Tuesday, September 1, 2015

McDonalds Is Going Down in Flames


I realize it is nutritionally incorrect to admit you eat at McDonald’s. For decades it has been a bastion of unhealthy food choices. Thus, I am a fan of McDonald’s.

Lately I have noticed that every time someone speaks to me about having something to eat from McDonald’s it is as if they are confessing to a sin. They look at their shoes, lower their voices and shamefully say, “I ate a cheeseburger from McDonald’s. The only time an adult freely admits to eating at McDonald’s is when they speak of taking the kids to get something to eat.

I am predicting the demise of McDonald’s. It is not nutritional incorrectness that is going to be the down fall of McDonald’s; because we talk a more nutritional diet than we really consume. For example I was working as clergy on a Woman’s Walk to Emmaus several years ago. It was me and 62 women on a campground for 72 hours. There were many challenges for me, the only guy for miles. One of the challenges was the meal menu. We had low cholesterol eggs with no bacon for breakfast. Lunch and dinner featured a salad bar with tofu and bean sprouts and several other rather tasteless items to choose from. Dinner was something like baked chicken and green beans (Hold the bacon grease.) and baked potatoes with no butter to be found. (Trust me, I searched the place.) All of the women were talking about how this was the way they ate at home; and I knew they were lying. The truth came out when I caught a “food team” returning to camp with several large McDonald’s bags containing some very unhealthy yummy food. What a bunch of phonies. We Americans always talk healthier than we live.

There are three things about McDonald’s restaurants I have observed over the past several years that lead me to believe they are doomed.

  1. The quality of food has declined. I know they still claim their hamburgers are 100% beef but it just doesn’t taste as good. Perhaps part of the 100% is made up of hooves and eyelids and tongue.
  2. They are attempting to make their menu more nutritional, lower calorie and generally healthier. I don’t care how long they attempt to travel the healthy road; McDonald’s will never be the place that comes to mind for most of us when we think of healthy eating. The formula will always be McDonald’s = hamburgers and French fries. The more they insist on selling themselves as a health food store, the less successful they will become.
  3. They are making bad decisions and are not listening to their customers. Here is an example.

A friend of mine heard that McDonald’s was test marketing a new product in Boston – Lobster Rolls. Lobster Rolls in Boston… in Boston, the lobster capital of North America. That is stupid to the point of being ridiculous. And so my friend, in a spirit of helping an old established company make better decisions, wrote a letter to corporate headquarters. His letter, in a nutshell, said: Testing Lobster Rolls in Boston is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of and whoever thought that up should be fired immediately. The letter he received in return tells me that McDonald’s is turning a deaf ear to its customers.

His return letter read:

Dear Mr. VanMetre:

Thank you for taking the time to let us know you enjoy our Lobster Roll. We appreciate your feedback.

McDonald’s restaurants across the country may offer varying menu items due to local market options and the rotation of promotional products which are offered for a limited time only. It is our goal to provide menu items that are popular with the majority of our customers while maintaining quick and accurate service.

We are glad you enjoy our food. Your comments are important and will be shared with our regional management that oversees the menu in your area.

Again, thank you for taking time to share your feedback with us.

Sincerely, Tanya, Consumer Satisfaction Representative, McDonald’s Customer Response Center

The people at McDonald’s Customer Satisfaction Center obviously failed to read Mr. VanMetre’s letter. Or if they did read it, failed to comprehend what it said. My guess is that had a machine scan it and the only words the scanner recognized were Lobster Roll and spit out the form letter my friend received. McDonald’s doesn’t seem to be listening to their customers and that is deadly for any company.

So my advice is to drop by McDonald’s in the near future and stock up on some really bad, unhealthy food while you still have the opportunity.

Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

 

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Quick Spiritual Inventory


As a pastor it is with some regularity that I ask people under my care a very important question: “How’s your spiritual life?”

That does not strike me as a particularly difficult question. But it elicits some very odd and sometimes convoluted answers. Often it is answered by a recitation of how much scripture one has read lately or how many Bible study classes have been attended in the past weeks. Some answer by telling me of some strange, and sometimes creepy, “spiritual” experience they have had. Some tell me of church attendance and others report their giving to the church. I have been told of committee meetings attended and mission trips participated in. Some launch into political diatribes and others tell me of the impact they are attempting to have for the good of society. The answers I have received are, to say the least, all over the board.

