Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"WHEN BLACK IS WHITE" (extra entry)

I urge you to check out Jennie Maroney's OUTSTANDING letter to the Editor "When Black is White" in the Wednesday, February 28, 2007 MetroWest Daily News.  (The MWDN can also be fund on-line at

Jennie has done a great job defending and praising State Senator Scott Brown.

I have been absolutely disgusted by the way Scott Brown has been treated in the media.   The worst part has been callers to talk radio trashing Scott Brown as if he were at best Howard Stern and at worst some lowlife scrawuling obscenities on a wall someplace.

Senator Scott Brown is a class act guy.  It is a disgrace that statements against Scott Brown and his daughter Aiyla Brown featuing the worst kind of profanities and obscenities were posted on-line  by King Philip High School students.  When Brown appeared as a guest at the school and read verbatim the statements that had been made by them, HE was condemned!  This has deeply bothered me.  I had seriously considered writing a blog piece about it, and because of some past incidents, I was so nervous of being accused of approving of profanity and obscenity that even I allowed political correctness to silence me.  Today, I'm ashamed of that.  I SHOULD have spoken out!

Jennie Maroney deserves a round of applause, as does Senator Brown.

Thank you, Jennie!

God bless you, Senator Scott Brown!

"Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; ..." (from Isaiah 5:20)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


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

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the occasion of the “First Birthday” of this blog.  I mentioned that the main reason I started a blog is that is was recommended in a powerful article in “Leadership” which is a journal for ministers.  The author of the piece about blogs strongly recommended that a minister’s blog should NOT be political.  (Maybe that’s because so many people stereotype evangelicals as being part of the “religious right”.)  For the MOST part I have steered clear of politics on this blog, although probably three or four pieces over the past year HAVE been quite political.  I very much doubt the pastor who wrote the article about blogs in “Leadership” would be happy with what I’m doing today.  He might even think what I’m doing is crazy, because today I’m crazy enough to tell you what I think of the presidential candidates and who I want to be the next President.   After you read this, you may well think my political judgment IS crazy...but I MIGHT THINK THE SAME THING ABOUT YOUR POLITICAL JUDGMENT!

I’ve been “all over the place” politically over my lifetime.  My parents were registered Democrats.  My father was a conservative Democrat.  I’d say the famous Boston city councilor Albert “Dapper” O’Neil would very much exemplify his politics.  My mother was a moderate Democrat who leaned slightly left.  I think Jimmy Carter and Edmund Muskie very much reflected her politics.  When I registered at eighteen, I did not choose either party.  I voted for George McGovern for President in 1972 and I voted for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976.  A major change took place in my political philosophy between 1976 and 1980, however.  By 1980, I was pretty firmly conservative in my beliefs and I had changed my registration to Republican.  My parents were “Reagan Democrats”, and in 2000 (less than 5 months before her death) my mother changed her registration to “Unenrolled” and voted for John McCain in the Republican primary.

I know, I know, I said I’d talk about who I want for President and I’m not getting to the point.  Well, I’ll try to do that now.  I really don’twant any of the Democrats running to be President.  By far the WORST choice for President would be Hillary Rodham Clinton.  I know this is really blunt, and I don’t HATE Hillary, but I do agree with Don Imus that she is “a phony”.  Like Bill Clinton, Hillary checks out the polls and then voices her opinion.  I believe that in her heart, Hillary is, (as Jay Severin says) “a dedicated Marxist”, but she’ll say ANYTHING to get elected.  Well, more correctly, she’ll SHRIEK anything to get elected President.  Would I leave the country if Hillary is elected President?  I very much DON’T think that she’ll be elected President, but IF it happens, yes there’s actually a chance I would leave the country.  I think Barak Obama is a very charismatic and interesting guy, but he’s too inexperienced at the national level to be running for President, and he is just to liberal for my taste.  Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico actually isn’t TOO bad, nor is Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.  A weird as it may sound to some of you, I kind of like John Edwards, despite that crazy line he delivered in 2004 about cripples leaping out of their wheelchairs if the Democrats were elected.  But NONE of them move me enough for me to want them to be President.

I know Mitt Romney is the darling of many of the local radio talk show hosts.  I did vote for Mitt for Governor in 2002.  I also voted for Mitt for U.S. Senator against Kennedy back in 1994.  I think Mitt was a “just O.K.” governor.  He wasn’t terrible.  He wasn’t great.  He was “just O.K.”  I think his health care plan is totally stupid and will not work.   I am DEAD against that health care plan, and I’m really embarrassed that a Republican put it on the table!  Mitt also raised so many fees, I’m surprised he doesn’t just change his name from Mitt Romney to “Mitt Fee”.  (Incidentally “Fee” is a real last name.  I know a guy named Mark Fee!)  I will not vote for Mitt Romney in the Massachusetts Republican primary in 2008.  Mitt has changed his positions on gay rights and on abortion.  Mitt has gone from being a moderate (left-leaning) Republican to supposedly being the Second Coming...of RONALD REAGAN.  I know, I know, Ronald Reagan was once a liberal Democrat.  But Ronald Reagan’s politics evolved over a number of decades and not over a couple of years.  The Mormon religion thing WILL hurt Romney.  I’ve already indicated I’ve voted for him in the past and his religion is not a factor for me, but it IS a factor for many evangelicals.  

Rudy Guliani is (on most issues) a liberal Republican.  When it comes to faithfulness in his marriages, well, just the word “marriages” pretty much says it all... he WASN’T.  I’ve heard Guliani is kind of an arrogant and not likable guy.  That may be, but he made a fabulous mayor of New York during the aftermath of 9/11.  I won’t vote for Guliani in the Massachusetts Republican primary, but I prefer him to Romney.

