Wednesday, October 13, 2010


“His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” (John 2:5)

That quote comes from what Jesus’ mother instructed the servants to do at the wedding in Cana when they had run out of wine. Most readers will recall that became Jesus’ first official miracle: turning the water in six large stone waterpots into wine. That quote was also spoken to me as advice by a man of God about four months ago. It was at a special Assemblies of God meeting for ministers and their spouses. Each ministry couple was specially prayed over. One of our “denominational” leaders prayed over me- I honestly don’t remember much of his prayer. But when he was through, our District Superintendent (like a “Bishop” in most denominations) Bob Wise looked at me and just said, “I don’t exactly know what this means, but Whatever He tells you to do, do it.”

That quote reminds me of something a woman who used to attend our church in Framingham often would say. I don’t have her permission to quote her here, so I’m going to give her a made up name and call her Robin Lyons. Robin Lyons used to say, “If Christians would just ASK God what He wants them to do, and then DO it, it would solve 90% of the problems in churches.” I used to repeat that a lot in my preaching. Some folks would get upset when I did because Robin left the church and didn’t always follow her own advice. They’d ask me how I’d dare to keep quoting her in sermons, and I replied that she was human and had made some mistakes, but that her statement was indeed a true statement that we would all do well to ponder.

Some people become both frightened and skeptical about people “doing what God tells them to do.” There have been a lot of abuses of this. Did God really tell that Pastor Jones in Florida several weeks ago to burn the Koran? As I have reflected on that one, it’s pretty obvious that God DIDN’T tell him to do that, and the whole affair made him and even some Christians look very foolish. Former President George W. Bush supposedly said God told him to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Was THAT really God? Truly, it’s hard to say. There have been many benefits of America invading Iraq and there have also been many horrible consequences of it. I think historians will have to decide this one over the next few decades. We are still too close to the event to properly pronounce judgment upon it. The Islamic extremists who flew planes into buildings on that terrible day in 2001 believed with all their hearts that God told them to do it. I don’t believe God told them to do that!

It IS risky to write a very short piece about doing what God tells you to do, because it’s SUCH a controversial topic! In order to do it justice, someone would have to write at least a two hundred page book exploring the topic and maybe I’ll do that sometime, or maybe my writer son and I will do that as a project together sometime. I have already admitted “God told me” can be abused. “God” has been blamed for sexual affairs and sexual perversions; some have said things like, “God told me to become a stripper,” or “God told me to rob that bank,” or “God told me to grow a bunch of ‘weed’,” ... things like that. I just don’t have the room to properly discuss these matters, but simply put, God is NOT going to do something that will violate His holy written Word in the Bible. To keep it simple, think of the Ten Commandments. (If you don’t know where they’re located, it’s Exodus chapter 20.) If what you THINK God is telling you to do violates any of the Ten Commandments in any way, then God is NOT telling you to do that thing!

In I Kings 19:12, God speaks to the Prophet Elijah, NOT in some great dramatic way, but in a “still, small voice”. This is frequently how God speaks to us. It’s hard to explain but the late Oral Roberts used to say about God speaking to him, “I know that I know that I know that I know...” It’s really tough to explain, but you just KNOW. Again, when it’s God it will NOT violate the Bible in any way, shape, or form. And, if it’s of God, ultimately it will be proven true and there will be “fruit” from it. (We may or may not see and understand this “fruit” in this life, however.)

Many years ago, I received a phone call in my office from a young woman who was actively attending our church. The death of actor Michael Landon had been announced in the news. She was very troubled. I’ll call her “Priscilla”. Priscilla told me God had instructed her to write a letter to Michael Landon. This was back before we were sending e-mails. She worked her heart out on the letter, praying her way through composing it. Her “unsaved” husband made fun of her for sending it. She dropped it in the mail and less than twenty-four hours later, the news of Landon’s death came. Priscilla knew Michael Landon couldn’t possible have seen the letter. I told her SOMEONE would read the letter...that maybe God had not actually intended it for Michael Landon, but that He did want her to write it. It could STILL have great impact. I prayed with her, and that greatly encouraged her. One of the most exciting things I’ve done in ministry was to be a two-hour in-studio guest with David Brudnoy on WBZ radio in 1989. Several years ago, the evening news reported that David Brudnoy was in Mass. General Hospital very close to death. I was deeply moved. I just could not shake the feeling that God wanted me to go in there and spend a couple of minutes praying for David Brudnoy. I took public transportation into Mass. General, praying all the way. In the lobby, I “bumped into” a man and his wife who turned out to be relatives of David Brudnoy visiting from out-of-state. I spoke to them for awhile, and they assured me that they’d get me in to see David. I was elated. Surely God had led me to this couple. The desk attendant called up to David Brudnoy’s room and permission was given for the couple to go up there. The relatives assured me they’d tell David about me, and that word would be given for me to go up. The desk attendant was quite skeptical. He told me no matter WHAT they’d said I was not going up there. Quite awhile went by. I asked the attendant to call up to David Brudnoy’s room and ask if I could go up. He did call and the response was NO. I went through an experience very much like Priscilla did about Michael Landon. I numbly walked back to the subway red line and headed home. I will not fully understand that experience until I’m in heaven, but I still have no doubt that God told me to go into Mass. General and that He had me meet and speak to David Brudnoy’s relatives.

