Thursday, March 22, 2018


" ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."  (from Matthew 10:16)

You may think that the title, Crimson or Clover? has a typographical error, but it does not.  Yes, I really meant it to be Crimson or Clover and not Crimson and Clover.  Most Baby Boomers will probably remember that Crimson and Clover was a hit song in the late 1960s by Tommy James and the Shondells.  In fact, I was reading this week on line that Tommy James first wrote the title and then the lyrics of the song.  He chose that title because crimson was his favorite color and clover was his favorite flower.  But this piece has nothing to do with the song, although for those of you who know the song, it will probably be an "ear worm" in your head for the rest of the day!

No, I chose the title for a very definite reason which you'll come to understand as you read this piece.  I looked up the definitions of both "crimson" and "clover".  Crimson is (frankly) the color of blood. It's defined as a deep red color which includes a slight purplish hue.  Clover is a plant and flower in the pea family.  I didn't know it was in the pea family.  There are three leaf clovers and there are four leaf clovers.  I was surprised to find on line the reason four leaf clovers are considered "lucky".  It said that comes from an old Christian tradition which says the four leaf clover represents the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, along with luck.  That's interesting, but I really don't like the whole concept of "luck".  It would take a different posting to explain why I don't like "luck", but I guess I'd rather think of the four leaf clover as symbolizing faith, hope, and love (love is charity, in fact "love" is a better translation of the original Greek word agape than is "charity"), along with blessings.  (Yes, I like the idea of "blessings from God" much more than "luck"!)

Crimson or clover?  How can one person's "clover" possibly be another person's "crimson"?  How can one person's beautiful field of soft green clover, symbolizing faith, hope, love, and blessings possibly be viewed by another person as a horrible gash in one's flesh- the result of an act of hatred and violence- gushing crimson blood?  In fact, that dichotomy actually happens, more than we might like to admit!

I have a friend that I'll call Doug.  That's not his real name.  He was estranged from a couple of family members for quite a long time.  That estrangement was deeply distressing and painful for him.  Doug is a committed Christian.  He has prayed for the miraculous healing and reconciliation of his relationship to the family members again and again.  Just a few days ago, a miracle happened!  In fact, they met, they talked; each of them "let their guard down" and there was a wonderful, miraculous restoration and healing of the relationships!  Doug's a lot like me.  He's very sensitive and he's very emotional.  He "wears his feelings on his sleeve".  As such, he's tended to innocently, "set himself up" to be badly hurt, as have I.  What did Doug do after that miraculous reconciliation?  Well, of course, he posted it on Facebook!  I will have to change the names and particulars of the family members, but his posting went something like this:

"I want to praise God that He has miraculously restored my relationship, not only with my cousin Bill but also with my daughter Renee!  We'd been completely at odds over a financial matter for several years.  We had not spoken.  The situation was hopeless.  But God has totally taken care of the problem. We've talked, and our relationship is healed!  I love my daughter Renee more than life itself!  And my cousin Bill is like a brother to me!  Thank God that He answered my prayers and restored us!"

Wow.  To Doug, that was total clover!   It was heaps of faith, hope, love, blessings and all good things for Bill and Renee.  He meant every word of it.  Doug genuinely loves his daughter and his cousin Bill.   Doug couldn't wait to shout it from the rooftops how much he loves them and how much he loves God!  Less than twenty-four hours later, I received a phone call from Doug.  He was stunned and devastated.  He'd heard from both Renee and Bill.  They were livid!  They viewed his posting as a selfish and mean betrayal!  To them, Doug had spat in their faces; he'd slashed their throats, leaving crimson blood spewing out, and mocking them before the entire world!

I had a heartfelt talk with Doug.  I asked if writing and posting that item on Facebook made him feel wonderful and happy inside.  It did!  I asked about his motives.  They were pure.  He couldn't in a million years have expected the response of Renee and Bill.  Doug was experiencing a crushing hurt that's difficult for me to explain, but I told Doug, I do understand!  Then I told him a story from my past.

You see, I'm also a guy who thinks and feels clover and not crimson!  In telling this story from my past I am also going to have to change some names and some details.  I had a friend I will call Vic.  Vic died four years ago.  Vic had quite a complicated life!  As a young man, he was extraordinarily successful.  He was a highly committed evangelical Christian.  He was very, very successful in his career.  He had quite a charismatic personality.  He had success seemingly just flowing from him!  People admired and loved him in the Boston suburb where he lived.  This was all during the 1980s when he was in his forties.  Later, Vic walked away from God.  Vic divorced his wife and remarried a much younger woman.  Vic moved to another state.  Vic committed a serious federal crime, and spent several years in a federal prison.  Vic later got out of prison and divorced his second wife.  Around the year 2000, Vic "came back to the Lord" as we born-again Christians like to put it.  He worked a humble job until his health failed.  He lived in an elderly housing facility in a blue-collar Boston suburb.  It would take a thousand words to tell of all the particulars, but around that time Vic became close to me.  I went through my own serious life crises around 2010.  That's when the church I'd pastored for years was closed and I nearly had a complete nervous breakdown.  I was in a bad way.  I will never forget, during that time, the day Vic called me.  I was totally distraught.  He spent a long time on the phone with me, just reassuring me and extending to me the love of Christ.  He promised to be there for me no matter what time, day or night.  He encouraged me that I could look to a brighter future and did not have to be despondent.  Even as I write these words, I'm almost in tears.  I can't begin to tell you how much Vic came to mean to me.

