Friday, May 30, 2008
Readers’ Digest magazine used to have a regular feature entitled, “Drama in Real Life”. That’s my inspiration for this piece which I call, “Dream in Real Life”. I was actually planning to wait a bit longer to post again. I’m thankful for a couple of great messages I received from people in response to the posting, “Gasoline- How Bad Will It Get?” One man said it’s the best thing I’ve ever posted on this blog. It is. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will, but I just couldn’t wait to tell you about my Dream in Real Life:
I remember a lot of my dreams. Granted, some are just nonsense- stuff like flying over Europe throwing Oreo cookies at people or going to the launch of a spaceship in downtown Ashland. But there are powerful and significant dreams that I have, and I’ve found they often follow a pattern. The pattern is that I go to a pleasant venue for some pleasant occasion, but it’s a place where I wouldn’t usually go. There’s a cast of characters there that I’d never ordinarily expect to assemble together. There may be friends or relatives along with famous people. Some conflict or uncomfortable situation will arise which causes me a lot of stress. I will choose to resolve it one way or another. I will typically wake up at that point, glad that it was a dream, and wondering what it meant. The interesting thing is that if I really think about the dream there IS some symbolism in it of something I’ve been thinking about or going through.
Some weeks ago, I received an invitation to a special clergy luncheon to be held at the (famous and very classy) Wayside Inn in Sudbury. I’ve been to the Wayside Inn probably about thirty times over the years and often for very special occasions. The invitation was from a health care agency in Wayland that I’d never heard of. I just let the invitation lay in my office for over a week, then I decided to sent it off indicating I would attend. After all, a free lunch at the Wayside Inn? Why not?!
The luncheon was on Thursday of this week. I planned an unusually challenging schedule for my Thursday. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. I mowed the lawn at my residence and did a little yard work. Then I packed the mower into the car (always a challenge when your car is an old Volkswagen Golf) and went over to the church property to “mow the weeds” as I call it. I rushed home, took a shower, and got ready to go to the Wayside Inn luncheon. I arrived just a tad early and so I sat in the car waiting to see if anybody I knew would arrive. I noticed cars with bumper stickers for Democrat candidates along with environmental slogans and I thought “typical liberal clergy crowd”! I didn’t spot anyone I knew so I walked into the restaurant. The guy in front of me was asking about the luncheon and was given directions upstairs so I followed him. I was greeting by several enthusiastic women. One excitedly said she knew me “from the planning committee”. I still have no idea what she was talking about. After five uncomfortable minutes, I did not see anyone I knew, so I sat down at one of the six or so tables that was prepared for us. Two clergy from the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Assn. arrived. One pleasantly greeted me but sat at another table. One looked uncomfortable to see me, did not say anything to me, and seemed to be ignoring me.
For many years I started my Sunday mornings off listening to WRKO's “Talking Religion” as I shaved and showered. Rabbi Herman Blumberg of Wayland was a regular panelist. He’s now retired. I’d never met him, but he was present and sat at my table. A woman came into the room who used to be an Associate Pastor in Framingham in the 1990s and had moved to Boston’s north shore area. I don’t want to use her real name, so I’ll call her Julie. Julie was unusually giggly and talkative, and sat at my table. I honestly thought she seemed drunk, but there was no odor of alcohol. It turns out she’d had a short-term ministry assignment in the area and so had received an invitation to the luncheon. It was like she had turned into a characature of herself. That felt strange, and that’s when this started to feel like one of my dreams.
Our food was prepared buffet style and we had to go into another room to get it. I probably took a little too much, but, well, it was free and I was hungry after all that lawn mowing. The program with featured speakers, etc., started late. We learned that the health care organization had been founded over fifty years ago, using the funds of a man who’d been a cattleman from Wayland who used to drive his cows down Route 30 from Wayland to Boston’s Brighton section. After several speakers, we were given handouts of a “case study” which we were all to discuss at our tables. The case study was about a woman who’d had cancer for several years, was near death, but was insisting she would get well and would not discuss hospice care or death. Her family was beside themselves with how to deal with her. There were discussion questions about how we as clergy handle such situations. Usually I’m very quiet in having discussions of that sort, but in this case I was very active and talkative.
We then listened to a female speaker who went on and on. The meeting now ran past the time it was supposed to have closed and it was obvious it had at least twenty minutes to go. Next to me was a Unitarian minister who whispered sounding a bit stressed, “I’ve got an appointment, I’ve got to leave soon!” I whispered that I needed to leave soon, too, and that as soon as we could, we’d slip out. The woman finished. The next speaker was to be Rabbi Herman Blumberg. I apologized to Rabbi Blumberg as we each bolted for the door.
I did not see the Unitarian minister after that and it seemed he must have used a different exit. As I walked out the front door, I realized this was the place where I’d wake up.
This had all the elements of a Bob Baril classic dream: Pleasant venue- the Wayside Inn; Odd cast of characters: a clergy colleague from the past acting very weird; two Framingham clergy from the present with one ignoring me; a bunch of strangers; a pleasant Unitarian minister I didn’t know; and Rabbi Herman Blumberg whom I’d never met but listened to many times on WRKO. The part about the health care agency starting with money from a cattleman who used to drive his cows down Route 30- well that was “dream stuff” if I’d ever hear it! And, the stressful conflict was there....the Unitarian minister and I having to get out due to the time and “bolting” when we could.
There was even the element of symbolism. As I thought about the dream, I realized there was all sorts of symbolism in that case study about the woman with cancer. It applied (not to having cancer or anything like that) to a perplexing personal situation I’m dealing with and trying to resolve right now.
The weird part is I did not wake up. This was not a dream. This was real. Yes, I’ve dreamed stuff like this many times, but THIS REALLY HAPPENED.
It was a Dream In Real Life, and no kidding, it’s one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever experienced!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
And the cost of gasoline hit $5 a gallon. And Michael Graham* said, “Don’t get so excited. It’s JUST supply and demand!”. And Jay Severin* said, “I’m sorry but I really don’t understand economics!”. And President Bush said, “It’s O.K. Don’t panic. This too shall pass!” And the oil company C.E.O.s got richer and richer. And the Arab sheiks got richer and richer. And the Venezuelan government got richer and richer. And the people of America were frustrated.
And the cost of gasoline hit $10 a gallon. And Michael Graham* said, “Don’t get so excited. It’s JUST supply and demand!”. And Jay Severin* said, “I’m sorry but I really don’t understand economics!”. And President Bush said, “I know it’s a lot, but we’re gonna be O.K.” And Hillary Clinton shrieked, “I am SICK AND TIRED OF THESE HIGH GAS PRICES!”. And Governor Deval Patrick said, “Now, I’m sure Barack Obama will have a PLAN to change this!”. And the oil company C.E.O.s got richer and richer. And the Arab sheiks got richer and richer. And the Venezuelan government got richer and richer. And the people of America were confused and frustrated.
And the cost of gasoline hit $25 a gallon. And Michael Graham* tried riding his donkey to the radio station as a publicity stunt. He never made it to the station but he still said, “It’s really just supply and demand!”. And Jay Severin* said, “If this keeps up I’m moving to ICELAND!”. And President Bush said, “If the cars can’t run on gas, maybe they can run on cake!” He was trying to be humorous, but that comment brought angry headlines in the tabloids. And Hillary Clinton shrieked, “I am even SICKER AND TIREDER OF THESE HIGH GAS PRICES!”. And Former President Bill Clinton said, “Now, my wife, that’s a SMART LADY!”. And the oil company C.E.O.s got richer and richer. And the Arab sheiks got richer and richer. And the Venezuelan government got richer and richer. And the people of America were sad and worried.
And the cost of gasoline hit $100 a gallon. And Michael Graham and his family moved into Jay Severin’s north shore house; andMichael did his radio program from there. He nervously said, “I don’t know why people don’t understand it’s just supply and demand!”. And Jay Severin* moved to Iceland but continued to do his program by a some high-tech special remote hookup. And former President Bush said, “I’m glad I’m in Crawford, Texas!”. And Hillary Clinton shrieked, “In 2012 I’m running for President again and SOLVING THE GAS CRISIS!”. And Former President Bill Clinton said, “Why’s she waitin’ till 2012?!”. And Governor Deval Patrick said, “I can’t run my Cadillac anymore. I need Barack Obama to help!” Barack Obama said, “We just need to be patient and wait for CHANGE to come!” And the oil company C.E.O.s got richer and richer. And the Arab sheiks got richer and richer. And the Venezuelan government got richer and richer. And the people of America were very numb and many were destitute.
And the cost of gasoline hit $200 a gallon. And Michael Graham* and Jay Severin* were no longer on the air, for their radio station was out of business. And Former President George Bush, Sr. said, “Read my lips, NO GASOLINE!” He stood sadly by his S.U.V. which was out of gas. And Hillary Clinton shrieked, “I am QUITTING THE SENATE BECAUSE I CAN’T AFFORD TO DRIVE THERE OR FLY THERE!”. And Former President Bill Clinton said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we might even have to go back to Arkansas and find some sort of jobs!”. And Joe Kennedy said, “Help! I need heating oil. It’s for MY house! I can’t afford it!” And the oil company C.E.O.s got richer and richer. And the Arab sheiks got richer and richer. And the Venezuelan government got richer and richer. And the people of America, from the grassroots level called for a week of fasting and prayer. And there was fasting and prayer such as had never been seen in the United Stated of America. There was prayer in the schools. There was prayer in public places. There was Bible reading and fasting and prayer everywhere. There was weeping. There was crying out to God. The A.C.L.U. was very upset but few cared. The American Atheists were very upset, but few cared. People who once mocked God and the Bible humbled themselves and prayed. The fasting and prayer was not a political agenda. It was something much deeper than that. And, most importantly, God answered the prayers in a magnificent way, and there were miracles of Biblical proportions!
“Why didn’t we do this before gasoline had even hit $5 a gallon?” one teenage boy asked his parents?
“That’s the question!” they replied.
* = Boston area radio talk show host
I think the only time I’ve posted something on this blog that WASN’T my work was a piece about the new Natick Mall (“Natick Collection”) written by my son Jon. Today, I’m posting another piece that I did not write.
The following comes from the program of the “23rd Annual Foster & Adoptive Parent Recognition Awards Brunch” which was given by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in partnership with the Massachusetts Alliance for Families. About 40 foster families were honored at this event including my wife’s brother Donnie Gardiner and his wife Andria. Donnie and Andria live in Quincy and are extraordinary foster parents. They’re very “down to earth” people who are not used to awards and accolades and do not seek fame or fortune. Thus I thought it would be fitting to share word-for-word what the program says of Donnie and Andria Gardiner:
“The Gardiners are an extraordinary team who have provided the Coastal Office with years of dedication, inspiration, support and passion. They began as child specific foster parents and were able to grow and learn with the youth who stayed with them until she aged out of the system. Because of this experience, they wanted to further explore their options regarding our foster care program. They had wonderful relationships with family resource staff and were excited and full of promise when they asked about MAPP training. During the sessions, they provided terrific insight and networked with other foster parents.
The ink was barely dry on their unrestricted license when an adolescent female needed placement. The Gardiners opened their doors for a temporary placement and ended up providing a long-term placement and forever connection to this youth. Just weeks after she was placed, they were asked if they would provide short-term care for a little boy. Andria and Donnie are now in the process of adopting this child. During the last five years, Andria and Donnie have provided long term and emergency placements. When the Coastal Office has no where to turn, Donnie and Andria are always a phone call away.
The Gardiners are down to earth and have a special connection with everyone they come in contact with. Their dedication has not only come through with their support of foster children in their home but also within the Office. For the past three years, Donnie and Andria have generously donated items and gifts for the Area’s Annual Foster Children’s Holiday Party and Foster Parent/Partnership Dinner. The Gardiners knew that financial support for emergency expenses was very slim. Donnie spearheaded the first annual “Touch a Truck” event to support the “Friends of Foster Care”. With Donnie’s ingenuity and finesse the event was a great success. There were over 25 vehicles and it was a child’s dream come true. Donnie worked the entire event that beautiful October day despite not having slept in several days. Donnie not only is a foster parent but he is a crucial employee for the Red Sox organization. His career is very demanding but this past year was extraordinary as the Red Sox were in the playoffs and won the World Series!
