Friday, November 28, 2008


(alternate title which I almost used: "I WONDER IF THIS YEAR THEY'LL BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND.")

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

The Associated Press has reported that an impatient crowd of shoppers STAMPEDED earlier today, knocking down a door and KILLING a Wal Mart worker in Nassau, New York. See the Associated Press article, “Wal Mart Worker Dies After Shoppers Knock Him Down”, at

Perhaps we’d truly be safer in Iraq or Afghanistan over the next few weeks than at an American shopping center!

I don’t know how else to say it: this story DISGUSTS, angers, and saddens me.
According to the A.P. article, “Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like ‘savages’.”

I have quite a love/hate thing going about the Christmas holiday. This is the kind of thing that can sometimes have me saying, “I hate Christmas”. It does get my wife and family upset. But part of me really does hate it.

Oh, there IS a great part of Christmas. I happen to LOVE the Christmas carols, and I love singing Christmas carols. This year, I’ll once again be joining my friend the Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell of First Baptist Church in Framingham and her group of carolers at the train station on Wed. Dec. 10 and Wed. Dec. 17 in the late afternoon. It’s so COOL to sing these beautiful songs of Jesus’ birth to commuters as they get off the trains. Well, actually, it’s COLD! Usually, it takes me at least an hour to thaw out after the caroling, but the experience is well worth it. I will also admit to loving Christmas candy and appreciating a good Christmas dinner. (No wonder I’m 40 pounds overweight!) I also love to see “tiny tots” get Christmas presents.

My mother used to say that Christmas PRESENTS should only be for CHILDREN...say 14 and younger. I could drink to that! (Alcohol free carbonated sparkling cider, that is!) Which brings me to another BAD part of Christmas: the drinking. My late brother had a serious drinking problem. Christmas and New Year’s meant some “hairy” experiences because of that. Each year thousands of (mainly) women are victims of domestic violence at Christmas time. It was about fifteen years ago that a prominent Boston radio personality came home from his radio station’s holiday party and beat up his wife. That story hit the press, and he was fired shortly thereafter.

I like the, “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” stuff. I will admit to having a real soft spot for the children’s classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I smile when “Holly Jolly Christmas” comes on the radio. But the chaos at the malls??!! My Dad used to NOT do Christmas shopping. Each year, he’d pass out envelopes with cash inside. I know that may seem kind of cold, but two years ago, I opted to do that. I did no shopping that year. I don’t know how much cash I’ll have this year. Like a lot of you, it doesn’t look like it will be all that much, but I’m really seriously thinking of just doing the pass out cash in envelopes thing.

Many years ago when I was on staff at a very large church, in lieu of sending Christmas cards to each other, we had a huge custom made Christmas card in the lobby that we all signed. Each year, the giant Christmas card was produced by graphic artist Mary Agrusa. My favorite was an exceptionally beautiful card she did, and the caption stated, “I wonder if this year they’ll begin to understand.”

My personal relationship with the Lord Jesus prayer life...the realization that “there’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun”...the realization that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost”. THIS is the kind of stuff that blesses me. This is sacred to me. As far as a bunch of “savages” smashing a door down at a Wal Mart and killing a worker, well, that makes me want to just not celebrate Christmas at all.

Yeah, Mary Agrusa (and she’s alive and well and living in Georgia), I wonder if THIS year they’ll begin to understand. They, no WE need to. I know the Catholic churches tend to put up outdated looking signs which say, “Keep Christ in Christmas”. I think anytime I see one this year, I’ll applaud. And, I think I’ll try to be a little more generous at the Salvation Army kettles, too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Last night around 8 as I was sitting in my living room flipping through the channels with my “remote” I came upon a fascinating interview with Rex Trailer. For those who are NOT originally from the Boston area, Rex Trailer is now about 80 and he was a huge childrens’ television personality on Boston’s WBZ-TV channel 4 from 1956 through 1974. Rex Trailer’s show known as “Boomtown” was on live every Saturday and Sunday morning. Each week there were probably about 24 kids in the show’s audience. The show always closed with all the kids standing in the middle of the Boomtown set singing the Boomtown theme song with Rex. Believe it or not, I was on Boomtown in December of 1960 when I was a first-grader.

I’m not sure what channel Rex was on last night. It seemed to be one of those “animals gone bad” shows or something like that. They had recent clips of Rex telling the story, and then the actual black-and-white footage from a terrible incident that happened on Boomtown almost forty years ago. Each week, there was a feature called “Critter Corner”. Usually, Rex would introduce the kids to a chipmunk, or a bunny; you know, something like that. Well, there was some famous tiger named “G.T.” that had been featured on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and in all sorts of other public venues. Somehow the producers of Boomtown had arranged with the trainer to have G.T. and his trainer on the show. Since Boomtown was live and had a bunch of kids on the set, Rex WAS a bit uneasy about this, but he was assured that G.T. was well trained and was an experienced performer. The trainer had complete confidence that everything would go well. IT DIDN’T!

In talking about that awful day many years ago, Rex said what the tiger was NOT used to was being on the set with a live horse. (Rex always had his horse, Goldrush on the show with him.) In watching the black-and-white footage, it was indeed evident that the tiger was agitated and was not following and obeying the trainer very well. As Rex said, “he probably wanted to eat the horse for lunch!”
Suddenly, G.T. the tiger lunged at his trainer!

“NO, G.T. NO, G.T.” the trainer yelled as he was knocked to the floor and the tiger got on top of him.