In early 2014, Vic died.  He was a very controversial person.  I knew that many people absolutely loved him and that many other people absolutely despised him!  It really bothered me that so many people despised Vic- that so many did not believe he'd really come back to God and died as a kind and wonderful Christian man.  I paid what I believed would be the finest tribute I could give to him.  I wrote a piece on my blog on the day he died- just like I'm doing right now.  I very bluntly stated who Vic was and what he'd done, good and bad.  I wrapped it up talking about what a wonderful friend Vic had been to me.  I consider that the day he spent the hour on the phone counseling me, he saved my life!  I ended by writing, "Vic, I love you!"

I must admit, I was so proud of that piece!  It was one of the finest things I'd ever written!  I was so glad to get the definitive word about Vic out in public!  And, once I put it out on my blog, I did get a lot of feedback.  A number of folks contacted me. They told me how much that piece had meant to them and how positive it made them feel about Vic.  So many were so happy to learn that despite his failures, Vic had died as a wonderful committed Christian and a wonderful friend.

I fully expected to hear from Vic's family- from either his first wife or one of his grown children.  Of course, they'd love what I'd written!  I wondered which part of my post they'd appreciate the best.  I knew I'd probably be asked to say a few words during Vic's funeral service.  Maybe I'd even be asked to read my blog posting at the funeral!  The next day, I received a phone call from Vic's oldest son, Andy.  Boy, was I excited to hear from him!  It did surprise me, though, that Andy didn't sound very happy.  In fact, he was very matter-of-fact.  It was almost like talking to Jack Webb from the old Dragnet television show.  Andy, Vic's son, told me he and his siblings were very unhappy with what I'd put out on the internet.  He said they were getting calls from many of their friends who had no idea their father had committed a crime and gone to prison.  They were really upset.  Firmly, Andy told me to take my post down.

I was crushed.  Despite all I'd been through over several years, nothing had crushed me like Vic's son Andy's phone call.  Honestly, over the past decade, nothing before or since has crushed me like that!  I took the post down.  I seriously thought about making a copy of it to hold onto.  But I didn't.  I did go to the funeral, but I was embarrassed and uncomfortable.  You see, to me, that tribute piece to Vic was clover all the way.  It was faith, and hope, and love, and blessings.  But to Vic's grown kids, I'd just hacked them apart with a machete and spilled their blood all over the Boston suburbs!

This is very unscientific, but I'd guess around 95% of people are more like those who have a crimson outlook in matters such as I've described here and maybe 5% are the clover folks.  Are the crimson and the clover like oil and water?  Can they ever come together?  Can they ever understand and appreciate each other?

I think so.  At least, I hope so!  I do have some thoughts for each.  If you're a crimson, like most people, please try to understand we clovers!  It's O.K. to tell us it was embarrassing and hurtful that we said or wrote something that you found appalling, but please try to do it in an attitude of love and pleasantness and not with anger and hostility.  Please...?  It's O.K. to tell us, and we need to learn from it, but there's a right way and a wrong way to tell us, believe me!  And, if you're a clover like me and like Doug, you've got to pay attention to that Bible verse I opened with.  You know, if Doug's posting had been something like this:

"I'm so thankful for the immediate family and the extended family God has given me!  I love them and I love God for giving them to me!"

I think it would have accomplished what he wanted to accomplish without the hostile reaction that followed.  And if I had used Vic's initials in my piece instead of his full first and last name, or if I'd have given him a fictitious name, but it would have been pretty obvious to anyone who'd known the whole story of Vic that I was talking about him, it probably wouldn't have set off the friends of Vic's children, and I probably would have gotten away with writing and posting it!

Frankly, there's a lot more I could write, but I think I'm going to leave it at that!  I do hope a lot of people read this and I do hope a lot of people will think about this!  I guess this is being very manipulative, but writing a piece such as this is gut wrenching!  And, there's only one thing worse than getting negative feedback about a piece such as this:  That's getting no feedback at all!  I am amazed when I write a heartfelt piece such as this that gets no comments at the blog site or on Facebook, and generates no "likes" or "shares" or personal e-mails to me!  I would love it if you'd comment or "like" or "share" or send me an e-mail or a message, or send the link to this post to friends of yours!  I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate it, and I hope you'll receive that as clover and not as crimson!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise."  (Proverbs 11:30)

February 21, 2018.  On this date, the world lost a great "soul winner"- The Rev. Billy Graham!  I learned from one of my Facebook friends early this morning that Billy Graham had passed from this life into Heaven; and soon thereafter I posted something on my Facebook timeline about the powerful impact Billy Graham had on my life.  After several hours of reflecting about that, I felt I really needed to put something more detailed on my blog, so here it is!

