Friday, December 29, 2006


“Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”  (Proverbs 27:1)

None of us knows what it will bring forth, but we are at the threshold of 2007.  Since I’ve been old enough to understand calendars and time, it’s something that’s always fascinated me.  As a preschooler, I remember asking my mother, “What comes after nineteen-fifty-nine...nineteen-fifty-TEN??!!”  At that age it was hard for me to comprehend why the answer was 1960, and in fact, why all years started with “nineteen”.  I still have trouble with that!  I almost want to call this year “nineteen-two-thousand and six” and next year “nineteen-two-thousand and seven”!  For me, it’s almost automatic that years start with “nineteen”, though of course, they all DON’T.

I do know that the accuracy of the calendar is OFF.  In fact, Jesus was born somewhere between 4-6 B.C. so our year really should be something like 2011.   A number of decades ago (centuries, perhaps) scholars realized the year is actually wrong, but for obvious reasons, they just left it alone.  Of course, even whether to use B.C. and A.D. is controversial.  Jehovah’s Witnesses, “secular progressives” (as Bill O’Reilley calls them), and many Jewish people use B.C.E. and C.E. instead.  For the uninformed, that’s “Common Era” and “Before Common Era”.  I still prefer B.C. and A.D. but admittedly the fact that I’m a very orthodox Christian has a lot to do with that.

I know the Jewish New Year is in the Fall.  I think that makes a lot more sense.  In fact, I think years should run from September to August.  In our hearts, we really think of it that way, anyway. The school year begins around September 1.  Most new car models come out in September.  The new television season starts in September.

In fact, speaking of cars, something I read a few years ago is that the year designation of cars, as in “1999 Ford Tarurus”, or “2006 Toyota Camry” goes by JANUARY 1.  When  a car is designated a 1999 or a 2007 or whatever year, it means that car was the newest and latest model on January 1 of that year.  So in fact, if you have a 2000 Dodge Caravan, you REALLY have a January 1, 2000 Dodge Caravan.  After January 1, car companies are free to introduce the NEXT year’s models.  Thus, any car company COULD introduce a 2008 model on January 2, 2007, although on average, the next year’s cars are introduced around September.

Are you all falling asleep?  Well, be careful of that!  You’ll want to be  wide awake to “see the new year in” on Sunday night!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I know Andy Williams sings about Christmas that, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year".  I really don't think that it is.  I'm actually looking forward to New Year's Day.  A few days ago, a female young adult told me she'd like to put Christmas decorations up in June and have them up for six months or more.  Being a clean and neat freak, I actually enjoy putting the stuff away!  I like when a new year starts.  I like to close the door on the previous year and get a fresh start.  Loads of dead Christmas trees laying on the sidewalks of Framingham waiting for those "special pick-ups" are a welcome sight.  I just plain like that start of the new year!

On the night of the day after Christmas, I received an e-mail from a Member telling me essentially that she's leaving the church immediately.  That just doesn't "make" your Christmas week!  I've said it many times before and now I'll say it again.  Please don't EVER leave a church that "hit and run e-mails" or "hit and run messages on answering machines" or any of that stuff.  Make an appointment to see that pastor, and TALK to him.  If it's painful for you, well, think how it is for that pastor, and, well, it's all part of the package, so to speak.

A couple of weeks ago, our church building failed a surprise plumbing commercial plumbing inspection from the Town.  We have to have an expensive plumbing job done today or we'd have our water shut off.  Please don't ask me to explain it.  I'm a pastor and not a plumber. But I'll be spending the day today at the church building with the water shut off and guys yelling things like, "Hey Harry, have you got the three-sixteenths wrench?!"  Well, it will make me thankful for most of the time HAVING running water!  (Note: I AM thankful the church has an account with a plumbing company which we can pay over two or three months!)

Yesterday I "started" a cold.  I'm popping COLD-EZE (which, incidentally, really DO help!).  I have to try to get "tons" of work done in a very short period of time.

On a happy note, my 20th Anniversary as pastor is going to be observed on January 7.  Lots of friends of mine and of the church's are coming.  I'm very much looking forward to that, and it's helping me cope with a (frankly)lousy week!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


“...there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”  (from Revelation 8:1)

As a kid, the question you’d get the day after Christmas was, “whattdidja get?!”  Then, everybody would rattle off the litany of all the things they’d received.  

I almost called this piece “whattdidja get?!”  Instead, as I write in silence on an eerily quiet Tuesday morning, I decided to call it, “Silence”.

I did get a lot of nice stuff.  I’ve wanted Howie Carr’s book, “The Brothers Bulger”, and my son gave me an AUTOGRAPHED copy of it- hardcover, no less!  (I’d have bought a paperback for myself!)  I got lots of nice clothes.  My two pair of jeans (not counting my horribly old pair that gets used for painting and cutting the lawn) are ready to be thrown out and now they will be, for I got two nice pairs (is it “pair” or “pairs”??) of new jeans.  I got some new shirts.  I got new pajamas.

We “made the rounds” to relatives homes yesterday.

Some of you (especially those from the church I pastor) will know the story I tell of the reason my late brother’s photo was never in his high school yearbook.  It was because of a very stupid comment I made.  Eddie died in 1983 at the age of 27.  The matter of his photo not being in the yearbook because of me has always bothered me.  Well. my sister Dianne gave me a beautifully framed portrait photo of Eddie taken very shortly before he died.  The photo is “him” much more than a high school photo would have been. He’s wearing a distinctive hat, and a denim shirt and has his distinctive expression.  (Eddie looked nothing like me, he DID look something like my sister. )  Dianne was extremely emotional handing it to me, saying she hoped it would help heal my feelings of his photo not being in the yearbook.  Dianne also gave each of my young adult daughters quilts that had been started by my mother years ago.  She had them professionally completed at a quilting shop in Walpole.  The quilts were presented as being from their grandmother.  And my son Jon was given Eddie’s antique clock.  It was a very emotional time.  

When I got home, I just had to take a walk, and I’m glad I did.  I was exhausted, and after over eight hours sleep, I’m still exhausted this morning.  During the walk I reflected on why at Christmas we cram at least a week’s worth of energy and eating and visiting into one day.  “It’s like a week crammed into a day - ON CRACK!” I thought!  Don’t get me wrong.  It WAS a very good day and a day to remember.  But I find (and I know 52 isn’t old)  that honestly I just can’t handle ALL that stuff happening in one day the way I could twenty plus years ago.

In her early ‘80s contemporary Christian hit song, “So Glad”, Amy Grant describes herself as “happy/sad”.  That’s how I was on Christmas night: “happy/sad”.  I AM fortunate to have today off.  Each of my young adult kids is working today .  I’m glad I don’t have to, although in the period between Wednesday and Saturday (because of “end of the year” record keeping, etc.) I have to try to do eight days worth of work in four, but I guess I’ll just have to get on with that tomorrow...

Saturday, December 23, 2006


This past Thursday, I experienced a tough way to start the day.  Someone had spray painted (with dark blue spray paint) what appeared to be a gang graffiti design-logo on the front of our church building on the yellow brickwork.  I'd  say the "design" was approximately. 5 feet by 1 foot.

Granted, if there had been 8 such designs it would have been much harder and would have at least taken up my whole morning, so I AM thankful there was only one.  Someone also wrote "Jose" and a design in black felt tip pen on one of the lower windows.  The black felt tip pen came off very easily.

HAD the blue graffiti design been done on the PAINTED surface, it would have been MUCH easier to deal with.  In that case, I'd just open a can of paint, get a brush and paint it out.

In this case, I had to go to Monnick Supply and buy graffiti remover.  I also bought a heavy duty sponge and some paper towels, and I brought in a wire brush from home.

It took probably 45 min. of spraying and wiping and scrubbing to get rid of 98% of the blue paint.  If one looks REAL close, you certainly can see remnants and vestiges of it, but otherwise it's pretty well cleaned off.

When I arrived at the property on Thursday morning, I also discovered that one of the concrete parking barriers in the dirt, gravel lot had been moved and flipped over.  I had previously pulled a muscle in my back somehow.  SO, moving that concrete barrier back into place on Thursday morning was NOT easy!  I was afraid I'd hurt my back more, but thank God,  I did not.

So, Thursday was an "interesting" day.  I realize this may sound awful,  but some people are very angry about the potential "gentrification" of downtown Framingham, with people buying $400,000 condos, etc.  I welcome it.  I don't think too many owners of $400,000 condos will be coming by our church building spraying blue gang graffiti!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


"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)

That comes from a part of the Christmas story we don't like to talk about very much; that is, when King Herod the Great massacred all boys in the Bethlehem area age 2 and under.  He hoped to have killed the Baby Jesus, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had previously fled to Egypt.

There can be difficult and sad aspects to Christmas.  Yesterday morning I went to my pastors' prayer and fellowship group.  One guy commented that our people have the luxury of not really being ready for Christmas in their hearts.  They can come to a Christmas Eve service and sit back and be ministered to.  On the other hand, we HAVE to be spiritually ready; and it can be a great stress and a lot of pressure when you're conducting a service and you know you're just not ready.  Almost every pastor there said he's gone through the motions of conducting a Christmas Eve service and just not being ready.  One said that one year he was just not in a good place, and he ended up conducting a very depressing Christmas Eve service which someone commented to him about (critically) later on.

Of course, we've all had great Christmas Eve services, but this CAN be a tough time of the year.  On Christmas Day 1975, the car my father was driving (with my sister, my grandmother, and my great aunt as passengers) was plowed into by a drunk driver.  The elderly women were injured and taken to the hospital.  Christmas was "different" that year.  In 1986, my father was in the hospital, having suffered a stroke.  Yesterday at the pastor's group, one shared that his mother-in-law is expected to die at any moment.  One shared that there are major problems in his church and he may soon be out of a  job.  One pastor phoned in during the group saying that he had not made it to the group because his wife had been taken ill and hospitalized.

