

The best part is the Republicans have only themselves to blame. It will be fun to watch them try to pin this goofiness on the Democrats. But try they will.

Copyright © 2017, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Brother Lied

 At the outset, you need to understand that my older brother, Bob (Robert Redding McConnell), is one of my heroes. Over the years he has been one of the most impactful people in my life. He is very ill and I am facing the fact that, in the near future, for the first time in my life I may be experiencing life without him. I am finding the whole notion unnerving. Never in 66 years have I lived a day without knowing my big brother is there for me. I am reminded that, at its heart, grief is selfish and self-centered. Bob is ill and I am grieving – feeling sorry for myself.

Being a pragmatic realist, I am under no delusion that my brother Bob is perfect. He has been known to lie. During our growing up years, my parents held us to high standards. At the McConnell house bringing home anything less than all A’s and B’s would get one grounded for the following six week grading period. Invariably, report cards would be sent home on a Friday and at dinner that evening Bob would be hailed as the scholar in residence with all A’s and an occasional B. And I would be grounded. At least that is what should have happened. Instead, Dad would ask if we had received our report cards and Bob would look him in the eye and lie to him. “No, sir,” he would say. “They are coming out Monday.” He lied for me so that I could have one last weekend of fun and freedom. Since mom and dad thought Bob could do no wrong, they believed him every time. Well, almost every time.

There was the time I put a cut out on my mother’s Oldsmobile convertible. Dad spoiled my mother in many ways. One of those ways was to buy her convertibles. So, as teenagers, we got to drive mother’s big fancy convertibles. And they were fast. So, of course, I raced them. To gain a little speed, I attached a cut out to the exhaust system with a cap on it. When I removed the cap, it allowed the exhaust to bypass the muffler which gave me a little more power and an awesome roaring engine. I did all of this without mentioning the modification to my father. I was thinking that what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him – or me. One summer evening my father came by and picked me up at work. On the ride home he asked me, “What is a cut out?” I thought, “Oh, crap, I’m toast.” It seems that dad had taken the Olds in for an oil change and the mechanic had asked him why he had put a cut out on his car. Dad went home and asked everyone handy who had put the cut out on their mother’s car. My brother confessed. And my father didn’t believe him for a second. Dad told me Bob had confessed but he knew better. Even with my big brother’s attempt at intervention, I was, again, grounded.

Bob was also one of the few people on earth who has earned the right to speak truth into my life. Most of the time for most of his life, Bob has been a truth teller. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college Bob and I were afforded the opportunity by our father to take the trip of a lifetime. We bought a used Chevy station wagon (For my younger readers – it is kind of like a van.) packed up a bunch of camping gear, took enough money to pay for gas ($25 per week) and set off to see America. We spent two and a half months driving and camping across the continent. It was awesome. It was during that trip that Bob told me some truth that changed my life. He told me that in the past year he had learned some things I needed to know. It was, he said, very exciting news. I figured that his exciting news was that he had finally found a decent girlfriend. I was not amused when he told me his exciting news was that he had met Jesus. My response to his announcement was a sarcastic “Whoopee!”

Undeterred, he went on to explain to me that Christianity was much less about being religious and much more about having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He continued by telling me that Jesus wanted to be the Lord of my life. Instantly my defenses went up. “I,” I told Bob, “can be the lord of my own life.” I said that in the context of having played sports in high school; having dated some of the cutest girls in school; was pretty popular; had been selected for membership in the only fraternity on my college campus and was in line to be the next President of the Student Body. I was a success and didn’t need anyone’s help; much less Jesus. But brother Bob insisted on telling me the truth. When I told him I could run my own life he fixed his clear blue eyes on me, looked into my soul, and said, “Oh really. Well, how are you doing?” His question spoke into the truth of my life. Even though I was a “success” he knew that I was completely hollow inside – empty. Because he had the courage to speak truth to me, I was saved. Unlike people who are saved from a life of addiction or crime or other destructive behavior, I was saved from an ordinary life. I was saved from a life of acquiring possessions or bouncing from one relationship to the next in an attempt to fill the emptiness in my soul. I was saved from living several decades of meaningless existence to live a life filled with meaning, joy, excitement and purpose. I was saved from me. All because my brother Bob told me the truth.

In our growing up years Bob was an amazing brother. My parents saw him as “the good son”. But he didn’t. Bob felt that he never measured up; up to my dad – or who he thought my dad was. Bob brought home great grades; he was a great athlete (I still have no doubts that, with the proper coaching, he could have been a major league pitcher.); he was elected class President all of the way through high school; Bob was kind and thoughtful (He told me that before he did anything he thought about how his actions would affect our parents. I thought he was nuts.); he really was “the good son.” But most of all he saw himself as my brother, my confidant, my protector, my number one fan. We shared a room and sometimes fought like cats and dogs and we loved each other. Everyone at school knew that if you picked a fight with one of the McConnell’s, you were going to fight both of them. We drove to school together. We double dated. We TP’ed houses together. (We did it professionally. People paid us to TP houses.) We stayed out all night together. We made and set off bombs together. We harassed our sisters and their dates together.  We shared clothes, friends, adventures, sports and life in general. We lived through each other’s heartaches together. His friend was my friend and my enemy was his enemy. We sneaked around doing things our parents wouldn’t approve of and (as I have mentioned) we lied for each other. We were there for each other through decades of life. We encouraged each other in our spiritual journeys and suffered with each other when a relationship went sour. We celebrated each other’s joys. I was thrilled when he had his first book published and he was more excited about my first book than his. We love and pray for each other’s children.

Brother Bob has had a profound influence on my life. He is one of the most prominent people in my life. He did more to change my life than he can imagine because he lied to my parents (and showed me how much he loves me.) and because he told me the truth about myself so I could get to know Jesus. Thanks Bob. You are the best brother ever.

Copyright © 2013, 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 @ Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon