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.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire,” (Matthew 5:21-22)

Surveys tell us that the greatest fear most people have is NOT flying, nor heights in general, nor snakes, nor closed-in places; rather the greatest fear by far is the fear of speaking in public. Ironically, I’m generally very comfortable speaking in public. Frankly, I can be very uncomfortable in a lot of one-on-one situations, and in THOSE situations I tend to be a very shy person, but I thrive on speaking in public. When I do speak in public I tend to have a style that’s folksy and what some people would consider somewhat unprofessional and lacking “polish”. It’s a style that tends to be easy to follow and listen to; although through the years, I’d say 75% of the people who hear me speak very much like it, and 25% of the people who hear me speak very much don’t like it.

Yeah, it CAN make you feel bad and kind of defensive when people don’t like your speaking style. I remember that around 25 years ago when I was on staff at the old Christian Life Center in Walpole, one pleasant African-American gentleman told me he really disliked that I used the word “stupid” a lot when I preached. And I did. It was statements like, “To refuse to give your heart to Jesus is STUPID!” Or, “To disbelieve the Bible is STUPID!” Or, “To swear a lot is STUPID!” and on and on it went.

What did I think of that African-American’s criticism? Well, I guess at the time, I thought it was stupid! I was pleasant to him, but I just kind of blew him off. I don’t think I use the word “stupid” QUITE as much as I did back in the 1980s, but I know I’ve still used it a fair amount. I guess I’m changing at least a BIT, because of late ,I’m coming to dislike the word, myself.

I’ve heard people say that it’s wrong to call someone “stupid” but that it’s NOT wrong to call someone’s actions or beliefs “stupid”. Honestly, I think that’s a distinction without a difference! The dictionary actually defines “stupid” as:
1. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.
2. characterized by or proceeding from mental dullness; foolish; senseless: a stupid question.
3. tediously dull, esp. due to lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless: a stupid party.
4. annoying or irritating; troublesome: Turn off that stupid radio.
5. in a state of stupor; stupefied: stupid from fatigue.
6. Slang. excellent; terrific.

I have a feeling that the ORIGIN of the word comes from number 5. Yes, I’ve used and overused the word “stupid” and I’m now feeling regretful and ashamed about that. And, in the spirit of “true confessions” I must also admit that when I watch “Jeopardy” it’s RARE for me to get through a program without yelling out, “What a DOPE!” at somebody’s answer. I’d sure be embarrassed if I was in the studio audience and yelling that out!

Yes, we can be quick to call people stupid. People say things like, “That guy’s so stupid he’s just a grease monkey!” Well, think about this: If your car’s engine is dead at 2 a.m. on Bay Road in Sharon would you rather have a non-mechanically inclined Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard come by, or would you rather that “grease monkey” came by? I think we all know the answer. My first pastor in the Assemblies of God was Lloyd A. Westover. He was a big, loud, older gentleman with a lot of old-fashioned country wisdom. I remember him saying, “Everybody has SOMETHING to teach you,” and then adding, “And that guy digging ditches, you can learn something from him!” It’s true.

Back in the ‘90s. I used to hear one of my neighbors yelling at his kid and calling him “stupid” and usually throwing in a few four-letter-words, as well. That father got divorced from his wife awhile ago; boy, I wonder why?! Today, that kid is probably around 20. I see him hanging around with guys and girls his age, playing ball, driving up and down the street, etc. No matter what the expression with of mouth is, his eyes are always sad and pained looking.

Incidentally, “raca” in the Aramaic language, which is quoted in the Bible passage above, is kind of like our word “stupid”. That word is presented as being very displeasing to God.

Yes, I kind of blew off that pleasant African-American guy twenty-five years ago. I was immature, and I just didn’t get what he was saying. But I think I do, now. Speaking habits ARE difficult to break, but I’m finding HEARING the word “stupid” to be so distasteful that I’m going to try to stop using it, or to at least drastically limit using it.

Finally, I hope you don’t think this posting is stupid...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Luke 15:13)

Today is November 11- Veteran’s Day. This is one of the few Federal Holidays that was not made into a “Monday Holiday” in the late 1960s or early 1970s. (I know people under 45 probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but at one time George Washington’s Birthday was always celebrated on February 22, Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30, and Columbus Day was always celebrated on October 12, until they were changed into “Monday holidays” to “make things easier for schools and businesses”.) Well, to be COMPLETELY correct, Veteran’s Day WAS changed into a “Monday holiday” for a few years, but the Vets really pitched a fit about it, and it was changed back to November 11.

I can’t blame them for pitching a fit about it! They sacrificed so much for our country, NOT thinking of ease or dare we diminsh their holiday?!

There are a number of appropriate ways to remember those who served in our Armed Forces and those who currently serve in our Armed Forces on Veteran’s Day.

If you have a relative or friend serving in the Military, this would be a great day to send them an e-mail, including a “thank you” for what they do. Especially after that horrific event at Ft. Hood last week, I’m sure such expressions of gratitude would be appreciated.

If you CAN’T think of anyone you know serving in the military, might I suggest you send a short greeting and thank you to my brother-in-law Steve Gardiner who is currently serving in Afghanistan? Steve is a Navy Officer in his late 40s. I hesitate to state his rank because I’m not exactly sure what it is and I don’t want to promote him or demote him unnecessarily! But, trust me, he’s a Navy Officer. Steve is currently “on loan” to the U.S. Army. He served on board ship in the Persian Gulf during the “First Gulf War” in the days of the first President Bush. Since that time, he’s served several times overseas including a year at Guantanamo Bay, and his current service in Afghanistan (which started a couple of months ago). Steve is single and has no kids. One of the reasons he’s volunteered to go so many times is to (hopefully) take the place of some younger married man who’d have to leave a wife and kids behind. Steve’s a character and a very humble guy. He speaks with a bit of an old-fashioned New England Yankee accent, and his handwriting looks like it could have been done by one of the founding fathers! Steve is particularly fascinated by New England Revolutionary War era history. He’s a very committed Christian, and a true patriot and hero. I’m sure he’d be surprised and blessed to receive man “Thank You” e-mails. Steve Gardiner’s e-mail address is:


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

This post might be more appropriate for my friend Michelle McElroy to use on her “This is Framingham” blog (see link near the top right of my blog), but I thought I’d share a bit about Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating company. They’ve won an “Angie’s List” award and in my opinion are the best plumbing operation in Boston’s MetroWest suburbs. Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating uses a Natick post office box for mailing and has a Natick telephone number, but their offices and service truck parking lot have been located on Fountain Street, Framingham (across from Keefe Tech High School) for at least twelve years.

I first heard Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating recommended by WRKO talk show host Howie Carr. At the time, they were one of his sponsors, but Howie said he personally used Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating for all of his plumbing needs and wouldn’t think of using any other company. We set up a church account for the 32 South Street church building and the 40 Harrison Street parsonage over ten years ago. Anytime a plumber from Paul Flaherty’s has come out the work has been done WELL- quickly, and correctly. The Paul Flaherty plumbers have NEVER left any sort of a mess. They’ve never been rude or pushy or condescending. There’s never been the stereotypical plumber chomping on a smelly cigar nor bending down allowing us to view parts of his body we don’t want to view (if you know what I mean). There’s never been a time we’ve had to call a plumber back because the work wasn’t done right.

One time I had a plumber from Paul Flaherty’s out who was working on the parsonage toilet. He asked me what church I pastored. It turned out he was an evangelical Christian from Worcester. He told me he’d previously had his own business but had gone to work full-time for Paul Flaherty’s. He also told me that when he was hired he was told Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating is strictly an honest business...that they don’t try to sell customers items they don’t need, nor do they do inferior work to guarantee they’ll have to be called back to do the same job every year. Everything is up to high standards and honor. That was good to hear.

