Wednesday, April 30, 2008


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

In scanning through the FM radio dial early this afternoon while driving through downtown Framingham, I was very surprised to find a pretty strong FM signal carrying the Rush Limbaugh Show.  It was at 94.9.  For years, WHOM with studios in the Portland, Maine area and transmitter atop Mount Washington, New Hampshire broadcast adult/contemporary soft rock music at 94.9 on the dial.  I’m not sure if WHOM is still around but it had a very strong signal and at many times (day or night) it could be heard in Framingham with a signal strength almost as strong as a Boston station.  At first, I wondered if WHOM had adopted a new talk-radio format, but it turns out the station is WTAG out of Worcester.

WTAG has been broadcasting at 580 on the AM dial for many decades, and they continue to do so.  They’ve now added 94.9 FM which broadcasts the exact same programming that’s on 580 AM.  I suspect the station probably plans to eventually “jump” exclusively to 94.9 and abandon 580 AM which is a trend that happening around North America as more and more music stations go to satellite and more and more talk stations go from AM to FM.  WTAG’s signal on 580 AM was always terrible in Framingham.  That’s always surprised me because its sister station, WSRS at 96.1 which plays adult/contemporary soft rock (very similar to Boston's MAGIC 106.7) comes into Framingham with a blockbuster signal.  

94.9’s signal isn’t quite as strong as that of WSRS or of WRKO-AM for that matter, BUT the absence of static and the clearer modulation on FM is more pleasant on the ears than is WRKO.  Unfortunately, WTAG features pretty much all nationally syndicated shows.  Limbaugh is O.K., but I’m a guy who prefers local talk so it’s unlikely I’d abandon 96.9 WTKK or WRKO for WTAG.

For those of you who are falling asleep, please bear with us talk radio geeks!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

In late February, I wrote about my cousin Marilyn.  Marilyn  lives in Florida, is married, and has a daughter.  She is a couple of years older than I am.  I have MANY cousins, but Marilyn stands out as a great person.  First, she’s very good looking.  She could have been a professional model.  Secondly, she has a fine personality and good sense of humor.  Third, she is a hard working person, and finally, she is a very caring person.  Marilyn was born on Feb. 29, 1952.  She’s a “Leap Year Baby”.  Since this is a leap year, I thought it would be really cool for a bunch of folks to e-mail her and wish her a Happy Birthday.  I put out one of my famous mass e-mailings in February, encouraging people to do exactly that.  I posted a tribute to her on the blog in honor of her birthday.  I also sent Marilyn a very warm and special birthday e-mail.  If you happen to be one of the people who sent birthday greetings to Marilyn, then you probably wondered why she did not send you a reply or a “thank you”.  Here is the rest of the story:

Over a year ago, Marilyn e-mailed me that she’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  That seemed unthinkable to me.  We exchanged e-mails pretty often.  Everything seemed fine.  And, she seemed say too young for Alzheimer’s Disease.  (You may know that my later father had Alzheimer’s Disease and ended up on the locked unit of a nursing home.)  I asked Marilyn to call me and we talked.  At that time she seemed fine.  I could not detect ANY indication of dementia.  She said she’d been getting very confused counting change and it bothered her enough to have it checked out.  A doctor had given her some difficult puzzle to put together  within a certain period of time...and when she couldn’t do it, he pronounced her as having Alzheimer’s Disease.

I encouraged her that the diagnosis seemed crazy and that she needed to get a second opinion.  She told me that some of her friends had told her the same thing.  We continued to share e-mails throughout 2007, and it definitely appeared that Marilyn had been misdiagnosed.

I really got excited about Marilyn’s February 29 birthday and I thought she’d get a  big kick out of getting scores (maybe even hundreds) of well-wishing e-mails on the occasion of her special birthday.  When she did not respond to my own special birthday e-mail, (because she also has an AOL screen name) I checked through AOL to see if she’d been reading the e-mails I’d been sending to her.  At that time, in early March, I was shocked that Marilyn had not opened any of my e-mails for at least the previous 5 weeks.  I could not recall getting an e-mail from her since mid-December.  I sent a couple of “PLEASE RESPOND” e-mails which went unanswered.  Marilyn has 4 siblings. I had the e-mail address of her older sister Jeanne (who is a former Jeopardy champion-no kidding!) and so I e-mailed Jeanne to ask if she knew if Marilyn was O.K.  Jeanne wrote back that Marilyn had been having some “physical challenges” but that she was essentially O.K. and that she was still using the same e-mail address.  Jeanne also e-mailed me Marilyn’s phone number.  The next morning, I phoned Marilyn.

The Marilyn who spoke to me on the phone in early March 2008 was not the one who’d spoken to me a little over a year earlier.  Marilyn definitely knew who I was.  She was very friendly.  But she sounded different.  She spoke very slowly...VERY a first-grader reciting a poem at a parent’s visiting day or something like that.  She was very warm and very friendly.  She told he she still has the same e-mail address and regularly checks her e-mail.  She could not understand what I was talking about (regarding the unanswered e-mails).  After we hung up, I was fighting back the tears.  

I just knew she hadn’t been checking her e-mails, but she THOUGHT she had.  It was like I was talking to a six-year-old Marilyn....not a 56-year-old.  I wrote back to Jeanne about what happened and I did not get a reply.  I do know hold that against Jeanne in any way.  I suspect it was just too painful for her to write about it.

Today, I got an e-mail from Marilyn’s younger sister Patty.  Patty put out a mass e-mail to the family telling them of Marilyn’s dementia, and asking that people do not e-mail Marilyn because she never goes to her computer or e-mail.  Patty did encourage us to telephone her.  Patty spoke of Marilyn’s deterioration, but said she physically looks great.  She described her as speaking very slowly (what I experienced when I last spoke to her).  It  was obvious that the mass e-mailing was VERY painful for Patty to write.  I can imagine tears falling down her cheeks as she wrote it.  I made it a point to write a very warm e-mail back to Patty, sharing what I shared in this posting, and commending her courage and love for writing that very difficult e-mail.

Yesterday I learned that a ministerial colleague has cancer in an advanced stage.  Today, I kind of got emotionally slapped in the face with the tragedy of Marilyn’s Alzheimer’s Disease.  I think a lot of Marilyn and so it’s very hard to think about what she’s going through and where this is all headed.  Today is my day off.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of “blue collar” work around the house, and I went into the church office for awhile to take care of some stuff that just couldn’t wait until tomorrow.  I love Jesus as much as I ever have and I’m as committed to the Lord and ministry as I’ve ever been.  I’m just kind of sad today.  Life is not fair...

Saturday, April 26, 2008


“Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.” (Psalm 148:3)

I have a “cool” license plate number on my 1989 Volkswagen Golf.  It’s Massachusetts # 280.  My father, the late Eugene A. Baril, was presented Massachusetts plate #280 shortly after he retired as a Supervisor of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles after a distinguished career in law enforcement.  I have the letter from former Registrar Mackey which expresses the gratitude of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for his service and presents him with the plate.  It was a privilege to inherit both the car and the license plate number in 2000.

I also have another license plate which is “cool” to me.  It’s Massachusetts # 503-531. It’s from the old “green on white” plate series which dates from the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Only about 10% of vehicles registered in Massachusetts still have plates from that old “greenie” series.  The RMV is actually encouraging people to turn them in because many are in poor condition and becoming difficult to read.  503-531 is “cool” to me because my wife and I have had it continuously since early 1983...for 25 years!  It was brand new when we purchased a slightly used 1982 Ford Escort hatchback from Jack Madden Ford in early 1983.  The plate was later on a 1982 AMC Concord station wagon (NOT a good car) and then spent 8 years on a 1986 Plymouth Caravelle 4-door sedan which we purchased in 1988.  For awhile it was on a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon, and for the past ten years, it’s been on a 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon.  Our ‘93 has got major mechanical problems and 179,000 miles on the odometer.  We are junking it.

This week, we bought a 2000 Saturn SL1 4-door sedan.  Dirty with the paint cracking (but still legible) 503-531 is now on the Saturn.  Although the Saturn is owned by Mary Ann and I, 90% of its use will be by our daughter Rachel.  When she gets out of college in a couple of years, I’ll make arrangements to either give Rachel the car or sell it to her for a nominal figure and she’ll get a new registration at that time.  (Incidentally, Mary Ann drives a nice 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan so please don’t think she’s being short changed in all this!)

Mary Ann was pregnant with Jon our oldest when we got plate number 503-531 in early 1983.  Twenty-five years later, our 21-year-old is driving a car with the exact same license plate on it.  Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, April 25, 2008


“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;” (Hebrews 12:12)

In the hilarious film “What About Bob?” the lead character played by Bill Murray says (in answer to why he is divorced), “There are two kinds of people in the world:  those who love Neil Diamond and those who hate Neil Diamond.”  That may well be true.  I’ve also found that there are two types of people in this world:  those who live by schedules, watches, and high organization, and those who “fly by the seat of their pants”!

Anyone who knows me AT ALL knows I live by schedules, watches, and high organization.  For whatever reason (maybe because God has a sense of humor) I’m constantly thrown into situations with people who “fly by the seat of their pants”.  Without going into detail, that has happened to me in one way or another several times this week.  There’s sort of an unspoken rule (well, in some quarters, it’s a spoken rule) that ministers are supposed to be always smiling, always happy, always serene, always even tempered, and always full of faith.  Boy, has that been tested this week!

I’m not allowed to reveal the details of what we talk about in the pastors’ “small group” that I attend every other Wednesday morning.  But I will say that one highly experienced/seasoned pastor shared what we call a “devotional” this Wednesday morning about being “content in all circumstances”.  He mainly drew his thoughts from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk and from the New Testament book of Philippians.  It was one of those powerful devotionals where you KNOW God is speaking through it, but where you kind of say “uh OH”.  I just got that feeling:  God is telling me my CONTENTMENT is going to be really tested this week.

Again, in order to “protect the guilty” I am not naming any names, but my contentment has been SORELY tested since Wednesday morning.  I’ve managed quite a few fake smiles since then, and at times I couldn’t muster up any more than a disgusted look.  The tough part is, THEN I feel really guilty.  A man I have enormous respect for died of ALS last year.  I can’t even imagine what he and his family went through.  I’ve been to Haiti twice and seen poverty first-hand...REAL poverty.  I watched my mother die a very unpleasant death from cancer.  In comparison to any of those situations, I realize my life this week has been a big joke.  But there’s that struggle with discontent.

Why do we “hyper-orgainzed” people SO resent the “fly by the seat of their pants” types?  Is it because we secretly wish we were one of them?  Is it because we think they’re happier?  ARE they happier?  I don’t know.  Ironically, in the past I was asked to attend a series of special classes for pastors of small, struggling churches which just haven’t been successful.  The classes were held at our Assemblies of God District office.  At least half of the material was about time management and personal discipline.  I somewhat resented that because I have great time management and personal discipline...those aren’t the issue with me.  I have a pastor friend that I won’t name who pastors a church where things are so clean and organized that one could literally eat a meal off the floor, and where it’s SO professional you’d think you were at I.B.M.  My church facility tends to look like it’s maybe managed by The Waltons...very “lived in” and not perfect.  Yet, my friend with the “perfect” church facility is totally “flying by the seat of his pants”.  Sometimes I’ve been jealous of that and asked, “WHY, God?”  Well, the truth is that my friend has an outstanding church staff who are responsible for the church’s “perfection” at least in appearance.

I got up today in a bit of an “Is that what’s troubling you, Bunkie?!” mood, and that’s a big part of why I wrote this.  This piece has actually put a smile on my face, so I guess that’s good!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves,:  for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

No, Charlie Dee did not work for the United States government like Charlie Wilson, he worked as a math teacher at Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts.  I don’t understand the way my brain works, but for some reason Mr. Dee is on my mind this week. Maybe it was watching some of the scenes from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on  Monday night (AMC on Cable) that put Charlie Dee on my mind, although my high school days were fourteen plus years earlier than that.  Anyway, for some reason I’ve decided to write about Mr. Dee today.

Mr. Dee’s real name was Charles DePasquale.  I graduated from Canton High School in 1972 and at that time (if he was telling the truth) he was 39-years-old.  That would make him around 75 today if he is still living.  He was never known as Mr. DePasquale.  It was always Mr. Dee.  Mr. Dee was a very likable but very strange man.  He was very complicated and, looking back, I think he was full of contradictions.  He had a tremendous rapport with teenagers.  He really “got” teenagers and knew how to communicate with them.  There was something about Mr. Dee that you automatically liked him and wanted him to like you.  I had Mr. Dee for a Senior Math class called, “Trig and Topics in Algebra”.  This class was mainly for college bound kids who were good in the humanities but not so hot in Math.  Kids who were good in Math took Calculus in Senior year.  All of my own kids took Calculus, and in fact my daughter Amy did exceptionally well in Calculus.  I am terrible at math.  I do remember learning Sign, Co Sign, and Tangent  (or is is “sine”??) in Mr. Dee’s class, but I couldn’t tell you any more than that.  I guess that stuff is used in engineering, but I’ve never used it since I left high school.  In fact, I did not know what I was doing when I took his class anyway!  I think I got Bs and Cs but as I recall we had open book tests and stuff like that.  

