Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why I Will Never Retire

I understand why some people retire… why they look forward to retirement. They hate their jobs and dread getting up each day and plodding off to endure another day of suffering. One of my dear friends and fellow firefighter, J. C. Long, dutifully, daily went to a job he hated. He did it to support a family he loved. I admired his love, courage and tenacity. What I don’t understand is why he chose to live like that?

We have choices. It may not seem so, but we do. We get our heads down, stumbling step after step until it becomes next to impossible to look up and around to seek a way out. But the truth is, one could always get another job. Doing that may be difficult. Perhaps it calls for some more education or training. Perhaps changing jobs calls for some short-term challenges and sacrifices, but it is doable. My thought is, if one is going to spend 1/3 of one’s life at work, why not go to the trouble to make it a pleasant experience?

With that said, if my health permits, I will never retire. There a couple of reasons I have reached that conclusion. The first is, I am called to the ministry. It is not a job, it is a calling. It is how, I believe, God wants me to invest my life. And that calling doesn’t end just because the culture in which I live says that there is a retirement age and when I reach it I should just retire. Along with this calling is the fact that it is only recently, through years of practice, of trial and error (The emphasis on the error thing.), I have finally figured out how to do this thing God has called me to do. Successful and healthy ministry is rather complicated and difficult and though I spent many years in school to prepare myself, very little I was taught in college and seminary has proven to be applicable and useful. So, why quit now?

My second reason comes from observing retired men around me. The first was my father. Dad had a type A personality, a go getter, an organizer and a high-powered executive. He was a boss and had many employees looking to him for leadership, and he supplied it. He was loved and highly respected. Then he retired. The first odd thing I noticed, the rare mornings I joined him for breakfast, he showed up at the table wearing, as he had for decades, a white dress shirt and tie. He was going nowhere. He had no meetings or appointments. So, I am wondering, what’s with the shirt and tie? I would drop by and find him randomly calling people (Whom he didn’t know.) to chat. One day they were snowed in so a came by to shovel their front walk. I found him armed with the Henry County phone book calling strangers and saying something to the effect of, “Hi, this is Bill McConnell. Just thought I would call to see if there is anything I could do for you.” Mother mumbled, “What in the hell is he doing? He’s snowed in. He can’t even do anything for us, much less anyone else.” They were quite a combination.

When considering the second reason I won’t retire I noted that many retired men lose their minds and become colossal pains in the butt. As my mother so well put it, “I took him for better or worse, but not for lunch.” She began devising ways to get him out of the house. I have a retired preacher friend who has so little of meaning to do that he posts on Facebook exciting items such as: how many days he has been retired; fish he has caught and where he is eating lunch. Just shoot me.

Every kid who has grown up in a neighborhood has had a grumpy old man neighbor. An old retired guy who had nothing better to do than make every kid on the block miserable. Hit a ball in his yard, it was gone forever. Step a foot off the side walk into his yard and get screamed at. Go to his house trick or treating – absolutely not. With nothing else to do, retired men expend what little energy they have on things that really don’t matter. For many, their lawns seem to become their center of attention. Their lawn and your lawn, which is not as well kept as theirs because you are incumbered by things like kids and a job and a life. They don’t approve of your poorly kept lawn and are happy to share with you their unhappiness.

Our one-time next-door neighbor was a retired postal worker… double trouble. Sam spent a huge amount of his time and energy defending his borders. If a man’s home is his castle, Sam’s yard was his fiefdom. We had been moved in less than a week before Sam dropped by to tell us that our fence was a couple of feet over on his property. I suggested he have it surveyed and if that was so, we would have the fence moved. After several weeks I asked Sam about the survey and he admitted that the survey had shown that the fence was two feet over on our property. Sam complained when we parked our cars to close to the edge of our driveway. OUR DRIVEWAY!! Sam didn’t like our teenagers parking in the street in front of his house, so he called the city. They said it was public parking and could do nothing about it. So, Sam went out one afternoon and painted the curb in front of his house bright, “no parking” yellow. Of course, within 48 hours, the words “Park Here” were painted on top of his yellow paint job. My kids still swear they didn’t do it. And I believe them. I think they talked the younger kids who lived next door into doing it.

