Monday, June 28, 2010


“In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.” (2 Corinthians 11:20 New International Version)

I took a walk downtown today in the late afternoon, and I noticed that the sign by the Civic League buildings (which once said “Shop Downtown”) now says “Boston Church of Christ.” I must say it saddens me that many American, English-speaking churches and denominations can’t seem to move out of downtown Framingham fast enough, while a controversial group like the “Boston Church of Christ” can’t seem to get in there fast enough.

I realize this piece could greatly upset some people. I want to state right from the outset that I know that there are many good, sincere people who belong to the Boston Church of Christ. There are many kind and good Christian people who have been recruited into the Boston Church of Christ. Back in the 1990s, my primary care physician, Dr. Gifford, was an active member of the Boston Church of Christ. He no longer lives in this area, but as far as I know, he still belongs to the church. There isn’t a much finer man than Dr. Gifford. But I also feel it’s appropriate that I share some (uncomfortable) facts about the Boston Church of Christ.

For those of you who are not familiar with much of this stuff, the “Boston Church of Christ” organization, also usually called the “International Church of Christ” and sometimes the “Boston Movement” has been identified as a potentially dangerous, overly controlling group by a number of experts, and by a number of people who have defected from that organization.

(I must clarify that the “International Church of Christ” is no more related to the “United Church of Christ” than is Jordan’s Furniture related to Jordan Marsh Company. The United Church of Christ is a mainly theologically liberal and politically liberal denomination formed by the merger of some Congregational Churches and other groups in the late 1950s. We have 3 U.C.C. churches in Framingham as well as a U.C.C. conference center on Badger Rd.)

The Boston or International Church of Christ was founded in suburban Boston (Lexington, MA is usually identified as the location) by Kip McKean. McKean was a minster of the Churches of Christ (again NOT related at all to the United Church of Christ). The Churches of Christ are a splitoff of the Disciples of Christ and I understand they are a 19th Century splitoff of the Baptists. The Churches of Christ believe strongly that baptism should be by total immersion in water and by those who’ve made commitments to follow the Lord and understand what they’re doing...NOT infant baptism. (On THAT note, I would pretty much agree with them.) I disagree, however, with the Churches of Christ teaching that says that if ANY person has NOT been baptized by total immersion in water, they’re going to Hell. I also disagree with their somewhat bizarre belief in NO MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS in church services. Kip’s group continued the beliefs of the Churches of Christ but became MUCH more controlling, insisting upon most of the people’s “free time” being spent in church activities including recruiting, almost blindly following their leadership, etc.

You can find a lot of info. on-line about the Boston Church of Christ and International Church of Christ.

Will the impact of the Boston Church of Christ in downtown Framingham be mostly positive or mostly negative? It remains to be seen. Should other religious groups attempt to communicate with the Boston Church of Christ and try to get to know their leadership? I think that’s probably a good idea. Certainly, the Boston Church of Christ folks would disagree with much of what I have written on this piece. I’m really NOT against them or any religious group moving into downtown Framingham. This is America, and we certainly believe in freedom of religion. Any religious group should be welcome in Framingham in general and in downtown Framingham specifically. My main purpose in writing this piece is to point out this irony: We have a large number of number of American, English-speaking evangelical Christians who seemingly can’t get out of downtown Framingham fast enough, and that what so many have perceived as a culturally and economically uncomfortable and unpleasant place to flee from, the Boston Church of Christ has perceived as a ripe mission field for them!


“If it is serving, let him serve...” (from Romans 12:7 New International Version)

I wrote a piece on the blog about Claire Grimes several months ago. Today, Claire is on my mind because she’s having hip replacement surgery. I realize with the modern H.I.P.A.A. law (that’s the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”) there are all kinds of strict rules about talking about people and their medical conditions. Since Claire has been telling virtually “everybody” that she’s having hip replacement surgery today and has been passing out pamphlets explaining the operation to all sorts of folks, I think I can be confident that she wouldn’t mind me mentioning it here.

Claire is an amazing person. I’ve known her for twenty-three years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her truly depressed. Every pastor and church would be very blessed to have a Claire in their midst! At the old First Assembly of God of Framingham, she was the epitome of a person with the “Gift of Helps” (or “serving” as the N.I.V. renders it in the above verse). On Sundays she was often the first person to arrive at the church building; and always was one of the first. Claire served at Secretary of the corporation (or “Board Secretary” as she called it) for over twenty-five years. She also acted as a volunteer secretary, typing up all sorts of papers, laying out and running the weekly bulletin, etc. Claire insisted on buying toilet paper and paper towels for the church building and to my knowledge never asked to be reimbursed for this. Claire also insisted on cleaning the entire church building by herself. As she got older, that task was getting to be more taxing on her, and we did get others to volunteer to help her with that task.

Through the years, Claire saw me at my very best, but also at my very worst. A lot of church people just can’t handle seeing their pastor at his very worst. You can lose people that way. Honestly, I lost more than a few that way! I remember one summer day ten years ago that I was cleaning up paint that somebody had spilled on our church’s back concrete steps. It was a nuisance and what I’d call a “really lousy job”. At the same time, my mother was only days from death in a hospital bed. Claire walked up to me trying to engage me in a friendly conversation.