“Help me! Help me!” the trainer yelled.

Ad Rex recounted, the cameramen watched in horror. Rex didn’t know exactly what to do, but he grabbed the tiger by his neck with all of his might, and then the tiger opened his mouth at Rex as wide as he could open it!

Well, then, they cut to another story! I don’t know exactly how things ended up, but I know Rex is still with us all these years later and no one got killed.

I gave that incident a lot of thought after watching it. You know, it’s really sort of a parable. Have you ever been “conned” into something you really didn’t want to do with the assurances that everything would be O.K., THEN had things go horribly wrong and had to try to fix the problem and take the blame? I hate to tell you how many times I’ve been “conned” like that and how many messes I’ve found myself in! It’s not too comforting when the guy who assured you that everything would be fine is on the floor under a tiger yelling, “Help me! Help me!”

Let’s give that one some thought. The next time somebody comes up to you trying to “con” you into getting involved in something you that doesn’t seem like a good idea, “just say no” and get as far away from that person as you can!

Monday, November 24, 2008


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

Ever have a pop song “stuck in your head”? You know, it just keeps repeating and repeating. It’s so REAL to YOU that it’s exactly like you’re listening to it on the radio or on a C.D. player, but it’s in your head. (There used to be a couple of characters on the old Allie McBeal comdey/drama T.V. show who frequently had songs stuck in their heads like that!) Well, today I have one of those songs stuck in my head. The song is, “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat (pronounced Callay).

Yes, “Bubbly” is a love song and a VERY girly song. I know. I hope no one is questioning my sexual orientation as they are reading this, but “Bubbly” is also one of the relatively few secular pop songs of this decade that you don’t have to be ashamed of listening to! It’s a nice, mellow, happy song.

It’s been nice to have it running through my head today. I know committed Christians are not supposed to have bad days, but this was a bad day. I won’t bore you with all the details, but it was one of those days that you’re glad to see end. The day featured one annoying thing after another going wrong ALL day long! We had a very good Sunday at church yesterday, SO was my bad day some kind of spiritual warfare sent from the spiritual forces of darkness? Maybe; but I don’t like to give the Devil TOO much credit, either. I think sometimes bad days just happen. Certainly GOD allows them, too, to teach us all kinds of spiritual lessons whether we want to learn them or not!

Some of my Christian friends will be disappointed that I did not have some wonderful Christian Praise & Worship song repeating in my head. Well, some days, I DO, but today it was the secular song, “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat.

Wouldn’t life be awful without music? So, on this Thanksgiving week and on this “bad day” thank you God for music and thank you God for “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat. And, thanks, Colbie for recording the song!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

Our family lives in a 116-year-old house about a half mile south of Route 9 in Framingham which the church purchased in 1946. (The church hasn’t always owned the circa 1950s Union Hall building. Originally it was located in a small “churchy” looking facility which was built in the 1880s.) The 116-year-old house has some “issues”. There is no garage, which I really hate. The “basement” is really a “cellar”. It has somewhat low ceilings and is not the kind of place you could turn into a “rec room”. And, while “this old house” IS somewhat charming, the heating system has always been an issue.

The house has ONE heating zone which is insane. The thermostat is located in the very cold and drafty living room. Thus, the system is constantly calling for heat. In the dead of the winter, it’s hard to get the temperature of the living room above 62, while the second floor is around 74, and the attic is almost 80! Yesterday, my son pointed out to me that although the thermostat was set on 70 the heat had not gotten above 60 in the living room all day. THAT’S unusual. Usually, even on a very cold day like yesterday, it would eventually get up to around 66 or 67 degrees. The room IS drafty, and we need to try to do something about that, but it still seemed odd.

When I got up this morning, the heat was on, but things just did not seem “up to par”. We have those old flat iron “registers” that can be a fixture with some old houses, and usually you can stand on them and feel the heat blasting through. Instead, the “heat” was more like the “warm” and the intensity was pretty wimpy.
I went down to the furnace, and suddenly I realized something. I’m usually very good about changing the filters every month or two, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d changed the filter. We have gas forced hot air heat. There is a 16x25x1 filter which is supposed to get changed preferably at least once every three months, if not sooner. I opened took out the filter. It was CAKED with dust. Fortunately, I had two new filters on hand. I changed the filter, and it was like I had flipped on some kind of turbo switch! The heat came blasting through the way it should and the temperature in the house improved.

I’m going to be much more careful about checking and changing those filters every month or two from now on! Is your home heated with gas forced hot air? Have you changed the filter lately?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:” (Luke 15:23)

I am 99% sure I posted a piece about the Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant in Troy, New Hampshire on the blog a couple of years ago, but I’m just too lazy to check the archives. (If someone is ambitious and WANTS to check the archives, go right ahead!). I know I have a lot of friends, acquaintances and other readers who are not born-again Christians and have little interest in Scripture or prayer. I truly feel sorry for you, but I certainly AM aware that’s the case. The NEXT posting is of more interest to spiritually minded folks, but THIS one is of interest to ANY “foodies” in New England of any religious or spiritual persuasion (or not) who like to travel. I know it seems weird that there would be a GREAT Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere in rural southwestern New Hampshire, but THERE IS!

I found the Dragon Palace on my way home from Pilgrim Pines Conference Center (just south of Keene, NH) a couple of years ago. I stopped in for lunch again today on my way home from the “Vision New England Pastors’ Prayer Summit”. What a great lunch!