At least two days a week we did absolutely no math at all.   Sometimes as much as four days a week we did no math at all.  Being in Mr. Dee’s class was like a high school Oprah, or better still Dr. Phil, for teenagers before there were such shows as Oprah or Dr. Phil.  We talked about “All in the Family”.  Mr. Dee loved that show.  We talked about crime in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.  Mr. Dee lived right in the middle of a very bad neighborhood in Dorchester and he’d come in giving us blow by blow descriptions of things that happened in his neighborhood.  We talked about Boston Latin School.  Mr. Dee’s son was a student at Boston Latin and he was very proud of him.  We talked about Religion. Actually, we talked a lot about Religion.  Mr. Dee claimed to be a very religious Roman Catholic, although he freely admitted that many weekends he was so busy he just did not get to mass.  One of his favorite religious stories was about an experience he had while in the military service.  I guess he did what a lot of guys in the service are known to do to meet their sexual needs.  He then went to confession and confessed what he’d done to the priest.   The priest told Mr. Dee that he needed to repent and promise not to commit the sin again.

“Oh, I can’t promise that, “ he said.
“What do you mean?!  Why not?!” asked the priest.

“Because I’m gonna do it again!”  Mr. Dee said bluntly.

The priest burst right out of the confessional booth, and physically threw young Mr. Dee out of the confessional booth!

Even though I hate math, and even though in 1972 I thought Mr. Dee was very cool, TODAY as a 53-year-old it bothers me that he really didn’t do his job.  Maybe he should have been a teen counselor or something.  Maybe he SHOULD have had an “issues” show on radio or television.  He was a cool guy but I learned almost nothing in his class.  Several years after I graduated, Mr. Dee also became a part-time driving instructor.  I used to see him in an AMC Concord Driver-Ed car giving lessons around downtown Canton.  The last time I saw him was in July of 1980 at a funeral service.  The funeral was at an Assemblies of God church and featured a number of what we evangelicals call “testimonies”.  That’s ironic because I know Mr. Dee kind of resented born-again Christians, and yet it was at an evangelical Christian service that our paths last crossed.

I’m the detective type.  I’ve located a number of my former teachers by using search engines on the internet.  I’ve never been able to find anything about Charles DePasquale alias Charlie Dee.  I just felt like writing about him.  I wonder what ever became of him...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


“...for the workman is worthy of his meat.”  (from Matthew 10:10)  (In modern English, that means, “for the laborer is worthy of his hire.”)

My wife, Mary Ann, and some friends of ours from here in the Boston suburbs had a great day on Saturday visiting mutual friends in southeastern New Hampshire.  John and Kathy Ventresco moved up to New Hampshire in 1989. but we’ve stayed in close touch with them.  I don’t know if I did more EATING or more LAUGHING on Saturday, but it was a wonderful day and the weather was fabulous.

Kathy did NOT ask me in any way to write about or promote her home business, but I’m doing that because you’ve GOT to hear about it!  Kathy Ventresco makes from scratch a wonderful product which can be used by anyone, but PARTICULARLY babies and children:  “Kathy’s Huggable Towels”!  Kathy Ventresco is a mother of four and a grandmother of four.  She ran a first-class daycare for over twenty-seven years.  After years of looking for some sort of quality hooded towel for (as she puts it) “time spent by the bathtub, poolside and ocean” and NOT finding anything suitable, she created “Kathy’s Huggable Towels”.  

I know, “Kathy’s Huggable Towels” may sound like a hokey product, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  These are VERY HIGH QUALITY handcrafted beautiful hooded towels which will last for years.  I gotta tell ya, I’m a guy and I was impressed!  Especially if you have babies or young children (or grandchildren) these are a MUST.  Now, she DOES make them for adults, also.  I wouldn’t mind having a few for me, and I’m serious!

Please check out:

I think you’ll be impressed!  “Kathy’s Huggable Towels” were featured on last year’s Channel 2 auction (and will probably be on this year’s as well).  (Channel 2 is Boston’s PBS television station.)

Kathy Ventresco can be reached at
or by phone at 603-969-3845

If you live in New Hampshire, you can buy “Kathy’s Huggable Towels” at these retail locations:  Calef’s Country Store in Barrington, The Handcrafter’s Barn in North Conway, Heaven Scent Candles in Sandown.  Of course, you can order them on-line.  Kathy is able to take orders by credit card.

If you make that WHEN you order...tell her Bob Baril told you about “Kathy’s Huggable Towels.”!

Friday, April 18, 2008


“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

A guy I know was frequently heard slamming people for what he called, “Shameless Self Promotion”.  I guess he had a point.  I began writing my blog in early February of 2006.  I’d read an article in “Leadership” a journal aimed at (mostly) theologically conservative pastors that strongly encouraged pastors to have blogs.  I read it, I thought about it, and ultimately I jumped in!  When you first have a blog it’s really discouraging because only four or five people read it, and they’re members of your immediate family.  But I’ve plugged along and plugged along promoting this, and I guess there are now a few dozen people who check out “The Blog of Bob Baril”.  (One of my best “promotions” has been listing the blog U.R.L. address in each Christmas card I’ve sent out over the past couple of years and encouraging people to check it out.  I’ve also contacted my entire address book a few times promoting the blog.)

Today, I thought I’d mention a few blogs that I read...some from time to time and some pretty regularly.  When it comes to reviews of restaurants, “happenings”, and pretty much everything you need to know about Framingham, nobody does it better than Michelle McElroy at

Michelle has recently expanded her horizons and now has a similar blog about the twenty-five (or is it thirty?) other MetroWest communities which is found at

I not only feel old around Michelle McElroy who is ALMOST young enough to be one of my kids, but I have the same experience with my young clergy colleague the Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell from First Baptist Church in Framingham.  Like my son Jon, Mindi is an OUTSTANDING writer.  I hope both Jon Baril and Mindi Welton-Mitchell have many books published someday because each deserves that.  Mindi is SUCH a good writer, that my blog seems quite amateurish in comparison.  Right now, she’s pregnant expecting her first child, and has a lot to say about pregnancy and pastoring but she examines other topics, too.  Her “Be the Buddha of the Road” posting of awhile ago hit the nail on the head when it comes to courteous driving.  Mindi's blog, entitled “rev-o-lution” can be found at

(Incidentally, make sure you enter Mindi’s U.R.L. address exactly correct or you’ll end up at some French-language “Revolution” blog that you will not understand!)