As Elvis Presley once pointed out, for some, Christmas can be a "blue Christmas".  Honestly, I had a not-so-good week last week, and I'm having a not-much-better week this week.  Two fine Christian families I know are going through terrible problems at this time.  But, one of the pastors at yesterday's group summed it up well, saying that we may have problems at Christmas and it may not be picture perfect but we can still rejoice because Jesus Christ is our Savior and we know we'll live eternally with Him.  That's true, and it does help put everything in perspective.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


“Let all things be done decently and in order.”  (I Corinthians 14:40)

At this time of the year, I know most people would expect me to write beautiful, inspirational, heavenly and poetic pieces about peace on earth- good will toward men.  Thus, this may sound really stupid, but I just want to give some of you a “heads up” about something, and just take it as sort of a Christmas present - or a “Christmas heads up” to you.

This is pertinent to Massachusetts drivers:  I’ve noticed many expired inspection stickers as I’ve walked around the streets and parking lots of Boston’s MetroWest suburbs.  Most people just don’t think about their car’s inspection stickers nor about their car’s registrations and license plate validations for that matter.  Many of you know that my Dad was a career Registry of Motor Vehicles employee, retiring as one of the Supervisors at the Registry’s Boston headquarters in 1982.  I grew up to notice inspection stickers, plates, and such.

Now, it WAS a lot easier in the 1950s and 1960s.  In those days, you changed sets of license plates every two years and the new plates were always a different color so it was pretty hard to have invalid plates on the car.  And, in those days, cars were mandated to have state inspection every Spring and Fall.  The stickers were very distinctive.  The shapes and colors were changed so that if you had an old, expired sticker, it literally stuck out like a sort thumb.

Today, state inspection is once a year, and it all depends on the big number in the middle of the sticker.  Plates pretty much stay on cars forever (although the state is seriously trying to phase out the old white plates with green lettering which date back to the 1970s).  The thing that validates the plate is that little sticker you attach to it.  Check yours.  Has it expired?  If so, you need to contact the Registry.
And, LOOK at your WINDSHIELD’S lower passenger side corner for the inspection sticker.  When does it expire?  I’ve seen stickers that expired a year or more ago.  People just never think of it.

Is driving around with an expired inspection sticker a big deal?  Well, years ago, it just meant you got a ticket, paid it, and had a state inspection done on your car.  My understanding is that the law has changed and that the longer the car’s inspection has been expired, the greater the fine is.  Has it been over a year?  You’d better plan to go to a finance company to take out a major loan if the cops write you up for it!  AND, that goes on your insurance policy as a surcharge for like SIX years!

I’ve actually left friendly little notes on the windshields of cars that have expired stickers.  It’s better for those drivers than getting tickets.  So check your cars, and check your friends’ and neighbors’ cars.  AND, if you’re reading this in another state, check out THAT STATE’S laws about license plate validation and state inspection.  It could also save you a lot of trouble!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.”  (John 10:22-23)

That line may seem as though it has nothing to do with Christmas.  In fact, it HAS NOTHING to do with Christmas.  If you’re really sharp, you’ll notice it’s talking about Hanukkah.  Jesus never celebrated Christmas- well unless you count LITERALLY when he was a baby in Bethlehem.   But it’s very unlikely that Jesus was born in late December.  Jesus, as a Jew, did celebrate Hanukkah at this time of the year.  Incidentally, with the exception of the “apocryphal” books of the Maccabees, there are no Old Testament references to Hanukkah, but there IS a New Testament reference to Hanukkah, and that’s it!

Christmas was not celebrated by the early Christians.  Now, there WAS a Roman holiday in late December.  It was a very festive holiday.  Many torches and lanterns were illuminated.  There was much drinking of “adult beverages” and much eating and celebrating.  The holiday was “Saturnalia” in honor of the Roman god Saturn.  Howie Carr of WRKO has said that he isn’t really sure what he believes about Jesus (although he’s a nominal Roman Catholic) but he says, “This is such a lousy time of the year, you just NEED a holiday!”  Well, in a sense, he has a point.  That was the reason the Romans had Saturnalia.  

When the Roman Empire had been largely “Christianized” in the 4th Century (most, like Howie Carr were Christians culturally but only a small percentage had a big, serious commitment to Jesus Christ- just like today) the institutional church changed “Saturnalia” to “Jesus’ birthday”.  People loved it.  They could still get drunk.  They could still “pig out”.  They could still light torches and lanterns.  They could give gifts... only now instead of being about Saturn, it would be about Jesus.  (The Christmas tree was German.  My understanding is that it didn’t become a “universal” custom until many centuries later.)

The early Puritans in Massachusetts Bay colony outlawed Christmas.  They called it “Romish Rags”.  In fact, “Christmas” means “Christ’s Mass” (from Roman Catholicism). My understanding is that Christmas wasn’t “REALLY BIG” in the U.S.A. until around the 1870s.  Sure it was celebrated, but it wasn’t close to what it is today.  I believe it was in the 1880s that Christmas became a federal holiday.  The poem “The Night Before Christmas” popularized most of the American Santa Claus (a derivation of “St. Nicholas”) mythology.

In a recent piece I talked about Christmas carols.  I do really like singing Christmas carols.  I do kind of like the lights and decorations.  As a kid, I LOVED the presents.  Like all kids I just LIVED for the presents!  It was in my 30s that I began to really dislike the materialistic side of Christmas.  On our small salaries, we found ourselves buying presents we just could not afford, but we didn’t want to offend family and friends.  My wife used to get really mad at me, because I’d calculate how we “did” for Christmas, and many years I concluded we “ran in the red”- meaning we took in far less than we’d spent.  The whole thing seemed wasteful and stupid to me.  

I will admit that the Christmas that jarred me OUT of hating Christmas to INSTEAD being much more neutral (and genuinely liking parts of it) was Christmas of 1998.  That year was very tough financially for us.  Honestly, we were having a “poor people’s Christmas” that year.  It was Christmas Eve.  We had come home from our Christmas Eve service and were dining on take-out Chinese food.  A late 1980s full-sized Chevrolet pulled up in front of our house.  A young guy dressed in a Santa Claus outfit rang our doorbell.   I opened it and he asked, “Is your name Bob?”  I replied that it was.  He handed me a bag full of presents.

“You must have the wrong house,” I said.  (I really thought he did!)  
“Nope,” he said, “I got the right house,” and he drove off.

There were no $1000 presents in there, but there WAS some good stuff.  I got razor blades and shaving cream.  No joke, I like that kind of stuff.  I also got a book about Gilligan’s Island by the guy who played the Professor!  I loved that book.  Did you know the pilot for Gilligan’s Island was filmed on November 22, 1963 (J.F.K. assassination day) in Honolulu, Hawaii?  Well, I didn't until I read that book!

We were all happy with our gifts and with being thought of.   I try to think of others at Christmas and I try to do things that make them happy.  As you can tell from this entry, though, I’m “all over the ballpark” in my feelings about Christmas.

And, as I said at the beginning, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah!  “What would Jesus do” about the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song?  Well, don’t freak out, but I think He’d laugh and enjoy it!

Friday, December 15, 2006


“Render therefore to all their dues: ... honour to whom honour.”  (from Romans 13:7)

Recently I posted a piece about a crazy story circulating on the internet saying Billy Graham recently led a victory marching through the streets of New Orleans- singing and marching like a man in his forties.  Sadly, the story is completely untrue.  Apparently it is meant to try to make fools of Billy Graham and his admirers.

I thought I’d heard it all until I tuned in to the “Imus in the Morning” radio program yesterday morning.  You might think that profane cowboy shock jock Don Imus would be mocking Billy Graham.  Far from it.  In fact, Imus greatly admires Billy Graham, and Charles McCord, the newsman on the Imus show is a born-again Christian.  Imus had a female journalist on the air who has broken a bizarre story about the Billy Graham organization.  I regret that I did not catch her name.  (I know, I know, I write about accuracy in media on this blog, but in fact I am trying to be accurate.)  The journalist is a personal friend of Billy and Ruth Graham.  She shared their sadness (“devastation” is more accurate) that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is constructing a bizarre tourist/amusement attraction just a short distance from their Charlotte headquarters.  The attraction will be a barn with a talking cow (well, obviously a fake talking cow!) and will be the location of the Graham’s future GRAVES.  Visitors will be admitted free, but at the end will be invited to sign onto the Graham organization’s mailing list.  The idea was cooked up by one of the Board members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who is also a wealthy developer.  He pretty much sold Graham’s son Franklin on the idea.  

Billy and Ruth Graham had planned to be buried either at “The Cove”, a study and retreat center in western North Carolina established by the Graham organization, or on their own family property in Montreat, NC.  Although rumors have circulated that Ruth Graham is experiencing some forms of confusion and dementia, the journalist soundly refuted that, stating that both Grahams are mentally very sharp and articulate.  She described Ruth Graham as crying and pleading, “Please don’t let them do this to us!”

I’ve been an admirer of Billy Graham for thirty-six years.  May the Graham organization give these dear elderly saints a Christmas present and dump this incredibly stupid idea!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder:  and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Price of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

I’ve mentioned previously that I have mixed feelings about Christmas.  (I hope to write about that sometime within the next couple of weeks.)
While there are a number of things about the Christmas holiday that I don’t like, there area a number of things about the Christmas holiday that I do like.  One of my favorites is singing Christmas carols.

The Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell and her congregation at First Baptist Church of Framingham (the old-fashioned white steepled church in the Framingham Centre area) came up with a wonderful idea for this year’s Christmas season.  It’s singing Christmas carols at the Framingham train station for the commuters as they get off the train to return home.  The caroling will be done on two Thursday evenings, December 14 and December 21.   The First Baptist folks opened this up to other churches who wanted to get involved and a few people from First Assembly of God of Framingham, along with some folks from four or five other churches are going to be joining them.

If you’re going to be around the downtown Framingham area anytime between around 5:20 and around 6:30 on Thursday evening, December 14 or Thursday evening, December 21, please drop by and enjoy the singing.  The carols certainly remind us (as the late Dr. Seuss did) that “Christmas  doesn’t come from a store” and that Christmas is “a little bit more” (actually a LOT more)!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


“ instant in season, out of season;...” (from 2 Timothy 4:2)

You snow lovers are going to want to kill me, but I’m so excited after yesterday, that I just had to post this special piece!  Why am I excited?  I mowed my lawn yesterday!  Now, if I lived in Pensacola, Florida, I’m sure that mowing a lawn on December 12 would be no big deal.  For me, it was a very big deal.  My previous record for the latest in the season to mow the lawn was December 2, 2001, which also happened to have a record breaking temperature of 72 degrees.