“You think I wanna have some nice little chat right now??!!!” I angrily snapped,
“I’ve gotta clean up this mess that some jerk left and my mother’s dying in the hospital! Can’t you TELL I don’t wanna chit-chat right now??!!!” I added.

The next day I apologized to Claire with my proverbial tail between my legs. To Claire it was no big deal. She just smiled and said, “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now. You never have to worry about me getting upset with you. All is forgiven.” That was not the only time I “lost it” around Claire. There were probably around five total between 1987 and 2009, but each time she responded very calmly and with forgiveness.

For around a year Claire’s right leg has been bothering her, and for the past six months she’s been walking with a cane and having a very tough time getting around. After several doctor’s visits, it’s been determined that she needs today’s hip replacement. I visited Claire last week who told me she’s very tired of just sitting around and that she can’t wait to get up and start doing things again.

I wish Claire well on the surgery today, and I’m praying for her. I’m also thankful that Claire was a wonderful support to First Assembly of God of Framingham and a wonderful friend to me, personally. This world needs more Claires!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:1-3)

Yes, it appears Jesus understood that saying, “Red sky at DAWNING, sailors take WARNING; Red sky at NIGHT, sailors delight!” long before that particular saying existed! I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on this blog that I’m quite interested in weather. I’m actually surprised to realize I’ve not written about that.
I was NOT particularly good at math or science in school, so that pretty well ruled out me going into meteorology. Had I BEEN good at math and science, it’s possible I’d have gone in that direction. My maternal grandmother was quite the amateur weather forecaster. Often she was as good or better than Boston’s famous weatherman of the 1960s, Don Kent. I’m actually fascinated by phenomena such as tornadoes. I love those “storm chaser” shows on T.V.

This may sound weird, but my daughter Rachel and I kind of enjoy a good thunderstorm. I know. How can a thunderstorm be GOOD?! Well, I really don’t want any trees to fall down or any houses to be damaged. I certainly would not want to be struck by lightning or be inside a house that was struck by lightning. But there’s just something COOL about a thunderstorm. My son Jon also gets kind of excited by the sensation of the electrical power all around in a thunderstorm. We’re fortunate in the Boston area not to have TOO many hot and humid days. Well, we usually DO have at least twenty of them in any summer season, but that’s NOTHING compared to a place like Houston, Texas or even Washington, DC. Those cities probably have at least twice as many hot and humid days per year as Boston does (well, Houston probably has THREE times as many!). Even so, hot and humid days, such as we had today are really MISERABLE. Due to trying to save money, we haven’t put the air conditioners in our living room or bedroom this year. Boy was I SPOILED sleeping in COLD A/C over the past few summers! Now, it’s like napping in a sauna, and it’s really awful. There’s such a great feeling when a POWERFUL thunderstorm rips through, and then the temperature drops by at least 25 degrees and the dew point drops from 70 to 45!

For the past couple of days, the weather forecasters had been warning of very severe thunderstorms which would hit on Thursday afternoon. This morning, they were warning of 70 mile an hour wind gusts and hail the size of quarters. In fact such VERY severe storms hit parts of Pennsylvania. By 2 p.m. the local weather people were saying 70 M.P.H. wind gusts were very unlikely, but that we could still look forward to severe thunderstorms.

In Framingham, there was NO sign of thunderstorms or inclement weather until 4:45 p.m. At that time the sky to the north and west got dark, and you could hear thunder WAY off in the distance. There were a few drops of rain. That sort of blew over. Then around 5:30 it rained moderately for about 15 minutes and you could hear rumbles of thunder in the distance. There was not much wind. Well before 6 p.m. it was all over. Honestly, Rachel and I felt very let down! The air has been gradually cooling and the humidity decreasing over the past few hours. Perhaps some places in Massachusetts DID get severe weather, but we didn’t get anything of the kind.

This reminds me of how I feel in the winter when the forecasters on all the local T.V. stations are saying that that Framingham and MetroWest areas will have a minimum of 16 inches of snow overnight. Then you watch one channel, and the forecaster adds, “But I think there’s the potential for 20 inches!” And, you flip to a competing channel and that forecaster says, “Framingham could get the jackpot with 25 inches of snow!” Those are the nights that Mary Ann goes to bed happily thinking she’ll have no school due to a “snow day”. I go to bed planning to get up early and shovel. THEN I get up at 6 p.m. look outside and there’s not even an inch of snow on the ground and the sky is clear. Those are the mornings when you turn on the T.V. and hear, “Well, the computer models were WRONG. Central Mass. got 2 inches. The Boston area got a dusting to an inch, and that’s ALL WE’RE GOING TO SEE TODAY!” Part of me wants to celebrate because I hate shoveling snow, and part of me wants to kill all weather forecasters! (Mary Ann REALLY wants to kill them on those mornings because it’s turned out that her snow day was a “snow job”!)