The correct answer, it seems to me, is not what you are learning and doing (Though you had better be learning and doing all the time.) but how is your relationship with God. Is it growing deeper and closer? How are you progressing in the life-long process of being conformed to the image of Christ?

Somehow we have developed the idea that spiritual growth is learning more stuff, talking more spiritual trash, calling other people into line (whatever our line is), and throwing fits when others don’t agree with us. I don’t think that is it. The question is more about what is happening on the inside. Are you becoming more loving? Are you really helping others? Are you mentoring others in their journey toward spiritual maturity? Have you introduced anyone to Jesus lately? Are you living in such simplicity that you have plenty left over to give freely to others? Are you generous? Have you connected lately with another human being that is very different from you?
The key element in this question boils down to – how important in your life is and how central to all you do is Jesus? And does that show.
In his Christian classic, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer issued this challenge. “Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token homage to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is ABOVE, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choice he makes day after day throughout his life.” 
So join me in asking the question, “What is number one in your life and what is the proof in your life?” I would love to hear your answer.
Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
 
Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Seeking Unity in the Church


Every church I have served over the past 40 plus years have all sought unity. No matter the size of the congregation or the region of the country they were in, unity was something they all lacked and looked for. We talked about it all of the time. We tried a multitude of programs and methods to gain unity.

We hosted “fellowship” activities such as dinners, lectures, small groups, Bible studies, parties, game nights and movie nights. Invariable people from different parts of the church attended and sat with and fellowshipped with the people they already knew. Unity remained an elusive commodity. Is it an attainable thing? Probably. It depends on your definition of unity. For many, unity may mean uniformity, or comfort, or being familiar with the faces of the people who attend worship services.

Several years ago a church I served experienced growth in the worship service. In an effort to make room for more people in worship we proposed expanding to another worship service. There was, of course, push back from those presently attending. Their needs were being met and they didn’t really care about the people who did not yet attend the church. Generally speaking, people don’t care for change and church people especially don’t like change. Our worlds are changing around us and we are looking for something stable in our lives. And we believe our church should provide that stability.

One particular conversation I had with a seasoned church member sticks in my mind. She approached me in the hallway at church on Sunday morning. (As he or she is concentrating on delivering the morning message, Sunday morning is prime time to have a meaningful conversation with the pastor.) Her complaint about having two worship services was that we wouldn’t know everyone and we would develop into two separate churches. My first response was that we already didn’t know everyone. I challenged her to allow me to choose three families who attended worship seven out of eight Sundays, and ask her to tell me each family member’s name; where the parents work; what grades the children were in school and what was their greatest challenge they faced over the past year. She wasn’t willing to take me up on my challenge. But at the next Board meeting, during a discussion, she leaned over and asked me who it was who had just spoken. The man she didn’t know had been deeply involved in the church for several years and sat each Sunday within 20 feet of her. Point made. Recognizing a face is not the same as knowing someone.

Unity in the church is not about knowing everyone or having the same opinions on most subjects or voting for the same candidates or being the same race. Unity is about something very different and much more important. It is about unity of purpose. Too often churches try to rally around a political agenda that we try to make into a moral issue. We try to sell the idea that it doesn’t matter what one believes, everyone can be a part of this church. Of course, what one believes is of greatest importance. What I believe is what motivates me; what moves me. I do what I do because of what I believe. And what you believe motivates you and moves you. If we have very different beliefs, are moving in very different directions and are attempting to do very different things, we are not unified.

As a church and as individuals our theology is foundational to our purpose; it motivates what we do. We do much talking in our mainline denominations about our loss of membership and attendance and beat ourselves up because we must be doing something wrong. If we were doing things right, people would flood into our churches. We don’t stop for a moment to think about the profound effect our theology has on our growth, or lack thereof. When we slowly drifted into what I call “The Theology of Nice” we pulled the teeth of evangelism. In the name of nice we declared that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so you are sincere. It would be mean and narrow minded to believe anything else. And the two worst sins have become meanness and narrow-mindedness. As one of our seminary professors said several years ago, “We aren’t nearly as good at evangelism since we canceled hell.” Duh, I wonder why our pastors and church members are no longer engaged in evangelism.