Back in the pre-1997 days, I’d usually try to make the last day I cut the lawn on (or around) November 11.  Some years cold and snow would beat me to it, and my last mowing would be as early as October 14.  The year Mary Ann and I were newlyweds (1982) I remember a big Sunday snowstorm in early December.  For a minister, a Sunday snowstorm is a bummer.  I remember being up early shoveling and shoveling.  One of my first years in Framingham, there was a significant snowstorm on November 11.  One year in the early ‘90s (maybe 1992) there was a major blizzard on Thanksgiving Day.  I shoveled a lot and ate a lot of turkey.

I’m no leftist ecological nut.  Most of you know I’m a Republican and I lean to the right on many issues.  But global warming is real. Now, WHY it’s happening IS debatable.  Some scientists say Mars is warming at about the same rate as earth. If that is true, then the sun is throwing off a little more heat for some reason.  Our greenhouse gasses MAY only be responsible for about 4% of global warming, and the rest may just be nature.  I realize that in a long-term, ecological sense, global warming is probably bad.  But, as a guy who very much dislikes ice and snow, I’m really happy!

You may think I’m the type who likes the temperature to be 99 with blistering sunshine and high humidity.  I don’t.  Well, honestly, if I’m on vacation at Cape Cod and at the beach, then I DO like that kind of weather, but normally I don’t.  I don’t like extremes of weather.  That’s why my favorite seasons are spring and fall.  To me, an ideal day is sunny with a high of 68 and a low of 48.  (In my ideal world, about every 6th day would be a rainy one just to keep everything green and clean, but otherwise, I’d want sunny and in the 60s.)

Yesterday was not like December 12.   Temperature-wise, it was much more like you’d expect October 12 to be, and that’s fine with me.

When I was in Bible College in Springfield, Missouri in the late 1970s, yesterday’s Boston area weather was what the Missouri weather in late November and early December was like.  Ironically, they’ve already had at least one ice storm and at least one major snowstorm.  My understanding is that even THAT is a sign of global warming.

I know people want it to look Christmassy, and it really DOESN’T.  I know people want it to FEEL Christmassy, and it really DOESN’T.  But, as far as I’m concerned:  sunny and 48 degrees and mowing the lawn on December 12?  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


“Study to shew (show) thyself approved, ... a workman that needeth not to be ashamed...” (from 2 Timothy 2:15).

The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) for Saturday, December 9, 2006, was one of the sloppiest pieces of journalism that I’ve ever seen!  The front page headline reads “Man dies days after being stabbed” and the sub headline reads “20-year-old from Framingham was bouncer at Boston club”.  The story caught my attention because I couldn’t believe they’re employing 20-year-olds (who aren’t even at the legal drinking age) to be bouncers at bars.  Then I read the story.  And, I had to reread the story.  The truth is that a 32-year-old bouncer who lives in Framingham was stabbed by a 20-year-old guy from Natick, at a Boston nightclub.  Thirty-five years ago I was on the staff of the Canton High School newspaper.  I think Mrs. Murray, the faculty advisor, would have given me a chewing out if I’d have done such a sloppy job.

It doesn’t stop there!  On page 5 of Saturday’s MetroWest Daily News are two stories by Joseph Dwinnell.  One is entitled “Driver charged with vehicle homicide”.  The other is entitled “Dump truck driver charged in girl’s death”.  When you read the text of both stories, the text is EXACTLY THE SAME.  I guess the paper wanted to make sure we all read the story, one way or the other!  A week or so ago, there was a front page story about a crime committed by a young man who attended our church when he was a little boy.  The story was SO POORLY WRITTEN that I had to read it several times to make ANY sense of it, and I got the same feedback from some Members of our church.  My wife actually wants me to CANCEL having the paper delivered to our home!

On Monday morning, I picked up a Boston Herald to read over breakfast at McDonald’s.  At the bottom of page 7 is a story about John McCain addressing a Jewish group about Iran.  The story says, “McCain, who failed to gain the GOP presidential nomination in 1998,...”  Listen, you don’t need to read ANY more of that story!  If the writer doesn’t even know that McCain ran for the 2000 Presidential nomination and not the 1998 nomination; and if the writer doesn’t even know we elect a President every four years and 1998 wasn’t one of them, then why does that writer even have a job with a newspaper?!

Recently, my sister dug out a box of Boston Globes from the 1960s and 1970s that my mother had saved.  The front page story of one of them is about Bobby Kennedy’s funeral.  Another’s is about JFK’s funeral.  Still another’s is about Richard Nixon in the midst of his political problems. She even saved the Globe which had the story of artist Andy Warhol being shot.  I’m not a big Boston Globe fan, but I’d imagine that there’s a lot more accuracy in those newspapers than in the papers of today!

I know many of you say, “Well, I get MY news from the internet!”
If you think the internet is any more reliable, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

THE iMac GRAY SCREEN OF DEATH (extra entry)

“And heal the sick that are therein...” (from Luke 10:9)

I usually post entries on this blog on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, but I just thought I’d share one “interesting” thing that happened this weekend.

I know that what I’m writing here may sound like a real “dis” of Apple computers.  I know that most P.C. users love to hear negative stories about Apple computers and to smugly let “Mac people” know that they’re among the 95% of computer users who DON’T use Apple products.  Before you get too smug, do be reminded that 98% of all computer viruses DO NOT affect Apple computers at all and that overall Macs are outstanding computers.

There IS one occasional annoyance (“crisis” is a better word) that can befall Apple computers.  It admittedly can make a lover of Mac computers feel as embarrassed as a New England Patriots fan feels this weekend over the loss to Miami.  (The Patriots could be a topic for another day...while I’m usually not a big athletic or sports person, an exception is the Patriots- I love the Patriots.)  Anyway, the annoyance is what some Mac geeks call “The gray screen of death”.  You go to turn on your Mac computer...all that appears on the screen for about two minutes is light gray...after about two minutes, the screen turns purple/blue. Then, in the center of the screen, a small icon appears flashing a question mark.  When that happens- be afraid- be very afraid.

Our home iMac computer was purchased in the Autumn of 2001.  When it was almost a year old,  “the gray screen of death” thing happened.  No matter what we did...even following all the steps in the manual...we could not get rid of the gray screen and subsequent purple/blue flashing question mark.  My wife put the computer in for service.  Thank God we were still under the warranty, but the word was bleak.  The hard drive was essentially fried.  We pretty much lost everything.  The computer was in the shop for around ten days.  At that time, we purchased an extended warranty.  In the Autumn of 2004, just three weeks shy of the extended warranty running out, “the gray screen of death” thing happened again.  Once again, the computer went in the shop for about ten days.  We pretty much lost everything.  It was VERY upsetting for our family.  My wife was told that had the repair NOT been under warranty, it would have cost over $500.

This past Saturday night around 7, I turned on the iMac, and what to my wondering eyes did appear?  Yes, “the gray screen of death” followed by the purple/blue screen and the flashing question mark.  If I had a weak heart, I may have had a heart attack.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when “the gray screen of death” appeared on Saturday night I was struck with incredible sadness.  I think I’d rather have had food poisoning and had the computer be O.K.  Holiday time for us is a very tight financial time.  There is no money to repair the computer right now, let alone buy a new one.  Going on-line at home and writing my blog is one of the most “fun” things I do.  On a more serious note, my son is a serious writer and has some important work stored on the iMac.  We’ve all built sizable pop music libraries on iTunes.

I got the iMac turned off.  I called for my 20-year-old daughter Rachel who was home for the weekend from college and the only other person home at the time.  She was certainly as sad as I was, but she had a whole lot more faith than I did.  Rachel prayed that God would work a miracle and that I could get the computer turned on.  I tried and IT CAME ON NORMALLY!  (In the past we would try and try and try and...nothing.)  I cannot tell you how happy I was to have the iMac back!

Well, we have not turned it off since!  It will sleep, but we ain’t turnin’ it off!  

P.S.   I just noticed that my AOL blog “counter” messed up for like the 4th time since last February.  It says this blog has only been logged onto 3 times since February!  It’s more like 3003 times, but, well, here we go again, computers, ya gotta love ‘em...

Saturday, December 9, 2006


"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."  (John 13:17)

Over thirty years ago, I attended a Bible Study at the home of a couple named Ed and Allison Bryan.  I have not seen either of them in about twenty years, but I do remember that Ed had kind of a sarcastic and poignant sense of humor.  One year at Christmas time a person accidentally smashed into his car at a supermarket parking lot.  Did it phase Ed?  No!  He literally turned to the person with a sarcastic and poignant smile and announced, "Oh, well, 'tis the season to be jolly!"

Not everyone handles driving situations in December as well as Ed Bryan did!  Yesterday, a particularly cold day in Boston's MetroWest suburbs, I noticed that whatever minimal driving etiquette usually exists had vanished!  (This also happens in the summer when it's really hot and humid.)  For some reason, when temperatures are at an extreme, people want to take it out on everybody on the road.

In the middle of Friday afternoon, I had to do an errand at Framingham's downtown post office.  I walked the half mile or so from the church to the post office.  The "wind chill factor" had to be about 6 degrees! It was cold!  At one intersection, the light turned to green as I was in the middle of the crosswalk.  A woman driver of at least 50 (and I'd say 60) who was sitting and waiting to proceed ahead absolutely went ballistic!  She began waving her arms and yelling, "It's GREEN!  The light is GREEN!"  She gave me a look of absolute HATE.  It was scary!  As soon as I passed her car, I turned and (hate to admit it) yelled to her, "Calm down, CALM DOWN!"  I guess I didn't sound very calm then, but it honestly makes me angry when people get so exorcised over something so ... stupid!

Early Friday morning as I was picking up a couple of items at Stop & Shop, the background music playing was Phil Collins singing, "Think Twice", you know, that song about a homeless woman who is rejected and ignored.  I think we all need to think twice!  I dread mall parking lots at this time of the year.  There are the VULTURES...those who circle and circle just WAITING to nab a parking space.  And you know how that goes... the parking lot situations can practically lead to fistfights.