Their worker writes their inspiration has moved her to be a better person, social worker and advocate. It is with great joy and gratitude that we honor Donnie and Andria Gardiner with this year’s highest recognition!”
There is also a quote elsewhere in the program from Jennifer Kitchenham who writes, “The Gardiner’s inspiration has moved me to be a better person, social worker and advocate.”
In closing I’m proud to be related to Donnie and Andria Gardiner and I celebrate and validate them here as true heroes!
Friday, May 23, 2008
You'll want to read all about it at
and you'll definitely want to plan to attend!
You will notice as you check out the website that First Assembly of God of Framingham is not officially listed as a "participant". No we're technically not "official" participants, but we are sort of like the "bandits" who run unofficially in the Boston Marathon. We DO encourage everybody to come and attend "Celebrate Framingham" (well, my son IS officially participating in a community drama group!) but we also encourage you to attend our special OUTDOOR service on Sunday June 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.!
First Assembly of God of Framingham is located at 32 South Street, right off Route 135, and directly behind the "Chicken Bone Saloon/Restaurant". We're only about an 8 minute walk from the front steps of the Memorial Building. If you're expecting 19th Century choir music, you'll be disappointed! The music will be rockin' ! Our parking lot will be rockin' ! After you take part in the other activities, please make your last stop on Sunday afternoon, June 1 at First Assembly of God of Framingham!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What are the odds that Senator Edward Kennedy would ever have occasion to read my blog? I don’t know, maybe one in ten million or something like that. What would be the results if I tried to send Senator Kennedy an e-mail or a letter by U.S. mail? Well, somebody from his staff would read it and send me a form letter. Big deal. But if I could write Senator Edward Kennedy a letter, and if he could truly read it, this is what it would say:
Dear Senator Kennedy,
I’m writing this on Tuesday evening, May 20. I’m surprised. This afternoon I heard the news of your diagnosis, and it made me feel very sad. I’ve never met you in person. I’ve never seen you in person. I’m a guy who tends to try to write letters and make phone calls to famous people, but the thought has never even remotely crossed my mind to try to get in touch with you...until now.
As soon as Jay Severin opened his show on WTKK this afternoon, speaking of you as an adversary, and yet obviously moved with deep sorrow about your health, I realized I was missing SOMETHING. I flipped the dial to WBZ and learned of the diagnosis. I’m so sorry.
I’m a registered Republican. I’m pretty “right of center” on most issues. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for you. I did vote for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976, but I don’t think I voted for you even on that day. I’ve laughed when Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr played the parodies of you and the clips of embarrassing moments... you know, that convention where you are introducing the Democratic candidate for Governor saying, “Will ya help me, will ya aaoougggghhhmmmmrrrr?” (Whatever “aaoougggghhhmmmmrrrr” means!) I probably disagree with 75% of what you stand for politically...maybe even more than that. That’s why I’m so surprised.
Being a Massachusetts native....being the son of Roman Catholic, Democrat parents... yes, whether I want to admit it or not, there’s some kind of connection I feel. There’s so much more I could write, it would probably take 23 pages, and I don’t think either one of us are up for that! I’ll try to keep it brief.
I watched “Greater Boston” tonight. Peter Meade said you’ll get through this by “being a fighter” and holding the whole family together. Senator Kennedy, that’s all well and good, but that’s probably a huge form of denial. People are praying for you. You need to focus on Ted Kennedy and Ted Kennedy’s health right now. Ironically, this past Sunday night, I preached on “What the Bible Says About Healing”. It says quite a bit. There’s spiritual healing, there’s emotional healing, there’s healing in relationships, there’s deliverance from oppression, and there’s physical healing. Honestly, I think you need all of the above.
God loves you. Don’t be surprised at the wonderful things He will do for you at this time. One of the things I least liked about you is the way you treated and spoke to John Ashcroft at his confirmation hearings. Contrary to what you may think, Ashcroft is not some cruel, Fascist oppressor. In fact, Ashcroft is a warm and wonderful Christian man from a wonderful Christian family. I don’t know him personally, but he is a guy I have seen in person. I suspect he’s praying for you now, and I suspect he bears you no ill will. If you were to contact him, I think you’d be surprised at how he would minister to you. But whether you do that or not, many love you and are praying for you. Please don’t close the door on anything God may want to do in your life.
What I’m feeling tonight is what millions of people are feeling. Many are your political allies, but many others are your political adversaries...yet they look beyond those issues and feel genuine compassion for Senator Edward Kennedy THE MAN- the soul.
If you’ll seek the Lord at this difficult time, you will not be disappointed.
In Christ’s love,
Well, the American public knows that today, Tuesday, May 20, 2008, is a big contest; a big show down. It’s down to these two. It’s hard to believe January was just four months ago? Remember ALL of those contestants? Each one pleading for our votes? Each one convinced he or she was the best?
Some WERE very likable. In fact, many Americans are disappointed that THEIR favorite is gone. They didn’t really want these two to be the finalists. One seems SO young. He’s often called “boyish”. He IS kind of cute. When everything is scripted and carefully practiced and planned out, he DOES seem to perform well, In fact, in these well orchestrated performances, he usually exceeds expectations. The other’s fans know their candidate is “the man”- popular with those who remember the 1960s, although attracting SOME fans of all ages. When it’s time to step up to the plate, be tough and deliver, this contestant does so just about EVERY time. Well, maybe “every” is an exaggeration. There HAS been the occasional gaffe. Some are surprised that a person who spent so much time in a conservative, midwestern lifestyle could at times say and do things which can be perceived as inappropriate and maybe even a little crazy, but this contestant is nobody's fool, and even though considered the underdog, well, you never know what might happen.
