Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I received an e-mail from AOL that all AOL Journals will be shut down effective October 31, 2008.  I am not sure why that is the case.

Supposedly, they will have info. about how I can transfer my writings to another blog service, etc.

There certainly ARE other blog services out there.

When I set up my "AOL Public Journal" in Feb. of 2006, I did it because it was very easy to do so, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and how to set up a blog!  Thus, it was "user friendly"!  I will say I've NEVER liked the very long URL address you get with an AOL Journal, but certainly once it starts getting a certain amount of "hits" it shows up on a Google search, AND for regular readers, it's just saved as a "favorite" you can go to.

I thought the whole thing about no more broadcast analog T.V. in Feb. was bad enough!   Now THIS! (We have cable in the living room, but actually have several broadcast analog T.V. sets.)

Well, it's ironic that Hallowe'en will be the last day of AOL Journals, and I don't even know what to say about that one!

I plan to still be posting here during the month of October, and one way or another, the Lord willing, I'll have some sort of a blog someplace later in the year!

Monday, September 29, 2008

SEPTEMBER 30, 2008

"...this day is a day of good tidings..." (from 2 Kings 7:9)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 is a very special day.  It is my wife Mary Ann (Gardiner) Baril's 50th birthday.  I know you're not supposed to tell a woman's age, but there's something about the very special 50th birthday that (sort of) makes it O.K.!  Actually, Mary Ann is one of those who DOESN'T mind people knowing her age, so that makes things a lot easier!

I turned 50 on a Sunday in 2004.  That was kind of cool since I was actually born on a Sunday.  It was a BIG occasion for me!  My friend Ed from Texas came and spoke.  We had a special dinner at a local restaurant for around twenty family and friends.  It was just a big, impressive day!  I felt like the only thing missing was a visit from President and Mrs. Bush!

Pastors go through a lot of difficulties, but they also get a lot of public fanfare and praise which helps make up for the hard stuff.

Pastors are expected to be almost perfect, but Pastors' wives are expected to be PERFECT.  They have to be perfect wives, perfect mothers, perfect homemakers, perfect leaders, perfectly merciful and comforting people, perfect teachers, perfect counselors, and pretty much perfect everything else, too!  Pastors' wives often receive little or no fanfare or praise.  Those who have special ministries to pastors, their wives, and families, tend to report that many pastors' wives are sad and hurting and feeling unappreciated and neglected. In addition to all that perfect stuff I mentioned, today's typical pastors' wife works a full-time job and is the chief breadwinner in the family.

That's true in my family.

A recent prominent Christian magazine reported that in the past few years most all denominations and churches have eliminated health insurance from the salary and benefits package they offer pastors.  In almost every case, the pastors' wife has gone out and gotten a full-time job, largely for the health insurance package THEY can provide.  It's a national crisis, and it's hit the Baril home, as well.  The church provided health insurance until about three years ago, but as in thousands of other cases, it just became cost prohibitive.  So, Mary Ann works full-time as the Administrative Assistant at Marian High School...brings home a salary that enables us to "live" instead of "exist" and provides the health insurance, plus doing an unbelievable amount of stuff at the church including being the Treasurer.

SO, let's make sure Mary Ann has a happy birthday!

Send her an e-mail greeting...maybe even an e-card!  I think it would be cool if she got something like a hundred e-mail birthday greetings at

Sunday, September 28, 2008


"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (I Peter 5:10)

As I write, I think of the Beatles' song, "It's been a hard days night, and I've been workin' like a dog...etc.".  My son is good at writing parody lyrics and COULD probably come up with the lyrics for a song called "A Hard Week's Sunday"!  Last week seemed like an unusually busy week and an unusually difficult week.  From my father, I have inherited the tendency to be a perfectionist.  Perfectionism is good, but it's bad.  My friend and mentor, the Rev. Dick Germaine says perfectionists long for the perfect world that existed before the fall of man.  I think that's true.  Perfectionists DO tend to achieve a lot of things and to excel, but they also are DEVASTATED when things do NOT turn out "perfect", and they can be excessively hard on themselves.  I don't think perfectionists are really happy people.  That's why it's got a good side and a bad side.

I am a stickler for "perfectionism" with my schedule.  When I accidentally "double book" something, and then have to let somebody down, it REALLY bothers me, and THAT happened this past week!

I hate when the bank makes a mistake in my savings account pass book and they DID this week.  They DELETED hundreds of dollars and listed an incorrect balance!  I discovered the error quickly, went right back to the teller, and insisted it be corrected, which it was.

I have a "decent"  amount of exterior painting work to be done at the parsonage.  That may surprise people since it's vinyl sided, but the front porch and some of the trim are PAINTED.  the paint is peeling and looks terrible.  I've tried to schedule days to "prep" for painting and for painting over the summer.  Virtually every day I have scheduled, it has rained.  I had thought about doing painting work this past Friday, and THAT was "out" due to weather.  I have also seriously thought about painting on this coming Tuesday or Friday.  Guess what?  The long range forecast for those days is RAIN!

I can't write much about this but I have a couple of people at the church right now who are disgruntled with me.  I don't think either one of them reads this blog, but even if they read this, I don't think it would matter.  The bottom line is, this caused some stress for me this week. 

I had a Board Meeting this past week.  I ran a Men's Fellowship meeting this past week.  I had several outside commitments this past week.  By Saturday night, I was four and a half days behind where I ABSOLUTELY HAD to be in my schedule!  (I STILL  am!)

You may have been able to tell if you read my last posting that last Wednesday I was kind of jolted by the criticism of how I describe myself and think of myself.  That may seem silly, but yes I WAS jolted by that.  Even so, I kind of "processed" the whole matter over a couple of days and got over it!

Friday was my daughter Rachel's birthday, and even aside from that, Friday was a VERY busy day and a very stressful day!

Last night, I was so tired I felt I could sleep 24 hours!  I wondered how I'd even function for Sunday morning.  I hate going into Sunday mornings like that!  I was kind of fearful I'd be "spaced out" today.  The church building took in SOME water from the rain, and I had to deal with that this morning, but it was far less than it could have been, thank God!

In spite of all that, we had a  fabulous Adult Sunday School class, and an even more fabulous service.  I honestly preached the strongest sermon I have preached this year.  It was NOT the sermon I'd planned!  I used NO notes!  (I have only done that once before.)  It ended up being an unusually powerful service.  Looking back on it, I'm surprised. 

People may wonder why I have such faith in God.  When you've had a very difficult, tiring week; when you feel like you barely have the strength to put one foot on front of another, and then when you go out and minister like that, and really, it's NOT "you", it's the power of the Holy Spirit, well, THAT'S EXCITING and that's PART of why I have such faith in God!

Incidentally, there was a family visiting our church this week.  It turns out they are from Rhode Island and the "Dad" is an Associate Pastor at an Assemblies of God church there.   Well, if HE liked the service, and he did, I guess that confirms it was good!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” (Matthew 16:22)

There’s another topic I had planned for today, which I may get to another time; but right now I have an urgency to ask for some feedback from my readers...those who know me well, those who know me casually, and even those who don’t know me in person but have only “met” me through this blog.

Over the past seven weeks or so, three people have bluntly and strongly (and unexpectedly) told me I should stop describing myself as “eccentric”.  (Well, actually, it would be FOUR people if I count a guy last week who out of the blue recommended a better descriptive word for me, and it’s such a huge fifty dollar word that I FORGOT what it is!)  Today’s was LEAST expected and came from someone I have a lot of respect for.  He believes when I call myself “eccentric” I’m demaning myself in an inappropriate manner.