I want to try to be careful as I do write this.  I believe I could very easily be misunderstood.  There is no doubt in my mind that Billy Graham would not want to be placed on a pedestal.  He was a fallible human being just like we are.  He was a sinner, just like all the rest of us, except the Lord Jesus Christ.  I'm sure he had plenty of quirks like most of us do.  Thus, I don't want anyone to think I'm calling for people to exalt Billy Graham; to put him on the level of "Saints" depicted on church stained glass windows; to be venerated as a prophet, or anything of the kind.  No, I'm not for that at all!  But Billy Graham is very important because despite his shortcomings, he humbly said "yes" to God and humbly preached the Gospel and served His Lord and Savior for many decades.  As one of my friends pointed out on Facebook, his personal morality was impeccable.  There were no scandals involving women or money which seem to follow the lives of so many televangelists.  His family and friends, and even many of his detractors confess that when it came to the whole thing of living for God and honoring God, he was the real deal!

I never met Billy Graham "up close and personal".  I did see him "live" at his crusade at Boston's Nickerson Field in 1982.  Mary Ann and I were engaged to be married in those days.  We each served as "Counselors" at that crusade (meaning we were available to pray with people who came forward for prayer and ministry following Mr. Graham's sermon).  I was privileged to attend the Billy Graham School of Evangelism just outside Montreal, Quebec in June of 1990.  Lest the name confuse you, it was really a conference for pastors and active Christian workers which infused attendees with a number of ideas about church growth and creative evangelism.  Billy Graham wasn't there, but a number of his closest associates were actively involved in this conference including Cliff Barrows.  It was a great time!

No, I never met Billy Graham "up close and personal" but he really did touch my life.  I first heard Billy preach on television in late 1969.  I was fifteen-years-old at the time.  Our family were active church-attending Roman Catholics.  I very firmly believed in God, but I honestly can't say I had any "Personal relationship with Jesus Christ".  Honestly, I had a mouth like a cesspool.  With my friends it was "F-this" and "F-that".  I thought abortion was a great idea.  Well, why should you have a kid you don't want?  I thought marijuana was just fine.  Listen, I never smoked it, only because my father would have killed me!  Lest you think I was a very "cool" kid- I wasn't!  I had absolutely no athletic ability at all.  Yes, I was one of those last three or four kids picked for teams in Phys. Ed class.  My father and brother were gifted mechanics- guys who could take any automobile engine all apart and put it back together.  I had absolutely no mechanical ability at all!  I was socially awkward.  My strict father wouldn't let his kids wear "cool" clothes, so I looked like a classic nerd!  I wasn't popular.  Truthfully, I didn't like myself very much!

I didn't meet Billy Graham in person, but boy, that night I felt like I'd really met Billy Graham and I also was introduced to a version of Jesus Christ who was much more than a swear word!  In Mark 1:22 it says the people were amazed at Jesus' teaching because He spoke as one with "authority" and "not as the scribes".  That's how it was for me that night.  I heard a man who preached the Bible with authority- "Thus saith the Lord!"  In all those years at the Catholic church, I'd never heard anything like it!

No, my life did not immediately change, but Billy Graham had given me a lot to think about.  Some months later I became friends with a kid named George.  He amazed me in that he didn't swear, he didn't tell dirty jokes, and he lived what seemed to be a very good life.  The kid turned out to be a born-again Christian.  I asked him scores of questions and he ended up asking his parents for a lot of the answers!  During the summer of 1970, Billy Graham was on television again with a crusade.  In those days, there was no toll free number to call.  If you wanted more information, you had to write to:  BILLY GRAHAM, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA.  I did!

On July 21, 1970, a letter arrived for me from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  It included several pamphlets telling the reader exactly how to repent of your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior and Lord.  I did exactly as the letter instructed!  I still have that letter!  I actually pull it out and re-read it every July!  The paper of that letter is starting to deteriorate a bit and show its age, but I read it each year to rejoice in my salvation and to marvel in what God has done!

In my early days of being a born-again Christian I used to devour the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Decision magazine each month, I read a number of Mr. Graham's materials, and I listened faithfully to The Hour of Decision radio program every weekend.  One of my fellow pastors (Pastor Phil McCutchen) called Billy Graham his "hero" on Facebook today.  Well, he's been a "hero" to me, too!  I wish I had time and space to tell about how I eventually went to Bible College, became an Ordained minister, won souls to Jesus Christ, and all sorts of other things.

No, my life has not always been easy!  There have been some very low points, but I have never regretted that simple prayer I prayed on July 21, 1970 and I can say that the Lord Jesus Christ truly saved me and changed my life!

No, I don't want to turn Billy Graham into a god or into anything that he isn't!  I know he'd tell me (rightly) to look to God and worship Him, and that's exactly what I intend to keep doing.  I will say, I was very moved by a post placed on Facebook today by Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz.  What a great piece she wrote about her dad, but she also challenged every pastor and Christian leader to "pick up the baton" and go out and minister for Christ with faith and enthusiasm just as her father did.  I want to do that!

Billy Graham was so humble and so obedient to God.  He wasn't some slick huckster.  He wasn't in love with himself, he was in love with the Lord!  He didn't stupidly waste time, he lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our country is in such a mess right now!  In my humble opinion, the last thing we need is more "in your face" demanding of our rights, whether we're on the political left or on the political right.  That's the last thing we need!  We need more men and women who'll give their hearts to Jesus Christ and live humbly for Him, just like Billy Graham did.

The church fellowship I belong to is the Assemblies of God.  We don't usually officially celebrate Lent as we're really not a "liturgical" church, but during some recent years I've tried to do "something special" for Lent, anyway.  It was one week ago today that Lent began, on Ash Wednesday, and we don't usually observe that, either!  But I prayed and asked God if He wanted me to do something special for Lent this year.  I prayed and I prayed, and I just didn't get any direction about it.  A couple of hours ago, I thought about Lent again, and I decided that from now until Easter Sunday, at the end of every personal e-mail that I write and at the end of every personal letter that I write, below my signature, I'm going to write, "Thankful for the Life and Ministry of Billy Graham!".  I'm honestly hoping some people ask me about it, and then maybe I'll get a chance to "witness for Christ" to them.  It's something I'm going to do, but maybe you'd like to try it, as well.  It's just a suggestion, but it might be a way for some of us to begin to fulfill Anne Graham Lotz's challenge!

Monday, February 5, 2018


"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  (Philippians 1:21)

Yesterday, I taught an Adult Sunday School class at Bread of Life Church (Westminster, MA).  The material we were studying was Paul's Letter to the Philippians, chapter one, and so we spent some time talking about the above verse.  It also seems most appropriate to use Philippians 1:21 here as I share some thoughts about the late Rev. Dr. Ken Beres who passed away unexpectedly this past Thursday, February 1.

Ken is the third of my pastor friends who has died within the past year.  I wasn't as close to Ken as I was to the other two.  Nevertheless, Ken Beres definitely made an impact on my life!  I've been reflecting about that over the past few days.  Ken pastored First Congregational Church at Lund's Corner in the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Ken was one of several pastors I got to know from attending the Pastors' Prayer Retreats that were held each November at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in West Swanzey, New Hampshire, under the auspices of Vision New England.  There were something like eighteen of those prayer retreats held there during the 1990s and 2000s.  The first was in 1992 and the last was in 2009; if my count is correct, I attended a total of nine of the prayer retreats.  Depending upon the year, the retreats attracted anywhere between forty and eighty pastors for the three and a half day events.  We'd meet in a beautiful yet casual rustic chapel facility.  We'd arrange our chairs in a big circle the the meeting room- well there were so many pastors that it was usually two circles, a front row and a back row.  We'd spend at least an hour a day signing worship choruses.  Probably two hours or more would be spent in group prayer from the entire gathering.  Sometimes we'd break into groups of about 3-6 for more specific prayer.  At times, we were allowed private time to walk around Swanzey Lake and pray, or to read and pray in our rooms.  These were not days of fasting!  Some very strong friendships were built around the tables of the dining room during the wonderful mealtimes we had, and each evening there was a Communion service in the chapel.

There were a few pastors I really "clicked with" at those retreats.  Honestly, all my life I've been kind of "different".  I have often not felt comfortable with my peers and not always been well accepted by them.  My personality, my style, and my interests, are...well, "different".  One time I told my friend Pastor Dick Germaine that I was "weird".  He got pretty upset with me for using that term, and bluntly told me I should never call myself "weird" again- and I don't think I have done so!  I also used to describe myself on this blog as "eccentric".  I had some family and friends who took great exception to that term, so I toned it down to "unconventional".  But all you have to do is an on-line search for Bob Baril and you'll find a number of very serious Bible-based writings and video teachings, along with some very secular, silly and (dare I say it) "crazy" and comical video pieces and similar things I've posted in writing.  I've noticed that most ministers never post anything on-line and never put any videos of themselves on-line except for material that's very serious, and very pastoral.  I admit that at times I've thought that long after I'm dead someone may check out my "stuff" on-line and have no idea what to make of me!  Well, I didn't mean for that to be such a long interjection, but I said all that because I think one of the reasons I got along well with Ken Beres is that he was also "different".  He was not exactly like me, but he was definitely not your typical Congregational minister just as I've been definitely not your typical Assemblies of God minister!  Now, I'm an introvert, but at the prayer retreats, Ken was very much an extrovert!  He was not shy about sharing his opinions and saying what was on his mind.  It was obvious he was not worried about what others thought of him; and I had to admire that.

Ken had moxie!