The Dragon Palace is just a few feet off Route 12 in Troy, New Hampshire. If you’re heading North, it’s on your right. It’s probably about 15 miles north of the state line at Winchendon, Massachusetts and it’s probably about 80 miles one way from Framingham. The restaurant is in a strip mall. The Troy, NH post office is in the same strip mall. If you’re picturing some run down take-out joint that sits 7 people around beat-up tables, you’re mental picture is ALL WRONG. The Dragon Palace is at the far left end of the strip mall. There’s a very attractive dining room that seats over 60 people. Looking out the dining room windows is a great view of Mount Monadinock. There is NO buffet. However, the portions are pretty generous and the food is GREAT. I’m quite the Chinese food person. I have not had any Chinese food in the Framingham area that compares with the Dragon Palace. From the luncheon specials menu, I ordered General Gau’s chicken, boneless spareribs, and pork fried rice. The General Gau’s chicken was very, very good; possibly the best General Gau’s I’ve had anywhere. The fried rice was high quality and quite tasty. The boneless spareribs were a bit dry, but also very tasty. The tea was HOT and very good. The service was a little slow. There was only one waiter for a weekday lunch, but he was polite and attentive. The waiter served me very tasty noodles to munch on while I was waiting for my meal, and a fortune cookie came with the check. (Some Chinese restaurants are actually cutting back and no longer offer fortune cookies with lunch.)

I used the restroom and it was pretty clean. I wish we had a restaurant like this MUCH closer to Framingham. Anytime you’re going to or from the Keene, NH/Mount Monadinock area, I recommend that you stop in at the Dragon Palace. You will not be disappointed!


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

I fear this will make some of my Christian “brothers and sisters” angry and has the potential to spark an angry e-mail or two. Please do me a favor. Think and pray about what I have to say in this posting. Please give it at least 24 hours before firing off an e-mail to me. (Also, before firing off any e-mails, please read and “soak” in 2 Corinthians 10 and 11!)

One pet peeve I have as a pastor is when it’s time to conclude a prayer meeting (or any meeting for that matter) and I close in prayer (or someone else closes in prayer) and THEN someone says something like, “I just feel led to pray for such and such”. It puts the leader in a horrible, no win situation. If the leader DOESN’T allow that person to pray, the leader appears to be very cold, insensitive and unspiritual. If the leader DOES allow that “I just feel led...” person to pray, well, the leader is not the leader. Mr. or Ms. “I just feel led...” has become the leader.

Something happened near the conclusion of the “17th Annual New England Pastors’ Prayer Summit” this morning that I am going to use as a teachable moment. I know I have to be careful. Those of us who attend the Prayer Summits are in covenant to NOT reveal anything that happens at the Prayer Summits. Sometimes pastors share deep and detailed personal problems or sensitive information about church problems they are having. I would NEVER, NEVER reveal anything like that. But I think what I’m about to share is generic enough that it will not do harm, but CAN be (as I’ve written) a “teachable moment”. This Prayer Summit like all of them had several “facilitators”. I am not going to use their real names. I’ll call one Pastor Ned from Massachusetts, another Pastor Frank from Connecticut, and a female, Pastor Suzanne from Massachusetts. (The Summits used to be for men only. Women ministers began attending a few years ago.)

The Prayer Summit was scheduled to conclude this morning at 11 a.m. After we got checked out of our rooms, etc., we began singing and praying in the chapel at around 9:30. (There are no pews. There are individual chairs which we usually have arranged in a circle.) It’s been our custom to spend our last half hour or so praying for revival in New England, and focusing specifically on geographic areas and certain particular ministries. This morning, beginning around 10:30, we began a prayer focus for Maine, then New Hampshire and Vermont, then Rhode Island and Connecticut, then Boston, then Cape Cod, then Springfield, MA and the Pioneer Valley. After that, those who are particularly called to be Intercessors (there were around 7 of them) were called into the middle of the circle, and we had a time of concentrated prayer for them. When all this was done, it was 11:14 a.m. One pastor from Massachusetts (he happens to be a personal friend of mine) said, “We DIDN’T pray for Massachusetts”. The male facilitators quickly explained that we had just prayed for Boston, Cape Cod, and the Pioneer Valley. That did not satisfy my pastor friend, so Pastor Frank from Connecticut then said, “O.K. then, you lead us in a prayer for Massachusetts.” He did. It was now 11:15. Pastor Suzanne the female facilitator then passionately said, “I think we need to pray for the INTERNATIONAL community in New England and all those who are ministering to internationals!”

Pastor Ned happens to be one of the most anointed and spiritually minded men I’ve ever met. He’d be the LAST guy to “quench the Spirit”. But I could see from the look on his face that he was being put into that famous, “I just feel led...” position.

“I’m going to let Pastor Frank make the final decision,” Ned said, “but for my mind, WE’RE DONE. It’s 11:15. We’ve got folks here who have four hour drives. We told them we’d be through by 11.”

Pastor Frank said, “Well, I think we can have several people pray out real brief and to-the-point prayers, and then in a few minutes we’ll close.”

I don’t remember who, but at that point, some pastor started NOT praying but TALKING....saying, “You know, I’d just like to share about...”

“NO.” Pastor Frank interrupted him, “NO sharing. Just prayer. TWO MINUTES and then I’M CLOSING IT.”

Frank and Ned did NOT say any of what they said in angry tones. But they did speak frankly and bluntly. I wanted to applaud each of them. Frank actually allowed prayer to go on for three or four minutes (I would not have let it go even that long) and then closed us.

