If You Had Another Name, Would You Still Be You?

For many years the editor of the Wall Street Journal was a Tarheel by the name of Vermont C. Royster. That “C” in his name stood for “Connecticut.” And yes, all his siblings were likewise named for the states.

My wife and I were dining in a Birmingham restaurant some years back when I happened to notice that our waitress’ name was Auburn. Being the type who likes to jest with the help, I said, “I’ll bet you have a sister named Alabama.”

She said, “I have two sisters–Tulane and Cornell.” I shrank back into my chair, certain that she was putting me in my place.

“I have four brothers,” she said. “Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and Duquesne.” For once, I was completely speechless.

“My father’s name is Stanford and my mother is Loyola. They’re from Baton Rouge and were engaged before it occurred to them that they each had colleges as names and decided to do this to their children.”

“When we were little,” she said, “we were on the front of Parade magazine, on Art Linkletter’s House Party, and in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

When she told me she was married with two children, I said, “Wait a minute–let me guess your husband’s name.” Gardner Webb or Truett McConnell. Something like that.

“My husband is Ron Harris,” she said, “But my children are Agnes Scott and Slippery Rock.” She hastened to add, “I’m kidding about those.”

I once told that story to a professor at Agnes Scott who had a contribution of her own to this tale. “On the first day of class, when teachers don’t have a roll yet and have to circulate a sheet of paper for everyone to sign, and invariably some guy makes up a fictitious name? Well, I’ve learned to read ahead of the name I’m calling so I don’t fall for that. That’s when I spotted the ringer. I said to the class, ‘Who made up the stupid name?’ No answer. Then I said, ‘All right, who is this States Rights Constitution Finley the Third?’ And some guy raised his hand. I said, ‘That’s your name?’ It was. And just think–he’s the third. There’s two more of those running around.”

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Me And The Second World War Around Here

Perhaps a dozen people who read our weekly article are going to love what follows. My apologies to the rest of you.

Anyone who knows me is well acquainted with my love for history. As a preacher, I actually own more books on history than theology. At Birmingham-Southern, most of a lifetime ago, I majored in American history and later in seminary, focused on church history. Thirty years ago, I decided to collect all the books on Harry Truman I could find (he was the first president I actually remembered from my childhood). After a decade during which I accumulated over eighty volumes, I gave that pursuit up as too expensive and unnecessary. I still own the books, however, and wonder sometimes what to do with them.

I’ve been to Civil War battlefields, and presidential homes and libraries all over the country. It all fascinates me. In particular these days, the Second World War has become my major historical interest.

For years, I resisted getting into the study of this defining event of the 20th century, probably because there is so much of it and where does one begin. Born in 1940, I recall only smidgens of the war, mainly uncles coming home in their uniforms and my siblings standing out in the yard when a plane would go over, calling to an uncle (“Hey, John L.”) who was undoubtedly riding that particular one. I don’t think my interest in the war could be called nostalgia since I have no actual memories of any significant aspect of it.

I once read a journal which a British lady had kept during the war and that may have hooked me more than anything else. When Stephen Ambrose started the wonderful D-Day Museum here in New Orleans, I became a charter member. I will not bore you with the books I have read or the old, out-of-date and out-of-print books I am now collecting. However, I am leading up to telling you something I find fascinating.

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Dealing With The Jelly Of Life

John Avant is new at our North American Mission Board, a vice-president with broad areas of responsibility, who for years has been pastoring the New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. In his book, “The Passion Promise,” Brother John tells a story you need to hear.

During the Desert Storm war, Colonel William Post was charged with receiving the massive amounts of supplies for the ground forces. This included tons of food that arrived daily.

One day, the Pentagon sent Colonel Post a message inquiring about forty cases of grape jelly that were missing. Post dispatched an aide to find the missing jelly. A day or two later, he reported back that the jelly was nowhere to be found. Post sent that information on to the Pentagon and assumed that was the end of it. Wrong.

The higher ups in Washington kept badgering Post about the missing jelly. They would not be able to close the books on that month without locating those cases of jelly. It had to be found.

At this point, Col. Post sent this message to the Pentagon: “Sirs: you must decide. I can dispatch the entire army to find your missing jelly, or I can kick Saddam out of Kuwait. But not both.” He’s still waiting on a reply.