I will admit I’m troubled by reports (I’m not sure if they’re accurate) that John McCain just changed his position on abortion from pro-life to pro-choice.  If that’s true, it does bother me.  John McCain is NOT perfect.  I don’t ALWAYS agree with him.  I DO deeply respect him.  It really bothers me that many (most?) right-wing Republicans speak of John McCain NOT as a “moderate Republican”, NOT as a “conservative Republican” but as a “LIBERAL”!  In 2000, the George W. Bush people did everything nasty and dirty they could to present McCain as a “LIBERAL” and to encourage conservatives to vote for Bush.  In 2000, I voted for McCain in the Republican primary.  That fall, I voted for Pat Buchanan for President.  I “held my nose” and voted for Bush in 2004, but it was with almost no enthusiasm.  I DO think, incidentally, that George W. Bush is a born-again Christian and that John McCain is NOT.  Even so, I’d take McCain as president ANY day over Bush.  As my sister (who admires McCain even more than I do) says, “You’re NOT voting for the Preacher, You’re voting for the President!”  (Incidentally, George W. Bush may be a born-again Christian, but a “preacher” he ain’t!)

It’s commonly said that McCain is “soft on terrorists”.... that he’d passively let a terrorist ringleader sit and sip lemonade in a pleasantly apportioned cell even though that terrorist may have knowledge of an upcoming event on the level of another 9/11.  If you REALLY think McCain feels that way, I guess there’s nothing I could say to change your mind. John McCain is a PATRIOT.  He’s officially against “torture”.  So am I.  BUT, do you really think if a 9/11 were on the line, he’d let that guy sit and sip lemonade?  No way!

It’s commonly said that McCain is “soft on illegal aliens”.  Actually, he is.  So is George W. Bush.  So is Ted Kennedy.  So are most of our politicians.  I don’t hate illegal aliens.  I think many of them are just trying to better themselves.  All that said...NO they shouldn’t be here illegally.  We DO need to secure our borders.  We do need to go after EMPLOYERS who hire illegal aliens.  We do need to go after landlords who rent illegal apartments- as has happened frequently here in Framingham, MA.  I’d like to see McCain be tougher on this issue, along with the other politicians I’ve  named.  Do you think Romney would be THAT much tougher on illegals than McCain is?  I don’t.  

I DO believe McCain is a pretty straight talker.  The guys who served with John McCain in Vietnam have the HIGHEST of respect for him.  Are you familiar with his life story?  It’s a fascinating life story.  What he underwent as a P.O.W. in Hanoi...well it moves me to tears.   I know we need to be careful (as Christians) of idolatry.  I know McCain definitely has his faults.  I also know if he walked in this room right now, I’d be instantly on my feet saluting.  I’d also be wiping away the tears saying, “Thank you for all you’ve done for this country.”  

As a pastor, I really do TRY to NOT be too political.  I do not give endorsements from the pulpit, and I will not allow voter registration drives or anything like that at church.  BUT, in my PRIVATE life, this is how I feel about John McCain.  Would I consider going up to New Hampshire next winter to stand and hold signs for McCain, or knock on doors to give out literature, and “stuff like that”?  I absolutely will consider that, yes.  I know he’s old.  If elected he will be older than Ronald Reagan was when elected.  It’s a gut feeling; but if John McCain is the Republican nominee, he absolutely will win.  AND, he absolutely will be one of our greatest presidents.  

Yup, I was crazy enough to tell you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


"...wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"  (from Luke 2:49)

Tonight is our church's Annual Business Meeting.  I grew up Roman Catholic.  To most Roman Catholics, the idea of a church Annual Business Meeting is completely foreign.  In the Catholic Church, pretty much everything was owned and decided by the Archdiocese and the people just pretty much did as they were told.  SOME Protestant denominations operate that way, but it's far more common in Protestant circles to have great congregational involvement.  That's where the Congregational Churches get their name.  It's not just "Congregational" Churches that operate in a "congregational" manner, however.  Many Baptist churches and most Pentecostal Churches (including the Assemblies of God) have much congregational involvement.  At our church, each year, "Department  Reports" are presented, the Financial Report is presented and we vote on positions such as Deacons, Board Secretary, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, and Sunday School Superintendent.

If my count is correct, this will be the twenty-first Annual Business Meeting I have conducted at First Assembly of God of Framingham.  Most of them have been pretty bland. Two or three of them featured quite a bit of "fireworks", especially the business meeting of 2001.  I'm not expecting too many "fireworks" tonight.

One thing that's usually surprised me at First Assembly of God of Framingham is that most of the people come to the meeting out of a sense of duty,  seem bored,  seem to want the meeting to go by quickly, and are happy if it does.  At the old Christian Life Center in Walpole, where I was on staff in the 1980s, the Annual Business Meetings were very different.  That church had the luxury of having a fellowship hall separate from the church sanctuary (in Framingham we don't).  At Walpole, they'd serve cheese and crackers and cut up celery and carrots along with cold water during the meeting.  The Walpole Church had their Business Meeting on a week night on the first full week of February.  At least half of the people would be dressed up like they would on a Sunday morning.  Most would come in with lots of interest and enthusiasm.  I remember lots of lively discussion about the financial report and lively discussion about the church's future plans.  The Walpole meetings could be long.  I can remember hours going by and the pastor practically saying, "It's getting late, folks,  can't we close this meeting now?"  NOT that I want our meetings to go THAT long, but I would honestly like to see more people THAT excited and interested in the goings on of the Framingham church.  As a young adult around 20, I remember attending the Annual Business Meeting of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Sharon where I was not a Member but where I WAS a regular attender for a few years.  In that church, the Annual Business Meeting was also a VERY big deal.  I recall it being held on a Friday night.  They'd serve pizza first, then have the meeting.  The Baptist meetings did not run quite as long as the Christian Life Center- Walpole meetings but they were long enough.

