Thursday, August 31, 2006


“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a reporter for the Framingham TAB.  He did a story about bloggers from Framingham.  The reporter asked me what I write about and I rattled off a list.  If you read this regularly you know I write about anything and everything.

“So then, it’s secular stuff?”  he asked.

I guess he expected every entry to be a Bible commentary or a sermon.  I told him that while I usually include a Bible verse with each posting, 90% of what I write is strictly secular.  

Well, today’s is not.  Today’s is 100% evangelical Christian and Bible-based.  I hope that doesn’t turn you off.  This blog should show you that “born-again Christians” and ministers are just like everybody else.  Sometimes our cars won’t start.  Sometimes our toilets malfunction.  Sometimes we get stuck in airports (like I did last week).  Sometimes we’re in rotten moods, like I was on Monday.  Most of us watch American Idol when it’s on.  I’m not a big sports person, but I really like the Patriots.  All of that stuff is what I’m about.  The biggest thing I’m about is my relationship with God.  I know that as soon as you say that, some people think you’re a fanatic or a nut.  I think, however, a person is very foolish to NOT think about God and eternity.

One of the worst problems with Christianity (honestly) is the Christians!  Some of them are real beauts!  There’s a tall brunette woman about 55 from here in Framingham who looks mentally ill and shrieks “Praise you JESUS!” in public.  Whether you’re a Christian, an atheist, or what, if you get cornered by her, it’s a pretty miserable experience.  She’ll rattle off more Bible verses than the Apostle Paul, and try to convince you that you’re about to go on a toboggan slide to Hell.  She’s done more harm to evangelism in MetroWest than anyone else I can think of! Then there are the Christian businesspeople who rip people off.  I’m sorry to say, it happens.  It gets very embarrassing.  In spite of “God’s flaky puffs” as a pastor friend of mine used to call them, my experience is that at least 50% of born-again Christians are very sincere, authentic, positive, and good people.  But that’s really not the point.

Recently a guy at a classic car show took a very flip attitude with me when he heard I was a minister.  He flatly told me he didn’t believe in any of it.  He’s one of those, “When you die, you die, and that’s it” types.  He treated me with disdain.  Oh, well.  It happens.  But think about it.  What if death ISN’T all there is?  What if there is something in the spiritual realm beyond the grave?  What if we really do give an account to God?

Listen, it’s more than a “What if?”.  I’ve witnessed amazing things done by God.  For example, about five years ago, my sister and I were meeting with my tax accountant about settling my parents’ estate.  He had just been through a bout with cancer. I asked him how he was doing.

“Not good,” he told us, “the cancer is back.  As soon as I finish up you’re appointment, I’m going over to be admitted to the Norwood Hospital.”  I asked if my sister and I could lay hands on him and pray for him.  My motives were pretty selfish.  I did NOT want him to die in the middle of this estate settlement procedure (which took over a year).  We laid hands on him and prayed.   A few months later, I called him to schedule my regular annual tax appointment.  I asked him how he was feeling.  He was very excited!

“I’m totally healed!  I’m cancer free!”  he said, and had no doubt he had experienced a miracle.  If you doubt this story, contact me, and I’ll give you his name and phone number so you can check it out.

That’s only one of many stories.  God is real.  There’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.  I challenge you.  If you’re NOT a born-again Christian, pick up a New Testament.  Start reading it every day.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you.  See what happens after a few weeks.  I’m telling you SOMETHING will happen!  If you ARE a born-again Christian but you’re just kind of wishy-washy and not really committed, well this is a good time of year to get with it.  Put GOD first in everything you do.  Take seriously the message of Psalm 1.  Don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly!  Delight yourself in the Lord and His Word.  Be faithful in personal devotions, in fellowship with other believers, and in sharing your faith.  

Well, next time I’ll probably be back to the 90% secular talk, but I hope this has been a help and a blessing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I’m a planner.  I’m also a perfectionist.  Both of those traits have their good points, but boy do they ever have their bad points!  My late father was a perfectionist- much more even than I am.  It would take him “forever” to do a job around the house-because the job had to be done perfectly.  The projects he DID get done around the house were as perfect as one could get them, but he died leaving scores of unfinished projects.  And you know what they say about, “The best laid plans of mice and men...” or however that one goes.

I’m in a very philosophical mood this morning.  Along with being a planner, and a perfectionist, I have the need to PROCESS things.  Ultimately, that helps me to put things in PERSPECTIVE.  (Yeah, I know, all of this stuff starts with “P”.  Many times clergy like to have all their sermon points start with the same letter, maybe that’s why unconsciously I’m starting everything with the same letter today!)

Some people think pastors (there’s a “P” again!) are perfect.   Some people think they’re always positive.  Some think they SHOULD always be positive.  Years ago, my District Superintendent (like a bishop in other denominations) told me I’m “way too candid”.  Another minister has told me he couldn’t publicly share his faults, failures, and struggles- that such things are way too personal.  Well, as Frank Sinatra sang (or was it some other crooner?) “I Gotta Be Me!”  So, today, I’m pondering, and I’m processing, and I’m philosophical, and it’s all part of (for me) a PROCESS...yeah, the letter “p” is all over this piece!