I have Paul Flaherty on the brain because we had to have the 7 and a half year old water heater at the parsonage replaced yesterday. As is always the case, the guys from Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating did a super job and were gone in less than two hours. One woman from our church told me she WON’T use Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating because they’re too expensive. And, they ARE pricey. We’ve now got a hefty bill to pay off over the next few months, BUT we’ve also got a water heater and installation we don’t have to worry about! What’s that get what you pay for? It’s true. So if you’re in the MetroWest area and need a plumber, check out Paul Flaherty Plumbing and Heating. Their website is:

Monday, November 9, 2009


“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Have you ever watched the film, “The Rain Man”? Autistic savants are fascinating people, aren’t they? While many autistic savants are unable to understand or complete simple tasks, many can not only tell you what the weather was like on any date over the past few decades of their lives, but they can tell you what day of the week it fell on and exactly what they were doing on that day.

I’m no autistic savant, but I can tell you what I was doing on Friday, November 22, 1963, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, AND on November 9, 1965. I THINK November 9, 1965 was a Tuesday. At the time, I was a 6th Grader. Those were the days before the advent of “Middle Schools”. In Canton, Massachusetts, in those days you went to Elementary School for Grades 1-6, Junior High School for Grades 7 and 8, and High School for 9-12. (Those were also the days BEFORE they had public school Kindergarten in Massachusetts.)
My 6th Grade teacher was very young (maybe 22) and very tall, (maybe 6’5”). His name was Mr. Ippolito and that was his first year teaching. Around 5:20 p.m. I was sitting in the kitchen at home. (Our house had a large combination kitchen and dining room which was more of a kitchen than a dining room, and my mother always lamented that fact.) My mother was cooking supper- I don’t remember what the meal was that night.

I admit that I can be a very sensational and dramatic person. I got quite a genetic predisposition to that stuff. My father had a booming speaking voice and was an intense personality, and my mother was VERY emotional and VERY dramatic. Suddenly on that evening in the kitchen in Canton my mother got very dramatic like you’d expect to see in a spectacular stage performance. Making all the appropriate gestures and motions she announced, “I’m gonna faint! I’m gonna faint! I’m gonna faint! Everything’s going dark! The light is getting dimmer and dimmer! I’m gonna faint!”

Well, in fact, the lights WERE suddenly getting dimmer. This was the days before battery operated clocks, and we had a typical 1960s electric clock that old Mr. Warren of Ashland (inventor of the electric clock) would have been proud of. That clock even had a little pengulim which quickly moved back and forth counting out the seconds. I glanced at the clock and noticed the pendulum had greatly slowed down.

“You’re not gonna faint!” I announced like a typical obnoxious 11-year-old.
“Look at the clock, the pendulum’s slowing down, we’re losing electricity!”

One second after I’d finished saying that, we were plunged into total darkness.
Looking out the windows, we couldn’t see any light anywhere. My mother quickly regained her composure and took out a transistor radio.

“We need to find out what’s going on,” she said, “maybe this is affecting all of Boston.”

Reports began quickly coming in that most of Massachusetts and in fact most of New England had no electricity. Strangely, the towns of Braintree and Norwood, Massachusetts had NOT lost electricity but just about everyplace else had. Reports came in that New York City had no electricity and in fact most of New York State had no electricity. During the height of the cold war in 1965, this was very scary news. People began to speculate whether a nuclear bomb had been dropped, say on the power station at Niagara Falls. Looking back, there was even the potential for rioting in the streets and utter panic that night, but the World War 2 generation held themselves and everyone else together and people remained fearful but calm.

As I recall, the electricity came back on around 11 p.m. By the next morning it was being reported that there had been a massive failure of the power grid at Niagara Falls that had knocked out most of the northeast, but that it was NOT the result of any enemy attack. (Incidentally, the towns of Braintree and Norwood did not lose electricity because they generate their own electricity and are not part of the northeast power grid.)