There's a certain type of person- like the ones who become Town Meeting Members, who like to sit and talk for hours about sewer covers and easements, and utility poles being moved... you see them on Cable TV at the Town Meeting and at the Selectmen's meetings and Planning Board meetings.  If people can get THAT excited about sewer covers, I think Christians should be able to get excited about conducting church business.

What will happen tonight? Well, I guess I'll have to wait and find out!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed...” (from I Samuel 4:21)

Yesterday’s MetroWest Daily News featured a front page story about General Growth Properties changing the name of The Natick Mall to The Natick Collection.  Yes, it’s a collection, all right.  It’s a collection of extremely upscale specialty stores that have no appeal to a commoner like me.  I haven’t even been to the Natick Mall, or “Collection” or whatever in at least six months, and I have absolutely no desire to go there.

My son Jonathan, (his pen name is jon Baril tk) (don’t ask me what “tk” stands for- it’s one of those weird literary name things like ee cummings) wrote a wonderful piece about the decline of the Natick Mall and the reasons why he will not shop there anymore.  Jon submitted it to the MetroWest Daily News as a column a couple of weeks ago.  They have not run it.  I suspect they won’t, first of all  because it’s long, and secondly because it’s controversial and puts the Natick Mall or whatever you want to call it in a very bad light.  I wish they WOULD run it!  Jon is a phenomenal writer.  He’s got a B.A. in Writing from Emerson College, has a high I.Q. and frankly writes a lot better than I do.  His piece about the decline of the Natick Mall would resonate with a LOT of people around MetroWest.

In the piece, Jon says he is now refusing to call the place the Natick Mall anymore, because whatever it is, it’s no longer the (circa 1999) Natick Mall we all knew and loved.  Jon is now calling the place, “The Blight”.  From now on, I absolutely will NEVER refer to it as “The Natick Mall” nor will I call it “The Natick Collection”.  From now on, it IS “The Blight” with me.  Those who believe “The Blight” is truly a better place are in the same category as the Ford executives in the autumn of 1957 who pronounced the new Edsel “a success” and the Coca-Cola executives in the mid-1980s who touted the “new Coke” as far superior to the old.  

If you like “The Natick Collection” that’s your right.  If you don’t, call it “The Blight”.

Monday, February 19, 2007

RACHEL BANGS 1909-2007

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die;”  (from Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Rachel Bangs passed into Eternity on Sunday morning, February 18, 2007.  She was 97-years-old.  I don’t remember the first time I met Rachel Bangs, but I do know that it was sometime in early 1987.  Rachel had begun attending First Assembly of God of Framingham under the ministry of my predecessor Tom Gurney.  The Rachel Bangs that I knew in the late 1980s was a vibrant, healthy, and active senior citizen.  She was an avid reader.  She had such a deep and detailed knowledge of the Bible you’d swear she held a Divinity degree, but she didn’t.  Rachel was well-educated, however, having been an esteemed Instructor of Chemistry and Home Economics at Framingham State College for a number of years.

I learned pretty quickly not to phone Rachel at home.  Her housemate Jean did not care for her Christian friends, and especially did not like them making telephone calls.  One morning, Jean was pretty rude to me.  I let Jean know that.  Rachel nervously and apologetically got on the line saying, “Now, now, we’re Christians.  We must speak politely to those who are not.”  I got the message.  Rachel lost out on a lot of fellowship at home, and I think that’s too bad.  When Jean was not around, Rachel would phone me, often talking about what passage in the Bible she’d been reading that day.

“Oh, I found a NUGGET in God’s Word today,” she’d say, “and I spent one whole hour just CHEWING on it.”  I don’t suppose just anyone would understand what she was talking about, but I did.  She could spend hours just pouring over one verse of Scripture, digging into the Greek, and various Bible commentaries.  Rachel Bangs did LOVE the Word of God.

Like many of her age group, Rachel was very partial to certain products and brands.  She was a loyal Chrysler Corporation customer. No Chevys or Fords for her!  Her final car was an ‘84 Dodge Aries which she really hated having to part with when her vision failed.  Rachel grew up in the Advent Christian Church.  She wanted to be a Member of an Advent Christian Church in the worst way, but the nearest one to Framingham is in Oxford.  Thus, in a rare break from brand loyalty, she became an active part of First Assembly of God of Framingham.  The Advent Christian Church holds to some unusual Christian doctrines such as “soul sleep” for dead born-again Believers, and annihilation for the wicked dead.  Sometimes, Rachel tried to “sell” me on these.  I’d read her pamphlets, but tell her I just wasn’t buying.   She was O.K. with that.  I had to hand it to her that she knew what she believed and why she believed it, and that’s something you can’t say about a lot of people.  

Rachel loved cats.  Boy did she love cats.  I think she had more cats than anyone I’ve ever known.  As an avid animal lover, she was very critical of former Secretary of the Interior James Watt.  I quickly learned that Rachel’s political views were a little bit more liberal than mine, so I kind of left those topics alone.

Rachel Bangs was also a pack rat!  My own parents were very bad that way, but I think Rachel may have been worse even than they were.  There would “always be some use for” that plastic bowl, or 1966 issue of LOOK Magazine or worn out hairbrush.  Poor Rachel!  Whether she really IS “soul-sleeping” as she believed or in Heaven right now as I believe, she left all that stuff behind.  And that’s quite a lesson, isn’t it.  Whether its millions of dollars of a pile of 67 old plastic bowls, you can’t take it with you.

The 2007 Rachel Bangs was a far cry from the one I met in 1987.  This one was almost totally blind, very hard of hearing, and pretty much confined to a wheelchair.  Honestly, I was happy to hear she’d left this life.  It’s awful to have someone suffering like that.  She’s out of her misery.  Maybe one day in Eternity we’ll talk about nuggets of Scripture again...

Saturday, February 17, 2007


(I’ll likely be posting this on Saturday morning but I’m actually writing it on Thursday at midday.)