I explained to him that while the word “eccentric” HAS often come to have a very negative connotation, that’s actually NOT the original meaning of the word.  The word means, “out of the center, or outside of the center”, or as I like to say, “outside of the circle”.  I told him that when I describe myself as “eccentric”, I don’t mean I’m standing in the middle of traffic drooling all over myself and trying to wash people’s windows with a squeegee.  Nor do I mean I’m dressed up like Rudy Valley in a mink coat and 1920s attire, with the heat of my house turned up to 90 while it’s in fact 85 degrees and humid outdoors.  I realize we DO often think of that kind of stuff when we think of “eccentric” people!   I told the guy today that when I say I’m “eccentric” I’m saying I march to the beat of a different drummer...that I’m DIFFERENT...that I don’t think or act the way most other people do.  One of the dictionary’s definitions of “eccentric” is “unconventional” and I’m definitely unconventional!  I also (tongue-in-cheek) sometimes describe myself as “weird”.  In comparison to the typical 50ish Assemblies of God minister, or even the typical 50ish white collar American male, I AM (tongue-in-cheek) a little weird and eccentric.

For years I looked for a term to describe who and what I am.  Around five years ago, I began describing myself as “eccentric” due to the reasons I’m stating here.  I’ve been comfortable with that.  As you know, I describe myself on this blog as eccentric.  As I see it, I kind of have a “schtick”.  Well, there’s another word...”schtick”.  That’s a Yiddish term.  I’d have to have my friend Don Splansky, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Am, define that if I really want accuracy, but  I guess I’d say a schtick is kind of a behavior, a way of doing things, a manner, and it includes personality, characteristics, eccentricities (there we go!) and so forth.  I have a schtick the way someone like Andy Rooney has a schtick or the way someone like Jack Benny had a schtick.  For you evangelical Christians, I mentioned Mike Warnke in a recent posting and HE definitely has (had?) a schtick.

The unsolicited comments of three (or IS it four?) people over the past few weeks HAS got me thinking:  IS it a bad thing to describe myself as eccentric? IS it a put down?  Is it dishonoring to God?  Is it dishonoring to my family?  Is it dishonoring to the church I pastor?  I’m not sure.

I DO know someone with a lot of wisdom that I know made a statement many years ago that I never forgot.  It was about the name of a particular church which was a confusing and hard to understand name.  The church’s pastor was ALWAYS having to explain what the name of his church meant.  My wise friend said, “If you have to keep explaining a name then it’s not a good name.”  The pastor of the church with the confusing name changed the name to something much better.

SHOULD I DROP THE “ECCENTRIC” DESCRIPTION?  Then again, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said, “To thine own self be true.”?  If I am, according to the correct and original description, “eccentric”, then what’s the big deal?

A lot of times I ask for comments and I get maybe 2 postings on the blog and maybe 1 or 2 e-mails and that’s it. (Sometimes, not even that much!)  I’m really serious.  As a famous female Boston media personality used to say, “I want you to weigh in on this!”  I do.  What do you think?  What is your advice for me?  Should I keep the description?  Should I drop it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FOLLOW UP TO "HEY MOW!" (or "Leave it to 'Bill-ver'!")

"In every thing give thanks:  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."  (I Thessalonians 5:18)

A week ago I wrote the posting entitled, "Hey Mow!" and I was "lower than a dead toad in a grave"; as I like to say. 

I just want to give a follow up to that posting.

My friend Bill did look at my mower last Saturday.  He concluded that it's getting plenty of gas and that's not the problem.  He suspected the spark plug.  Bill took the spark plug off, blew on it, dried it, did whatever he could to it, and carefully reattached it.  When we started the mower, the  R.P.M.s sounded faster.  The mower sounded "more confident" if it's possible for a mower to sound confident.

Bill wrote down the number of the spark plug and is going to pick up a new one and put it in soon.

Today, I just figured I'd try to start the mower and get as far as I could with the lawn.  I GOT THE WHOLE LAWN MOWED WITHOUT IT QUITTING, SPUTTERING OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT!  It was great!  I got the whole lawn mowed in 35 minutes.  Normally it takes me an hour because I also weedwhack it and clean everything up, but after spending hours weedwhacking the whole lawn last week, this was all I wanted to do today, and it LOOKS GREAT!

Incidentally, regarding the store that begins with an "M", Bill said the spark plug should have been one of the first things they thought of.  Anyway, I'm glad for this good follow up report!

Monday, September 22, 2008


“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (Colossians 2:16)

Without doubt I’m “opening a can of worms:” on this one.  Even so, I think I’ve written about Hallowe’en on the blog once or twice before.

At least twice in the past week as I drove around Framingham with my car radio on, I heard some very heated discussion about Hallowe’en and specifically whether Hallowe’en activities should be banned from public elementary schools due to religious reasons, the whole “politically correct” thing and the whole “separation of church and state” thing.   Apparently, a couple of Massachusetts public school systems are banning Hallowe’en this year and a number of others have already banned Hallowe’en within the past few years.  

It’s amazing to me how angry, well, how IRATE adults become about this.  Now, they get annoyed when Christmas and Santa Claus are kicked out of the schools, but touch Hallowe’en and WOW= they’re ready to egg your house, “key” your car, and smash your mailbox with a baseball bat!  

Boy, has Hallowe’en become a “sacred cow” in our society!  It’s amazing to me.

As with a lot of issues, I’ve “run the gamut” on Hallowe’en.  I will cut to the chase and say I pretty much DON’T like it, although I’m not as hostile and negative about it as I was at one time.  As a child from a middle-class Catholic family in the Boston suburbs in the 1960s, I remember Hallowe’en as one of my favorite days of the year, dressing in costume, and going door-to-door loading up on candy.  In those days there WAS a lot more DESTRUCTION on Hallowe’en than there was today, but if you liked candy as much as I did, it was a GREAT night!

The evangelical Christian community (“born again Christians” which is what I am now) pretty much had no trouble with Hallowe’en until around thirty years ago.  Up until that time, it was common for Protestant evangelical churches to hold Hallowe’en parties and other events.  I think the principal blow to Hallowe’en for the conservative Christian community came from a popular dynamic and charismatic speaker named Mike Warnke.  Mike claimed to be an ex-Satanist high priest.  Mike was a riveting speaker- cool, long-haired, captivating, sensational, and opinionated.  In the ‘70s Christians, especially young adults, bought his tapes left andright the way secular young people bought George Carlin tapes.  Sadly, much of Warnke’s “testimony” was later exposed as highly exaggerated.  (It wasn’t ALL fabricated, but enough of it was proven false that he pretty much disappeared from the traveling Christian circuit.)  Anyway, Mike Warnke attacked Hallowe’en head on.  His Hallowe’en material WAS accurate; in fact what Warnke was teaching and preaching was also being taught by German theologian Dr. Kurt Koch.  The bottom line was that Hallowe’en was a pagan, Druid festival, was essentially Satanic and demonic, was an absolute insult and affront to the Lord Jesus Christ and NO decent evangelical Christian should have anything to do with it.