The next day at school, Mr. Ippolito had to listen to a bunch of whining eleven and twelve-year-olds complaining that we couldn’t get our homework done because we’d had no electricity. (I guess we forgot about old Abe Lincoln doing his arithmetic by candlelight!)

Yup, November 9, 1965. Forty-four years ago. And I remember it like it was yesterday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain," (from Isaiah 13:2)

Our church receives lots of mail, especially catalogs. I think the catalogs that I especially enjoy looking at are catalogs advertising church signs. There are some amazing church signs available today. Many are very large and well lighted with all sorts of modern electronic features. Some "mega churches" in other parts of the country feature all sorts of signage...flashing electronic "crawls" telling of special events and speakers... electronic images which change from a flag to an image of Jesus, and then to the church name and information. No matter what large, fancy, impressive, state-of-the-art church sign you can think of, it's available if you can afford to pay for it. But not in Framingham.

Framingham's famous "sign by-law" has been the subject of a couple of newspaper stories this week. Framingham businessman Boris Kanieff has been fined $3900. for his signs at his car wash/gas station/oil change shop on Hollis St. in downtown Framingham. Boris Kanieff has been one of downtown Framingham's best friends. Back in the 1990s when the original "Downtown Solutions" civic group was formed, he was a mainstay at the meetings, full of passion for downtown revitalization. A few weeks ago I came across a 12-year-old program running on Framingham's public access cable channel which featured Boris Kanieff and another activist sharting their visions of what downtown Framingham could be. It was around that time that he suffered a stroke and some health issues, but he rebounded and went right back to work trying to make downtown Framingham a better place. He has done an outstanding job. And, what's his thanks from the Town of Framingham? Thousands of dollars owed in fines due to what I believe is an unreasonable and anti-business sign law.

Now, back to the churches. It's true there are no "mega churches" in Framingham, and so no church would be likely to want one of those type signs I describe above. However, many of Framingham's present churches are not happy with the Town's sign policies. I know of one Protestant church which was required to cut the electricity to their attractive illuminated sign. So the sign's still there in front of the church, but at night nobody can see it! Another church, located in an "off the beaten path" location wanted to have a directional sign on a main road to help people find their church. That was not possible. In fact, there used to be a number of small directional signs you'd see on telephone poles which would list a church name and give a directional arrow to help people find the church. Those are all pretty much gone from Framingham,

I noticed recently that the old WalMart sign at Route 30 and Caldor Rd. has been "blacked out". If somebody from outside of Framingham is driving around Route 30 looking for the back road to WalMart I guess Framingham's response is "Oh, tough luck!" as the late Larry Glick used to say. Ironically, channel 25 recently ran a story about how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is spending a lot of money to put up LARGE easy to read exterior signs at the State House and other State facilities to make things easier for the public. You may also notice that over the past fifteen years, the state has been making those black and white Route number signs on highways LARGER so driver can easily read them. My daughter Rachel is a student at Westflied State College, and I can report that the State has essentially "gone crazy" putting up signs there including a large electronic informational sign. Channel 25's beef was that this is no time to be spending tax payer's money with such a serious recession going on. They have a valid point. If private businesses want to spend the money to put up signs to help their business, however, I say that should be ENCOURAGED.

My other daugther Amy is an R.N. at the medical center in Springfield, Missouri. I'm familiar with the Springfield/Branson area of Missouri not only from going out there to visit her, but because I attended Bible College there in the 1970s. If there are sign by-laws and regulations out there, they can't be very strict. There are signs of all sizes and shapes all over Springfield, and especially all over Branson. (You may not know that Branson has become a huge tourist attraction. It's called the "new Nashville" and "a family version of Las Vegas".) There are restaurants, hotels, and business all over the place. Out there, you've also got mega churches and all sorts of other churches. They've got signs, too! I think a lot of them ordered from those fancy sign catalogs! Is that area of the country "blighted" or "ruined"? Hardly! That area is growing by leaps and bounds. New homes and shopping centers are going up all over the place, Despite the growth and development, you can drive ten minutes outside of either Springfield or Branson and see some of the most beautiful, unspoiled country in the midwest. People are flocking there and people are leaving Massachusetts. When are we going to wake up?

