Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I hate change!  I wish I didn’t possess that trait.  Change is constant and change is inevitable.  If life is about ANYTHING, it’s about CHANGE!  But there’s something in me that hates change.  Is it my New England background that’s made me this way?  Maybe, although I suppose that’s not the whole reason.  Sociological research does indicate that native New Englanders are far more resistant to change than are other Americans.   As a kid, I dreaded moving on to junior high school, and repeated that dread as I moved on to high school and college.  In fact, speaking of “moving” I hate moving!  Many people have commended me for staying at the church I pastor for almost twenty years.  The truth is, part of the reason I’ve stayed is I just don’t want the hassle of changing pastorates and having to pack up and move into another house!  

My young adult offspring don’t tend to like change, either.  Sometime ago, an electrician had to replace the upstairs hallway light fixture at the circa 1890s parsonage in which we live.  My daughter Rachel insisted on continuing to use the old antique glass cover (that has probably been around for seven decades) for the light fixture.  It is classy and antique looking, but it’s also heavy, and awkward and a pain in the neck to manipulate when the bulb needs to be changed.  On Sunday afternoon I changed the hallway light that had blown out.  I felt kind of guilty, but instead of putting the heavy old glass fixture back, I put on the modern lightweight cover that came with the new fixture.  I KNOW she’s going to hate that change, but, I said it above- change is inevitable.

This morning a brand new state-of-the-art photocopier is being delivered at our church office.  (Like most non-profits, we LEASE that sort of equipment!)  The new machine has all sorts of features I’m really going to like.  But, guess what?  I’m not excited about the change.  I know our church’s simple, user-friendly photocopier better than I know some of my friends!  I could use that copier blindfolded.  I’ve used it just about every day for the last three years.  I don’t want to have to adjust to a new machine!  I got a new cell phone a few weeks ago.  My wife had been bugging me because my old cell phone seemed practically ready to be placed on display in some Museum of Communication!  I do like my new cell phone, but getting it was actually PAINFUL for me!

I’m an “evangelical”.  For the uninitiated, that means a person who believes one must PERSONALLY and DEFINITIVELY make a profession of faith in Christ in order to get to Heaven.  In various churches it’s described as “being born again”, “getting saved”, “committing your life to Christ”, or other such similar phrases.  Last Sunday, I preached a sermon from Acts chapter ten entitled , “Good People Need God”.  I’ve found that the hardest people to “witness” to (that is to encourage to become born-again Christians) are religious people.  

“I have my religion,” is frequently their response.

Ironically, in talking with such folks, I finf that I often know more about their religions than they do!

The areas of the country which have the LOWEST percentages of “born again Christians” are Utah and New England.  (Massachusetts USED to have the very lowest, but that’s no longer true. Connecticut now has the lowest percentage of evangelicals.)  Evangelicals are all about getting people to CHANGE THEIR WAY OF THINKING when it comes to God, the Bible, salvation, and stuff like that.  In fact, Bob Dylan who is Jewish by birth and a fellow born-again Christian sings a song entitled, “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”.   Could our New England resistance to change in general get in the way of our relationships with God?  Probably!  

Well, I’m just thinking out loud, and in a couple of hours I’m going to be learning how to use our new photocopier!

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

(Do you like change?  Do you hate change?  Did you enjoy this piece?  Did you dislike this piece?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please POST something and/or e-mail me at RevRBaril@aol.com )

Saturday, February 25, 2006


"...and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)

Well, I've got a confession to make:  I was going to just "cut and paste" a copy of a complaint letter I wrote to the Letters to the Editor of the MetroWest Daily News in late January.  It was actually a very well written piece about the rudeness of an employee on a Framingham trash truck to a female resident.  I'd observed this whole thing on the way to work and decided to write a reflective piece about it.

Like the words of "Father MacKenzie" from the old Beatles song that no one would hear- no one would read my letter, either, because the paper never printed it.  I guess they thought it was too narrow an issue and should concern nobody.  They didn't get it.  A careful and thoughtful reading of it would have said the exact opposite!  I wanted you to be able to read it, and even send comments to the Editor at the paper, if you so desired.
Well, due to AOL's tendency to delete all sent letters when they are over a month old, I checked this morning, and it was gone!  Now it's extra true that no one will read it!  I guess that was not meant to be!