Yes, yesterday was our 24th Anniversary.  We did go out to eat at a pretty good Chinese restaurant.  We did have ice cream cones at a very good ice cream stand.  It was “O.K.” but I don’t think it was the kind of day my wife really wanted.  Honestly, it wasn’t the kind of day I really wanted. To use a line my daughter Rachel often uses, “It was what it was”.  It’s kind of like my 49th birthday in 2003.  Usually, I love the weather on my birthdays (Sept. 19).  Usually, it’s around 68 degrees, sunny, low humidity, and the kind of day you’re just so thrilled to be alive. On my 49th, we were experiencing the remnants of a hurricane.  It was sickeningly humid- as humid and tropical as it possibly gets in New England.  It was raining hard off and on.  It was very windy.  Tree limbs and branches were down all over the place.  I also had a meeting in Marlboro I had to attend that morning; what a time I had dodging tree branches in the streets.  Yuck!  I was “wicked depressed” on that birthday!  Yet, one year later on my 50th there was perfect weather.  While we had a monsoon on Sept. 18 that year, Sept. 19, 2004 could not have been a more perfect day.  Next year is our 25th Anniversary.  I just trust it will be a much better day than Aug. 28, 2006 was.

Last night I watched NBC’s remembrance of Hurricane Katrina.  Now THAT will help you get things in perspective.  The pain and loss that the people of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward have gone through is unimaginable.  The neglect and treatment of those people was and is a disgrace.  One police officer was profiled.  Unlike so many of his peers, he didn’t desert his job or his city.  He didn’t dishonor his oath.  His house was devastated and he and his family had to live in a F.E.M.A. trailer for over half a year.   That man has been through severe suffering and loss.  Yet, he said if another hurricane strikes he will be right there on duty.  He will never abandon his post or his city.  That man’s a hero.  Yeah, I’m a planner and I’m a perfectionist.  But what do you do when Hurricane Katrina hits?  You can be the world’s best planner and perfectionist, and all that goes out the window!  The Hurricane Katrinas of life show us what we are really made of.  They aren’t things you can control.  You just have to “go” with them, step by step.  That’s real tough stuff for planners and perfectionists...involving a process that’s just all part of life.

Yeah, I’m in a philosophical mood today.  Part of me wants to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, but I’m not going to do that!  I’m going out there today and just going to give it my best...for Jesus...and for me.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:  but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)

Monday, August 28, 2006


I know it’s only midday on Monday and I’m not due to add something to the blog until Tuesday, but I can’t wait.  Back in the late 1970s, the country Gospel group called “The Gaithers” did a song called “I’m Makin’  List of ‘Won’t bes’ in Heaven”.  It’s a lighthearted song about bad stuff that won’t be in Heaven.  Well, today, although I’m in a rotten mood right now, I’m happy that there won’t be Meineke Car Car centers and there won’t be tricky and greedy business people.

I had actually PLANNED for my Tuesday piece to be a happy piece about our 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon being “raised from the dead” after being disabled for months in our driveway.  After a mechanic friend’s hard work, it was actually made drivable on Saturday.  The car badly needed an exhaust system, and needs a current inspection sticker, so I took it to Meineke Muffler on Route 135 at the Framingham-Natick line earlier today.

I’ve had two exhaust systems put on the ‘93 Olds (which we affectionately call “Whitey”) since buying it in late November of 1997.  I had all the paperwork which showed I had a “lifetime” muffler from Meineke.  Now, everybody repeat after me:  “Meineke lies- you cannot believe them!”  In case anyone is having trouble figuring that one out, it’s because Meineke lies- you cannot believe them.

Back in the ‘90s and very early 2000s, there was a very nice heavyset guy around 60 who ran that Meineke shop.  He was a very pleasant, honest, generous guy.  I’m not sure if he retired or what, but he no longer runs the place.  The last time I was at Meineke was last November with my 1989 Volkswagen Golf.  The new manager (or “owner” or whatever) was a skinny dark-haired bespectacled guy around thirty.  He was also a very nice guy in every way.  He even gave me a clergy discount.

Today’s manager or owner or whatever was young, fat, dark-haired, BADLY in need of a shave and talked like he had a mouth full of marbles.  Unlike those other two guys he had NO personality- and I mean NO personality.  And, unlike those other two guys he had no compassion.  He flatly refused to treat the muffler as a “lifetime” muffler.  He had a couldn’t care less attitude.  My daughter Rachel has been paying for Whitey’s repairs.  We are going to let her use Whitey at Westfield State College this year.  She leaves on Monday.  She gave me $140 in cash toward the exhaust system work which cost over $300.  My wife had high hopes for today as it’s our Anniversary.  Well, so much for those high hopes.  I also took Whitey for an inspection sticker (to a gas station where we usually go.  The gas station guy is foreign which does not help because I am terrible with understanding foreign accents.)  The bottom line is there was an emissions problem and I have to bring the car back after two.  So it’s been a lousy day so far, but it could have been a LOT better if the Meineke guy had been reasonable.  As far as I’m concerned, I was ripped off for at least $160 at Meineke.