In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer wrote, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

I propose we will never have true unity in the church until we are all seeking with all we have to follow Christ and to do all and be all He has called us to be and do.

Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Same Sex Marriage - Confusion and Conflict


Unless you are living off the grid, you are aware of the SCOTUS decision to make same sex marriage the law of the land. To say the reviews are mixed would be an understatement worthy of a place in the Understatement World Hall of Fame.

The subject and discussion of same sex marriage has become a worldwide phenomenon. I believe it is confusing and conflicting because we are discussing it within only one frame of reference. How one frames an argument or discussion generally determines the outcome of that discussion. If you allow your opponent to frame the discussion, you are bound to lose. And in the process you will end up looking foolish.

Most of the arguments concerning same sex marriage I have read and heard have been framed in the CIVIL RIGHTS FRAME. Based in this framework, the question becomes, “Is marriage a civil right for a same sex couple?” Without revealing too much of my political leaning (I don’t care even a little bit for either of the two major parties. I believe both to be manipulative, self-serving, hypocritical, saying they are serving the people when in reality they seek ONLY to win power and reelection. If you are a big fan of either one, please don’t try to sell me on your party or I may call you an unpleasant name. The nicest would be na├»ve. The politicians in Washington could not possibly give less of a crap about those they supposedly serve.) That said, if same sex marriage is debated as a civil right, I don’t honestly see how any conclusion other than “yes” can be reached. Within the confines of our democracy, all adults are guaranteed and due the same civil rights. The only exceptions are if you are an adjudicated felon or if you are mentally incapable of making rational decisions. No matter one’s race, creed, gender, color or sexual orientation, all must have the same rights. End of discussion. Working within the Civil Rights framework, the SCOTUS had no rational choice other than to approve same sex marriage.

Here is where, I believe, the confusion and conflict entered the debate. The people who wish to have a discussion of the issue from a spiritual stand point are ill-informed enough to drag their spiritual argument into the civil rights framework. At that point the confusion and conflict explode. The two frameworks don’t mix. It is a framework in which even the most intelligent and sincere person who opposes same sex marriage on religious grounds will ultimately lose and also look like an idiot and a bigot. The orthodox Christian understanding of marriage, when argued from the Civil Rights framework, comes across as senseless. Whereas the civil rights argument, when framed in the spiritual framework, sounds confusing and Biblically off base.

That is why we have this thing called separation of church and state. If one is a student of history, he or she is aware that the founding fathers came from European countries where there were state supported religions. They did not like the results of this setup. Though we seem to have lost sight of their obvious intent, they sought to keep the state out of religion. Many now seem to think that the idea was to keep religion out of the state. With separation of church and state, the church can’t control the state and the state can’t control the church. That is because THEY ARE SEPARATED – all the time, not just when you prefer they be separated. This is difficult for many religious people to grasp because of our nation’s recent history. During the 20th century we had become used to living in a syncretic society under the illusion we were a Christian nation. While we may be a nation founded on Christian principles, we were never intended to be governed as a Theocracy. For much of the mid years of the 20th century we seemed to think of the government and the church as very similar if not the same. In reality, what we claimed was a “Christian nation” was a pale shadow of true Christianity. The church of Jesus Christ is radical in nature and will always be counter cultural. To see more thoughts on this subject, read what Canadian pastor Carey Nieuwhof had to say about it.

Somehow we have allowed the church and the state to be co-involved in marriage. This was not always so and, I believe, is a profound mistake. One or the other: make a choice. If the state has legal power over marriage, the state can make all the rules and regulations about marriage it pleases. People who wish to be married can go to legal entities such as judges, to be married. Perhaps they could bypass any antiquated ceremonies and just sign some paper work to get married. If the church has complete oversight of marriage then the church sets the rules. This would work in the case of same sex marriage because there are already a multitude of churches presently doing same sex marriages. A same sex couple only need find such a church and get married. Thus the legal system is relieved of the difficult social engineering task, and many world-wide believe ridiculous notion, of redefining marriage as other than a union between a man and a woman.