Have you heard about Adam Engel, the kid who is trying to amass three million pennies?  Well, you should have because I wrote about him on this blog several weeks ago.  You can check on Adam’s progress at

Another clergyperson who has a blog is Vinnie Capetta who is the Associate Pastor of Crossroads Community Church (formerly Village Bible Chapel) on Edgell Road, Framingham at the Sudbury town line.  Vinnie’s blog “Check your Compass” is at

Finally, I want to challenge the (truly) famous Jennie Maroney who has written letters and columns to the MetroWest Daily News for many years to reactivate her blog “The Observer”.  It’s only got a couple of old entries and is found at

Come on, Jennie, if I can build a (somewhat) successful blog, so can you!


I guess this is the day for "follow ups"!  Yesterday, I e-mailed the advertising people at WTKK Boston complaining about Jay Severin's ad for Lifetime Exteriors in which he really puts down vinyl sided houses (and for all intents and purposes, the people who live in those houses).  I recommended the copy be re-written and re-recorded.  I was pleasantly surprised today to hear that THEY LISTENED AND THERE'S A NEW AD!  The new ad is much better.  In the new ad Jay says he doesn't want to live in a "plastic house" but it comes across as MUCH less elitist and much less offensive regarding vinyl siding.  I had also stated that I wasn't even sure what the name of the company was that Jay was advertising, and that was stated very clearly in the new ad.

Thank you WTKK and thank you Jay Severin.  I'm sure Lifetime Exteriors thanks you, too, because it's a much better ad and I think it will bring in more business than the old one would have.


On April 10 I posted an entry entitled, "By the Book" in which I complained about not receiving current national Assemblies of God directories.  I ended up going to the Assemblies of God national website and sending a complaint letter by e-mail to the General Secretary's office.  To my surprise, in today's mail I received the 2007 Directories and the 2007 General Council Minutes and latest Constitution and Bylaws.

As I wrote earlier, normally those always came by mail in the Fall around Thanksgiving.  And, as I posted in the earlier entry, I had contacted my local Assemblies of God District Office who told them they believed the national office in Springfield, Missouri has "gone digital".  Well, obviously they're still publishing those hard cover books, and for the somewhat compulsive and perfectionistic Bob Baril, all is again right with the world.  I wonder if they were just VERY late this year in mailing out the directories or if their policy now is that they're not going to mail them out unless you request them.  (You know me, I've already e-mailed the national office to ask that question!)

Except for Assemblies of God ministers and total geeks, I know I've bored the readers to tears, but I felt I had to give a follow up to the "By the Book" posting.
Does it pay to speak up and complain?  As long as a person is not a jerk about it, I believe it does!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign...And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord...” (from 2 Kings 21:1-2)

On Tuesday morning, “Mr. Speaker” (Tom Finneran) was talking about the violence (and really the whole “kids gone wild” stuff) that’s happening with American many cases at the middle school level.  I am among the many people who have been shocked by last week’s video of the girls in Florida who pummeled a 16-year-old classmate just for the sake of doing that and then putting it on the internet.  On Monday night of this week, Boston’s Fox channel 25 broke the story (complete with cell phone video) of a group of teenage thugs viciously beating two teenage boys with a pipe.

There were certainly bullies, “incidents” and problems when I was in school, but I can’t remember anything nearly as bad as those events.  Today, the bullies and their “associates” are essentially “running the asylum”, or so it seems.  I will have to conceal a bunch of information for this next story, but I heard of something that happened at a local high school recently in which a male kid was incredibly disrespectful to a male substitute teacher.  The teacher repeatedly attempted to get  control of the situation and to get a semblance of respect from the kid, which did not happen.  The teacher made the mistake of grabbing the kid’s arm for a split second, and a huge “situation” was tripped off.  Fortunately for that teacher, the administration was supportive, teenage witnesses sided with the teacher, the perpetrator admitted to being wrong, and the whole thing ended up being dropped.  But it COULD have been a big problem - for the teacher!  How stupid it is to blame the TEACHER!

I know this will make me sound like I am 85-years-old, but when I was in junior high school in Canton, Massachusetts in the 1960s several male teachers thought nothing of using corporal punishment on boys.  I received some of the corporal punishment, myself, but many of my peers received FAR more than I did.  Mr. “L” our shop teacher used to call us up to the front of the room, have us bend over and touch our toes and then give us a big whack on the rear end with a formidable wooden stick.  Mr. “G”, a social studies teacher, had a spanking stick called “Little Citrus” which he used regularly.  Did we all run home and tell our parents?  No, because we were of the generation from which telling our parents we had gotten spanked at school would have necessitated another spanking at home!  Teachers were respected...even feared somewhat...and that wasn’t a bad thing!

Many of you know that my wife works at Marian High School.  For the past few years, her job has been strictly to work in the office as Administrative Assistant, but before that, she was a substitute teacher.  In late 2003, our church was in the process of taking out a new mortgage with a different financial agency.  Mary Ann is the Treasurer, and she and I had to go over some important paperwork which just could not wait.  She was supervising a study hall at the Marian High School library and I was asking her questions and filling out the paperwork.   A kid in that library was being such a jerk and giving her such lip it was unbelievable.  It was evident this was a rich kid who has always had his own way and virtually never been told “no”.  He had no respect for authority.  I turned to him. and sternly and definitively said, “Look, she told you ‘no’, it’s NO!  Now you’re going to sit at that desk and your going to do your homework and I don’t want to hear one more word out of you!”

The kid backed off.

I thank God he did.

What would have happened if the kid had not backed off?

I will have to let you use your imagination.

What I’ve written here is the biggest reason why I’m NOT a liberal.  Typically, Liberals oppose all violence.  Liberals believe violence begets violence.  Liberals like to be passive and gracious and quiet and sweet.  Liberals get pushed around.  Liberals would say, “If you have corporal punishment in schools it makes kids more violent."  In fact, that was not the case years ago.  Today, teachers hands are tied.  They have no power or authority or “nothin’”.  They are supposed to take whatever is dished out to them by disrespectful kids and their even more disrespectful “hovering parents”.  

We have bullies and punks running wild with no respect for anyone.  We have bullies and punks running wild with no regard for anyone’s safety.   Again, a great case in point is the beating outside of the school in Holden on Monday.  

There is a tremendous lack of respect for authority in our society, and I for one very much do not like the way things have become.