This stuff of doing what God tells you to do can get rough. On a previous occasion I wrote on my blog about Mother Teresa. When God called her to Calcutta she was a young nun in eastern Europe. She was a schoolteacher. “Sister Teresa” tried and tried to get permission from the priest who was over her to follow God’s call. Again and again and again, the priest said “NO”. Teresa was very persistent. After nearly driving the priest crazy, he reluctantly said “yes”. But THEN she had to get permission from the Bishop and the whole thing started all over again! It was a difficult path for her to finally get to Calcutta. I was thinking about that this morning as I raked leaves. I wondered if after the first or second rejection, I would have just sadly given up. I think most people WOULD have. That persistence in the face of hierarchical authorities can certainly be one of the most difficult aspects of obeying God.

In the Book of Acts, Jewish scholar Gamaliel gave some good advice to the religious leaders who were solidly opposed to the Christian apostles. He told them if what they were peddling was not of God it would all fizzle out anyway but that if it WAS from God, they’d never be able to stop it. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

My friend the Rev. Dick Germaine tries to begin every day asking Jesus to be Lord of His day...that he would walk in God’s will for that day. Of course, we all have problems, and so does Dick. Dick loves gadgets and gets frustrated when they malfunction. Dick also has some serious medical challenges which would cause many folks to get discouraged. Yes, he has his problems like everybody else, but he’s found that committing his days to the Lord has made a positive difference in his life. I’ve also tried following Dick’s advice, and I can testify that committing your day to the Lord IS very helpful.

What if Christians really DID listen to the Lord and really DID do what God told them to do, even if that was difficult? That’s something I want to challenge you with! “Robin Lyons” is correct! It would make a huge positive difference in our churches and in our society.

So, God what do you want me to do?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

One of my father’s frequent sayings was, “Where does the time go?”
I didn’t really get that one when I was younger. Now, I understand it very well!

My mother used to quote a line from HER father, J. Philip Richard who died in 1960 at the age of 77. He used to say, “It seemed like all my life, every time I wanted to do something, I would be told, ‘you’re TOO YOUNG!’ But suddenly, after years of being told, ‘you’re TOO YOUNG!’ I found myself being told ‘you’re TOO OLD!’.”

I’ve also come to appreciate that one, too. I guess it’s my graying hair that makes me look even older than the age 56 that I am. Sunday during the church service, a retired guy asked me, “How do you LIKE being RETIRED?!” I guess he thought I was at least 65! I replied that I don’t plan to be retired for at least ten years. Well, the FINANCIAL reality is: there’s no way I will be able to afford to be retired for at least twenty years! It seems like yesterday that I was the parent of three preschoolers and looking forward to my “prime” years of life and ministry. It really does seem like yesterday.

Brittany’s getting married on Saturday. When our family moved into Framingham and I began pastoring First Assembly of God of Framingham, Brittany was one of the first little kids I remember meeting. It was kind of easy to remember the Shaws’ names because there were only three of them and their names all started with “B”- Bill, Bernadette, and Brittany. I can still see myself meeting very thin and brunette Bernadette Shaw as she carried her very happy blonde 18-month-old named Brittany. Brittany was only three weeks younger than our Amy. There was a group of kids who were all about the same age who grew up together at First Assembly of God. Amy and Brittany played with dolls and coloring books and other stuff. It seemed very quick that they were in Kindergarten together at New Covenant Christian School. I can still hear Mrs. Higgins on parents’ night instructing us to send our kids to school with “healthy snacks” (something that’s not particularly easy to do!). Then the pages of life turned and the kids were in middle school. That was around the time each of my elderly parents were very ill, and I was stretched and stressed between pastoring, trying to help my parents, and trying to parent kids in their early teens.