When we have the discussion in the civil framework, and then add God and Biblical values into the mix, statements made on both sides of the issue start to sound beyond insane. That marriage was intended for any but a male and a female, whether considered from a scientific/natural viewpoint or a spiritual viewpoint is ludicrous. But to make the argument work we must redefine marriage and thus must oversimplify the idea of marriage as being all about love. Sounds sweet but isn’t true. Through the centuries marriage has been about procreation, convenience, comfort, basic needs, political power, economics, safety, family name and more much more. Love, too. Sure, sometimes. Love is nice, but it is not necessary. The #lovewins argument has been bandied about long enough it has taken traction and acceptability because we as a culture make decisions based less on intellect and more on emotion. But it still isn’t a particularly solid argument.

Let’s review.

From my understanding, from a purely civil rights viewpoint, saying okay to same sex marriage is the obvious conclusion. There can be no other.

When the civil and spiritual frameworks are mixed you get some rather bizarre arguments from both sides to support their conclusions. Neither side’s opinions make much sense to the other. Many thoughtful religious people, being supportive of civil rights, tend to chuck some of their theology out the window to make their civil rights conclusion work out. I am amazed by how many of my clergy friends have mixed the civil rights and spiritual discussions of same sex marriage. Since this mixed thinking is so thoroughly mixed in their minds several have told me the discussion is over since the Supreme Court’s ruling. Not really. The legal matter has been settled, but not the spiritual. And the two are VERY DIFFERENT.

Having the discussion from within the spiritual framework can bring different conclusions from different people. The conclusion one reaches depends on many factors. Some of it depends on the strength one gives Scripture as being the inspired and authoritative word of God. Seeing the Bible as a holy book filled with historic stories, myths, good advice and poetry written by a bunch of people who lived in a time totally disconnected from what we are experiencing, not only depletes it’s authority to speak to same sex marriage, but also makes it much easier to deal with when the reader is confronted by the laws and statements it contains that one doesn’t particularly care for or agree with. If one can discount the Bible from the discussion, one can end up wherever one is predisposed to land. The basic factor determining where one’s argument concludes is where one wanted the argument to land – pro or con – in the first place. Most of us fall prey to this flawed thinking. We will do research, tell sweet, moving stories, fracture facts and fold, spindle and mutilate Scripture to make those things supportive of our preconceived notions. Yes, yes, I have heard all of the arguments about what the Bible REALLY says about homosexual behavior and same sex marriage. Since some of these pronouncements and opinions come from people with advanced degrees they must be correct. (Sarcasm)

For these reasons, I believe that the same sex marriage debate has caused much confusion, conflict and anger. And I don’t believe that has been necessary.

If the powers that be were looking for my advice (Which they are not.) I would suggest we take seriously the concept of the separation of church and state, and take marriage out of the hands and influence of the state and make marriage a church only thing. Thus the government would be relieved of the embarrassing, yet necessary, task of redefining marriage (Which they can do because we who live on earth right now are the smartest and most evolved humans ever. No other people ever considered redefining marriage. (More sarcasm.)) When marriage becomes the sole bailiwick of the church, marriage is not legally redefined, no one is forced to do something they find to be morally objectionable and gays and lesbians can get married. Problem solved.

I guess you are as amazed as I that the government hasn’t sought my opinion.

(The author’s views in this blog in no way reflect or represent the views of the church he serves or the denomination he is a part of. They are just his thoughts. If you don’t agree with him, ask yourself why not, but don’t bother trying to straighten him out. He is a stubborn, opinionated old man and you will be wasting your time and energy. J)

Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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 27, 2015