Incidentally, for those of you who wonder how a minister can express the kind of thoughts that I’ve expressed on this posting...keep in mind that Jesus Christ (see John chapter 2 among other places) MADE a whip, overturned the tables of the merchants and moneychangers in the temple and VIOLENTLY AND WITH AUTHORITY drove them out!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

There’s an ad for a new home improvement product running on WTKK 96.9/Boston’s Talk Evolution which BUGS me!  The copy is read by Jay Severin. The ad is for a new product which LOOKS like exterior paint but is many, many times better.  According to the ad, once you apply this product to the exterior of your home, it will essentially last for a lifetime and will look great.  On the one hand, that certainly sounds like a good product.  On the other hand, Jay Severin “disses” vinyl siding in the ad and that’s what I don’t like.

In his elitist condescending manner, he states,. “You weren’t raised to live in a house WRAPPED IN PLASTIC!”  

Jay is not the only vinyl siding snob.  In the past ten years or so, in certain snobby architectural circles, vinyl siding has come to be seen as very low class; tasteless; ugly; detrimental to a neighborhood; and essentially on the level of one of those awful silver 1950s fake Christmas trees.  I have a friend who lives in a fairly high end subdivision in a Dallas, Texas subdivision where vinyl siding is NOT allowed.

As you might guess, I live in a house which is covered in vinyl siding!  The house is church owned.  It’s in a neighborhood of mostly older homes on Framingham’s southside.  The house was built around 1892.  The church bought it for use as a “parsonage” (that is, minister’s residence) in 1946.  Admittedly, the house has its drawbacks.  There’s only one bathroom, and the way the house is laid out, it would be almost impossible to add even an additional half bath.  There is no garage.  The cellar is your basic pre-1930s stone nightmare.  All that said, the house doesn’t look too bad.  When we came in 1987, the house was sided in that awful asbestos or asphalt or whatever it was...sort of shiny, jagged, multi colored but mostly gray ”siding” of circa the 1940s...maybe earlier.  It looked awful....and that stuff is actually hazardous to your health and highly flammable.  In 1988. the church hired a contractor to remove that old siding, and side the house with modern vinyl siding.  (Under the siding were white clapboards....mostly in good condition...but obviously the house would need to be painted every threeyears if left that way, and that would make no economic sense.)  The gray vinyl siding has (mostly) held up well.  A tree did fall against the side of the house in 1995 and tore a small rip in the siding which is still there but not very visible.  The siding is not perfect, but I’m not ashamed of it.  I’d say at least half of the houses in our neighborhood are vinyl sided.  Granted, this is mostly a blue-collar southside neighborhood, but in driving around Framingham on Sunday I noticed that probably a third of all single-family homes in all parts of town are vinyl sided.  I’d say probably 10% of them look awful.  I’d say probably 10% of them look “just O.K.”.  BUT,. I’d say probably 80% of them look REALLY NICE.

Back in the ‘80s I had a friend who was twenty years older than me who was a builder.  (He’s retired now and lives in Millis.)  “Bill” built scores of medium-end and high-end new homes in Canton, Westwood, Walpole, and Sharon in the 1970s and 1980s.  All of his BRAND NEW HOMES were vinyl sided!  Once the houses were enclosed in plywood, they were insulated and covered with vinyl siding.  The jobs were very well done.  It really LOOKED like wood.  You’d have to get up close to really touch and examine the homes to see that it was actually vinyl.  I don’t know how those homeowners would follow Jay Severin’s advice because their houses were vinyl sided from new...and AGAIN, Jay, in medium-end and high-end suburban neighborhoods!

My sister lives in the house we grew up in over in Canton.  My father loved red and so the house was painted red from it’s beginning in 1958.  The house looked FANTASTIC when newly painted.  But after three years it would be faded and peeling.  After five years, it looked disgraceful  Many of you know that each of our parents passed away in 2000.  At that time, the house had not been painted for well over ten years.  It looked TERRIBLE.  The house was  also surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence painted red.  Dianne had the house vinyl sided in yellow and had the fence spray-painted a forest green which really goes well with the yellow.  Do you think any of her neighbors in that nice neighborhood in Canton have complained about the vinyl siding? NO!  In fact, she’s constantly receiving compliments about the house.  It also looks pretty “real” until you get real close.  It looks 100% better than it did with peeling red paint.

I hope the people from First Congregational Church in Hopkinton don’t shoot me, but in all fairness, First Congregational (built in the 1990s with an addition a couple of years ago) kind of supports Jay’s argument.  It was done with the “Bill” the builder method of having vinyl siding right from new.  The vinyl siding is white.  It’s just NOT a good job.  It LOOKS like vinyl siding, and in my opinion is not hung well in some areas.  In some places on the exterior of the building the shades of white don’t even look exactly the same.  I’ve often thought they should have spent a bit more money and had a brick exterior (or at least a fake-brick exterior) or had a painted wooden exterior.  It’s a great church and a nice facility, but that’s just my opinion.  

Yup, the house I live in is wrapped in plastic and I love it!

Friday, April 11, 2008


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

That phrase, from the old King James Bible would TODAY have been translated
something like, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" 
It comes from the account of Jesus at age 12 teaching the wise men at the
temple, BUT being missing from the caravan of pilgrims from Nazareth who had come
to Jerusalem for a holiday and now were heading home.  That's a whole story in
itself, but the line about being "about my Father's business" is poignant.

The tension between "ministry" and "business" has always been a difficult one
for me to try to sort out.  Years ago, Dave Milley, the Senior Pastor of
Christian Life Center in Walpole hated when anyone referred to a ministry position
as a "job".  He would say, with obvious frustration in his voice, "It's NOT a
job, it's a MINISTRY!".  I think I knew what he meant.  But I had to fill out
a W-4 form when I went to work there.  I received a W-2 each year.  I had to
file taxes (contrary to what many people think, minister's DO pay taxes on
their income) each year; and I had to account for funeral and wedding honoraria
on form Schedule C.  For that matter, if churches and para-church organizations
are not legally set up as 501-c3 organizations, they are in for a lot of

When I became pastor of my own church (well, as we'll see in a minute, "my
own church" is a loaded phrase) I soon learned that about 50% of what I would be
dealing with was BUSINESS...essentially running a small business.  People are
often shocked when I tell them that half of what I do has nothing directly to
do with God or the Bible or anything like that.  It's negotiating a contact
with a copier leasing company, investigating upgrading telephone service,
making sure the plumbing in the building is up to code (no joke, up until a little
over a year ago, it wasn't), and all that kind of stuff.  This week, I opened
a letter to the church from the I.R.S. which stated the church did not pay
payroll taxes for me for one quarter of 2002.  The church DID but this
necessitated a lot of time consuming "digging" for me and for my wife who is the
church's Treasurer.

