Friday, December 29, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


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

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

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

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

We “made the rounds” to relatives homes yesterday.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 23, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 16, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 15, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

THE iMac GRAY SCREEN OF DEATH (extra entry)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 9, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, 'tis the season to be jolly!

Thursday, December 7, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I lied.

“What did he say?”

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 3, 2006

AMY ASKED ME TO WATCH IT (special posting!)

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

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

Saturday, December 2, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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