I recently read of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul being attacked by his next-door neighbor. The neighbor was upset with Senator Paul because the Senator wasn’t keeping his lawn up to the neighbor’s standards. Leaves and grass clipping were blowing off Paul’s property onto his. The neighbor’s response was to tackle Paul as he was dismounting his lawn tractor. The Senator suffered several broken. Having recently fractured one of my ribs, the Senator has my full sympathy. That hurts, and it hurts a lot for a long time. The man charged in the assault is Paul’s next-door neighbor, Dr. Rene Boucher. Dr. Boucher is a retired anesthesiologist. Emphasis on retired.

My conclusion is, I will never retire because I am already crazy enough and a big enough pain in the butt without intensifying the problem. Plus, right now I do give a hoot about my yard and I like it that way.

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, August 24, 2017

Stupid Decisions Can Get You Hurt

As I reflect on my childhood, I am amazed that I survived. I think it is a miracle that any of us survive childhood. I made several decisions that could have led to the end of life for me. They were all stupid decisions. Allow me to share some examples.

While out hunting with some friends with bow and arrow (real arrows) we decided it would be a clever idea to fire some arrows straight up and see how close they would land to us. Stupid. We loved to go canoeing on the Ohio River and ride the wakes off the barges on the river. None of us could swim and we didn’t have any life jackets. Stupid. The list could go on but those two examples are embarrassing enough to make my point.

They don’t always, but stupid decisions can get you hurt. We see and are aware when someone gets hurt, but we rarely take a step back to assess the cause of the injury and the ensuing drama. We are an emotionally reactionary culture and seem to have difficulty thinking things through. We expect immediate, thoughtless, deeply emotional responses filled with sympathy for the person or persons injured and deep disgust for the terrible person who inflected the pain. If one fails to respond in this manner, he or she is labeled a hate filled, less than human being.

In the past few days the press and Facebook have been about very little other than the tragic death of a young woman demonstrator in Charlottesville, North Carolina. She was killed by a young man believed to be a Neo Nazi. Dozens of my clergy friends have posted long, involved posts on Facebook denouncing this horrible tragedy and denouncing the hateful person or people who killed her. I have not bothered to do so since I think that such a response is the rational response from any thinking person and there is no need for me to heap more words on top of the huge pile of statements already posted. Enough is enough and I really don’t need to be heard from.

What I haven’t seen is any rational discussion as to why this woman’s death occurred and how it might have been avoided. Let me be blunt and clear (and unpopular). This woman’s death was not only sad, it was the result of some stupid, and avoidable, decisions.

Let’s take a step back to the time before the Neo Nazis and skin heads took to the streets in Charlottesville to march for their cause of racism and white supremacy. The word gets out and I, an anti-racist kind of guy hears about it. The decision-making process begins. Here is a good idea. Me and a bunch of my friends and other right thinkers will go down there and confront those bigots and get them straightened out. Since many of the demonstrators will be young, stupid (they are racists) men who have a history of violence, short tempers and are most likely armed, we will go confront them and we’ll take some baseball bats and wear helmets. One of two outcomes are predictable. 1. They will be so impressed with us and what we have to say, they will repent of their racism on the spot. 2. There will be a massive ass-kicking and we will get the crap beat out of us. Gee, I wonder which is most likely to happen.

Let’s think again. The word gets out that some Neo Nazi white supremacists are going to demonstrate in Charlottesville. Since they stand for everything I am against but are protected by free speech, how will I react? I decide to ignore them. By ignoring them, I will help draw less attention to their already unpopular cause and guarantee them even less news coverage than if counter protesters showed up. They would hold their demonstration, no body much would notice it, they would gain no new followers and they would just go crawl back into the holes they crawled out of. End of story

But no! Since we have become an emotion driven, thoughtless culture, we make the thoughtless (stupid), emotion driven choice of confrontation and people get hurt and a woman gets killed. And then we are appalled. We are appalled by the completely predictable actions and reactions of the people involved instead of being appalled at the stupidity of our decisions. To do that takes too much time and too much thought. We are programmed for an immediate, emotional response.