On Thursday morning I attended a meeting of the Central Massachusetts Section
of the Assemblies of God. The country is divided into Districts (this is
Southern New England) and the District is divided into 9 Sections.  Framingham is
in the same Section with Worcester and most of central Massachusetts.  Less
than a year ago, Bob Wise, who had pastored in Brockton for 33 years became our
new District Superintendent (like a "bishop").  Bob is a wonderful guy and a
great District Superintendent.  But his philosophy is different from what I've
been used to with many in the hierarchy.  Back when I was a brand new
minister, Gerald Wilson, the (then) District Secretary/Treasurer used to ask new
ministers, "Are you a COMPANY man?"  The late Rev. Wilson bought into the
philosophy that the Assemblies of God is a corporation and the ministers are in lower
level management.  I don't mean to knock Rev. Wilson.  He was a World War 2
combat veteran and a very hard working minister and administrator.  He projected
and presented that corporate philosophy as did many in our hierarchy.  Now,
Pastor Wise (and that's what he wants to be called, not "Superintendent" which
is fine with me) is moving in a very different direction.  Bob Wise emphasis is
ministry with the church as an organism.  He very much wants to move us away
(as much as possible) from the world's corporate model.

Pastor Bob Wise dislikes guys saying things like "my church", "my youth
pastor", etc.  He wants us to think of ourselves as STEWARDS of the church's we
pastor, but NOT owners.  That's done with good reason.  Some Assemblies of God
pastors through the years have SO thought of the church they pastor as "theirs"
that they've pulled churches out of the Assemblies of God and made them their
own little kingdoms.  I'm ashamed to say that at some point (since I am the
President of the legal non-profit corporation "First Assembly of God of
Framingham" which owns the church property at 32 South Street and the parsonage
property at 40 Harrison Street) I kind of began to think of it as "my"
"my" small business.  For me it's going to be harder to re-focus that in my
mind and get into truly Biblical thinking about it than it's been to try to lose
my Boston accent.  (For those of you who know me, I no longer talk just like
Eddie Andleman, but there's still plenty of Boston accent bleeding through when
I speak!)

So, I had a lot to think about on Thursday morning. 
The difficult part is, just when you get feeling all spiritual and mystical
and God-centered, some threatening letter from the I.R.S. or some demanding
letter from the Town arrives in the mail....

"Lord, help me, Jesus..." to get this stuff straight and in proper order!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most high:” (Psalm 92:1)

Wow!  Did you see “American Idol” on Thursday night (April 10)?!  I have to say I was completely blown away but VERY pleased!  The American Idol finalists sang the famous “Hillsongs” Contemporary Christian worship “hit” “Shout to the Lord”!  That’s a favorite worship song at First Assembly of God of Framingham and at thousands of Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Evangelical churches throughout the English-speaking world.  It’s a BEAUTIFUL song with POWERFUL lyrics.  They did NOT “sugar coat” it on “American Idol”.  They did NOT tone it down.  They sang, “My Jesus, My Savior...” to start, as it’s supposed to be sung.

I’ve really enjoyed The Beatles and other great pop stuff this year, but (corny as it may sound) I was alone in my living room yelling “YEAH!!” louder than Randy Jackson ever could have.

For my born-again Christian friends, I know ,  I know ; singing a Christian praise song doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “saved”.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re Heaven bound.  That’s true.  But with the cesspool of stuff that’s on modern television I was DELIGHTED by this.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008


“And he had in his hand a little book open...” (from Revelation 10:2)

Early on Saturday morning, I opened an e-mail from my friend Ed from Texas.  Ed is a rural letter carrier and and a former Assemblies of God minister.  Ed had lost track of an Assemblies of God minister from Colorado and asked me for his contact information.  The national office of the Assemblies of God has regularly published two directories each year:  one national church directory and one national ministers’ directory.  A copy of the national Assemblies of God Constitution and By-Laws has also always been published every other year.

I have been in the regular habit that when the new books come in, I put the latest ones in my church office and I bring home the previous year’s books and put them on a shelf in my bedroom.  On Saturday morning, I went into the bedroom to get the ministers’ directory to get the contact information for Ed, and I was surprised that the book was labeled “2005”.  The directories come out in the Fall.  Thus, my office directories should read “2007” and my home directories should read “2006”. I looked up the information for Ed from the 2005 book and e-mailed Ed, but I was kind of mad at myself.  I figured I’d forgotten to bring home the 2006 directories when the 2007s came in, and that I’d just disposed of the 2006 directories.

When I got to my office on Saturday I was surprised that my most recent national directories were labeled “2006”!  For a second, I felt as though I’d gone back a year in time!  I’ve been an Assemblies of God minister since 1981 and EVERY Fall those directories come in the mail.  I hadn’t noticed that the 2007 directories never came!  I wondered if (in this cyber-everything world) the Assemblies of God figured that they have all of that church and minister information available on-line (we ministers have “accounts” and “passwords” so we can go to restricted Assemblies of God areas on-line and get all sorts of information) and therefore have discontinued the “hard copy” books.  (Incidentally, I also noticed my office copy of the Constitution and Bylaws was from 2005.  I was due to get a new one in 2007 and never did.)  If we were supposed to be notified that all this stuff in “hard copy” is no longer being printed, I somehow never got that information.

I e-mailed my local Assemblies of God District Office (located on Route 20at the Charlton/Sturbridge line) and heard back from our local Secretary/Treasurer that he believes the national office has “gone digital”.  I know it must seem really hypocritical and inconsistent that I’m writing on a cyberspace blog (of all places) that I think that kind of STINKS...that it’s the end of an era....that some of the old-timers over age 80 who don’t use computers will just kind of lose out, but, well, indeed I think that kind of STINKS...that it’s the end of an era....that some of the old-timers over age 80 who don’t use computers will just kind of lose out!

I realize in the “grand scheme of things” this is not a big issue!  I am sure that not printing the books saves money, and trees.  Honestly, I think they should have still made the “hard copy” books available to those who would have requested them, for a reasonable fee.  I, for one, would have opted to pay for and receive the books.