Well, he had moxie in more ways than one!  He had moxie and he had Moxie!  The dictionary defines "moxie" as "Force of character, determination or nerve".  I learned today that the word comes from the Yiddish originally.  A big piece of the camaraderie at the prayer retreats in New Hampshire was the unusual carbonated drink known as Moxie!  An older pastor from Maine (his initials are W.C.) used to bring a whole cooler full of cans of Moxie to each retreat.  If you've never had Moxie, I'm not sure I can adequately describe it, but I'll try.  If you would take an eight ounce glass and fill it about halfway with Dr. Pepper, then fill the other half with root beer, and finally take a tablespoon of any really bitter-tasting liquid and pour that in and stir it all up, then drink it - well, that's about what Moxie tastes like!   It does leave quite a bitter after taste.  W.C. looked for brave souls who'd like to join him in drinking Moxie.  There were probably about eight or nine of us who regularly did, and his biggest supporter was Ken Beres.  In fact, it's been a number of years now, but as I recall, at the last prayer retreat or two that I attended, Ken also brought a supply of Moxie to share with others.  This may sound very unspiritual, but we'd sit there during the worship and prayer times, worshiping, praying, and drinking our Moxie!  As I've been thinking about Ken, that's what I've thought about.  In fact, I'm seriously thinking of picking up some Moxie to drink this week just as a fitting way to remember him!

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, you see, Ken demonstrated to me that it was O.K. to be the person God had made him to be and to be the pastor God had made him to be, regardless of whether that fit into other people's ideas of what a minister should or shouldn't be.  So, I shouldn't feel embarrassed that I've written on-line about my favorite secular songs or about my favorite secular situation comedy on network television, or that I've sung a couple of silly and comical songs on youtube pieces I've posted; just as I shouldn't feel embarrassed about writing on-line that I'm a highly committed Pentecostal Christian, that I'm a social conservative, and that honoring God and His Word is the most important part of my life, and that I don't happen to believe that everybody's going to the same place when they die.

I only visited Ken at his home one time.  It was right about this time of year in 2010.  Vision New England had put out a letter saying they'd decided to discontinue holding the annual prayer retreats in West Swanzey, New Hampshire.  Ken contacted Vision New England, then he contacted a few other pastors including me asking if we'd be willing to help facilitate bringing back the annual Fall prayer retreats, or help facilitate putting together some sort of alternative annual prayer retreats.  My friend Pastor Ed D. from Cape Cod and I met at Ken's home in New Bedford one weekday morning to try to hash that all out.  I remembered that Ken lived in a very beautiful and very well-kept old house.  I'm not sure if it was church-owned or if he owned it.  We had a great time getting together, but right after that, the decision was made to close the church I was pastoring in Framingham.  That whole event took so much of my time and energy that I had to forget about helping Ken regarding the prayer retreats.

The last time I remember having on-line contact with Ken Beres was just a few weeks ago.  He'd posted a memory on Facebook of his involvement as a young man in Civil Air Patrol.  I posted a comment that my late father was a Major in the Civil Air Patrol!

Yes, each time a friend is taken from this life to Heaven, it stirs up a lot of thoughts and emotions.  I hope you've been able to follow what I've written here and that somehow it honors Ken's memory.

My deepest condolences to Ken's widow and daughter, to all his family and friends, and to the church people at First Congregational Church at Lund's Corner.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


"And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."  (Matthew 21:9)

At the start of this piece I want to make it very clear, "...perfectly clear" as the late President Nixon used to say, that I like Tom Brady very much and I like the New England Patriots very much!  I join with most New Englanders in being happy that they will be playing in another Super Bowl game in just a few days!  This is not an anti-Brady or anti-Patriots piece in any way, shape or form!


I must say I was dumbfounded watching the mid-day press conference a few days ago; I believe it was on Monday.  And, to be more accurate, I've been rather dumbfounded at all the hype and the announcements telling us, "We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news," only to be followed by reports of the Patriots shopping at the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis and statements and press conferences by Coach Belichick or Tom Brady or other Patriots which go on, (Dare I say it?) "ad infinitum".  A few nights ago viewers of Boston's channel 4 were treated to a lengthy piece about sportscaster Levan Reid going to the Mall of America to get his ear pierced!  Well, I think I'm making my point, but let's get back to the mid-day press conference on Monday.  Pretty much all other news of the day went out the window while reporters asked Tom Brady question after question after question after question, yes "ad infinitum".  Sure, some of them were appropriate questions about football and the upcoming game, and yes, Tom Brady is an amazingly positive and likable guy.  I began to be puzzled, however, when the questions left football entirely and reporters were not only asking Brady about his family and his personal life but about how he copes and decompresses when away from the Patriots, how he quiets himself down and meditates, how he prepares himself to give his all to his wife and kids, specifically what music he likes (after he told the audience that music is very important to him) and other such questions that frankly bordered on the spiritual, mystical, and philosophical.  Honestly, I felt kind of uncomfortable.  Maybe I'm the one with the problem, but I almost felt like I did about the smart-mouthed girl in the 1990s who asked Bill Clinton, "...boxers or briefs?!"

I've been chewing on this for the past few days.  Again, I like Brady, but it also felt like it does with people who literally worship Elvis Presley; and there not only were people who worshiped Elvis during his life, but there are people who treat Graceland as a shrine and who literally worship Elvis at present.  In all fairness to Elvis Presley, he didn't like that!  At one concert a highly emotional female fan cried out, "You're the king!" Elvis abruptly stopped the concert and bluntly told her, "I'm not the king; Jesus Christ is the King!"