I gave that scenario some thought as I drove home, and I decided to share it. It may seem like I’m making a big deal of it, but part of love and respect in the Body of Christ is keeping our being sensitive to time and commitments, and to proper perimeters. (We HAD three days to pray and 90 minutes to pray this morning. We also could pray in our cars on the way home. Ned’s point about the 11 a.m. closing and the people who had to drive 4 hours was well taken.)

So, that’s one of my pet peeves as a pastor. And, I just feel led to have you think and pray about it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

NOV. 17 - NOV. 20

Just to let everyone know,

I will be attending Vision New England’s 17th Annual “Pastors’ Prayer Summit” in West Swanzey, New Hampshire between Monday, November 17 and Thursday, November 20. I will check my cell phone each morning and evening for voice mail messages; otherwise it will be shut off. I will be completely away from the internet between Monday morning at 8 and Thursday afternoon at 4.

I look forward to this special event every year!

I hope to be putting some new posts on the blog after Nov. 20!

Friday, November 14, 2008


“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (I Peter 3:8)

A couple of weeks ago my friend George Kalem (we graduated from Canton High School together in 1972) sent me an e-mail informing me that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles had just instituted a policy that they will no longer be sending out reminder letters stating that people’s drivers’ licenses are about to expire. It’s now up to everyone to carefully check their license for the expiration date and to make sure to go to the R.M.V. to renew shortly before the expiration of the license. There are a number of other matters the R.M.V. will also no longer remind us of...that we had just better KNOW or else. George assumed that since I am so oriented toward the Registry of Motor Vehicles (see my “Junior Registry Man?” posting on this blog from October 31, 2008) that I’d just automatically know this information. Well, I DIDN’T know it, and I’m glad George let me know!

Michael Graham of radio station 96.9 WTKK has also written a great piece about this which you can read at:!.aspx#comment

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Michael Graham’s posting about the Registry is fine, good, and very informative. SOME of the comments posted used language and expressions I don’t care for. You may want to read Michael Graham’s posting but skip the comments- although I wrote one of the comments, which, of course is fine!)

I have mentioned in the past that my father, Eugene A. Baril, retired from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in 1982 after a distinguished career with them. (That’s how I got Massachusetts plate #280 which is on my 1989 Volkswagen!) I’m not exaggerating when I say my Dad had a “distinguished career” with the Registry. In 1968, he made two “accident investigation” police training television programs for WGBH-TV channel 2 which were also broadcast throughout PBS stations all over New England. On the second program he and several other experts fielded questions from police officers (and others) in a live studio audience. Dad also arranged former Registrar Richard E. McLaughlin’s appearances on radio and television throughout the state and used to accompany him on each appearance. During his last several years at the Registry, he was Supervisor of the Medical Affairs branch (then at the old 100 Nashua St. Boston headquarters) and was recognized for his outstanding treatment of the disabled, long before this was a “politically correct” thing to do.

Some might think I have “chutzpah” to be speaking on behalf of my late father, but I think he’d have a major problem with the current policy of the R.M.V. refusing to notify people by mail that their licenses are about to expire. He’d have completely agreed with Michael Graham. And, knowing how “spit and polish” former Registrar McLaughlin was, I’m sure he’d agree with Michael Graham, too. I really hope the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will rethink this discourteous and unreasonable policy and that they’ll “reinstate” (to use a very Registry-like term) the old policy of sending out the reminder letters.

I know in a recent posting I promised I’d cut down on complaining. So, please don’t consider this a “complaint”- consider it a “courtesy notification”!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (I Corinthians 10:10)

That’s from the old-fashioned King James Version.

“The Jerusalem Bible” (one of scores of more “up-to-date” versions) says, “You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.”

Complaining. Boy, that’s a “loaded” subject for me! I hate to admit it, but my nature is to be a complainer. I’m also a “perfectionist” and I think those traits go hand-in-hand. If you’re a perfectionist you actually struggle with a lot of frustration because NOTHING in this life is truly perfect, and since nothing is perfect, well, you complain!

I’ve often thought that when Andy Rooney retires from CBS’ “60 Minutes” I should replace him because I have a different and creative way at looking at life, I’m a pretty good writer, and like him, I’m a complainer. Yes, I’m one of those who wonders why Kellogg’s doesn’t put as many “Smacks” in the cereal box as they used to, or why paper clips seem to be getting smaller and flimsier...stuff like that.

Andy Rooney is (I think) likable. He’s what some people call a curmudgeon. Many complainers are just NOT likable. When my kids were much younger, they were on our church’s “Junior Bible Quiz” team. In the Assemblies of God, there are parents and pastors who take “Junior Bible Quiz” more seriously than just about anything. (You should see the J.B.Q. rulebook!) There are regional “meets”, and ultimately J.B.Q. goes all the way to national championships. Back in the 1990s, I was a J.B.Q. “Quizmaster” which meant I asked the questions, and determined if an answer was correct...well, it meant I was kind of an Alex Trebek. The kids had fun. The parents? Well, that’s another story. I guess they never read about what Jesus said about the Pharisees “straining at a gnat to swallow a camel” because, well, that’s pretty much what they did. They nit-piked and complained, and that just wasn’t much fun.