The few of you Assemblies of God ministers who read this blog...(well, maybe there are more than just a few)...what do you think about this?   You can leave a comment, or e-mail me at

For the rest of you readers who have fallen asleep...sorry...but I guess if you fell asleep you are not reading this anyway...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


“And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.  For he had said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” (Mark 5:7-8)

I often take Sunday afternoon walks, and this past Sunday was no exception.  On Sunday afternoons, I sometimes like to walk from home to the Framingham Public Library and back.  I know that some of the real “no work on the Lord’s Day” hard-liners will not understand me patronizing the library on Sundays.  Yes, I know that in light of New Testament teaching, the “rightness” of having the library open on Sundays and having library staff working on Sundays IS certainly “debatable”, but I take that pragmatic approach that as long as it’s open, I’ll use it.
I like to walk and pray, then sit in the library, read Scripture and make notes in my devotional journal, then walk and pray again.  

On Sundays, the library is open from 2 to 5 in the afternoon (except during the Summer).  I got to the library right at 2, and found a seat upstairs in the reference room.  Within five minutes, my Bible reading was interrupted by the voice of a loud and angry man yelling at the female reference librarian.  While he did not use any “four letter words” in speaking to her, the man was very rude, disrespectful, and insulting.  I think the issue was his use of the library computers.  He felt he was not given enough time on the computer and that the librarian was “playing favorites”.  That certainly does not make sense, as the library had only been open for five minutes at the time.  I could see that the man was tall, fat, somewhat sloppy looking and somewhat lower class looking.  He was loud.  He talked to the librarian, and another female library employee the way a drill sergeant would talk to some new recruit who was out of uniform, leaning against a wall, and had just given the sergeant the finger or something.  The guy claimed to be a “Framingham Town Meeting Member”.  If he is, I certainly hope he’s not from Precinct 13 (my home precinct)!  His behavior was disgraceful.  This all went on for about five to ten minutes, but it SEEMED much longer.  Nobody in the library’s reference room could concentrate on what they were doing.  The guy demeaned the reference librarian’s name and yelled that he was filing a formal complaint with the Town.  He was intimidating and threatening.  Honestly, I FELT like walking up to him and saying something like, “Sir, I’m Pastor Bob Baril of First Assembly of God and you’re behavior is way out of line and I’m asking you to stop.”  I thought about it.  I realized that considering his size, he could easily put me in the hospital.  I also realized that speaking to him could enrage him all the more.  So, right or wrong, I Iooked across the room at him and did not say anything.  I DID have my cell phone ready to call the police in case he took things even further.  Fortunately, he left and did not return.

On the way home, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts on Concord Street.  I bought a coffee, and was greeted by “Ellie” a mentally ill woman that I’ve seen around Framingham from time to time over the past ten years or so.  Ellie even attended our church for a short time, although I don’t think she ever made it through a full service without walking out.  At times I’d run into her someplace and she’d ecstatically yell something like, “I’m the VIRGIN MARY and I’m going to FLY to Heaven to meet Jesus!!”.  THIS “Ellie” seemed quite “normal” compared to that.  She lamented that she’s on quite a bit of psychiatric medication and that, “They’re trying to kill me.” Well, compared to “I’m the VIRGIN MARY,” that didn’t sound too bad!  Ellie seriously told me she’s been regularly watching Charles Stanley on television and getting a lot out of him preaching.  I encouraged her to keep that up.  She also showed me a book she’s reading by Christian author and teacher Stuart Briscoe, and I encouraged Ellie that Briscoe’s teachings are sound.  Finally, Ellie  looked at me with some concern and shared a problem:

“On Thursday night I had a dream that the devil was after me,” she said, “and I was terrified for hours after that.”

I felt genuine compassion for her.

“Ellie,” I said, “now I’m serious; if anything like that happens again, you say, ‘I rebuke that in the Name of Jesus!’”.  She genuinely appreciated the exhortation.

When I got home I e-mailed the Director of the Framingham Public Library to let him know what had happened in the reference room.  I was concerned that IF a formal complaint is filed against the reference librarian, he needed to know what really happened.  The Director and I know each other from a committee we’re on, so I was glad to have his e-mail address.  (He replied on Monday and was very grateful for my comments.)

Sunday afternoon... a guy and a gal... each with mental illness issues of one kind or another...  It was quite an afternoon!

Friday, April 4, 2008


“...Behold, I make all things new...” (Revelation 21:5)

At the beginning of this week’s “John 17:23 Fellowship” Retreat on Wednesday, Dick Germaine announced that the retreat would be different from any retreat we had ever attended.  Indeed it was!

On Wednesday evening after supper, we piled into several cars and were told we were going to a mystery destination.  I had no idea where we were going or what we were would be doing.  I actually thought we might be going on a scavenger hunt or something!  

We were driven to Metro Church in Marlboro.  Metro Church leases a whole floor of a modern “office/industrial” type building on Elm Street in Marlboro, just a short distance from Routes 495 and 20.

Metro Church (formerly known as MetroWest Christian Life Center, and formerly in other rental space in another part of Marlboro) is a large (for Massachusetts) independent charismatic church on the “cutting edge” of what God is doing in New England.  For more information, you can check out

Metro’s Pastor Don Braswell, originally from Virginia, is not a typical large church pastor.  He’s a very modest and humble guy.  Braswell came to Marlboro in the 1980s.  His original congregation was just a handful of people meeting in a home.  The church now numbers several hundred in regular attendance.

Probably the most interesting and exciting aspect of Metro Church is their youth ministry.  Braswell’s son Chad (who is being groomed to be Senior Pastor someday when his father retires) is the youth pastor.  Chad’s spiked hair, tattoo and earrings are not MY style, but he definitely connects with today’s kids.  Metro Church has an outstanding youth ministry center complete with pool tables, other games, AND modern video and computer games including “wii”.  The pastors spent two hours doing what most of us never do:  playing games!  For many of us, it felt really weird, but by the time we were done, we’d all surprised ourselves.  I must say I enjoyed the guitar “rock star” computer game, which was popular with many pastors. The guys under 35 tended to be best at it, but even we “over 50” types had fun.

Almost half of the “John 17:23 Fellowship” pastors lead churches of under 75 and many (like me) lead churches of under 50.  Visiting the facility of a church which runs several hundred in  attendance and which has all kinds of “state of the art stuff” for kids was mind-blowing for us, and frankly can usually bring out jealous feelings of, “How come THEY have such a big church and we don’t?”  But the good news on Wednesday night is that all of us came away GLAD for what Metro Church in Marlboro is doing!  We know it’s way beyond what most of our churches are doing, or may ever do, BUT it does give you a vision of what God CAN do...and considering Pastor Don Braswell started out with a handful of people in a living room...well, anything is possible!