I'm don't know if Brady likes that sort of thing or not, but for his sake, I hope he doesn't.  No, Tom Brady is not the Messiah.  And, in case any of my readers don't know this, "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word, "Mashiah" which means, "The Anointed One".  The title "Christ" a transliteration from the Greek, means the same thing.  Jesus Christ is the Messiah who rode into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday almost two thousand years ago.  And, incidentally, that word "hosanna" that the crowd yelled literally means, "save now!".

I find it fascinating that so many well-educated people of our day who virtually never crack open a Bible, seldom attend church, and frankly can hardly answer a Biblical question correctly on a show like Jeopardy are ready to sit at Tom Brady's feet and have him pontificate, answering the spiritual and philosophical questions of life!  Monday even felt a little bit like I could have been listening to Tom Brady on Krista Tippett's On Being program on public radio which airs early Sunday mornings.  She usually interviews poets, theologians, writers, and journalists, but after Monday, I'd seriously recommend to Krista Tippett that they book Tom Brady for a program.

Was Tom really ready for all these questions?  Well, he must have said, "you know" seventy-five times over the course of a half hour- maybe more than that.  I'd have to say that if a speaker keeps saying "you know" or "umm" or "ahh"  it may mean they're uncomfortable.

This piece may make people angry and it may get me in some trouble!  But you know it's what I'm thinking!  Come to think of it, I'll close by quoting the words of a female young adult from Bread of Life Church (where I attend) that I heard her happily say one Sunday morning this past autumn:  "Sunday means church - then football!"  Hey, that's fine with me!  Honestly, for me in the fall, Sunday does mean church, then football!  I know most of us will be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday evening.  For so many of you who have spiritual and mystical and theological and philosophical questions and the very human struggles of balancing family and career that so many of us do have- well how about starting your Super Sunday at a church service near you?!

Friday, January 12, 2018


"...and who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  (from Esther 4:14)

Dear Mr. President:


I want to say right up front that I like you, and I voted for you.  And, I still like you.  Today, I felt so strongly I needed to write you this letter.  Instead of sending it to The White House by the U.S. Postal Service I decided to post it as an open letter.  I sincerely hope a lot of people will go to this link; that the letter will be brought to your attention and that you will read it.

My name is Bob Baril.  I'm sixty-three-years-old.  I'm an Ordained minister, although currently I'm not pastoring a church.  I've worked several secular jobs over the past few years, and I'm currently unemployed.  Honestly, I've had kind of an unpleasant week; and over the past few days, I'd sunken into an attitude and a pattern that's not healthy:  I began focusing on all of the "negatives" in my life, and I began very much "feeling sorry for myself".  Ironically, it's the prompting and urgency to write you this letter that has lifted me into a much more positive and hopeful attitude, and so I thank God for that; and in a sense I even thank you for that!

During the early days of your campaign for the Republican nomination for President, I very much didn't like you!  I thought you were, to use a line from the film, Beverly Hills Cop, a "foul-mouthed jerk"!  In fact, at the time, I wrote a very strong anti-Trump piece on my blog saying that no evangelical should vote for you.  I had some verbal disagreements with friends about this, but I was adamant that I would never vote for you.  I certainly forgot the old admonition to, "never say 'never'!"

Eventually, I became quite embarrassed and ashamed that I'd written and posted that piece on my blog, and I took it down!  The biggest factor that turned me from an "anti-Trumper" to a "pro-Trumper" was your choice of Mike Pence as your running mate.  The second biggest factor was your speech at the 2016 Republican convention accepting the nomination.  Yes, there were still a number of things about your demeanor that I didn't care for, but I came to see that what you stood for was far superior to anything that Hillary Clinton and the liberal Democrats were advocating.  I became convinced we needed you in The White House.  Yes, it was rather ironic that I cast my vote for Trump-Pence that autumn!

It certainly seemed like there was no way you could win that election!  I believed the polls which said Hillary would win in a landslide.  But, there was also something else in the back of my mind.  Way back around the time I'd posted that anti-Trump piece on my blog, a fine man that I know- a farmer in his seventies who is also named Bob- told me emphatically that God had spoken to him and clearly revealed to him that Donald Trump would be elected President.  Bob Muzzy is one of those, "salt of the earth" and "give you the shirt off his back" kind of guys!  There's absolutely no "flakiness" in that man.  And, yes, he was proven right!

In the final weeks of 2016 we heard all of that, "Not My President" protesting.  A female activist in Canton, Massachusetts wrote not one but several letters to the local newspaper denouncing you.  And, I did something I never thought I would be doing:  I wrote the paper a rebuttal letter in support of you.  Yet, you remind me of that little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead that some of us remember from our days of listening to nursery rhymes.  Like her, when you're good, you're very, very good; and when you're bad you're horrid!

Again, Mr. President, I like you.  And, I like you enough to tell you the truth.  I don't think you're a racist and I don't really think you're all the bad things that your enemies accuse you of being.  But that whole, "s - - thole" thing was, well, off the wall!