Yes, today is the summer version of that! Forecasts of quarter-sized hail, intense winds, frequent downpours, and lots of vivid lightning; well, they just did not happen in Framingham, and yup, Rachel and I are disappointed!


“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” (Romans 13:3-6)

I know that may be a little tough to understand in the King James Version, but it’s from Romans 13 which tells us we ought to respect and submit to government and civil authority. Now, OF COURSE there are exceptions to that! When Hitler and the Nazis ordered, “All Jews will now be rounded up!” did THAT mean Christians should obey? No. There ARE certain times when God DOES expect us to practice “civil disobedience”. But when it comes to the general idea of laws, police, taxes, etc., we ARE to obey. The above, in fact, primarily deals with the reason we need police officers.

I mention that because tonight (Thursday, June 24, 2010) at 10 p.m. Eastern time, the immediate aftermath of the April 2009 shooting of Framingham police officer Phil Hurton will be featured as one of the stories on the premier episode of ABC’s “Boston Med”. My understanding is that Boston Med will be far more of a documentary than a “reality show”. ABC spent over a year shooting footage inside several of Boston’s top hospitals, including Brigham & Women’s, Children’s, and Mass. General.

It seems like whenever something “big” happens, I’m away! When people ask me where I was during the great blizzard of 1978 I have to tell them I was in Springfield, Missouri and missed the whole thing. Out there in Springfield, Missouri, my daughter Amy experienced their catastrophic ice storm of January 2007 when much of the city had no electricity and was covered in ice for days. Well, I was up in New England and missed that. And, when Officer Hurton was shot, which was a HUGE story in Framingham, I was on my one month “sabbatical leave” in (you guessed it) Springfield, Missouri.

The shooting happened no more than a half mile from where our church facility was located. On youtube if you search for it, you can find a “Framingham Police responding” video from April 2009 which runs for several minutes. It was shot by a bystander downtown and shows a large number of marked and unmarked police cars responding to that shooting. Officer Hurton was in the hospital for several weeks. I know that some of our church people sent him get well cards, along with hundreds of others. I remember him being featured on the local PBS public affairs show, “Greater Boston” at the time he was returning to work.

We’re all happy that Officer Hurton lived, but from what I hear, when we see tonight’s program, we’ll see how CLOSE he came to death! I’ve been a resident of Framingham for over 23 years. Like most long-term residents, I’ve had several encounters with the Framingham police, most good, and some not so good. It’s easy to focus on the “not so good” ones and become critical. It’s easy to forget how much we owe “the men and women in blue”. I remember the night our church office was robbed during a church service. The police officer who responded could not have been more professional. That’s also true of several times the police responded to vandalism incidents at our property. And, one time, a robber who’d stolen a laptop computer from a downtown businessman ran to our parking lot and into the woods. Hot on his trail was a Framingham Police officer who quickly apprehended him and had him in handcuffs. It was like watching Fox TV’s “COPS” only in real life! Overall, the Framingham Police do a good job. I’ve heard Chief Carl maligned from the right for being “too soft on illegal aliens” and maligned from the left for being “too tough on public drunkenness”. In fact, I’ve sat in meetings of clergy and community leaders through the years where Chief Carl and Deputy Chiefs Ferguson and Davis have been present. These guys are not “perfect” - nobody is- but overall they’re very professional and do a great job.

Thanks Framingham police- thanks Officer Hurton. Hope many of you get a chance to watch “Boston Med” tonight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

If you’re a licensed driver in Massachusetts you should be aware that Massachusetts is very close to enacting a law that would make texting while driving illegal. From the Associated Press (June 23, 2010):

“The Massachusetts House has overwhelmingly approved a ban on texting while driving. The bill now heads to the Senate.
The legislation, approved on a 150-1 vote, would bar all Massachusetts motorists, including police, from texting behind the wheel.
The bill would also prohibit drivers under 18 from using cell phones and require drivers 75 or older to undergo vision tests every five years.”

I guess I’m fitting the profile of a 55-year-old here because I don’t text and in fact I’ve NEVER texted! I am aware that there are a fair number of people over 50 who DO text, but I think we’d all agree that the people who most actively send and receive text messages are under the age of 35- particularly teenagers. There have been a number of serious auto accidents AND FATALITIES due to text messaging. I fully support the proposed ban on text messaging while driving.

Some states have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving (New York, for instance). They DO allow “hands free” cell phones to be used while driving. I’m not sure if I also agree that all cell phone use while driving should be illegal, but I actually DON’T think I’d have much of a problem with that. You may know that Oprah Winfrey is encouraging people to pledge to not use their cell phones while driving. I can see using a cell phone while driving to report an emergency- something like that. But I think people use cell phones WAY too much while driving. Have I ever used my cell phone while driving? Honestly, yes. Even so, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.

