Friday, September 30, 2011


"And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
"But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea." (Acts 8:39-40)

The above verses tell of an amazing event: That Philip the Deacon in Acts chapter 8 was miraculously spirited away from the Gaza Strip area to Azotus. It would be kind of like instantly going from Chatham on Cape Cod to Taunton, MA (something like that)...impossible and pretty cool! Do things like this happen today. CAN things like this happen today?

When I was in Bible College a local pastor came to one of our classes as a guest speaker. He pastored a church in a rural area just outside Springfield, Missouri. I once had visited his church, AND we had worked together at a special children's event held in the Springfield area. I cannot remember his name. I DO remember what he looked like. He looked EXACTLY like Jackie Gleason, and I mean EXACTLY. When he spoke to our class, he told us that he once left for St.Louis on Interstate 44 and found himself IMMEDIATELY in the St. Louis suburbs. The three hour trip had taken SECONDS. He likened it to the above Bible story. He is the only person I have ever heard report having experienced something like that.

Another unusual account happened to a guy I know named Tom Hazell. Around forty years ago, he and a few buddies drove a car from California to Massachusetts all on ONE TANKFUL of gasoline. Tom reports that God just miraculously kept replenishing the gasoline and it was a miracle trip. Frankly, I know some folks who do not believe his story, but Tom is a very honorable and truthful guy, and I have no reason to NOT believe him.

Well, today I feel I experienced a couple of similar miracles in my own life!

I am a stickler for being on time and being responsible. Today, I was scheduled to start on the phone at VIP Answering Service at 7 a.m. I planned to get up a little after 5. I heard my wife leave around 4:40 a.m. I lay down for "a few more minutes." Suddenly I looked at my watch and it was five minutes before 6! It typically takes an hour to drive from Webster to Framingham in the morning! Wow, was this stressful?! I leaped out of bed, poured water on my "bedhead" and combed it. I threw my clothes on. I did not even brush my teeth. I jumped into the car. I looked and realized I was very low on gasoline! I probably did not have enough to make it to Framingham, AND I had almost no cash on me.

In the past when I've been THAT late leaving, I've had to drive at 75-80 MPH, all the while praying, "I'm sorry, Lord, please forgive me!" Even so, I usually will end up then rushing into the call center huffing and puffing. I don't know why, but I set the cruise control at 65. I also slowed a few times to let traffic in. I also just HOPED I would not run out of gas. Neither action is like me at all!

Regarding the gasoline, the needle did not "drop to total empty" until I arrived at the work parking lot. But here is the amazing part. I was just past getting on the MassPike when suddenly I was just coming to 495. I looked at my watch and I was just about where I should be under "normal" conditions. HOW WAS THAT POSSIBLE?! I wondered HOW I could go from Grafton to Route 495 almost instantly. I pulled into the parking lot at a few minutes before 7, and signed in to work on time.

It doesn't make sense...that I did not run out of gas, or that I did the speed limit, and a little less, and got to work on time.

Were these miracles?

I think maybe they were!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)

This coming Sunday night, Andy Rooney give his final three-minute blurb at the conclusion of 60 Minutes. He is retiring at age 92. I am not surprised. Up until the 2010-2011 season of 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney's little comical, eccentric, and ironic monologues had closed virtually every 60 Minutes program for over thirty years. It was only once in a great while that the show did not include Andy Rooney. THIS PAST YEAR, it seemed like he was hardly ever there. Maybe my count was off, but I think he's only done about eight of his little pieces over the past year so he was already semi-retired.

Andy Rooney is often called a "curmudgeon". I checked out that work at a site that gives on-line definitions, and it defined the word as "an ill-tempered and surly person." I don't think THAT is the best definition of "curmudgeon". I think of a "curmudgeon" as somebody who's a character; who complains a lot and acts a bit annoying and eccentric, but is somehow lovable at the same time. THAT is how I think of Andy Rooney.

I generally enjoyed his pieces. He WAS controversial. Around fifteen years ago, he wrote a newspaper column stating that homosexuality was not normal. He was "suspended" from writing his column for several months and was greatly condemned by the politically correct set. But, he came back and it seemed like all was forgiven. There's a piece that's been floating around the internet for years which was SUPPOSEDLY written by Andy Rooney. It praises prayer and giving public praise to God. It makes Andy almost sound like a curmudgeonly Billy Graham or Pat Robertson. The problem is: he never wrote it. Andy Rooney is an atheist. He finds little use for organized religion and does not believe in God. Of course, in that area, Andy and I disagree.

I once played Andy Rooney in a variety show at New Covenant Christian School. One year I dressed up as Johnny Most and did a whole bit about him. Another year, I came as Peter Falk/Lt. Columbo. AND, another year, I was Andy Rooney. I wore an oversized and sloppy suit, and dumped baby powder in my hair, AND made my hair kind of messy. I got up and delivered a three minute monologue, Andy Rooney style. Some parents thought that I was out of sorts and not myself that night. I got a kick out of that, because I stayed in character for THE ENTIRE EVENT! If someone said "hello" to me, I would sarcastically say, "Oh HI!" just like Andy Rooney would!

At the time of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Andy Rooney was in town (Boston). His daughter Emily Rooney featured him on Channel 2, Boston's PBS television station. Andy was having trouble using his ear piece. Right no the air, he kept saying, "I can't get this ear piece to work" and acted like a typical confused elderly person. I realized that maybe off camera he wasn't quite as together as he appeared to be on 60 Minutes, but again remembered that he was well in his eighties. Andy started writing for "Stars and Stripes" during World War 2!

Back when CBS tried doing a spin-off show called "60 Minutes 2" they had Boston's Jimmy Tingle doing the final monologue. Poor Jimmy got fired after one season, although I thought he was pretty good. I know there will never be another Andy Rooney, but if CBS is looking for a comical eccentric guy who is a good writer and has an unusual take on life, my son Jon Baril is available for the job, and so am I!

Friday, September 23, 2011


"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." (Matthew 25:36)

One of my dearest friends, and possibly the most committed Christian I have ever known, is the Rev. Jim Spence. Jim's story is AMAZING. No kidding, a full length film SHOULD be made, dramatizing and telling the story of his life and ministry. Now age 70, Jim is still ministering in a small church in Florida, and still counseling and helping troubled souls. I first met Jim when he was Protestant Chaplain at the Massachusetts State Prison at Walpole (also known as "Cedar Junction"). Some might assume Jim has been a clergyman for his entire adult life or that he is a "flaming liberal". Now, his views on incarceration DO lean a bit to the left, as I think you'd guess. In fact, Jim is very politically and socially conservative. He also spent many years as a successful engineer at Polaroid Corporation. The last things Jim Spence ever expected to be were a minister or a prison chaplain and advocate for convicted felons.

Jim did an extraordinary job as Chaplain at Walpole...he was and is possibly the best Chaplain they ever had. Sensing the need for "aftercare" to stop recidivism, Jim and a group of businessmen founded New England Aftercare Ministries in 1985. They went through untold agony. Jim especially was vilified in the press as a man who wanted to coddle criminals and ruin family neighborhoods. Angry mobs were whipped up against him. Sadly, even the evangelical Christian community largely distanced themselves from him, telling him to be "realistic" and that a prison aftercare ministry could never fly in Massachusetts.

I joined the Board of New England Aftercare in the late eighties and served on it for about seven years. In 1987, after a great struggle, "The Bridge House" opened on Summit Street in Framingham. Over the years, there have been great victories and tragic defeats...great highs and devastating lows. Yes, some guys have "relapsed". Some have gone back to prison. Some have overdosed and died. But MANY have been totally transformed as they committed their lives to the Lord, and many have gone on to become healthy and productive members of society.

Jim resigned as Executive Director several years ago, and has moved to Florida, but he continues to serve on the Board of New England Aftercare. I received a disturbing letter from Tim Pritchard, current Development Manager at The Bridge House indicating the Bridge House now needs a great financial miracle. (I HAD heard from some contacts of mine that such a letter was coming.) Recently, the Bridge House staff and management were embarrassed when they failed to meet state requirements. This was not and is not a matter of state persecution. In fact,the Commonwealth of Mass. generally likes and supports the Bridge House. Sadly, some carelessness took place and some things have fallen through the cracks. There is a lot of reworking and recomplying to do. There is a huge financial shortfall. The Bridge House COULD close its doors.

I am encouraging everyone who reads this to check out the Bridge House website. It's found at

The Bridge House just CAN'T go under. This ministry and program are far too important!
Jim Spence's vision cannot die.

I urge you to pray for The Bridge House and to do what you can. Even a $10 one time gift would greatly help. The address is New England Aftercare Ministries, PO Box 136, Framingham, MA 01704. Please let others know about this!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


"Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn,
which came up from the washing;
whereof every one bear twins,
and none is barren among them." (Song of Solomon 4:2)

That's the first time I have ever quoted from Song of Solomon on the blog! I just thought that sounded better than, "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" or "gnashed with their teeth"! This morning, I was in the dental chair. It was my third time in the chair since the 4th of July. My previous appointments this Summer were pretty extensive. The one from about three weeks ago was PAINFUL! This time, it was just for a routine checkup and cleaning. X-rays were also taken during this appointment.

As I sat in the dental chair, I thought about how much the experience of sitting in the dental chair has changed during my lifetime. My first dental appointments were when I was a child around middle school age. The dentist was Dr. Cletus J. Dunn in downtown Canton, Massachusetts. Dr. Dunn was at the end of his career at the time. I believe he retired around 1967 or 1968, and he was in his late sixties at the time. Dr. Dunn's office was above a block of stores in an old wooden building on Washington Street in downtown Canton.

I suspect Dr. Dunn's office circa the late 1960s was no different than it had been in the late 1930s. THIS was TOTAL "Norman Rockwell"! Dr. Dunn did EVERYTHING. There was no dental hygenist. There was no dental assistant. There was no other dentist in the practice. There was no secretary. The chair and equipment was all circa 1930s. There was a black rotary dial telephone. Dr. Dunn would be in the middle of cleaning your teeth,and would have to drop everything to run and answer the phone. He was NOT a native New Englander. Dunn was from somewhere in the midwest; maybe Iowa or Nebraska. He had an upper-midwest accent which was very foreign in suburban Boston at that time. I can still hear him telling me to, "Open big!" He would say that repeatedly as he worked on your mouth.

After Dunn's retirement, we went to Dr. Riley in Norwood. Riley had been recommended by some law enforcement friends of my Dad's. My father was very impressed with Dr. Riley. The rest of the family WASN'T. He did have a secretary and a dental hygenist. Riley was very opinionated and always talking. He was probably the first person in his Irish-American family to "make it"; and like Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly was always talking and pontificating in the office about something. His hygenist was a pain. LITERALLY! Your mouth was in agony for days after she worked on you! After several years, Mom led a dental mutiny against my father. She RARELY disagreed with my father or defied him, but she told him we just WEREN'T going to Dr. Reilly's anymore. We began seeing Dr. Chodroff at Cobb's Corner at the Canton/Stoughton line. (I think technically the office was in Stoughton but you were about 100 feet from the Canton town line.)

Chodroff was 35ish and very cheerful. He was always boasting about something he'd achieved in his life. No matter what you were interested in, HE was interested in it. And, what YOU had achieved, HE had also achieved it. I thought he was a pretty good dentist, but I wondered if you could believe everything he said. Well, about two years after we started with Dr. Chodroff, my brother Eddie was in a mini-bike accident which resulted in two of his teeth being knocked out. My mother was VERY disappointed in how Dr. Chodroff handled this. He DID give Eddie a couple of false teeth, but (pun intended) it was like pulling teeth to get Chodroff to make time for Eddie's appointments and do the right thing. At the recommendation of two family friends, we switched to Dr. Seymour Schiff who was located in the Ponkapoag section of the northern part of Canton.

Schiff was an Orthodox Jew. He was dark complected, kind of hairy and very middle-eastern looking. He spoke with typical urban Jewish/Yiddish inflections, and he was a super nice guy. Dr. Schiff was my dentist for probably twenty years. For several years in our early marriage, Mary Ann and my kids (then very little) saw Dr. Schiff. He always gave us a pretty good sized discount. Dr. Schiff lived in Brookline and was a neighbor of Michael Dukakis. He told me, "I know Michael Dukakis about as well as I know you," and told me if Dukakis got elected President he'd see if I could pray at the inauguration. I think he was serious!

My wife and I were pretty disappointed when Dr. Schiff retired, but at that time we became patients of Dr. Hubley in Framingham. He was just starting out. I knew his father who is a Baptist pastor. It's hard to believe we've been patients of Dr. Hubley for probably fifteen years. Today, when X-rays were taken, a large lead shield was laid upon my "trunk". I don't think they took a precaution like that forty years ago. In fact, I remember when X-rays were taken in the 1970s and 1980s, you'd have to HOLD some piece of what seemed like card stock in your mouth with your fingers...and all that radiation shot into your fingers! I also remember that for awhile that cup think you rinse with used to sit on a stainless steel thing which would trigger a mechanism that would always keep refilling the cup. THOSE are long gone. I have a feeling a lot of them must have malfunctioned and flooded some dentist's offices! Dr. Schiff's hygenist was PARANOID about A.I.D.S. This was the late 1980s. She used to wear this big clear plastic thing all around her head. It looked RIDICULOUS! I used to want to say to her, "Are you KIDDING me?!"