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord:  and he delighteth in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)

Naturally speaking, I’m a pretty compulsive planner.  In evangelical Christian circles, we compulsive planners can be in for some pretty condescending criticism.

“What’s the MATTER?!” people ask (and not always so nicely), “Aren’t you TRUSTING in the Lord?!  Aren’t you turning everything over to HIm?!”

In reality we SHOULD be trusting in the Lord and turning everything over to Him, although when people hit me with the above comments, I really want to say, “Aren’t you minding your own business?” (See I Thessalonians 4:11).

Even so, I hate to admit it, but those Christians who DO admonish the compulsive planners HAVE A POINT.  (I just wish they would be a lot nicer and a lot more gracious when they criticize.)  On the one hand, planning is not a bad thing.  Apparently, Jesus carefully planned for the Last Supper (and its details) in the famous “upper room”.  People who don’t plan... well... they “go nowhere fast”!  Yet, God CAN change our plans anytime He chooses.  When He does change our plans, there is always a reason, even though it is not always apparent to us.

As I write, it’s Thursday at midday.  Many people think, “Boy it must be EASY to be pastor of a small church!  There’s almost NOTHING to do!” (It’s like the people who ask me, “Do you WORK, or are you a pastor?”!)  In fact, it’s much harder to pastor a small church than it is to pastor a medium-sized or large one.  In a larger church, the pastor usually has a full-time Secretary/Receptionist.  He usually has a full-time Assistant Pastor. He usually has at least a part-time custodian, and often a full-time custodian.  In REALLY big churches of 2000 or more, the pastor usually doesn’t handle most of the “business stuff”.  There is a full-time professional business manager who does that.  I am blessed to have a 6-hour-a-week volunteer part-time secretary and cleaner, but pretty much everything else is done by me.

Wednesday, we had snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  I stayed home all day.  There was stuff on my “pastor schedule” that did not get done. I did shovel three times on Wednesday.  Today (Thursday) I was up at 5 shoveling out my wife so she could go to work at Marian High School.  The cold and encrusted and hard snow pack was HARDER to shovel than anything I did yesterday.  I drove to the church around 8:30 with a pretty full schedule in mind for the day.  I was dressed “bummy” and had not taken a shower.  I planned to shovel off steps and walkways, do a bit of work, go home and shower, and get ready for a Community Good Friday Service planning meeting on the other side of town.   I was stunned to arrive at the church and find the parking lot NOT plowed!  Our plowing contractor is very good and very reliable and always has the church done quickly- thus I was REALLY surprised.  I drove home and tried unsuccessfully to reach the plowing contractor on the phone.  I did some “personal devotional reading” in the Bible.  I kind of paced around the house.  Then, I drove back to the church at 10 to find things exactly as I’d found them before.  I drove by the plowing guy’s business garage and pounded on the door.  No one answered.  I drove home and this time, I managed to get a woman from the plowing company on the phone.  She was very apologetic and actually was quite surprised our lot HAD NOT been plowed.  She assured me it will be done sometime today.  I felt a lot better, but since I will need to shovel the steps after they plow, I opted to stay in the “bummy” clothes unshowered.  For THAT reason I decided to opt out of the Good Friday planning meeting.  The Rev. Debbie Clark from the northside was disappointed... but I just can’t start cloning Bob Barils.

The Lord willing, eventually, the lot will get plowed.  I’ll get the stairs shoveled.  I’ll take a shower.  And, I’ll start on a lot of work that will be a couple of days behind by the time I do!  Oh, I didn’t tell you what my devotional reading was about.  It was the plagues of Egypt in the Old Testament!  Pharaoh learned that he really wasn’t in control- God was.  And, this pastor is learning the same thing!  Well, I guess an unplowed lot is better than billions of locusts eating everything in their sight!

P.S.  I’m adding THIS part late Friday night.  Today there was a major problem with the church heating system which pretty much tied up most of the morning and early afternoon.  Boy, I guess I really AM learning I’m not in control!  I’m “gonna be really winging it” to get ready for Sunday! A “heads up” is   :  usually when I got into a Sunday THAT “spazzed” is when God is most likely to “show up” in a big way; so you might want to check that out THIS SUNDAY, FEB. 18 !!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


“...this do in remembrance of me.”  (from Luke 22:19)

WIthin the past week, there have been articles about both Grace Congregational Church of Framingham and Federated Church of Ashland in the MetroWest Daily News.  It has surprised me that in both of these articles, the services of these churches were described as "mass".   Actually, Protestant services (with the exception of Episcopalians and Anglicans) are NOT called "mass", they are called "services".   It's a theological distinction, but an important one.   A great illustration from the business world:   Chrysler speaks of its "Hemi" engine, but neither GM nor Ford would EVER use the term "hemi" to describe their engines.

A "mass" is a very sacramental and very formal reenactment of Jesus' sacrifice on  Calvary.   In the Roman Catholic Church, it is called the "Sacrifice of the Mass".   While Episcopalians and Anglicans DO continue that tradition, most Protestants believe Jesus' sacrifice cannot and should not be reenacted as a mass.   It's a very important Protestant theological point.   In the Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican mass, the culmination is the "eucharist" the mystical/tangible body (and blood) of Christ.   That's absent from Protestantism where the elements are strictly seen as symbols.

In a very Roman Catholic area such as Greater Boston, Catholics are so used to calling their services "mass" that they assume every church uses that term, and as I've shown in this brief piece, that's not correct.  I think that the more we understand each other's churches and religion, and understand each others practices, customs, and theology, the better off we'll be!

REMINDER ABOUT D.S.T. (extra entry)

The following is the text of a mass e-mail I sent out today.  I thought I'd also post it on the blog for any who have not received that mass e-mailing :

I wonder if you know that Daylight Savings Time begins EARLIER this year than it has in the past and will last until later in the year than in past years.