That verse I quoted from above comes from the Book of Esther.  It was a line that Mordecai, a wise and mature Jewish man spoke to his young cousin Esther who was the Queen of the Persian Empire.   The fate of the Jewish people hung in the balance.  He was letting her know that if she did nothing she wasn't going to just skate by, as it were.  She had to have amazing courage and she had to have amazing faith and she had to have amazing wisdom and she had to have amazing class- that's what it would take to save the Jewish people.  Our only Savior is truly The Lord Jesus Christ, but He does use human vessels.  If you saw how little I have in my retirement fund, you'd probably laugh.  But you're a wealthy and successful businessman.  You're a smart man.  You're a man who has accomplished much in life.  You're a man who has accomplished great things in the past.  But you've got to remember something that comes from Matthew chapter sixteen verse ten.  That verse exhorts us to be, "...wise as serpents and harmless as doves".  Mr. President, that "s - - thole" thing and other remarks like that just don't fall into the category of  "...wise as serpents and harmless as doves".  If I were your pastor, I'd recommend you sit down with Vice-President Pence and a couple of copies of this letter and ask for his input and prayer.  No matter what your detractors say, you can end up being the greatest President this country has ever had!  I'm serious.  But you've got to function as God wants you to, and not the way you're used to functioning!

I hope this will be helpful to you.

And, since this is an open letter, I will say to all Americans:  Please don't bash President Trump.  Instead please pray for him.

In Christ's love,

Monday, December 18, 2017


"And how shall they preach, except they be sent?  as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:16)

We can have so many expectations about what it would be like to suddenly encounter a great man or great woman of God:  Perhaps someone would literally be raised from the dead!  Perhaps a blind woman would suddenly receive her sight!  Perhaps a whole group of people would fall on their faces crying out to God and saying, "God is in this place!".  Perhaps there would be bright lights in the sky, or a giant clap of thunder.  Well...perhaps...  But so often one of God's great men or women may walk up to one of us at a time and a place we'd least expect.

Just a short time ago, I decided to take a short walk around some of the back streets near downtown Canton, Massachusetts.  Honestly, I was praying as I walked.  Over twenty years ago, a Christian physician told me it would benefit me greatly if I walked and prayed.  I was one of those people who liked to be closed up inside a private room in prayer, so I initially resisted that advice, but when I learned to be flexible and be open to walking and praying, I found the practice to be very invigorating.

I was walking through the parking area of an upscale condominium complex when I saw a man with light brown skin who was probably about my age (I'm sixty-three) walking in my direction.  He was holding the hand of a little light brown skinned boy that I'd guess was his grandson.  The man had a big smile.  It surprised me that he walked directly up to me and handed me an American Tract Society gospel tract entitled, Seeking Acceptance.  I gave it a very quick glance, then quickly turned in the man's direction.  At that point, he was no more than three feet away.

"I'm a born-again Christian, too!"  I excitedly told him.  He stopped, and expressed delight in meeting another believer.  It turns out the man's name is Wahgee (I'm guessing on the correct spelling!).  He lives in Egypt.  He told me he attends a Baptist church.  He's just up here in Massachusetts visiting relatives for a few days.  I asked if I could pray for him, and he enthusiastically told me I could do that.  I laid my hand on him and prayed aloud for God to bless him and his family.

Think of it!  Can you imagine while visiting relatives in a foreign country that you'd just go out and walk, taking gospel tracts with you to hand out as you walked along?  Some of us can say we would do something like that on a missions group as a team or at least in groups.  But I wonder how many of us would pretty much go out on our own as he did.  This guy's from half a world away, but he's my brother in Christ.  I'm sure conditions where he lives aren't the best for Christians, let alone for evangelical Protestant Christians.  It wouldn't surprise me if he's faced persecution of various kinds.  I guess that's why walking around in a foreign country handing people gospel tracts is no big deal to him.

Am I exaggerating in saying I met a great man of God a short time ago?  I don't think so.  As soon as he walked away, I sensed that.  And, I sensed that for some reason, God wanted me to encounter him.  Wahgee asked for my name.  At least "Bob" is easy to remember!  He said he would remember to pray for me and I told him I would do the same for him.  Incidentally, I'm writing this from the Canton Public Library and I plan to leave that Seeking Acceptance tract right here at the computer station for someone to find.

You know, we have all types of "Church Growth Seminars" and "corporate evangelistic planning" and other kinds of "stuff" in the current evangelical church world of the United States of America.  Maybe we don't so much need all that stuff.  Maybe we need to take more prayer walks and meet more folks like Wahgee!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


"In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:18)

Yesterday, November 28, 2017, was a horrendous day for automobile driving and highway safety in the Boston area!  The television news on most of the channels featured not one, not two, but three stories about serious highway accidents!  In one instance, a person driving a Dodge pickup truck plowed into a Bob's store in Billerica.  The store was full of holiday shoppers, but despite the truck driving probably about forty feet into the store, no shoppers were injured.  One person referred to the lack of injuries as a, "Christmas miracle".  Another car crash took place on Route 138 in Raynham.  A 24-year-old young man was driving recklessly at 80 miles per hour and crashed into two other cars.  The worst crash reported, however, took place on Route 109 in the woodsy, upper middle class community of Medfield.  As I understand it, the driver of a Jeep drove recklessly at a high rate of speed, the Jeep went airborne and hit two other vehicles, a Chevrolet and a Kia.  The Chevrolet's driver was killed.  The Kia's driver and the Jeep driver were injured and hospitalized.  That section of Route 109, near the Shaw's supermarket and not far from Dover, Walpole, and Westwood, was shut down for quite awhile in the aftermath of the accident.  A disturbing fact is that just prior to the Jeep hitting the cars, it nearly hit a Medfield police officer who was standing at the side of the road!