What I guess could be called the “hate Hallowe’en” days in conservative Christian circles probably ran from somewhere around 1977 to somewhere around 1989.  In that era, many churches began offering alternatives to Hallowe’en for kids on the evening of October 31.  Typically, dressing up as ghosts, witches, etc. was a big no-no.  Kids would be encouraged to dress as Bible characters, or maybe friendly animals like big Teddy bears...stuff like that.  They’d still play games, and get candy, and everybody was happy.  The alternative to Hallowe’en events usually were called “Harvest Parties”.  I believe such Harvest Parties still take place, but I think there less common than they were at one time.

Many Christians just plain refused to give out candy on Hallowe’en night, shutting off their lights, and pretending to not be home.

I must confess that in that 1977-1989 era I was VERY anti-Hallowe’en.  I even wrote an anti-Hallowe’en letter to a major daily newspaper which pretty much had flames shooting out of it!  My own children were little kids in that anti-Hallowe’en era, and we never had them go trick-or-treating.  Like most evangelical Christians, we took them to the Harvest parties.

Again, I still don’t like Hallowe’en, but I’m not quite as “anti” as I was at one time and I think that’s true of a lot of evangelical Christians.  My daughter Amy has told me that out in the Bible belt city of Springfield, Missouri where she lives it’s not uncommon for even fairly high level evangelical clergy and denominational executives to sent their kids out trick-or-treating, so I guess things have changed in twenty years!

We give out candy, but we also give out children’s Hallowe’en tracts. Usually they're cute little stories with titles like, “The Happy Pumpkin”.  The bottom line of each tract is the kid is urged to “ask Jesus into his or her heart”. I’m sure that offends some of you, but if somebody comes to MY home asking for something, well, that’s what they’re gonna get!

Now, to the matter of schools banning Hallowe’en.  I’ve gone back and forth on it, but I’ve concluded that if I were a school official I WOULD ban it.  Our courts have taken the view that anything even remotely religious or offensive should be banned from the schools.  I think those are really stupid rulings.  I’d LOVE to have bold and open prayer and Bible reading in the public schools.  But it’s not allowed.  And Christmas is not allowed.  And Hanukkah is not allowed.  I think that’s stupid, BUT if all that other stuff is not allowed, then Hallowe’en should not be allowed either!

Friday, September 19, 2008


"...And there were also with him other little ships." (from Mark 4:36)

I'm actually writing this entry from the Boston Public Library's "Washington" internet access room.  I have taken my birthday off and I'm spending it in the city.  Each year I take either Sept. 18,19,or 20 off and go into Boston.  For the past several years, when I've gone on my mid-September trip to the Boston Public Garden one item of the day was always a little sad:  Each year on that they they've been hauling the swan boats out of the water and disassembling them for the winter.  It's a sign summer is over and winter is coming and it's always a little sad.  Today, I was so happy to see the swan boats running and in business.  For some reason, they're not putting them away until next week. All is right with the world!  Weather-wise this has got to be the nicest day I've spent in the city EVER!  I've often been in here on oppressively hot and humid days in the summer and I've been in here on dreadfully cold days in the winter.  Spring and Fall are really nice in here, but today has been just outstanding!  I have really been blessed today, and I just had to shart that!


Thursday, September 18, 2008


“...Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth (betrays) thee.” (from Matthew 26:73)

Today is September 19, 2008.  Today is my 54th birthday.  Interestingly enough, I was born in 1954 and now I’m 54.  That seems weird to me.  I’m the same age as Oprah Winfrey, Ron Howard, and Bill Mumy (who played “Will” on Lost in Space).  The thought has occurred to me this week that whatever I do or don’t get for my birthday, there are a lot of verbal expressions I use that define who I am, and most of them came from other people.  Thus, in a sense, these expressions were “presents” from these people, and now I perpetuate THEIR expressions by my own speech patterns!  Some of you who know me well and know my verbal expressions will get a kick out of knowing where they came from!

From Dr. Paul Gastonguay, former Biology Professor at Stonehill College comes,
 “ANY QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, GRIPES, NOTES, JOKES, PUNS, ETC.?”  He constantly used that line at the end of a thought or at the end of a lecture.  I didn’t get a very good grade in his class but I still use his expression today!

From my father come a lot of  expressions such as,
“INCIDENTALLY...” He constantly began sentences and thoughts with “incidentally” and so do I.  It drives my wife crazy, but at age 54, I think I’ll be starting sentences and phrases with “incidentally” for the rest of my life.

“SOMETHIN’ FIERCE”  My daughter Amy will think this one comes from her husband David.  In fact “somethin’ fierce” is commonly used in the Missouri Ozarks and is not a New England expression.  Nevertheless, this one comes from my father.  I assume one of his buddies in the service used the expression and he brought it home.  He frequently used, “somethin’ fierce” in sentences such as, “That old Ford burns oil somethin’ fierce!” and I use the same expression!

(said with overconfident sarcasm): “...WELL...WELL...WELL...”  My father loved to be proven right!  When he was (often) proven right, he was not humble about it!  Rather, he would boast, and happily exclaim, “Well...Well...Well...”  I have the same tendency.  I’m NOT proud of it, and I try not to do it but sometimes when I’m proven correct, before I even have time to think about it, I find myself happily exclaiming, “Well...Well...Well...”

“ENOUGH FOR 27 ARMIES!”  My father actually used to say, “Enough for an army”.  I started saying, “Enough for three armies”. Then it was “Enough for six armies”.  Now, it’s  “Enough for 27 armies”!

(always said while driving) “WHAT A BEAUT!” My Dad didn’t want to be using all sorts of four-letter words while driving, so he’d yell, “What a beaut!” and get great satisfaction from that.  I do the same thing!

“...SHORTLY...”  He used that all the time. You’d ask, “When are we leaving?” and he would answer, “Shortly”.  “Shortly” could mean three minutes or three hours.  I frequently use “Shortly”.  When people ask ME what “Shortly” means, I tell them, “Shortly means shortly”.  That usually quiets them down!

From my mother comes,
“OOOOOOOOOO YOU CAN’T EAT MEAT!!” My mother didn’t have a lot of patience.  Well, neither did my father.  My mother was a devout Roman Catholic. If on a Friday during Lent we asked something like, “Why can’t we have hamburgers?” this is what she’d say!  Usually, it’s during Lent, that on a Friday I’ll announce in a comical tone, “OOOOOOOOOO YOU CAN’T EAT MEAT!!” even though we don’t usually give up meat for Lent!

From my sister Dianne comes,
“I HAVE NO CHOICE”  Dianne is a true Baril, and as a true Baril she likes to be in control of things...so do I!  When she is put in some situation where she has to do something she doesn’t want to do or has to put up with something she doesn’t want to have to put up with, she will announce, “I have NO choice!”  Now, when put in such situations, I will say, “As Dianne says, ‘I have NO choice’!”

From David C. Milley (my boss in the 1980s) come several expressions including,
“HASN’T GOT A CLUE”  Now, it’s true that many people use this expression, but believe it or not, the first person I ever heard use “hasn’t got a clue” was Dave Milley in 1981.  He used that one all the time, and now so do I!

“THE HEIGHT OF TOTAL STUPIDITY”  Specifically, Dave Milley would say, “It’s the height of total stupidity” when he encountered the kind of thing that would make Dianne Baril say, “I have NO choice”.  Well, Dave Milley felt he DID have a choice and he would say of the situation, “It’s the height of total stupidity”!  At times, I use that one, too.