We DO miss those who’ve been eliminated. There was some REAL talent there. Yes, there was at least one of the final eight or ten or however many there were back in the earlier part of this year who was thought of as a buffoon by some, yet he did give us all plenty of genuine enjoyment and entertainment. Some of the comments of the press were probably unfair and unkind to a few of the contestants and for awhile it seemed as though they were all over the media and you just couldn’t get away from them. But now, though we miss the others, it IS down to those two.
Will anyone care when the results are in tomorrow? Will our lives really change? Based on past experiences, we know they probably won’t. Many winners of similar contests from previous years are essentially forgotten now.
But this is the day, and we’re down to two.
Oh, yes, and finally, you DO have a choice: Do you think I’m writing about the “2 Davids” who are competing tonight for the title of “American Idol” or am I talking about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the Democratic primaries in Kentucky and Oregon today?
Well, to VOTE on which one I’m REALLY writing about, leave a comment here, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 16, 2008
My daughter got a lesson in the U.S. financial establishment’s doublespeak and inconsistencies this week. Rachel really likes the new Presidential series one dollar coins. (I kind of do, too!) When the coins were introduced, like the Sacajewea coins of the early 2000s, there was much publicity about the importance of accepting and using the new coins and the public was urged to request the new coins at banks.
Rachel went to a local TDBanknorth branch and asked to have ten one dollar bills changed into ten Presidential dollar coins. The teller informed Rachel that there were not ten one dollar coins available and that she might be able to get them at “Store 24”. (No kidding!) Rachel ended up being given ten dollars worth of quarters! She was not real happy, but not wanting to wear out her welcome at TDBanknorth, she walked out with the ten dollars worth of quarters!
The only place I’ve ever gotten the Presidential one dollar coins is as change at the stamp machine at the downtown Framingham post office. This will not be available for long, though. I’ve read that all of those old fashioned stamp machines which take dollar bills and coins will soon be replaced with machines which take only debit and credit cards!
Americans don’t use change. Well most Americans don’t use change. Rachel and I (and my son Jon) are among the few weirdoes who DO use change! A couple of years ago, I learned that it is almost impossible to buy a change purse which is appropriate for a MAN to use! Stores sell children’s change purses and they sell VERY effeminate women’s change purses. Years ago, you COULD go out and buy a man’s change purse, but I hadn’t bought one in over ten years and my how things had changed. I ended up buying a modest but kind of cool small zippered change purse which has a green smiling cartoon frog on it! It doesn’t look feminine. (All other such change purses were pink and totally girly!) It looks like a change purse an older teen or maybe a college age young adult might use. I call it “frogman” and I’m taking good care of it because I’m sure I’ll never find another change purse suitable for a male. Now, Canadians use change! Canada got rid of all bills smaller than $5 in value a number of years ago. The Canadian dollar is a bronze colored coin, about the size of a Kennedy half dollar which has an inscription of a loon and therefore is called the “loonie”. There is also a really fancy silver-ish and bronze-ish two dollar coin in Canada called the “2-nie”. When I’ve changed U.S. cash to Canadian when I’ve traveled there, I’ve found that most people routinely use the one dollar and two dollar coins and it’s no big deal. They’re great for vending machines and suitable to leave tips in family type restaurants, etc.
The American dollar coin would be accepted if all the traditional George Washington dollar bills were taken out of circulation, but I think the Federal Reserve is very reluctant to do that. That George Washington dollar bill is a tradition Americans don’t want to part with. Still, when they wonder why the new dollar coin, like all previous ones, is failing and not being accepted by the public, they need only look at major American banks which will not stock them for distribution and at the post office which is phasing out the machines that dispense those coins.
I know most people prefer debit cards, credit cards and checks to coins. Well, I do have a debit card, a credit card, and a checking account, but I’m also kind of like a guy who was once on Jeopardy who told Alex Trebek he tries to always pay with exact change or as close to it as possible. I think Alex thought the guy was kind of nuts. I guess Alex would think the same thing about me because I do exactly the same thing!
There’s no doubt where Rachel and her brother Jon get their preference for cash (and even coins) from. However, Rachel has decided it’s pointless to go to banks and ask for Presidential dollar coins!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
"... he departed again into a mountain himself alone." (from John 6:15)
My friend, the Rev. Jim Ennis (who is an Associate Pastor at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA and was pastor of the Framingham Church of the Nazarene for many years) finds it amazing that I've been an Assemblies of God minister for around 28 years and I've been pastor of First Assembly of God of Framingham for 21 years, but I've never taken a "sabbatical". Several times Jim and others have "bugged" me to take a sabbatical. The word "sabbatical" comes from the number 7 (as in the Jewish "Sabbath"/day of rest).
Some colleges and universities allow their professors to take a sabbatical every seven years or so. Some churches allow their ministers to take a sabbatical every seven years or so. After Jim Ennis had been pastoring the Church of the Nazarene in Framingham for over 9 years, he requested (and was allowed) a three month sabbatical. He spent much of that time completely alone in a cabin in the Maine woods.
"Sabbaticals" are very new things for Evangelical and Pentecostal pastors and churches, although in most "mainline" denominations, they've been happening for years. I don't know if I would ever truly take a sabbatical. I can see that sometimes sabbaticals create more problems than they solve. Many church Boards don't like them because 50% of pastors who take sabbaticals end up resigning their churches within 6 months of coming back from the sabbatical. (In fact, Jim Ennis DID that!) I am not sure if I have ever heard of an Assemblies of God minister taking a sabbatical. In fact, just the whole concept of "interim pastors" (that is, those who specialize in temporarily pastoring a church during the time it's seeking a new permanent pastor) is brand new in the Assemblies of God, although Baptists, Congregationalists and others have had interim pastors for years.
Why am I writing about all this? Well, I'm not seriously thinking of taking a sabbatical any time in 2008 (in case any of my church people are wondering about it) but I took today as a "mental health day". No, I'm not about to crack up or anythign like that :-) !But I've felt like I was "going on fumes" for the past two weeks or so. In a small church, sometimes you wear SO many hats and you feel like you just don't get a break. My late father was a workaholic, and I've known many clergy colleagues who are workaholics. When I as young, if anything, I was kind of lazy and had a "well if it doesn't get done, who cares?" kind of attitude. Somewhere around 35 that really began changing in me, and by 40 I was a full-fledged workaholic. THAT has actually surprised me because I NEVER thought I would be a workaholic like my father!