This is a front page story in today's (February 14, 2007) MetroWest Daily News
(you can find that on-line at )
and was also Charles Osgood's topic this morning on his CBS radio network program "The Osgood Files."

Between 1987 and 2006, Daylight Savings Time began on the first Sunday of April and ended on the last Sunday of October.  In 2007 it begins on Sunday, March 11 and ends on Sunday, November 4.

The problem is not only that WE are not used to those weekends being time change weekends, BUT MANY OF OUR AUTOMATED DEVICES, COMPUTERS, ETC. are automatically programmed to change in and out of Daylight Savings Time according to the OLD schedule.  Thus, they will be out of sync for a few weeks.  The MetroWest Daily News article (as well as Osgood's radio piece) explain that in certain instances this could cause serious confusion and problems. It's along the same line as the old Y2K scare, although admittedly MUCH less serious.  The MetroWest Daily News states that the time change problem HAS been completely fixed in bank computers and recordkeeping, but may not be fixed with a lot of other institutions and entities.

If nothing else, WE need to be reminded to turn our clocks AHEAD one hour on Saturday night, March 10.  (That is, unless you're in Arizona which stays on Standard Time all year.)

I'd suggest you make a note of clock change which will take place on the March 10-11 weekend, and that you remind others about this!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


“And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”  (John 2:16)

In one of the most dramatic events of Jesus’ ministry, he makes a whip out of cords and goes after the merchants and moneychangers in the Temple, flipping over their tables, and driving them out.  I wonder what the Lord’s opinion of a lot of the merchandising in today’s evangelical churches is.

There’s a Christian musical group that’s been highly recommended to me by several people.  I made an effort to get in touch with the person who handles the groups bookings and that person phoned me a few days ago.

The “booking woman” was very excited to talk to me and very enthusiastic about setting up a booking.  I wanted to make sure she was clear about a couple of things so I stated right up front, “Please understand that our church has limited resources and is very small.”

“That’s NO problem,” she replied, “because we come strictly with TICKET SALES!  You charge $10. a ticket ahead of time.”

I told her my very conservative Board might have a problem with that.  (Actually, I had a problem with that, myself. )
“I’d really prefer you come on a love offering basis,” I said, “I can assure you, you’d get at least $200. in a love offering.”

I don’t think she was impressed.

“Just how many people can your church facility seat?” she asked.
I replied, “Ninety.”

“Oh, THAT small?!” she replied.
She quickly began making excuses.  It was obvious this group had no interest in coming to minister (or is it “perform”?) for ninety people and was not excited about a $200-$300 love offering.

“Maybe you could get a BUNCH OF OTHER LITTLE CHURCHES to go in on this together with you and hold it at a school or something.” she offered.  I indicated that might be a possibility, but in the words of a Harry Chapin song, “I know it’d never be arranged.”

My mind goes back over twenty years to when I was on staff at a large church which seated 650.  One Sunday evening, we had a very famous Gospel group in to minister (or is it “perform”?).  At intermission time, the director of that group insisted on taking the offering.  He told the audience that if they’d have purchased tickets to see their group in a stadium, the tickets would have cost at least $20. apiece.  He had the ushers pass out large envelopes in which they could drop in a $20. check or $20. in cash, and they were instructed to fill in name and address information.

“Now,” he added, “I know some of you may not have $20.”

I fully expected him to tell them that in that case, they ought to just enjoy the concert for free.  But that was not the case.

“We want to give you the opportunity to give, too.”  he said.
“Just fill in your name and address and write ‘CONTACT ME’ on the envelope,” he instructed, “and we’ll send you a reminder that you agreed to MAIL US $20.!”

If I were the Senior Pastor and not an Assistant, I would have grabbed the mike at that point, and the concert would have been over.  I know I would have seemed mean, but I think Jesus would have started throwing stuff around!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


“But covet earnestly the best gifts:  and yet shew I you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:31)

Through the years, I’ve received a number of gifts- birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, graduation gifts, even Valentine’s Day gifts.  I’ve received Cross pen and pencil sets, which I literally have never used.  I’ve received some books which I’ve literally never read.  I actually donated one to the public library.  I received various “gizmos” which have sat on shelves.  Now, I DO like to get gift certificates to restaurants, but last year I got a gift certificate to a classy restaurant, and honestly, the meal was tiny and the experience was MISERABLE.

I’m different.  I’m eccentric.  It’s amazing what gifts will mean a lot to me.  I got a few of them last Friday.

By Friday afternoon (for various reasons) I was in a very sad mood.  I got three e-mails which MADE MY DAY!  One was from Craig Bellisario, principal of New Covenant Christian School in Marlboro.  Craig asked me to be the M.C. of the school’s variety show on a Friday night in March.  I said “yes” almost immediately.  Yes, I WILL have to cancel my Bible Study for that night, but that will be O.K. for one week.  I can’t tell you how much “performing” in front of an audience blesses me.  I’d rather perform in front of an audience than take a trip to Israel.  No kidding.  I’d rather get a speaking engagement at a church of 100 than take a trip to Alaska (and I love travel to Alaska!).  No kidding.  Of course, speaking at a church in Alaska would be the frosting on the cake!  Sometimes I’ve BEGGED people for speaking engagements and performing opportunities, and I’ve been extremely depressed that I had to beg like that.  Craig asking me to be the M.C. literally filled my eyes with happy tears.

Another thing that filled my eyes with tears was a beautiful e-mail from female Messianic Jewish rabbi Tobi Hawksley.  Speaking of trips to Israel, she just got back from Israel  Tobi sent me SUCH an encouraging e-mail, affirming me as a pastor and a gifted man of God.  Again, there were very happy tears.

