Thursday, March 30, 2006


“...behold, now is the accepted time; “  (from 2 Corinthians 6:2)

Yup.  It’s about that time again.  What time is that?  The time to change the time.  The switch to Daylight Saving Time will begin on Sunday in the “wee” hours of the morning.  I think legally and technically, the time actually goes from 1 to 3 a.m. on Sunday and just skips 2.  Most people are advised to turn their clocks ahead, (“Spring ahead”) on Saturday evening.  Some years, I’ve actually turned them on Saturday morning just to get used to “the new time”, although that can drive people crazy!

Benjamin Franklin “invented” Daylight Saving Time.  All it does is tinker with nature and I think it’s kind of stupid.  The number of weeks we are on Daylight Saving Time as opposed to Standard Time is now longer, and it will get even longer in 2007.  For many years we turned the clocks on the last Sunday of April and the first Sunday of October.  In 1987, the U.S.A. began turning the clocks on the FIRST Sunday of April and the last Sunday of October.  In 2007, the clock changes will be in mid-March and mid-November.  We can thank Congressman Ed Markey for that idea.  One problem with it is that so many of our electronic devices are automatically programmed for the current daylight saving changes and WILL NOT automatically switch over at the new times in 2007.

Hawaii does not go on Daylight Saving Time at all.  Neither does Arizona.  It used to be that part of Indiana also did not change.  This is because part of Indiana was on Central time and part of the state was on Eastern time.  WIth Daylight Saving time, they used to “tweak it” so that the Eastern time zone did not turn the clocks ahead and then the state was all on one time for the summer months.  As of 2006, however, the entire state of Indiana is on Eastern time.  I don’t know how they’re going to handle the time change now!

I’ve lived most of my life in the Eastern time zone.  I must confess that I like the Central time zone much better.  During the two years I was in Bible College in Missouri I loved the T.V. schedule.  I also love it when I’m visiting Missouri, which due to Amy being in college there, I tend to do a couple of times a year.  It’s great to have the evening news at 10 instead of 11, and even to have “late night” shows airing earlier.  Back in 2002, when Mary Ann and Idid an Alaska cruise, we spent part of the time on Pacific time and part of it on Alaska time.  There were T.V. sets (satellite) on the ship.  One late afternoon I was watching “Larry King Live”.  I assumed it was a rebroadcast of the previous night’s show.  Suddenly it hit me that I a was watching it at 5:15 in the afternoon but it was LIVE at 9:15 in Washington.  Having spent most of my life on the East coast, that seemed so weird.

I know the worst part of the time change can be setting the automobile clocks, clock radios, etc.  No, the WORST is setting the clock on “answering machine telephones”!  Well, this is the weekend.  Don’t forget and have fun!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


“They don’t make things like they used to!”

As a kid I can remember my parents, especially my father, saying that.  Dad was even more of a perfectionist than I am.  He used to lament the loss of the kind of nineteenth-century craftsmanship whereby someone would built a house to last for two hundred years, using only the best quality materials and workmanship- a house that would truly be a work of art.  That craftsmanship was also true of metal work, tools, really any product of construction and workmanship.  

Have you ever seen the Canton, Massachusetts railroad viaduct?  It’s a giant railroad bridge made of ornate stonework which looks almost exactly like a Roman aqueduct.  It’s the only one of its kind in America.  I’m told there IS one just like it in Russia.  Architects MARVEL at the Canton viaduct, built in the 1840s.  Can you imagine such a thing EVER being constructed or even considered today?  Believe me, it would never happen.

Our church bought a brand new combination telephone and answering machine just a few weeks ago.  Several days ago, it had a meltdown.  It would not work or function at all.  I used my cell phone to call for service.  I spent fifteen minutes listening to an annoying recording about, “Your call is important to us”.  Someone finally got on the phone.  He could not “think outside the box”.  It was scary.  I honestly knew more than he did!  He didn’t know what to do.  FInally, he guessed, “Unplug it for fifteen minutes and plug it back in and see if it works.”  It did.  BUT I was left with a very bad feeling.  When you bought a phone in the 1960s you could be sure of it working flawlessly for at least twenty-five years.  When you bought an answering machine in the 1970s (when they were introduced) you were sure of it working well for at least ten years.  Today?  It something gives you no problems for a year, you’re happy!

I like Apple computers, but, honestly, our four-year-old iMac has had two total crashes in which we lost EVERYTHING.  The last time was sixteen months ago.  For you Windows users who are laughing, I’ve heard even worse stories about some of those!  Speaking of computers, today’s automobiles are far too computer dependent.  About a year ago, a man who works for a new car dealership which sells Rolls Royce and Bentley told me horror stories of more than one customer who’d experienced great frustration with their brand new  Rolls or Bentley.  In every such case, the car had less than a thousand miles on the odometer, the car’s computer just froze,  and the car  would not run!  The 1963 Dodge Dart I was driving thirty-five years ago would look pretty good right now!