Some of my readers know that my late father, Eugene A. "Gene" Baril, was a career employee of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.  I don't mean to minimize his functions at the RMV by calling him an "employee".  Older folks will recall that until Governor Bill Weld merged the Registry Police (also called "Registry Inspectors") into the State Police, they were sort of a "highway patrol" law enforcement organization for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  My father, who'd spent several years as a Boston cop, started out giving driving tests in 1956, and retired in 1982 as one of the Supervisors (I frankly don't hesitate to use the term "big shots") at the old 100 Nashua Street RMV headquarters.

Yesterday's accident is being investigated by the State Police Accident Investigation Team.  In the 1960s, there was no such entity.  In those days, individual RMV Investigators were assigned several cities and towns apiece and they investigated all fatal (and near fatal) car crashes in their respective communities.  Dad was the Investigator for Norwood, Dedham, and several other towns in that area from 1963 to 1968.  In that position, he was "on call" at all times.  I remember one Christmas night when he was called out to a fatal accident investigation on Route 1 in Norwood.  Dad had manila file folders for all of the car accidents he investigated.  Many contained eight by ten black & white photos of the smashed up cars.  I know of at least one which contained very gory photos of an accident victim.  (I probably shouldn't have looked at that one!)  Yes, I've heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of photos of wrecked cars.  Even so, I've only once before seen any such photo that showed severe damage to the level of those cars in the Medfield accident.  (That photo from the past was of a full-sized Oldsmobile convertible which hit a bridge abutment on Route 128 in Needham.  All it looked like was a pile of junk on the road!)  What I'm trying to say here is that even as fatal auto accidents go, that one in Medfield was bad; really bad!

Readers may not agree with me, but I think that if that Medfield accident had taken place twenty-five or more years ago, it would have gotten a lot more attention in the media.  I expected to hear it talked about on Boston talk radio this morning, but I heard nothing.  Think of it:  The driver nearly killed a Medfield police officer!  He was responsible for one innocent driver's death and another's serious injuries.  Route 109 is a main artery through some of the most upscale communities in suburban Boston.  It's the kind of road on which even in 2017 one can enjoy a very pretty and pleasant Sunday afternoon drive.  I don't drive Route 109 every day, but I'd say I've driven right past the spot where that accident took place probably fifty times during the past year.  It's sobering!

You may be able to  tell, since I watched the television news reports, I haven't been able to get that Medfield traffic accident off my mind!  My heart goes out to the family of the deceased.  I'm guessing that from now on, every Thanksgiving and Christmas season, they'll be constantly thinking of their loved one's death.  This isn't a "Merry Christmas" for that family.  My father investigated a fatal accident that took place on Route 109 in Westwood back in the 1960s.  As I recall, a truck flipped over near the Route 128 interchange close to the Dedham town line.  I think the victim burned to death.  My father would talk about those kind of things, and often would meet and even interview the families of the deceased.  That's part of why my sister and I are sort of "nervous" drivers.  We tend to be overly cautious, and we get "tailgated" a lot!  It's just that we've seen too many of my Dad's accident photos and heard too many horror stories about what can happen "behind the wheel".  I want to express my sincere condolences to the family of the person who was killed in Medfield yesterday.  I also sent my thoughts and prayers to the injured driver of the Kia and that person's family.

I know I'm going to sound very "preachy" here, but after all, I am "a preacher".  The driving on Massachusetts roads has really gotten "crazy" over the past decade or so.  Everybody's in such a hurry!  So many people have such a rotten attitude when driving!  So many people "tailgate"!  So many drivers take foolish chances!  "Road Rage" in Massachusetts seems to be at epidemic proportions!  If you find yourself behind an older model silver Toyota sedan displaying Massachusetts license place #280 that is going along at the speed limit and this makes you feel frustrated (that's my car!), then just think about what happened in Medfield yesterday.  There used to be a highway safety slogan when I was a whole lot younger that stated, "A Little Courtesy Won't Kill You".  That's what I'm trying to say here.

The Bible verse I opened with is not one we usually like to read or speak much about during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  It speaks of King Herod the Great massacring a bunch of baby boys who were 2-years-old and younger, and the grief and pain that brought.  And, I chose that verse because I'm thinking of the grief and pain being experienced by the family and friends of those who have been killed and injured.  Listen, if you really want to give a present to others and/or you really want to have a New Year's resolution this year, change your driving habits and slow down!

Yes, it happened on Route 109 on November 28, 2017, it's horrible, but it's important that we remember.