Well, here I am at the Boston Public Library on my "mental health day" and I just HAD to get on the computer and send off an e-mail to the Board dealing with a church administration issue for this weekend!
Am I crazy?!
Is Jim Ennis right about those "sabbaticals"?!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Anyway, today is our daughter Amy's 23rd birthday. Amy was born on Mother's Day in 1985, so that was pretty special for her Mom. I'm leaving for two days at District Council so that's also typical for Amy's birthday. (District Council is an annual, regional Assemblies of God convention.) For at least half of Amy's birthdays, I've been away at District Council. In more recent years, on a couple of Amy's birthdays we spent the day driving along the route from Springfield, Missouri to Framingham, Massachusetts.
Today, Amy is married, working as a nurse, and living in Springfield, Missouri.
Where does the time go?
I was Ordained at District Council in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 7, 1985. Since Mary Ann was 9 months pregnant and in a condition where she could deliver at any time, she could not be there for it. (Incidentally, in the Assemblies of God you become a "Licensed Minister" first. Then after a few years, as long as you aren't some total whacko, you are Ordained. Yes, I know, I am a total whacko, but somehow they goofed and Ordained me anyway!) I used to watch the guys who got their 25 Year Recognitions at District Council and think they were SO old and that would never happen to me. Well, as long as I'm still "kicking", in 2 years Amy will turn 25 and I'll get my 25 Year Recognition. I've asked Amy and her husband to come up in 2 years for a special visit and we'll all celebrate together!
SOOOOO....... today is Amy's birthday..... HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMY!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Yesterday, I posted the piece entitled, “JUST A YOUNG MAN”, and today I’m writing about an old man. I was surprised and saddened to read in today’s MetroWest Daily News that Mal Schulze had passed away. Mal was 75. There was only one Mal Schulze! He LOOKED like a bartender from the Bowery circa 1938! Well, this is why we don’t go by looks! Mal was actually a very wealthy man and a very intelligent man. I think the first time I ever saw Mal Schulze was at a local Republican caucus in 1990. (Lest anyone thinks I’m part of the inner circle of the Massachusetts Republican Party, I’m not! That’s the only caucus I’ve ever attended. It was held over in Holliston and I went as a supporter of Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Pierce. Mal Schulze was there as an outspoken proponent of a “Bill Weld slate”. As I recall, Steve Pierce prevailed in that caucus, but Bill Weld ultimately became the Republican nominee and was elected Governor.)
I used to see a LOT of Mal Schulze when I was active in a civic group called “Downtown Solutions” in the 1990s. Again, the key word for Mal was “outspoken”. He had no qualms about rising to his feet and speaking his mind about this or that. He was blunt, conservative, and anti property tax increases. He “did not suffer fools gladly” as the saying goes.
Sometime around 2001, Mal wrote a letter to the MetroWest Daily News that I strongly agreed with, and I wrote a personal letter to his home address thanking him. Mal called me and we ended up getting together for lunch a couple of weeks later at the Cherry Blossom restaurant in Ashland. Over delicious Chinese food, Mal told me his fascinating life story. He’d lived on the west coast for a number of years and had made a lot of money in the computer field. Mal was a Reform Jew, but pretty much a non-practicing one, although he loved when Temple Beth Am held candidates forums and events such as that. I was surprised at that luncheon that Mal told me he’d just gone to a local meeting of the Democratic party, that he was all through with the Republicans, and that he’d voted for Ralph Nader for President. Some months later, after I was one of a group a clergy who signed a politically motivated letter to the newspaper, I got a phone call from Mal Schulze. He let me know he disapproved of my having signed the letter and that he was surprised I was supporting “Rabbi Don Splansky’s left wing agenda”. (I really wasn’t supporting any left wing agenda, I just happened to be on the liberal side of THAT PARTICULAR issue- and right now I don’t even think it’s all that important to say what it was. Come to think of it...since I’m hesitant to tell you what it was, did Mal “get to me” on that phone call? I guess he did!)
Mal very much wanted Framingham to become a City and abandon Town government. He spearheaded the drive to get the City issue on the ballot in 1997. I voted for Framingham to become a city, but unfortunately the proposal lost badly.
I wasn’t real close to Mal. I’d see him around Framingham once in awhile and we’d exchange “hellos” but that was about it. I had no idea he was diagnosed with cancer in March. I feel bad I never sent him a card or paid him a visit in his illness. There will be an emptiness in Framingham political and social circles now that Mal is gone.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
At present, the eldest person in our small congregation at First Assembly of God of Framingham is Ken Lavers. Ken will be 83 next month. Ken loves to tell everyone who will listen that he worked at Dennison Manufacturing Company for over forty years. Ken also loves to recount his move from inner city Boston to Wayland in 1951 when Wayland was a small farming community. Ken seems obsessed with people’ ages. He considers anyone under age 70 “young” and (no exaggeration) Ken must say the phrase “just a YOUNG man!” at least ten times over the course of a typical Sunday morning!
“You’re a KID!” Ken says to me, “Just fifty-three...just a KID!” (Well, I like that!)
In today’s posting, I am writing about someone who really IS “just a YOUNG man!” This is not his real name, but I’ll call him “Jacques”. Jacques is a Haitian-American. (He was born in the U.S.A. but his parents are Haitian nationals.) Jacques is about to graduate from Marian (Catholic) High School here in Framingham where my wife, Mary Ann, is the Administrative Assistant. (Mary Ann keeps that whole place running- no kidding!) Marian has a policy that all students have to complete a certain amount of hours of community service or they cannot graduate. Recently, Jacques’ mother has had some very serious health problems. Due to having to spend time at the hospital and having to do other things for his family, Jacques fell way behind in his community service hours. The principal appealed to Mary Ann for help and asked if there was some volunteer work he could do at our church. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been giving Jacques manual labor to do around the church and parsonage (minister’s residence). Mary Ann supervised Jacques working around the church building on Saturday. Yesterday was my day off (which I used as a “day on” for manual labor at the parsonage). Jacques got out of Marian in the early afternoon and I had him doing plenty of “grunt work” with me around the exterior of the parsonage property.