This has been a tough week.  It is now 6:40 on Saturday morning and I am exhausted.  Everything in me wants to just go back to bed- but I can't!  Tonight is our church's Annual Business Meeting.  There's a lot to do to get ready for it, AND snow has been forecast for this evening and tomorrow morning.  You know how I feel about that!  (Just check out the entry "DID PAT ROBERTSON REALLY MAKE THAT HURRICANE GO AWAY?"!)  My daughter has been in the hospital in Springfield, Missouri having a surgical procedure done.  She is only twenty.  My wife flew out there on Tuesday and will be back on Monday.  Yesterday it was SO windy in Boston's western suburbs it was almost like we were having a mini-hurricane.  Where IS Pat Robertson when you need him?  It was also trash pick-up day and my recyclables were blowing all over the street!  Over the lunch hour, I went out five times gathering them up and putting them back only to have them blow all over the street again.  At church, earlier this week a developer cleared the wooded lot next door.  (Yes, there  actually WAS a wooded lot in urban downtown Framingham!)  Well, the corner PVC drain pipes kept blowing down and rolling around the parking lot!  That has not happened before!  It has to be that the trees previously acted as a buffer to high winds.  Now the trees are gone, and for the poor drainpipes (and the poor pastor) it's a deal of "...good luck!..." when it comes to situations like that!

I have to go grocery shopping soon (after I shave and shower) then it's an all day "marathon".  OH, I didn't tell you the water pump is going on our Dodge Caravan did I?  My mechanic is coming to check that out today.

I listed my mood as "embarrassed".  Yesterday I was so frazzled and stressed that my brain went into overload.  I prepared a sermon, prepared a Bible Study, did "follow up" from this week's Board meeting, did some premiminary stuff for the Annual Business Meeting, AND I had to make a deposit of a lot of coins we'd collected for a Missions project.  On the deposit slip, I'd written that there were $3 worth of quarters instead of $60 worth.  The pleasant young Hispanic female teller at the bank kind of looked at me with an "Are you OK?" expression.  I really wasn't.  OH, I didn't tell you how I diffused a major conflict between two familes in the church (well technically it was three families) all over the sale of a car!

I'm a perfectionist, so I don't "do" well with this kind of stuff!  I just got an e-mail from my other daugther who is away in college in western MA reminding me to take good care of her hermit crab.  It kind of makes me feel like a crab.

Well, what's the bottom line?  I have to tell myself:  "When everything blows away ... having done all, you stand!"

(In the words of another pastor, A Blog can be a time hog.  I didn't have time to do this, but like the soft rock song says, "I do it all for you".  I'd love to hear from you!  Post a comment here, or e-mail me at RevRBaril@aol.com)

Thursday, February 23, 2006


“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, ...” (Galatians 4:4)

Back in the 1970s, Chicago (the musical group, not the city) sang, “Does anybody really know what time it is; does anybody really care?”  I don’t know why, but I’ve always been very time oriented- I remember as a little kid that I was fascinated by the calendar, and really got excited when it was time to turn it to the next page.  I got my first watch (a cheap Timex) at age seven.  I’m one that likes to keep time to the tenth of a second!  

The clocks in our small church building are all battery operated.  After about six weeks or so, they’ll lose a minute, and a couple of them will lose two or three minutes.  Last Saturday, I walked around the building resetting them.  A couple of days ago, as I walked into the church sanctuary, I noticed that the clock was about seven minutes faster than my watch.  I figured my watch was slowing down and maybe needed a new battery, but upon checking with the other clocks in the church building, the sanctuary clock was found to be seven minutes fast.  I don’t know where or how it picked up those seven minutes, but some Bible experts tell us that seven is God’s number!  I reset the clock, and we’ll see how it’s doing this Sunday.

Christians have often teased me that I’m a slave to the clock, that there will be no clocks in Heaven, and that God doesn’t want us to be in a hurry.  Well, in fact, contrary to what many scholars say there WILL be time in Heaven!  Revelation 8:1 says there was silence in Heaven for about “half an hour”.  And as far as “hurrying” goes, Acts 20:16 says St. Paul was “hurrying” to get to Jerusalem.   So there!

Of course, we really SHOULD NOT become fanatical slaves to the clock.  It’s been speculated that the reason the priest and the  Levite did not help the injured man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that it would have delayed them from getting to the Temple.  We SHOULD be balanced about our stewardship of time.  Ephesians 5:16 speaks of “redeeming the time”.  