From Denny Seler, now a missionary to Jamaica, and a coworker of mine in the 1980s, come a couple of expressions including,
“GOOFBALL”  Any incompetent person (to Denny) was a “goofball”.  I now tend to use the same expression. In fact, I used to refer to a faculty member of Marian High School as “Goofball”.  I will never reveal who that is!

“WHAT A LOON!”  To Denny, a “loon” was about twenty times worse than a Goofball!  Sadly, “loons” seem far more plentiful in today’s society than they were in the 1980s!

From Steve Clark, who was the janitor when I worked with Dave Milley and Denny Seler, comes,
“YA SEE YA TAMORROW!”  He would announce that around 90 minutes before his work was supposed to be over for the day...would walk out...and see if he got away with it.  It usually worked when he used it on me or on Denny.  It never worked on Dave Milley!  When someone does an inferior job and then walks off, I always think about, “YA SEE YA TAMORROW!”

From Bill Lincoln an active member at the church I  pastor comes,
(said in a monotone with slight cynicism)  “OH, WELL.”  Whenever something regrettable but inevitable happens, such as the electricity going out during the church service or something like that, Bill will say, “Oh, Well.”  It turns out that expression came from an old Italian lady who was related to his wife.  He heard it so much that he started using it.  I’ve heard Bill use it so much that I’ve started using it!

From Joanne Lincoln, Bill’s wife,  comes,
(in a feminine and very certain tone) “IT’S NOT ALL BAD!”
No matter WHAT happens, she typically says, “It’s NOT all bad”.  I think it annoys my wife, but sometimes when something bad happens, I will put on a feminine voice and announce, “It’s NOT all bad!”

From my daughter Rachel comes,
(in a slightly bored, annoyed tone) “YEAH HOLD ON”
Rachel has been saying “Yeah HOLD on” when she takes phone calls since she was a little, little kid.  She (now almost 22) can’t believe she was saying, “Yeah HOLD on” when she was 6, but she was!  And if I’m not careful, I say it, too!

From my daughters Amy and Rachel comes,
“WICKED!”  I actually first heard “wicked” used as a compliment like, “That’s a wicked good turkey sandwich!” by my fifth grade teacher Ellen Ennis, but in more recent years, no one used “wicked” more than Amy and Rachel and so I’ve really picked it up.

My son pointed out that I often say,
“TO MAKE A SHORT STORY LONG!”  He doesn’t know where I got that one and neither do I.  Could it be that I actually made THAT one up?!

Well, Happy Birthday to ME!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

FIRST THINGS FIRST:  I think I need to start this one with a DISCLAIMER.  My wife (and several other people) have expressed to me at times that I should not discuss personal problems, bad days, frustrations, and matters such as that on the blog.  Mary Ann has (correctly) pointed out that if one reads (say) the blog of a big name pastor or evangelist or of one of the executives of the Assemblies of God, the material will always be very classy, polished, professional, uplifting and edifying.  Mary Ann (along with a few others) doesn’t like me appearing to be weak, petty, childish, vindictive, you know, that sort of thing.  I’ve admitted that they DO have a point and over the past three or four weeks, I’ve really tried to watch that.  THIS ONE, however, I just could not pass up, and I DO think there are positive reasons for posting it.  I WILL say that some readers could definitely believe I’m being weak, petty, childish, vindictive,etc. with this posting.  IF you’re really bothered by that, you probably should close this up and not read it.  You’ve been warned!  If you read it and it offends you, well, I think I’m in the clear!

When a person “sets up” a posting for their “journal” on AOL there are a number of choices to pick for the “mood”.  I had a hard time with this one.  There are probably at least seven choices I could have made, but I HAD to choose one.  Please understand I have MANY moods and thoughts as I write.  I’ve had a disappointing and frustrating experience today, but I’m really trying to “process” it and see what (if anything) God wants me to do with it and to learn from it.  If this was ten or fifteen years ago, I would have been yelling in anger like some kind of a maniac and my whole day would have been ruined.  I’m amazed that I’m pretty calm and reflective as I write this around 7 p.m. and I hope that indicates there HAS been some Christian growth in this fragile, earthen vessel.

Many of you know I’m a real “Three Stooges nut”!  I am.  But the title is NOT a misspelling.  It IS a take-off on Curly or Shemp yelling, “Hey Moe!” but in a few moments you’ll understand the spelling of  “Hey Mow!”.  I’m really not much of an outdoors person.  I’m not at all a handyman.  That continually bothers me  because my father and brother were both amazing handymen and my father really looked down on men who were not good mechanics, carpenters, etc.  Maybe the deeper part of that is for sharing another time.  As much as I’m NOT outdoorsy, I am one of those guys who really gets into having a nice lawn.  I’ve learned a lot about lawn care over the past few years.  The parsonage I live in may be 116-years-old and in an older, blue-collar neighborhood, but the place HAS A GREAT LOOKING LAWN.  I’ve put a lot of time, labor, and effort into the lawn and I’m really proud of it.  Like Hank Hill on the “King of the Hill” cartoon show, it’s almost a spiritual experience for me to cut the lawn.  (My kids have compared me to Hank Hill and I think in some respects it’s a fair comparison.)  Many times when I cut the lawn, I pray as I’m mowing.  The mowing is so loud, people can’t hear you, and, well, smelling that fresh cut grass, looking at the “green carpet” and talking to God at the same time, well, WOW, that’s a natural high for me.  

Over the years, I’ve had Sears Craftsmen lawn mowers.  In 1996 my mower was old and “shot”.  I used to bring my mower over to Canton a couple of times a month to cut my parents’ lawn, so my mother gave me the money to buy a brand new mower that year.  Ten years went by quickly, and by 2006 it was starting to run rough and needing to be replaced.  To my surprise, on Memorial Day weekend of 2006 a couple from our church presented me with a brand new Electrolux Weedeater lawn mower (which actually has a Briggs & Stratton engine).  I sold my Sears mower at a yard sale and proceeded to enjoy the Electrolux.   The new mower wasn’t bad UNTIL THIS YEAR.

This year it just did NOT run right.  Starting it was a pain.  It ran rough.  It would cut out at times.  It seemed ten years old instead of two.  I HAD my friend Bill (one of the best mechanics I know)  do some minor maintenance on it on ’07, but I decided I didn’t want to bother Bill this year so I put the lawn mower in for service at one of the few “Mom & Pop” hardware stores left in MetroWest.  THAT day in early July was tough.  The mower kept cutting out and cutting out.  I was only able to get the lawn half done and I had to finish it with my weedwhacker!  The mower was in the hardware store for two weeks.  I was thrilled to pick  it up.  The first time I used it the mower pretty much ran O.K.  The second time it was AWFUL.  I had to finish the lawn with the weedwhacker again!  The third time it was EVEN MORE AWFUL.  Again, I had to finish the lawn with the weedwhacker.  I took the mower back to the hardware store.

At the store, I asked, “Do I get a discount since this was in here just a few weeks ago?”

No kidding, They angrily said “NO!”
The guy who actually repairs the mowers proceeded to give me a lecture.  He told me it was all my fault and I was putting bad gas in my mower.  He said I had old gas in my gas can which was now mixed with water due to  condensation.  I wasn’t sure I believed that, but I left the mower.  The good news is, they actually DID charge me much less for this repair than for the previous one.  The main thing the hardware store did THIS time was clean the carburetor.  But there’s plenty of bad news coming...