We were both tired and sweaty when I was driving Jacques home. Have you ever watched the Chris Rock sit-com “Everybody Hates Chris?” on the CW Network? (That sit-com is aired on Sunday evenings and is pretty good.) Jacques reminds me a lot of the kid on “Everybody Hates Chris”...he’s just a bit older. Like many seventeen-year-olds, Jacques talked a mile a minute as we drove. He was fascinated that I’d been to Haiti twice and that I speak some Haitian Creole. There’s something about when people get to be around thirty or so that many of them tend to stop discussing religion or politics with people they hardly know, but many teenagers don’t have ANY inhibitions about those subjects.
First, Jacques began on the subject of religion. He asked what the church I pastor believes and if we consider ourselves to be “evangelicals”. I told him we DID and I briefly explained what that means. Jacques announced to me that although he’s a Roman Catholic he does not believe in Hell.
“People go through Hell on earth,” he confidently exclaimed.
I immediately pointed out that Jesus Christ taught seven times as much about Hell as He did about Heaven. To my surprise, Jacques said, “I know that”, and then proceeded to give me HIS version of what happens after death...that people either go to Heaven or an “in between” place but nobody goes to Hell.
Next came the politics. “I can’t WAIT to register to vote and VOTE DEMOCRAT!” he eagerly said.
That didn’t exactly thrill me, but at eighteen, I was a liberal Democrat, so I felt a bit hypocritical about coming down on him too hard. Jacques didn’t miss a beat,
“George Bush is a MONKEY!” he said, “either Hillary or Obama will take care of our education or health care!”
Jacques aspires to be a lawyer. “My mom thinks maybe I should go into politics!” he said.
There wasn’t time for my thirty minute “Why I’m a Republican and proud of it” speech, but if I spend much more time with this kid it may be forthcoming!
(Incidentally, I never had to give that speech to my daughter Amy. No joke, after she got her first paycheck when she was a supermarket checkout girl in high school and she saw how much was taken out for taxes and union dues she told me as soon as she turned 18 she was registering Republican, AND SHE DID!)
After I got home I stepped into a wonderfully relaxing shower. I kept thinking about Jacques and the things he had to say. I guess I’m getting to be an old you know what, because all I kept thinking was “WHY IS YOUTH WASTED ON THE YOUNG?!”
Monday, May 5, 2008
A front page article in Monday’s (May 5, 2008) MetroWest Daily News really perturbed me. It was at the bottom left and was entitled, “Pointing out the ‘energy monsters’”. The article was about the “Greener Framingham Committee’s first report to Town Meeting”. According to the article the first target of committee Chairman Dawn Harkness was the two chandeliers in Nevins Hall which “do not pass the green grade” because they use 3,500 watts of electricity. Criticizing the high ceilings and draftiness of the Memorial building as well as its inefficient heating system (but a new heating system is soon to be installed), the Committee is recommending that the Memorial Building just plain NOT EVER be used after 4:30 p.m. and that committee meetings and other functions be held in other facilities around Town.
I think restricting the temperature to no warmer than 60 degrees inside the Memorial Building during the Winter and the air conditioning to no “colder” than 74 degrees in the Summer would make sense. I suppose moving SOME of the activities out of the Memorial Building might make sense. I happen to know, however, that there are other key people in Framingham who’d love to see a major restoration done to Nevins Hall and see it become a thriving center for theatrical events, concerts, etc. That’s NOT a crazy idea at all! The City of Medford completely renovated their municipal auditorium (The Chevalier Theater) in downtown Medford and it DOES attract such events. It seems like a shame to let an architectural gem like Nevins Hall just sit and rot because someone thinks the chandeliers are not energy efficient!
I think it’s GREAT that Town Meeting takes place DOWNTOWN in the Memorial Building. I think it’s GREAT that Selectman’s meetings, Planning Board meetings, Zoning Board meetings and other events take place at the Memorial Building...not to mention other public events that do take place at Nevins Hall. Frankly, as long as affluent, well-educated people from the wealthier neighborhoods of Town are having regular meetings at the Memorial Building, no matter how much the heat and light costs, there’s just plain going to be more of a police and public works presence in that immediate neighborhood, and it’s all going to be good. If the Memorial Building folds up at 4:30 and is used less and less, in time it will look “seedier” and that immediate neighborhood will become less desirable.
I’m not wealthy. I realize energy today costs a fortune. But sometimes the “green” people just plain get ridiculous. Why don’t we scrap the Presidential inaugurations and and have the President sworn in at a Washington, DC inner-city McDonald’s? Why don’t we give the cops little hybrid Toyotas to drive around in, instead of Ford Crown Victorias? Why don’t we close the schools and have everybody home schooled? Why don’t we close down Route 9 and make it a jogging trail? Why don’t we all get rid of our refrigerators and get “Ralph Kramden” style iceboxes? As Jay Severin would say, “Why don’t we all live in caves and wear diapers covered in our own urine and live like this is rural Afghanistan? Because this is America and there’s no reason in the world to live like that!” I heartily agree!
Keep the Memorial Building open! Fix it up! If the Town can’t afford it have a bake sale or something! I realize it was a “right wing Woodstock” but how many remember “Dan’s Bake Sale” which was held in Ft. Collins, Colorado at the instigation of Rush Limbaugh sometime in the mid-1990s? It raised thousands and thousands of dollars for charity, and enabled “Dan” to afford a subscription to the Limbaugh Letter. I realize I sound like a right-wing nut here, but it was BOBBY KENNEDY of all people who said, “Some people see things as they are and ask ‘WHY?’ I see things as they COULD be and ask ‘WHY NOT’?!”
AMEN, BOBBY KENNEDY!
