Thursday, December 31, 2009


“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (3 Peter 3:8)

A few nights ago, I was at the “Christmas Open House” at the home of Pastor Rich Hurst and his wife Robin (of Lutheran Church of Framingham). Rich asked the folks over 40 if any of us (when we were teenagers) seriously thought we’d be around to see the year 2010. Most of us said “no”! Several at the Open House also remembered as kids trying to figure out how old we’d be in the year 2000. I remember doing that. Finally, Rich asked if it seemed possible that the whole “Y2K” thing was TEN years ago! It really doesn’t seem possible!

I remember that on December 31, 1999, I conducted the funeral service of an elderly lady named Germaine Gallant who’d died from emphysema. Behind the scenes, Y2K was on people’s minds. I remember the funeral director telling me that the switchover in Australia had gone off without a hitch so that could indicated there would be no problems. There was something about conducting a funeral on the last day of the 1900s that really made the 1900s seem so FINAL and so OVER. I remember at the time that Worcester’s WSRS-FM was running a clip of John F. Kennedy talking about “the torch being passed to a new generation”. There was certainly the feeling that starting 2000 was embarking on a whole new era.

With just a few minor exceptions Y2K did not happen. (In a very few communities, they DID lose traffic lights, etc. but even in those instances the problems were corrected within minutes.) But the 2000s have been a tough decade. We will never forget September 11, 2001. For years, the famous Reverend David Wilkerson had been prophesying the collapse of the American economy. Some of his prophecies seemed pretty far fetched until September of 2008. I’ve heard a lot of people say they did not like the 2000s and they’re looking forward to 2010. I’m looking forward to 2010, also, but only God knows what it holds.

Technology really has come a long way in this decade. Our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan came equipped with a cassette tape player. Today’s teenagers look at cassette tapes and ask, “What are THOSE?!” (Our church still produces cassette tapes of our services, but even our church has recently begun producing CDs for those who don’t have cassette recorders.) In 2000 there was no youtube. There was also no Wikepedia. In 2000, VHS tapes still outsold DVDs. I’m not even sure if telephones had “texting” in 2000. IF they did, it wasn’t used much. (I’m one of the few people who still doesn’t text, but maybe I’ll eventually start...)
I am old enough to remember the start of the 1960s. At 5, I still couldn’t grasp numbers much above the number 12. When my mother told me we were about to have a new year and 1959 was ending, I asked her, “What comes after 1959? Nineteen-fifty TEN?!” The answer of 1960 made no sense to me! I do remember 1970 starting when I was a Sophomore in high school. I was kind of sick of the ‘60s and looked forward to a new decade. I felt the same way at the start of the 1980s. Now, at 55, I’m wondering how many new decades I’ll see coming in. If it’s God’s will, maybe the 2020s, but the actuarial tables don’t it’s likely I’ll see the 2040s or even the 2030s.

Well, as I told Rich, I never thought I’d see 2010, so maybe I’ll be a “George Burns” and see 100 in 2054!

Anyway, those are some of my New Year musings. Happy New Year, one and all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


“And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3)

Do you ever have the experience of having a song “stuck” in your head all day...just as if you’re hearing it on a radio or CD player, but it’s just in YOUR head?! Well, that happens to me a lot! There ARE very unpleasant songs that can get stuck in your head, but there are some great songs which you really don’t mind being stuck in your head.

Yesterday “Open Up The Sky” by Deluge was stuck in my head all day. It made my day!

Not long ago, I wrote a post about my 5 favorite secular songs and my 5 favorite Christian songs. Well, this one has become one of my favorite Christian songs, so it’s at least in my “Top 10” of Christian songs, and may even have edged out one of my previous top 5!

I’m sure my non-evangelical Christian friends have never heard of the song. You may be leery about listening to it...maybe thinking it’s some boring song you’d hate. I don’t think you will hate it, in fact, I think even most non-evangelical Christians would like the song.

The song’s about 18 months old, but our church only started singing it recently. I just LOVE it. The music is GREAT- and the words are awesome and inspiring.
There are several youtube sites which feature it. My son will laugh his head off that I still don’t know how to post a direct link on a blog posting. Please don’t laugh. It wasn’t too many years ago that I did not even know how to turn on a computer, and up until about 3 years ago I thought a “blackberry” was a small berry to eat. So you can just cut and paste each of these links and watch them.

Warning: you’ll get the song stuck in your head, but I think you’ll like it!

This one shows the band singing it:

This one merely features the song and the words:

Will you do me a favor and e-mail me or comment here to let me know what you thought of the song?

Hope all of you have a great New Year’s Day!

Monday, December 28, 2009


“And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (I Chronicles 4:9-10)

About a decade ago, Bruce Wilkinson wrote a bestseller entitled, “The Prayer of Jabez”, drawing inspiration, insight and encouragement from the prayer of this obscure guy named in the boring book of First Chronicles. As far as we can tell, Jabez did not achieve fame and fortune during his lifetime back in the ancient Middle East, but Wilkinson made his name a “household word” in the homes of North American Evangelical Christians. I continue to pray the prayer of Jabez every morning- when I’m in the shower!

Jabez “was more honourable than his brethren”. I wonder if he realized that. Maybe not. Speaking of the shower, this morning in the shower, I found myself thinking about that famous Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. WTKK’s Michael Graham recently wrote about, “It’s a Wonderful Life” on his blog. He hates the film. Michael sees George Bailey as a pathetic socialist kind of character, fighting the capitalist Mr. Potter, having a bunch of poor immigrants dependent upon him for housing, living in a run down old house, and needing people to rescue him with laundry baskets full of cash on Christmas Eve 1945. Well, I suppose that’s ONE way to see George Bailey, but I don’t see it that way at all.

Life is full of George Baileys. They’re often not understood nor appreciated. They just kind of slip into the background, mostly doing right things, and keeping others afloat in one way or other. I eulogized each of my parents at their funerals. My father was confident, brave, outspoken and achieved a number of honors in his life. My mother left most of her plans, hopes, and dreams unrealized. Yet, more people came to my mother’s funeral than came to my father’s. And, person after person came up to my sister and me at her wake to tell us how my mother had touched their lives. You see, my mother was a “George Bailey” type. That’s exactly how I eulogized her. She dreamed of getting out of Canton, Mass. the way George Bailey dreamed of getting out of Bedford Falls. She had no idea how many lives she touched, and she’d have been shocked to know her funeral was larger than my Dad’s.

My mother, Virginia Mary (Richard) Baril, had about a year’s worth of college credits from Northeastern University. She went there part time in the late 1940s. Mom’s parents discouraged her from going to college. From their point of view, college was no place for women. And, she was so “well educated” with a high school diploma! My maternal grandparents never went beyond grade school. So, Mom didn’t get to graduate from college which was one of her dreams. My mother was the most avid reader I’ve ever known...well, my wife comes in a close second! Mom devoured books of English literature and devoured books of British and French history. When any of those categories came on Jeopardy, she’d “ace” them! I truly believe she had the equivalent of at least a Master’s Degree in European history. Mom wanted so badly to travel to Europe. She never did. She also wanted to visit Prince Edward Island, her mother’s birthplace. I’ve been to P.E.I., but Mom never made it there. My mother hated math. Ironically, she spent many years as the Payroll Clerk of Draper Brothers Company (a textile mill). Mom depended on the computers and computer programmers to get her job done. Most of all, a wonderful Christian accountant there, Dorothy Anderson of Easton, gave her enormous emotional and prayer support. My mother hated her actual job, but she treasured her friendship with Dorothy Anderson who was in many ways a mentor to her.

Mom was deeply religious but struggled to understand life’s inequities. She believed that if a person went to church, prayed, and did all the right things, God should cut them some slack and give them a pleasant life. Mom felt God HADN’T done that for her...that He kind of cheated and failed her in life. We had a lot of long phone conversations in her final years that would leave me very drained. Mom didn’t understand that like George Bailey she was truly rich in friends. When my father became very ill with Alzheimer’s Disease, she became his caregiver. Dad absolutely should have gone into the nursing home about 18 months before he finally went there, but she felt she had to do all she could as a caregiver before it got to that point. My sister used to say that if things were reversed, my father would have placed her into a nursing home much sooner. That’s true. Mom, however, believed in doing not what was easy and not what worked out best, but what was RIGHT.

I’ve often exasperated pragmatic people when I’ve told them that I believe it’s far more important to do “what’s right” than it is to do “what works”. Yes, we George Bailey types (I’m one too) are the ones who vote for third party candidates and believe in “lost causes”. But we also tend to believe in people that nobody else believes in. My friend Jon had a older sister who had been a “druggie” and who’d call on the phone “talking ragtime” to use my expression. My mother would get on the phone, listen to her, and encourage her. She never considered her a bother.

George Bailey went to jump off a wrought iron bridge. At times, my mother at least verbally toyed with suicidal thoughts- and at times, I have, too. The message that the world would have been a far worse place if George Bailey had never been born is such an important message! Mom never went to Europe, never got a degree, never got a book published, never became famous; her obituary said “Virginia Baril, 76, Payroll Clerk”. She’d have been FURIOUS to be identified that way! No she was “Virginia Baril- caring person who touched many lives”.
I hope I’m similarly thought of! Are you a George Bailey? Don’t jump off that bridge, it’s a wonderful life! And, is there a “George Bailey” in your life? As my friend, D.C.M. says, “Don’t send them flowers when they’re dead! Do it now!”

Yes, let’s smile today get out there and make this world a better place! (And, Michael Graham, I hope you’re reading this!)

Friday, December 25, 2009


“...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (from Acts 20:35)

I’m writing this before 10 a.m. on Christmas Day so there’s still a long way to go today. (I know the posting time indicates much earlier but THAT’S on Pacific time!) We just opened our immediate family gifts. To use the famous line, so far “I made out like a bandit” with some nice clothes, CDs, DVDs, books, etc.