Today, (my day off) I went to Home Depot and bought a new gas can and put about a gallon of gasoline in at a local station.  I went and picked up the mower.  I was so happy.  “Now I can mow the lawn without any problems and without needing to finish the job with the weekwhacker,” I happily thought.  Less then ten minutes into cutting the lawn the mower cut out and would not restart.  I could not get it restarted for about a half hour...the same symptoms I’d had before!  To say I was disappointed was putting it mildly.  I was able to restart it a couple of times. Each time it would run a minute or two and then cut out.  

You guessed it.  I ended up cutting 75% of the lawn with the weedwhacker.  You haven’t lived until you’ve cut a lawn with a weedwhacker!  Four times in a summer!  Well, it’s something I don’t ever want to do again!

Yes, a lot of things went through my mind about that hardware store.  I know I can take that mower back there 47 times and it will never be right.  In the past I’d have named the store.  If you live in Boston’s MetroWest suburbs, it’s likely you’ll figure it out.  Think of the letter “M”.  It’s NOT a horrible store.  They are a propane filling station and I use them for that.  They are efficient and reasonable with that.  They’re a good place to stop when you need a hose nozzle, or some penny nails, or some woodfiller  or whatever.  I use them for stuff like that when I don’t want to take the time to go to Home Depot or Lowes.  But it occurred to me when I brought back the lawn mower that they really didn’t seem to care about me as a customer and they really didn’t seem to care about solving my problem.  I’m not saying I’ll never go there again but I will never take a lawn mower there again.  AND, I will say, if they continue to treat customers with a “couldn’t care less” attitude, they won’t be around much longer.

I mentioned Bill earlier.  Bill is from the church I pastor.  Bill is a very busy man with a lot going on in his life and family.  He works much harder than a man of almost 68 should have to work. Bill’s had a pretty difficult year with the tragic death of his granddaughter’s husband, among other things.  I absolutely did not want to bother Bill.  After I got in around supper time and got cleaned up, I called Bill’s cell phone.  I kind of took a lesson from Paul’s letter to Philemon and poured on my “help me please, Bill” request.  Bill is sometimes quite stressed and carrying a heavy load, but he was very patient with me, and kind of chuckled.  I actually think in a crazy way he was enjoying the chance to help me.  After I described the symptoms, Bill told me it’s very likely the lawn mower has a bad spark plug.  He laughed when I told him I finished the lawn with the weedwhacker!  Bill is going to make every effort to look at the mower on Saturday.

SO, maybe I should have called on Bill in the first place.
It DOESN’T let that hardware store which begins with “M” off the hook.
It also doesn’t take away from the fact that (physically speaking) I had a draining and terrible day...but God is still on the throne...

This story is not over at this point.  Maybe someday it will be a good sermon illustration.  Right now, I’m LIVING it...

Whaddya think??

Monday, September 15, 2008


“...the night cometh, when no man can work.” (from John 9:4)

Sometimes I think I have A.D.D. or “Adult A.D.D.”!  My brain can and does go ALL OVER THE PLACE in a matter of just a few minutes, or even a few seconds.  This morning as I was getting ready for the day the thought occurred to me:  “Well, it’s Monday; you’ll start getting a lot more e-mails, and your blog will get a lot more ‘hits’!”  It’s true.  I don’t know about you, but in my case, the number of e-mails I receive goes WAY down between Fridays at 4 P.M. and Mondays at 8 A.M.  That’s also true about my blog.  I can post a brand new entry on Saturday morning and “nobody” reads it until sometime on Monday.  Over the weekend, I can usually predict who I get e-mails from.  Probably 85% of them are from three individuals.  The champion of the weekend e-mails has a screen name that begins with “e”.  In second place is someone who has a screen name that begins with “d” and in a distant third is someone who has a screen name that begins with “l”.  

What this tells me is that most people go on-line sending and receiving e-mails, surfing the net, etc. on Monday through Friday at their jobs.  I know, I know, I do it, too, and I DO, but somehow the fact that I’m on “24 hour call” and that ministry is not strictly confined to a few hours, makes me feel less guilty about it.  (Am I rationalizing?!)  I probably spend between 30 minutes and 45 minutes a day during “regular business hours” on-line.   I suspect people who work at those cubicles in big companies spend a lot more than that.  One time (about ten years ago) I visited a friend’s work station at a big company in Boston.  I was amazed at all the games and cool websites this person spent LOTS of time at during work, AND I was amazed that the person’s coworkers in some cases spent even MORE time at that stuff.  I wondered how they got any work done.  In fact, a few years later, there was a big layoff at that company and many people lost their jobs.  I was not surprised!  I wonder- does the time we spend on personal e-mails, surfing the net, buying stuff on E-Bay, etc. make us better workers?  It’s like that old line, “working hard or hardly working?”   I wonder. At those outsourced customer service locations in India, do you suppose those people are all surfing the net and playing games.  Somehow I don’t think so.

I guess the thing that bugs us more than people not working is electronic items not working.  Later this morning, I had a TERRIBLE time with an air conditioner in a key room in our church facility.  I could not get it to work at all.  This occupied a great deal of time and energy until I finally got it working, but I had to “play with it” AND I had to “pray over it” to get it running!  I pastor a tiny church but if I pastored a large church and had employees who were hardly working...I wonder which would bother me more:  the people not working or the A/C not working.  Honestly, I think it’s the A/C!

Speaking of working, some churches think they’re working hard but THEY’RE hardly working.  That could NOT be said of the Lutheran Church of Framingham.  The Lutheran Church of Framingham celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Sunday afternoon and my wife and I were in attendance.  The church’s congregation is not all that large...it’s larger than First Assembly of God of Framingham, yes, but it’s no more than 75, if that.  Still, that little church does SO much in the community and for the world.  A listing was given of all the ministries they have and the groups they “partner” with.  I happen to know the information was NOT an exaggeration.  Kudos to Rich Hurst the pastor.  He’s a guy who is about my age who is actually a very humble man but who has a heart like that of the CONVERTED Grinch....3 sizes TOO BIG!  I was talking to one guy who is a fundraiser for Lutheran Social Services who was in attendance.  He told me the church he attends in another Boston suburb has four times as many people as does the Lutheran Church of Framingham but does not do a fraction of the ministry that church does.  I learned a lot at the Lutheran service.  I honestly did NOT know that (like Roman Catholics) Lutherans use crucifixes (crosses with statues of Jesus on the cross as he was crucified).  For most Protestants, a crucifix is absolutely TABOO.   We tend to emphasize the fact that “Christ is Risen” and we don’t like to create a “graven image” of Jesus Christ.  Even so, the speaker at Sunday’s service explained that Martin Luther and his followers rejected THAT practice of Protestants, choosing rather to keep the crucifix to emphasize that Lutherans preach “Christ crucified”.  So I learned some theology, but (along with another small church pastor with whom I spoke at that service) I was challenged by how much the Lutheran Church is doing and that our church really needs to clarify our vision, our purpose, and our need for outreach.

I guess the bottom line is, God created us for work.  When an air conditioner is not working, it’s pretty aggravating.   When we’re supposed to be doing our jobs but we’re surfing the net....are we really doing the right thing?   [well, if you’re reading The Blog of Bob Baril, THAT’S OK!! :-)  ]

And, what is the real purpose of CHURCH?  We’d better get that one right!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them..." (from Hebrews 13:3)

Around supper time I attended two 9/11 remembrance ceremonies at Framingham's Tercentennial Park (the grounds of the former U.S. government "Cushing Hospital" military nursing home facility) off Dudley Road near Farm Pond.