I mentioned earlier that in some respects I'm not crazy about the Christmas holiday, and I'm not.  I just kind of try to get through this season.  I DO try to be sensitive to, well, bring a little  "Christmas cheer" to people...and I don't mean alcohol- I mean happiness.  It gets challenging on days like yesterday.

Everybody is in SUCH a hurry. Everybody takes everything SO personally.  People are SO on edge.  I remember that Three Dog Night once sang, "And if I was the king of the world, I'll tell you what I'd do, I'd throw away the guns and the bombs and the wars and I'd make sweet love to you."  Well, if I could have MY fantasy with Planet Earth, or even Massachusetts for even one day, I'd have everybody driving a LOT slower, being a LOT more courteous, AND ... there'd be no swearing or "attitudes" allowed...

After all, 'tis the season to be jolly!

Thursday, December 7, 2006


“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Miss Ennis was my 5th grade teacher.   This was during the 1964-1965 school year.  As most of you know, I grew up in Canton, Massachusetts.  At that time a new elementary school was under construction, but would not be ready until the Fall of 1965.  The elementary schools were overcrowded and the Town had to do something.  The “something” was that for the 1964-1965 year, all 5th Grades in the Canton Public Schools were on the lowest level floor of the 1963 addition to Canton High School. “The 5th Grade in the High School” was almost run like a private school (or a charter school) that year.  The one male teacher, Mr. Lynch, became the de facto “principal”.  I didn’t like Mr. Lynch at all, but his ‘64-’65 teaching assignment did wonders for his career.  He ended up becoming a highly respected elementary school principal in Canton (later becoming “Dr. Lynch”) and retiring just a few years ago.  None of this has anything to do with Miss Ennis; but it’s background...

Miss Ennis’ name was Ellen Ennis.  She was in her early 20s.  She actually shared a lot about herself with her class (usually teachers didn’t share much about their personal lives, but she did).  She was from Glen Road in the Wellesley Farms section of Wellesley.  She was a pretty serious Roman Catholic.  I think she had gone to either Boston College or Providence College.  She drove a brand new white Ford Mustang.  She had very high expectations for her students, particularly the boys.  She very much liked me, but it was obvious she feared for my future.  It bothered her that I was not athletic enough.  Looking back, I think she feared I would become gay.  

That was a tough year for me.  I hung around with a young man I shouldn’t have gotten involved with (in that class) and it led to a lot of problems.  I got into very serious trouble (for a 5th grader) in late September of that year.  Maybe I’ll write about that another time.  Did you ever watch “Leave it to Beaver”?  Well, I will say that as a kid I was a LOT like Beaver.  Remember how Richard, and Whitey, and Gilbert would manipulate him into things and he’d get in trouble?  In elementary school, that was me.  

December 1, 1964 was my father’s birthday.  He was 42 that year.  That’s interesting because in fact it was 42 years ago, and yes, if he were still living, he’d now be 84.  I got in very serious trouble with Miss Ennis that day; instigated by the kid I wrote about.  Miss Ennis did the unthinkable:  She wrote a long, handwritten letter to my father about it!  I had to bring it home and have it signed by him!

I wanted to DIE.  Remember the kid that was caned in Singapore about ten years ago?  I’d GLADLY have been caned rather than bring that letter home!  My father was very strict.  I had already been in serious trouble in September.  It was his birthday.   It was horrible.  I didn’t know what to do.  Twenty-two years before “Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off”, I put on an Oscar-level performance of faking being sick, and so I got out of going to school the next day.  I tried forging my father’s signature onto the letter.  It was a terrible job and I knew it.  Now, I’d only made matters worse!  Looking back, my father NEVER would have just signed a letter like that anyway.  He’d have contacted the school and met with the teacher, and I’d have been, well, “dead”...

You may not believe this but for the next week I faked sick day after day.  I knew I could not continue this forever.  Finally, I went back to school.  I hoped it would all just blow over.

“Did you show that letter to your father?”  Miss Ennis asked me.

“Yes,” I lied.

“What did he say?”

“He was mad.” I said.  It was an obvious lie.  It was one of those situations for which Bob Dole used to say, “You know it, I know it, everybody knows it.”  

To my shock she never brought up the matter again.  I think maybe she knew that the letter thing was just more than I could handle with my very strict father.  Of course, she did not know it was his birthday.  Well, now I’m 52-years-old and have been an Assemblies of God minister for over twenty-five years.  My own children are grown.  Miss Ennis married a man named Kane in June of 1965 at St. John’s Church in Wellesley.  I attended the ceremony.  I got my parents to drive me, and that was a “trip” because they considered it very inconvenient and almost refused to take me.  Mr. Kane was in the Air Force.  I never saw Miss Ennis/Mrs. Kane again.

As  silly as it may sound, the scenario I’ve just written about has kind of bothered me for forty-two years.  I know God has long ago forgiven me.  I’d love to contact Ellen Ennis Kane who would now be about 66-years-old and explain what happened.  I know it’s usually easy to locate people on the internet.  I’ve located all sorts of people from my past on the internet.  I found out that my high school biology teacher, for instance, is now a professor at U.Mass-Amherst.  A girl I liked in Bible College is now a missionary to Germany.  (It looks like she tripled in weight since the ‘70s ... she’s married with several kids....I’m kind of glad a relationship with her did not work out!)  But I can’t find Miss Ennis.  December 1 just went by a few days ago, and I’m dealing with those memories all over again...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


“Every man’s work shall be made manifest:  for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire;  and the fire shall try every man’s work...” (I Corinthians 3:13).

For all of you theologians out there, that’s one of the references from which the Catholics get “Purgatory”, although I don’t believe in Purgatory, and this piece is NOT about theology, it’s about FIRE.

For most of you handyman/homeowner types, the tip I’m going to mention here will seem so foolish and so basic that you’ll be tempted to laugh and think that anyone who DOESN’T know what I’m about to share is a complete idiot.  Well, I once didn’t know it and I’m glad I learned about it.

IF your home has gas- especially a gas water heater, you need to be aware of being EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS lest you start a fire that will burn down your house and seriously injure or kill you.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not at all against gas.  The residence I live in (church owned) has gas- stove, dryer, and water heater.  Many people believe food cooks better with gas.  Honestly, it does.  Many prefer gas heat because you don’t have to worry about filling up with home heating oil, running out of oil, having the tank leak, etc.  I agree.  I’m glad my residence was converted from oil heat to gas heat sometime before 1986.  (The church has oil heat- I hope my fuel oil dealer isn’t reading this- I hate oil heat!)  I’m not anti-gas but you’ve GOT to be much more cautious with gas.

ABC-TV’s 20/20 program featured an important piece over ten years ago, warning of the potential dangers of gas water heaters.  Did you know that if you open a can of oil based paint within 30 feet of a gas water heater, there could be a sudden, spontaneous combustion, badly burning you and setting the house on fire?  That also goes for even a small can of turpentine, mineral spirits, or paint thinner.  Horror stories of burn victims and fatalities from doing just what I’m mentioning here were presented.  You may ask why ANYONE would open a can of turpentine or oil based paint in a basement.  The answer is that in certain other types of homes, you can do that all the time.  The house I grew up in had NO gas.  My parents were dead against gas.  We had oil heat with a tankless water heating system, and we had an electric stove and electric dryer.  It was common for my Dad to have paint brushes soaking in turpentine on his cellar bench for days on end.  I thought nothing of opening up cans of oil based paint or containers of turpentine in the basement of the home in Canton.  It was perfectly safe.  Doing the same thing at my present residence would have brought disaster.  Being a pretty unhandy guy who ordinarily would never stop to think how a house is heated and whether stuff like I’ve just talked about would make a difference - it’s a MIRACLE I never did anything like that in my Framingham basement.

After watching the 20/20 story, I posted a big warning sign in the basement.  That may sound stupid, but I just thought that if I leave here someday, I’d like my replacement to be aware of it.

A few days ago, I was putting the garden hose away for the winter.  I noticed the warning sign, and I thought it would be a good item to mention on my blog.  Incidentally, my predecessor, the Rev. Tom Gurney used to store his gasoline lawn mower (tank emptied) and empty gas can in the cellar!  Even with the can and tank empty, there was a chance of fumes igniting the house on fire.  In fact, it was illegal for him to store the stuff in the cellar for that reason.  If there’s one wish I’d have for my residence, it’s a garage (separate building).  That would solve a lot of problems.  Since I don’t have a garage, about fifteen years ago, a family gave me their son’s old small wooden playhouse which I’ve been using for a shed, and that’s where I store the mower and gas can.  That fifteen year old little “shed” is badly rotting and should have been replaced this year.  (If any rich people are reading and want to donate a first-class wooden shed to the church next Spring, e-mail me!  Your gift would be tax deductible!)  

Anyway, that’s my safety tip.  You macho handyman types, stop laughing.  If this piece saved a life or a house, it’s worth it!

Sunday, December 3, 2006

AMY ASKED ME TO WATCH IT (special posting!)

I'm not much for viewing movie or video clips on-line, but my daughter Amy who is in college in Missouri asked me to view this clip which was shown at the church she attends... check it out at

If you want, let me know what you thought of it.  Leave a comment on this blog, or e-mail me at

Saturday, December 2, 2006


“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)

Back in the 1970s, Campus Crusade for Christ put out a very popular mini-booklet entitled, “Do You Know the Four Spiritual Laws?”.  I’m assuming it’s still available.  Evangelicals have given out millions of those mini-booklets over the years.  Billy Graham’s organization also put out their version of that booklet entitled, “Steps to Peace With God”.  Am I about to launch into an evangelistic sermon?  Actually, no- but maybe another time.  I just thought the title, “Do You Know the Four Spiritual Laws?” would make a great title to “tinker with” for my title of this piece.  Thus, I’m calling it “Do You Know the __?__ Parking Laws?”  I wanted to call it, “Do You Know the Four Parking Laws?” but I didn’t think that would be right because I have no idea HOW many parking laws there are!