Will we write a complaint letter to Meineke corporate offices?  Probably, although I suspect it won’t do any good.  And, although I’ve got those “lifetime muffler” slips for my ‘89 VW and our 2000 Dodge Caravan, it’s likely I will go to Midas or somewhere  else next time.

It’s too bad so many businesses and business people care so much about the BUCK and so little about service and customer relations- in other words, PEOPLE.

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
(Luke 6:31)

Saturday, August 26, 2006


“And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:” (Luke 10:8)

My last entry was about my bad experience of flying home from the Midwest on Northwest Airlines.  Today will talk about one of the more “interesting” (bizarre?) things that happened on the drive out to Missouri.  In the late afternoon of Wednesday the 16th, Amy and I crossed the border from Indiana into Illinois.  It was getting near supper time, and we were both pretty hungry.  At noontime, each of us had eaten an ice cream cone in western Ohio; by late afternoon we were really hungry.  There was a sign in eastern Illinois for “The Stockyards” restaurant.  It was not one of those 1950s style billboards.   It was one of the federal highway signs were they list the specific restaurants (just like they do for “lodging” and “fuel”).  Wow “The Stockyards”.  That sounded really good.  It had to be on the level of at least a Ponderosa steak house- maybe it was even on the level of Framingham’s Ken’s Steak House.  We drove off Interstate 70 at the designated exit.  Once off the highway things were very confusing.  We were in Greenup, Illinois.  To put it nicely, Greenup was a very rural and pretty poor community.  We drove around and couldn’t see any restaurant nearby.  Finally, I stopped and asked a guy mowing his lawn with a riding mower how to get to The Stockyards.  (His yard was not all that big and his house was small and a “dump”.  I wonder if it would even have been worth $40,000.)  He gave us directions.  The restaurant was about a mile away, in the middle of downtown Greenup.  Yes, there is a downtown Greenup.  Do you remember downtown Cicely, Alaska in Northern Exposure?  It was like that only a little worse.

Do you remember The Brick bar and restaurant in Northern Exposure?  The Stockyards was like that, only smaller and much dumpier.   Standing just outside the door was a man who looked remarkably like an elderly Art Carney.  With a hick accent he kept saying, “It ain’t 4:30 yet,” implying the restaurant was not open.  In fact, it was 5:15.  (Yes, we were now in Central time but we HAD factored in the difference.)  He opened the door.  The inside was not well lighted.  There were several round tables of the type you usually would see for the pancake breakfast at the V.F.W. hall.  In the middle of the room was a moveable wooden partition.  “Art Carney” poked his head to the left and said, “They’s eatin’ in there”.  On the left side were a few more of those “V.F.W. tables” with a few people seated.  There was also a large bar with a female bartender.  Our escort ordered up a drink.  We sat at a table.  Back to the Northern Exposure analogy, we were waited on by a pretty “Shelley Tambeau” type in her twenties.  Each of us ordered the hamburger platter.  The hamburgers were huge and very good.  The buns were uncooked, pasty and not good.   The “steak fries” were pretty good.  The sodas were filled with crushed ice and almost more like “slushies”.  I would love to see the photos’s Michelle Swartz would have taken of this place were it possible for her to visit it!  This was NOT Framingham, however.  People were puffing away on their Marlboros and Parliaments like it WAS 1956!

Well, that was Greenup.  I’m sure you’re all making notes and planning a visit...or not...

Thursday, August 24, 2006


This morning, I’m back to the blog after being away from New England for nine days or so!  I’ll probably share some things about my road trip to Missouri in the next entry, but today I want to talk about my (to use a Don Imus term) “awful” trip home on Northwest Air on Tuesday!

My daughter Amy drove me to the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport, Missouri airport (there, it’s SO convenient- just down the street!) and came in to accompany me as I checked my suitcase and got my boarding pass.  The female Northwest employee (who was perhaps from India) was kind of curt.  “She just doesn’t want to do her job!” was Amy’s comment to me, and I agreed.  At Springfield, MO, most of the carriers have their gates and waiting areas in an attractive upstairs terminal.  Northwest’s was on the first floor kind of “off the beaten path” if there’s such a thing at an airport.  The flight from Missouri left on time and arrived at Detroit on time.  I was surprised that no connecting information was announced toward the end of the flight.  That’s usually done on United and virtually always done on American.