Roughly ten years ago, our daughter Amy was hit by a car. The driver was on a cell phone and not paying attention. Fortunately, the speed was low and the injuries were not too serious. Even so, that certainly “brought things home” for us! Tests have indicated that ALL drivers who talk on cell phones while driving are distracted and have the potential to cause great harm (whether the cell phones are “hand held” or “hands free”!). Research also indicates that the people who are MOST distracted while talking on the phone and most likely to get into a dangerous situation as a result are teenagers, so Massachusetts is right on target with banning all cell phone use for drivers under 18.

Interestingly enough, the MOST controversial part of this legislation is the mandatory eye tests in person at the Registry of Motor Vehicles for all drivers age 75 and over. Currently, Massachusetts has NO special license renewal requirements for elderly drivers. It’s been loosely reported that we’re the only such state that has no elderly driver requirements and I’m not sure if that’s true or not. Several legislators have proposed mandatory road tests for all elderly drivers. One proposed road tests for age 85 and up, and that’s been “shot down” by those who fear repercussions at the ballot box from elderly drivers. SOME elderly drivers are very good drivers and would pass a test with no problems, but quite a few WOULD NOT. I think road testing all drivers age 75 and older would be a very good idea.

Several years ago, Massachusetts got into this thinking of “just renew your license on-line”. That meant a digital photo which can be used over again when you renew. It also meant changing the vision test requirement to ever OTHER renewal. I think that’s INSANE ...whether you’re 75 or 45, for that matter! I think for every license renewal you should have to, at the very least, go to the Registry and pass an eye test.

Anyway, the laws regarding what you are and are not allowed to do while driving will likely be changing soon in Massachusetts. I’m glad the state legislature is a driving force, moving in the right direction on this one.

Monday, June 21, 2010


“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name...” (from Hebrews 6:10)

Today, I was not assigned to work at the telephone answering service at all. I suppose that to many of you what I did with a substantial portion of this day’s free time may seem really weird. This morning, I went over to the “old” church property at South and Taylor Streets, Framingham, and “mowed the weeds” down with a lawn mower and an electric weedwhacker. I know I wrote a piece some weeks ago about “Letting Go” and this may SEEM like a contradiction of that piece, but I honestly don’t think it is a contradiction.

Every time I go over to that former church property, it’s a bit surreal. I remember so many days of going inside that building during my pastorate when I’d say the phone would be “ringing off the hook”. There were constant phone calls and phone messages. I’d also check my e-mail and the church e-mail several times a day. There was always all sorts of “stuff” to do there- not only inside the building, but outside on the property! When the church had first bought that property back in 1994, one of my Board members made the comment, “Isn’t it great that it’s just a concrete and brick building and a parking lot...there’s NO lawn to mow!!”

Well, we quickly found out that along the periphery of the paved lot and in the area of the overflow dirt lot are all sorts of wild grasses and weeds. To use one of my late father’s expressions, the stuff would grow up, “like nobody’s business”! We had bamboo plants which could grow up and out as much as 2 or 3 feet a week! And there were all sorts of weeds and plants...some of which would grow 6 feet tall in a growing season if not cut down. When all the “growth” would be just let go, the property looked neglected and frankly looked horrible. There also was always a littering problem there. Honestly, it was WORSE ten or fifteen years ago...the litter is not quite as bad as it used to be, but there is still a fair amount of litter that will accumulate over a few weeks if nobody picks it up.

I got in the habit of bringing a lawn mower or weekwhacker over to the chuirch property at least once a month during the warm weather months and trying to cut down much of the well as pouring vinegar on weeds that would grow through cracks in the parking lot.

No, I’m not the pastor there any more. Yes, the Southern New England District of the Assemblies of God has the property up for sale. There’s a prominent Coldwell Banker real estate sign at the front of the building. It’s maybe hard for anybody to understand, but for me (until that property is sold) that place is still “holy ground”. As long as Christians and ministry-related people own it, I think it behooves us to make sure it looks “decent” and “taken care of”.

Once the church was closed and I was no longer pastor, there were both family and friends who told me, “Don’t YOU go over there painting out graffiti on the building, or dealing with broken windows, or picking up the parking lot or anything like that. Let the people who made the decision to shut the church down take care of that stuff!”

You know, for a week or two back in March I was saying, “Yeah, you’re RIGHT! Let THEM take care of it! It shouldn’t be MY problem!”

Well, I’ve found that’s easier said than done. As strange as this may sound to some of you, I thoroughly enjoyed my working at the 32 South Street property today. I felt good. I felt happy. It felt good to see the fruit of my labor. It did not feel like an imposition or an inconvenience. It actually felt like a blessing and was something I enjoyed doing.

You know, I just can’t drive by that place, see it looking neglected, and not do something about it. I’d honestly LOVE to paint the parking lot lines, too. The church actually HAS a parking lot “striper” and still has a few cans of the white paint. I always did a lousy job with that, and I used to have Bill Lincoln, a guy in the church do that. It needs to be done again, but I don’t want to ask Bill. Maybe he’d think I was nuts!