I just HAD to tell you about my 23-year-old daugher Rachel’s creative gift. She handed me a large Christmassy bag filled with decorative paper and newsprint. (t was wrapped in white ribbon. A sign was taped to the ribbon which said, “To Dad: Let’s Make A Deal”. Once I dug my way through the paper there was a converted shoebox. It was all decorated in wrapping paper. The top had 3 “doors” colored in gold that she had created. They were labeled “Door 1” “Door 2” and “Door 3”. I had to choose the Door and that was my gift. I chose “Door 2” which WAS the best one to choose. It contained $30 in one dollar bills!

I then opened the other 2 doors. Door number 1 was a box of “Cheese Its” snack crackers. Door number 3 was a roll of Scotch transparent tape!

Wasn’t that clever?! I think I had more fun with that than anything else this morning.

Sometimes when I’m preaching evangelistically, I explain that when I was growing up in the Catholic Church back in the 1960s, I was told that my works in this life would determine where I would spend eternity. I was also told that I would not find out if I would end up in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory until I DIED. (In traditional Catholicism, Purgatory is “like Hell” ---no swearing intended, there--- but it is TEMPORARY.) I always thought that was kind of a lousy DEAL. I thought I’d be really miffed if I died and found out I was going to Hell....and even Purgatory sounded pretty lousy. I knew really good people like Mother Teresa went to Heaven, but I knew I wasn’t “really good”.

The reason I JUMPED ON the Billy Graham/Evangelical Protestant message of “receive Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior and be guaranteed a place in Heaven when you die” is that it sounded a LOT better than the Catholic version of eternity. This coming Summer will mark 40 years since I made my “decision for Christ” and let me tell you, it IS a great deal!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I just want everybody who is from the Framingham and MetroWest areas to know that
you are invited to a special and sacred (and relatively short)

Christmas Eve Service, Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 6:30 P.M.

This service is expected to conclude by 7:30 P.M.

Please remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

We'd LOVE to have you in attendance with us on Christmas Eve!

Please feel free to let friends and family know about this service!

Our church, FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD OF FRAMINGHAM is located at 32 South Street (off Route 135)
in Downtown Framingham

church website:


Friday, December 18, 2009


“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28)

Some weeks ago now Framingham Selectman Dennis Giombetti was in front of me at the checkout line in Framingham’s Staples store. I greeted him and told him I sometimes watch the Framingham Selectmen’s meetings on local cable. He looked at me incredulous and replied, “You watch THAT! You need to get a life!” Well, about the only thing geekier than watching a Framingham’s Selectmen’s meeting is watching a Framingham Planning Board meeting, and I’m known to do that, too! In fact, I watched quite a bit of Thursday night’s Planning Board meeting.

I stuck with it because I was interested that several representatives of the McDonald’s Corporation were before the Planning Board to discuss a planned extensive rebuilding and upgrading of the McDonald’s located at Route 30 and Caldor Road in Framingham. I believe that was the first McDonald’s in Framingham. It’s corporately owned and not a franchised location (like Route 126 in Ashland, for instance). If my friend D.C.M. is reading this he’s laughing his head off because 25 years ago or more I used to buy a lot of my lunches at McDonald’s. Today, I’m most likely to buy a breakfast a McDonald’s. (The Green Mountain coffee they sell exclusively in New England is better than D.D.!)
The drive thru and parking configuration at the Route 30 McDonald’s is a mess. One reason for that is around 20 years ago, the state reconstructed Route 30 in that part of Town and made it a divided highway. At that time, McDonald’s had to reconfigure its drive thru and parking into a very convoluted pattern it still uses today.

McDonald’s plans to gut that building and reconstruct it, adding a play area, and making it look more like their most modern restaurants. They also plan to greatly improve the parking and drive thru. I want to word what I’m about to say about the Planning Board carefully. I often disagree with the Planning Board, but I DO want to stress that they’re all very intelligent and hard working people. That goes especially for the current Planning Board Chair, Ms. Carol Spack, who has got to be the most intelligent and classy person currently working in Framingham government. I guess the problem with the Planning Board, and some of the Selectmen, for that matter, is they get caught up in nit picky government bureaucracy and idealism and can be very unfriendly and frustrating to local businesses. (Remember, for example, the piece I wrote about the Framingham Sign By-Law a few weeks ago?!) Amazingly, the Framingham Planning Board (mostly) DIDN’T like McDonald’s plans! They wanted a parking lot and drive thru which would NOT pose ANY danger or ANY inconvenience to ANY pedestrian! The McDonald’s folks tried to tell them that’s totally unrealistic but they didn’t care. The Planning Board also would like McDonald’s to move their building to the back far corner of their property, as far from the streets as possible. The McDonald’s folks stressed the importance of VISIBILITY for impulse buyers. I’m not sure if the Planning Board “bought” that one. I frankly don’t think the Planning Board (with the exception of legal advisor Jay Grande) is even particularly crazy about them HAVING a drive thru! (I think it was also the Planning Board that made Dunkin Donuts on Route 9 East near the Southboro line spell drive thru as “DRIVE THROUGH” on their sign!)

In my humble opinion, one of the McDonald’s representatives made a BIG mistake. She talked about the millions of dollars McDonald’s wants to spend to improve this site and that to make it financially worthwhile, they intend to do everything they can to increase the sales volume at that restaurant by 30-40%. When she made that statement, I almost thought a couple of Planning Board members were going to faint!

“30 or 40 PERCENT!” One exclaimed, “Has a TRAFFIC IMPACT STUDY been done on that area to show the impact of that?!”

Oh boy, I thought. At best, McDonald’s just delayed their project by a year. At worst, they killed their project. The expansion and improvement of McDonald’s at Route 30 and Caldor Road Framingham is a win-win for McDonald’s and for Framingham. The approval SHOULD be a no brainer. Now, what will really happen. Should I send out for a Big Mac while we wait?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

What’s being called an extreme case of road rage took place just before 1 a.m. last Sunday on Commander Shea Boulevard in Quincy. As 30-year-old Milton firefighter Joseph Fasano and his girlfriend drove along, a man driving a gray Porsche kept cutting in front of Fasano’s vehicle and jamming on the brakes, forcing Fasano to jam on his brakes. At one point, Fasano got out of his vehicle intending to confront the sports car driver and was shot by him. Fasano has been hospitalized since then, initially in very serious condition. A couple of days later, Robert O’Connell, 40, of Quincy turned himself in to Quincy Police (with his attorney present). He is being charged with armed assault with intent to murder.

My last posting was entitled “The Kid in Taunton” and I almost called this one, “The Guy in Quincy”, but then I settled for “Quincy”. When you get into your car and proceed to go ANYWHERE you need to be “prayed up”. No kidding. This road rage incident proves anything can happen anywhere. I can understand Fasano’s anger and frustration, but he probably made a big mistake getting out of his vehicle. There are “nuts” everywhere. You never know when someone is going to pull a gun and shoot you, or pull a knife and stab you, or what!

It does seem like road rage incidents have gotten worse in the past few years, but they’re nothing new. I remember one time when I was a VERY little kid, our family was on the way home from a Cape Cod vacation. We were on Route 28 somewhere around the Middleboro area. One car was attempting to pass the car in front of him, and every time the car attempted to pass, the car that was about to BE passed moved over into the left to block the passing car! It was a very dangerous maneuver. I’d guess my father probably took the license plate number on the car and followed up with it later. He could do a lot of things as a Registry of Motor Vehicles officer that a lot of us WISH we could have done!

In the middle 1970s when my father was on his way to work as a Supervisor at the old RMV 100 Nashua Street, Boston headquarters, a group of young “wise guys” cut him off, laughing, swearing at him and “giving him the finger”. In those days, my father drove an orange 1974 VW Super Beetle. He was a “suit” at the time, so no longer in uniform, but he DID carry a badge and a violation book. Dad also had a large plastic shield with the Registry of Motor Vehicles name and logo on it. He pulled up beside the wise guys and began blowing his horn. They were “laughing him to scorn” to lift a Bible verse slightly out of context. Suddenly, the driver noticed the RMV shield.

“Pull it right over,” Dad ordered. He got out and showed his badge and I.D. He then instructed the driver to, “follow me to 100 Nashua Street for a hearing on our license”. I don’t know what would happen TODAY but this was around 1975 and the driver did as he was instructed. My father got a Hearing Officer and a room, and they went right into a hearing. My father insisted the driver give the exact quote of what he had to say to him and what gestures were made. The driver complied. Upon checking the computer records, the driver had a clean driving record. It was decided to NOT suspend the guy’s license, but to give him a strong lecture and scare and that’s what Dad and the Hearing Officer did. The driver left essentially “with his tail between his legs”.

It’s too bad we all don’t have the power to do that, but we don’t! I have been known to report bad driving when the vehicle has one of those “How’s My Driving?” things with a phone number. Today with everyone having cell phones, it would make sense to call the cops and report a driver’s erratic behavior. That’s probably what Fasano SHOULD have done!

Yes, it’s Christmastime, and yes, we need Jesus as never before! Getting into your car can be like walking into a mine field!


“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15)

I believe I first heard the story of a Taunton, Massachusetts 2nd grade boy being suspended from school for drawing a picture of Jesus’ crucifixion on Monday. As it has been reported, the boy who is the son of Mr. Chester Johnson of Taunton, was assigned (along with the rest of his class) to draw a picture which reminded him of Christmas or some other religious holiday. After drawing the crucifixion picture, the boy was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation.