I had never been to Detroit airport before.  The place was much bigger than I’d expected.  It was smaller than Chicago O’Hare where I usually connect through, but pretty big.  Upon checking “Departures”. my Northwest flight to Providence was listed as leaving on time (9:12 p.m.) but there was no gate listed.  I checked another screen and it listed Gate 12.  It was a hike, but I wanted to make sure I was there by 8:35, and I was- only there was no plane sitting outside.  Shortly thereafter, an airline employee announced there was a delay and we’d be departing at 10:30.  Young kids fidgeted and elderly folks were frustrated but most of us just sat and waited.  Little did I know, that was only the beginning.  In a short while, the departure time was changed to 11:55!  We were told the plane was coming from Chicago Midway, was being repaired and that no other plane was available for us.  Since Detroit is Northwest’s hub, and there are planes and flight crews available all over the place, we found that hard to believe.  In time, the departure time was changed to 1:15, then to 1:55, then to 2:20, then to 3:00 a.m.  At five minutes before one, it was announced that the flight was canceled!  We were told we’d have to get in line and get new boarding passes for another flight on Wednesday.  Customers were also being given hotel vouchers for the airport Best Western hotel.  After a time, it was announced the flight was NOT canceled but would be leaving at 7:00 a.m.!  Some people already had boarding passes for later flights and were gone to the hotel.

Most people opted for the hotel.  I was one of six who did not.  I knew I’d never sleep and I’d only be at the hotel for about two hours, so what was the point.  A number of people who’d gone to the hotel regretted it.  One told of bugs in his room biting him.  Another told of banana peels in the room.  Another had trouble with getting the water to drain in the shower.

A Northwest employee did tell those of us in the terminal of some more comfortable chairs (living room type) in another part of the terminal where we could sack out.  I got there around 2:15.  At 3:15 the Northwest employee came by and gave us all breakfast vouchers good at the restaurants in the terminal.  I “got up” just before 5 and had breakfast at McDonald’s.  I’d say I actually “slept” for one hour.  

The plane actually took off at 7:30.  This particular plane was noisy and to me just didn’t feel right.  Honestly, I was scared it would crash on takeoff, but we made it to Rhode Island just before 9 a.m.  At T.F.Greene airport, there was a power failure and they were operating on an emergency generator.  I had fun using the facilities in a pretty dark Men’s room.  The electricity came back on shortly thereafter, but we waited and waited for our baggage.  Regarding baggage that did not seem to be forthcoming, one guy was told “that’s all there is, file a claim” by an airport employee!  That did not sound right to me.  We were then sent to one baggage area and then to another, but we finally got our baggage.  At least that was a GOOD thing!

One thing I did not tell you is that passengers who’d arrived at Detroit around 7 (I got there at 8) were sent to Gate 66, then abruptly sent to Gate 12, so that was another negative experience.  This blog entry is the condensed version of the trip home.  I don’t plan to fly Northwest again.  I hope you won’t, and I hope you’ll tell your friends.

I know I always have some Bible reference for my blog entries.  This one is a little long, so I won’t write it out, I’ll just give the reference.  It’s Acts 16:35-38.  There, after having been mistreated at Philippi by the local officials, Paul is told to just go in peace.  Paul did not “turn the other cheek” that time - he verbally let them have it!  I think the reference fits!

Sunday, August 13, 2006


“And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.”  (Luke 13:22)

I’m such a creature of habit that it’s scary.  It’s hard to believe that this blog is now over six months old!  I’ve gotten into the HABIT of posting three entries a week on the blog:  Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Well, for the next couple of weeks, that’s all going to be “thrown out the window” so to speak!  On Tuesday morning, I’m leaving on a journey with my daughter Amy.  We’ll be driving to Springfield, Missouri.  I’ll be helping her move back into her dorm room at Evangel University.  I’ll spend a few days in Springfield, and I fly back to T.F. Greene airport in Rhode Island on Tuesday, August 22.  (My connection is in Detroit- the largest Arab-American community in the U.S.A.  I’m just THRILLED to be flying soon - “NOT!”)

Anyway, back to the title:  Journey.  This is not my first journey to Springfield, Missouri.  Springfield, Missouri is where the headquarters of the Assemblies of God is located.  It’s kind of like what Salt Lake City is to the Mormons and what Rome is to Catholics.  Thus it’s kind of like a “mini-Jerusalem” to some of us...”the holy city!” .  The AG (short for “Assemblies of God”) has all sorts of institutions in Springfield including a Bible College, a seminary, and Evangel University a “university of the arts and sciences”.  I first went to Springfield in 1977- sight unseen - to enroll in Central Bible College.  In those days, I made the trip between the Boston area and the Missouri Ozarks a number of times.  Between May 1979 and Feb. 2002, I was away from Springfield, Missouri, but now with Amy attending Evangel there have been a bunch of trips.