Well, am I nuts? Am I a nerd? Should I divorce myself from any concerns about that property? To me, it’s something I did for the property of what once was our church home and for the people who used to worship there, something I did for the Assemblies of God, and most of all something I did for God - a labor of love.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


“And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” I Samuel 18:7

There are 2 Sauls that I know of in the Bible: King Saul, the first King of Israel in the Old Testament, and Saul of Tarsus who is also known as “Saint Paul” or “The Apostle Paul”. My posting refers to King Saul, but I couldn’t resist lifting the title from a piece by one of the priests at St.Stephen’s Catholic Church in downtown Framingham. Fr. Bert Stankard actually wrote a play about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus entitled “Good Saul”. I just couldn’t resist stealing his title and applying it to King Saul of the Old Testament.

NOW, to why I’m writing about King Saul, of all people:

As much as I'm missing pastoring right now, Mary Ann and I are really enjoying attending Bread of Life Assembly of God in Westminster, MA. This morning, they managed to pack a water baptism service, communion service, and great Father's Day sermon all into one service. Pastor Gary Collette presented a POSITIVE view of Saul of the Old Testament that I'd never thought of before. Pastor Gary does not dispute that Saul IS a picture of the flesh and that in many respects he failed miserably. Usually we hear sermons and Sunday School classes about what a bad guy King Saul was and what a good guy his successor King David was. (I’ve taught that many times, myself!) BUT, Pastor Gary pointed out that Saul was a GOOD father. For the most part, David was NOT. David was a womanizer. Saul was not. Saul may have slain his thousands, and not ten thousands- like David, but he WAS a brave soldier. His sons were right at his side fighting with him at the end. Pastor Gary pointed out that we can get very discouraged about our ability to be good fathers...and ALL fathers will fall short...but if SAUL could be a good father, there's hope for Christian men who WANT to be good fathers, to BE good fathers.

That was a different take than I'd ever heard! I really got fed today.

I will always remember that one of our church family in Framingham, Rachel Bangs, a retired professor from Framingham State (who passed away in her late 90s in 2007) used to say that there were many “nuggets” in the Bible that you have to “dig” for. That positive thing about King Saul was such a “nugget”. I’d never thought about it before, or even remotely considered it, for that matter. It was a “different” sort of Father’s Day sermon from Gary Collette today, and I just thought I would mention it on the blog!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


“...thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” (from Psalm 128:3)

Well, this weekend is Father’s Day weekend. My own parents had sort of mixed emotions about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They noticed that many people paid all sorts of attention to their parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but tended to ignore their parents for the rest of the year. Even so, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having special days to honor fathers and mothers.

I can’t believe I have three kids who are over the age of 21, nor can I believe that I’m 55. This 55-year-old guy with a mostly white mustache and increasingly “salt and pepper” hair looks back at me through the mirror. I honestly want to ask, “Who IS that guy?” Inside, I still think of myself as around 32!

I want to say that on this Father’s Day weekend, I’m thankful for my kids. No, they’re not perfect. From time to time someone will verbally remind me of that. Interestingly enough, I’ve found that 98% of those who’ve criticized my kids or my parenting do NOT have kids of their own! (Frankly, I think people who don’t have kids and want to criticize the foibles of those who do, may want to consider keeping those thoughts to themselves.) Despite their faults, and despite MY faults, I am thankful for my kids.

In general, my kids did not “make out” materially in life. I remember that somewhere around 4th Grade, my daughter Amy asked me why she and her friend Brittany were the only kids in the class whose families had not been to Disney World. I answered her honestly, “Because our family and Brittany’s family are the POOREST!” Yeah, we didn’t have a lot materially, and we still don’t. I feel bad that my kids will not inherit some huge estate someday. But there’s a lot we DO have. Today, each of my kids is a committed Christian, and that means a lot to me.

Rachel arrived home last evening; driving in from Springfield, Missouri. I’ve got to tell you, I was SO apprehensive about that trip! As a teenager, Rachel couldn’t seem to drive from Framingham to Ashland without getting lost. Her friend Caitlin was going to go with her to Missouri but had to back out at the last minute. When Rachel left on the morning of June 8, that was a tough one for me. There she was, a 23-year-old female in an old car with high mileage driving by herself halfway across the country. Well, I did a lot of praying! I was very relieved when I got the call she’d arrived there, and for me it was a great Father’s Day present just having her arrive home safe yesterday. Rachel was a very whiney, babyish little kid, but today she’s an amazingly talented actress and artist.
In fact, she’s also a very good interior and exterior painter although she doesn’t want to do that for a career. When Rachel paints a room, it’s a first-class professional job. Not only has Marian High School used her as a painter, but so has my sister, and all can attest to her outstanding work.

Amy’s a pediatric nurse. Amy was always a very caring and unique kid. I remember going to her 2nd Grade class play. Amy was making sure all the parents had seats and that all the kids knew their parts, etc. I know that a kid doing that stuff COULD come across as a “real snot”, but it was obvious that the kids all knew Amy was being Amy...really caring that they all did well. Amy’s our go-getter and high achiever. At Marian High, she was named one of the Christa McAuliffe scholars, that is, a student who exemplified the attitude and persona of the late teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe (a Marian High grad).