Possibly the most important change since the Dr. Dunn era is the COST. Today, the hygenist commented to me about how EXPENSIVE dental work has become. It was frankly pretty cheap in the 1960s but has just kept rising and rising. If it were not for my wife's dental insurance, I probably wouldn't go to the dentist very often.

Finally, this would not be complete without me commenting about the hygenist who cleaned my teeth, Gail Barrs. She is my cousin Janet Baril Mustonen's DOUBLE! No kidding. She looks just like her and talks just like her. When she cleans my teeth, it is just as if Janet Mustonen is cleaning them, and that's kind of weird. It's like when you're watching a movie and you realize the cowboy in the movie was the young doctor in a soap opera you used to watch, or that the female murderer in a movie was a nun in a comedy many years ago. It's like when Stephen Collins who played the minister and very nice Dad on "Seventh Heaven" played the corporate bad guy in "No Ordinary Family" on ABC last year. You just kind of "go with it" but if seems weird.

Do I have A.D.D.? I don't know but this is what I thought about while in the dental chair today.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

0 AND 50

"And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." (Leviticus 25:10)

Due to my late mother's recollections, I knew I was born on a Sunday evening (September 19) in 1954. I remember my mother saying something about having labor pains during the Ed Sullivan Show! Indeed, I WAS born on a Sunday, which I think is kind of cool! I also thought it was a neat coincidence that my 50th birthday on September 19, 2004 was also on a Sunday.

Recently, I decided to check and see if everybody's 50th birthday falls on the day of the week on which they were born. With the possible exception of February 29, EVERYBODY'S 5Oth birthday falls on the day of the week on which they were born. This year I'm more years away from 50 than I'd like to be, but I wonder if anybody else ever figured that out or noticed it. The Bible speaks of every 50th year as a "Year of Jubilee". I wonder if there's some special significance to that 50th birthday thing?!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


"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)

This morning, it was my great privilege to speak at Framingham's (Brazilian) Philadelphia Baptist Church in downtown Framingham. [Their main service (in Portuguese) is on Sunday nights, but their "English service" which attracts a smattering of Brazilians and Americans meets at 11 a.m.] Incidentally, lest anyone think Brazilians don't care about the attacks on America on 9/11/01, each Brazilian there was very moved about the events of 9/11 and prayer was offered for America's leaders in dealing with the challenging issue of terrorism and terrorists.

I spoke from the Twenty-seventh Psalm. I shared with the congregation that on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was volunteering for the day at Marian (Catholic) high school. I was doing data entry in one of the offices. I arrived at the school around 9 a.m. I sat down at the computer and began doing my work. At about 9:15, a school administrator burst into the office and said his mother had just phoned and said that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. There was a radio in the office that I flipped on. We immediately began hearing coverage from New York. At first, it was being reported that it was a terrible accident and that the planes were "a jet and a small commuter plane". Quickly, however, the news came out that there were two jets which had been deliberately flown into the towers. The announcers spoke of terrorism. Reports later came in about the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. At that time, no one knew HOW many planes had been hijacked and how many more terrible events could unfold. I was acting calm on the outside, but honestly, I was REALLY SCARED. Nothing like this had happened in my lifetime. I prayed silently, "Lord, I'm scared. I need you to give me a portion of Scripture to comfort me."

I pulled out my pocket-sized New Testament and Psalms and literally just flipped it open. It opened to Psalm 27 and my eyes fell on the first verse, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Was it a coincidence that I'd opened to that passage? No, that was God! I sat and read the entire Psalm. My fears instantly disappeared. The following Sunday, I preached my sermon from Psalm 27.

Today's sermon was completely different from what I preached in 2001. I prepared it fresh for this occasion. My outline for the Psalm 27 sermon came from 2 Timothy 1:7 (quoted above). I encourage you to look at Psalm 27. The first six verses speak of POWER. God is our LIGHT in the DARKNESS; and boy, the forces that orchestrated the events of 9/11 were forces of darkness, indeed! (Jesus came as a LIGHT to the DARK world as the Gospel of John chapter 1 tells us.) Psalm 27 verses 2 and 3 speak of the wicked coming against us and even an army coming against us, but the Lord will give us the confidence to face this. If we'll see the Lord with all our hearts, He will lift us up and (see verse 5) set our feet upon a rock, as it were.