You’ll find this is almost a “Part 2” to my piece entitled “The Preevate”; and in a sense it is, because once again I’m dealing with the topic of parking.  Yesterday morning, one of our church members and I went to the church building to do a quick project to help prevent water from coming in during the forecasted heavy wind and rain storm.  We each noticed that all of the vehicles parked on the even numbered side of South Street and on the even numbered side of Taylor Street were ticketed.  The church member (a Natick resident) was quite surprised when I told him there is no parking allowed on the even numbered side of Framingham streets during the winter months.  (Some years it’s the odd numbered side.)  He was also surprised that Framingham does not allow you to park on any street for more than two hours.  The big exception to that is where it’s posted “Resident Parking Only”, and you’d better BE a resident!

In fact, on my own street, cars are parked all over the even numbered side all the time, and all over Town, cars violate the two hour limit.  Frankly, they’re just rolling the dice!  In Framingham  USUALLY you can get away with that stuff, but if Parking Enforcement just happens to decide to pick YOUR street to enforce the regulations on, then you’re in trouble.

My hometown of Canton also has a two hour limit that most people don’t know about.  Canton also has a “no all night” parking rule, as does Framingham.  Again, unless it’s posted “Resident Parking Only” you cannot park on a Framingham street all night.  In fact, again, you can’t park on it for more than two hours at a time.  The entire state of Massachusetts does not allow parking within 20 feet of an intersection.  I see that done ALL the time, but it’s not allowed.

Yesterday’s MetroWest Daily News featured a front-page story showing that most average MetroWest residents are frankly ill- informed when it comes to what they know (or don’t know) about the United States Government.  Most, for instance, have no idea how many U.S. Senators there are.  Do you?  It’s 100.  Each state gets 2.  I hate to THINK what would happen if they had to be tested on their knowledge of parking laws!  Speaking of “THINK” that reminds me:  The Town of Needham once made the Reader’s Digest for its “Don’t Even THINK of Parking Here” signs!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." (Galatians 2:10)

On Tuesday morning of this week, a group of Assemblies of God ministers from central Massachusetts visited the "New England Dream Center" located in inner city Worcester, only a few blocks from the D.C.U. Center (the former "Worcester Centrum").  After hearing about all that is happening through the ministry of the Dream Center, over a hearty breakfast, and then touring the facility, I think most of us felt like the words of Mark 2:12, "...We never saw it on this fashion".

The New England Dream Center is largely modeled after the Los Angeles Dream Center, which was established in inner city Los Angeles, California by First Assembly of God of Phoenix, Arizona, one of the Assemblies of God's key "mega-churches".  Having once served on the Board of a Christian non-profit ministry (New England Aftercare Ministries-The Bridge House) I am well aware of how difficult it is to establish a Christian social service ministry in Massachusetts.  Usually, there are almost insurmountable hurdles to face from city and state officials, not to mention "Not in My Back Yard" neighborhood groups.  Funds are also always a problem.  Maintaining buildings can be a nightmare.  The fact that the New England Center has gone from an abstract dream to a first-class thriving  ministry facility is (to say the least) miraculous!

The New England Dream Center was the brainchild of Pastor Will Bard of Shrewsbury's Liberty Assembly of God, a thriving church of several hundred, located on Route 20 in Shrewsbury.  In 2004, God literally made the way for the purchase of the former Chestnut Street Congregational Church located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester.  Built in 1895, the church was modeled after France's Notre Dame Cathedral and was once called "The Cathedral of Worcester".  Sadly, by 1984, the church had dwindled to only about twenty-five people.  The building was sold to one wealthy individual.  He leased out the parking out, but just held onto the building doing very little with it.  After the purchase, over 300 construction volunteers renovated the entire facility bringing it up to modern codes.  The cost was $400,000. Without volunteer labor, the cost would have been close to three million!  But that was only the beginning.  Since then, the Dream Center has opened and has offered the community a food pantry, clothing distribution, recovery programs including Narcotics Anonymous,  E.S.L. classes, G.E.D. classes, performing arts programs, a legal clinic, and much more.  On Sunday morning, the Center becomes Liberty City Church.  Pastor Bard comes in to preach at the 10 a.m. service.  (Bard also conducts an early morning service at his original church in Shrewsbury, and an 11 a.m. service back in Shrewsbury.  I hope he doesn't get too many speeding tickets!)  At this time of the year, the New England Dream Center also gives hundreds of toys to  the needy through the donations of local businesses.

Bard believes the New England Dream Center will ultimately have similar "satellite" centers throughout New England (maybe downtown Framingham...why not?).

The New England Dream Center is always looking for donations and volunteers.  I also know there's a newspaper reporter or two who read this blog- this would make a great feature story!

The New England Dream Center is located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester.  Their telephone number is 508-757-3333.  On the web, you can go to   and you can e-mail to

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


“Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, ...” (from Deuteronomy 19:14)

I know this story MAY not put my father in the best light, and it’s really not meant to dishonor him, but here goes...Back in 1959 when I was only four and a half, our family spent a week’s vacation in Harwichport, MA on Cape Cod.  We usually went to Dennisport, but that year, my father and my Aunt Flo rented a house in Harwichport.  We had the first floor, and Aunt Flo’s family had the second floor.   Sometimes, we went to the beach at the public beach at Harwichport, but there was a private beach my father used to like to sneak onto.  We snuck onto the private beach several times and got away with it.  One time, we did NOT get away with it.  A very snooty  Yankee woman came out pointing to the “Private Beach” sign and yelled, “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”  Yes, she pronounced it “preevate”!  For years whenever we were driving and would see a sign saying “Private Way” or “Private Drive” or whatever, my father would almost involuntarily (to try to be funny) yell out,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”

Many times at our 32 South Street church building’s parking lot, I have wanted to yell,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”  at unauthorized parkers.

Many of you know that our building is the former U.A.W. union hall.  We have a paved lot directly behind our building which can accommodate 34 cars, and then we have a dirt/gravel lot adjacent to it which can accommodate around 12 cars.  At the time we bought the building, both lots were routinely being used by the neighborhood, MBTA commuters, and essentially “everybody and their brother”.  The building DOES have a sign (now badly faded) which reads, “No Unauthorized Parking.  Violators will be towed”.  Within the first few weeks (in 1994) of moving the church to that location, I essentially struck a deal with the (somewhat pushy) neighborhood that I’d let them park in the dirt/gravel lot, but that the paved lot was absolutely off limits.  It took awhile, but finally that arrangement pretty well stuck.  Over the years I’ve had at least twenty cars towed.  I usually won’t tow a car unless it’s been on the property at least 48 hours straight.  A couple of years ago, a real estate agent friend of mine told me it was a really bad idea to allow ANY neighborhood parking on our property...that such an arrangement- however informal- can be considered an “easement” and could cause major problems for us in the future.  Since then, I’ve been periodically leaving official parking policy flyers on any car (outside of our “church family”) which parks in either lot.  We still allow neighbors to park there, but the flyer very politely lets them know we aren’t crazy about it.   Since I started doing that a couple of years ago, the amount of neighborhood parkers has declined.

One issue is that adjacent to our property is a housing complex for the disabled at 40 Taylor St. which has a woefully inadequate parking lot.  Many of the “Personal Care Assistants” who work at 40 Taylor St. park in our dirt/gravel lot.  Last week, I blanketed all cars in the lots with flyers, as I hadn’t done that in about 4 months.  A 40ish guy who is trying to dress and act like a cool 20ish guy came over and talked to me.  He was kind of “bent out of shape” that I had put a flyer on his girlfriend’s P.C.A.’s car.

“If she can’t have a P.C.A. we’re gonna be real upset!” he said.

I told him that for now I don’t have a problem with the P.C.A. parking there, but I also told him about the potential easement problem and that I’ve been advised that legally I’m foolish to allow ANY non-church parking EVER in either lot.  He realized that instead of being a jerk to the P.C.A. I’m actually being a pretty nice guy to her, and he backed off.

WHY the Town of Framingham EVER allowed the 40 Taylor Street property to be built (in the early 1990s) with a woefully inadequate parking lot is beyond me.  I hope this piece hasn’t bored you, but I just  wanted to vent about this stuff.  I didn’t even tell you about the FRONT END LOADER that the owners of the Chicken Bone Restaurant have parked on our property for several days without our permission!

I wish people would just respect private property!  Yes,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”

Saturday, November 25, 2006


“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:” (3 John 13)

A number of years ago, an older woman in our congregation asked me if God is speeding up time and making things go faster.  I told her “no”, although I don’t think she quite believed me.  At this time of year, I’m almost ready to say that maybe she’s right!  I find that the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the fastest period of any year.  As a kid, I absolutely loved Christmas.  By the time I was 40, I absolutely hated it.   Now, at 52, I’m kind of “in between” about it, but it definitely is not my favorite time of the year.  I’ll write more about this in another entry, but what I’m thinking about today is Christmas cards.

Friday morning, I updated my Christmas card list (stored in my office computer) as well as my Christmas card mailing labels list.  That IS a great blessing; up until just a few years ago, I did all the Christmas card stuff by hand.  I know this entry could easily start wandering all over the place and make little sense, so I’m going to try to give it some sort of an order that I’ll call CHRISTMAS PAST, CHRISTMAS PRESENT, and CHRISTMAS FUTURE.

CHRISTMAS PAST:  Back in the 1960s, Christmas cards were a very big deal.  Unless you were Jewish, if you were an American, you sent out and received lots and lots of Christmas cards!  Even some Jewish people DID send them out...usually theirs said something like “Seasons Greetings”.  I well remember my mother writing the Christmas cards.  I can remember helping to put the stamps on them.  The first year or two that I was married, it quickly became evident to me that cataloging and sending Christmas cards was not my wife’s thing.  Our cards went out very late.  By the mid-1980s, I told her I would take on the Christmas cards as my project each year.  I put together elaborate Christmas address lists, and carefully bought, wrote out, and sent cards each year.  At our Framingham residence, each year I have hung up the Christmas cards we’ve received.   Some years we got so many I almost had no more room to hang them!  I also used to do one of those “Baril Family Newsletter” things with my Christmas cards.  A few years ago, a friend tactfully told me she dislikes those newsletters that come with Christmas cards, and that she calls them “brag letters”.  I realized that I liked WRITING my letter, but I didn’t like READING other people’s letters, so I stopped doing a newsletter with the cards.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT:  In the past few years, I’ve noticed the number of Christmas cards we’ve received has really gone down.  Each year, there are fewer, although I still send about the same amount (around 65-70).  Sending them IS getting more and more expensive.  People of the Twenty-First Century also seem to be SO busy that they just don’t have time to write and send Christmas cards anymore.  As I’ve written above, I kind of “cheat” with the mailing labels, which does save a lot of time.  My goal is to have all of my Christmas cards sent by Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).  I don’t always succeed with that, but once again, I’m going to try.