The final one may sound stupid, but it’s not to me.  My friend Jim Spence let me know he enjoyed a short and funny e-mail I’d sent him and he was forwarding it on to people.  I love when people forward my e-mails.  I admit, some of the mass e-mails I’ve sent out over the years have been really stupid, but THIS one was really funny.  Receiving Jim’s compliment and word that he was forwarding it just made me feel worthwhile.

So you see, it doesn’t take Cross pen and pencil sets, nor books, nor trips to classy restaurants to make me happy.  Those 3 e-mails BLESSED me!!

I will say THIS, though.  If anyone INSISTS on giving me a physical and tangible gift, as Howie Carr would say, “I’m registered at the U.S. Treasury!”

Friday, February 9, 2007


"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth:  and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit."  (Revelation 9:1)

You'd have to have grown up in the Boston area and you'd have to be at least 30 to remember the "Community Auditions" show which ran every Sunday on WBZ-TV channel 4.  It was a "kinder, gentler" version of American Idol.  The (admittedly hokey) theme song was:

"Star of the day, who will it be?
Your vote may hold the key;
It's up to YOU,
Tell us who,
Will be STAR of the DAY?!"

This blog entry has nothing to do with singing or television shows, but it does present a scenario in which you can tell me who should be "Star of the Day".

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, we had a heating emergency at our home.  It's pretty scary to wake up in the middle of the night smelling burning plastic coming out of the heating vents.  It was also pretty scary to have a tough time getting through NSTAR's voice mail system to finally talk to a "real" person and get a technician dispatched.  It was also scary to wake up the next morning and find that the temperature in the house was 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once again, I had to deal with that lovely NSTAR voice mail system.  This time, a technician came out and got everything straightened out.

The next day, I e-mailed the office of my newly elected state Rep. Pam  Richardson.  I had several concerns about NSTAR.  One was that it was NOT easy to get through the mumbo jumbo of NSTAR's voice mail system.  I'm a reasonably articulate 52-year-old college graduate and I had a tough time using it.  I could imagine what things would have been like had I been a semi-confused 80-year-old, or had I been a (legal or illegal) immigrant who spoke poor English.  Another concern is something about NSTAR that began "bugging" me this past Fall.  In mid-October, I received a mailing from NSTAR stating that effective October 1, 2006, NSTAR would NOT come out and service any gas heating systems, water heaters or appliances unless the customer had purchased an NSTAR service contract.  Our residence is church owned.  The church HAD purchased a one-year service contract in 2003 that had run out in 2004.  The policy USED to be that if you had a gas appliance problem and DIDN'T have a service contract, NSTAR would come out and service you, and then add the charge to your bill.  The mailing made it clear that this would no longer be the case.  I read and reread the mailing.  The mailing definitely stated that if you did not have a service contract NSTAR would NOT come out.  Admittedly, it did not specifically state they would not come out if you smelled gas or something like that, but it certainly implied that.  At our next church Board meeting, I read the mailing to the Board.  We all agreed that we should purchase a service contract.  NSTAR gave a choice of 3 possible contracts, and the church selected the most expensive one.  It took effect in November 2006 and thus will expire and need to be renewed in November 2007.  I complained to Rep. Richardson that a state-regulated utility should be EASY to reach in the event of an emergency and that I questioned the legality/ethics of the REQUIRED service contracts.

I was very impressed with Rep. Richardson.  Within a few hours (on a SUNDAY) I had an e-mail reply from her.  I also received telephone calls from Rep. Richardson and her aide Chris within a few days.  The Rep. sent an excellent letter to NSTAR questioning the matters I'd spoken about (with copies to the state regulatory agency and to me).  Finally, they heard from a bigshot (my word) at NSTAR this week.  The NSTAR executive said that they will certainly come out in the event of an emergency and that they do not require customers to have a service contract.  That DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS the mailing of October.  Chris, the aide, said he got the impression there have been a lot of complaints about NSTAR's October mailing and its contents and that he believed they were thus well prepared with a carefully drafted response.  He said that what they have done is probably "legal" although it could certainly be questioned ethically.  He also said, and I completely agree, that having constituents and especially State Representatives holding them accountable for their actions and reminding them of that accountability is a good thing.

Well, speaking of "Star of the Day", I'd give that award with much gratitude to Rep. Richardson and her aide Chris!  As far as NSTAR:  They may call themselves "NSTAR" but they are no stars!  Could it be that NSTAR stands for "no star"?!

Thursday, February 8, 2007


“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,  but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”  (Colossians 4:6)

My wife Mary Ann and I really enjoyed “Congress 2007”, the big convention of evangelical Christians from all over New England, which was held at Hynes Convention Center in Boston this past Friday and Saturday.  Many of the “big names” of American evangelical Christianity were present, including some really important keynote speakers.

Bill Hybels, around age 50 but sporting a boyish, preppie look, spoke on Friday afternoon.  Many readers will know that he founded Willow Creek Community Church, a mega-church in suburban Chicago.  Hybels is controversial in Christian circles because he gears his church’s events to “seekers”- people who are not evangelical Christians.  There are no Christian symbols to be found at his church, and Christian clichés (the words we use such as “witnessing” “backslide” “got saved”, etc.) are scrupulously avoided.  I have my disagreements with Hybels, although I do credit him with reaching many “unsaved’ (well, there’s one of those words) people with the message of the Gospel .  I WAS taken back by one of Hybels’ first statements on Friday afternoon.  Commenting on the Bears success this season as well as on the Patriots’ elimination, Hybels asked,
“Doesn’t it SUCK that your team is not in the Super Bowl?!”

I’ve got to admit, I don’t think I heard one thing he said for the next three minutes!  Some of you won’t understand this, but I am so sick of hearing “suck, sucks, and sucked” that, well, I’m almost ready to say the whole language situation s_ _ ks ...oops- I’m hearing it SO much I almost did it myself!  Yup, we’re desensitized about language, and evangelicals are no exception.  I WILL say, I don’t think you’d EVER hear Jack Hayford or Billy Graham use that.  Could you imagine Billy Graham saying, “Boy, it really sucked that not too many people responded to the altar call tonight!”?  I certainly could not imagine that.