The school disputes the story saying the assignment was never given and the picture was not drawn in school. I realize there are some publicity hungry parents who will claim or do ANYTHING for publicity, money, or both (e.g. the family of “balloon boy” of Colorado a few months ago). I do find it difficult to believe the father is making this story up. I must say, when I first heard the story, it DID surprise me that upon being asked to draw a picture which reminded him of Christmas, the boy drew Jesus’ crucifixion scene. Despite the fact that I’m an Assemblies of God minister who holds to a very theologically conservative position about who Jesus is and why He came, if I were asked to think about something to do with Christmas, I wouldn’t readily think of a crucifixion scene. The boy’s father DOES offer a plausible explanation for this, however. Just a few days before the boy drew the crucifixion scene, the family had visited the holiday lights display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro. I haven’t been to “La Salette shrine” at Christmastime in at least 6 years, but I HAVE been to their holiday lighting display many times in years past. Without a doubt, there IS a huge emphasis on Jesus’ suffering and death as part of that display. If the kid had recently been there and had it in his mind, it is understandable why he’d have drawn the crucifixion scene.

It has been reported that the school has a “no violence policy” and that this is the reason they reacted the way they did. Well, on the one hand, you can’t get much more violent than an old fashioned scourging and crucifixion. But one would HOPE that in context there would be the understanding that the crucifixion is a deeply moving event for devout Christians and not meant as a display of gratuitous violence.

It wasn’t too many decades ago that schools decorated for Christmas and Hanukkah, sang Christmas and Hanukkah songs, etc. It seems to me that made a whole lot more sense. The modern politically correct “Winter holiday” stuff is nauseating. It seems a shame that America has become SO hypersensitive to the far left and so “politically correct:” as to essentially create a scenario where events like the Taunton story...whatever actually took place there... happen.

Too bad we can’t turn the clock back 30 or 40 years to a more sane time.

Incidentally, the MetroWest Daily News has a pretty good editorial about the Taunton school event at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

The Rev. Granville Oral Roberts, a renowned “faith healer”, evangelist, and founder of Oral Roberts University died yesterday (December 15, 2009). Oral Roberts was the same age as Billy Graham (91). Many of you know that I was raised Roman Catholic and became a “born-again Christian” as a teenager. The person and ministry that MOST affected and impacted my early life as a Christian was Billy Graham’s but in my earliest days, the 2nd greatest impact was from Oral Roberts. In those days in the Boston area, Oral Roberts’ weekly radio program was on Sundays at 12:30 just before Billy Graham’s 1:00 “Hour of Decision” program. I used to catch each program just about every Sunday.

Oral Roberts stressed the importance of being “born again” and “having a personal experience with Jesus Christ” but unlike Graham, Oral Roberts spoke of miracles, healings and the importance of “seed faith”. One can definitely see the roots of the present faith and positive confession and prosperity movements in the teachings of Oral Roberts which go back to the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, many years ago, Kenneth Copeland, now renowned in the faith and positive confession movement, was Oral Roberts' personal pilot. I imagine Roberts had quite an impact on Copeland.

It’s interesting that in discussing his own walk with God and experiences with God, my friend the Rev. Dick Germaine recently said he was greatly impacted years ago by Oral Roberts’ statement about his experiences with God. That statement was, “I know that I know that I know that I know.” That may sound corny or weird, but as a teenager I was impacted by that same statement and I never forgot it.

The Oral Roberts radio programs COULD be kind of hokey. I remember Oral’s wife Evelyn reading the testimony letters of listeners. Her Oklahoma accent was SO strong that you could hardly understand her at times, and I’d guess some folks probably had a lot of fun doing impersonations of both of them! Oral Roberts WAS controversial. I know he was part Cherokee Indian. I know he came out of the Pentecostal Holiness Church and began holding tent crusades decades ago. My understanding is that around 35 years ago he joined the United Methodist denomination. He founded Oral Roberts University in Tulsa in 1963. The buildings of O.R.U. were designed and built in what was believed to be a “futuristic” style in the 1960s...kind of a world you’d expect the Jetsons to live in. O.R.U. is only a 3 hour drive from Springfield, Missouri. A lot of kids I went to school with at Central Bible College went down there to see it. I regret that I never did. At O.R.U. (as in many evangelical Christian schools) students were required to sign an honor code pledging not to drink, smoke, or engage in premarital sexual activities. Roberts also built a “City of Faith Medical Center” which closed in 1989. Probably his weirdest and most controversial action came in early 1987 when Oral Roberts announced to his television audience that unless he raised $8 million by that March, God would "call him home." This was mocked all over the press, although Roberts DID raise the money.

Oral Roberts had been “semiretired” for a number of years. His son, Richard Roberts, had been the President of O.R.U. for a number of years but was forced to step down in 2007 due to misappropriation of funds. I haven’t watched or listened to either in many years. Oral Roberts was a gifted speaker and an anointed man of God. He was also a flawed human being, like all of us, who made some serious errors. Even so, Oral Roberts’ ministry WAS helpful to me in my early days as a born-again believer and so in that sense I do mourn his passing.
I do respect his desire to (to use the evangelical Christian vernacular) see souls saved, people healed, and a mighty work for God accomplished.


“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

On Monday night I attended the Christmas Dinner for Assemblies of God ministers from the “Central Massachusetts Section” which was held at First Assembly of God in Worcester. The food was REALLY good and the desserts were FANTASTIC. I had lemon meringue pie for dessert which is one of my favorites.

We had nice music and fellowship and overall a very good time. Pastor Barry Risto of Winchendon was in charge on “games”. One of them was a exercise of 20 multiple choice questions about Christmas (based on what the Bible actually says). In the Assemblies of God, December is “credential renewal time” for ministers. Barry kidded that if we did badly on this quiz we could lose our credentials. Well, let’s put it this’s a good thing it was just a game! We actually competed by tables. Each round table probably had around 6-8 people seated around it. Our table did “OK” but we didn’t win. One table got a perfect score, but not us! Some of the questions were pretty easy, such as one which asked which Books of the New Testament tell the story of Jesus’ birth. The answer is Matthew and Luke. Some were not as easy. One asked what an “angelic host” was. It’s actually an army of angels. Our table got that one right but some got it wrong. One question asked about angels singing at Jesus’ birth. In fact, the Bible never says the angels sang at Jesus’ only says they “SAID” this or that. Still another question asked how many angels spoke to the shepherds. Our table said “A multitude” and got it wrong. It was ONE angel. Well, Pastor Rob Woods of Marlboro insisted we were wrong about “a multitude” and Pastor Woods was proven correct! Another question asked what city Joseph came from. Our table answered “Nazareth” but the correct answer was Bethlehem. (I’m still not sure if I agree with that one.) There were also questions about the Magi. Our table knew that they were NOT kings; rather they were religious astrologers. Our table also knew that the exact number of Magi who came to see the child Jesus is not known. Tradition says it was 3 and tradition even gives them names, but that’s TRADITION and not the Bible.

If you haven’t read it lately, check out the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke. You may be surprised at some of what it says (such as that the Magi went to the HOUSE where Jesus was; and that it nowhere says Jesus was “born in a manger”.)

Everybody answered correctly that Jesus was NOT born on December 25. I guess because we got that one right we can all remain credentialed Assemblies of God ministers!

Monday, December 14, 2009


“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” (Revelation 1:10)

I’ve often thought that a day in the life of a clergy person (especially a Sunday), might be an interesting subject for a television “reality” show. Such would certainly have been the case with this year’s Third Sunday of Advent: Sunday, December 13.

My Sundays usually start very early and yesterday was no exception. Around 6:15 a.m. I went over the the church facility, turned the heat up, made coffee, etc.
Back at home around 7:10 a.m. someone rang the doorbell. That’s most unusual for a Sunday morning. I quickly left the coffee and breakfast I was preparing for myself and opened the front door. Standing in the doorway was my father-in-law Don. Don is married to a Trinidadian and lives in Trinidad. Thus, THIS visit was most unusual and unexpected! I got him a quick cup of coffee and my wife, my son and I had a about a half hour visit with him.

Sunday School and morning worship service seemed to go O.K. For some reason the church building seemed colder than it should have and a bit darker than one would expect. Many of the people looked really tired. I guess part of it was just the fatigue from the whole Christmas rush. As I preached, I couldn’t help but notice it felt SO cold in the sanctuary. People were bundled up in winter coats. I had turned the heat WAY up, but it seemed to have no effect. Sunday’s service ended with Holy Communion. At one point during the Holy Communion time, I slipped into the boiler room and noticed the furnace was not running and was not hot at all. There was definitely a problem with the heating system. I knew we had a special business meeting coming up right after the service, and a cold room would not make things any easier for us. Even so, I tried to lead the Communion service like a professional.

The details of the Special Business Meeting are probably something I shouldn’t write about on the blog. I will say, however, that it was a very good meeting. We dealt with some very tough issues in a very gracious, mature, and Christlike manner. I have to say, in the best sense of the word, I was proud of how the congregation conducted themselves during this meeting.

Right after the meeting, I had Bill, a retired auto mechanic (and also a former boiler mechanic) come in and check out the furnace situation. It didn’t take too long for him to discover the problem. We were out of heating oil! I HAD placed an order for oil on Saturday which was scheduled for delivery on Monday morning. The gauge showed that we had about a sixteenth of a tank of oil, which SHOULD be enough to last 2-3 days. Unfortunately, the gauge was wrong and it was out. It’s a great blessing Sunday was not a “subzero” day or we’d have been in real trouble. At one time, I’d have been REALLY upset about running out of oil. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but my attitude was complacent and more like “whatever”...

Mary Ann had a Sunday afternoon commitment so Jon and I ate out at Kentucky Fried Chicken. May I recommend the new GRILLED chicken there? Seriously, it’s GREAT!

If you’re a Patriots fan, you know there have been some problems with the team this season. Watching the game, and having them WIN did make for a pleasant afternoon! I guess after the last couple of weeks, even that win was sort of a surprise!