I think racism is sad, stupid and appalling. I think racists holding a rally in favor of racism is a disgusting but protected right. All speech, including hate speech, is a right in America. I also have the right not to listen to it. I think the counter demonstrators also have the right to assemble. But just because it is a right doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Sometimes it is a stupid idea. And stupid decisions can get you hurt. I am profoundly sorry that young woman died and others were hurt in the confrontation. I am also sorry they decided to pick that particular fight.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are You Kidding Me?

I find the teachings of Jesus troubling. Not the teachings I hear modern day preachers teach as they "interpret" the teachings of Jesus, but His teachings straight out of the Bible. The teachings of Jesus unadulterated: before our scholarly pastors can bend, fold and mutilate His words into mushy pop psychology and easy to swallow platitudes. Get a load of this one.

He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him because power was coming from him and healing them all. Luke 6:17-19 (NIV)

In this passage, we read that a great number of people assembled. This was, doubtlessly, a tremendously differing crowd, and yet they had something in common. They were troubled people who knew they were troubled. Such were the people attracted to Jesus. Not the rich or the middle class; comfortable, self-reliant people like us. These were the down and outers. The people who should go to a storefront church with shabby carpet and folding chairs. They were plagued by evil spirits, chronic illness, and life problems. Each, in their own way, was a mess. And all they wanted to do was be touched by Jesus. Their needs were clear and the cure was obvious. So, they came to Jesus.

It seems as we read the New Testament, that these people were special. As the teaching continues, Jesus explains why they are special in the Kingdom of God.
Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. Luke 6:20-26 (NIV)

Allow me a moment of honesty. Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard? Really. The way I see it, Jesus got the blessings and curses completely backward. I mean, really, are these the blessings you want? To be poor, hungry, crying, hated, excluded, insulted and rejected as evil. Is this what you are going to seek out and when you get those things you are going to rejoice and leap for joy? Are these what you consider blessings? Are these the things we pursue? Do we consider life a success when these things are happening to us? Is your response to being poor, hungry, sad and disliked to celebrate?

And to make matters worse He enumerates the curses: to be rich, to be well fed, to laugh, to have people speak well of you. Are these things we avoid? Do you feel yourself to be a failure when you are rich, well fed, happy and respected? How do you measure success? Is your way different from a person who doesn’t claim to be a follower of Christ? Why or why not?

Why would Jesus say such things? This teaching, taken at face value, makes absolutely no sense to us. Now I know some Biblical scholars say that Jesus meant that people who are spiritually hungry are blessed. Nice try… doesn’t that make us more comfortable with the teaching? It does, but I seriously doubt Jesus intended to make us comfortable with His teachings. I believe He meant to make us think.

This teaching is completely upside down when stood beside what we really believe and how we seek to live. What do you consider a good day… a good life? Nice, comfortable weather; the car starts; the traffic is light; we like our jobs; nobody or nothing irritates us; everyone is kind to us; we have good health; we have plenty of money to buy what we want.

When Jesus looks at your daily life, what do you think He thinks of your life and your choices? Do you share the same values? Do you have the same goals? Does He want for you what you desire to have and experience? Think about His teachings. If you took them seriously, would anything change in your life? Your giving – how you spend your money; how you use your time; how you treat others; if you are taking care of others – visiting the sick and lonely, feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, housing the homeless.

As I study the teachings of Jesus I am convinced that to fully embrace Christianity is to live life backward and upside down. To fully embrace Christianity is to abandon life as we had once known and lived it. One’s allegiance changes from self to total commitment to God as Lord and Savior. Trying to be just a little bit Christian is a ridiculous idea and completely undoable. We seem to desire that Jesus redecorate our lives instead of doing a complete restoration.

These blessings are to be embraced. They allow us to see life as it really is. Especially in the context of eternity: life is eternal; our lives on earth are preparation for life in the Kingdom of God. The purpose of life is to learn and grow into the image of Christ. The picture Jesus paints is much larger than we first understood.

They help us to see ourselves as we really are: Sinners in need of salvation; relatively helpless beings; prone to following false leaders and philosophies.

They open us to God: to God’s leading; to God’s plan; to God’s ministry in our lives; to God’s ministry for our lives.

Questions to contemplate:
  • ·       Are you living life backward and upside down from the people around you?
  • ·       Are you living and thinking in the context of eternity?
  • ·     Do you take the teachings of Jesus seriously and are you applying them to how you live your life?