My father was always late, and I mean always!  As a kid, we were always very late to any events we went to as a family.  For some reason, he just never seemed to allow for travel time.  If a function was taking place at 2 p.m. he would leave for the event at 2 p.m.  I guess he thought he could drive anywhere from Canton, Massachusetts in 60 seconds or less!  I have tended to react to that, and so I usually run early for appointments.  This week, I met with a photocopier salesman.  I will say it impressed me that he was ten minutes early for the appointment.  He offered the church a fantastic deal which we took, but even if it was a bad deal I might have said yes just because I was impressed with his punctuality.  My old boss, Dave Milley, used to say, “If you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late!”  I happen to agree, and I try to put that into practice.

We all only have so much time in this life that’s allocated to us!  I pray we use it wisely!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Last night, a group of our church’s finest men gathered for a very edifying spiritual experience:  A “Pizza and Three Stooges” night!  I recently heard someone say, “There are only two kinds of people in this world- people who like Star Trek, and people who don’t like Star Trek”.  Similarly, there are people who like the Three Stooges and people who don’t like them.

The explanation that’s usually given is that men like them and women don’t, and admittedly it was the MEN of the church who had the Three Stooges event, but my experience is that Stooges fans DON’T break down strictly over sexual lines.  There are girls who love them and guys who can’t stand them.  I have a 3 Stooges necktie which the female manager of a local McDonald’s restaurant just HAS to see and comment about each time I walk into that eatery!  
“Oh, I’m glad to see you’ve got THE BOYS with you!” she says with a smile.  I’ve commented to her that it’s too bad McDonald’s restaurants came much to late for the comedy trio.  A “short” featuring the Three Stooges running (or more likely RUINING) a McDonald’s would have been really good!

It’s hard to explain why so many people, especially middle-aged “white collar” men can’t get enough of Curly hysterically shrieking, “Moe, Larry, THE CHEESE!”  One guy I know says, “They say and do the things you’d LOVE to be able to do in very difficult situations, but just CAN’T.”  It’s true.  I know that when a Town Building Official gave me a lot of grief about our church building ten years ago, I certainly wanted to grab his handlebar mustache, try to pull it off, and then yell something like, “Oh, A REAL ONE....nyuck, nyuck, nyuck...”

The Three Stooges actually had a strong Boston connection in that they were originally “Ted Healy and His Three Stooges” back in vaudeville.  Ted, the straight man, was an Irish Bostonian.  After several years of hitting each other over the head, and getting pies in the face, the three short Jewish guys though that maybe Ted shouldn’t be getting all the fame and fortune- that they’d do better out on their own. They were right.  Those who dismiss the Three as untalented fools, just don’t get it.  Much of the comedy is actually brilliant satire and their routines had flawless timing.  The Stooges won an Oscar for “Men in Black” a hilarious spoof of the Clark Gable film, “Men in White”.  For those of you who aren’t quite sure which episode I’m taking about, it’s the “Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard” one.

Proverbs 22:17 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...” We had a lot of merry hearts last night!

Whoops, I almost forgot to tell you that the ushers at my wedding wore “Press” and “Pull” buttons...or that I know a guy who actually phoned Larry Fine ... or that Curly’s actual name was Jerome ...
Well, that’s just too much information ... maybe another time ... I guess I need to “SPREAD OUT!” ...

Saturday, February 18, 2006


“And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” (Revelation 11:9)

The eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation speaks of the “two witnesses” of the coming Tribulation period who will be mightily used of God, will be killed, and then will be miraculously raised from the dead after three and a half days.  All over the world people will watch their bodies laying in the streets, and their enemies will be so happy about their deaths that they will give presents to one another.  Until the 1960s, Biblical scholars wondered HOW the entire world would possibly be able to simultaneously watch the two witnesses laying dead on the street in Jerusalem- but with the successful operation of Telstar in 1962, instantly satellite television programming was born.

I’m writing this piece to write about a future prophetic date, but really NOT about the Two Witnesses of Revelation.  Rather, I’m writing of mid-February 2009.  The prophecy of mid-February 2009 has been issued not by the Apostle John, nor by God, but by the Congress of the United States of America.  In mid-February of 2009 (I believe the exact date is February 19, 2009) all analog television broadcasting in the U.S.A. will cease forever.