CHRISTMAS FUTURE:  I’m really debating whether I want to send Christmas cards after this year.  I AM going to send them this year, but I’ve considered including a note (photocopied and mass produced, of course) saying this will be the last year I’ll be sending Christmas cards.  I have not made a final decision about it.  It’s just that I think the custom is  dying, and I’m reevaluating the whole thing.  I know some will suggest I should send all e-cards for Christmas.  I hope this will not offend anyone, but I absolutely will NOT send e-cards for Christmas -  EVER.  I love e-mail, and I enjoy the blog, and a lot of other stuff about computers and the internet, but a Christmas card is a card.  It’s made of “card stock”.  It’s something somebody held and signed and dropped in a mail box and that you hang up for others to see.  That’s a card.  I won’t send Christmas e-cards.  Some churches display one large Christmas card and have everybody in the congregation sign it in lieu of sending Christmas cards.  Honestly, THAT’S kind of a cop out, too.  So, I haven’t made a final decision.  Maybe I’ll STILL be writing and sending Christmas cards in 2026 ... only God knows ...

I’m truly curious.  Do you send Christmas cards?  Do you think I should keep up the practice or is it something from a bygone era?  

I’d really like to know.  Please post a comment or e-mail me at

Thursday, November 23, 2006


“In every thing give thanks:  for this is he will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

One of the most unfortunate parts of Thanksgiving is that it’s SUPPOSED to be a day of giving thanks - to God, and others- and so often it’s just a day for “pigging out”.  All that said, I really like Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Easter are my favorite holidays of the year.  And I even like Patriots Day, which we in Massachusetts have in mid-April.  I’m NOT real big on Christmas.  I know that may surprise people, but I’ll write more about that in a few weeks.

I’m thankful for all sorts of things:

I’m thankful for Mr. Carrier or WHOEVER invented air conditioning about a hundred years ago.  Even with the problems of mold growing in condensers and the ozone layer being destroyed, I still am a big fan of air conditioning!

I’m thankful for automatic transmission cars.  No, I’m just not one of those European stick-shift types!  In fact, I’m thankful for cars!

I’m thankful for hot and cold running water.  Much of the world has NO clean water.  Having clean, running water is a TREMENDOUS blessing!

I’m thankful for how much razors have improved in my lifetime!  I started shaving at around 14 with a typical 1960s Gillette razor with the old fashioned razor blades.  The original Trac II came out when I was 16 and it was marvelous compared to traditional blades.  However today’s MACH 3 blades are WAY better than Trac II - and I haven’t even tried Gillette Fusion yet!

I’m thankful for eyeglasses.  If I lived in the time of Jesus, I’d be walking into trees and other things all the time!  I’m quite nearsighted, and I need glasses for reading, too, which is why I’m thankful for “progressive lenses”.

I’m thankful for coffee.  My mother was a big coffee drinker.  My Dad wasn’t. My siblings never cared for coffee.  My wife and kids don’t like coffee, but I just love the stuff!

I’m thankful for good health.

I’m thankful for my wife, Mary Ann.  She has been a very good wife to me; probably a better wife to me than I’ve been a husband to her.  Being married to a pastor who makes very little money and who has a unique and eccentric personality has GOT to be challenging!

I’m thankful for my kids.  Jon, age 23 has a very high I.Q. and is a phenomenal writer.  He didn’t get his brains from me!  Amy, age 21, is going to make a great nurse.  She’s a real “go getter” (more than I am) and very compassionate.  Rachel, age 20, is a very talented artist and actress.  She’s good enough to be some sort of a famous performer.  I’m not just saying that ‘cause she’s my kid- she really is THAT gifted.

I’m thankful for you who read this blog.  As Billy Crystal says in “Throw Momma From the Train”:  “a writer writes”.  Well, that’s true, but if nobody ever read the stuff- well, what would be the point of it?

And, I’m thankful most of all for the Lord Jesus Christ and His great salvation.  He’s really made everything possible!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Last week, I received a mass e-mail that is making the rounds among (mostly) evangelicals.  It’s an exciting story saying that Billy Graham just led a victory march through New Orleans “winning souls for Christ” (as we say) singing and praising God, and testifying that “like Caleb, although I’m 85-years-old I have the strength of a young man”.  Sadly, the story is COMPLETELY UNTRUE.  An Assemblies of God minister checked out the story with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  They said the story is spreading all over the internet like wildfire, but is not true at all.  Sunday morning, someone else sent me that same story, and I e-mailed the sender back advising him that the story is not true.

I guess some prankster wanted to make fools of born-again Christians in general and of Billy Graham specifically.  Maybe the Christians who don’t check out the story but simply believe it ARE fools; but Billy Graham certainly does not deserve to be characterized in that way.

In fact, Billy Graham is not 85, he is 88.  Billy turned 88 on November 7.  I know that because November 7 happens to be my sister’s birthday.  (Obviously, my sister is a lot younger than Dr. Graham!)

I have enormous respect for Billy Graham.  He is probably the person I’ve most admired in life.  I’d love to (even briefly) meet Billy Graham in person and have a short conversation with him.  I don’t suppose that will happen in this life.  I first heard the true Gospel from Billy Graham’s lips via television in late 1969.  At that time, I didn’t understand it, but I was intrigued by Graham’s preaching.  Through the “witness” and encouragement of my friend George Barnett, I wrote away to Graham’s organization during the Summer of 1970.  They sent me back a letter with several pamphlets telling me how to receive Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior and Lord.  I did so at that time.  I also took the Graham “Christian Life and Witness Course” by mail in 1970.  It was very simple discipleship material, but it made a big difference in my life.  In the 1970s, I devoured anything by Billy Graham that I possibly could, and I watched him on television and listened to him on radio as much as possible.  Billy Graham made a HUGE difference in my life.  My early evangelical Christian theology and philosophy came from Billy Graham, and I have no doubt that his influence comes through in my ministry today.

Graham is NOT a typical televangelist.  Although his books have generated a huge income, he has turned most of the royalties over to Christian ministry and has kept only a small percentage for himself.  (I don’t think I’d have been as generous, were I receiving large royalties!)
Graham lives in a nice but simple house in the mountains of western North Carolina.  All of his expenses for attending his Crusades were (of course) covered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associaton (which is NOT run by Graham, but by a Board of upright Christian leaders and businessmen). However, Billy Graham took a relatively modest salary which I don’t think ever got above 5 figures annually.  

Billy Graham’s personal friendship with President Richard Nixon confused a lot of people.  He was seen as a shill for Nixon and the Republican party.  That’s ironic, because Graham is actually a Democrat and was probably closer to Lyndon Johnson that he was to Richard Nixon.  Some liberals have criticized Graham for being a defender of the Establishment and the status quo.  In fact, Billy Graham took a very strong stand for civil rights in the 1950s- praising Martin Luther King, Jr., and insisting that all of the Billy Graham crusades held in the South be fully integrated.

No, that e-mail about New Orleans is not true.  But it IS true that Billy Graham is a fine, decent man who loves God and has been used of God to bless many people including me.

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)  

He has!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:  for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

Not long ago on this blog I "took a shot" at Boston's 96.9 FMTalk for its shoddy treatment of radio talk show host Michael Graham.  Today, I want to take a shot at their AM competitor, WRKO "The Talk Station".

In a "nice" move for the holidays. WRKO "canned" their entire news staff! It's all covered in The Boston Herald (Friday, November 17, 2006) on page 7.  On Thursday afternoon of this week, the news staff was called in and "axed" to use the Herald's term.  That includes Listo Fisher who was a mainstay at the old WHDH radio before he came to 'RKO.  (Larry Glick fans may remember Larry's silly song, "Listo Fisher is my pal"!)  We also won't hear Rod Fritz, Paul Tuthill, Marga Bessette, Mary Blake or any of the rest of 'em anymore.  Instead we get to hear Generic right-wing national news from the Fox News Network.  (96.9 FMTalk DOES have Generic left-wing CNN news late at night and on weekends, to be fair, but during the weekdays, they've got Ed Cherubino and Hank Morse who cover the local news and do a super job.  They also feature headlines from NBC.)

What 'RKO did is actually much nastier than what 96.9 FMTalk did to Michael Graham.  Do people really care THAT much about news personalities?  Well, let me tell you a story...

There is a woman named Tammy who is a Member of our church.  She lives in a housing complex for the disabled.  Tammy has been through some real difficulties in life.  A few years ago, I was quite surprised when she told me she was going to spend a major holiday in the Midwest with former WRKO newsman Owen May and his wife.  I remembered that Owen May used to be the weekend guy who did the news during the Mo Lauzier shows around 1990. I asked Tammy how she knew them.  She told me that during those years when she was desperately lonely, she would call Owen May because he was such a pleasant person to listen to on the radio.  May and his wife took a real interest in Tammy and befriended her.  They've stayed in close contact.  Once again, this Christmas, Tammy will be going to the Midwest to spend Christmas with Owen May and his wife.  It's touching to hear that a radio broadcaster who is a (small scale) celebrity and his wife have such a holiday spirit as to want to help and encourage a lonely person who doesn't have many relatives.  It would be nice if the WRKO management had a small fraction of that holiday spirit.

No, I'm not going to STOP listening to WRKO, but if I want local news I'll listen to WBZ or 96.9 FMTalk, but NOT 'RKO!