If you’re reading this during our road trip, do pray for us.  Back when I was in my twenties I was once broken down for five days just outside Union, Missouri.  It was a dreadful experience!  Depending upon how fast you drive (and I’m NOT a real fast driver) you can drive to Springfield in twenty-four to twenty-eight hours (actual driving time).  AAA routes you across Pennsylvania on Interstate 80 (because it’s NOT a toll road).  I’ve done that route a few times and I HATE it!  For the past several trips, I’ve taken Interstate 90 (toll roads) from Framingham, MA across New York State, through Buffalo, and then south to the PA border.  At Erie, PA, I get off and take Interstate 71 South.  After a little over an hour on 71, I get on 80 (but only for a short distance) and follow it to the Ohio line.  There, at Hubbard, Ohio, we like to spend the night at Truck World, a truckers’ paradise.  It would take me one whole blog entry to talk about Truck World.  Maybe I’ll do that after I return.  From there, you take 80 to 76 through the Akron/Canton area.  I always feel sobered when I see the Exit for “Kent State University”.  Ultimately, we follow 76 to the Columbus area, where you get on the 270 beltway, and then pick up Interstate 70 West.   There are always all sorts of Eighteen-Wheelers on 70.  You pass farms, and cows, and farms, and cows, and farms and cows, and when your’re through with that, you pass farms and cows!  You DO go right through Indianapolis, IN, home town of NBC’s Jane Pauley.  (I just happen to know trivia like that!)  

Interstate  70 goes all the way to St. Louis.  We hope to spend a night somewhere in Illinois.  Maybe another time I’ll tell you about the night I stayed at the St. Elmo Motel in very rural St. Elmo, Illinois.  It was a Bates Motel - TOTALLY.  Amy was really freaked out (and although I tried to act cool, so was I!).  

At St. Louis, you pick up  Interstate 44.  (Incidentally, for those of you who think the Mississippi River is really impressive- it ain’t.  The Cape Cod Canal is more impressive!)  It’s one of those tricky highway situations where there are like 8 lanes and you have 3 seconds to get in the 44 West lane or you’re DEAD.  But, once you’re on 44, it’s 200 miles to Springfield.  Actually, 44 is undergoing MAJOR reconstruction to make a twenty-first century state-of-the-art highway out of a poorly constructed 1950s Interstate.  The construction can really slow you down.

Have you fallen asleep yet?  How’d you like to DRIVE that route?!
So, pray for us.  The Lord willing, I will have my next blog entry sometime around Aug. 24 or 25.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


“I read the news today, oh, boy,” laments The Beatles’ 1967 song, “A Day in the Life”.  Well, I read the news yesterday morning and as that song goes on to say, “the news was rather sad.”  No, I’m not talking about what the terrorists had planned for transatlantic flights, although that IS devastating news, indeed.  I’m talking about the local Framingham situation about Grace Congregational Church and its struggle to build a new facility.  To be blunt:  they lost.  Well, to be much more accurate, they lost this round, but their battle continues on.

This should all be a no brainer:  A half-acre lot in a residential neighborhood which borders a heavily retail/commercial area.  For over forty years a Jehovah’s Witnesses “Kingdom Hall” (and its parking lot) was located on the half-acre site.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses have relocated to Ashland.  The property was sold to Grace Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation which has been in existence in Framingham for many years.  The church originally considered remodeling the “Kingdom Hall” but the building had so many serious structural issues that it just was not feasible.  The old building has been torn down.  The church’s architect has drawn up plans for a SLIGHTLY SMALLER building than previously existed on the property, along with plans for a parking lot for 34 cars. Incidentally, I forgot to mention that the small church has fewer than fifty people in attendance for Sunday services.  

Considering the facts, what’s the problem?  Two things.  First,  although the Jehovah’s Witness facility was “grandfathered in” the Town now requires all “commercial” buildings (don’t even get me started about what a nuisance it is that a church is considered a “commercial” building!) in that part of Framingham to be located on sites that are at least one acre in size.  The lot is half the (now) required size.  Two, several of the neighbors have “pitched a fit” (my phrase) about Grace Congregational Church relocating there.  Wow, let’s see.  It’s a TERRIBLE thing for a small Protestant Church to be located on that site...but what was located on that site for the past forty years?  Well, the issue has become a hot potato for the “powers that be” at the Framingham Memorial Building.  (Our church went through a similar  nightmare in the mid-1990s but this is not the time to talk about that.)

Some weeks ago, I was pleased to attend a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding this issue.  I spoke out on behalf of Grace Congregational Church, and I was pleased to do so.  I guess I should have figured out that when Chairman Phil Ottaviani referred to me as “my friend” it was not a good omen.  I don’t mean anything personal against Ottaviani, and I’m sure he’s a nice guy.  But that’s been my life experience when people say, “my friend” in those public, legal kind of situations.  This week the Z.B.A.  denied Grace Congregational Church’s proposal, citing lack of parking as the main issue.  According to the article in the MetroWest Daily News, the church has been other plans in mind, and ultimately the issue could be taken to court.