I've been to the park before, but it has been awhile.  I had NOT been to the 9/11 Memorial until today.  It's a very special and beautiful Memorial which includes a small and attractive gazebo.  The official ceremony began at 5:30 p.m.  Clergy who were interested in being part of the ceremony were invited to arrive at 5:15.  There were only four clergy TOTAL who showed up.  The other three (Msgr. Francis Strahan of St. Bridget's Catholic Church, The Rev. Richard Hurst of Lutheran Church of Framingham, and The Rev. Brad Watters of Grace Congregational Church) all had specific parts in the program.  There were contingents of firefighters and police officers along with the Framingham Town Manager and Framingham Selectmen.  I noted that State Rep. Pam Richardson and State Senator Karen Spillka were among those who were present.  The ceremony was short, but patrotic and moving.  The names of seventeen people connected to Framingham who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were read.  As I recall from the past, these were not all Framingham RESIDENTS, but some were employees of Framingham's TJX Companies who died in one of the hijacked flights. 

At 6:30, a much shorter ceremony took place.  Two dedicated middle-aged evangelical Christian men that I know (one Assemblies of God and one Congregational) had encouraged those who were interested to gather at the gazebo for a time of prayer for our community and nation.  They'd imagined perhaps dozens of interested Christians joining them for prayer.  In reality, there were five of us present. One of the guys was disappointed in the turnout, but I encouraged him that anything planned on a weeknight around supper time can be difficult to attract large numbers of people to.   For part of the time, Scripture was read, and for part of the time, we knelt and prayed. 

Of interest to me was that one guy read a quote from Henry Wilson who was the Republican Vice-President of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant from 1873-1875.  It was evident from the quote that Wilson was a very committed and outspoken theologically conservative Christian.  As a young man, he was known as "The Natick Cobbler". Those of you from here in Boston's MetroWest suburbs have likely seen his little cobbler shop which is on display as a historic site on Route 135.  I did NOT know that Wilson was a very committed and very conservative Christian, and had been an outspoken abolitionist.  I researched Henry Wilson on-line a little bit after I got home and discovered he was absolutely committed to "temperance" and drank NO alcoholic beverages.  So, think of it, a religious Republican socially conservative Christian.  It sounds like he'd have a lot in common with Sarah Palin, doesn't it?  I learned that Henry Wilson had been a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts before he was Vice-President.  Interestingly enough, Wilson DIED IN OFFICE while he was Vice-President.  I'm not sure how many Vice-Presidents have died in office.

The weather in Massachusetts today was very much like it was on September 11, 2001:  sunny, bright blue sky, low humidity, a high temperature of around 72.  That actually made the day SADDER for me because it was SO much like it was on that fateful day.

Well, at the end of the day, I just wanted to share this "stuff".

I wish there had been a few more people at the official 5:30 p.m. Framingham 9/11 observance and at the unofficial 6:30 p.m. prayer gathering.  If you live in Framingham, will you mark this on your calendar for next year?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This piece was originally posted on the blog on September 9, 2006 and was entitled:

I thought it was worth posting again!

"...and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord."  (from Genesis 12:8)

Here in Massachusetts, we see a fair amount of Quebec license plates over the summer months.  Many Canadians vacation in New England and they love Cape Cod.  I remember from my early childhood that the Quebec plates used to say "La Belle Province" but the new motto "Je Me Souviens" comes out of the Quebec separatist movement.  My paternal grandparents each emigrated from just outside Montreal, and my heritage in Quebec goes way back.  I deeply regret that I speak very little French, but I do know that "Je Me Souviens" means "I remember".  (No, I won't talk about my French Canadian heritage today- maybe another time.)

I remember.

I remember September 11, 2001.  I also remember November 22, 1963, for that matter.  Up until 9/11/01, November 22, 1963 held the record in my memory as being the most sad and intense day that I could ever remember in this country.  The shock of the news of the Kennedy assassination, and all that followed was so vivid and horrible.  I never thought any day would equal the sadness and horror of November 22, 1963; and none did until September 11, 2001- which tied it.

Maybe it's because my birthday is in September, but I absolutely LOVE September.  On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was on a day off (as I usually am on Tuesdays).  At that time, my two daughters were students at Framingham's Marian (Catholic) High School.  Since both were on "financial aid" my wife and I had to "give something back" to the school.  (That was before my wife was the full-time head administrative assistant at Marian as she is currently.)  I was committed to doing clerical work in the Development office at Marian every Tuesday, just as I'd done over the previous school year.  Sept. 11 was my first day "serving" for that year.  I was up VERY early that day.  I drove Amy and Rachel to school.  I then went out and took a long walk.  It was a BEAUTIFUL morning.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky.  As I walked, I prayed that (like Joseph in the Old Testament) I would do a good job at Marian and find favor with my superiors.  I was so happy and so thankful for the beautiful day.  I picked up a Boston Herald and perused it over my breakfast table as I ate a bowl of Special K.  One article leaped out at me.  It said Regis Philbin was holding tryouts in Boston on Sept. 13 for college students.  I ran upstairs and told my son Jon, a Freshman at Emerson at the time. Jon was ecstatic and determined to try out.

After watching the last few minutes of a particularly good episode of Northern Exposure on A&E, I left for Marian at 9 and was in the office by 9:15.  After some cheerful "chit chat" I sat at the computer and began to work.  At 9:30,  Mr. Flynn (one of the teachers) burst into the room.

"My mother just called and said two planes crashed into the World Trade Center," he exclaimed.

There was a radio in the room, so I turned it on.  At first I believed some terrible accident had happened.  After about fifteen minutes, the announcer speculated that it must be "terrorism".  I now feel stupid writing this, but I hadn't even thought of terrorism.  I felt almost sick to my stomach.  A few minutes later, it was announced that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon.  Like everyone else, I knew America was under attack.  I couldn't believe that this wonderful September morning had turned into what seemed like a horrible nightmare.  Then it was announced that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  I knew my son was in Boston to attend classes at Emerson, and that my sister worked in an office building near Copley Square.  I genuinely feared for their safety.  I wondered if the trains would be shut down and how they would get home.

In my heart, I was really afraid.  I prayed a silent prayer, asking God to calm me down and to lead me to a Scripture passage to read.  I carry a small "New Testament & Psalms" with me at all times.  I opened it to Psalm 27.  That Psalm gave me such peace and ministered to me in such a powerful way that I used it for the text for my sermon on the following Sunday.

The final period of the day was a special assembly to address the terrible events of the day. Fr. Sheridan, the Catholic Chaplain came in from his parish in Ashland and spoke.  I had to give him a lot of credit because I was not even sure what I'd say.  Sitting across from me was the mother of a Marian student.  She was also a womanwho'd left our church six months earlier.  It was not a pleasant time and we'd angrily clashed over the departure.  After the service,  I spoke to her, urging us to forgive each other and reconcile.  We did.

The train service was slow and sporadic but Jon finally got home from Boston.  I remember feeling very patriotic and very emotional at the end of that day.  I suspected other attacks would follow within the next few months, and of course that did not happen.  I suspected America would never be the same, that we'd really draw closer to God and to one another.  That lasted for about three weeks, and then everything was back to "normal".  That still surprises and saddens me.