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, August 15, 2017

Lost Balls in the High Weeds

Since early childhood, I heard my father refer to certain people as a lost ball in the high weeds. The phrase made more sense to me after I became old enough to play baseball. My father, brother and I spent untold hours looking for miss hit balls that ended over the fence and lost in the weeds. Sometimes we had to step almost directly on the ball to spot it. Every time the ball popped over the fence we collectively let out a sigh of dread… we knew we were in for a long and difficult task. We even tried lifting our 75-pound dog over the fence to sniff out the ball for us. I concluded the dog’s nose wasn’t any more sensitive than mine. The dog found several useless objects, but never a baseball. Not once.

Over the years I have met several people who seemed as lost as a ball in the high weeds. Even worse are organizations that are lost. There is little more destructive to organizations (and individuals) than getting off track; getting lost. The Bible puts it like this: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Getting off track, losing your way, abandoning your life mission and vision, is common and comes in many forms. I think of a friend who was in college, on his way to a career, and he fell in lust, err, I mean love, and nothing would do but to immediately get married. With a family to support, he dropped out of school and went to work. For many years now he has worked hard, sometimes at multiple jobs, and just managed to provide support for his family. It has been a constant struggle and challenge that has worn on his body, his psyche, and his marriage. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he had waited on marriage and finished college first.

Another friend worked for a very successful business that sold a popular product. Motivated by their past success, the company decided to diversify and add many additional offerings to their product line. Within just a couple of years, they were suffering from severe financial difficulties. They quickly divested themselves of the extra product and again enjoyed success.

As a pastor, I can’t help but note the decline of the North American church in both size and in influence and believe it is a matter of us (the church) losing our way. I make it a habit to ask church leaders, “What is the purpose of the church?” I have received hundreds of different answers. When I point out that Jesus’ marching orders to the church, what we have labeled, The Great Commission, (Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.") is still valid and that the purpose of the church is to make disciples, I am invariably met with a blank stare. What seems simple and obvious to me seems to be Greek to them. (Apologies to my learned colleagues who studied Greek.)

From my readings and conversations with my good hearted but misdirected colleagues, it seems that they believe our task has become to right all of the wrongs in the world through political activity. If we can just get the right politicians into power, they will pass legislation and poverty will end, injustice will turn to justice, hate will become love and inequities will end and we will all earn a living wage of $25 an hour. I hear such conversations and I can’t help but wonder: Are we reading the same book; are we watching the same movie called life?

I have been around a long time and I am a very observant person. I have seen our country under many administrations of both major parties, and nothing much has changed. We have spent trillions of dollars on the “War on Poverty” and have more people living in poverty now than when President Johnson declared war. We are having a difficult time understand that throwing money at poverty doesn’t solve the problem.

Women, who, by law, now have more “rights” than men, are still taking to the streets to demand their rights because they are still being treated unequally. We have difficulty understanding that passing laws does not change the human heart and attitudes.

Legislators have been hacking and chopping at the racial issues of our nation for decades. And yet racism continues to be a significant problem. Is it that difficult to understand that racism isn’t erased through laws and edicts?

Have my colleagues been observing what I have been observing and failed to reach what I believe to be the obvious conclusion that the government is not only inept but is completely unequipped to solve these social problems. They can barely manage to maintain the country’s infrastructure, much less resolve complicated problems springing from the human condition. Problems such as poverty, inequality and racism are only solved through healthy relationships. It takes the individual/personal touch found only in relationships to change hearts, not legislation.

The church that Jesus called into existence is uniquely equipped to deal with the problems of our humanness. First, we have the Gospel message that uniquely meets each individual where they are in their fallenness and brokenness and calls them to new life in Christ. In this new life we find forgiveness, grace, healing, love and acceptance and a growing relationship with the Living God. A life lived in such close proximity to God can do no less than bring positive change. It is a life of endless possibilities. From this new beginning, we have the possibility of being conformed to the image of Christ. This process is called discipleship. (Refer to the words of Jesus quoted previously.)