I’d love to have new products you can depend on!

Romans 12:11 speaks of, “...not slothful in business...”
That’s the real problem.  It’s the lazy bums that design and build the materials we use.  

“Should the Lord tarry” as we evangelicals say, and our present world system lasts until, say, the year 2046, do you suppose people will be saying, “I’d like to go back to 2006- now, they REALLY had QUALITY merchandise back then!”?  Boy, it’s kind of a scary thought!

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I had one brother.  His legal name was Edward Stephen Baril.  Nobody called him that.  He was “Eddie”.  Today, March 25, 2006, would have been Eddie’s 50th birthday.  

Eddie was the 2nd of three children- three children who were very close together in age.  Virtually nothing was known about the importance of “birth order” in child development back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Dr. Kevin Lehman has been a pioneer in this field.  Lehman’s research cites middle children as being very vulnerable to all sorts of problems and setbacks- this particularly being true if the middle child is the same sex as the oldest.  Eddie had an older brother and a younger sister.   Psychologically and spiritually he was an accident waiting to happen.  Such a middle child would require very diligent parenting with lots of positive reinforcement  and (as much as I hate to quote her) lots of support from Hillary Clinton’s “village”.  My parents were good parents and generally good people, but they didn’t have a clue what lay ahead.

Eddie did not look like me.  I tended to look very French, he was all Scotsman; as my mother used to say, “built for the kilt”.  We had very little in common.  Eddie liked to do things with his hands.  I’m very unhandy and uncoordinated.  As a kid, Eddie was just very open and vulnerable.  I was more on the shrewd side.  I learned early-on to strategize and be careful to make a good impression.  On my very first day of school I was scared to death, but (in my mother’s words) I acted “just like a little soldier”.  Two years later, Eddie screamed and cried and almost had to be pried away from my mother as she awkwardly left the first-grade classroom.  He was the honest one.

My parents made a lot of my accomplishments and of my sister Dianne’s achievements.  I was always the FIRST to do anything...the first to be in high school, the first to start college, the first to get a driver’s license, etc.  Each was a big milestone.  Dianne had all those experiences as LASTS, so they were also milestones.  For Eddie, these events would have some importance, but they would never be milestones.

In time, Eddie became a very good mechanic.  No, he became a GREAT mechanic.  He was a one in a million mechanic.  For those of you from the Framingham, Mass. area, I’ve only known one other guy who was THAT good of a mechanic, and that’s Bill Lincoln.  I became an accomplished public speaker and learned how to “snow” college professors on term papers.  That kind of stuff, well it just wasn’t Eddie.

There IS something Eddie hated.  He hated General Motors cars.  Hated them.  Eddie predicted the demise of G.M. over twenty-three years ago.  If he knows about this year’s news of General Motors’ massive layoffs and plant closings, well, I hate to say it, but he’s laughing and saying, “I told you so!”.

Eddie is buried in the “Baril family grave” in Boston’s attractive and woodsy West Roxbury section.   It meant a lot for my father to have Eddie’s casket placed above that of Dad’s mother.  On Eddie’s birthday in 2000, my daughter Amy and I visited the grave and played a recording of country singer JoDee Messina singing “Silver Thunderbird”.  Eddie’s FAVORITE cars were Ford Thunderbirds.

My 50th birthday a year and a half ago was a really big deal.  As I write, there’s a deep sadness.  There will be no party- no “over the hill” jokes, nothing like that.  You see, Eddie had serious substance abuse problems.  He died many, many years ago.  Eddie was engaged to be married at the time of his death. It’s really sad the wedding did not happen.  He sired no kids.  He died so young.  You know those tee-shirts that say something like , “My folks went to Las Vegas and all I got is this stupid tee-shirt!”?  Well, the only present I could think to give Eddie was this stupid blog entry.

I hope it touched someone’s heart.

Today, March 25, 2006 is Eddie’s birthday.

“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth:”  (Psalm 71:17)

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Mike Barnicle is Boston’s least passionate radio talk show host.  He freely admits that he DOESN’T like talk radio- the callers, the medium itself- he doesn’t like it.  I think Mike’s first love is his kids, his second is the Boston Red Sox, and his third is WRITING.  It’s obvious he does his 96.9 FM Talk radio program for one reason:  the buck.  This past Monday, however, Mike was as passionate as any on-air personality I’ve ever listened to.  He was thoroughly exorcised about the death of two North Shore teenagers in a gruesome crash on Route 128 over the weekend, and he was calling for the driving age to be raised.