Amy and Brittany each went to Marian High School. Amy got involved in drama and Brittany got involved in Amnesty International. Each of the girls were very mature and high achievers. Both Amy and Brittany graduated among the top ten kids in their class. I think one was number 7 and one was number 8 and I honestly don’t know which was which. Both were leaders and in National Honor Society. It’s not REAL common today, but some people DO meet their life partner in high school. That was the case with Brittany. I don’t know if it was Sophomore or Junior year that she started dating Matt Supple.

Matt went on to the Citadel in South Carolina and into the Marine Corps. Like many little girls, Amy and Brittany dreamed of their wedding days when they’d be “the bride”. As little girls, they promised to be in each other’s weddings. Brittany was one of the bridesmaids and Amy’s wedding in Missouri two years ago, and Amy is flying into town to attend Brittany’s wedding this coming weekend. Each of these girls is a “class act”- Amy a pediatric nurse and Brittany a high school teacher. In fact, Brit became a high school history teacher, and that’s that I originally prepared to do “many moons” ago.

Yes, now I’m thinking of the sayings of my father and grandfather! It seems incredible that all these years went by SO fast! Kids grow up!

Friday, October 8, 2010


“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

NOTE: When I started the blog (originally on AOL Journals in early 2006) at least half of my postings were about totally secular topics and interests of mine. Through the years I received quite a bit of feedback that “a pastor’s blog should only be spiritual and inspirational” and “your blog should be like Pastor So-In-So’s"). Thus, especially over the past two years I’ve tried to make most of my postings “spiritual and inspirational”. The reality is, however, that pastors and other clergy do not strictly deal with spiritual and religious topics all the time. We have interests and hobbies like everyone else. Most of us like to “let our hair down” and talk politics or sports, or entertainment from time to time. I don’t have one-tenth the mechanical ability that my late brother did, but I’m one that’s always noticed automobiles and trends in the automotive industry. So, this piece may disappoint some, but it’s strictly a secular piece about cars!

I’ve recently learned of two items of “car news” that some of you may find interesting. Both of these items have to do with the Ford Motor Company. The first piece will not come as a shock to most people as it’s been hinted at for almost ten years. The Mercury brand has ended with the production of the 2010 models. Mercury began back in 1939. In the early days, it was very difficult to tell a Mercury from a Ford. Really, the early Mercurys were just kind of super deluxe Fords. In later years, especially in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, many large Mercury cars looked like cheaper versions of Lincolns. Mercury never seemed to find its OWN niche and look...the cars were almost always very fancy Fords or thrifty and affordable Lincolns.

Henry Ford the First did NOT like the Mercury. In fact, he didn’t like Lincoln for that matter! If you know much about the history of the Ford family and the Ford Motor Company, you know that Henry the First and his son Edsel were very different people. Edsel, along with a number of other Ford executives, believed Ford should be structured much more like General Motors and Chrysler, offering a wide variety of makes for various economic and demographic groups. Henry the First thought they should build Fords, PERIOD! The Lincoln brand was purchased in the 1920s as a luxury alternative to Cadillac and Packard. The Mercury was intended to attract “medium priced” buyers away from makes like Oldsmobile and DeSoto. Poor Edsel could never seem to really please his Dad, nor to bridge the gap between his father and key Ford executives. The stress got to him, and he died of cancer as a relatively young man. Ironically, the Edsel car named for him was meant to compete with Pontiac and be an in-between make between Ford and Mercury. Of course, it was a total disaster.

Mercury built some really pretty and cool cars through the years. The 1967 Cougar is a truly beautiful automobile. The Mercury cars of the middle 1950s were powerhouses and had pretty impressive styling. In more recent years, the Grand Marquis has been very popular with elderly drivers. But sales of the make have been badly sliding. Mercury was discontinued in Canada over ten years ago, and has has SUCH poor sales over the past two years that pulling the plug is not much of a surprise, but it IS the end of an era.

For serious auto buffs and historians, as well as POLICE squad car buffs (and believe me, they DO exist) the end of the 2010 model year is also a huge milestone as this is the END of the Ford Crown Victoria. The Ford Crown Victoria has been the most popular police squad car for almost fifteen years, and was one of the most popular for many years before that. The Ford Crown Victoria is also part of a continued production of a car that began with the Model T in 1908 and was retooled, redesigned, and renamed many times over the years but was always the SAME car in newer and more up-to-date forms. The Model T became the Model A and then the Ford Deluxe and later the Customline and Fairlane and Galaxie and LTD but it was always the same continuous line. As of 2010 that line ends after 102 years.