Friday, November 17, 2006


"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;" (Matthew 26:27)

One guy I enjoy seeing at the New England Pastors' Prayer Summit is the Rev. Walden Chandler of St. George, Maine.  Walden looks a bit like Mister Clean.  He's both a pastor and a fire department chaplain.  A few years ago, Walden broke out the Moxie at the Prayer Summit and only the bravest of souls imbibed!  At the time, I hadn't had Moxie for quite awhile, although I'd had it on occasion.  I was one of the handful who drank the Moxie and enjoyed it!  That kind of started a tradition at the Prayer Summit and each year we look for Walden and Moxie!

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the origin of carbonated soft drinks.  I got some good feedback about that piece.  I don't want to go into all of that detail again, but I will say that Moxie originated in the late 1800s as a "tonic" (as did Coca-Cola) and that's why older people in the Boston area still call carbonated beverages "tonic".  The original name of the Moxie company was the Moxie Nerve Food Company!  Moxie tastes SOMETHING like Dr. Pepper, but it tastes even more like a very strong and slightly bitter root beer.  It's got caffeine.  Today, Moxie and the much newer Diet Moxie are bottled and sold by Coca-Cola.  My understanding is that Moxie's strongest market is Maine, but that it's sold throughout New England and parts of Pennsylvania.  I've seen it at Stop & Shop supermarkets.

Walden wore his orange Moxie tee-shirt on the last day of the Prayer Summit.  He served Moxie in small paper cups for anyone who was "game" to try it.  For us hearty souls (like me) we got to drink it in twelve-once cans.  I had a total of three cans of Moxie this week.  I'm a Dr. Pepper drinker, which I think is actually stronger than Moxie-though less bitter, so I had no problem enjoying Moxie.  I may pick some up from time to time, and each time I drink it, I'll think of Walden, the Moxie man!

I dare ya, try some Moxie if you've "got any Moxie"!


This will be very short, but as an addendum to the last entry, I returned from the Prayer Summit yesterday afternoon.  It was outstanding- the best one I've ever attended!
I am not usually at a loss for words, but no matter what I write it would never and could never do it justice.

Well, I'm back and it's POURING rain in Framingham as I write- the next couple of days will be very busy- but I'm very glad I went to the Prayer Summit.

I'll try to have a "regular entry" tomorrow or very soon!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


“And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

This week I am going to the 15th Annual New England Pastors’ Prayer Summit (sponsored by “Vision New England”) at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in W. Swanzey, New Hampshire (just south of Keene, NH).   This will be my 8th “Prayer Summit”.

It is very hard to describe what Prayer Summit is like.  I usually tell people it’s a prayer retreat- and it is, but it’s more than that.  I went to my first Prayer Summit at Pilgrim Pines back in 1994. at someone’s invitation.  I was scared to death.  I wondered how I was going to pray CONSTANTLY for three days straight.  I wondered if we would fast the whole time.  (I’ve never fasted much more than 30 hours straight, and I just didn’t think I could do it!)  I wondered if I was totally inadequate for this great spiritual experience.  That year, I was relieved to find out that we would eat a total of 9 meals at the Prayer Summit- each of them fit for a king!  Some stayed in rustic cottages around Swanzey Lake, and some stayed in more plush townhouse facilities at the conference center.  Over the years I’ve stayed in both type accommodations, and I actually like the rustic ones better, because when you stay in those facilities, those accommodation actually have  more privacy.  

Most of the meetings are in a beautiful hexagonal chapel that’s simple but modern.   We sit in a circle in moveable chairs.  Sometimes we pray as a group.  Sometimes we break into small groups to “share and pray”.  Sometimes we sing contemporary Christian “Praise & Worship” songs.  Each year we’re given free time and encouraged to spend it walking around the lake (about 3 miles all the way around), or sitting quietly in the parlor of the main conference center, or just laying down in our beds.   After three days, I always leave feeling very uplifted and refreshed.  

The Prayer Summits HAVE changed a bit.  Originally, they were just for pastors.  Now, 90% of those who attend are pastors, but they’ve been opened up to lay leaders.  Last year, women were allowed to attend for the first time.  I did not go last year, so I don’t know how that went.  I used to like the Prayer Summits as kind of a spiritual  “guys bonding thing” but I guess I can’t complain because we also get that at Promise Keepers.

I will be leaving for the Prayer Summit on Monday morning and will be home late Thursday afternoon.  I’m not sure when I’ll post on the blog again... when I return, I’m sure I’ll be “wicked busy” as we Bostonians say!

Friday, November 10, 2006


“Thus have I been twenty years in thy house;”  (from Genesis 31:41)

Fans of The Beatles will recognize that,  “It was 20 years ago today” is a line from the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  I’m in a reflective mood today.  I’ve been thinking about the fact that it’s been roughly twenty years that I’ve been at First Assembly of God of Framingham.  The small church’s previous pastor, The Rev. Tom Gurney, left in August 1986 after having been pastor for a little over eight years.   At the time, I was serving as an Assistant Pastor at a large church in Walpole.  I first came to the Framingham church as a guest speaker on a Sunday morning in October of 1986.  Shortly thereafter, I was invited to meet with the church’s Pulpit Committee.  We did meet on a weeknight in early November of 1986.  I was craving Dunkin’ Donuts when I arrived at that meeting, and I guess it was a “God thing” that they had Dunkin’ Donuts as refreshments that night!

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I “candidated” to be the pastor of the Framingham church.  In the Assemblies of God,  like most other Pentecostal bodies, as well as Baptist and Congregational churches, the local church usually chooses their pastor, actually voting “yes” or “no” in a secret ballot vote.  I got a unanimous “yes” vote that day.

My wife and I, along with our three preschool children, moved into the church owned residence on Harrison Street on a very snowy Saturday in early January of 1987.  I was 32.  I was filled with energy and idealism.  I was (honestly) very impractical and inexperienced.  I envisioned this little church of (give or take) around 45 people growing to hundreds.  The church DID grow over the first couple of years.  (In those days we were in a small wooden church building with no parking lot at Hartford and C Streets.)  Unfortunately, the church shrunk again.  Over the coming twenty years it would grow and shrink and grow and shrink, although we never had more than 85 people at a time.   Currently, we have fewer people than when I came.  In 2001 and 2002, we came very close to closing the church’s doors, but we are actually starting to slowly grow again.  I have a “Christy Mihos” personality.  People either really love me or can’t stand me!  Over the years I’ve been told I’m everything from virtually the greatest pastor alive, to the phoniest and sleaziest pastor alive!  I will say, I’m much more mature than I was in 1987.  I’m much less impulsive.  I tend to be much more realistic.  In those days I was on the far right politically.  I guess today I’d be classified as “moderate” or “slightly right of center” politically.  I began to get very community-minded  somewhere around ten years ago, and that involvement has grown.  Today, I’m widely known around town, whereas in the late 1980s, pretty much nobody outside the church knew I existed.   My late mother struggled with weight and I’ve got that tendency.  I’m forty pounds heavier than I was the day I candidated for the church in November of 1986!  I had only a few stray gray hairs then- now it’s getting to be pretty much “salt and pepper”.  My youngest is now 20 and a Sophomore in college.  

On Thursday,  I made a deposit at the BankNorth on Franklin Street.  The teller was the person my wife and I opened a bank account with at the old Pioneer Financial Bank in 1987, which was on Union Avenue between the police station and the Memorial Building.  (The Town now has a municipal parking lot on that site.)  I wondered if that teller would remember that?  (I didn’t ask!)  That was ANOTHER Framingham, in many respects.  There were very few Brazilians in Framingham at that time.  I think there was one Brazilian business in downtown Framingham.  There was still a Brigham’s ice cream and sandwich shop in downtown Framingham, and there was Laurence Stationery.  Duca’s was still a “hot” nite spot on Route 9 (on the site of what’s now Walgreen’s at Prospect Street.)  There was a very old-fashioned  Stop & Shop at Beaver Street and Route 135.  What’s now the “Han Dynasty” on Concord Street was “Wallace’s” a landmark family restaurant.

At that time, I was amazed at the longevity of the clergy in town.  The Lutheran pastor had been in Framingham since 1955!  The Episcopalian rector had been in Town since 1961!  These guys remembered shepherding their people through the Cuban missile crisis and the J.F.K. assassination.  I could not imagine what if would feel like to be in Framingham THAT long.  Now I pretty much know!  

It freaks me out, because when I add twenty years to my present age, I’ll be 72.  Will I still be pastoring then, or will I be retired?  (Will I even still be on this earth?!)  I WOULD love to see the church grow to at least a hundred and become a much more stable congregation!  I’d also like to see our church make much more of an impact in the community.  I have dreams for myself, as well.  I’m a very good speaker, and I’d love to book a number of speaking engagements outside of the Framingham church.  I DID book a number of speaking engagements a couple of years ago, but after awhile I got SO tired of trying to sell myself as a speaker that I kind of gave up on it...maybe that was a mistake.  I’d love to write a regular newspaper column.  I’d love to have a part-time radio talk show.  But I will never put anything ABOVE pastoring, which is probably the highest calling God will ever give an ordinary human being.

Well, to quote a singer from my kids’ generation (Avril Lavigne), “I’m wishin’ my life away, with these things I’ll never say...”

Listen, make the most of EVERY day- twenty years goes by really fast!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


“I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  (I Timothy 2:1-2)

Yup.  We are supposed to pray for those who are in authority, whether or not we like them or agree with them.  I realize that may raise many questions, and I can’t possibly deal with them all in this piece.  My motivation is to try to give comforting words to any readers who are disappointed in this week’s election results.

I have a friend in Texas who is SO disappointed in the election results that it’s possible a suicide watch should be started.  I’m half kidding but I’m half serious.  He essentially believes that living in an America with liberal Democrats controlling the Congress is the equivalent of living someplace like North Korea!  I don’t agree, but judging from the depressed and angry e-mails Rush Limbaugh yesterday claimed to be receiving from devastated conservative listeners, there are a lot of folks who feel the way my Texas friend does.

I remember when Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992.  As a “Ronald Reagan conservative Republican” I was certainly not happy.  It was very hard to believe Clinton won- especially after Dukakis lost so badly in 1988 and Walter Mondale was trounced in 1984.  I had an Assemblies of God ministers’ meeting in Worcester the morning after Clinton’s election.  Many guys were so down, you’d have thought their kids had just been murdered or something.  The speaker, who was the pastor of the First Assembly of God of Worcester at the time, spoke to the issue.