In Massachusetts, the age at which a young person can receive a Learner’s Permit is 16.  A kid can become a licensed driver at 16 and a half IF he or she has passed an approved Driver Education course, or at 17 without Driver Ed.  Mike wants the driving age to be 18.  He really didn’t clarify if that’s a Learner’s Permit at 18 or what.  I get the feeling Mike would REALLY be happy with Learner’s Permits at 20 and Licensing at 21.   In fact, there are strong arguments in favor of raising the driving age and there are strong arguments against it.

In the “horseless carriage era” of one hundred years ago, Massachusetts had no minimum driving age.  An eleven-year-old from Brookline named Edward Esty received a Driver’s License.  (Actually THAT far back it was called a Chauffeur’s License.)  There were no Learner’s Permits in those days (the issuing of Learner’s Permits began in the mid-1960s) and there were no driving tests.  A person had to sign an affidavit that they had “driven over 100 miles” (with no license).  The procedure was very crazy, but one hundred years ago automobiles were considered crazy and a possible passing fad.  Within a few years, a minimum age of 16 was set and driving tests began to be required.

My late father, Eugene A. Baril, was a career Registry of Motor Vehicles employee.  Until the Registry was merged in with the State Police in the early 1990s, the RMV officers (called Inspectors) took care of everything from driving tests to fatal accident investigation, to various auto related Supervisory tasks.  Dad was a believer that kids SHOULD be able to get their Driver’s Licenses at 16, IF they were well trained and had evidenced maturity and responsibility in their lives.  Believe me, HIS driving tests were NOT easy. At the Quincy registry and Norwood armory, he was known as “THAT Baril”.  Nobody wanted to get “THAT Baril” as their Examiner!  Dad failed close to half of the people he examined.  He required the prospective driver to flawlessly turn around on a hill, AND I MEAN A HILL!  You had to back up perfectly “in a straight path” and I mean PERFECTLY.  You had to LOOK when driving, and yes, I mean LOOK.  To his knowledge, nobody he licensed was ever involved in a fatal accident or serious accident.   I was not allowed to get a license until 17 and a half.  It was not because I was not mature and responsible.  It was that he just didn’t consider me a very good driver.  My sister was not allowed to get a license until 21.  Today we’re each pretty good drivers, and also very nervous drivers.

I acted as the “sponsor” for one of my daughter's male friends when he went up for his license test a few years ago.  This was no Eugene A. Baril test.  This was a joke.  A quick drive around the block and the kid had his license.
Somehow, I don’t think the age is such a big deal, but it’s too bad a bunch of Eugene A. Baril driving instructors and Registry men (or today it’s State Police men AND WOMEN!) don’t descend upon our newly driving kids.  AND, it’s too bad we don’t have more Eugene A. Baril type parents.  Had I messed up behind the wheel I’d frankly have preferred to be killed than to face him.

Yes, this issue needs to be addressed seriously.  I just don’t know if Mike Barnicle’s “raise the driving age to 18” will make the slightest difference.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Daniel Powter has a current Top 40 Hit (in fact, it's a Top 10) entitled "You Had A Bad Day".  That is the theme song of my Sunday today.  Now, honestly, to use a famous Joanne Lincoln line, "It's NOT ALL BAD!"  It certainly was not all bad.  We had a great Sunday School class.  We had a great service.  But here's the "had a bad day" part:

At 6:20 this morning, I arrived at the church building to find a broken window. It was one of the "nursery" windows.  Presumably it was another result of playing ball in the parking lot.  The window is a double paned window.  Fortunately,   while the exterior pane was broken the interior pane was OK. I swept up the glass in the parking lot.  Unfortunately, there was still plenty of glass on and behind the log.  It was difficult to get and pick up.  While I was contorting to try to pick up glass, I felt a distinct pain in my lower back.  It was so bad I could hardly get up.  Once I got up, I knew there was NO way I could bend down at all.

I had to phone church member David Crowell to come and "rescue" me.  He came and cleaned up the rest of the glass.

I went through teaching the S.S. class and running the service with lower back pain.  
Today, I need to bring my 19-year-old daughter Rachel back to Westfield State College.  Amy, who is currently home from Missouri,  is coming with us.  There is NO way I can lug any of Rachel's stuff from the vehicle to the room on this trip!

Well, shortly wer're leaving for Westfield.

Some REALLY GOOD THINGS have been happening at church, so this should not surprise me!  Unfortunately, I'm a typical "guy" when I'm sick- a total baby!  