Keep that Memorial Building open! Invest in downtown Framingham! Believe in miracles!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I've had a great reputation as a guy who seldom gets lost when driving, AND as a guy who (even when I DO get lost) can figure out the proper direction to head in and find my way to where I need to be going very quickly. Well, now that's "all shot"!
To try to make a long story short, I was asked to give a euology at a funeral in Quincy today and to take charge of the "committal" service at the cemetery.
The 90-something mother of Kathy V. (a dear friend of ours) had passed away. Today was the funeral and burial. My wife Mary Ann had a couple of commitments which made it impossible for her to join me today....too bad as she knows Quincy very well. I am pretty good around Milton and Randolph, but pretty "rusty" with Quincy. I usually just let Mary Ann direct me in Quincy. Kathy's sister had a minister who didn't even know her mother leading the funeral service. That did not sit well with Kathy (I don't blame her.) She wanted me to do a euology at the funeral service and then to do the commital at the cemetery. (It was burial of ashes as the mother's body was cremated.) The schedule was REALLY weird with the funeral at the funeral home, THEN a meal at a Quincy restaurant, THEN the graveside committal.
I took the slower roads to Canton and then was going to take the highway to Quincy...but I was pretty early, and decided I could take Canton Ave. through Milton and meander over into Quincy. I found myself at Hancock St. Quincy between 10:10 and 10:15. The funeral was at 10:30. Usually in a situation like that it's just a matter of scoping out the numbers, and if you're going the wrong way, turning around. Well, I didn't know I started heading onto Hancock St going in the wrong direction. The next thing I knew, I was in Dorchester and had no idea how to find my way back. The more I drove the more lost I got. I phoned my wife on my cell phone and asked her to call the funeral home and tell them I was lost and I might not make it in time to give the euology. Through a series of circumstances, my wife got her sister Lynn (who knows that geographic area pretty well) to call me on the cell phone. When I connected with Lynn (after about 25 minutes of being lost and driving around) I was at Adams St at the Dorchester/Milton line. Lynn was able to direct me back the other way to Gallivan Blvd and ultimately onto Hancock St Quincy and then it was a matter of just driving to the funeral home. The funeral home needed about 3 times more parking spaces in their lot, so I had to drive down a side street and finally park. By the time I got to the funeral home, another 20 minutes had elapsed since I'd gotten started with Lynn and the funeral was OVER!
As Don Imus would say, "It was AWFUL".
Kathy V. rode with me to the restaurant...otherwise I probably would have ended up in Holbrook or something! Then she rode with me to Mt. Wollaston Cem. I'd been there before with Mary Ann but I think I would have had trouble finding it on my own. It was cold and raining. The "funeral party" was actually too early....the undertaker had not arrived with the ashes yet. We had to wait awhile...he came, and in rain and cold I did a faster committal than I normally would have, but I think it seemed OK. My problems were not over because I then had a tough time finding my way OUT of Quincy! When I crossed into Milton, it never looked so good!
I know southside Framingham can be confusing and is not always well marked, but after Quincy I don't think Framingham's that bad! In the past year, I've been lost in Woonsocket, RI and Medford, MA among aother places, but I usually can find my way pretty quickly. Usually it's just a matter of running into a helpful sign, a familiar traffic route, or a landmark. In Dorchester, there just weren't any!
You may think I'm kidding but I actually sent an e-mail to the Mayor of Quincy recommending the City of Quincy have better directional signs. I suppose I could also have contacted Mayor Menino about how confusing Dorchester is, but, well...why bother?!
Friday, May 2, 2008
This posting could get me in trouble with some people, but I’ve been disappointed with singer Brooke White from this year’s “American Idol” television show. If you’ve never seen “American Idol” then you won’t understand and I would never have the space on this blog to explain it all. But for those of you who ARE familiar with “American Idol” and have been watching this year, I wonder if you agree with me.
Back when they started out with the “Top 24” I really was impressed with Brooke White. I voted for her several times during the first few weeks. Brooke is pretty, humble, vulnerable, kind of sweet, and a very good singer. She’s also not a bad guitar player or piano player. Brooke White has talent. Brooke White DOES have the potential to be a really big star. Unfortunately, Brooke White kind of self-destructed and single handedly made sure she would NOT be the American Idol for 2008. What did her in ? To a small degree lack of confidence did her in, but the BIG thing that KILLED her is her EMOTIONS.
I realize some people will argue, “She made it to NUMBER 5 out of thousands of people....what do you want?!”
Indeed she DID make it to Number 5 and that IS a great accomplishment. However, the facts that Brooke had the potential to make it to Number 2 or even Number 1 this year, and that she REALLY should have been gone two or three weeks ago is why I’m writing this.
Many years ago, Dr. James Dobson published a book entitled, “Emotions, Can You Trust Them?” It’s a great book which I highly recommend. (Incidentally, the answer is “NO” you can’t trust your emotions.)
One of Brooke’s songs this week was a Monkees’ hit which Neil Diamond wrote: “I’m a Believer”. Simon Cowell called her performance a “nightmare”. It really was. It looked like something from a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch. The other was Neil Diamond’s “I Am I Said”. (It was Neil Diamond week on “Idol”.) Mr. Diamond recommended she change the lyric from “New York” to “Arizona”, so I’ll blame him for this, but it really sounded stupid. How can you be contrasting Arizona and L.A. as “two shores”? It doesn’t work. It was no surprise that Brooke got the fewest telephoned in votes and so was eliminated on Wednesday night. Upon learning of her departure, she burst into sobbing...hugging another contestant, and acting as though her mother had died. She attempted to sing “I Am I Said” and it was, well, a nightmare.
I know you may be thinking I sound like Simon Cowell and I’m very cruel, and that I have no empathy for Brooke. That’s where you’re wrong. In my own way, in life, I’ve been a lot like Brooke White. I’m a pretty talented guy...oh, not so much with singing, but I’m an excellent public speaker and teacher. Sometimes, I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated in certain situations and I’ve kind of “folded” due to lack of confidence. Far worse, I’m a VERY emotional person. NO, I’m not usually going to burst into public sobbing, but I’ve been known to make life altering decisions because of emotion and impulse. I’ve also been known to say and do things which I forget about 5 minutes later, and yet, which have damaged my public image and have “dogged” me for years. I do understand Brooke. She reminded me a little too much of myself!