The latest full-sized rear-wheel-drive Ford was introduced as a 1979 model. Chevrolet Impalas and Caprices had been completely redesigned and downsized for 1977 and in comparison the big Fords looked BIG and awkward and old and dated. The ‘79 was a fresh smart new downsized look. As was frequently the case, the Fords never looked QUITE as smartly styled as the Chevrolets but they were REAL close. The ‘79 look was slightly restyled for 1988 and then had a major restyling for 1992 and another for 1998 but this was always pretty much the same car with cosmetic changes. By the 1990s, sales of full-sized Fords and Chevys were on the decline and Chevy Luminas and Ford Tauruses were selling like hotcakes. Chevy “canned” their full-sized cars in the mid-1990s. but brought out an all new front-wheel-drive Impala for 2000 that has continued to be a big seller. The Ford Crown Vic was looking older and older, and typically was appealing to an older and older crowd. Face it, except for the police cars and taxicabs, the typical Crown Vic driver vividly remembered December 7, 1941! In the mid-2000s Ford made a bold move and introduced a new full-sized front-wheel-drive Ford to compete with the Chevy Impala: the Ford Five-Hundred. Somehow I think that if they’d have called it the Galaxie 500 it might have sold a little better. (I also think Chrysler should have offered a Plymouth version of the Dodge Intrepid and called it the Plymouth Fury, but that’s for another day.) The Five-Hundred was a great car, but they couldn’t seem to GIVE them away! It wasn’t that Crown Victorias were selling all that much better, but the name was a dud. By the late 2000s, Ford had (stupidly, in my opinion) discontinued the mid-sized Taurus. Somebody at Ford decided to rename the Five-Hundred the Taurus. The new car was nothing like the earlier Taurus, but the name change was a HUGE success! After the 2007 model year, Ford dropped the “civilian” Crown Victoria entirely. Now, it was only available as the Police Interceptor and sold to fleet buyers only as police squad cars or as taxicabs. Of course, 2008-2010 former Ford police cars are available on the used car market...usually with new paint jobs!

The police version Crown Vic has a different grille from the civilian version. The civilian version used a chrome grille, but the police version uses a black “honeycomb” design grille. If you check various references on-line, you’ll notice that the suspension and other “stuff” that goes into the police version are different and more “heavy duty” but one downside is the police version has a stiffer and less pleasant ride. A friend of mine is a corrections officer who specifically TRANSPORTS inmates. He told me he and another officer transported an inmate to central upstate New York and that the ride in the Crown Vic was really awful.

I think the popularity of the Dodge Charger police cruisers over the past few years has lit a fire under Ford to make some changes. Chrysler had been completely out of the police car business for well over ten years, but the Dodge Charger is a cool, stylish front-wheel-drive vehicle. Ford IS offering a police cruiser for 2011, but no more Crown Victoria. The 2011 Police Interceptor is a TAURUS. It’s a police Taurus...front-wheel-drive and cool like the Dodge Charger.

For so many of us, seeing Ford Crown Victoria cop cars has been a staple on the roads, but that’s gonna change over the next few years.

You know nothing stays the same forever...Mercurys....Crown Victorias...well, it’s time to say goodbye to them and move on.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,” (Luke 17:15)

That verse comes from the story of Jesus’ healing of ten lepers in Luke’s Gospel. Prior to there being any actual evidence of healing, Jesus commanded them to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was that by the time they got to the priests, they’d be totally healed. In fact, that’s what happened! On the way to see the priests, they were healed. Only one, however, came back to thank Jesus and with a loud voice he glorified God. We Pentecostals believe that praising God with a loud voice is a good thing.

I have a very loud voice. When I’m just speaking at what for ME is a normal comfortable volume, I’m blasting everybody out! If I yell, I can probably be heard for a quarter mile with no kidding! Even my “whisper” is loud. A guy I knew years ago told me I have a “stage whisper”- like what actors use in plays.

Now, in my PREACHING ministry, the loud voice has been a good thing. When I’ve been taped, the tapes always came out very well. Even if the equipment wasn’t the best and you couldn’t hear a lot of “stuff” on the tape, you could always hear Bob Baril! An older woman in our congregation in Framingham used to say, “I can’t hear most people, but I can ALWAYS hear Pastor Bob!” Some of you may know my wife has a hearing loss. When we got married, one outspoken woman told me we were a perfect match because, “You talk so loud and she can’t hear!”