When I think of large, bright, flashing signs, I think of BUSINESS and I think of SUCCESS. Framingham needs business and success! Do you really think it would be a terrible thing if Framingham, especially downtown Framingham, was packed with stores, hotels, restaurants, and gas stations and car washes, all featuring large, captivating electronic signs? It would be great! People wring their hands wondering how we can afford so many social services in Town such as S.M.O.C. Listen the tax revenue coming in so that we can afford a lot of non-profit social services in Town should not be on the backs of poor elderly homeowners. It should be coming from businesses. We should have SO many thriving businesses in Framingham that generate so much revenue that having a bunch of social service agencies in Town is not a big problem!

If Framingham DOES scrap the sign by-law some day I don't know how it will address businesses who DID comply with it such as Monnick Supply. They had to replace a perfectly good large and easy-to-read sign with a smaller, less sensible version at great expense to them just to comply. But I fully support Boris Kanieff and other business owners (and pastors and churches) who are fed up with Framingham's excessive and oppressive sign by-law. Let's get rid of it! Again, let's wake up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


“And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:28-32)

That’s maybe a bit difficult to understand in the old King James Version. It comes at the end of Luke chapter 15, the “Prodigal Son” chapter. I heard a GREAT sermon about this by Pastor Lloyd Westover over 32 years ago. If you recall the events of Luke chapter 15, there was a father who had two sons. The younger of the two asked for his share of the inheritance (a real insult to his incredibly insensitive thing to request). Amazingly, the father gave this to the younger son, who went off and spent it all in wild living. He ended up dirt poor and working feeding and taking care of PIGS! That’s about as low as it gets for a JEWISH boy! He finally decided to return to his father’s place, and offer to become a hired hand there. He remembered that even the hired hands at his father’s farm lived FAR better than he was doing at the pig farm. To the younger son’s amazement, his father met him with open arms. He “killed the fatted calf” and had a big feast for him. But the oldest son would have none of it! He resented his younger brother, and now he resented his father, as well, for throwing the younger brother a party. You can detect what I’d call “a real attitude” in the older son. The older son was bitter and unforgiving. Pastor Westover said he believed the REAL prodigal son was the older brother. He preached a strong sermon against self-righteousness and unforgiveness . I never forgot it.

Yesterday as I was out in the yard doing a great deal of “Fall outdoor work” I found myself thinking about two good forgivers I’ve known. These were each men who had authority over me at various times in my life and who were each rather strong-willed and intimidating individuals. Yet, each set a tremendous example in the area of forgiveness.

Now, forgiveness is a COMPLICATED subject. Admittedly, it’s far more complicated than can be covered in a simple blog posting. I’m NO “bleeding heart liberal”! If a person commits murder, I have no problem having the State execute that person. If a person damages property, I think somehow they should have to make restitution for that. If a person rapes, or commits some other serious crime, though they repent before God and receive His forgiveness, they still DO owe a debt to society. Even so, I’ve found people are SLOW to forgive! They’re like the story in Matthew chapter 18 about the guy who was forgiven a huge debt (like ten million dollars) but wouldn’t forgive the debt of a guy who owed HIM a few hundred bucks! Many don’t mean it when they pray, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” They’re more like a cartoon of The Family Circus by Bil Keane that I once read and laughed over. In the cartoon, little Jeffy prayed, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we give it to those who trespass against us.”!