The Power of Love in Healing


The past two Sundays we have been praying healing prayers. This week I talked about the power of love for healing.
Love Is powerful.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
This is new and powerful because we are urged to love each other like Jesus loves us. It takes love to a new level and to a new dimension. This speaks directly to who you are as a person and a Christian. Loving brings health and power into your life and your love brings health and life to those around you. We struggle with all of this because we really don’t understand love. Thousands of books and songs are written on the subject of love each year. But I doubt that we truly understand it. Especially if one looks from a Biblical perspective.
What Is love? Love is not a warm emotion; it is an act of the will. Jesus commands us to love one another. It cannot be commanded if it is an uncontrollable emotion. Like the forgiveness we talked about in my blog last week, we decide to love and then carry out that decision. Love is not how we feel, it is what we do. It is described perfectly in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV). “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
There is not one emotion mentioned here. Love is not an unmanageable emotion, it is an act of the will… a decision we make and then carry out by our actions.
Love and hate are both quite powerful. They can bring life or they can take life. They can strengthen or they can weaken. Love brings faith and hate nurtures fear. The basic nature of God is love and the core of Christianity is love. Scripture speaks to these points. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:16-18 (NIV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV)
Love is the source of salvation which is the ultimate healing. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 (NIV) “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)
Love or the lack of love dictates our behavior. Love is foundational to all we do and all we are as Christians. It is through love and with love that we claim all God has for us. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV2011)
Allow me to share a story of the healing power of love. (This is an excerpt from my book, RENEW YOUR CONGREGATION, HEALING THE SICK AND RAISING THE DEAD.)
Travel back with me in time. It was almost 30 years ago. It was a Saturday night. Really it was the wee hours of Sunday morning. Five of us shared a room. We spent the night together. It was a room for one, but we all managed to squeeze in. We all knew each other. In fact, we are related...enjoy each other’s company...love each other. But not one of us really wanted to be there.
It was an expensive room. My guess is it went for about $2,000 a night. Good view of the city. Nothing else special about it. There was no pool available. No Jacuzzi. The only meals available were at a cafeteria. The room service was nonexistent. The floors weren’t carpeted. I have seen larger bathrooms on a bus. No doubt that what made the room expensive was the equipment: the monitors, IV pumps, electric multi-position bed, oxygen, vacuum pumps, and cabinets of medical supplies. The room we shared was room 466 in the intensive care unit of Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.
I had received the ominous telephone call earlier that evening: “Your brother has taken a turn for the worse, and we want his family to come to the hospital.” I used to work in a hospital so I know that the “turn for the worse” line is “medicalese” for “your loved one just died, and we want you to come to the hospital so we can tell you to your face that he is dead.” So I went to the hospital without much hope.
Being hospital savvy and knowing I would be arriving in the middle of the night, I wore a tie and my clergy name badge. Instead of stopping me, the security guard in the ER showed me the way to the intensive care unit. Instead of questioning me, the nurse in intensive care directed me to Mr. McConnell’s room.
Getting there was the easy part. Surprisingly, my brother Bob was still alive when I arrived. Just barely, but alive. My sister Kae, her daughter June, and my daughter Meg, were there staring at the monitor screen. There is not much else to look at, so everyone in the room tends to stare at the monitor. And they were waiting. Waiting for me… Waiting for Bob to die… Waiting for God to do something… Waiting. I arrived, we prayed, and then I joined the waiting.
We took turns sitting in the three available chairs. We were playing a sort of musical chairs without the music. We wrapped up in blankets and complained of the cold. Individually and as a unit, we pursued the hopeless search for a comfortable position. My theory is hospital chairs are designed to be uncomfortable to make one miserable enough to go home and get out of the staff’s hair.
Nevertheless, we stayed and sought sleep, and we resisted sleep. We talked. We talked to Bob, and we talked about Bob. We talked about better days and family and how and what our children and grandchildren are doing and whatever happened to old what’s-his-name and spouses and ex-spouses and what had been and what could have been and what should have been. We stood by the bed and held Bob’s hand and looked into his tired face and listened to his labored breathing and prayed and wept and hoped against hope.
Morning came. Bob was not only still alive, but just a bit better and rallying quickly. His doctor showed up and was amazed to find him alive. The doctor didn’t quite know what to make of it. Temperature—down. Blood pressure—up. Blood oxygen—up. Lungs—clear. It was amazing. The doctor wondered aloud, “How did this happen?” We didn’t know. He held the only medical degree in the room.
I have a theory. A popular Christian song says, “In this very room there is quite enough love for one like me.” I believe in that very room in the intensive care unit of Jewish Hospital there was quite enough love for Bob. Enough love for Bob—for Bob to live through the night. For Bob to recover live for almost 25 years in North Carolina where he was close to and enjoyed life with his children and grandchildren. Ask me, and I will tell you that it is true. You can live on love. Love is powerful enough to work miracles and bring healing. My hope is that we all find a room like that very room I was blessed to spend that Saturday night in. It was a miserably marvelous room. It was a room filled to overflowing with love.
It is in rooms like that room where healing happens.
Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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 20, 2015

Dear OLD Dad

If still living, my father would be celebrating his 100th birthday this week.