I guess I’m like a lot of complainers, because I like to complain, but I very much DON’T like to be complained TO! My kids were very embarrassed at a Wendy’s drive thru a number of years ago when I emphatically insisted at the window that I was cheated out of one of the containers of chili that I’d ordered. Well, I WAS, but my kids said I acted like a jerk and it just wasn’t worth it. Maybe they’re right. I felt very bad when former President Richard M. Nixon passed away. This surprised me because when he was President I couldn’t stand him. I thought he was a very dishonest guy who was bad for our country. But the day he was buried, I told my mother over the phone, “I honestly feel bad for the guy. He had to listen to everybody complaining and now so do I.” (In those days our church was having major problems with the Town of Framingham. We were on the verge of being shut down and most of the people in the church blamed me for it and COMPLAINED.) Yeah, when you start thinking Nixon wasn’t a bad guy, well, you’ve been listening to a lot of complaints!

It occurs to be that in 2008, I’ve listened to MORE complaints than I’ve heard in a LONG time, and I frankly don’t like it. But, I’m also aware that I’ve been DOING a LOT of complaining lately! It’s like a vicious cycle. Somebody complains to you. It makes you mad. You don’t like it, and so what do you do? YOU go out and complain about something to somebody else. And it goes on and on. It’s like “pay it forward” only in a VERY BAD WAY.

Yesterday was kind of a lousy day for me. And, YEAH, boy did I do my share of complaining yesterday! In the late afternoon, I received an e-mail Forward from a friend encouraging me to watch an inspirational youtube video. I almost didn’t watch it. After all, I was in a mood to complain, not watch an inspirational video. But, I DID watch it. It was a 5 minute presentation by a guy who has no arms or legs. Well, he has SORT OF a left foot, but that’s about it. The guy is a Christian and has a powerful ministry. You can guess what happened after I watched the video. I stopped the complaining and the lousy mood.

How about if we REALLY “pay it forward”? I’ll make a conscious effort to have an attitude of gratitude and do less complaining. I’m encouraging you to do the same!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29)

At various times over the past two and a half years or so that this blog has been in existence (previously on AOL Journals and now on blogspot) I have written about my brother Eddie who died during the summer of 1983 at the age of twenty-seven. I’m one of the “unhandiest” guys you’d ever want to meet, but Eddie was a gifted mechanic. He knew more about cars than almost anyone I’ve ever known. This month as I’m reading headlines which state that General Motors is in very serious trouble and possibly will not even be able to stay in business for another year, I can’t help but wonder what Eddie would be saying. Thirty years ago, Eddie predicted the demise of General Motors.

(In all fairness) I realize that it’s ALL the “traditional American” auto companies that are in serious trouble, not just General Motors, and Eddie did NOT foresee that happening. I guess the shocking part for most Americans is that most of us thought that the one U.S. car company which would survive to the end of the 21st Century no matter what would have been General Motors. GM’s market share of new car sales in North America in the 1950s and 1960s was staggering. I think they had a share of at least 55% in those days...AND they had quite a chunk of world new car sales, as well. As the years went on, GM grew and grew. One of my friend’s mothers worked for GM’s investment division (or whatever it was called) during the 1970s. In those days, GM was a fabulous investment. A person had to invest a minimum of $25,000. at that time, but the return was great. People were investing left and right. On today’s news I heard that a share of GM stock now sells for the price of a fancy cup of Starbuck’s coffee. Who’d have ever believed that?

Back in the 1970s, Eddie pointed out that GM was getting all sorts of sales based on their past reputation, but that the actual cars they were building in the 1970s (with the possible exception of Cadillac and maybe one or two other high-end models) were riddled with problems, and honestly substandard compared to the vehicles Ford and Chrysler were selling. Eddie did not like foreign cars, but even that far back he pointed out that the Japanese were building better cars than any of the U.S. companies were, and that this was a trend which would continue. People of my parents’ generation tended to buy the same make of cars and in fact tended to buy all of their cars from the same dealer, which often was a small “Mom and Pop” auto dealership. It’s sad to think of on this Veteran’s Day, but most of those World War 2 vets are now either dead or too old to be driving. People in my age group have no particular loyalty to a car company or dealership. Eddie was quite right in that those World War 2 vets who bought the junky Chevys and Pontiacs in the 1970s were fondly remembering the grand General Motors cars of their younger days. Many of them were also mindful of the famous saying of Charles “Engine Charlie” Wilson, President and Chairman of G. M. who in 1953 ACTUALLY said, “What’s good for our country is good for General Motors.” It was usually misquoted (even by Archie Bunker on “All in the Family”) as “What’s good for General Motors is good for America”.

I’m not mechanically inclined, but I DO appreciate the beauty and style of American cars of the past- particularly of the 1950s, 1960s, and very early 1970s. With the exception of Volvos and certain Chrysler makes, today's cars all pretty much look alike. They are either Toyotas or they look like Toyotas. I haven’t owned a Toyota yet but I probably will one day.

During my vacation to Hershey, Pennsylvania this summer one empty building in Hershey’s downtown caught my eye. It was a medium sized one-story red brick facility with a large parking lot. The sign said “Chevrolet of Hershey”. There was the familiar Chevy logo, signs directing people to the service center, etc. But there were no cars, no salesmen, and no mechanics. The dealership was all closed up. It looked like it had probably been shuttered for over a year.