I know, I know.  They DIDN’T have the one acre lot size.  Ottaviani is quoted as saying a line had to be drawn in the sand.  Well, I’ll give the Z.B.A. a “line” from the Bible.  It’s from 2 Corinthians 3:6.  “...for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

Friday, August 11, 2006


I'm happy to say that along with two other Framingham bloggers I'm featured in The Framingham TAB for today- Friday, August 11.
Overall, I'm pleased with the article, and I'm thrilled that I'm in two photos- one on the front page and one on page 12.  I will say that their online story has some pretty poor editing.  The photo shown is that of blogger Michelle Swartz and is labeled as me!  Maybe she'll have some thoughts on that one on her blog!  I'm not really worried about the online story...the hard copy is good!  Incidentally, thanks to First A/G church member Tim McCarthy for letting me know about the online photo!  He's an optician, so it figures he has a sharp eye!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


“...A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.”  (from Matthew 13:57).

I feel bad that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman lost his Democratic Primary race on Tuesday of this week.  I’m a registered Republican, and I’m conservative on MOST issues, but I still feel bad.  Lieberman was first elected to the Senate in 1988.  You may remember that he was the Democrat’s Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000.  Listeners to “Imus in the Morning” regularly hear Joe Lieberman on the air with Don Imus.  After John McCain, Joe Lieberman is probably Don Imus’ favorite U.S. Senator.  

I actually flirted with voting Democrat in the 2000 election.  MY candidate that year was John McCain.  I was deeply disappointed that McCain was not the Republican nominee that year.  Frankly, I was not very impressed with George W. Bush.  Yes, I know he’s a born-again Christian, like me.  But as my sister (also a big McCain supporter) put it that year, “We’re not voting for the preacher, we’re voting for the President”.  Ultimately, I voted for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan in 2000, but it was Joe Lieberman who almost motivated me to vote Gore-Lieberman.

Unlike most American Jewish people, Joe Lieberman is NO worldly, secular Jew.  NO!  Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew.  He takes his faith very seriously.  In the 2000 campaign, he absolutely refused to campaign on the Sabbath.  Joe Lieberman has taken tremendous “flack” because Orthodox Jews make women sit separately in their synagogues and essentially believe the man is the head.  He has never “caved in” on what he believes.  Lieberman is a man I could give my respect to as President, no problem.  Would he make a better President than George W. Bush?  I think so.  Ironically, it was George W. Bush’s “kissing” of him in public earlier this year, and the fact that Lieberman is Bush’s favorite Democratic Senator that did Lieberman in.

Joe Lieberman has angered the ultra-liberal Democrat activists in that he’s now running for his U.S. Senate seat as an Independent.  I know many think an Independent can’t win.  I think an Independent CAN win!  Back in 1972, Massachusetts experienced a unique congressional election in which an Independent won.  I think it was the 9th District.  Whatever the number, it’s the District that includes South Boston,Milton, Canton and a few other communities.  Today, that District is represented by Lynch.  In 1972, the Democrat incumbent was conservative Louise Day HIcks.  The Republican challenger was a guy named Miller.  I forget his first name.  The Independent was Joe Moakley.  Moakley had huge billboards which read, “Give ‘Em Hell, Joe!”  I don’t like that, because I consider it swearing.  But, Moakley did indeed “give it to ‘em”!  Moakley won.  Within a year of being sworn in, Moakley had an epiphany and declared himself a Democrat.  He served as a relatively conservative Democratic congressman for many years and passed away a few years ago.

I want to see a good guy like Joe Lieberman win, so I’ll say, “Give ‘Em Heaven, Joe!”

Tuesday, August 8, 2006


"...That thou doest, do quickly."  (from John 13:37).  In the NEW King James Version, it reads, "...What you do, do quickly."

Procrastination.  My paperback dictionary defines it as, "to put off doing (something) until later; delay."  It comes from the Latin "pro" meaning "forward" and "cras" meaning "tomorrow".  One trait I really dislike in people is a tendency to procrastinate.  I think I wrote something about procrastination some time ago on this blog, but it's on my mind today, so I'm going to write about it again!

My late parents were each procrastinators.  I think my father was the worst of the two, but both were really bad.  They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  Well, they did so much procrastinating they built several interstate highways!  (Thank God they each put their trust in Jesus and went to Heaven!)  While I don't ALWAYS succeed, I try very strongly to NOT be a procrastinator!  I try to get things done.

Over the years I've heard people talk (or in many cases boast) of all the things they're going to do.  Some have talked and talked and talked- and still little (if anything) is done.  Have you ever seen "a round tuit"?  It's actually a card in the shape of a circle with the word "tuit" printed in the middle.  You're supposed to give one to someone who is always saying, "I will do this or that when I get around to it".  Well, give them "a round tuit" and they won't have much choice!

My parents left so many unfinished projects.  They left so much undone.  It's really tough to "inherit" what's left behind by people who really needed someone to give them a round tuit.  What is it you've been meaning to do?  My advice, well do it, already!