A lot of people don’t “get” Jon. Jon is different. I’m one of those who most “gets” Jon because all my life I’ve been “different” too. Where Jon and I are NOT alike is he’s got a much higher I.Q. than I do, and he writes better than most journalists and professional authors do. Jon’s very opinionated. One thing he’s not: he’s not phony. That sometimes gets him in a lot of trouble, but it’s hard for me to criticize someone who’s not phony. Despite that side of Jon, he does have a very sensitive side. I don’t know where life will take him, but I hope and pray he’ll be able to use his talents and gifts and make a positive mark in this world.

My own father died in early June of 2000. I remember visiting his new grave on Father’s Day 2000. Dad had been an amateur pilot and back in the ‘50s he used fly a biplane towing a sign over beaches, etc. THAT Father’s Day in 2000 as I stood at his grave, I heard the sound of a small plane flying overhead. I looked to the sky and it was a plane towing a sign. It was almost like it was some kind of a “sign” to me, and it was kind of emotional for me. It was also kind of emotional for me to write this Father’s Day piece.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (I Corinthians 15:58)

I have not been in the habit of posting sermon outlines or sermon highlights on my blog, but this is the gist of the sermon I preached at our church yesterday morning. I hope you like it!

"Lessons I Learned From Sam" is about a DOG. I'm really not a "dog person" at all, but I have to say I really enjoyed my daughter Amy and son-in-law David's young Jack Russell Terrier "Sam" while I was staying with them in Springfield, Missouri.

What are the lessons I learned from Sam?

(Please read John 15:1-10).
Sam is 18-months-old. Amy and David have had Sam since last August. Like most Jack Russell Terriers, he's full of energy, very fast, but is unwise! David had left the door of their two car garage open, and Sam ran through it and began running as fast as he could through the neighborhood. Amy was frantically chasing him but could not keep up. Sam ran across Chestnut Expressway (a similar road to Route 9 in Framingham) and it's a miracle he was not killed; but then Amy lost him. She sadly walked through the area but thought he was gone for good. A man in a pickup truck pulled up and asked, "Are you looking for a lost dog?" It seems Sam was at a local gas station/convenience store frantically jumping at their glass door. The guy drove Amy to the place; Amy leaped out of the truck yelling, "Grab that puppy!" When Sam got home he was put into his cage for quite awhile!
As Sam needed to stick close to his master, Amy; WE need to stick close to our Master, Jesus. When we DON'T, we put ourselves in spiritual peril! (See also the Parable of the Ten Virgins from Matthew 25:1-23).

(Please read Luke 11:27-28 and James 1:22).
"The Master's Directions" are found in the Bible! We must not only thoroughly read our Bibles, we must DO what the Bible says to do! I found that when I taught Sam firm commands, his behavior got better. When I'd try to put dry good in his bowl, his nose and mouth would be all over my hand. I quickly learned to say, "NO, Back up! Back up!" I got Sam to the point that he WOULD back up and let me easily put food in his bowl. When Sam wanted to go out into the back yard, he'd jump and jump at the back door and door handle. I learned to say, "NO, Get Down!" THEN, I'd open the door. Amy's yard has a chain link fence and a gate connecting the front and back yards. Sam loves to try to bolt out when the gate is being opened. I would firmly command, "Stay back! Stay back!" and he quickly learned to do that.
Like Sam, WE need to follow our Lord's directions and commands. Last week, I heard radio teacher John DeBrine say that our trust should not be in ORGANIZATION, our trust should not be in EDUCATION, our trust should not be in ELOQUENCE, but our trust SHOULD be in the Holy following the Holy Spirit's directions. Amen to that!

(Please read the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30).
Sam's original owner was an old lady who really couldn't take proper care of him. When Amy and David got Sam he was very fat! She fed and fed him, and he got little exercise. The vet told them Sam was obese and needed proper diet and exercise. Today, Sam is at his correct weight and very active. It's hard to believe he was ever fat. Sadly, many Christians become spiritually fat and lazy. Over thirty years ago, Amy Grant sang about that in her cute song, "Fat Baby". James 1:22 says we must be "doers of the Word and not hearers only". In the American Assemblies of God, the number of Sunday Schools and other means of discipleship is SHRINKING. People want to "get saved" and then just sit in pews and take up space. That is NOT God's way. He calls us to actively minister for Him; whoever we are.

(Please read Please read Philippians 2:1-11 and Mark 10:45).
Sam had one particular bone he loved to chew and gnaw on. Amy hated when he jumped up on one of her sofas with that bone, and when he did she'd yell at him to get down. One Friday evening, I was laying on the sofa watching T.V. Sam had jumped up on the other end of the sofa with the bone. Amy yelled at him to get down. He suddenly jumped hard onto the other end of the sofa with one of his paws landing HARD on my ear. It felt like getting whacked in the head with a hammer! When Sam got off the couch, my ear had a gash in it and was bleeding. Needless to say, Amy put Sam in his cage for a good long while, and I was glad she was a nurse! She thoroughly cleaned the wound with peroxide and I had to hold a paper towel on it for about a half hour. Sam was selfish. All he cared about was his bone and what he wanted to do. Many Christians are very selfish. They care ONLY about what's good for them and have no sensitivity for others or concern for others. JESUS came to love and serve. WE are called to be be like Jesus.