Here’s the story behind the story:

High Definition television was introduced in North American about ten years ago.  It is broadcast on a different frequency than is traditional analog television.  True High Definition television (called HDTV) is absolutely superior in quality and resolution to “regular” T.V.
The federal government mandated that by a certain date, all American television stations begin simultaneously broadcasting over separate and new digital channels as well as over the traditional channels.  The government also estimated a date by which the country would have “converted” to HDTV and mandated that after that date, all traditional analog television would cease.

The original date set was December 31, 2006.  Thus, as of January 1, 2007, all television broadcasting would be digital.  A big problem happened.  Even by mid-2005 very few households had actually purchased HDTV sets.  Now, IF you have a “regular” television set, but have it hooked up to a DIGITAL cable box (as I do in my living room) that automatically converts the analog television set to a digital set.  It does NOT mean you are really watching HDTV quality, but it DOES mean you can pick up the signal and watch it (with however inferior the quality) on an analog set.  Probably two-thirds of American households have at least one set that is so hooked up to a digital cable box.  In late 2005, Congress took action to push back the Dec. 31, 2006 date.  At first it was pushed back to Dec. 31, 2008.  Then, it was decided that if millions of people could not watch the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2009 or the Super Bowl a few weeks later, they’d be livid.  So, a final date of mid-Feb. was set.

If that were to happen TODAY, my bedroom set would be useless unless I went out and bought a converter box- approximately $60.  There are MILLIONS of Americans who do not have digital cable T.V. and will not have converter boxes on Feb. 19, 2009.  Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey has spoken out with great concern regarding the disenfranchisement of the poor who will lose television in Mid-February 2009 and be cut off from news, public service announcements, etc.   Conservative Republicans have laughed and called this a non-issue. Although I am a registered Republican, and I’m conservative on most issues, I am 100% with Ed Markey on this one.  I think it’s STUPID to stop all analog television broadcasting in mid-February 2009!  Millions of television sets will be thrown out at that time- frankly, many will be disposed of illegally.  Some theorize that the poor will riot.  I don’t condone that, but I think it’s possible.

Ed Markey is MY congressman.  I really don’t need to contact him about this because he’s already working on the problem.  If you think the date for ending analog television broadcasting should be pushed back A FEW MORE YEARS as I do, then I urge you to contact your Congressman’s office and let him know.

(I would love to know what you think about this issue.  Please feel free to post a comment below, or e-mail me at RevRBaril@aol.com)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish."  (Luke 14:28-30)

The beginning of that passage in The Living Bible reads:  "But don't begin until you count the cost."

If it were possible for me to deliver a sermon to the leaders of Framingham (particularly the leaders in Framingham's government and administration, as well as key business leaders in the community) that would be the Biblical passage I'd begin with.  I've lived in Framingham and pastored First Assembly of God of Framingham for over nineteen years now.  During that period of time, I've seen a number of changes in Framingham.  Some of the changes have been bad, but I think most have been good.  Overall, Framingham is a nice community.  It's a very diverse community in every possible way.  Even geographically, it's very diverse.  The "northwest quadrant" of Town is very woodsy and rural, although a number of very high priced homes have been built in that area over the past twenty years.  The downtown is quite urban and does include some poor and frankly "run down" areas.  The neighborhood I live in (filled with a lot of activity this week because of the arraignment of Neil Entwhistle at the Framingham Court hours) is a "blue collar" area of mostly well kept older homes.    There are many good things happening around Town.  We have some of the finest restaurants and retail outlets anywhere in the Boston area.  Sadly, there is a lot of division in Framingham.  There are heated disagreements.  There are conflicting philosophies and positions regarding Framingham's future.  

Although I'm a very gifted and persuasive public speaker, I also tend to be much more of a pacifist than a warrior (unless I'm cornered).  I have deliberately tried to keep quiet about the controversies in Town, lest I anger and alienate a significant segment of the population- and when you're pastoring a very small church that you're energetically trying to grow, the last thing you want to do is anger and alienate people.  Nevertheless, for what it's worth I want to "put my two cents in" regarding the issue of Downtown planning and regarding the whole "We have too many social service providers in Town" attitude.  Incidentally, it may seem as though the Scripture passage I quoted above has nothing to do with these issues; in fact, it has EVERYTHING to do with them.  Before Framingham embarks on a course regarding either, Framingham must do some serious "soul searching" and "count the cost".  I'm well aware that to make sure this piece doesn't become ridiculously long, I'm going to have to consider this part a "long introduction" and now I'm going to have to present two short but important opinions:

FIRST- Town Economic Development Director, Kathleen Bartolini, is correct when she states that Framingham does have a 1998 Master plan for downtown which has been progressing along well.  Selectman Dennis Giombetti is also correct when he says that Framingham cannot be in bondage to the exact particulars of a 1998 Master plan but that this plan must be subject to annual review and possible changes.   The Master Plan, for instance, calls for NO more auto repair shops in the downtown area.  I grew up in Canton where there were three gas stations,  two with auto repair facilities, in the downtown area.  What's wrong with that?  Frankly, I'd rather have a nicely kept auto shop than another pizza/sub shop in downtown Framingham any day!  Framingham's leaders need to LISTEN to the residents and business owners from the immediate downtown area.  I'm very much saddened that the recently quoted opinions of the manager of the Chicken Bone Saloon and the developer of the new luxury residences at the Dennison complex (regarding a large proposed facility) have been seemingly margainalized and ignored by the Planning Board and Framingham civic leaders.

SECOND- I am a former Board member of The Bridge House/New England Aftercare Ministries and in the past I have taken a strong public stand in favor of S.M.O.C. and its services.  I do not favor any cutting back in social services in Framingham.  BUT, I also do not favor any increase in social service providers or agencies.  I think we have enough.  I think the frustrated and angry homeowners (especially elderly homeowners) do have a point.  Framingham does more than its fair share.  Framingham can be proud of all we do for the poor, needy, disabled, etc.  But any community can only do so much.  There needs to be at least a five year moratorium on ANY social service expansion in Framingham.

Finally, I am saddened by the lack of civility regarding discussion of these issues in the Framingham of 2006.  I hope the citizens of Framingham can show love and respect as we "count the cost" regarding these difficult issues.

(I would love to hear what you think about this column!  Please post a response, or e-mail me at RevRBaril@aol.com)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Greeting cards; red roses; candy; "Pajamagram" ads; yes, it's February 14.  It's another Saint Valentine's Day!  (Now, actually, I understand that the Roman Catholic Church has done some "revamping" - no pun intended - with the "saint's days" and that now St. Valentine shares this one with other saints in a rotating fashion; you'll have to ask a Catholic priest about that one!)  I gave my wife her card and gift a few days early just to make sure I wouldn't run into problems getting her a present due to the snowstorm.

I thought on this Valentine's Day it would be appropriate to write about The Love Chapter of the Bible.  Yes, it's from First Corinthians, but I imagine it's not the one you're thinking of!  We usually think of I Corinthians 13 as "The Love Chapter".  It's probably been used more often as a wedding ceremony Scripture reading than any other passage.  First Corinthians chapter thirteen IS God's great chapter about agape, that is deep, self-sacrificing love.  Today, I'm NOT going to focus on First Corinthians chapter thirteen but rather on First Corinthians SEVEN.

I'll warn you, First Corinthians seven is RACY stuff!  I'm mindful that a clergyman writing sexually suggestive material on the internet could get himself into a lot of trouble, so I've got to be careful.  I encourage you to read First Corinthians seven, thoroughly, on your own. I've called this chapter a chapter that people "love to hate".  Singles hate First Corinthians seven because it encourages them to remain single and not to actively seek a spouse.  Marrieds hate First Corinthians seven (well, SOME marrieds do) because it encourages them to stay married even if there are problems, and it requires that married couples are not only faithful to one another but that they have intimate relations a lot, and I mean A LOT!  Divorced people hate First Corinthians seven because they think it puts them down, but as I understand First Corinthians seven, it really does no such thing.

In modern American society, we tend to take the issues of marriage, divorce, and sexual activity very casually.  Even in evangelical Protestant circles, many no longer think of premarital sex or of
extramarital affairs as all that bad.  The number of American evangelical Christian kids who are sexually active (despite all the "love waits" and other campaigns of the Christian right) is probably at an all-time high. Divorce among "born-again Christians" is also at an all-time high.  Back in 1972, I remember Evangelist Billy Graham saying that among faithful Bible-believing Christians there was only one divorce in every 430 marriages. That was 1972!  Research from George Barna's organization indicates that TODAY there is a slightly higher divorce rate among evangelical Christians than among society as a whole!  We are in love- but we are not in love with other people, nor are we in love with the Lord; we are in love with OURSELVES!