I had committed to be part of a special Caroling and Scripture Reading event at 5 p.m. on Framingham Centre Green sponsored by Plymouth Church U.C.C. and opened up to the whole community. Well, Sunday afternoon’s rain kind of killed the planned Christmassy New England carol singing on the Green. It was moved to Plymouth Church’s sanctuary. I know it’s not the BUILDING that makes the church; if it WAS the building that made the church, Plymouth Church would win, hands down. They’ve got one of the most beautiful church sanctuaries I’ve ever seen. It looked SO nice decorated for Christmas. The attendance was small...much smaller than I think they’d anticipated. (Of course, since I pastor a small church, I was right at home with THAT part of it!) There were no more than 40 people present, IF that many. Even so, the service was QUITE NICE. We sang a number of Christmas carols, and several clergy and laity (including me) read aloud from Scripture. There was a time of refreshments afterwards. It had that “Old fashioned New England Christmas” feeling to it.

Overall, 2009 has been a hectic and rough year for me, and last week was a wild and crazy week.

Thank God for Sunday- the Lord’s Day.

This Lord’s Day was full of surprises; and in the words of one of singer Amy Grant’s songs from the early 1980s, I’m “SO GLAD”!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


When I put out my first "INTERVIEW" query I NEVER thought I'd be writing a 3rd post about it!

I had everything all settled.

Today, Mary Ann came home upset saying that she had gone to the CyberstationUSA site and it was prominently playing a soft-porn video.
I had been to the site several times and had never seen the video. On our computer, there's just an empty white box in the upper right corner of their home page. Well, Mary Ann showed me the home page on her laptop, and YES, there was the soft porn flick.

I was shocked.

She was disturbed that I'd given the address to a number of people, implying I think it's OK.

Honestly, I had NO IDEA that a soft porn video was playing prominently on the site, and NO I don't think that's OK.

2009 has been a bizarre year for me and this is just the latest roller coaster experience.

I DO have very serious reservations about this soft porn video. It is likely I won't go through with having a relationship with CyberstationUSA. I'm sorry I did not research this more carefully.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FOLLOW UP to "The Interview"

I am grateful for friends and family. As my friend Denny Seler has said, "We are not called to be INDEPENDENT. We are called to be INTERDEPENDENT." We really do need each other.

Between the blog posting entitled "THE INTERVIEW" itself and personal e-mails, I heard from 17 people today.

Regarding saying "yes" to involvement with the cyber radio station, 13 people told me to "go for it". Among those were some very strong and encouraging comments. 4 were cautious and could not absolutely commit themselves to a "yes" or a "no". Zero told me to say "no" to this.

I have prayed, and today I told the Exec. V.P. there "YES" that I will go to the training session (for just me!) on Sat. at 2.

Most people need several training sessions to learn to work the board, etc. I am not real technical, so I will need God's help.

The real name of the business is Cyberstation U.S. A. (Cameo Entertainment). They very much do NOT want the novice broadcasters paying the sponsor fees. They want each person to get at least one sponsor. If my weekly half hour program goes "on the air" on the internet in a few weeks, it will have to be with a sponsor paying. The fee is actually NOT all that bad. (I remember what our church paid for a weekly 15 minute program on the old J-Light Radio...we paid more for that than Cyberstation is asking for a half hour.)

If my program goes "on the air" and then starts getting a lot of hits and multiple time slots, I can start making income from it.

I remember from the old days that before Tim Horton at J-Light had me on the air live, eventually for some paid stuff, I (that is, the church I pastor) had been a paying customer for awhile. I guess in the business this is not all that unusual.

If anyone wants any more information about being a sponsor, please let me know.

On a personal level, I'm still in a desperate financial situation as is the church I pastor. In one sense, I'm thinking, "I'm going to take THIS on, on top of everything else? What am I, crazy?" But on the other hand, it could be a great open door from God. Unlike broadcast radio, once I get on, people will be able to listen all over the country and the world.

I do covet your prayers about my personal financial situation and the church financial situation; and I covet your prayers for the success of this endeavor on Cyberstation U.S.A. Unless you have a computer that's over 5 years old, you can probably find Cyberstation U.S.A. on your computer and listen to it.

It's found at

Thank you. I deeply appreciate my friends and family who are "there for me" !


“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)

Most of us have watched the auditions for “American Idol” at one time or another; we’ve been astounded by hearing and seeing some extraordinarily talented young people, AND we’ve laughed and shaken our heads at the dreadfully untalented ones. I never thought I’d have both an audition and an interview, but I DID YESTERDAY.

It’s left me doing a lot of thinking and soul searching.

I realize putting this out there for public scrutiny can be very risky because the people I interviewed and auditioned before could read this. Honestly, I have nothing to hide and it won’t bother me if they do read it. I “got saved” in 1970 (and I know all of you don’t necessarily understand what that means) and since 1970, the weirdest year of my life, and the year which has contained scads of events and experience which are very difficult to understand and process has been 2009. Yesterday’s audition and interview was just the latest somewhat strange event of the year.

No, I did not audition to be a singer! I don’t have a bad singing voice, but I’m no Frank Sinatra. I auditioned to see if I have any talent and potential as a radio broadcaster. When I was around 16, my ambition was a career as a radio broadcaster. My father had a close friend named Bill who HAD been a radio broadcaster as a very young man and whose father was a high level executive at a major radio station. Bill told me, “Bob, you’re too nice of a guy- like I am. DON’T go into radio! It’s a cut throat business!” (Bill had become a schoolteacher, instead.) Ten years ago, I DID do some radio broadcasting at the now defunct J-LIGHT Christian Radio in Framingham (WJLT). I even got paid for some of it. Tim Horton, the owner and operator of the station told me I was “a natural”.

This has been a very difficult financial year for our church and for our family. Some weeks ago, it became evident that I need to get a part-time secular job outside of the church, and perhaps even a full-time secular job. At 55 when all you’ve done is pastoral ministry for the previous 28 years and when you DON’T have loads of talents and abilities, you can feel pretty intimidated and like you don’t have much to offer any prospective employer. I WILL say I do have a part-time job pending now as a “product presenter” in a department store. It’s a “salary plus incentive” job but if it doesn’t produce any leads in a couple of weeks time, you can easily be let go. I found that job on Craig’s List. I also found a job for broadcasting over the internet (out of MASSACHUSETTS) on Craig’s List. That’s the job I auditioned and interviewed for. On a total lark, I sent them an inquiry. I was shocked when an executive from there called me a few days later and did a brief interview over the phone. He then set up a time for me to come in and have a formal interview and audition.

The “radio station” is strictly on-line- over the internet. Even so, it’s been around since 1993 and has thousands and thousands of listeners in North America and the rest of the world. The studio is located in a Boston suburb. I was nervous and did not know what to expect as I arrived early for my 1 p.m. appointment. The executive who’d called me was there, dressed VERY CASUAL, like he was going to go out and play a game of touch football or something. (He explained he’d been out until 3 a.m. entertaining clients.) His assistant looked like a skinny kid you’d see happily dozing in a high school study hall. I will call the boss Ted and his assistant Rufus. Ted was in his late 30s and a TOTAL “Type A”. He made it a point to tell me of the talent level that’s on their internet station. While I was there, he fielded calls from some of his “A list talented broadcasters” that he somewhat tongue-in-cheek referred to as prima donnas. A technical thing was NOT going right and Ted was irritated, and engrossed in the problem. Oh, I forgot to tell you that as I was arriving, three young guys who looked like what I’d call “heavy metal types” were entering a studio.
“Do a good show! GET ME SOME RATINGS!” Ted told them.

The time got to be 10 minutes after 1. I was very nervous and very tense. I just didn’t feel welcome or comfortable. I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake showing up. I glanced at the clock and thought, “If it gets to 1:15, I’m walking out of here and not looking back!”

Shortly before 1:15, Ted said to me, “Come into the back room!”

We went in there and the interview began. To my surprise, Ted calmed right down and became very personable. He did most of the talking. On this all internet station, they DO have several big name people who make very big money. They also give opportunities for people with little or no experience to get on the air (well on the air on the internet). Such people do not initially make any real fact, initially you’re getting sponsors and paying a small fee for air time. (That’s why you’re encouraged to get a sponsor.) New people go through several training sessions. If all goes well, they are given a half hour show once a week that they pre-record there at the station. The show is initially podcast once a week. If it’s deemed to be good enough and gets enough hits, it will be on several times a week. If a person is really good, they will get more air time and may eventually get a live show and start earning serious money. Ted stressed that anyone they work with has GOT to have a voice for radio and has got to have a good concept for a show. I discussed some ideas with him. Ted asked, “Is this something you really want to try because I don’t want to waste my time and I don’t want you wasting your time?!”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I had no idea if this was a waste of time or not.
I decided to try the audition. For the audition, I had to read a 45-second-spot for a product, pretending I was on an FM station in Los Angeles. In broadcasting terms, Rufus was stunned because I “nailed” the spot in “one take”. (I also used to “nail” spots like that on J-Light Radio. There, I was called “one take Bob Baril”.) Rufus smiled, looked amazed, and told me, “You’re a natural!”

Honestly, I’m a terrible athlete. I’m a terrible mechanic. I’m mediocre with computers. I’m nothing special in a lot of areas...but when it comes to radio broadcasting, I truly AM “a natural”. Tentatively, they’ve asked me to come back on Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours of training for a modest fee.

What do you think? Should I do it- or is this crazy? No kidding, I’d really like to know what you think!

Monday, December 7, 2009


“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 King James Version)

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ ” (Luke 9:62 New International Version ©1984)

One of most pastors’ worst nightmares is a weather forecast calling for snow for a Saturday night or a Sunday morning! Such was the case this past week. I think I first heard talk of snow for the weekend as far back as Monday. Then forecasters were confident that the expected precipitation for the Saturday would be all rain; then; rain changing to light snow; THEN some calling for 4 inches of snow! I was cautiously optimistic when I went to bed early on Saturday evening. At around 11:20 p.m. I awakened from a pleasant dream to hear an unpleasant sound electronic “BEEP - BEEP -BEEP”. I knew what that was....the sound of a PLOW backing up on our dead end street! It had snowed! I sadly went back to sleep, dreading what I’d face in the morning.