Yes, Eddie apparently was right. I may well be living to see the death of General Motors. Incidentally, our church building at 32 South Street in Framingham, Massachusetts was originally the United Auto Workers union hall from when GM had a big auto plant here. The plant was still operating when I moved to Framingham in 1987. In fact, for awhile, I owned a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon which I believe was built in Framingham. It worked out well for our church to move from our tiny wooden church building (with no parking lot) to the union hall back in the 1990s, but I can’t help but feel the decline of a once great American corporation is kind of sad.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


For those of you who are not "Pentecostal" and/or not "born-again Christians" much of the following will not make much sense to you. I posted this on an AOL Assemblies of God site and I also sent it out as an e-mail to some Christian friends. I guess it's a little bit "gutsy" of me or even a little bit "crazy" of me to post it here, but while I don't usually take an "in your face" Pentecostal/Charismatic approach to what I write on this blog, it's nothing I'm ashamed of either. In fact, this is VERY important to me. So here is the text of what I posted and what I e-mailed out. If you want to e-mail me with questions or comments, I'll be open to that:

Our church, First Assembly of God of Framingham, was blessed to have Kathy Vanaria, Missionary to Papua New Guinea, as our special speaker today. (Assemblies of God missionaries Kathy Vanaria, her husband Neil, and their son Tony have ministered in Papua New Guinea for many years.)

She gave us a challenging sermon, which included “homework”. I won’t say WHAT I did, but I have already completed one part of my “homework”.

Here’s what Kathy Vanaria said and how she challenged us:


1. Pray God-sized prayers! (don’t pray only wimpy, easy, safe prayers...believe God for something “impossible”!)

2. THIS WEEK, DO something that is consistent with your belief that God will act in an extraordinary way! (Once in Papua New Guinea, a band of angry men armed with machetes attacked the village where the Vanarias were living. One held a machete to Kathy’s throat. She rebuked these attackers in the name of Jesus. They immediately fled and ceased their attack!)

3. Commit to something that’s bigger than yourself!

4. (If you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit) Do not let another week go by without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. (Spend the time alone with God that you need in order for this to happen.)

5. Do something this week that only a Christian would do. Write it down and do it. (Forgive someone that does not deserve forgiveness, Pray in the Spirit for someone, Do a random act of kindness, etc.)

6. Pray by name for someone to come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Friday, November 7, 2008


“...who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (from Esther 4:14)

The posting I read on an AOL message board last night was the latest in a string of such matters: Martin, a pastor and Presbyter (overseer of a group of churches) in the Assemblies of God in rural Kentucky posted about the emotionally gut wrenching day he’d had. Oh, lest you think Martin is a weak guy, he’s not. Martin’s been in the ministry for almost thirty years in rural locations in Kentucky. Martin’s sermons (I’ve heard them on C.D.) evidence a very mature man of God with lots of depth and lots of life experience. Guys like Martin are like the now extinct old-fashioned country doctors, except that they’re clergymen or “preachers” as they call them in Kentucky. Martin had spent the day with a totally discouraged pastor and his wife. “Crushed” is what Martin entitled the posting. These are young people. They’re completely exhausted, totally discouraged, and broken people. They resigned their church. It’s the third church in Martin’s “section” in which a discouraged pastor had recently resigned. Pastor Martin spent a good part of yesterday crying and praying with this young couple.

I’m 54 and I’ve been in full-time ministry for 27 years. I’m not sure what is going on, but it’s a challenging time. A close friend of mine from Texas has sent me a couple of despondent e-mails this week. He’s a veteran and he’s very conservative. He is so upset about the election of Obama that I’m worried about him. He pretty much feels that with the election of Obama, his life is over. In addition, I spoke to one of my oldest and dearest friends by phone a few days ago. He’s had many years of successful ministry on the West coast and now teaches at a Christian college. Our conversation was very private so I’ll call him “Tom” but it’s not his real name. Tom is grieving the loss of his brother who died over a year ago from A.L.S. (Lou Gerig’s Disease) and is facing some incredibly sad and stressful problems in his extended family. Then there’s a seasoned pastor friend from here in MetroWest who currently has a daughter that has a serious heart problem and a daughter-in-law with stage 4 cancer. That pastor and his wife also have some serious health issues. I spoke to an elderly pastor recently who has several medical problems and is struggling with depression. (The depression is not due to emotional problems, it’s chemical, but due to the guy’s medical problems, the number of medications that he can take are very limited.) Some of you know I’ve been walking through the toughest emotional trial I’ve faced since the deaths of my parents in 2000. I really wish I could write about it here, but it’s MUCH too personal even for me to write about, and it could potentially hurt a lot of people. Also, one of the tough things about being a pastor is that people can put you on a pedestal and expect you to be almost perfect and to meet their needs. I know I’ve upset and disappointed some people lately, and I’m the type that is bothered by that.

Lest everyone who reads this goes and jumps off the Sagamore Bridge (please don’t do that!), please keep reading. It’s funny, but God talks to me in the shower. I was not planning to post anything this morning- CERTAINLY not all this stuff. But I thought about the special service and special day that our little church is having on Sunday. One Sunday a year, usually in November, we have “Missions Rally Day”. We have a missionary come to speak, we have the church all decorated for Missions Rally Day; at least as well as we can decorate it, we bring in a catered dinner (the building has no kitchen) and then we have a special Faith Promise Service.