“Suck” and its derivations have become SO common, that I’ll bet there are some people who really don’t know the expression is not talking about a vacuum cleaner but IS talking about ORAL SEX.  I got saved (well there’s that cliché, again) in 1970.  For the couple of years before that I used so much profanity that my name could have been changed to Profanity Baril.  I used ‘em all CONSTANTLY.  Today, I’m ashamed of that.  I will say that in that era, “suck, sucks, and sucked” were only used (unless you WERE talking about a vacuum cleaner or a tornado) as very profane language and mostly by males under age 30.  I can attest that working in factories with guys my father’s age, they all used the “F” word and all the other stuff with regularity, but I honestly can’t remember ANYONE in the pre-1980 days who was much over 30 using “suck” and it’s related terms.  Yes, there are related terms...”blows” being one that certainly comes to mind.  

About ten years ago, a father in our church congregation told me he was having problems with his teenage son saying “suck” or “sucks” all the time.  

“He tells me it’s not a swear anymore,” that Dad said, and added, “but to ME it is.”  To me, it is, too.

Maybe it’s because I had SUCH a foul mouth as a teenager that it bothers me so much today.  I think the main reason is, again to use religious and cliched language that might offend Bill Hybels, because I honestly don’t want to say ANYTHING that might offend my Lord Jesus Christ.  Do I always speak with “grace seasoned with salt” as the above Scripture says?  Well, honestly, no.  Like all of us, I’m human.   I just think a 50-year-old  college-educated guy shouldn’t have to use “sucks” all the time!

I admit, I’ve driven people crazy with my fixation on some spoken terms.  For instance, many years ago I gave up using the expression “got the shaft”.  Let me clue you in- it doesn’t mean an elevator shaft, nor does it man the shaft of a sword or something, as I’ve heard people argue.  I also try to avoid the expression “screwed up”.  I’d try to explain that one, but ...well, I might screw it up!  O.K., I AM being just a little bit “tongue in cheek” but I’m serious in that if I could banish “suck”, “sucks”, and “sucked” from modern American vocabulary, I’d do that in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


“But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.”  (Matthew 14:6)

This week, this blog has a birthday!  It’s one year old, having been started on this week in 2006.  Will we have someone doing a Middle Eastern belly dance to celebrate as King Herod did for his birthday?  I think not!  (As an aside, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays because anytime a birthday is mentioned in the Bible it’s for a worldly occasion by people who are not followers of God.  Conversely, the only religious group I’ve ever heard of who doesn’t celebrate birthdays are the JWs!  Born-Again Christians - like me - LOVE to celebrate birthdays.  I know the blog is not a person, but since I started the blog, I’m considering this week is the blog’s “birthday”!)

I sort of started the blog with fear and trembling.   At that time, I had only recently learned that “blog” is short for “web log”.  I thought only really computer savvy people had blogs.  I DID read an article in “Leadership”, a journal for ministers, which strongly encouraged ministers to start and maintain their own blogs.  I HAD tried to start a blog in November 2005, but “chickened out”.    I got my courage up on the first week of February of 2006 and I’ve been at it ever since.

The greatest thrill I had (regarding the blog) was being featured in the Framingham Tab newspaper during the summer of 2006 because of my blog!  I later learned that Michelle Swartz who writes the blog “This is Framingham”
had suggested they contact me.  I’m very grateful to her for that, and I’ve been a reader of her blog ever since.

I’m very opinionated and I like to write.  Over the years I have submitted a number of letters and columns to the MetroWest Daily News.   Some have been run, and some have not.   What I like about the blog is that I don’t have to deal with any newspaper editors who “don’t get” what I’m writing.  I can post stuff right here.

I have a lot of fun writing this blog.  I am thrilled when I run into someone who reads it.  I do get disappointed when I don’t think enough people are reading it and I don’t think enough people are contacting me about what I’ve written, but I understand that just “goes with the turf” when you write a blog.  The Lord willing, I’ll still be writing it one year from today (see James 4:13-15).  Well, if I were Jay Severin of 96.9 FMTalk I’d be making that kazoo noise he makes when he speaks of his radio program having a birthday!

(Please read the piece that follows this one, entitled, ‘MY BIGGEST COMPLAINT ABOUT AOL JOURNALS’.)

Monday, February 5, 2007


“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”  (I Chronicles 21:1)

God was not pleased when David numbered Israel.  Apparently David was largely numbering Israel out of pride and trusting in the might of his armies, and not in God.  That was the real sin.  Today, pastors are almost always obsessed with many people are in church, how many are on the Membership roll, and how much money came in.  I guess we’re not much better than King David in that area!


My biggest complaint about AOL Journals is that stupid counter that tells how many people have read your blog.  Mine has crashed and gone back to zero at least 4 times in the past year.   A number of months ago, I went to an area on-line where AOL Journals deals with questions and problems people have.  That one is a big problem for a lot of AOL bloggers.  They DID give a solution of how to reset your counter.  Well, for a non-technical guy like me, I didn’t even want to attempt it!   I never saved the information, and I’d have to go back to that area and find it, and then I probably wouldn’t do anything with it, anyway.  But it bugs me.  The counter is particularly prone to crash when it turns the next hundred or the next thousand.  Mine has crashed once or twice when it turned 800 and once when it turned 1100.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m embarrassed that someone may go to my blog and think something like, “This blog has been around for a YEAR and it’s only been read 43 times?!”

Actually it’s probably now been read at least 3000 times, but maybe the scenario of someone thinking I don’t even get one reader a week is one of God’s ways of keeping me humble!