We've had a sinkhole in our church parking lot since early March.  A large metal plate and orange rubberized cone cover the sinkhole.   Our paving contractor is right around the corner.  I have lost track of how many phone calls I've made to the paving contractor- how many little notes I've written to the paving contractor- I even gave the paving contractor a $10. gift card to Dunkin' Donuts and wrote with it something like, "This is a thank you in advance for getting to our sinkhole repair soon."  That Dunkin' gift card was over two months ago.  It's not like I'm asking them to do it for free.  We're a paying customer!  In writing this piece I realize I should have given the paving contractor "a round tuit".  Incidentally, if you want to know the name of the paving contractor, just e-mail me and I'll let you know.  And, if you know of a good, FAST, paving contractor, let ME know!

I know from my other pastor friends that pastors are constantly frustrated with things around the church and around the parsonage not getting done.  They're constantly frustrated with promises from church people NOT being kept.  I know one woman who says, "But it's NOT like this in a BIG church."  Actually, it is.  I was on staff at a big church, and I know it can be.  I also know big church pastors who are just as frustrated as small church pastors.  Instead of 8 promises not being kept at the small church, there are 80 of those not being kept at the big church.

Dealing with procrastinators is tough- especially if the procrastinators are volunteers and/or are relatives.  You want to just get in their faces and yell at them like Sergeant Carter of the old Gomer Pyle show, or like Chef Gordon Ramsay of the new Hell's Kitchen show.  But you have to be civil, so you just CAN'T.

I guess that's why I'm writing this today.  In many areas of my life right now I'm dealing with procrastinators.  Like the line from "Old MacDonald" it's "here a procrastinator, there a procrastinator, everywhere a procrastinator"!

What have you given your word you're going to do?  Do it!
What do you see that needs to be done and you can take care of it?  Do it!

I realize the Bible verse I quoted above is Jesus telling Judas to hurry up and get the business of betraying Him over with!  But, think of it, if even Jesus was saying to Jesus, "Hurry up and get the business of betraying me over with!"  He mustn't like procrastination either!

Saturday, August 5, 2006


Once again, the evangelical Christian community has been set up, manipulated, used, and abused?  When will we ever learn? Unless you live in a cave in Papua New Guinea, I'm sure you've heard about the arrest of actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson for drunken driving which happened about a week ago.  I'm sure you heard that he manifested what I call a "mouth like a cesspool".  The worst part of all was his railing against the Jews, saying, "F__king Jews!" and "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world".

If anyone needs to pause to throw up, I understand.  Gibson has said he is not anti-semetic and that it's all a mistake.  He wants to meet with Jewish community leaders.  It's been rumored for years that Mel Gibson is anti-semetic.  Many Jewish people believed "The Passion of the Christ" was a very anti-semetic film.  The overwhelming majority of evangelical Christians did NOT believe it was an anti-semetic film.  I did not, and I still don't.  True, the  majority of Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day are presented in a very bad light.  The truth is the New Testament itself presents them in a very bad light.  But Jesus was Jewish!  All Twelve Apostles were Jewish.  Did you know that even Saint Paul AFTER his conversion on the Damascus Road calls himself "a Jew" and "a Pharisee" several times but NEVER "a Christian"?  You see, most born-again Christians see the Jews as the good guys, but believe the majority of their leadership at the time of Jesus was corrupt and therefore (along with the Romans) were "the bad guys".  For those reasons we defended and defended Mel Gibson at the time the film "The Passion of the Christ" was released.  We also defended the bloody scenes of Jesus.  If anything, the depiction of Jesus' suffering was NOT STRONG ENOUGH.  Jesus suffered and died for our sins and to make a way for us to be in right relationship with God.  The fact that Romans executed Jesus and that corrupt Jewish leaders encouraged this execution are details that (believe it or not) evangelical Christians don't see as all that important.

But Mel Gibson was not honest with us.  In fact, Gibson is not an evangelical Christian.  He is a very strict and old-fashioned Roman Catholic.  He belongs to a sort of "off beat" Roman Catholic group that says the mass in Latin and holds to pre-Vatican II doctrines, practices, and beliefs.Gibson heavily courted the support of evangelical Protestants for his film.  He believed  he'd get more support (and money) from us than from average American Roman Catholics.  Of course, he was right.  Had he said something to us like, "Support my film and stick it to those f__king Jews,"  I wonder how many born-again Christians would have supported his film?  In my opinion, the numbers would have greatly dropped off.  That also would be true for all of his other anti-semetic comments.

Traditional Roman Catholicism believes in "doing penance"- in doing good works to make up for the bad things you do.  Did Gibson think that making that film and trying to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel would make up for his faults?  Maybe.  If that's the case, Gibson got it all wrong.

Many of us in one way or another fell for Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and others.  And, I admit I pretty much was duped my Mel Gibson.  Maybe he should change his name to Mal Gibson- he's quite a malefactor.

"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." (Matthew 12:36).