I know I usually include a Bible verse or two on each blog entry.   Today's is 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:   "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

INCIDENTALLY:  I usually post something on the blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  I know I'm all OFF SCHEDULE right now!  The next posting will be on Thursday, March 23.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

THAT COUNT IS WRONG! (Was I getting too arrogant?)

In the left column, there is a counter which lists how many times the blog has been read.  It had been at well over 300.  For some reason yesterday (I guess known only to AOL!) the counter reset itself to 1 and has been counting from there ever since.  I would feel pretty stupid if there had been only 10 or 15 visits to the blog in 6 weeks.  I will admit, I was getting proud of those numbers adding up.  Did God think I was getting too arrogant about it?  I don't know.  There is an editing tool which enables the blog author to just get rid of that counter.  I may do that.... I don't know.  Am I that insecure that I had to let you know that?  Well, I guess so!


"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"  (Romans 1:20)

For reasons more complicated than I care to explain, I very rarely see motion pictures when they are "out" in the theaters.  In the past decade, I have probably not seen more than four movies in theaters, if THAT many.   I did not see "March of the Penguins" when it was in the theaters but I did watch it on D.V.D. a few nights ago.  What a powerful film it was!  Way back in the 1950s and 1960s, Moody Bible Institute used to present "Moody Science Films" for the purpose of showing that nature declares the presence and glory of God all over the place.  One of their most famous is about bees, especially the elaborate dance that a scout bee does to tell the other bees she has found flowers and exactly how to find those flowers.  "March of the Penguins" reminded me of that.  Just the survival of penguins in such frigid, dark conditions is amazing enough.  But how do they know that beginning at age 5 they must leave the sea and begin reproducing?  How do they know to travel 70 miles on foot to the place where they were born and to the place where they will mate?   How did they develop the practice of the male penguins incubating the eggs while the females travel 70 miles and back to get food?  How did they develop the practice of switching the egg from the female to the male without it freezing and being destroyed?  (Some penguines DO fail at this but the overwhelming majority succeed.)  AND, I think all the penguins look and sound alike, but they can tell each other apart by sound. How do they do that?  It's incredible, and it has to be God!  (That's the kind of thing the Romans 1 verse above is talking about.)

Nicholas Herman, better known as "Brother Lawrence" was a cook and handyman at a French monestary in the 1600s.  As a very worldly eighteen-year-old he contemplated a barren tree during the winter.  Realizing the tree would bud and bring forth leaves in the Spring SO spoke to him of the presence and power of God, that he was never the same.  This began a life of being aware of God's presence and entering into very deep Communion with the Lord.

We're beginning another Sunday School study at our church by John Ortberg.  It's entitled, "God Is Closer Than You Think".  He really is.  Are you "in tune" with Him and what He's doing?  I hope so!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I’m writing the rough version of this on Sunday, March 12 in the late afternoon, and I’ll post it on Tuesday morning.   Yes, my mood is “quiet”.  I guess the theme song of this would be a very old-time Pentecostal hymn entitled, “Blessed Quietness”.  First Thessalonians 4:11 begins, “And that ye study to be quiet...”.

Each Sunday afternoon I try to “do a prayer walk” to the downtown Framingham Public Library.  I go into the library and spend time reading my Bible.  Then I walk back.  It used to be that libraries were quiet places.  They aren’t any more.  Sitting and reading the Bible at the Framingham Public Library is like sitting and reading the Bible at the Natick Mall food court.  Well, actually, the Natick Mall food court MAY be quieter!  At the library, people noisily chat on their cell phones, even though signs forbid that.  People bother the library workers with their loud “outside voices”:

“Let me AKS you a question!  Where do I sign up to use duh COMPUTAH?!”

And the computer KEYBOARDS?  They aren’t quiet, with people on the typing furiously!  The WORST of all is people rifling through the C.D. cases- “loud CLICK, loud CLICK, loud CLICK ...”.

In Bible College, some of the guys from inner-city New York and from the rural deep South were known for one kind of prayer:  LOUD!  

“JeeSUS!  Praise GAWD!”  
I guess some would consider that “using the Lord’s name in vain”, but not these guys.  Ironically, in evangelical circles it was common twenty-five or more years ago to refer to your personal devotional time as your “quiet time”!   I remember one student commenting (about the loud young male prayer warriors) “I thought they were supposed to be having their QUIET TIME!”.