Looking outside on Sunday, I saw a white winter wonderland. I heard many people comment on how “beautiful” everything looked on Sunday morning. I’ve got to agree with my son Jon, however. To people who don’t like snow (like us) it looked absolutely awful! The good news was that while it looked like we had 2-3 inches of snow on the GRASS, our driveway was clear! Snowstorms CAN come in interesting accumulation patterns. All the driveways on our side of the street were CLEAR, and all the driveways on the other side of the street were covered with about an inch or two of snow.

After shaving and showering, and a lot of work clearing the snow off my 21-year-old Volkswagen Golf, it was off to the church parking lot and something I was DREADING. This is difficult to write about, but our church’s snowplowing bill for LAST winter is just over $1800. We have yet to pay one penny of it! In years past we’ve usually had the winter snowplowing bill all paid off by July 4, and on occasions of particularly snowy winters it’s sometimes been as late as Labor Day before the snowplowing bill has a zero balance. Here it is, December and we’ve made zero payments! This has probably been our church’s worst financial year and our worst attendance year in 23 years! It would take many paragraphs to explain why that’s so. I’ve forfeited paychecks at least 10 weeks out of 2009 and absolutely nothing has been paid into my retirement account this year. The church has had its hands full just paying the mortgage, utilities, and insurance. One of the things you want to do as a church is to practice good stewardship and pay your bills on time. I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassing it is to be in our situation. We’ve particularly felt bad about our snowplowing contractor. They send bills regularly showing the large past due balance. There has never been a threatening phone call, or anything of the sort from them.

Even so, the church leaders, including me, had pretty well concluded that if and when it snows we just can’t expect the lot to be plowed. What snowplowing contractor would plow the lot with not one red cent having been paid for the previous winter? I don’t think I would.

Upon arrival at the church parking lot around 6:15 Sunday morning, it was evident the church lot was like the driveways on the other side of my residential had picked up about an inch and a half of snow. Well, it was evident by all the neat mounds of snow that bordered the PLOWED parking lot! There were obvious tire marks in row upon row where the plowing had taken place. Our church got quite a Christmas present on Sunday morning- one we did not expect and did not deserve. This unpaid plowing contractor “put his hand to the plow” and plowed our lot!

“Bill” who is no longer on our Church Board but who served around 15 years on the Board in the past said, “I came down this morning figuring it was only an inch or so and we could probably make do with an unplowed lot. I just couldn’t believe it was plowed!”

81-year-old Claire, also a former Board Member said, “This proves there are still some nice people in this world!”

We have a number of older folks in our church congregation who don’t like to come out when it snows, so our small church was frankly TINY today. Even so, I think just about every one of the few people at church this morning commented on how surprised and how pleased they were to find the parking lot plowed.

I can say, “It made my day!” In fact, it was SUCH a blessing, I’m hard pressed to think ANY Christmas present will top the ecstatic joy I felt on a cold December Sunday morning!

There’s SUCH a lesson and application here!
The kind of thing that snowplowing contractor did is the kind of thing we all should be doing, ESPECIALLY during the Christmas season. Yes, many business people would consider it foolish. But he “went the second mile” as it were (see Matthew 5:38-42). I share this story in the hope and prayer that it will challenge all of us to be so “foolish” and so bold and so loving. It reminds me of that bumper sticker that says, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Let’s all follow that example and be so “foolishly” kind and generous this month (and henceforth!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009


“As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)

The early morning driving rain and high winds made it a difficult start for the day. Thursday is trash day for our street, so it meant throwing on some clothes and getting one foot soaking wet as I accidentally stepped into a puddle in the driveway. After a shower and getting dressed, I sat down at the table to a bowl of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and a mug of coffee. The front page story in the MetroWest Daily News intrigued me: “COPS: CAR HITS CRUISER, DRIVER HIDES”.

The story is found at:

“What kind of an idiot did that?” I wondered and began reading the story about the bizarre actions of 21-year-old Jonathan Arizandieta. Suddenly, there was a lump in my throat and a pain in my soul. I knew him.

Our small church bought the former United Auto Workers union hall located at 32 South Street just outside the heart of downtown Framingham in 1994. Sometime in 1995, a cute little hispanic boy began wandering into church during the services. He had a big, infectious smile. I remember asking his name and how old he was. He was “Jonathan” and he was 7. I don’t think Jonathan often (or ever) came to Sunday School, but he was at church services fairly regularly. At some point, we met his mother. As I recall, she didn’t speak much English. We did learn he had a much older brother. Jonathan lived in the neighborhood and the church that played lively modern worship music was cool to him. Bill Lincoln, the 50ish tall, light complected mechanic who ushered most of the time along with our other usher and Deacon Dave Connell were favorites of Jonathan. He loved to talk and fool with those guys. In that era, we used to hold Vacation Bible Schools in the summer for the kids in the neighborhood. Unlike most churches, we held them in the evening, one night a week for around 6 weeks. In the early days, Jonathan attended a number of those “Kids Klub” events.

Time passed, and for a few years, we DIDN’T see much of Jonathan. One Sunday afternoon when he was around 11, I came to the church property and found Jonathan and a buddy, and some rocks and a broken window. They did not expect me to pull up right after the window had been broken. I’d caught them red handed, as it were. I remember giving them both, especially Jonathan, a strong “talking to” about it. Maybe we should have made Jonathan or his family pay for the window but I knew they were poor, and it was a stupid thing he’d done, and the bottom line is the church paid for the window.

When Jonathan became a teenager, he started to get that tough “up to no good” look that you hate to see. In those days, Bill Lincoln worked at a repair shop in Framingham’s Saxonville section. He’d see Jonathan and some of his crew hanging around. I remember Bill saying, “He’s not a bad kid, but he wants to impress those others. He’ll do ANYTHING to impress them that he’s not a sissy, and that’s going to get him into a lot of trouble.” And, it did. There did start to be various run-ins with the law.

Around that time, Jonathan and his crew also decided they wanted to show up at our church parking lot a few times a week with a bat and a tennis ball, attempting to play their own version of sandlot (well, “parking lot”) ball. I wasn’t crazy about it. But the way those kids looked at me, you KNEW if you kicked them out, you’d show up to find 10 windows broken...the building covered with graffiti, or both. I think my macho father would have known how to handle these kids, but I wasn’t sure. Bill Lincoln also noted that if you could get Jonathan ALONE you could have a reasonable conversation with him. He’d respect you and speak decently to you. But if he was with his pals, FORGET IT. Somewhere around that time, we even had Jonathan and his friends join a few guys from the church to watch the Super Bowl. But it was too little too late.

Around 3 years ago, the parking lot ball games stopped abruptly. In a way, I was very relieved. In another way, I knew it meant things were not good with Jonathan. A few stories showed up in the paper with Jonathan being arrested for this thing or that. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen or heard anything of Jonathan Arizandieta- until this morning.

Is there any way we could REALLY have made an impact with Jonathan? Did we make ANY impact at all? Is the culture and environment just too controlling for kids like Jonathan? It’s Christmastime, but this morning it’s hard to keep from crying.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:42-44)

This time of year I can find myself thinking of the ideals of the Christmas season and the reality of economic stress. I DO love Christmas carols. I love the evergreen smells. Christmas wreaths are very pretty, and there’s something nice about having a Christmas tree in the living room. Money pressures, however, can be very tough. I’m feeling that money pressure this year, but frankly I know there are SCADS of people in America who are MUCH worse off than I am and who will struggle to just get through this month.

That old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” comes to mind. I remember when I went on my first missions trip to Haiti in 1990, we were told to throw our cans of tuna and beef stew right onto the ground when we were done eating. You see, in Haiti, it’s MOST appropriate to litter! Poor Haitians pick up and clean up the cans and will use them over and over again to eat food out of, or for storing something, or other purposes. Finding a tuna can or a beef stew can could make a poor Haitian’s day! I see the Salvation Army bell ringers and I wonder if donations are down this year. I’d guess they probably are. Well, for one thing, a lot fewer people carry CASH around anymore, so that’s got to hurt the cause, too. In past years, I’ve thrown a little money into their kettles here and there. So far, I haven’t given anything to the bell ringers this year. I’ve reasoned, “Well, if I’m going to give them a buck or less, what does that matter?” I guess I’d forgotten the lesson of the cans in Haiti! A buck or even a quarter DOES make a difference to the Salvation Army, and I’ve got to make sure I do some donating this month!

One of the tougher parts of winter for me is there are no classic car shows for me to go to, and that means no selling of auto collectibles. No, I’ll never get rich selling automotive collectibles, but my father left behind scads and scads of stuff that I’m STILL selling almost ten years later! In a year like this, spending an hour at a car show, and walking out having made $75 meant filling the tank with gasoline, picking up a takeout supper, and even having some “extra” cash to throw into the plate at church on Sunday. I’m REALLY missing that now! (I’ve actually applied for a few part time jobs, and I’ll probably get one soon.) Honestly, though, I never left a car show or one of my special auto collectibles yard sales (which are REALLY profitable) without kind of feeling like I’d prostituted myself. Especially at the car shows, you’ve got to be really aggressive showing off the collectible inspection stickers, license plates, etc. and telling the owner of the 1959 Edsel convertible or the 1962 Chevy II or other classic car WHY he needs this stuff and how cool it will be to have it displayed on his car. I’ve surprised myself at what an effective salesman I can be...but I’ve always left thinking, “I wish it DIDN’T have to be like this. I wish you DIDN’T have to go out hustling like this to get money!”