“What is wrong with you?” he asked the group.  “Why are you so downcast?  Isn’t the Lord still on His throne in Heaven?  What’s the matter with you?”

He got that group to snap out of it, and he was correct.  The Apostle Paul lived under the rule of cruel despots, yet he urged his readers to pray for those in authority.   I did not vote for Deval Patrick.  I did not vote for Ted Kennedy.  Very few that I voted for won.  But I’m commanded to pray for those in authority.  And, I’m to respect them, though I may not agree with them.

Scott Allen Miller, the morning drive host on Boston’s WRKO has a clip of Deval Patrick from one of the debates in which Patrick says, “I gotta look at that”.  Sometimes he plays that clip and plays it and plays it.  It’s kind of funny.  To those who are not happy with the election results and who don’t feel like praying for authorities with whom you don’t agree, I hope you won’t ignore what the Bible says.  I hope you’ll at least say,  “I gotta look at that”!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006


"And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man."  (Mark 7:20)

This is Election Day.  It's also my sister's birthday.  Ironically, Primary Day (September 19) was MY birthday!  I had originally intended to write about Election Day- and I'll touch on it at the end- but I first want to reflect upon two experiences with jerks that I had recently.  I realize that many people consider politicians to be jerks, and many of them are, but neither of these incidents featured a politician.

Jerk Number One was encountered on Saturday.  A group of us drove out to Westfield State College to see "Into the Woods" a sort of bizarre, symbolic musical featuring virtually every European fairy tale you can think of.  My daughter Rachel, a Sophomore at W.S.C. had a leading role in the play.  The cast did a great job.  The Jerk was an overzealous parent in the audience.  This guy had a camcorder on a tripod set up right in the middle of the audience.  Now, a limited number of people ARE allowed to tape the performances as long as permission is granted ahead of time.  In fact, my son taped the performance- from the back row where he would not disturb anyone.  My sister (today's birthday girl) could not believe the rudeness of Tripod Man who stood there videotaping, blocking a number of people's views, and acting like a total buffoon.  She actually went to some of the students who were in charge of the production and complained.  Unfortunately, no 20ish college kid was going to tell the 45ish buffoon to cease and desist.  Technically, he DID have permission to record the show, but he lacked the grace and manners that my son who is half his age had.  My sister was pretty steamed, but I thought the guy was SUCH a jerk that at one point it struck me so funny and I laughed so hard I almost got sick!

Jerk Number Two was encountered Monday morning at McDonald's on Route 30 in Framingham.  No, he wasn't an employee.  He was a customer.  I've seen this guy around town.  He is at least 80 and drives a huge, white older model Lincoln.  He also works as a greeter at one of those mega department stores.  At the counter, the guy started yelling at the employees like a madman!  Ever see the film "Falling Down"?  It was actually very much like that.  Thank God, there was no gun!  If there was there might have been some fatalities.   Donna, the manager of that McDonald's could not be nicer or more customer friendly.  He threatened her and yelled at her in a manner you'd imagine a Nazi guard speaking to a Jewish prisoner or a 1950s southern  white racist sheriff dressing down a young black man.  She told him, "If you don't like it her, go someplace else."  I don't blame her, but it was like throwing flames on a fire.  I felt bad for her.  It was really awful for her and everyone in McDonald's yesterday morning.

I know they say, "Things run in threes".  I just hope I don't have to experience another such jerk TOO soon!

Now, back to Election Day, I know a lot of politicians ARE jerks.  But there are some good ones, too.  I am planning to vote today.  I expect most of the people I'll vote for to lose.  I don't vote to "pick a winner" like so many do.  I vote for the person I really want even if that person is at 1% in the polls.  Back in 1990 I voted for Len Umina for Governor and he was pretty low in the polls, so that will just give you an idea of what I'm talking about!  Regardless of how things turn out, I'm always pleased to go and cast my ballot.  The poll workers in Framingham are usually very nice, but if there are any jerks that give them a hard time, I'll write about that!

Saturday, November 4, 2006


“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”  (I Timothy 5:23)

Many American evangelical Protestants have a major problem with the above Bible verse.  Many also have a major problem believing Jesus drank wine and argue that he actually drank grape juice.  In fact, Welch’s Grape Juice was developed in the Nineteenth Century by Mr. Welch who was a very devout Christian and developed Welch’s Grape Juice as an alternative to wine for Communion services.  To this day many churches, including the one I pastor, use Welch’s Grape Juice at Communion!  Up until the 1950s, most “born-again Christians” did not drink alcoholic beverages at all.  That’s changing a bit, although I don’t drink and haven’t had an alcoholic beverage to drink in over thirty years.

The topic of why American evangelicals have shunned drinking is one I may tackle another day, but the above was just an introduction to what I have to say about Question #1 on the ballot in Massachusetts this coming Tuesday.   Question #1 would allow the sale of wine at grocery stores and convenience stores.  The liquor store lobby is conducting a media blitz opposing Question #1.  One of the latest ads is the testimony of the Somerville Police Chief who practically expects anarchy if Question #1 passes.  My late parents would NEVER have voted for Question #1- partly because my father was a “career law enforcement professional” and partly because my late brother was an alcoholic.  That said, I’m probably going to shock some people because I’m voting FOR Question #1!

In 34 states, wine (and in most cases, beer, too) is sold at grocery stores and convenience stores.  In the Bible-belt city of Springfield, Missouri you can find beer and wine prominently displayed (and sold) at virtually all supermarkets.   That’s not only true today; it was true back in the 1970s when I was in school there.  In fact, the supermarkets there were all open on Sundays back in the 1970s when that was taboo in Massachusetts due to the blue laws.  In Missouri, they don’t have anarchy because they sell wine in the supermarkets- far from it!

Again, I don’t drink alcohol at all!  But I don’t see what the big deal is.  I realize the liquor stores are very threatened by this change.  In fact, in the Bible Belt there are FEWER liquor stores than there are here, and it’s probably because beer and wine are regularly purchased at supermarkets.  Let me ask you something, would you like to see FEWER liquor stores around?  Then vote YES on Question #1!  And, do you favor good old American competition and capitalism?  Then vote YES on Question #1.

That’s just my opinion.  But since I don’t drink, I can’t even say something like “I’ll drink to that!”  I guess I’ll have a Coca-Cola to that!

Friday, November 3, 2006


Just for the information of you readers to this blog, I have written an Opinion piece to the MetroWest Daily News about the Ted Haggard scandal.  I thought it would be more appropriate to submit it to the newspaper rather than post it here, because so many more people will read it.

Please watch the MetroWest Daily News over the next few days.  I fully expect them to run it.  You can go oon-line to
then click "Columnists" then look for "Baril".  I'd expect this to appear on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.


Thursday, November 2, 2006


“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!  for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

I don’t hate Mike Barnicle, but I guess he would hate me.

For those of you who don’t know who Mike Barnicle is, he has a late morning radio talk show on Boston’s 96.9 FMTalk.  He also “contributes” to the Chronicle newsmagazine show on Boston’s Channel 5, and is seen occasionally on MS-NBC.  Mike can be very interesting and entertaining and can be quite funny.  Mike Barnicle is probably about 65, from an Irish Catholic background, and I’d say he’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  He leans Democrat, but isn’t a strict partisan.  He’s pretty good at radio, although he constantly says he hates it, along with disdaining many of the callers.  There are so many people who would LOVE a shot at having their own radio talk show that it seems unfair for a guy who HAS one to hate it so much!

If you listened to Mike Barnicle’s program yesterday, you’ll probably think I want to write about Mike’s defense/explanation of John Kerry’s incredibly insensitive remarks a couple of days ago, but that’s NOT what this piece is about.

The reason I think Mike would hate me is not that I’m an avid talk radio listener- although I am.  The reason Mike would hate me is that I’m an evangelical Christian.

A few days ago he commented, “Have you ever met ANY of these EVANGELICALS?!  I mean their WHACKED!  They’re CRAZY!”

Can you imagine if he’d said that about Jews?  Or Mormons?  Or just about anybody else?  He wouldn't have.   Muslims believe they are the most hated religious group in America, but that MAY not be the case.  The stereotyping of evangelicals and the hatred of evangelicals is...well...sad.

Pollster George Barna categorizes “born-again Christians”  and “evangelicals” separately, but I don’t.  My experience is that the terms are pretty much synonymous.  Evangelical Christians believe that just being born into a Christian family, going to church, or having been baptized are not enough to merit Heaven.  We believe there MUST be a definite, distinct, personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  There are Roman Catholics who call themselves “born again” or “evangelical” although such folks make up only about 5% of American Roman Catholics.  Most evangelicals are Protestants.  In America, probably about 40% of Protestants could be classified as evangelicals.  That figure is probably only about 20% of Protestants in Massachusetts, but would be around 70% of Protestants in a  place like Dallas, Texas.

The stereotypical evangelical is white, of northern European extraction, Republican, ultra-conservative, very intolerant, and  wants to force America to become a fundamentalist Christian nation.   Now, there ARE some evangelicals like that.  But my experience is that they’re a minority.  Probably about 25% of evangelical Christians in America fit that description, but probably about 75% do not!  (Incidentally, did you know that at least HALF of the Brazilians living in the Framingham area are evangelicals?  Do THEY fit that description?!)  There are African-American evangelicals, Asians, even Native Americans.  The majority of evangelicals are politically moderate and most likely to NOT belong to any political party.  Admittedly, many evangelical LEADERS are conservative Republicans but that doesn’t tend to be true of the laity.  Some evangelicals are liberals.  Some are Democrats.  Did you know, for instance, that the world’s most famous evangelical Christian, Billy Graham, is a Democrat?

You may think I’m being very touchy about what Mike Barnicle said.  If this were the first time, I’d probably ignore it, but over the years he’s ignorantly taken shots at evangelical Christians time and time again.  I’d e-mail Mike Barnicle, but he doesn’t read his e-mail.  I’d write him a letter, but he’d never answer it.  

I’m just tired of the stereotyping and I wanted to put down my “two cents worth” about what it means to be an evangelical.