The next thing the church Jesus designed, made up of growing disciples, makes available to the world is people, who are called to ministry to do things like; love the unloved, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and address the injustices of the world. This ministry is successfully accomplished through relationships… deep, long term, meaningful, honest, transparent relationships steeped in love, loyalty, accountability and mutual respect. It is in the context of such relationships life change can happen.

I am strongly encouraging the North American church to find its way out of the tall weeds and morass of political involvement and re-immerse itself in our original calling of making disciples… Making disciples the church has grown and equipped to change our world. Disciples who are equipped to, in turn, make disciples.

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, July 20, 2017

Proud of the Republicans in Congress

I repeat myself when I say that I am no fan of either major political party. To believe that either side is interested in anything other than gaining power, money, influence and being re-elected is simply nonsense. Our present political system is completely dysfunctional. If you think Russia is the greatest threat to American democracy, I would draw your attention to Congress. I have just two words on the subject – term limits.

With all of that said, I will say that lately, I have been rather proud of the Republicans in Congress and the Senate. As has been all over the news, they have been unable to agree on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care). On the one hand, they have had several years to draft that legislation. How many years has the party’s mantra been, “Repeal and Replace”? It’s not like the idea came up last month. But they haven’t disappointed me since for years I have considered most of them to be idiots.

But then, I state in the title that I am proud of them. And I am. I am proud that they have not behaved like the Democrats. The Republicans are disagreeing with each other. They are having differing opinions. They are considering options. They may even be thinking (as hard as it is to believe). Much unlike the Democrats.

When passing legislation, such as Obama Care, the Democrats were in lock-step. No questions asked. No disagreement allowed. Okay, everyone, let’s say in unison – Yes. It was creepy to watch them pass the Affordable Care Act and other favored legislation. They seemed to work like a cult. No disagreement allowed. No differing thoughts allowed. The Democrat lemmings toe the company line or face what? What does the Democrat Party hold over its legislators that cause them to be so “agreeable?” What are they afraid of? Loss of support and not be re-elected? Probably not. No matter what they do the robots back home elect them to office again and again. Loss of party support or money? Probably since money seems to underlie most everything that happens in Washington.

So, even though I think they are nincompoops, I am proud of the Republicans in Congress and the Senate. They may be stupid, but at least they aren’t acting like those Democrats.

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, July 4, 2017

Another Thing To Take Care Of

I just love my sons. And not just because I am supposed to love them. They are great people. Handsome, smart, interesting, funny and just a joy to be around. I could probably write a book about any one of them, but today I want to tell you a bit about David.

Like all my sons, biological or not, he is a very handsome man. When he was a kid, many people described him as beautiful. At a family gathering a few years ago, I overheard a couple of his sisters-in-law talking about him. They were going on and on about how handsome he is. Finally, one of their husbands said, “You know I can hear you, don’t you?”

David was born with a sweet heart and a fun look at life. He was a toddler when we dedicated him at church. I was holding him in one arm and reading out of the dedication book; holding the book in my other hand. That freed him up to place a hand on each side of my face, force my face to center with his and preceded to kiss me right on the mouth. It was the sweetest dedication service I have ever been a part of.

One never knows what will come out of David’s mouth. What he says is rarely mean but often true, clear and funny. My favorite, oft told David story took place when he as around four or five years old. We lived in Stanford, Illinois, in a huge old house the church provided. With its twelve foot ceilings and the huge oak trees surrounding it, the house could be cooled in the summer by just opening the windows. One perfect summer day I was working in my office with the window open. Through that open window I heard a conversation David and his best friend Brian were having out in the yard just under that window.

David and Brian were best friends but they looked like brothers… almost twins. They both often were described as pretty. They had slight builds with light blond hair, beautiful blue eyes, nice complexions that tanned easily, were soft spoken and a joy to be around. They truly looked like brothers from different mothers.

A few years earlier, I had earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Counseling and, I must admit, for a while I was pretty full of myself. In a new pastorate, some people in the community were in the habit of calling me Dr. McConnell. (No one who knew me well.) That fact motivated the conversation I overheard. It went something like this. Brian (in an awed voice) said, “David, I just heard your daddy is a doctor.” To which David replied, “Yeah, but he’s not the kind that can help you.” I laughed till I thought I was going to wet myself. You just gotta love a kid that tells it like it is.