Unfortunately he only lived to be 71 years old. As far as I’m concerned his life was way too short. After I reached adulthood my father and I became good friends. Not so much before that.

I was a challenging child – at least that’s how I choose to see it. I didn’t try to do things to irritate my parents, they just sort of happened. I remember one of many conversations with my big brother about life. He told me that before he did anything he thought about how his actions would impact our parents. I was amazed. Such thoughts never entered my mind. If I wanted to do something, I weighed the impact it might have on me and if the results were something I thought I could live with I did it. So I was often in the doghouse it the McConnell household. Dad and I had many chats. Well, not exactly chats. He talked and I listened. The less I said the better the outcome for me.

My earliest memories of my Dad were waiting for him to come home to deal with some of my misbehavior. Please understand, my mother had no problem dealing out some discipline; she just saved the heavy lifting for dad. Like Bill Cosby said of his parents, when dad got home mother only had one thing to say – “Kill the child.” Fortunately, much like his younger son, dad often failed to follow my mother’s instructions. Thus, I survived childhood.

My dad was a worker and felt it was his task as a father to teach his children the joy of hard work and the accomplishments it brought. Every Saturday, while my friends were in the house watching morning cartoons, my dad always had a project lined up for my brother and I to do. Every project was a learning experience and dad was a great teacher. Over the years I learned how to cut the grass (First with a mechanical push mower.), build fences, fix small engines, cut down trees and split firewood, plant trees and bushes, shovel and haul manure (Not difficult to learn.), build a rock damn on a creek, take care of a dog, plant, cut, strip and house tobacco, cut and house hay, raise hogs, repair and paint a barn, repair a roof, replace a broken window, balance a checkbook, develop a budget, change a tire, and the list could go on forever. My dad could work anyone he ever met right into the ground. I often thought he would never announce that it was quitting time. Sundown didn’t necessarily stop the work.

Dad was fun and interesting to work with. He was always teaching. He had a great sense of humor. And lunch was good and he paid for it. I have often thought that the best meal in the world was bologna and cheese on crackers with a Pepsi and eaten sitting on the tailgate of his truck. The man could work you into the ground. I have never seen such stamina. One steaming hot summer day, Dad, my brother and I were building fence on the farm. When we paused my father looked around and asked where my brother had gone. I looked over in the weeds and discovered the body. Bob had passed out in the heat. Dad had hardly broken a sweat.

Ah, his truck. It served many purposes besides being our dining room table for lunch. It was always the cheapest model available. No air conditioning, three speed transmission on the column, power nothing and white. But riding in it with dad was always and adventure. Mother called him, “The most dangerous man in Henry County Kentucky”… because dad never paid any attention to his driving. He was busy looking at the crops in the fields we were passing or counting how many head of cattle the neighbors had. It seems dad’s policy was to drive down the middle of the road and it was everyone else’s responsibility to get the hell out of the way. I lived through several heart stopping moments riding in that truck… most of them experienced at the crest of a hill. Near the end of his life I drove him across Kentucky to a meeting during an ice storm. When we arrived back home he said, “You are a very good driver.” I told him that compliment would have meant more coming from someone else. Mother spent her life convinced my father would die in a traffic accident.

My father was a wise man and he didn’t mind sharing that wisdom. Unfortunately most of it was shared with me while I was still a know-it-all teenager so it fell on deaf ears. Dad had two favorite lecture halls. If he was dispensing wisdom, it was in the bathroom. He sat on the pot and the receiver sat on the edge of the tub. We had sliding glass shower doors so one didn’t actually sit on tub, but on the relatively narrow channel the doors slid in. it took the channel approximately 20 minutes to cut off the circulations to my legs and I lost all feeling in them. I always stood up post lecture and reeled around the house like a drunk. As my legs deadened I lost all interest in the lecture and could only concentrate on the process of feeling my legs go to sleep.

Dad’s other lecture hall was his in home office. This was reserved for the angry, you-have-really-screwed-up-this-time lectures. Unfortunately for both of us, I attended a rather large number of these lectures. Occasionally the invitation to the office puzzled me; I had no idea what it had done wrong. Most of the time I had no doubts. One of my father’s favorite ploys was to ask, “Is there anything you need to tell me.” Sometimes he followed up with, “Confession is good for the soul.” I learned from my older siblings that the safe and proper answer was, “I love you, Dad.” Rarely would I deny any wrong doing, but I made it a policy to never admit to anything.