Thursday, August 3, 2006


"Honour thy father and thy mother:  that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."  (Exodus 20:12)

Yesterday, August 2, 2006 was a very significant date for me.  It marked exactly six years since my mother died- it was also on a Wednesday, August 2, 2000.  Virginia M. (Richard) Baril was seventy-six at the time of her death.  She died of multiple myeloma, commonly known as "bone cancer".  August 2, 2000 was a horrible day for me.  My father had died only a few weeks earlier on June 9, 2000.  My mother spent her final three weeks as a patient at Caritas Norwood Hospital.  My wife, my sister and I slept in the room over the night of August 1 as my mother was SO close to death.  That night was a Red Sox "marathon" game against Seattle which went until almost four in the morning- and the Sox lost.  Given the fact that my mother was a big Red Sox fan, it was probably significant.  Mom was pretty much semi-conscious and/or in a coma for her final three or four days.  As I literally sat at her bedside singing hymns at 8 a.m. on that August morning, she passed away.  Some people joke that maybe my singing was THAT bad!  Maybe- but it was an honor to be there at her passing.  THAT morning, it did not feel like an honor.  I was sobbing and inconsolable.  Both parents within a few weeks time.  It was just too much!

I have a sadness as I think of my mother.  There is so much she wanted to do  that just never happened.  She loved European history and very much wanted to visit Europe, especially Scotland and France, the lands of her ancestors.  It never came to pass.  She wanted to visit Prince Edward Island.  That also never happened.  Mom wanted to graduate from college.  Although she did complete roughly a year at Northeastern University in the late 1940s, she never earned a college degree.  Mom loved poetry.  She loved to read.  She loved fine dining.  She would have loved being the wife of a mild mannered professor of medieval history or some other such kind of guy.  She would have loved having a large income so she could travel and pursue her interests.  Alas, that never happened.  Whether my father was the best match for her or not is debatable.  Since she (like me) was terribly unhandy, the fact that he was a "Mr. Fix It" came in handy.  Since she was not a very brave person, the fact that he was a very macho police officer type also came in handy.   Overall, however, Virginia M. Baril was not a happy person.  She struggled with depression.  Well, she really didn't struggle with it, she gave in to it.  She was also a deeply religious person, but fretted that God did not give her the pleasant life she so desperately wanted.  She was a VERY private person- yet it seemed like "everybody" knew her.  Mom would have been surprised that far more people attended her funeral than attended my father's.  Many felt that in one way or another she touched their life.

I gave her eulogy.  I compared her to George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" who never saw HIS hopes and dreams accomplished, but who touched more lives and affected more people than he possibly could have imagined.

Genetics can bring weird results.  I have my father's sense of humor and my father's public speaking ability.  I also have my mother's tendency toward depression and toward wanting an easier, more comfortable life.  I do "struggle" with these tendencies every day.  You only have one mother.  Yes, mine died on August 2, 2000.  Six years later, there is still a great sense of loss.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light:  and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops”  (Matthew 10:27).

I hope somebody from the MetroWest Daily News reads this piece!  I was assigned to write the July column for the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association and I submitted it to the paper on June 29.  It was a reflection on the American flag- especially the flag desecration issue, and was intended to be published close to the Fourth of July.

I almost called this blog entry, “I Feel Like Bob Carpenter!”.  Bob Carpenter was the Interim Pastor at First Baptist Church on Route 9 in Framingham for a year or so.  Twice he submitted columns for the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association to the MetroWest Daily News- intended to be the clergy’s regular monthly column formally agreed to by the MetroWest Daily News- and they were never printed.  Our year at F.I.C.A. (No, it’s not Social Security; it’s the Clergy Association!) runs parallel to the school year- from September through June, although our monthly columns with the paper run throughout the year.  This is something that Joe Dwinell from the paper formally committed to us at least three years ago.  I have been privileged to have some columns written for F.I.C.A., and I have had several columns printed that were independent of F.I.C.A. - just “Bob Baril opinion columns”.  It feels great when the paper publishes your column, and it feels lousy and very much like a rejection when they don’t.  I can accept that some of my personal opinions will bomb out, but the MetroWest Daily News has made a formal commitment to the clergy to run a monthly column for us.  When they don’t, it leaves you with that feeling of, “Well. you’re just a bunch of religious people who don’t matter”, and, well, it doesn’t feel good.

I realize that this has been a busy news month.  I’m sure the paper would have preferred a column dealing with the fighting between Israel and Hezbola (or however it’s spelled) or a column about the Big Dig and forgiveness or something like that.  But the column I wrote on June 29 made perfect sense, AND met the paper’s requirement to be in as early as possible.  

I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my dreams is to be a paid newspaper columnist or a radio talk show host.   I’ve been interested to note that when the paper DOES run a column of mine (whether a F.I.C.A. column or a “Bob Baril opinion column”) it tends to get good feedback. One time someone that I honestly don’t know called the Speak Out line to commend me being a “fresh new voice”.  So how about it MWDN?  Can this “fresh new voice” be heard once in awhile?  And, can you at least honor the commitment you made to F.I.C.A.?