(Please read John 10:10).
There were several wild bunnies running around Amy's neighborhood. When Sam would see one of them, he'd go crazy! He'd run after one of the bunnies as fast as he could, but the rabbits would slip under the fence and get away. A couple of weeks ago, Amy and David came home from church on Sunday to find a present on the floor of the living room: a dead bunny! You guessed it; that incident also landed Sam in his cage. Amy said the rabbit did NOT appear to be fresh killed. Rather, she thinks Sam killed it and hid it for awhile. Somehow he snuck it in the house on that Sunday morning before we left, and brought it out to play with it when no one was home. Yuck! Would you like to run around with a dead bunny in your mouth?! The Bible says in John 1:4 as well as many other passages that Jesus came to bring us life, but so often we, like Sam, seek death. We go after things that are no good for us and will ultimately lead to eternal death in Hell. Let's seek the Lord and His Word...let's seek what brings life and not death!

(Please read Mark 13:32-37).
We are called to be alert and watchful during the last days. I found it humorous that quite often, Sam was NOT particularly alert. One Saturday evening, we had a cookout and party in Amy's backyard. Sam was running around trying to beg for food from people, but there was a hunk of a hot dog on the ground right in front of him. We tried and tried to show him the hot dog. It seemed to take him forever to finally discover it! Sam did a lot of things like that! After many years of ministry, I've seen SO many situations where God was trying to get someone's attention about something and they were absolutely CLUELESS! Let's not be like Sam. Spiritually speaking, let's really be alert to what the Lord is wanting to show us!

(Please read 2 Timothy 1:7 and I Peter 5:5-8).
On the early morning of Friday, May 8, Sam was whimpering and sticking very close to me. Outside it was dark and rainy. Little did I realize that in a few moments, tornadoes would touch down in the Springfield, Missouri area and the tornado warning sirens would begin to sound. It's said that animals can sense danger before humans can, and I think that's often true. It may explain his behavior that morning. I went to the safest place in that house and coaxed Sam to do the same. So many times in life, we get fearful and confused. When we try to only follow our OWN thoughts and opinions, we may well end up with a lot more confusion and a lot more fear. In a sense, Sam had to trust and obey me during that tornado warning. So, GOD wants us to trust and obey Him through the difficulties of life.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.” (I Samuel 4:21-22)

In Biblical times, especially in Old Testament times, names had GREAT meaning and significance. Imagine being named “Ichabod”! I’m glad I WASN’T. In I Samuel chapter Phinehas’ wife was SO distraught by the deaths of her husband and father-in-law and by the victory of the Philistines, that she named her newborn son “The glory is departed”, that is, “Ichabod”! Just about everybody in the Old Testament got a name of some significance.

I’ve written before that I have to be very careful to NOT reveal any medical information about anyone from whom I take a phone call on my telephone answering service job, nor any trade secrets of the company with which I’m employed. I DON’T think this piece violates any of that. Among the interesting thing that happens is the NAMES people turn out to have! One of my coworkers today took a call from a person whose first name was “The”. Today I took a call from a young woman. I asked for her name and she quickly stated her first and last name. I was sure I COULDN’T have heard what I THOUGHT I’d heard, so I asked her to slowly spell her name. Her first name was spelled:



I guess this was very unprofessional, but I just couldn’t help myself. “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but you mean like PEBBLES FLINTSTONE ?!”
I asked.

“Yes, I get that all the time,” she said.

She had a Hispanic last name and was very nice.

“Pebbles”. I guess her parents really liked The Flintstones, but it DOES make you wonder what some parents are thinking when they name their kids.

“Pebbles?” “The?”

I can’t help but wonder, is anybody else in America named Pebbles, or is she the only one?

Finally, another experience I had a few days ago was taking a female patient’s information from a medical professional. “Could you spell the last name?” I asked. And the answer came,


“Baril”. The caller did NOT pronounce it “barrel”, she pronounced it correctly, as "berr - ILL" .

“Believe it or not, that’s MY last name,” I told the medical professional on the phone who was understandably surprised. Baril is an extremely uncommon last name in the U.S.A. I think less than 800 American households have that last name in our country.

Well, you read this blog so you know a “Baril” in one way or another, but does anybody else know a “Pebbles” or a “The” for that matter?!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22 New International Version)

I just came home from picking up a few items at the Stop & Shop supermarket on Old Connecticut Path in Framingham. One of the shoppers in front of me in the checkout line asked for her bags to be “paper in plastic”. I was surprised that the checker told her Stop & Shop does NOT use paper bags anymore. I know that up until very recently they WERE using paper bags, so that WAS a surprise. At Market Basket, where Mary Ann and I did a “major” shopping trip last night, they still offer paper and plastic bags. I’m usually fine with plastic, but I like to get a few paper bags to use for recycling.