Back to the two good forgivers. They are my father, Eugene A. “Gene” Baril, and my old boss at Christian Life Center in Walpole that I’ll call by his initials D.C.M. These two authority figures had a lot to do with my formation as a person and as a pastor. They were amazingly alike. Each were “Type A” personalities. Each was the youngest of a large family. Each were exceptionally good public speakers. Each could be very intimidating. Each were perfectionists.
Each had great senses of humor and could be lots of fun to be around, but each could also be very difficult to be around. My sister has commented that despite the comment, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” she’s never seen anybody get so angry over spilled milk as our father. That’s true! If you spilled milk at the dinner table, he’d flip out like you’d just committed murder! I don’t think D.C.M. got upset about spilled milk but he certainly had his own pet peeves. I learned to never forget I’d turned the heat off. If he came in and the room was 45 degrees, well let’s just say he’d get up to 145 degrees really fast!

You may be thinking, “Boy, these two sure don’t SOUND like two good forgivers!” They don’t, do they? But they were. Well, my father has been dead for 9 years, but D.C.M. is very much alive so I guess I need to be careful about using the past tense too much! Lately, I’ve been wishing I could just sit down and have a talk with my father...maybe go out for ice cream with him or something. I wish I could thank him for being a good forgiver. I was no perfect kid. When I was 10 I pulled a false fire alarm. I think I wrote about that one other time. As a young adult, I smashed up two cars. I had scores and scores of other offenses. My father would get mad and give a lecture, and BOY could he give a lecture. He should have been a U.S. Senator...he’d have been the champion of filibusters! He could deliver a very intimidating lecture for two hours straight! But the wonderful thing about my father is, when it was over, it was over! He didn’t bring it up again. Whatever the “it” was, it never came up again. When he was done with the lecture and whatever punishment may have been inflicted, then that was it. You got a fresh start. There was NO going over the same ground again and again and again. He closed the door on that and just moved on. That’s also true of D.C.M. He’d call you in his office, tugging at his pants and his belt, and his nostrils spreading like a bull’s and he’d verbally let you have it!

I’d be thinking, “I’m going to get FIRED for sure!”

But like my father, when it was over, it was over. It didn’t come up again and again and again. It was over. It was like it never happened.

My mother was much more “religious” than my father was, but she also was much more likely to hold a grudge. She was much easier to talk to and much more pleasant to be around, but she also could bring up a five or ten year old incident and start rehashing it. I’d rather my father’s way!

No, I can’t tell that to my Dad, but I know D.C.M. reads this so he may get a laugh out of it. After his time at Christian Life Center Walpole, D.C.M. went through some serious failure and mistakes in his life. I don’t think I need to go into detail here. But in 2001, he made things right, and he called a public meeting to apologize to those he’d offended. I attended that meeting along with a number of people. Sadly, some of D.C.M.’s former parishioners would have nothing to do with it. I remember one man in particular who was very bitter and who sounded very much like the older kid in the prodigal son story. But my wife and I had no trouble going to the meeting, accepting D.C.M.’s statement, and giving him a completely fresh start. After all the times he’d done that with me, it was not so hard to do that for him.

I had planned to write this early this morning, but I was rushed doing other matters and just did not get to it until now. (I know it will give the posting time as 10:15 a.m. or something like that, but that’s Pacific time. I’m actually writing this a little after 1:00 Eastern time.) As can happen during the day, there have been a couple of incidents which have taken place today which may lead readers to believe this was written as a specific response to those incidents. It was not. I just didn’t get time to write this very early like I’d planned to! So, please don’t read anything into it; but I think we can all learn from those strong, intimidating, Type A personalities, Gene Baril and D.C.M. the lesson of “forgive and FORGET.”