September 11, 2001.  I remember.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,  but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.”  (I Corinthians 9:24)

Football fans know today was the first (real) Patriots game of the season.  Some folks who have known me for years are probably surprised that I’m such a Patriots fan.  I wasn’t much of a Patriots fan until somewhere in the mid-1990s.  I never understood the allure of guys just sitting on Sunday afternoon, drinking beer, pigging out, and watching football.  Well, when I got into my early forties and was facing a lot of difficulties in the church, it was a wonderful diversion to watch Bledsoe and the Patriots play.  (Just to be clear, though, when I drink and watch a game I drink soft drinks only!) Over the years I’ve really gotten into watching football, and have even gone into Boston for the parades when the Patriots have won the Super Bowl.  There’s something about Gil Santos’ voice (if you’re listening on radio) on a fall afternoon, especially when the Pats are winning.  It’s also really exciting to watch them on T.V. and I happen to prefer football on CBS.  

Mary Ann had a commitment for the afternoon, and so Jon and I had Chinese food at a restaurant that’s right up the street from where I live.  (Mary Ann has largely lost her appetite for Chinese, so I usually have to wait and go out to eat with Jon if I want it!)  The Chinese restaurant had the Pats-KC game on several big screen sets.  It was nice to eat and watch.  It was actually comical that a number of the Chinese staff were yelling and cheering in Chinese during the game!  (My Chinese-American friend, the Rev. Anderson Huang, who also happens to be a big Pats fan would have gotten a big kick out of that!)  If you saw the game you know about Brady’s knee injury during the first quarter.  One guy in the restaurant got SO depressed, he phoned friends  telling them he was depressed about Brady and that the season is all over!  I was surprised and unhappy about Brady’s injury, but I’ve got a lot more confidence in the Pats than THAT!  

After the meal, I didn’t see any of the second quarter, I saw part of the third quarter, and then I saw the (exciting) last few minutes of the game.  Hats off to the Pats defense who deserve the credit for the win!  It’s a win, so I say it’s a good start!

I also had a good start to the Fall season at the church.  I preached one of the strongest and most unusual sermons I’ve ever preached today.  I guess you’d really have to be a serious born-again Christian to understand this one, but it was on the importance of corporate prayer.  It was NOT a primarily academic sermon.  It was NOT a snooze....although most of my sermons are not boring, for that matter!  I presented it in a strong and somewhat unusual manner.  You’d have to have been there.  It was one of those kind of sermons that people are not neutral about.  It was the kind that makes people either very happy and very motivated or very unhappy and angry.  I’d say I probably had both reactions today, but I did get some gratifying comments after church.  Two people told me it was the best sermon I’ve ever preached.  Honestly,  God is about to do a great and mighty work at this little church.  Mark it down.  This church is not going to be so little in a couple of years.  (This is one of the reasons I’m putting this down in cyberspace.  I want to be able to refer to it at that time.)  I asked one guy to close in prayer because he has a particular “burden” for revival and for corporate prayer.  I later realized I should have given him a “heads up” because he prayed a little long, and he said something that made it sound like it’s wrong to watch sports on television.  In fact, I KNOW he doesn’t believe that, but it DID sound like that!  Afterwards one person said to me something like, “Well, this may be wrong but I’m going to watch the Patriots on television!”  

Oh boy, the job of a pastor.... trying to keep all the lines of communication open and everybody happy...  

Well, obviously if it was wrong, I was wrong, too, but again, I know that guy didn’t mean it that way!

I guess that little bit of confusion can be looked upon like Brady’s knee injury.  An unexpected glitch, but there was still a win.

Yes, in church we had a win today, and on the field the Patriots had a win today!

Friday, September 5, 2008


“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” (from Proverbs 23:7)

On Thursday, one of our church’s senior citizens asked me if I’d consider changing the seating arrangement that I use for our Wednesday night prayer meetings.  She has trouble hearing and could not hear everything that some people were saying.  Up until probably about a year ago, we used to have the chairs in a large circle.  I now have them in two straight rows facing each other.  One of the reasons I made that change is that I am the one who sets the chairs up, and the straight row setup is actually a LOT easier for me to do.  But also, I encourage the people to begin filling in the chairs at one end of the rows, and generally people are sitting CLOSER TOGETHER in this setup than was the case with the old circle setup!  I explained to that senior citizen that she’s actually sitting closer to most people now than under the old setup!  (Incidentally, I know it can be dangerous writing about people behind their backs, but I know that this lady regularly reads my blog and has a very good relationship with me, so I’m sure sharing this story will not be a problem!)  I explained to her that I could understand why she would perceive people as being farther away from her than in the past, but that it’s really not the case.  It’s a matter of PERCEPTION.

Perception is a funny thing.  For instance, which city would you think is closer to Atlanta, Georgia:  Miami, Florida or Indianapolis, Indiana?  I think most of us off the top of our heads would figure it’s Miami, since both cities are in southeastern states which border each other.  In fact, Indianapolis, Indiana is considerably closer to Atlanta, Georgia than is Miami, Florida!  Indianapolis is also slightly closer to Atlanta than is Orlando, Florida!  

During my daughter Amy’s graduation festivities from Evangel University in May of 2007, the school seated us with people they figured “lived near” us- so at our table was a couple from Buffalo, New York.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Anybody from Springfield, Missouri WOULD think of Buffalo, New York and Boston, Massachusetts as being close together.  In fact, Buffalo is much closer (for instance)  to Cleveland, Ohio or Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Even Chicago is ALMOST as close to Buffalo as is Boston!  Again, it’s PERCEPTION.

I’ve (seriously) been asked if time is moving faster as we’re getting closer to the Second Coming of Christ.  Without a doubt, time SEEMS to go by faster as we get older.  To me, events of fifteen years ago SEEM like they happened a couple of years ago.  When I was a child, two years seemed like, well, two CENTURIES!  It seemed to take FOREVER for me to go through Grades 1-6.  FOREVER!  Even now as I think back on it, that six years or so SEEMS like it was at LEAST sixteen years.  But the past fifteen years seem like two!  It’s all PERCEPTION.  When you’re a ten-year-old, a year is a tenth of your whole life.  It’s a long time.  When you’re fifty-three, a year is, well, no big deal!  

Sometimes I’ll say to my wife something like, “We’ve got to get an inspection sticker on the car this month.” and she will reply, “We JUST got the car inspected.”

“No,” I will say, “We got it inspected a year ago.”  She will be incredulous.  I’m using her as an example, but I do the SAME kind of thing all the time!

It’s like that drawing they show you in “Intro. to Psychology” class in college.  The question is, “Do you see a young woman, or do you see an old woman?”  Usually about half see one and half see the other.  They’re BOTH there- but you’ve got to look for them....it’s kind of an optical illusion.  It’s like the logo for an animal hospital on Concord Street, Framingham, near where I live. Their logo is another one of those, “Which do you see?” things.  Some people see a dog and some see a cat.

Have you got strong opinions and do you get all hot and aggravated about what you believe?  Be careful, your PERCEPTION may be off.  My maternal grandfather died in 1960 when I was a little kid.  I only faintly remember him.  He was six feet tall (tall for a French Canadian), smoked a pipe regularly, and was always “popping” Smith Brothers wild cherry cough drops.  My mother often told me one of my Grandpa’s favorite expressions was, “Things are not as they seem”.