I guess I’m behind the times on that, too. When Framingham started curbside recycling somewhere around 1991, each household was given a blue plastic container box. We were instructed to sort our newspapers, plastics, and metals, and to put them in various paper (not plastic) bags. I have tended to continue that practice, although I guess for at least 7 years, it’s no longer been necessary to sort the recyclables. You just put them all in the blue bin (or larger yellow container) and they pick them up. If you’re a Framingham resident, you probably know that in around 3-4 weeks, recycling will drastically change here. We’re all being given 96-gallon containers on wheels for recycling that will go out every OTHER week, and a “robot” truck will automatically pick up each container, dump them, and place them back on the ground! Again, the paper bag sorting is no longer necessary.

Today, supermarkets are encouraging the use of those reusable CANVAS bags. We haven’t started with those yet. There’s a lot of good to using them, BUT they can collect bacteria and therefore need to be periodically washed in your washing machine.

While I mostly pay cash at supermarkets, when I don’t have cash on hand, I’m one of those who likes to write a check rather than use a debit card. If your checking account is “iffy”, the check won’t clear for a day or two, whereas the debit card goes through immediately. Now, I can still write checks at Market Basket (with a Market Basket card and my driver’s license). However, I’ve noticed that writing a check at Stop & Shop does you no good as far as keeping the sum from “hitting” the checking account for a day or two. At Stop & Shop they put the check through electronically JUST AS IF IT WAS A DEBIT CARD and then hand your actual written check back to you!

My, it’s sure a different world than it was twenty or thirty years ago! In many ways, as the pop song says, I’m “stuck in 1985”! I recently heard a secular talk show host say he thinks it would be a great idea for all of us to get identity chips implanted into each of us for a myriad of reasons. It’s understandable WHY this WILL eventually happen- but keep in mind it’s also PROBABLY “The Mark of the Beast” from the Book of Revelation.

Finally, if you live in the south or midwest, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about when I say a “bag”. In most of the south and midwest, a paper or plastic “bag” is called a paper or plastic “sack”!


“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58)

This morning for my devotional reading, I read I Corinthians 15. It’s one of the great Resurrection chapters of the Bible, along with the Easter passages from the four gospels. I’ve preached from I Corinthians 15 on several Easter Sundays, and I’ve read the last part of the chapter at a number of graveside committal services.
It’s interesting that I read I Corinthians 15 today, because today marks exactly ten years since the death of my father. Yes, I am a very “dates oriented” guy. I get that from my mother. She pretty much knew the significance of every day. A devout Catholic, it was not unusual for her to begin the day announcing something like, “Oh, today is the feast of saint” or “Today is December the 7th- the day they bombed Pearl Harbor” - that sort of thing. I’m the same way. At the answering service where I work, we all notice that when a call comes in for a pediatric practice, the moms always know the kids’ birthdays. When you ask a father for the child’s date of birth, you get, “Oh..uh... well this is embarrassing...I think it’s June...”. Well, I was never that kind of father. And, I will always remember that June 9, 2000 is the day my father “slipped away,” to borrow the title of Avril Lavigne’s song about her grandfather’s death.

Dad was in a nursing home on an Alzheimer’s Unit for the final nine months of his life. He died on a Friday. I remember that on the previous Sunday, we had visited with him. We’d wheeled him outdoors because it was a nice day. His friend Tony brought him a shake (well, in Boston, we call milk shakes “frappes”, so it really was a “frappe”!). Dad loved frappes...even as he deteriorated, he loved frappes, but on that Sunday he hardly drank any of it, and even for an Alzheimer’s patient he was PARTICULARLY “out of it”. Yes, the end was coming near. On Thursday morning, June 8, my mother called me and said the nursing home had said Dad was near death. I had to do some fancy rearranging of my schedule, but I went and spent the day at the nursing home. Dad had survived SO much- bleeding ulcers, massive nosebleeds, a massive stroke, some mini strokes, and various heart problems including open heart surgery. Many people think he died of Alzheimer’s Disease, but he actually died of gall bladder cancer which is VERY rare. He died very peacefully. He had been at my maternal grandmother’s bedside in 1977 when she died and described the experience as “like a candle going out”. Well, on Friday, June 9, 2000 at 3:35 p.m. the candle went out. It was hard to believe this guy who’d had such a DOMINANT and authoritarian personality had been reduced to being on the level of a very small child in a nursing home requiring 24 hour care. The Sunday afternoon in November of 1999 that he received Jesus Christ as His Personal Lord and Savior with me was on the level of a very little kid in a preschool Sunday School class asking Jesus into his heart. And, eight months later, when the time came, he was ready to go.

As many of you know, 2010 for me has been quite a year of personal upheavals and a lot of taking of personal inventory. It’s not been easy or fun. But on this day, I pause and I remember; I remember that there’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. I remember what’s REALLY important. I remember that even if I’m in the lowliest of states when the time comes that I pass away, I will go to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (see Psalm 23).