Just as I had the distraction of taking notice of how long it took my legs to go to sleep in the bathroom lectures, I had a distraction in the office lectures. Dad invariably started every office talk by declaring, “Now, I’m not going to get mad.” He got mad every time. There were two distractions connected with this. The first was, how long would it take before he was completely out of his mind with anger? In my experience it usually took between 90 and 120 seconds. The second distraction was that special vein in his forehead. About two minutes into the lecture and his anger was peaking, a vein on his forehead would stand out about an inch and pulsate. It was mesmerizing. I kept waiting for it to explode. Somehow it always managed to make it through the talk intact.

Dad had grown up in a time and place without television or radios. They didn’t even have electricity during most of his childhood. For entertainment they set out on the porch and told stories. He became a master story teller. Many a summer evening we sat on the porch and listened to dad tell stories of his childhood. When dad told a story you could see the people he described, feel and smell the environment and hear their voices. Dad described “Uncle Lem’s” laugh as a come-back laugh. When he described Mide Fogg’s face I could imagine her dark sparkling eyes and see every wrinkle. In my mind’s eye I can still see her tiny cabin tucked back in a Kentucky hollow. I can hear Uncle Theodore yelling into a stubborn mule’s face, “You think you’re smarter than me? I’ll have you know I graduated from high school.” What could be funnier than when his very stoic and no nonsense father fell off a hay rake because his brother had failed to sufficiently tighten the bolt holding the seat? He immediately jumped up looking for someone to give a good hiding. Granddaddy found himself surrounded by the most innocent looking boys imaginable.

Dad spent many hours teaching me and my brother the ins and outs of baseball and basketball. He even built a driveway turnaround that was the size of half of a basketball court. He could shoot a two hand underhand set shot from half court that got nothing but net. Over and over and over. He was even better at teaching baseball. We built a backstop in the far corner of the yard and my brother and I spent thousands of hours pitching and batting. In high school I lettered in baseball and Bob became a superstar. His pitching ability was renown all over the state of Kentucky. The first day one of us hit a ball far enough to hit the house and break a window, dad was thrilled. He even took the time to coach some of our kid’s league teams.

Mom and dad’s philosophy about vacations was, “If you take the kids, it isn’t a vacation.” Most vacations we kids stayed home under the watchful eye of one of our strange and entertaining aunts. The only family vacation I remember was an eternity long road trip to Florida. The car was hot and crowded (Five kids), the motels were hot and crowded and the beach was hot and crowded. Dad’s favorite form of fun was to float us out from the beach on an inner tube and then claim he saw a jellyfish. Without fail one of us kids would flail around avoiding the phony jellyfish and fall off the tube. Dad thought that was hysterical.

Dad brought a never ending line of strange characters to the house. Most remembered was Mr. Wiekel. Harold Wiekel was much older than dad but loved to hang around with him. Mr. Wiekel showed up most Saturday morning excited about helping dad with whatever project he had cooked up. The most memorable thing about Wiekel was his shaky hands. They never stopped shaking and we boys couldn’t take our eyes off of them – especially during lunch. I will never know if mom did it on purpose but it seems she served either soup or a vegetable like peas every time Mr. Wiekel came over. Our mouths gaped open as we watched to see if Wiekel’s eating instrument would make it to his mouth with any trace of food on it.

Like many veterans of World War II, dad made a promise to God that if he survived the war he would go to church. He was a man of his word. So the McConnell family showed up at church every time the doors opened. Church was central to our family social circle. At church mom and dad made lifelong friendships. Their friend’s children became our friends. The McConnell house was always full of family and friends. On Saturday mornings, before fixing breakfast, mom would do a “body count” so she would know how many to prepare for. There was much love and laughter in that house and dad was always right at the center of it all.

Unfortunately for my kids, my dad was a much better father than I turned out to be. I was lucky to have him and I still miss him.

Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Power of Forgiveness


Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally or easily. It must be learned and then practiced.
Why Forgive When We Have Really Been Wronged? Forgiving doesn't make sense to us. After all, I have a right to be angry and unforgiving, especially when the one who wronged us hasn’t apologized. I am only doing what is natural and normal. I owe it to myself.
We read this lesson of forgiveness in this exchange between Peter and Jesus.
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
"When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV)
This story makes it clear that our need for forgiveness must certainly motive us to forgive others. There is not a double standard in the forgiveness business.
Forgiveness sets the forgiver and the forgiven free.
It is good and healthy for both parties involved. Both the offender and the offended are stuck at the point of pain. Unforgiveness is a heavy burden born by both people involved.
 Failing to forgive is not a rational choice… if we are AWARE OF THE SPIRITUAL RAMIFICATIONS.
 
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
 
To be forgiven we must forgive. It is stated clear in what we call the Lord’s Prayer that we are forgiven only as we forgive. Jesus went on to reiterate this basic spiritual truth after sharing the lesson on prayer. It is a basic truth that we must never lose sight on. We are reminded of this foundational truth every week when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.
 
Scripture also tells us that unforgiveness is unhealthy. Unforgiveness and the bitterness that it leads to is an underlying cause of spiritual, emotional and physical illness. Many time in his ministry of healing, Jesus spoke to the need for forgiveness as synonymous with healing. The two go hand in hand.
 
"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Matthew 9:1-6 (NIV)
 
Because it is not something we humans do naturally, forgiveness is difficult. It is not complex but it is difficult.
  • Forgiving someone means giving up resentment and the right to get even with him or her, even though you were wronged.
  • You are not saying they were not wrong; you are just letting the repercussions go.
  • One reason He commands us to forego hostility and vengeance is that these things cause so much damage to our own lives.
Most doctors believe that our emotional state directly and powerfully impacts us physically.
 
A quote that has been attributed to many people says, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Not forgiving another does much less damage to them than it does to us. Let me sight a case I am familiar with.
 
It was late in the spring of 1971. I was a seminary student serving my student church in Shelby County Kentucky. On a warm Sunday afternoon I was enjoying the beautiful day sitting on the front porch of the little parsonage the church made available to our growing family. The town was tiny so when any traffic drove by it was noticeable. When a car pulled up in front of the house it had my full attention. Within moments a extremely beautiful woman I had never seen before approached from the car. She introduced herself and told me that her mother, who had been ill for several years, was a member of the church I served. Her mother was severely ill and would I go visit her? I was, of course, happy to.
 
After checking in with my wife, I headed off to the county hospital in Shelbyville. After tracking down the room number, I discovered a very tiny, very ill woman. She weighed well under 100 pounds. When I asked how she was doing, she described her symptoms. She was suffering from a chronic, extreme GI problem.
 
Making conversation I mentioned that I had met her daughter and she beamed with pride. Then I told her I had not yet met her husband. The atmosphere in the room changed. Storm clouds gathered and lightening flashed. She suddenly became a different woman; agitated, frustrated and hostile. She announced that she was divorced. I thought it must be recent to be so raw. When I asked, “How long?” She replied, “Fifteen years.”
 
As we wrapped up our visit and I prepared to pray for her, I asked how long she had been suffering from her affliction, to which she replied, “About 15 years.” A light bulb went off in my head. I asked her if she thought her unforgiveness and hatred she had for her ex-husband could be the cause of her illness. She thought about it for several seconds that felt like minutes to me before she said, “Yes they could be connected.” Ceasing on a great ministry opportunity I asked her, “Would you like for me to pray with you to forgive your ex and then ask God to heal you.” She looked me directly in my eyes and said something I will never forget. She said, “No, I would rather die.” And soon thereafter she did.
 
Forgiveness is unnatural but important. So we must look at how we forgive others. There are steps we can take in forgiving others. It is not a momentary emotional response to the situation. It is a decision that must then be carried out.
1.     Face the reality of your hurt. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter. It was real and it was wrong. Don’t diminish it or blow it off.
2.     Don’t wait for an apology. Forgiveness is a unilateral move. It doesn’t have to follow an apology. Forgiveness is not about fixing what was done. It is about putting the experience behind you and getting on with life.
3.     Decide to forgive. Forgiveness is not an emotional response, at is an act of the will… a decision.
4.     Continue to practice forgiving until it is done. Decide to forgive and then keep on forgiving. Every time the event comes to mind, actively forgive. Abandon the negative thoughts and choose the positive.

Unforgiveness is powerfully destructive. Forgiveness is even more powerful.

Copyright © 2015, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee 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