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not about to start giving away auto collectibles free! In fact, one of the reasons I DO make a lot of sales is my prices tend to be over 50% lower than face value of the collectibles. No, I’m not giving that stuff away. And, it IS nice to make a large sale. On my birthday’s collectibles sale in September, I made over $600 in 4 hours sitting in my driveway. Not bad!

I guess I still wonder about old George Mueller back there in England in the 1800s. He ran several orphanages ALL BY FAITH. He just prayed and all the supplies came in. My friend, The Rev. Tom Stevens, who runs New England Aftercare/The Bridge House in Framingham is something like George Mueller. Tom says, “The provision is in the call”. Tom certainly DOES some solicitation; but his ministry never engages in any of the manipulative, high pressure stuff. They believe if God wants their ministry to continue, He will provide the donors and the funds, and so far, that’s been the case!

I was reading recently that a substantial number of churches and non-profit organizations have ceased to exist over the past year, and a substantial number of them will cease to exist over the coming year. It’s a difficult time. I know of one church which is well endowed. They drew a huge amount of money out of their endowments to survive the past year. For our church, there’s nothing like that. If the money doesn’t come in week to week, well, as Mel Blanc used to say: “That’s all folks”. I suppose churches who are spending down their endowments just to survive are feeling bad about that, but other churches would be thrilled to have endowments to spend down! (Ours would!)

Some of you may know, a few years ago Zion Bible College (then in Barrington, RI) was in serious financial trouble and on the verge of closing. Then, a very wealthy business owner gave them several million dollars! The school has purchased and renovated the campus of a defunct college in Haverhill, MA. It STILL costs them a lot of money for operations (obviously) but they really had one of those George Mueller style miracles! Yet, the Christian elementary school all my kids attended in the ‘80s and ‘90s closed this past year. Yes, some ministries survive - some don’t.

Is it faith that makes the difference? Is it prayer? Is it marketing? Is it hard work? Is it all of the above?

Did some poor Haitian pray to find a nice can, and rejoice with tears of joy to find my beef stew can?

Is the economy really all that bad? Are some people just too stingy? Again, I’ve admitted to not giving to the bell ringers yet.

Sorry I’m rambling. I’m thinking as I’m writing. It’s strange that one person’s catastrophe can be another’s blessing.

It’s a tough economy. It’s got me thinking about what I have and what’s really important.

Some would say, “It’s all relative...”

Monday, November 30, 2009


"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men," (Colossians 3:23)

To all my Boston and MetroWest area readers:

"Beauty and the Beast" by the Framingham Community Theater Group with my son Jon Baril as The Beast will have 2 and only 2 performances this coming weekend at Framingham High School: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 and $12 at the door.

Framingham High School is located on "A Street" in Framingham's Saxonville section (which is the northeast part of Framingham). Just follow Route 126 North from Route 9 and A Street is a "lazy left" about 2 miles north of Route 9.

I hope many of you will want to see "Beauty and the Beast" this coming weekend!

Jon's picture was on Page 2 of the LOCAL section of Sunday's MetroWest Daily News.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” (Philippians 1:3)

It’s Thanksgiving Day morning. It’s around 7 a.m. (NOT “4”...that posting time at the bottom is in Pacific time!). It’s kind of damp and dank outside; and I find myself thinking about ghosts of Thanksgivings past.

The first Thanksgiving I remember is from when our family lived at 21 Alpine Street in Boston’s Roxbury section. We moved to Canton in December of 1958, so that memory may be of 1958’s Thanksgiving. I remember my parents cooking a turkey in a portable G.E. roaster oven. (Those G.E. roaster ovens were “state of the art” in 1958 - my grandmother had one, too!) I remember my parents explaining that it was a holiday, kind of a big deal, etc. I didn’t quite understand what was going on, but I did sense this thing of cooking a big turkey dinner and a day off in the middle of the week WAS a big deal.

My father wasn’t much for cooking, but every Thanksgiving and most Christmases, he made the French Canadian meat stuffing for the turkey. It was his mother’s recipe. Even as a little kid, I always liked the stuffing better than the turkey! Incidentally, I’m one of the ten percent of turkey eaters who prefer the DARK meat. I will never understand why people prefer the white meat. Usually the white meat tastes like a piece of white card stock with gravy on it! The dark meat is where all the flavor is, and it’s usually much juicier.

Thanksgiving Day of 1963 was kind of a somber one for everybody, coming just four days after JFK’s funeral. I remember hearing on the radio how the Kennedy family was spending Thanksgiving that year, etc. Thanksgiving Day of 1973 fell on November 22, the ten year anniversary date of JFK’s assassination. November 22, 1973 was a snowy day. I think we had two inches of snow. I went to the Canton High game that morning- a home game. I remember walking there in the snow.

Speaking of games, I was in the Canton High band in school. No, I didn’t play football- are you kidding?! I probably would have been killed! Actually, a bunch of us started in the high school band in the 7th Grade because the band was so short of members at that time. So, for six school years, I got to go to all the Canton High football home and away games for free. I remember marching on the field on some Thanksgiving Days when it was SO cold you couldn’t even feel your feet!

In 1972, my mother was in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day recovering from surgery. My father insisted on cooking the WHOLE turkey dinner for just our immediate family. Although he always made the stuffing, and although he loved to grille meat in the summer, he was very macho and not the kitchen type at all. I will never forget my father wearing one of my mother’s full and slightly feminine looking aprons and taking the turkey out of the oven. My brother, sister, and I were fighting SO hard not to burst out laughing!

We had another somber Thanksgiving Day in 1983. My brother Eddie had died that summer. My parents were a mess. Mary Ann and I had them over to our apartment, along with Kent and Jackie Binley who had lost their 20-year-old son in 1980. OUR own son was just 3-months-old at the time. I remember Jackie Binley chain smoking that day (as she always did). I DO think it was therapeutic for my parents to be with them.

I was in Bible College in Missouri for two Thanksgivings. I don’t remember the first. Maybe I just ate the Thanksgiving dinner they prepared on campus for the kids who were so uncool they didn’t have any other place to go! Well, I was MUCH cooler the 2nd time around! A bunch of us were invited over to Tom Colston’s house. He was our College Age Class teacher at Bethel Assembly of God. Tom was married and had one kid, a son. No kidding- if you know the cartoon show “King of the Hill”, THEY were the original “King of the Hill” family. Tom Colston TALKED like Hank Hill! His wife was loud and outspoken and a character like Peggy Hill, AND their son Micah was very much like Bobby Hill except that Micah had dark hair. (Tom didn’t sell propane, but he DID drive a big fuel rig!)

This year, we’re going over to Mary Ann’s sister Lynn’s in Dedham for the Thanksgiving meal. I think it’s the first time since we’ve been married that we haven’t done Thanksgiving dinner at home. Our daughter Amy and son-in-law David are in town from Missouri for the holiday, so that’s very exciting. We’ll be going to the Marian High game this morning. (I’m glad it’s a home game here in Framingham- their away games for Thanksgiving are at Joe Moakley stadium in South Boston.)

I hope you haven’t all fallen asleep, but those are some of my Thanksgiving memories! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Monday, November 23, 2009


“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

There’s quite a controversy going on between Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy (son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy) and Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin. According to Associated Press Writer Ray Henry, several days ago, Bishop Tobin “acknowledged asking Kennedy not to receive Holy Communion because of the Democratic lawmaker's support for abortion rights.” Ray Henry also added this quote from Bishop Tobin: "The point is, because of his obstinate ... public support of abortion, which is clearly contrary to an essential teaching of the church of a matter of critical morality ... he is then not properly prepared to receive Holy Communion," ..."No one has a right to receive Holy Communion."

I caught snippets of both Michael Graham’s program and Jay Severin’s program on “Boston Talks 96.9 FM” on Monday. Each was talking about the Patrick Kennedy/Bishop Tobin controversy. Both Graham and Severin expressed perplexity about why so many Americans profess to be “Catholics” but choose to reject large chunks of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. On Monday night’s “Greater Boston” program on WGBH Channel 2, host Emily Rooney asked all four candidates for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate what they thought about Bishop Tobin’s asking Kennedy not to receive Holy Communion. The only one of the four who was not Catholic was Pagliuca who is Episcopalian so he sidestepped the question, but the other three all professed to be “Catholics” and yet all expressed strong disapproval with the Roman Catholic Church’s practices and hierarchy.

Yes, it DOES get confusing.

The whole Roman Catholic thing in America is VERY complicated. I do understand it, because although I’ve been an Assemblies of God minister for over 25 years, I was raised Roman Catholic. In my home, as in most American Roman Catholic homes of 30 or 40 years ago, we were taught that the WORST thing you could EVER do was to leave the Catholic Church. It was worse than rape or murder or anything. Probably the 2nd worst thing you could do was marrying a Protestant (unless that Protestant was strong-armed into raising any kids that the marriage produced as Catholics). Prior to the Second Vatican Council (which I think took place in 1962) the Catholic Church taught that it was “the one true church” and that it “did not change”. (If there WAS an organized church that was the “one true Church” it would absolutely be the Eastern Orthodox Churches and not the Roman Catholic Church, but the fact is, God’s true Church is made up of born-again Believers, be they Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Messianic Jews, or whatever!) After Vatican 2, the Catholic Church CHANGED. The mass was put into the language of the people rather than Latin. The priest faced the people while saying mass, instead of facing away from them. The Catholic congregations began singing hymns, something like their Protestant neighbors did. AND, beliefs changed. “St. Christopher” who was supposed to keep you safe when you traveled was declared to NO LONGER EXIST! “Limbo” the place where unbaptized babies went if they died, was downplayed and eventually scrapped. Purgatory is still believed in, but greatly downplayed.