I love the 1990s CBS series “Northern Exposure”!  Some of the shows are now on D.V.D.  A favorite episode is when Chris Stevens, the minister/philosopher/D.J./ex-con enters a monastery for a week just to experience monastic life.  He is fascinated by Brother Simon who has taken a vow of silence.  Chris tries and tries to get Brother Simon to talk.  Finally, the truth is revealed to Chris:  “Brother Simon” is actually a woman!  We evangelicals tend to be very critical of the monastic life as being, “not really what Jesus has called us to be like,” and “hiding the gospel behind cloistered walls”.  I don’t think it would be good to be cloistered ALL the time, but from time-to-time, I think such a practice could be quite healthy.

This Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be attending a (mostly Protestant) retreat at a Catholic retreat center in Shrewsbury, MA.  No it’s NOT a time of enforced silence.  There will be some praise and worship music, some teaching, and some small group sharing times.  But we probably WILL get some time just to be quiet and reflect, and I’m really looking forward to that.
I will NOT be posting a blog on Thursday.   Hey, this Thursday, instead of logging on to my blog (boy-that RHYMES!) maybe you should get your Bible out and have a special “quiet time”!  I know I’ll be doing that!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

STUCK IN 1985?

This week I got to thinking about cell phones and the annoying songs people have programmed into them as “ring tones”.  I use strictly a traditional ring or a “vibrate” mode.  I just find those ring tones to be juvenile and stupid.  I know I probably just offended a bunch of people, but it’s honestly what I think.  I came very close to writing a piece about cell phones and their ring tones.  Upon further reflection, I began thinking about the technological breakthroughs and inventions of the past twenty years or so, and whether I like them or dislike them.  Last May as I drove from Springfield, Missouri to Framingham, Massachusetts with my daughter Amy (who turned 20 while on that trip) we heard a pop song on the radio entitled, “Stuck in 1985”.  The song is from the point of view of some young teens as they scorn their Mom’s “1985” interests and tastes.  Sometimes I think I belong back in 1985.  Technology can be overwhelming for me!

For what it’s worth, here is my review of inventions and innovations of the past twenty years:

COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET:  (Neutral) - I’m almost tempted to give this category a big “thumbs down” except that if there were no personal computers and no internet, I’d have no blog to write!  I do hate the way stuff goes out-of-date and obsolete SO quickly.  I cannot get on my blog AT ALL on my office computer because it’s a seven-year-old iMac using seven-year-old software and a seven-year-old operating system.  It’s not SEVENTEEN-years- old- it’s only seven!  I kind of resent that-  All the FORCING of people to upgrade their equipment!  I DO resent THAT!  My home computer is five-years-old and is using a  three-year-old operating system that can be slow and limited.  If I don’t upgrade within say eighteen months, there will be no blog!  I just think all this FORCING you to upgrade and buy new stuff is stupid! I hope somebody from AOL and somebody from Apple is reading this!

VOICE MAIL:  (Thumbs Down) - I hate getting a recorded voice saying “Your call is very important to us” and telling me to press “1” for this and “2” for that.  I hate that.  I do have voice mail on my cell phone, and in a sense, I don’t even like that!

CELL PHONES:  (Neutral) -  They’re more of a negative than a positive- I think they have made society much less civil and much more dangerous, BUT they HAVE been used to save lives, so I just have to vote neutral on them.

CALLER I.D. :  (Thumbs Up) - I LOVE Caller I.D.!  It’s such a great way to screen calls.  I think phone calls can be a TERRIBLE INTRUSION.  I want to know who’s calling!

SATELLITE RADIO: (Thumbs Down) - Now, I don’t have satellite radio, but in  a few years EVERYBODY will HAVE to have it in their cars and HAVE to subscribe just like Cable T.V.  I think traditional AM and FM radio is just fine.

HIGH DEF. T.V.:  (Thumbs Down)- I think traditional analog T.V. was just fine.  Who cares if you have a giant 3-D picture and it looks like you are really there?!

ANTILOCK BREAKS: (Thumbs Down)- I tend to forget and want to pump anti-lock breaks which can be very dangerous.  I’d rather just have traditional power brakes.

C.D.s RATHER THAN TAPES: (Neutral)- I lament that traditional cassette tapes are rapidly disappearing, although there are a lot of positives to C.D.s.  I know that C.D.s DID exist in 1986- I think they were introduced in 1982 or 1983, but they were still quiet uncommon back then.  I wish we could have BOTH C.D.s and tapes.

D.V.D.: (Neutral but leaning toward thumbs down):  Likewise, I wish we could have both V.H.S. and D.V.D., but V.H.S. has almost completely gone, and in three years it will be totally gone as far as buying “new product”.

Am I “Stuck in 1985”?  Maybe, but I’d gladly settle for being “Stuck in 1986”!