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About Dr. Joe McKeever

Dr. Joe McKeever


Phone: 504/615-2190

How to Know Jesus Christ and Live Forever

Cartoons by Joe McKeever

Where is Joe from? It depends on who he’s talking to. He was born and raised in rural Alabama (near Nauvoo), but lived in the coal fields of West Virginia (near Beckley) from ages 7 to 11. He lived in Birmingham, Alabama from ages 19 to 24, New Orleans from ages 24-27, Mississippi from 27 to 46, North Carolina from 46 to 50, and New Orleans ever since! So, when he runs into someone from one of these places, he acts like a native!

What do we need to know about Joe? Not much. Try this: born to Carl and Lois McKeever in 1940, the fourth of their six children; born again in 1951 at New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church; called into the ministry in 1961 at West End Baptist Church in Birmingham; earned master of theology and doctor of ministry degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (1967 and 1973). Married to Margaret Henderson, father of Neil, Marty, and Carla, father-in-law to Julie and Misha, and grandfather to Leah, Jessica, Grant, Abigail, Erin, Darilyn, JoAnne, and Jack. That enough?

Where did he pastor? Before seminary, Unity Baptist Church, Kimberly, Alabama. During seminary, Paradis Baptist Church, west of New Orleans. Thereafter: Emmanuel BC, Greenville, MS for 3 years; FBC of Jackson, MS as minister of evangelism 3 years; FBC of Columbus, MS for 12 years; FBC Charlotte, NC for 3 years; and FBC of Kenner, LA for 14 years, ending in the Spring of 2004.

What’s he doing now? After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he’s working on three books, and he’s trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he’s working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency. (If you’re on Facebook, visit him there!)

Some quotes:

“I was pushing 6 year old Abby on the swing in her front yard. We were making up dumb songs and having a big time. She said, ‘We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa.’ I said, ‘Yes we are. Why do we like to be so silly?’ She said, ‘It’s a family tradition.'”

“When I was five years old, Mom gave me and my little sister Carolyn pencil and paper and put us at the kitchen table and told us to draw. I discovered I loved to draw. The next year in the first grade, the rest of the class would gather around and watch me draw. To this day, I can outdraw any group of first-graders you’ve ever met!”

“When I do a revival in a church, I bring a sketchpad and draw people before and after the services. The pastor puts a volunteer with me to run to the church office and make copies. They post the copies on the wall somewhere and give the original back to the victim. By the end of the week, we might have a couple hundred drawings filling the walls. One night, the pastor stood off to one side and watched me work. As we broke for the evening service and headed down to his office for prayer, he leaned over and whispered, ‘McKeever, have you ever noticed that when a pastor can’t preach, he always has a gimmick?’ I said, ‘Friend, I’ve heard you preach and I’ll be glad to give you drawing lessons.'”

“This little delegation went to see the preacher. ‘Pastor,’ the chairman said, ‘You need to know the congregation is not very happy with you.’ The pastor said, ‘I’m sorry. But why are you telling me this?’ The chairman said, ‘I would think it would matter to you.’ The pastor said, ‘It does. But not much.’ The delegation was dumbfounded. A woman on the committee said, ‘Well, if you ask me, when the congregation is unhappy, the pastor is failing.’ The pastor said, ‘No ma’am. That’s based on a false assumption that a lot of churches have. You see, the Lord does not send the pastor to make the church happy. God sends the pastor to make the church healthy–and to make HIM happy. Big, big difference.”

“My life-verse is Job 4:4, ‘You have strengthened tottering knees; your words have stood men on their feet.’ For a preacher or a writer—and I try to be both–the power to use words and make a lasting difference in someone’s life is the best gift in the world. Occasionally, someone who reads this blog will send a note, ‘That was precisely what I needed to hear today.’ And that makes my day!”

“I love the line in Genesis 21:6 where, after Sarah gives birth to Isaac, she exclaims, ‘God has made laughter for me.’ I believe with all my heart that God has made laughter for each of us. But some of you aren’t getting your minimum daily requirement! And you’re suffering from it. You know the verse in Proverbs that says ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine’? We now know that it’s not just ‘like’ a medicine, but laughter IS medicine. Scientists tell us that hearty laughing releases endorphins–called ‘nature’s healers’–into your bloodstream. That’s why after a good time with a friend when you laugh and relax, you feel so elated. It’s not just psychological–it’s physical; it’s real. God is so smart.”

When Practical Jokes Have Their Place, And When They Are Out Of Place.

When Wayne Hunt served on our church staff, he was forever looking for opportunities to pull a practical joke. One day he phoned Deena Boyd, the preschool children’s director, and faking a middle-eastern accent, told her he was an Arabian prince or something in the process of moving to New Orleans. With his three wives and eight children, he would be needing the facilities of our church’s children’s program and she had been highly recommended. About the time Deena got all swimmy-headed thinking of eight new children in the program and a parent who could pay cash, Wayne burst into laughter. Deena took it well, but said, “I’ll get you.”