My devout Catholic mother used to lament that the Catholic Church had “turned Protestant”. Many of the World War 2 Generation also expressed similar concerns. Baby boomers began to believe the Catholic Church was full of all kinds of hokum which may not be true at all. Many questioned whether Jesus was really the Son of God. Many questioned whether Jesus really rose from the dead. Many no longer REALLY believed in “the Holy Eucharist” but received Holy Communion anyway, because it was the thing to do when you went to mass. Many stopped “going to the confessional” and believed they could directly ask God to forgive their sins! Even my devout Catholic mother stopped going to Confession. At the time of her death in 2000 I don’t think she’d been to Confession in at least ten years.

This helps to explain why so many that are my age and younger are “cafeteria Catholics”. They kind of believe whatever they want to believe, and do whatever they want to do, but still go to mass 2 or 3 times a month and call themselves “Catholic”. It’s ironic that many of my personal beliefs are MUCH closer to the official beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church than are the beliefs of many of my Catholic relatives and friends, but I’m considered “non-Catholic” and they’re considered “Catholic”.

A lot of it is cultural. I don’t think most modern Catholic parents would tell their kids that the worst thing they could ever do is to leave the Catholic Church. But there’s quite a vestige of that kind of thinking still around. If you’re Italian or Irish or Polish or French Canadian, you’re CATHOLIC. It’s your culture, your family, your heritage, and you don’t change it. Or, if you DO as I did, you’re often thought of as out of sync at best, or weird and sinful at worst.

Let’s just say hypothetically that my parents had a kid who professed to be gay. One of the first things they’d have told that kid when he or she “came out of the closet” is, “But you’re still going to be Catholic, RIGHT?!” If the answer was, “Yes”, they’d breathe a big sigh of relief.

I suspect Mike Capuano, Martha Coakley, and Patrick Kennedy came from families like that, and that’s why they may barely believe a thing the Catholic Church teaches, but call themselves “Catholic”, go to mass, etc.

I don’t know if this piece clears anything up or muddies the waters? Oh well, If you’re confused, say 3 Hail Marys and make a Good Act of Contrition. (You’d have to have grown up Catholic 30-plus years ago to understand that!)


“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

I don’t get it.

Late last week Oprah Winfrey announced that her daily “Oprah” show will end in September of 2011- around 22 months from now.


The story was covered as some sort of major, almost catastrophic event...well, certainly as a major historical milestone. And I don’t get it. I was having my hair cut at Collotta’s Hair Styling on Saturday and this story was blaring on their television set. It included a teary Oprah who seemed almost beside herself. (You’d think she’d been given 3 months to live, or something!) Collotta’s youngest (and only female) barber “Kelly” was cutting my hair. We talked about it, agreeing that the intensity of the story made no sense. Kelly speculated that maybe Oprah did this to increase her ratings, and that maybe in 2011 she’ll say something like, “My ratings have gone up so much, that I’m going to STAY!”

I used to watch the “Oprah” show fairly often, but that was back in the 1990s. I’d say that over the past three years I may have watched “Oprah” fifteen times. The daughter of a personal friend of mine has a pretty good job at Oprah’s Harpo studios, so I feel a bit of a connection there. I think Oprah is a nice and well-meaning person, BUT her new age know, all her touchy/feely “Kumbaya” stuff does get old! Oprah frankly has some dumb beliefs. She believes all spanking of children, for instance, is child abuse. If that’s true, then something like 75% of American parents are child abusers.

The Oprah show is going off the air in 22 months! That’s quite awhile! What’s all the crying and hand wringing for? And, I don’t THINK the syndication company pulled the plug on her. Like Sarah Palin, whom Oprah recently interviewed, she’s quitting. That’s it.

I was not a big Ted Kennedy fan at all, but what a contrast! Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer a year and a half ago. Was he wringing his hands and whining? No. Did he quit? No. Whatever you think about Chappaquidick or his politics or his drinking escapades, etc. he DID do his job as a U.S. Senator, and he remained optimistic.

I wonder how many people with terminal cancer watched weepy Oprah last week and thought (rightfully so), “Give me a BREAK!” And, how many people are losing their jobs? How many businesses are “going under”? But Oprah is crying because she’s going off the air in 22 months and it’s her own decision.

Again, I don’t get it.

Oprah, have a Happy Thanksgiving, if that’s possible!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


“And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3)

They don’t make things like they used to! My parents bought a very small AM transistor radio in 1965. My mom used to keep it in her bedroom in case the electricity went out. I’ve had that radio since her death in 2000 and it still works pretty well. Many mornings I bring that radio into the bathroom with me to listen to as I shave in the morning. Recently I’ve heard the Don Imus Show on AM 790 out of Providence, RI. Several times lately when Imus has had a guest on, he’s asked them their five favorite songs and later played them on the show. The music a person likes can say a lot about them. Sometimes you think you really know somebody; then you hear their favorite songs, and you realize you didn’t know them at all.

For today, I’ve decided to share with you TEN songs. Five are my favorite secular pop songs and five are my favorite Christian songs. (They’re ranked so that number 1 is my MOST favorite and number 5 is my least favorite; although of course to get into my “Top 5” they’re HUGE favorites!)

In the secular pop category, number 5 is “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson.
Should you be unfamiliar with it, you can hear it on youtube at:

It’s from (I believe) 1967. It’s SUCH an upbeat song! I’ve loved it from the first time I heard it when I was a kid. Britain’s “ACM Gospel Choir” has also done a wonderful spiritual version of it which is VERY inspiring: It’s DEFINITELY worth viewing at:

Now, I realize the next song would be considered very worldly by many of you...but it’s my number 4 secular pop song. My girls Amy and Rachel used to love to hear this one in the car as little kids. It’s one of those songs that just repeats over and over in your head all day and gives you a very pleasant feeling. I’m talking about the Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit”. For a nice video of this one, please check out:

My Number 3 secular pop song is Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business”. That’s another song I fell in love with the moment I heard it when I was probably around 19 or 20. It’s got “attitude”. Yeah, it’s a rebellious rock song, and I guess it appeals to me for the same reason The Three Stooges appeal to me. They express the kind of thing I’d love to express but couldn’t ever do...the way The Three Stooges can tell a cop to “pick two” or throw a pie in his face, or something. It’s fantasy bad behavior you can’t do, but that a part of you would just love to do. If you can handle a little rock music with attitude, check out this 1974 video of BTO at:

Now, my number 2 secular pop song could NOT be any different from BTO! My son will exclaim, “You GOTTA be KIDDING!” when he reads this because my number 2 is a very girly and very sentimental song, but this very much appeals to the sentimental/dreamer side of me. Incidentally, this is the video that Taylor Swift kind of got “dissed” for at a recent awards ceremony. If you can get as sentimental and dreamy as I can get with a song like this, get your Kleenex out, and watch and listen to Taylor Swift’s “A Love Story” at:

And, my number 1 secular pop song is from Starship (formerly Jefferson Starship). It’s their 1987 hit, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. Many of my friends know I can be a very emotional person. 1987 overall was a very GOOD year for me, but I was going through a (very brief) highly stressful time that year. I can remember one day driving along near the Sherborn/Framingham line by the Sunshine Dairy restaurant. I had never heard this song before, but I turned the radio on, and the song was played. It’s meant to be a romantic, love song, but being very much a Don Quixote type who often “chases windmills” and is often misunderstood, I took it as a “thumbs up” from God to me that day. My eyes filled up, and I experienced a peace and a high that I’ve seldom experienced before or since. Amazingly, EVERY time I hear this song, my mind goes back to that moment in 1987 by the Sunshine Dairy, and I feel intense peace, faith, and gratitude to God. I know the video on this one is pretty “off the wall” but the song’s beautiful if you want to hear it. Check out:

Now, for my born-again Christian friends who are much more interested in my Christian song picks, here they are:

My number 5 Christian song is “Held” by Natalie Grant. The song “Held” came out around 3 or 4 years ago. I first heard this when Amy and I were traveling from Massachusetts to Missouri. We FIRST heard it in upstate NY and by the time we got to Springfield, Missouri, we’d heard it around twelve times and I HAD to buy Natalie Grant’s album, “Awaken”. “Held” is a very deep and very intense song. It’s NOT a song that a church congregation or choir sings. This is a song that could only be done as “special music” by one singer...and again, it’s VERY intense, but it’s a GREAT song. Believe it or not, Worcester’s secular soft rock station used to have it on its playlist. Check out:

My number 4 song IS often done as a congregational worship song. It’s “Shout to the North” by Delirious. My favorite verse in the song is “Rise Up Church With Broken Wings, Fill this place with song again, of our God who Reigns on High, by His Grace again we’ll fly” SO fits First Assembly of God of Framingham. I both smile and tear up when I sing it.

You can view the words and hear the song at:

My number 3 is a Black Gospel song by Dottie Peoples. It’s “Testify”; also known as “Somebody Oughtta Testify”. The video runs over 9 minutes, but if you watch the first two minutes, you’ll get the point! Talk show host Jimmy Myers on 96.9 WTKK uses the first minute or so of this as his show’s theme song. If you’re “down”, listen, you CAN’T watch this and stay down! Get ready to praise the Lord and get ready to TESTIFY!

My number 2 is “God of Wonders”. I think it was written by Paul Baloche. I found a video of it on-line by Chris Tomlin. We sing this one a lot at our church. I never get tired of it! Our God is indeed a GOD OF WONDERS! Think this earth is full of wonders? Well, it IS, but think of the fact that there are billions of galaxies out there...all full of GOD’S WONDERS! That’s what this song is about. You can listen to it at:

My current number 1 Christian song is “How Great is Our God”. I LOVE the part where it says, “Name above all names, worthy of all praise, my heart will sing how great is our God!” This is another one I never get tired of. There’s a nice video of a D.C. area worship band doing the song you can view at:

SO, those are my favorite secular songs and my favorite Christian songs.
Did you like them? Any surprises?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


“...Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit:...” (from Daniel 4:14)

I’ve got sort of a love/hate relationship with the Fall. My favorite seasons are both Spring and Fall, and I can take or leave Winter and Summer...well, I can LEAVE Winter, thank you! Summer is just too hot and Winter is just too cold and too snowy. All pastors know church attendance drops in Summer and Winter and rises in Spring and Fall. So Fall is good. The days are pleasant. The foliage is brilliant. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Fall would actually be my “very favorite” season, but for ONE thing: raking leaves!