At 53, I’ve mellowed and I’ve learned a lot of life’s lessons. My wife tells me I have changed for the better and that I handle a lot of situations with a lot more grace, patience, and class than I ever did a few years ago. Believe me, I DO still have my moments when emotions overwhelm me. I guess you could say I’m in “recovery” with my thing of being ruled by emotions. Like anyone in recovery it’s “One day at a Time”! I just wish I knew at 33 or even 23 what I now know at 53, because it would have saved ma a lot of pain, disappointment and heartache in life.
So, in the one in a million chance that Brooke White ever reads this: Brooke, get into your own “recovery” program. Paula is right. NEVER stop a song and start it over again. And Simon is right...this week was a nightmare. You have a GIFT. You’re a great singer. You have a lot of strong attributes. Remember that. And whatever you do, DON’T let those emotions control you ‘cause they’ll destroy you. And for anyone else (like Brooke or me) who has those problems with out of control emotions and/or lack of confidence, I hope you’ll learn some lessons, too!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
As far as I know, that’s the only Scripture verse in the entire Bible which used the word “birthday”. I’m using it today, because today, May 1, 2008 would have been my mother’s 84th birthday.
I think I wrote about my mother on the blog on one of her previous birthdays...maybe two years ago. My parents’ birthdays were always easy to remember because they each had first day of the month birthdays. (My father was born on December 1, 1922.) Like my late brother’s birthday of a few weeks ago, my mother’s birthday has put me in a very reflective mood. I honestly wasn’t planning on writing anything on the blog today, but here I go! Shaving and showering a little while ago, all I could think about was my mother’s birthday.
My mother, Virginia M. “Ginny” (Richard) Baril was originally from the Roxbury section of Boston. My mother and father grew up in the same neighborhood on the same street, just a few houses apart! It was a 90% Irish Catholic neighborhood. Both my Mom’s and Dad’s families were Catholic but neither were Irish. All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Canada. (Have no fear, Michael Graham, they were LEGAL immigrants!) Three out of four spoke French as their first language; the exception was my mother’s mother who grew up as Mary MacDonald in rural Prince Edward Island.
My mother and father were as different as night and day. They loved “dating” and traveling, but I honestly don’t think they did all that well getting along in day to day life. From photos of my Dad when he was a teenager and young adult, you can tell he was one of the “cool” kids...or whatever they called “cool” kids in 1940. He was confident, athletic, mechanically inclined, hung around with the popular kids and dated some (frankly) very sexy looking girls. In high school my mother thought my father was a jerk. She entered the CONVENT (no kidding) immediately upon graduating from high school. Mom’s father, who was also a very religious person, thought that she might be making a mistake. He assured her that if she decided she wanted to change her mind about it at any time, it was OK. Mom went off to northern New Jersey to begin her “nun training” (or whatever they called it). She was determined to become a missionary nun to China.
You see, my mother was not only very religious but she was very idealistic. She fully expected to experience miracles on a daily basis. Now, as a Pentecostal, I definitely believe in miracles. And, the basis for her belief in frequent miracles and supernatural interventions was based on something very important from her early childhood. As a very young child (I think it was at 2 years old; my sister thinks it was at 2 months old) she was in the hospital at death’s door with meningitis. The prognosis was virtually hopeless. Mom suddenly and MIRACULOUSLY got completely well. This astounded her doctors at the time!
Sadly, the reality of a strict, rigid, ascetic convent was just not something my mother was prepared for. She tried and tried to make the convent work, but she dropped out after about two years. Sadly, she regretted that decision for the rest of her life and often believed the decades of depression and disappointments she later faced were a punishment from an angry God. Mom did not come to understand about the God of grace, mercy, love and forgiveness until she was around 70-years-old!
My sister and I still can’t understand how my parents ever got together. Ironically, their first date was at a restaurant in FRAMINGHAM of all places! I believe it was right off Route 9 at the “Junction” section of Framingham- only about a mile from where I live today! My father on the one hand had an outstanding sense of humor, was a great storyteller, and was a practical joker. On the other hand, he could have a very authoritarian personality and was one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever known. He was the “It’s my way or the highway!” type and he got his way on just about everything. Mom kind of sadly and dutifully lived her life.
My sister has found journal after journal of my mother’s from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in which she writes about how depressed she was. That was a shock to my sister Dianne, but it really wasn’t to me. Mom worked as a payroll clerk at Draper Mills in Canton. She really liked most of the people she worked with but she HATED the job. She worked there for around twenty years. In her spare time she read books...non-fiction books about European history and fictional mystery stories. In my opinion, my mother had the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in European history. She desperately wanted to travel to Europe. She never did. She desperately wanted to visit Prince Edward Island, her mother’s birthplace. She never did. (I have visited Prince Edward Island. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, but it really saddens me she never made it there.) Many of you know my late brother Eddie was an alcoholic. His death at age 27 in 1983 devastated both of my parents. Mom also felt like a failure because two of her kids “turned Protestant”. (Catholics of her age group would say someone “turned Protestant” the way you’d say something like “the milk has turned sour.”)
Exactly ten years ago, in 1998, (in the midst of being the caretaker for my Dad who had Alzheimer’s Disease and was still at home at that point) Mom began having serious health problems. In September of 1998 she was diagnosed as having multiple-myeloma (“bone cancer”). In August 2000 she died...seven weeks after my father’s death.
I remember at the time of her cancer diagnosis (privately) being inconsolable. I voiced to my wife, “I couldn’t rescue her...I couldn’t rescue her...” And I couldn’t. Mary Ann said it wasn’t my job to rescue her. It wasn’t, I know, but ten years later, on this occasion of what would have been her 84th birthday it’s all coming back to my mind, and although this is a beautiful spring day, it’s kind of a sad one for me...