Monday, November 2, 2009


“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

On Sunday, November 1, Boston’s WODS 103.3 FM (“Oldies 103.3”) began playing nothing but Christmas music (“24 - 7!”) and will continue to play nothing but Christmas music through and including December 25. This is (I think) the 3rd year in a row that “Oldies 103.3” has begun playing solid and constant Christmas music in early November. For a number of reasons, I really dislike the practice. Some of my readers know I have mixed emotions about Christmas. While it’s supposedly the “birthday of Jesus Christ”, it’s likely Jesus Christ was actually born in the early Fall. It’s also possible He was born in the Spring. It’s VERY unlikely Jesus Christ was born in late December. While the Bible tells the story of Jesus’ birth (in both Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel) there’s nothing in the Bible telling us to specifically celebrate Christmas. I find the whole materialistic American Christmas which puts American families into debt and under great financial stress to be A REAL TURNOFF! That said, I DO like Christmas carols very much, and I do like Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths. But November is TOO early for Christmas music and Christmas celebrating! (Remember “The 12 Days of Christmas”? The 12 Days of Christmas are actually December 25 through January 6. THAT’S when “Oldies 103.3” should be playing wall-to-wall Christmas music!)

Now, I want to write about THANKSGIVING DAY. My three favorite holidays are Thanksgiving Day, American Independence Day (July 4), and Easter Sunday. I’m sad that Thanksgiving Day seems to be MUCH less important today than it was 40, 30, or even 20 years ago. It seems to have become the forgotten holiday. It’s an excuse for a 4-day weekend and maddening Christmas shopping (mostly on the day after Thanksgiving) but that’s about it. Thanksgiving Day should be much more than that.

If you look up “Thanksgiving Day” on Wikipedia, you’ll learn some interesting facts. For one thing, I learned that “the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida”. I honestly didn’t know that. Of course, being a New Englander, I DID know that, “the traditional ‘first Thanksgiving’ is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621.”

I know Canada celebrates Thanksgiving Day, but their Thanksgiving Day is our Columbus Day...the 2nd Monday of October. Canadians make that whole 3-day weekend Thanksgiving weekend, and may have their big Turkey dinner anytime during that weekend...for many it’s commonly held on the Sunday of that weekend. I also learned that the origin of Canada’s Thanksgiving Day is the “loyalists”...the New Englanders who were loyal to the British Crown and who moved to the Canadian maritime provinces at the time of the American Revolution. They brought the custom of Thanksgiving Day with them from America. I also read that in Canada, Thanksgiving Day used to be celebrated in early November, and the date was finally settled as the 2nd Monday of October in the late 1950s.

In America, Thanksgiving Day began to be regularly celebrated on the last Thursday of November in 1863, although it had been informally and unofficially celebrated for decades and decades before that. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941, when President Roosevelt fixed the date as the FOURTH Thursday in November (not necessarily the last Thursday) to help extend the Christmas shopping season.

I love Thanksgiving Day! I love the high school football games in the morning. I usually attend the Marian High School game whether its home or away. I love that turkey dinner! I love the desserts, too! I love just relaxing on Thanksgiving evening in front of the T.V. set. (If you think I make my wife do all the work on Thanksgiving, I don’t! She does most of the cooking on Thanksgiving and I do most of the cleanup!) I also love the idea of taking a day to thank God for His many blessings! I’ve visited rural Haiti several times and seen what third world poverty looks like. Believe me, in America, even the poor people are rich! We have much to be thankful for. Here in Framingham, the Town has an annual Thanksgiving service every Tuesday night before Thanksgiving. The local clergy and many local laypeople participate in it. This year’s service is on Tuesday, November 24 at 7:30 at Plymouth Church U.C.C. in Framingham Centre. I think it would be great if this year’s service is SO packed out we’ll have to turn people away and think of a larger venue for next year! If you’re a Framingham resident, I hope you’ll mark that Thanksgiving service on your calendar and plan to attend.

AND, let’s swim against the tide that’s telling us that November is the time to focus on Christmas and to buy Christmas presents. Let’s take back November and let’s take back Thanksgiving Day! Up to and including November 26 (This year’s Thanksgiving date) I plan to write as a salutation on my e-mails and U.S. mail letters: “It’s November! Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day!”

I hope you’ll do the same! Let’s make MORE of Thanksgiving Day this year!
Don’t forget about Thanksgiving Day!