To those who have “normal voices”, however, you have no idea of what a handicap this sort of voice can be. The 5% or so of people who have one of these BOOMING voices are often accused of SHOUTING at people. We can also easily get on people’s nerves as they overhear us and really don’t want to. When I was a kid growing up in the Prospect Street/Independence Street neighborhood in Canton there were two grownups who had such absolutely booming voices. One was my father, and the other was “Mrs. Berardi” who was also an elementary school teacher. The Berardi house was diagonally across the street from ours. We could be in our back yard and Mrs. Berardi could be in her back yard, but we’d hear her CLEARLY saying things like, “Karen and Michael, wash your hands, it’s time for dinner.” We really didn’t WANT to hear everything Mrs. Berardi said. After awhile, you kind of felt like you were eavesdropping, but that’s just how she talked.

My father was the same way. He was a night owl, and he loved to talk on the phone. He and my Aunt Flo would be up talking until 2:30 in the morning. I don’t know how my Dad would be able to get up and go to work at the Registry the next day. I would be upstairs in bed and I could hear my Dad speaking JUST AS IF HE WAS RIGHT NEXT TO MY BED! It was awful trying to sleep. No joke, I got some good quality earplugs so I could sleep. His other sister, my Aunt Estelle, also had one of those booming voices. When Aunt Estelle would call, you could not only hear Dad throughout the house, but you could hear Aunt Estelle coming through the phone through quite a bit of the house! Both Gene Baril and Estelle Baril Winchester had amazingly booming and penetrating voices. My Dad, like me, did a lot of public speaking, and the voice helped him there, but in a restaurant when everybody could hear his conversation, it was kind of embarrassing.

But I understand. Like I said... if you have THIS voice, what’s a normal, comfortable manner of speaking for YOU blasts everybody out. My son Jon has also inherited “the voice”. Sometimes people have said to both Jon and me, “Stop yelling at me!” and we each have the same reaction. We look at them with incredulity and say, “This is not yelling. If I were yelling, you’d hear me a quarter mile away!”

On the one hand, at VIP answering service, I have been told I have a really good phone voice. Callers ask, “Is THIS the ANSWERING MACHINE?!” It gets annoying, but they’ve told me they thought I had to be a recording. But I’ve also been told I’m way too loud in the call center. One coworker has actually waved her arms at me because she could not hear her own call...and sometimes she has passed me a note saying “inside voice, please!” Last week, I came in and took a few calls, and my Supervisor sent me an instant message on my computer screen saying, “You’re very loud today.” Honestly, when you have “this voice” you don’t hear that. It sounds like just a normal medium or even below medium volume. I guarantee my Dad and Aunt Estelle and Mrs. Berardi would have attested to that. When the supervisor sent me that I.M., I was pretty embarrassed. I sent back a quick I.M. saying, “Sorry. I’ll tone it down.” And I had to WORK at deliberately talking soft which honestly feels very unnatural to me.

As a Pentecostal pastor, I was never shy about praying for people “around the altars”; you know, all the loud, “in the NAME of JESUS!” stuff. To me, that’s what ya do! I was humbled and pleased when Pastor Gary at Bread of Life asked me to join with the staff and anoint and pray over people for an altar call today. Mary Ann helped me. After I’d prayed for a couple of people, Mary Ann leaned over and told me I was way too loud. I realized at this large (and truly very spiritual church) they do a lot of praying for people, but it’s not usually all the loud, “in the NAME of JESUS!” stuff. I was verbally and inappropriately overpowering everybody and you could hear me all over the room. Once again, I was really embarrassed. I made sure when I prayed for other people I “toned it down”.

In this culture that’s overly politically correct, and overly “disability conscious” I almost wonder if they’ve got some sort of name for those 5% or so of us who have the booming voice that drives everybody crazy (but that we feel fine with). I guess I wrote this for a several reasons. One is to publicly share this struggle I’m having and to hope friends will help me with this problem but not in a condescending way. Another is to help you understand things from the loud talker’s point of view, and to share that we really don’t MEAN to blow over and overpower everybody, and we’re pretty embarrassed that we do it.

You know the famous evangelist Benny Hinn? I know he’s VERY controversial. Some people say he’s a phony. I’ve actually met Benny Hinn and been in his presence many times...all over twenty years ago before he was famous. Whatever you think of him, in his services, he likes to get people very quiet and reverent. He will get a huge auditorium so QUIET that you could hear a pin drop.

In his Arabic accent (he is half Palestinian and half Greek and his first language is Arabic) he will say, “I would like EVLREEbuddy, dew to velly QUIET., velly QUIET,” and again, you could probably hear a pin drop. No kidding, I thought about getting a little photo of Benny Hinn’s face to tape onto my computer at work so I will see that face and think of “velly QUIET” and modulate my voice accordingly!

So being a better steward of the loud voice is what I’m trying to deal with right now...what are YOU dealing with?