A few weeks later, Wayne had found a special golf club on the internet, at e-bay or somewhere, and with his wife Anita’s acquiescence, had ordered it. “It’s my birthday present,” he assured us. After a couple of weeks, he began calling the church office from the seminary where he was enrolled to see if the club had come in. “Not yet,” the secretaries would assure him. And then one day, it arrived.

I think he cut class that day to drive across the city just to get that new golf club. He rushed into the office, grabbed up the box, and tore into it. He gently pulled the wrapping paper from around the club and fell back into his chair, unable to believe his eyes. The club was absolutely the sorriest thing he had ever seen–old, battered, dirty, rusty, and bent.

“I’ve been cheated!” You could hear him all over the office area. “Wait til I report this guy to e-bay. I’ll sue him!”

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Don’t Like How Life Treated You? Make A Movie.

I haven’t actually seen “Cinderella Man” yet, the movie some are calling the best of the year. This is the saga of prizefighter James Braddock and his struggle to provide for his family during the Great Depression using his fists and a courage that refused to quit. Anyone who sits through the previews several times, as I have now done, pretty much knows the story. And interestingly, it’s all history. Almost all.

Braddock was born in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. He fought his way out of poverty and and eventually challenged for the light heavyweight championship of the world, a fight he lost. Apparently an average boxer–he lost 20 times–he finally took a job on the New Jersey docks to support his wife and three children. Then he got a lucky break.

One night, on a boxing card that featured heavyweight champion Primo Carnera fighting challenger Max Baer, Braddock went against someone named Corn Griffin and knocked him out. Just a year later, after upsetting two more contenders, Braddock was fighting Max Baer, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world.

Peter Finney, New Orleans’ own champion sports columnist for nearly half a century, writes, “Here he was, a hopeless underdog who had lost 20 times on the roller-coaster journey, fighting a guy whose fists had been responsible for the death of two opponents.” Then he adds: “No Hollywood hokum. It was all true.”

“And there they were,” he continues, “on June 13, 1935, Braddock and Baer fighting for the title, as some of Braddock’s faithful, listening to the broadcast, prayed for the Irishman’s safety inside a Jersey church.”

According to the movie, the two boxers went at it tooth and nail for 15 hard rounds. Directed by Ron Howard–how far he has come from Mayberry–the men pummeled each other with so many devastating blows and knockout punches, one wonders how anyone could endure such pain and live to tell it. That’s what columnist Finney wondered. And he wondered how sportswriters of the time had covered such a monumental bout.

So, Finney did something I admire mightily. He dug up the newspapers records of the original fight to see how ringside writers described this vicious pounding that surely must have left both men as invalids.

Ah, what he found out.

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Fun-Loving Boys And Absentee Parents

What started this was something I heard on “All Things Considered” the other evening. One of their reporters had attended the funeral of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq and buried in Colorado Springs. His was quite a story–raised by his mother along with several younger siblings, a high school dropout who went back and graduated later, a prankster who just wanted to have fun, a kid who loved hunting wild animals in the mountains. In high school, he got in trouble in shop class when a buddy went to the bathroom and he welded the door shut. And there was that time he stole a car and rode around town for a couple of hours. Just having fun. He got his act together, they said, and joined the military where he used his sharpshooting skills to become a sniper with our forces in Iraq. A roadside bomb ended his life a few days ago.

Memorial Day morning some boys were having fun in my neighborhood, and it cost them dearly. The newspaper says at 3:30 am, three sixteen-year-old friends abandoned a car they had stolen in order to take a beautiful new pickup truck from a fellow’s driveway. The owner heard a noise, looked out the window and saw the truck pulling out, and called the police. Within minutes, a cop spotted the bright red expensive pickup and a chase ensued. Up and down Causeway Boulevard they went, jumping medians and doubling back. The boys bursted through a blockade and almost hit an officer. Finally, they ended up two blocks from my house in the New Orleans suburb of River Ridge where they made the worst mistake of a morning filled with them. As a police officer approached the truck, the young driver tried to run him over. Bad decision. Later, the investigators picked up over 100 spent shells from the grass surrounding that bullet-ridden truck. The driver was dead and his two passengers were headed to the hospital and later to jail. “Self-defense,” said the sheriff, and who can argue. A three ton truck qualifies as a deadly weapon by any standard.

What is it about adolescents and their fun?

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