I don't have enough space to write out First Corinthians chapter seven word-for-word.  So I'm going to have to trust that YOU will read it.  Today, on this Valentine's Day, read it.  Think about it. Pray about it.  Then do what it says.  Singles:  if you will just turn your life over to the Lord and trust the Lord with your life 100% He will give you the very best, and He may well give you a spouse,  in His
time and in His way.  Marrieds, endeavor to be the best husband or wife you can be.  Sadly, SOMETIMES separation or divorce must take place, anyway.  A careful reading of First Corinthians seven will show you that God does NOT condemn you for divorce if you've done everything possible to save your marriage first.  

"Pastor Bob Baril," you ask, "how do you KNOW this chapter is so important?"

The Apostle Paul's final words in First Corinthians seven are, "...I think also that I have the Spirit of God".  In other words, "I really think God's telling me to write this stuff!"

I think so, too!

(I'd love to hear your feedback.  You can leave a comment here on the blog site, or e-mail me at RevRBaril@aol.com)

Saturday, February 11, 2006


There is something that pastors hate.  I know we aren't supposed to hate, but there is something that pastors hate:  Pastors hate major snowstorms that take place late Saturday night and/or early Sunday morning!  The worst part is when television or radio commentators make statements during such "snow events" such as, "Isn't it GREAT that the storm is taking place on a Sunday?  Nobody has to go anyplace!"

Those of you who live in the northeastern U.S. are well aware that a major snowstorm has been forecasted for tonight and tomorrow.  Yup, it's a pastor's nightmare.  It's especially tough in a situation such as our church is in at the moment- having desperate financial problems and being absolutely dependent upon the tithes and offerings from week to week.  In early 2005 we faced a Sunday snow situation, and I made the radical choice to move the "Sunday morning service" to Monday night.  Two-thirds of our people showed up on Monday night- we had a good service, and we took in a reasonably good offering.  I've already got that plan in mind should we have to cancel church tomorrow.

If we apply the "What Would Jesus Do?" principle to weather situations, it can bring us to some interesting conclusions.  Mark chapter four tells us that once Jesus and the disciples were on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee.  A terrible storm suddenly arose.  The disciples were terrified and expected the worst.  But Mark 4:39 tells us that Jesus simply rebuked the storm saying, "Peace, be still," and it stopped!

Back in 1985, Pat Robertson freaked a lot of people out by publicly rebuking a hurricane that was headed straight for the Tidewater area of Virginia.  Amazingly, the storm changed course and left the area unscathed.  He claimed he was exercising the same authority Jesus had exercised over the Galilee storm, but even many of Pat's biggest supporters just didn't buy that.

On one of the last days of December 1998, a major snowstorm was forecasted to hit the Boston area on the following Sunday, which would be the first Sunday of 1999.  I was deeply disappointed!  I had planned a special service and a very special sermon for the first Sunday of 1999.  I had prayed about it.  I had felt good about it.  I was believing God for an outstanding service for the first Sunday of 1999.  This snowstorm was going to ruin everything!  

"I'm NOT going to have to cancel church this Sunday!" I thought.

I was determined!  This was not at all my usual habit or pattern, but in a sense I "pulled a Pat Robertson".  I can still see myself walking around Butterworth Park in Framingham.

"In JESUS Name that snowstorm will not happen!  I will not have to cancel church!" I yelled it right out loud.  I suppose anyone hearing me would have thought I was out of my mind, but I meant business and I was confident!

That Sunday morning, it was not snowing at all when I got up!  As the morning progressed, it began to drizzle but it was a little too warm for snow.  I was ecstatic!  My prayer had worked!

Shortly before Sunday School, one of our Members who lived in Medway phoned in.  She told me the roads in Medway were ice covered and treacherous.  She'd turned around and gone home.  I couldn't understand that, because there was no ice at all in downtown Framingham.  A family that lives on the extreme western end of the town of Ashland arrived at church shortly thereafter, reporting very icy conditions near their home, but agreeing that Framingham was just rainy.  We did have a very good morning service that day.  By the time we were leaving church, our parking lot was becoming icy.  Once I drove onto the public streets, they'd been treated and tbe driving was fine.

It was the next day that the news was reported that on Sunday morning a car had gone out of control on the ice in Hopkinton, hit a teenage girl and killed her, and badly injured her mother.  My wife knew them.  The girl had been in my daughter Amy's nursery school class about ten years earlier.  Several days later, we attended the girl's funeral at the Episcopal Church in Hopkinton.  In the middle of the service, I suddenly had an awful thought:  I had prayed so fervently for no snow and that I could hold my service...had my prayer cost that girl her life?