In comparing mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, or raking leaves, raking leaves is definitely the worst of the three chores. Despite the heat and despite that fact that I’ve hit yellowjacket nests several times with the mower (one time landing me in a doctor’s office), mowing the lawn is generally a pleasant chore. I like to be by myself, and there’s something about just pushing that mower and the loud engine roar that’s very private and mentally relaxing. Shoveling snow is no piece of cake, but I’ve reached the point that unless the snowstorm is on a Sunday I don’t mind them so much. Yeah, shoveling’s lousy, but there’s something about coming inside after you shovel, putting your feet up, drinking hot chocolate and watching T.V. that’s very relaxing. After you cut the lawn or shovel the snow, you can SEE the fruit of your labor and that’s such an affirming feeling.

Now with leaves, you can rake and rake and rake, and look at the yard and it looks as if you’ve done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! My daughter Rachel is a great outdoor worker and does a great job helping with with all that outdoor stuff, but she’s away at college. I want to be careful how I say this about my son Jon, but as Barney Frank recently said about himself, he’s “not an outdoorsman”. (I was reluctant to use that example ‘cause Jon’s NOT gay!) This year I’ve done all the leaf work by myself. so far. I know you’ll think this is a bit obsessive/compulsive, but I keep records of how many bags of leaves I pick up each year. Over the years, I’ve averaged 36 in the Fall and usually about another 5 in the Spring. Last year, I picked up 30 bags of leaves in the Fall and another 5 in the Spring. The MOST leaves I’ve ever picked up in any Autumn was 41 bags a few years ago. This year I’ve almost hit my record. Yesterday, I bagged up 5 bags of leaves at home which made 40 for the season so far. I’d say I could still pick up 1 or 2 bags of leaves at home, but I got tired around 3:30 yesterday afternoon and called it quits. (I’d also bagged up 2 bags of leaves at the church property in the morning.)

We’ve got a LARGE Norway maple tree at home, among other trees. The Norway maple doesn’t even start changing color until around Oct. 25 and doesn’t start dropping leaves until Nov. 1, so I never get started with the leaves until around then. In other years, THIS week has always been the week of the “Vision New England Pastors’ Prayer Summit” in New Hampshire, but they decided not to have it this year. Normally, I’d have been away this week. Maybe that’s why my last day of picking up leaves is usually the day after Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if I’ll rake up any more leaves in ‘09 or if I’ll just get the rest in the Spring.

Yeah, raking leaves is a boring job that really seems like a waste of time. But then I think of the Memorial Service I conducted for Laureen last weekend, and I realize there are invalids who’d probably love to be outside raking and enjoying full use of their arms and legs. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the time I’ve gotten to be outdoors this Fall and I’m thankful the 40 bags of leaves are UP and not on the lawn!

Monday, November 16, 2009


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

In my fifty-five years on this earth, I have acquired a few nuggets of wisdom. One ironic fact I’ve observed is that WHAT THE WORLD REGARDS AS IMPORTANT AND WHAT GOD REGARDS AS IMPORTANT ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MATTERS! In just a few weeks as we get into the Advent season, many of us will be studying and preaching from the first couple of chapters of Luke’s Gospel. I’m always moved by the first part of Luke chapter 2 which talks about Caesar Augustus being Emperor and Cyrenius being Governor of Syria. These guys were big shots in the world, but as far as God was concerned the most important thing happening at that time was the birth of Jesus Christ in humble surroundings in Bethlehem.

You’ve got to be spiritually in tune with the Lord to truly discern and appreciate when this happens, but once in awhile God plunks you down into a situation that the world considers a yawn and of no importance, and yet that HE regards as supremely important. I was privileged to be part of such an event this past Saturday morning. Last Saturday morning I was part of the Memorial Service for Laureen (Swift) Todaro at Claflin House, 40 Taylor Street, just outside downtown Framingham. Pat Zampino, a Member of our church who was in attendance at this service commented to me on Sunday, “There was SUCH an anointing on that Memorial Service. I was SO blessed to be there!”


Claflin House is an apartment complex for the elderly and disabled. One of our Members, Tammy Perrault, lives there. Tammy suffers from arthritis and diabetes and is on Disability, but has pretty full mobility. Her neighbor Laureen (Swift) Todaro was born with spina bifida and was in a wheelchair most of her life. I didn’t know Laureen well, although I saw her around the neighborhood in her wheelchair quite a bit. Tammy was very close to Laureen and spent a lot of time giving her physical assistance as did Don Franklin, another of our Members. At our church, we all felt we knew Laureen, as we’d spent so much time praying for her and learning of her increasing physical challenges. I’d also gotten to know Laureen’s primary Personal Care Assistant Lisa Stowell from having left parking notices on Lisa’s car! We’ve found through the years that if we don’t leave notices on cars in the lots spelling out our parking policies, the lots will fill up with commuters for the train, and we won’t even be able to park! Please don’t misunderstand- I’d never tow away the car of a nurse or P.C.A. working at Claflin House, but I don’t always know whose car is whose! A few times I told that to Lisa; and each of us was subsequently relieved!

Laureen had gotten married back in the ‘90s to Sam Todaro, now deceased. He was also in a wheelchair and it was a marriage ceremony that was covered by the media. Sadly, it didn’t work out. A few years later, they were divorced. In more recent years, Laureen had found the love of her life, Arthur Ponticelli. I suspect Arthur has cerebral palsy. When Arthur walks, he literally staggers like a drunk. It’s honestly painful and uncomfortable to watch him walk...well stagger, and yet he’s constantly smiling. Arthur is hard to understand. His speech is badly slurred due to his disabilities. But Arthur and Laureen were deeply in love. In the South Street/Taylor Street neighborhood, we’d see Arthur pushing Laureen in her wheelchair down the street. It kind of made you feel the way you do at Christmas hearing about Tiny Tim happily telling that he hoped having the people at church see him would make them think of Him who healed the lame and opened the eyes of the blind.

Laureen had many health problems besides being in a wheelchair. Over the past six months, her condition had deteriorated and she had spent quite a bit of time hospitalized. Even so, she WAS expected to recover and come home to 40 Taylor Street, but it was not to be. A few days ago I received a phone call from a weeping and obviously devastated Tammy Perrault. At first I couldn’t imagine what Tammy could be THAT upset about, but after she struggled to tell me of Laureen's death, I certainly DID get it. Laureen was really like a sister to Tammy.

I was honored to be asked by Laureen’s mother and stepfather to conduct the Memorial Service here in Framingham. (There will be another service in a few days nearer to the family’s home in Connecticut.) Around twenty-one people packed into the small “Community Room” at Claflin House for the service. At first, I opened it up for those who wanted to share eulogies. I’d say at least eight people shared. Laureen’s counselor for the past ten years talked of how much Laureen inspired HIM. She never let her disabilities get in her way and was determined to succeed in life. Lisa, the Personal Care Assistant, shared of how Laureen had become much more of a friend to her than a “boss” and that Laureen had actually counseled HER through some difficult times. Arthur’s Mom shared that Laureen had made a tremendous impact in the life of her disabled son in ways she couldn’t imagine. I preached from the Book of Ecclesiastes a sermon entitled, “What’s Life All About?” While people are not always open to an evangelistic, Christ-centered sermon at a funeral, this group overall was quite open to it. A number of people told me of how the sermon had touched them.

This is humbling to admit, but I can be a very impatient person and a complainer. On Saturday, I learned from Laureen’s Mom that when Laureen was much younger, she began searching for a community where she could live on her own and where excellent services for the disabled were available. After much research, she concluded that Framingham, Massachusetts was that community. She made all the arrangements herself and moved from Windsor, Conn. (near Hartford) to Framingham. Laureen had taken a number of courses on-line to better herself and was always reaching for the stars, as it were. I could understand why her counselor had said he’d learned so much from her.

Yes, a lot was going on in Framingham last Saturday morning, but I think the most important event in God’s sight was Laureen (Swift) Todaro’s Memorial Service.

Once again, my deepest sympathy and condolences to Laureen’s family and friends.

Incidentally, this is Laureen’s Obituary as it appeared in the (Framingham, MA) MetroWest Daily News:

FRAMINGHAM Laureen (Swift) Todaro, 44, passed away on Friday November 6, 2009 at MetroWest Medical Center in Natick, MA. Born in Rockville, CT, daughter of Johann Swift-Steisel of Windsor, CT and Thomas Swift of Annapolis, MD, she grew up in Windsor. Laureen though wheelchair bound never let her disabilities consume her life. Growing up she especially enjoyed her many visits to Camp Hemlocks in Hebron, CT. Being independent was important to her and as an adult lived in Framingham, MA. She is survived by her parents, step father Donald Steisel, her sister Stacey Swift of Hartford, CT, brother Colby Swift and his wife Mary of Centreville, VA, and many other aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Laureen leaves her devoted boyfriend Arthur Ponticelli and his loving mother Ann Ponticelli. Laureen also leaves her special friends Donald Franklin, Tammy Perault, caretaker Lisa Stowell and other loving members of her Framingham family. A memorial service will be held on November 14th at 40 Taylor Street in Framingham, MA at 11:00 a.m. and on November 21st at the Poquonock Community Church, 1817 Poquonock Ave. in Windsor, CT at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers contributions in Laureens memory can be made to Easter Seals Camp Hemlocks, 85 Jones St., P.O. Box 198, Hebron, CT 06248.