Like the 1980s “This is NOT your father’s Oldsmobile” commercials, Metro Church is nothing like evangelical and Pentecostal churches were thirty years ago or even fifteen years ago.  This is really new generation 21st Century stuff!  For a pretty conservative guy like me who tends to be slow to change, Metro Church is REALLY different, but I believe it is a harbinger of things to come in New England.  God is moving.  God is raising up pastors and churches who  “think outside the box” and as conservative as I tend to be, my “take” on it is, “More power to ‘em”.... Holy Spirit power, that is!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee:  then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20)

If you read my post entitled “A ‘Retreat’ or an ‘Advance’?”, you know I’m leaving very shortly for the “John 17:23 Fellowship Retreat” which will take place today and tomorrow in Shrewsbury.  I was up fairly early this morning on this sunny but somewhat blustery day and I decided to take a walk.  I love taking walks!  I walked up to McDonald’s on Route 30, had breakfast there, and then walked back.  There are several newspaper vending boxes in front of the McDonald’s.  Just before going in, I stopped to look at the headline of the Boston Herald and I was shocked to learn that sportscaster Bob Lobel and several others at WBZ channel 4 are losing their jobs.  I did not bother to buy a paper (as I often do) but waited and went on line to when I got home to read the story.  Not only is Bob Lobel being “given the boot” but so are Joyce K. the Arts & Entertainment reporter (I can’t even ATTEMPT to spell her last name!) and Scott Whale the anchor man.  The article talked about their ridiculously huge salaries which cannot be justified in today’s world where the ratings of traditional television news broadcasts are plummeting.  In addition, CBS in general is having a bad financial year.  

I do watch FOX channel 25’s news pretty regularly and once in awhile, I watch channel 7’s news.  Only occasionally do I “pop in” on channel 4 or channel 5 to watch the news, so I guess I’m part of the reason for these people losing their jobs, but the news “was rather sad” in the words of the old Beatles song.

There was a time when a person with a “big gig” on a news broadcast in a “top ten” market like Boston had it made!  I’m old enough to remember the days of weatherman Don Kent and anchorman Jack Chase on channel 4.  Those guys had those positions for years and years and years until they retired...I think Chase retired in the early 1980s and Don Kent in the late ‘80s.  They were both “legends” and “institutions”. The same was true of the somewhat younger Chet Curtis and his one time wife Natalie Jacobsen at channel 5.  How times have changed.  I guess I’ve got too much of a heart, because I think that instead of “buying out their contracts” and showing them the door, it would have been better to just not renew their contracts next time and kind of sweetly say “good bye”.  That’s why I’m not much of a businessman!

You can’t take ANYTHING for granted, can you?  This Sunday morning I’ll be preaching from Luke chapter 12.  The above passage describes a guy who thought he had great security.  His farming had produced bumper crops beyond his wildest imagination.  He saw nothing but long life and success ahead. God called him a fool.  He was to die that very night!  Nobody expected the train crash in Canton last week.  For what matter who (outside of Al Quida) expected the events of Sept. 11, 2001?  

I did not expect Bob Lobel and the others to “get canned”.  There’s just no SECURITY in THIS life, now, is there...?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


“And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.”  (Mark 9:2)

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I’ll be attending the annual “John 17:23 Fellowship” Pastors’ Retreat.  For the past several years, we’ve used the Roman Catholic “Passionists Retreat Center” in Shrewsbury as the location for our retreats.   No, it’s NOT a “Roman Catholic retreat”, we’re just using their facility.  It IS a great retreat facility!

Although I did specify we’re not having a “Roman Catholic retreat” because I guarantee someone reading this would otherwise assume that we were, I will add that in my experience Catholics do a far better “job” with retreats than do Protestants.  The concept of a “retreat”- a special, spiritual time for reflection, prayer, meditation, and spiritual growth is MUCH more Catholic than Protestant.  American Protestantism comes out of a tradition of TEACHING and DOING.  The  “Protestant Work Ethic” is not a figment of the imaginations of historians who specialize in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century American history.  It’s very real.  American Protestants did NOT tend to be very mystical people.  They tended to be hard workers and good citizens who would get to enjoy sitting in the presence of the Lord in Heaven but NOT on earth.  For those of you who are familiar with the story contrasting the actions of Mary and Martha in the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, traditional American Protestants were very much “Marthas”.

When Protestants DID begin holding retreats a few decades ago, (in the Assemblies of God, a “retreat” was actually often called an “advance” because they thought “retreat” sounded so NEGATIVE!) they tended to be a lot different from Catholic retreats.  They really tended to be CONFERENCES.  I actually went to one Assemblies of God Men’s Retreat in the early 1980s where 80% of the time a Christian financial planner taught us about I.R.A.s and other retirement plans!  No joke!  (That same financial planner later did jail time!)  What I like about the John 17:23 Fellowship (founded by the Rev. Dr. Dick Germaine, former pastor of First Congregational Church of Hopkinton and the Rev. Ernie Frye, pastor emeritus of Ashland’s MetroWest Worship Center about fifteen years ago) is that their retreats ARE much more mystical and about encountering God.  Now, please don’t get me wrong....there’s no “flaky stuff”...and sometimes there ARE teaching sessions, and “how to” sessions regarding effective ways to do ministry, etc.  But almost half of each retreat focuses on the individual spiritual growth and development of each pastor.  There’s plenty of time to be alone with God and there’s  plenty of time for prayer and sharing in small groups.  What I love about Roman Catholic retreat centers is that EACH person attending the retreat has a small, PRIVATE room!  That’s unheard of in Protestant conference centers where more likely four to six guys would share a room and have absolutely no privacy!  That’s one of the reasons the John 17:23 Fellowship likes to hold retreats in Catholic facilities.

I hope I have not bored you to tears, but I’m just letting you know I’ll be there on Wednesday and Thursday.  Will I be more “spiritual” when I return?  Only God knows.

One “weird” thing about the Passionists’ Retreat Center in Shrewsbury is that the Passionist Fathers who run the place strongly endorse and study the life of a young lady from over one hundred years ago who (supposedly) manifested the “stigmata”...that is, the visible marks of Jesus’ wounds on the cross on HER body.  (There were episodes of The X Files that dealt with the “stigmata”.)  Do I “buy” all that “stigmata” stuff?  I gotta tell ya, I’m extremely skeptical, but at times on these retreats I’ve looked at the photos and documents about the young lady and just kind of shook my head.  

Will my two days in Shrewsbury ultimately be an “advance” for me in my relationship with God and in my ministry?  I hope so!  But I’m not planning to manifest the stigmata!