That evening I took a long soul-searching walk- by Butterworth Park among other places.  The Lord spoke to me- oh, not in an audible voice, but with His "still, small voice" deep inside my heart.  It became clear to me that the girl died as a result of a tragic accident which I certainly did not cause, but that we need to be very careful about praying (dare I say, demanding) that God change the weather.  So, I'm not praying any prayers about this storm.  What happens happens.

Did Pat Robertson really make that hurricane go away?  Did my prayers really change the weather for the first Sunday of 1999?  Only God knows.  But as the words of an old Christian solo say, "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand; But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know He holds my hand."

Thursday, February 9, 2006


“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

That’s a very simple Scripture verse, and yet it’s also a very profound Scripture verse.  Many Christians have pondered its meaning; some have struggled with it, wondering how God can possibly work all things together for good.  I certainly don’t pretend to have “all the answers” nor do I have even “most of the answers” for that matter!  I will say that I have experienced Romans 8:28 in various ways in my life.

Early Sunday morning while showering, it was announced over the WRKO news that Jacob Robida, the eighteen-year-old suspect in last week’s attacks at Puzzles Lounge in New Bedford lay near death at a hospital in Springfield, Missouri.  The report went on to say he had killed two people in Arkansas, including a police officer, and was now near death in the Missouri hospital. I later learned the hospital was Cox Medical Center South where my daughter Amy, a student nurse, is doing her clinical training.  

On Tuesday morning, I was having my teeth cleaned.  The hygienist commented about the tragic actions of Jacob Robida.  

“Yeah, he died in Springfield, Missouri at the hospital where my daughter is doing her nursing training.’  I commented.  

“Springfield, Missouri!” she responded, “That’s where my niece is going to college next Fall- at Missouri State University.”  Before I’d left the dentist’s office, I had made arrangements for the hygienist’s brother to call me so I could give him the scoop on all the good restaurants in Springfield, and so we could plan to have our daughters meet this summer.

As I left the dental office I commented that we’d have never made that connection if it wasn’t for discussing the evil actions of a twisted eighteen-year-old.  Somehow his evil deeds had indirectly led to a great conversation and some positive and helpful plans.

Back in the 1950s, my father was an Examiner for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles- in other words, one of the guys who gave driving tests.  During the same time period, he was a flight instructor for the Civil Air Patrol.  One day my Dad was stunned when a young man who’d come up to take his driving test was the exact double of a teen he’d been teaching to fly an airplane.  Dad couldn’t help but ask the student driver if he was related to his student pilot.  It turned out that the two were twins who had been separated at birth and adopted.  Neither twin had any idea of his brother’s whereabouts!  A meeting was arranged and the kids were reunited.  It was one of the high points of my father’s life!

Are such events coincidences or are they diving appointments? I choose to believe they’re the latter!

Sometimes life may not make sense, but somehow “everything comes out in the wash”, or as the Bible says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  

Tuesday, February 7, 2006


I guess you've gotta "step out of the boat" sometimes!

I almost created a blog about two months ago.  I went through the basic steps, then thought, "People will think I'm weird- people will think this is weird- people won't get it- I'm not going to do this!"
And that was that- for the time being.

The adults (and teens) are viewing a GREAT D.V.D. teaching series for Sunday school over these winter months:  It's John Ortberg's "IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER, YOU'VE GOT TO STEP OUT OF THE BOAT".  It's really challenging stuff.
Last night, I was reading a year old issue of LEADERSHIP Journal.  There was a whole section urging Pastors to write their own blogs and stressing the advantages of doing this.  In fact, I learned what "blog" is short for "Web log".  Today, I got an e-mail from a pastor friend (coincidentally?) giving the Web address of HIS new blog.  I kind of knew God was telling me something, so I'm stepping out of the boat.

I like Bill and Jeff Keane's THE FAMILY CIRCUS on the Comic pages of many newspapers. Today's shows the grandmother giving some "grandmotherly" advice to little Jeffy, "If you're afraid you'll make a mistake, you won't make anything".
Yes, that's another way of saying, "If you want to walk on water, you've got to step out of the boat"

Incidentally, the Bible passage John Ortberg is teaching from is Matthew chapter 14, verses 23 to 32.  Read it- I think you'll like it.

And, if you've been pensive about something God is calling you to do, I hope you'll step out of the boat!