Where does the time go?
“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” (Genesis 29:20)

Thursday, March 9, 2006


This past Monday night, I watched “The Apprentice” on NBC.   I find “The Apprentice” to be a very captivating show, but I also have learned quite a bit watching it.  Like Mark Burnett’s other very popular show (“Survivor”), “The Apprentice” certainly has its share of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Last Monday night’s show?  I’d entitle that one, “The Ugly”!

Most of the participants on “The Apprentice” don’t look like the crowd I hung with in high school.  (I was NOT part of the cool crowd.  Ever see “Freaks and Geeks?”  Well, I was one of the uncool, non-athletic geeks!)  The typical contestant on “The Apprentice” looks like a model.  Remember “Rebecca” from last season?  Do I need to say any more?  THIS year, there’s one glaring exception.  Now, I’m really going to sound like a Geek on this one because I can’t remember if his name is Brett, Brent, or Brant, but I THINK it’s Brent, so I’m going to call him that.  Brent is an attorney.  Brent is fat.  I’M fat, but Brent is a lot fatter than I am.  In the looks department, Brent makes ME look like a male model!  In the “eccentric” department, well, I’m decidedly eccentric and a bit weird but Brent WAY surpasses me.

I felt so bad for Brent this week.  On the first week, he was the LAST one picked for one of the business “teams”, but that was NOTHING compared to the garbage he endured this week.  His team rejected everything he had to say and treated him worse than I would treat an ax murderer!  Even when Brent privately confronted a tough young woman who’d been bullying him, she turned the whole story around insisting he “threatened” her and demanding he be thrown off the show.  Brent WAS one of four that Donald Trump called in to the “Board Room” to potentially be fired, but I honestly thank God he wasn’t!

Why is society SO unkind to people who are a little different?  Why do we all have to fit this “perfect” mold?  Men have to be athletic, confident but humble, very handsome, bright, but not intellectual.   Woman have to be pretty, perky, athletic but feminine, shapely, but as skinny as Calista Flockhart.  Men are supposed to love making money and women are supposed to love raising children- yet men are supposed to be perfect Dads and women are supposed to have professional jobs.  If you challenge that by being different- eccentric, or whatever, WATCH OUT!  You probably noticed that I describe myself as “eccentric” on the heading of the blog.  For many years, I was very depressed about not being athletic, about having almost no mechanical ability, and about being “uncool”.  It took me a lot of years to figure out that my strengths of being a fantastic public speaker, being very humorous, and having a gift at encouraging people are pretty important!  I’ve learned to like the way I am.

Tradition says the Apostle Paul (also called “Saint Paul”) was short, bo-legged, and had “eyebrows joined”. None of that is SPECIFICALLY in the Bible, but the Bible does indicate that although Paul was a pretty good writer, he was a terrible speaker (see 2 Corinthians 10, esp. vs. 10).  In fact, Paul is one of the greatest Christians who ever lived and was CHOSEN OF GOD FOR A GREAT MINISTRY!  

I think it’s a shame that modern Americans are SO superficial!  I’m glad God is NOTHING like that.  
“...for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

I try to look “halfway decent” but I know that most of all, by and through the grace of God, I want to have a beautiful heart.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006


This past Friday night, ABC’s 20-20 television program featured a story about a guy who has received over 25,000 postcards, I believe it was over the past year or so.  No, I don’t mean postcards from Aunt Mabel saying “Cancun es muy bueno!” nor do I mean postcards of the Sagamore Bridge from Uncle Harry saying, “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here...”.  These were from people who had taken those plain white postcards you get at the post office and drawn messages about what secrets they wanted to get off their chest.  There were some SERIOUS confessions, and some were “very heavy” - stuff like “I hate my daughter”.  It’s all part of an experiment to see if people would mail anonymous “confessional” postcards to a stranger to get some sense of relief or closure, or just to get something bad that they’d done off their chest.  Obviously, it worked!  

I thought about that this weekend.  I SORT OF liked the idea of the postcards, but there was just something lacking- something MISSING.  As a pastor, my counsel is, there was not necessarily any repentance in sending those cards.  It kind of reminds me of what the Book of Hebrews says about the sins of Esau- that he cried and was sorry, but really “found no place of repentance” (see Hebrews 12:17).