Indeed, things are (often) NOT as they seem!       PERCEPTION!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


“Ye are the salt of the earth:...” (from Matthew 5:13)

This is a sad week for my wife, Mary Ann.  Her favorite uncle, “Uncle Gilly”, passed away yesterday at the age of 81.

Uncle Gilly’s real name was Bruno Borghi but was always known as “Gilly”.  Uncle Gilly was related to Mary Ann by marriage- he was married to her mother’s sister, Barbara.

It’s our understanding that it was his request that there be no funeral or memorial service and that his body be cremated.  In a way that does not surprise me.  Uncle Gilly would not have wanted any “big deal” made of his passing, and I think the last thing he’d have wanted is some overdone Catholic funeral.  Sadly, however, funerals are for those left behind.  For some people, wakes and funerals are an important part of grieving and (to use an overused cliche) of “closure”.  As busy as she is this week with school opening, and she’s incredibly busy, I really think Mary Ann needed a funeral to attend to process the loss of Uncle Gilly.  I must admit, as busy as I am, too, I’d certainly have attended his funeral.

Uncle Gilly lived with Aunt Barbara in the Sagamore section of Bourne on Cape Cod.  They lived in a small ranch style house about “a stone’s throw” from the Sagamore Bridge.  I first met Uncle Gilly in early 1982.  He reminded me a LOT of actor Ernest Bordenine (I’m not sure if I spelled Bordenine correctly, but you know who I mean.... “Commander McHale” from the old McHale’s Navy sitcom.)
As Mary Ann put it, he was like Ernest Bordenine in that he was gruff but he was also happy. I believe Gilly worked many years for the Town of Bourne Public Works Dept.  I did not know that the day I met Gilly was a TEST.  Gilly was absolutely NOT a phony.  He told you exactly what he thought, and if you didn’t like it, well that was tough.  She wanted Gilly to meet me and then give her his honest opinion of me.  I passed.  Had I failed, I’m sure I would not be married to Mary Ann today!

I know that Uncle Gilly had a number of health issues and some hospitalizations over the past twenty years.  I do recall him telling the story that one time he was in the hospital and was awakened by a Catholic priest jamming a communion host (a round, flat, hard like card-stock, piece of unleavened bread) into his mouth.  

“What the h____ are you doing?!” he yelled to the priest!  I guess that was that, and it may help to explain why he would not have been too excited about a fancy Catholic funeral.

Gilly didn’t go to a LOT of social events but he came to our wedding and it meant the world to Mary Ann.

Just a few days ago, Mary Ann received word that Uncle Gilly was very ill and near death, and yesterday morning, Mary Ann’s mother called to say he had died.
Yes, it’s a sad week for Mary Ann.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


“...for the labourer is worthy of his hire...” (from Luke 10:7)

My haircut at Collotta’s Hair Styling last Saturday morning was a bittersweet experience.  The haircut came out well enough.  In fact, my wife said it was one of the best haircuts I’ve ever gotten at Collotta’s.  My hair was cut by Kelley, a new female barber who is (maybe) 23-years-old.  The “bitter” part was that I learned that Mr. Al Colotta, the founder of Collotta’s has retired due to health reasons.

Four weeks earlier, I suspected Al Collotta may not be back when there was another barber cutting hair at “Al’s Chair”.  At Collotta’s there are three chairs or barber stations.  At the far left is Al’s son Fred.  Fred is the businessman at Collotta’s.  He’s smart, serious, and tends to be very streetwise.  Fred DOES have a fun side, and I understand he really enjoys motorcycles.  At the middle chair is Fred’s younger brother Peter.  Peter’s a much more relaxed guy than Fred is, and just plain doesn’t take life quite as seriously.  Both Fred and Peter enjoy my sense of humor and “eccentric” personality as I call it, but I think Peter enjoys it more.  At the far right was always Mr. Al Collotta’s chair.  On the occasion of the haircut before my last, Al Collotta’s younger brother cut my hair.  I’d never met this guy before.  He looked like Al Collotta, only younger.  He was an interesting conversationalist, and a good barber, but he didn’t seem to have quite the same spark as his older brother.  This past  Saturday, I was surprised to see a young adult female at Mr. Collotta’s chair.  I really had no idea who she was.

“Would you like KELLEY to cut your hair?”  asked Peter.

I replied that was fine, and I introduced myself to Kelley, humorously telling her, “I’m an Assemblies of God minister, but don’t let that scare you because I’m also crazy.”

Peter burst out laughing, and added, “That’s accurate!”

I had a nice enough time conversing with Kelley, and with Peter, for that matter, but the absence of Al Collotta was hard to get used to.

For many years, I got my hair cut at Frank & Vinny’s in downtown Canton.  “Frank” is now dead, and I think Vinny is retired, although Frank’s son cuts hair there along with four or five other barbers.  Once in a great while, I will still get my hair cut at Frank & Vinny’s,but 90% ofthe time, I go to Collotta’s at Hartford and Concord Streets in Framingham, just a five minute walk from where I live.  I got my first haircut there around fifteen years ago.  It was in a snowstorm.  I really needed a haircut but I did not want to travel very far.  I’d hesitated to go to Collotta’s earlier because I thought it was such a classy looking “barber shop” that the prices would be high.  Actually, I found the prices were quite reasonable, and I became a regular at Collotta’s.

I enjoyed all three barbers, but I did enjoy when Mr. Al Collotta cut my hair.  He has to be one of the warmest and most personable people I’ve ever met.  I’ve never seen him in a bad mood or out of sorts with anyone.  I’ve never known his demeanor to be anything but optimistic. I always thought he sounded exactly like Paul Parent who is the gardening and plant expert heard on Sunday mornings on WTKK 96.9 (and some other stations, as well).  In the same way Paul Parent makes all of his callers feel good that they will be great gardeners, Mr. Collotta made you feel good about who you were and what you were doing.  You not only got a GREAT haircut, but you felt special because you had come into his shop.

There’s a word that Moe Howard of The Three Stooges would use when he and his two sidekicks had performed what Moe believed was an extraordinary accomplishment.  Moe would happily yell, “Success!”.  Some years ago when Mr. Collotta had finished my haircut, I said (the way Moe would have) “Success!”.

Al Collotta enjoyed that SO much that he wanted me to say, “Success!” every time my haircut was done, and so I would.

“I was WAITING for that,” he’d say happily.

Peter told me his father had taken several weak spells while cutting hair and that on one occasion they’d had to call 911.  The decision had to be made that 78-year-old Al Collotta could not cut hair any more.  No one can replace him, but Fred, Peter, and now Kelley are doing their very best.

I intend to mail a copy of this to Al Collotta.  This man is a great guy and a true SUCCESS of a human being!

Monday, September 1, 2008


I received an e-mail from an Assemblies of God missionary friend a short time ago.  He shared some information indicating that while Sarah Palin definitely grew up in the Assemblies of God, and definitely would be considered to have a strong Assemblies of God background, it would probably not be completely accurate to give her that label today.  According to his information, Sarah Palin attends several churches, some but not all Assemblies of God.  The church she most commonly attends is non-denominational and it appears she's most comfortable being considered non-denominational. 

That information is certainly helpful and clarifying.  However, it does not take away from the fact that she DID speak at a recent District Council of the Alaska Assemblies of God, and that the man who was her youth pastor many years ago, as well as the pastor of an AG church in Juneau where she has attended recently did lay hands on her and pray for her.