And he still has a great take on life and tells it like it is. For example, we were chatting on the phone earlier this week when he mentioned that he and his girlfriend had broken up. David also shared that she had ended it because he wasn’t spending enough time with her. I asked him how he was feeling about it. He said, in typical David fashion, “I am sad to see it end. But I am also relieved.” When I questioned him about being relieved, he replied, “She was a great person, but my life is full, with work and spending time with my children. (Let me say, at this point, David is the father I wish I had been.) So she ended up being just another thing I had to take care of.”

That may sound harsh to you. But it was David. He is sweet, kind, thoughtful and honest. Unfortunately, in our basically dishonest culture, honesty often sounds harsh when it is just being real and true. We are so used to being inundated with BS that, as was so famously said by Jack Nicholson in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, we can’t handle the truth.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Unfortunately, we reject the truth, cling to the lies and remain in bondage. How sad.

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, June 28, 2017

The Name Game

Everyone has a name. Most of us have little to say about what name we are tagged with. Parents choose names for children for a variety of reasons. Some names seem to fit the person and some don’t. Some of us like our names, some don"t.

Many of us change our names. Sometimes just a little and sometimes a lot. A college friend went from being Leonard Smalley to being Leonard Moredock, (Or vice-versa. It was a long time ago.) without getting married. Some of my siblings changed their names in many ways.

My oldest sister is Mae Katherine McConnell. We call her Kayce. Her name change came during high school when she went to work at a summer job at the insurance company where our father was a Vice President. She didn’t want special treatment so she kept the relationship undercover by telling everyone there that her name was Casey Jones. The Casey stuck as Kayce.

My next sister, Linda Lee, stuck with what our parents named her and is still called Linda. My older brother, Robert Redding McConnell, took the plain old nickname, Bob. Bob is who he was and Bob is who he will always be. Nothing much changed with Bob.

I was named for my father and paternal grandfather: William Thomas McConnell, III. A name filled with history and expectations and one I wish were shorter, especially on days like the day I filled out mortgage papers. It is a name designed to cause writer’s cramp. No one has called me William Thomas except my mother when she was especially exasperated with me. Since my father was called Bill, there was a need to find a new name for me. Up until I left for college, most family and friends called me Bill Tom. Post college friends call me Bill. If I hear someone call me Bill Tom I know it is a voice from the past. My parents could have called me Trey, but we lived in the south, the home of two named people, (Billy Bob, Tommy Joe, Bubba Roy) and Trey sounded just a bit too Yankee. The inner family often called me 3 I’s.

And then there is my younger sister; Elizabeth Sherfy McConnell. This poor kid took forever to finally land on a name. First the family called her Betty Sherfy. (Remember we lived in the south.) We called her BS for short – pun intended. She lobbied hard for a name change and the family started calling her Betty. Next, she left for college and she name shifted to Liz. That one stuck for several years and is what I still call her.

In her middle years, she morphed into Sherfy. That has stuck as she has journeyed into old age. Well, almost. Sherfy was quickly shortened to Sherf. Sherf has proven to be an unusual and interesting name. HER NAME HAS GIVEN ME ONE OF MY FAVORITE TRUE STORIES.

Many years ago, Sherf and her husband John relocated to Southport, North Carolina. I remember the name of the town because she repeated asked that I come visit them in Northport, South Carolina. Anyway, they began attending a small, friendly, informal church that they loved. One of the features of the worship services was a time for church members to testify to how God had blessed their lives. One young lady stood to tell her story. It went something like this. “I just want to thank God for Sherf. I was so depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed. Sherf came over, got my kids ready for school, fed them breakfast and got them on the bus. Then Sherf laid down in my bed with me and just held me while I cried.” The story was a touching testimony to my sister’s kindness and compassion.

The best part of the story unfolded after the worship service had ended. It was an unusual happening, but there were visitors in the morning worship. After church had ended, the pastor greeted the visitors and invited them out to lunch. In the course of dinner conversation, the pastor asked if the visitors had questions about the service or the church. Obviously, the visitors had had a conversation in the car on the way over. Their question went something like this. “We found the testimony interesting and were wondering: Just who is the Sherriff in this town?”

That is funny. Period.

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