I think I have a better idea.  It’s inspired by that famous bumper sticker that urges us to “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”.  Now, admittedly I’m a conservative Republican, and that “Senseless Acts of Beauty” line has often made me chuckle!  In spite of that, I have to admit, the bumper sticker DOES have a point:  What if we all really DID that?  Well, I submit that the worldwide results would be much more worthwhile than an anonymous postcard that reads, “I have sexual fantasies about my -same sex- next door neighbor”!  I’ve tried sending out mass e-mails about several issues several times in the past  two or three years.  I’d hoped each of the fifteen or twenty people I sent them to would in turn send them to fifteen or twenty and so on and so on and so on.  That NEVER happened.  Did it hurt my ego?  Truthfully, it did!  So, no I’m NOT proposing one of those mass e-mail things!  Instead, I am proposing this-

I’d love to have everyone  who reads this piece (whether you receive it as an e-mail as some folks will, or whether you read it on my blogat do TWO things:  

think of someone you haven’t had any correspondence with in awhile...preferably someone who may have had some hard knocks or disappointments.  Send them a SHORT, FRIENDLY E-Mail.  Again, not a big mass e-mail and not a big wordy thing.  Just make it friendly.  Say hello, “how ya doin?” something like that, and just e-mail it off.  

think of another person that you haven’t had contact with in a longer time.  Send them a short U.S. mail letter.  Yes, I mean postage stamp and all.  I know that means a little more time and energy than an e-mail.  But if people could draw and send those postcards, you can do this.  Now, I know it’s a LOT easier for women.  Females like to get those girly pink cards with pictures of cats saying something like “You’re a SWEET friend!”  Now, admittedly, guys USUALLY don’t go in for that sort of thing.  So, guys, we have to be a little more creative.   For example, I have a friend (I’ll call him Jim) that I went to Bible College with.  He pastors in Georgia.  I only hear from him on rare occasions.  Over the past ten days, two items crossed my desk that I thought he’d really like.  One was a piece of mail that contained something (clean!) that I knew he’d find very funny, and one was an article in a Christian publication that I knew he’d find very inspiring.  I put both in a manilla envelope, included a short note, and mailed it off.

Sending those e-mails and letters will definitely fall in the “Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty” category!  This is Lent.  Now, in the Assemblies of God (unlike Roman Catholicism) we don’t tend to “give up things for Lent”. It’s just not part of Assemblies of God tradition.  But I think DOING some special thing during Lent instead of “giving something up” is a better idea.  So LET’S TRY IT!  Will everybody who reads this send 1 short encouraging e-mail to someone before Easter, and send an encouraging U.S. mail card or letter to someone you have not heard from for awhile, before Easter?

I’d love to know the results...  if friendships are rekindled, people are encouraged, etc.  If you have any interesting results in the weeks ahead, let me know at

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts,  known and read of all men:” (2 Corinthians 3:2)

Saturday, March 4, 2006


Right now I’m drinking a Dr. Pepper.  No, I don’t usually drink Dr. Pepper or other carbonated beverages early in the morning.  I will post this on the blog on Saturday morning, but I’m actually writing the rough version of it late Friday night- and I’m drinking a Dr. Pepper, and eating some really good ice cream as I write!  There is a movement to ban soda machines in schools, and there are some people who would ban all carbonated beverages.  I know society’s attitude about cigarettes has drastically changed over the past forty years, and I know that over the next forty, the same thing could happen regarding carbonated beverages.  I hope it doesn’t!  I like carbonated beverages!

I don’t know when I first drank soda.  When I was a very little kid, we had it only for birthdays and very special occasions.  By the time I was around twelve my parents had loosened up quite a bit about it and we had soda in the house all the time.  In New England, we drank Cott quality beverages.  I think I drank more “Cott golden ginger ale” than any other “tonic” as a kid.  I wouldn’t be a kid who grew up in Boston if I didn’t use the word “tonic”. Recently, Mike Barnicle commented that he NEVER heard soda called “tonic” when he grew up in Massachusetts.  That’s because he grew up in northern Worcester County.  In Boston and its immediate suburbs, it was “tonic”.  Today, only very old people and very poor people in the immediate Boston area call it “tonic” but thirty-five years ago, everybody did.

Carbonated beverages were “accidentally” created by a scientist in the 1860s who was working on something else.  In the late 1800s and very early 1900s, such drinks were actually thought of as MEDICINE.  They were served from “soda fountains” in pharmacies.  Coca-Cola started that way in Atlanta in the 1880s.  Moxie (which still exists) was originally manufactured by the “Moxie Nerve Food Company”.  These drinks were flavored by roots and nuts and bark.  They were thought to be inherently healthy.  My, how times have changed!  It’s true that there is SO much sugar in soda, and so much artificial sweetener in diet soda that most of the nutritional value is compromised.  But, the stuff just TASTES so good!