If anyone from AOL is reading this:  I’m happy to have an AOL Journal and overall they’re very easy for non-technical people like me to use, but if it’s possible, will you guys (and gals) fix that counter crashing problem that bugs a lot of us?!

Thursday, February 1, 2007


“...they were all with one accord in one place.”  (from Acts 2:1)

I know my postings this week have been kind of chronologically all over the place.  I’ve been very busy this week, AND on Friday and Saturday, Mary Ann and I are going to Congress. Now, I’ve got to explain what that means!

No, we’re NOT going to Washington, D.C.!

“Congress” is a huge evangelical Christian convention that takes place every winter at Hines Convention Center in Boston.  Personally. I think “Congress” is a terrible name, but I did not pick it!  It’s been said that if you have to keep explaining a name, it’s a bad name, and since I have to keep explaining “Congress” it’s a bad name.  Congress is run by “Vision New England”.  I also think “Vision New England” is a terrible name.  It sounds like it would be an optical company run by my optician friends Tim and Sonda McCarthy.  Until about ten years ago, “Vision New England” was “Evangelistic Association of New England”. All local evangelical Christians simply called it “E.A.N.E.”  I guess they changed the name because their old name sounded like a bunch of fundamentalists with King James Bibles jamming them down people’s throats, and that’s not what they’re about.

This year’s Congress is interesting because Vision New England has decided it’s going to be the last one (after over 25 years).  The organization is shifting its emphases from running big mega events to being much more of “hands on” working with struggling churches and ministries, etc.  (They actually do a lot of that stuff now.  They’re just going to do more of it.)  Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mary Ann and I used to go to Congress every year.  We haven’t gone to one since 2003, and even then, we’d skipped a few years.  I am excited about some of the speakers who’ll be there.  If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’ve never heard of most of them, but Joni Eareckson Tada, Jack Hayford, Bill Hybels and others will be speaking.  There will be a HUGE exhibit hall featuring seemingly every Christian ministry, bookstore, and parachurch ministry under the sun.   There will be GREAT Christian music.  There will be running into people I probably haven’t seen in 5 or 10 years.  Mary Ann and I love eating out at the restaurants in Boston, and we’ll be doing that.  By Sunday I will be spiritually refreshed and physically exhausted.  

Well, that’s what we are doing for Friday and Saturday.  Incidentally our church paid for us to go as a present for my 20th Anniversary as pastor of First Assembly of God of Framingham.

Incidentally, be SURE you read my piece below entitled DON’T BLOW UP YOUR CARTOON CHARACTERS  OVER THIS ONE!


“...whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;   which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; ...” (from Colossians 1:5-6)

That verse is a little hard to understand in the King James Version I’m quoting from, but it essentially says, “The Gospel has gone out into all the world”.  You know, you’ve gotta hand it to those first century Christians!   With no television, radio, or internet, they made the Name of Jesus Christ a household word and spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and beyond in just a few decades!  

My take on the big hoax or joke or publicity stunt (or whatever you want to call it) that took place in Boston this week may surprise you.  Of course, I can’t condone an act that frightened people, that stopped traffic and subway trains for hours, that caused people to miss doctor appointments, and that cost the taxpayers at least $750,000.  But in the spirit of Jesus’ commendation of the unjust steward in Luke 16, I commend the fact that they got their message out.  Jesus praise of the unjust steward confuses and upsets a lot of people.  But Jesus was saying, “You gotta hand it to the guy.  He’s savvy.  He knows how to get what he wants.  He knows how to get people to do his bidding.  YOU should be so smart.”   What Jesus was saying is that if WE could make use of time, opportunities, and connections with people for GOOD- well, think of what could be accomplished!  So it is with that incident.  Yes, it was a bad thing to do.  But they DID get our attention.  I never heard of that stupid Cartoon Network cartoon think or of those moon inhabitant characters...but I have now!

I’ve got a confession to make.  Well, I guess I’ve got to be careful using that line.... I just can’t think of a more effective line right now... My confession is most people in Framingham have never heard of First Assembly of God of Framingham and most people in Framingham have never heard of Pastor Bob Baril.  If we take the Gospel seriously...if we take Jesus Christ seriously...that’s absolutely WRONG.  It means (in a sense) that my ministry is a failure.  It means (in a more powerful sense) that our church is a failure.   Now, if those guys (all those involved) had used their penchant for art and publicity for GOOD, well, I wonder what might have happened?

Sometimes I think the issue is money.  Our church has always had very little money.  I’ve DREAMED of a slick radio ad campaign the church could run on stations like WBZ and 96.9 FMTalk if money was no object.  If you heard my idea, I think you’d like it.  Grace Church of Dover (an “independent” Catholic Church of mostly former Roman Catholics) has run radio ad campaigns quite successfully.  Unless someone gives our church around $10,000 dedicated to strictly radio advertising, that’s not going to happen.  But, frankly, the even better thing would be each person at our church becoming SO authentic, and SO loving, and SO helpful, and SO generous, and SO friendly, and SO contagious and SO involved in their community that each would attract 5 or 6 people to the church within the next year, and that would actually SO fill our little building that we’d have to go to 2 services.  I wonder HOW  our people could be motivated to do that.

Yet, I feel guilty.  I write a blog.  I write columns for the newspaper.  I go to various community meetings.  I do meet and network with certain people, but I feel my impact is only about 10% of what it really COULD be. Why don’t I make a greater impact?  I don’t know.

A bunch of motley fishermen, radicals, and misfits “turned the world upside down” in the first century.  Why don’t more of us do that today?  No, I’m not advocating violence.  No, I’m not advocating disrupting traffic or closing down hospitals.  But if First Assembly of God of Framingham and Bob Baril were all over the media for something GOOD, frankly I’d be thrilled and I’d be SO happy I’d cry!