This year’s is special because of who the guests are. One of the most impressive Assemblies of God missionary families you’d ever want to meet are Neil and Kathy Vanaria and their 13-year-old son Tony. Neil is originally from MetroWest- I think Framingham. The Vanarias have spent over ten years in a very remote area of Papua New Guinea translating the New Testament into the Mesem language. That’s remarkable enough. But get this: Two years ago, Neil was in a terrible accident in Papua New Guinea. A guy was driving him (with some of his computer equipment) along a dangerous winding dirt road. The S.U.V. “wiped out”, went off the road and crashed. It’s not like having a traffic accident in Hopkinton, MA or something. Neil’s head was ripped open and he was bleeding and dying. He lay there for hours and hours. A group of locals showed up, AND ROBBED HIM AND THE VEHICLE. Miraculously, he was ultimately found by a “good Samaritan” and taken to the local hospital. (Can you imagine what the “local hospital” in Papua New Guinea is like?! Well, it’s worse than that!) Ultimately, Neil was flown to Australia and spent weeks undergoing medial care and things were “touch and go”. The Vanarias spoke at our church last December and I had Neil speak to our Men’s Group a few months ago.

It’s never been my custom to invite a missionary to speak at Missions Rally Day that I’ve just had at the church a relatively short time before. I typically either bring in a missionary we’re unfamiliar with, or one of our “regular” missionaries who has not been with us for a long time. I am not sure why, but about 6 months ago when I booked the Vanarias I was SO STRONGLY IMPRESSED OF GOD to book them for Missions Rally Day that I did. They’re “home on furlough” now, but in fact, Neil has just gone back to Papua New Guinea. I know this is Assemblies of God shop talk, but among other things, he needed to get back to the South Pacific to meet with his “field director”. When Neil contacted me a few weeks ago to say he couldn’t come, I was VERY disappointed, but I was then relieved to hear that his wife Kathy and son Tony WOULD be with us. Kathy has a number of physical challenges of her own and is frequently seen in a wheelchair, but Kathy is a very powerful and deep woman of God. (You don’t spend years ministering in a place like Papua New Guinea without having a deep walk with God.) In the shower this morning, I realized that Kathy and Tony Vanaria are just what I need and just what our church needs this Sunday.

These are not easy days for me, and these are not easy days for a lot of people. The Vanarias have walked through really hard stuff and they have something to offer. I’m looking forward to Sunday. As far as this Sunday goes, I believe God has called Kathy Vanaria to our church “for such a time as this”.

P.S. Want to see what God will do at First Assembly of God of Framingham this Sunday? Well, I dare ya to show up!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6)

Well, it’s over; and even though I’m one of those people who seemingly can’t get enough of news and politics, I was even getting kind of sick of the whole thing! The political campaigns in the U.S.A. are just WAY TOO LONG. No, I’m not happy about the results, but I will pray for President-elect Obama and Vice-President-elect Biden. They’ll need it. Their political views on almost every subject are FAR from mine, and that DOES make it tough, but I realize anything is possible. I realize they may do a far better job than I think they’re going to do, and I may be pleasantly surprised. Even if not, I’ll still pray for them. WTKK’s Jay Severin opened his show on Thursday making a very off-color remark against Obama and saying he will never call him “President Obama”. Sorry, Jay, but that’s over the line, and I just can’t agree.

A lot of the people and “stuff” I voted for did not make it. That’s not a surprise! For me, it’s the norm. I tend to “march to the beat of a different drummer” and I’m kind of proud of it.

I’m truly sorry we won’t get to have John McCain as President. Poor John McCain. Conservative Republicans generally hate him. Liberals generally hate him. Ill-informed Democrats generally hate him. (I say ill-informed because it IS true that a few years ago he almost switched parties to become a Democrat.) Bush-haters FANATICALLY hate him, saying he’s the equivalent of George W. Bush and is Bush’s best buddy and biggest supporter. (That’s really not true.) And, Sarah Palin haters hate him because he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.

McCain was my candidate all along. I voted for him in this year’s Republican primary. I also voted for him in the 2000 Republican primary. I like him. Is he “saved” as we born-again Christians like to say? While only God knows for sure, I’d guess “No”! (Incidentally, I don’t think Ronald Reagan was “saved” either but that didn’t stop me for voting for him twice for President.) I know McCain has a reputation for having a temper. There are stories of him (like Dick Cheney) letting the “F” word fly in public. Do I approve of that? No, I don’t. But I understand a guy who has a lot of passion and is not a phony. I’d MUCH rather have a guy like McCain than some sappy, gushy con man (which is what at least half of our Democrat and Republican politicians are). I’ve also heard McCain enjoys his alcohol, cigars, etc. AND, it’s true he had a history of being a skirt chaser, and he dumped his disabled first wife for Cindy. No that’s NOT right, but unlike Ted Kennedy, McCain talks about his past and regrets it. Today, McCain says cheating on his wife and dumping her was the biggest mistake of his life and he’s deeply sorry for it. (Incidentally, his first wife has forgiven him and speaks well of him.) I respect John McCain’s honesty and his humility. I know the N.A.R.A.L. crowd won’t like this, but I respect McCain’s pro-life/anti-abortion record. My understanding is he has the best pro-life voting record in the U.S. Senate.

Do you know the story of what John McCain endured as a prisoner of war at the “Hanoi Hilton” between 1967 and 1973? This man endured horrific abuse and torture. He was true to his country, and an ABSOLUTE HERO. I get choked up when I think of what he went through. I really do.