I never drank Dr. Pepper until I went to Bible College in the late 1970s.  I don’t think it was even sold in New England at that time.  At first, I thought it tasted like a mixture of cough syrup and carbonated water.  I developed a taste for it, and now I like it.  Moxie has a much more bitter flavor.  I’ve got a pastor friend in rural Maine who drinks Moxie the way I drink water.  He passes out cans of Moxie the way some pastors pass out tracts, and, well, when you’re with him you drink Moxie and you like it!  My father was a huge Seven Up fan.  I think that was his favorite “tonic”.  Every time I drink a Seven Up, I think of my father.  I can actually get a little misty-eyed when I do.

I have a friend who is an executive with Coca-Cola.  He has told me a lot of interesting stuff about soda.  For one thing, it gets more carbonated when it gets colder.  For another thing, diet soda DOES produce more foam when you pour it than does regular soda.  Pepsi has more carbonation and more sugar than Coke does.  As you can guess, Pepsi is verboten with him!

My brother-in-law drinks Mountain Dew.  It contains much more caffeine than does Pepsi or Coke.  But that’s not true in Canada. Canadian Mountain Dew is not allowed to contain any caffeine.  I have had Mountain Dew in Canada.  There is no “caffeine kick” after you drink it- which is weird, but I honestly wish they’d offer a no-caffeine Mountain Dew in America for customers who’d prefer it that way.

Is there ANYTHING spiritual about carbonated beverages?  Well, for one thing, plenty of them are consumed at church socials. And, for another,  First Corinthians 10:31 says,  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Thursday, March 2, 2006

CALL 9-1-1? NEVER!

It’s been awhile, but I did it!  I called a radio talk show on Monday.  It was “Eagan and Braudie” on 96.9 FM Talk in Boston.   During my lifetime I’ve called radio talk shows around twenty times, although I’d never called in to Boston’s 96.9 FM Talk before.  Another first:  I called in from my car on a cell phone.  After speaking to the producer and getting into the “lineup of callers” I pulled the car over to the parking lot of a Medway restaurant.  Alas, it ended up being for naught.  At 12:59, Jim announced, “Sorry, I know we’ve got callers waiting, but we’re out of time”.  Well, I dialed #969 on my cell phone but I didn’t make it on the air.

Ironically, the issue I was calling about was dialing a 3 digit number that starts with “9”:  that is dialing 9-1-1.  This past Monday, the MetroWest Daily News and its sister paper, The Boston Herald, featured a story about the number of frivolous calls that people make to 9-1-1.  One person called to complain about their Wendy’s order.  In Boston people have called to ask, “Are the Red Sox playing at Fenway this weekend?”  Around the country people have called 9-1-1 for any and every reason one can think of, including asking what the weather is going to be like.

I’m not worried about calling 9-1-1 because I will never call 9-1-1 again.  And I do mean NEVER!  I also recommend that people do NOT call 9-1-1.  The story I was going to tell on Eagan and Braudie is this:

About seven or eight years ago, a private function hall and bar was located directly across the street from our small church.  On one early evening, a party was in progress at the hall.  The crowd was 98% Hispanic, mostly young, and quite festive.  I wondered if it was some Hispanic girl’s fifteenth birthday, which is a major event in the Latin community.  The Latin music was blasting.   Teenagers and young adults began to congregate in the middle of the street.  Quickly, the street was completely blocked.  No car was able to pass.  I do not believe the young people meant any harm, but the potential for great trouble was obvious, i.e., imagine if some white supremacist came driving down the street.

I called 9-1-1 and reported this situation.

“Don’t call 9-1-1 unless its an emergency,” the Framingham dispatcher told me, sounding condescending and annoyed.  

No police ever arrived.  Granted- no trouble happened, but it COULD have.

A couple of years later, my office was robbed.  Did I call 9-1-1?  NO!  I called the Framingham Police business line at 508-872-1212.  A cruiser did arrive a few minutes later and an officer investigated.  Yup, all without calling 9-1-1.

People do what advertising says to do.  In the Boston area we know that if we have a broken windshield we call 1-800-54GIANT.  If we need a mortgage, we dial 1-800-EASTWEST.  “All ya hafta do is call 1-800-EASTWEST.”

If you need the police or fire departments, their vehicles say “Dial 9-1-1”.
Well, not me!

In Framingham, I’ll dial 508-872-1212 or I will dial “0” for Operator.  Outside of Framingham I’ll dial “0” for Operator.  

Does that sound drastic?  Well, if we all did that they wouldn’t have to worry about calls about Wendy’s and the weather, now would they?  I can imagine someone saying, “Yes, but we teach our kids to dial 9-1-1.”  

Well, when I was a kid in the 1960s my father taught me to dial “0”  for Operator.  You tell me, which is easier for a kid 9-1-1- or “0”?

Finally, I’m glad God pulls no tricks when it comes to this “call me” stuff.
In Jeremiah 33:3 He says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things...”.