I know conservatives are furious for his “pro-illegal alien” actions, and I admit to having some trouble with that stuff. Hey, you’re not going to agree with EVERYBODY on EVERYTHING. Conservatives also can’t stand the fact that McCain has worked and collaborated with the likes of Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. That’s where I don’t agree with conservatives. I was once told by a clergy colleague that I “network very well”. I do. I’ve learned to work for good causes with all kinds of people. I’ve built relationships with all kinds of people. I just don’t see that as a weakness in McCain, I see it as a strength.

John McCain took a lot of heat for choosing Sarah Palin. IS Sarah Palin really ready to be President? I don’t know, but as Don Imus commented, “Could she possibly be any worse than George W. Bush?” I don’t think so. I actually think she’d have been better.

I’m glad at least that McCain is still in the Senate. I saw a photo of a very sad looking John McCain on the internet yesterday and a caption saying he “blames himself” for the loss. My counsel to him is, “Senator McCain, PLEASE don’t blame yourself! You conducted your campaign with integrity, and I’m one fan of yours that’s very proud of you.”

Will John McCain visit the Boston area any time in the near future? I don’t know.
I will say this...I know I’m just little Bob Baril, but in the one in a million chance that I ever had the opportunity to meet John McCain and (say) have lunch with him, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Who knows? Maybe it will happen someday! Maybe I’ll get to enjoy a lunch with John McCain.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


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

At this point, only the most ill informed and disinterested people are unaware that Tuesday, November 4 is Election Day in the U.S.A. I’ve been voting since 1972 (I was one of those young people who “got the 18-year-old right to vote” when the Constitution was amended at that time.) Radio talk show host Jay Severin often talks about the fact that his parents stressed the importance of their kids being well educated and informed. Severin remembers politics and major news issues being discussed at the family dinner table by his parents. I grew up in a very similar home atmosphere.

My parents considered politics and voting to be VERY important. My father, Eugene “Gene” Baril and my mother, Virginia M. Baril, were each registered Democrats. Both were pretty conservative, although my mom’s politics were kind of all over the place. She was quite conservative about SOME matters and quite liberal about others. My parents were not the kind of people who voted for only Democrats. I know that in 1960 they each voted for Nixon for President. They felt John F. Kennedy did not have enough experience to be President and that he had not been a very good U.S. Senator. Ultimately, they liked Kennedy as President. I think that (like a lot of people of their generation) after JFK’s assassination they genuinely regretted not having voted for him in 1960. Even so, they also voted for Republican John A. Volpe for Governor and strongly admired him. Incidentally, my folks probably had closer contact with Michael Dukakis than with any other Massachusetts politician. They actually attended his inauguration ball when he was first elected Governor.

Along with many Americans, my parents did not like the choices offered for President in 1968. That was the year it was between Humphrey and Nixon. They voted for Humphrey, but very reluctantly. My parents shocked a lot of their friends in 1972 by voting for McGovern. They had become completely disillusioned with the Vietnam war and just plain wanted OUT of Vietnam. By 1980, they had become Reagan Democrats. My folks LOVED Ronald Reagan and enthusiastically voted for him in ’80 and ’84. My mother wanted to vote in the 2000 Presidential election in the WORST way, but throughout that year she kept saying she’d vote in November, “If I live”. She didn’t. She died on August 2, 2000. My mom DID change her party affiliation to “unenrolled” in early 2000 to vote for John McCain in the Republican primary. By that time, my father was in pretty bad shape, living at a nursing home in an Alzheimer’s unit. Mom LOVED McCain- possibly more than she loved Reagan.

Over the past day or so I’ve been thinking about how my parents would be voting on November 4, 2008 if they were alive and healthy. There’s no doubt in my mind that each would be voting for John McCain. Now, I happen to like Sarah Palin, but I think they’d be very nervous about her and they would not have approved of her being chosen for V.P. Despite serious reservations about Palin, they’d NEVER have voted for Barack Obama for President. It’s NOT because he’s black. It’s because they would have considered him a dangerous radical. I think my father would have voted for Republican Beatty for U.S. Senate against John Kerry. I’m not sure how my mother would have voted on that one- maybe she’d have voted for Kerry.

Then, there’s the matter of the ballot questions. I am certain my father would have voted “no” on Question 2, about decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana. My Dad was very authoritarian about the use and possession of illegal drugs. He was a “throw ‘em all in jail for 20 years” type about that kind of stuff. I think my mother would have disagreed with him and voted “yes” on Question 2. She could be kind of a bleeding heart about that sort of thing. I have no idea how my Mom would have voted about Greyhound racing (Question 3). I am convinced my Dad would have voted “no”. I don’t think he’d have liked the idea of the tracks being put of of business and a lot of people losing their jobs. The tough one to figure is how my parents would have voted on Question 1- the elimination of the state income tax. I just don’t know! My father was a career state employee. The Commonwealth of Mass. was pretty good to him. I suspect he would have voted “no”. I also suspect they would have feared their property taxes going up and so would have voted “no”, but I’m just not sure!

I suspect many of you would love to hear how I’m voting. If you know me at ALL you can EASILY guess who I want for President. He’s old enough to be my father, so I think you know who I mean. As far as the ballot questions, at this point I’m not telling how I intend to vote on Questions 1 or 3 but I have definitely made up my mind on them. At this point I’m totally undecided on Question 2. I don’t know HOW I will vote on it. I think there’s a strong argument either way on Question 2 and I just haven’t been able to make up my mind on it. If anybody wants to try to present a convincing argument to me about either side of Question 2, I’ll listen.

Anyway, we can only speculate on What Gene and Virginia Would Do, but WE can go to the polls on Tuesday!