Verses 7 through 10 of Psalm 27 speak of God's LOVE. He will be our help and will not forsake us. In fact, verse 10 powerfully states that even if and when our mothers and fathers forsake us, God will be there to love us and take care of us. One (American) woman in the congregation today was deeply moved by this verse. I know her life story as she formerly attended First Assembly of God of Framingham where I pastored. Her father and mother literally DID forsake her, but she has experienced God's love and care. Today she shed some tears...tears of joy. Psalm 27:7 speaks of crying out to the Lord. THAT'S what America needs to do today! For three weeks after 9/11/2001 everything was totally different. People came to church. People prayed. People were kind to one another. People were patriotic. I (foolishly) thought at the time that it was a genuine change in our country. I was wrong. It lasted for three weeks, and then everything went back to "normal". We need to get rid of "normal"! We need to cry out to the Lord, seek His face, and have true revival!

The final verses of the Lord speak of A SOUND MIND. Listen, when you're afraid, your mind can play tricks on you. I wish I was one of those people who "sees the glass of water as half full" but typically I "see the glass as half empty". I'm almost as bad as a Church Board Member a pastor friend of mine told me about. The pastor asked his Board to consider their church and its challenges, and to comment on whether they saw the "glass" (the church and its problems) as half full or half empty. The Board Member told him the glass is empty, dirty, and had been loaded into the dishwasher! Over a year ago, I went through a dark and terrible depression. That's what wallowing in fear and taking your eyes off the Lord can do to you. Psalm 27 verse 13 (in the New King James Version) says, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living." Yes, if we choose to neglect the Lord and His word and to dwell on irrational (or even rational) fears, we can become quite mentally sick. But when we trust and believe the Lord, when we give our whole hearts to Him and trust Him, then we have A SOUND MIND.

The very last verse of Psalm 27 speaks of waiting on the Lord. My, that is DIFFICULT! I don't like to wait! Today's Americans want everything instantly. We don't want to wait. But, as the old saying goes, "God has three possible answers to prayer: YES, NO, and WAIT." That's true. I don't like "WAIT". Yet, sometimes God calls us to WAIT. Think of Joseph in the Old Testament. He WAITED. He spent years as a slave and years in prison after being falsely accused of rape. (Did you ever see "JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAM COAT"? That is worth seeing!) And, think of Jesus, Himself. In his late twenties, He probably got up every day, went to the carpenter shop, built tables, chairs, and cabinets, and went to bed. And He did that day after day after day until it was time for His ministry to begin.

Yes, there's comfort on September 11. God does not want us to have a spirit of fear, but of POWER, of LOVE, and of A SOUND MIND! One Brazilian young man came up to me after the service and told me he reads Psalm 27 every day. That might not be a bad idea for all of us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


"“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.
You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods." (from Exodus 20:4-5 New Living Translation)

The front page story of today's (Thursday, September 8, 2011) story in the Boston Herald is about a movement to end the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in the public schools of Brookline, Massachusetts.

According to the article in the Boston Herald: "Brookline Political Action for Peace — also known as Brookline PAX — will push Town Meeting voters in November to urge the School Committee to end the requirement that principals allow a weekly recitation of the Pledge during morning announcements."

Today, this story has been fodder for the radio talk shows of Boston. In all of the arguing and rhetoric, there's just plain a lot of information about the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag that is not known. In this piece, I want to attempt to "put that out there". I hope this will help and will not "muddy the waters."

It's ironic that today most of the strongest advocates for saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag are on the political right, and even on the far right. Typically those on the left either yawn over the Pledge of Allegiance or just plain wish it would go away. It may surprise you that the author of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag (in 1892) was a person on the political FAR LEFT! It was SOCIALIST (and Baptist minister) Francis Belamy. One might think he's definitely responsible for the line "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, but that line was NOT in the original Pledge! It was added in 1954, and the addition of the words "under God" was pushed by the Roman Catholic group known as the "Knights of Columbus".

I attended Canton, Massachusetts public schools from 1960 through 1972. In the Canton Public Schools, each school day began with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Everybody stood and recited it. In high school, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited over the public address system every morning. Each student was expected to stand and recite the Pledge at that time. But by the time I was a Junior, more than half of our homeroom was opting to NOT stand and recite the Pledge. This was the era of opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to Richard Nixon, and exaltation of "Woodstock" and counter-cultural rock music. One day, Tony B. who was one of what I'd call the "leader/student council" type kids in the school came up to me and asked me, "WHY don't you stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom?!" I was shocked because I DID stand and say it every day and I told him so.

"Oh...oh..." he replied in kind of a flustered manner, "I did not realize that. Sorry. I am just concerned that too many of us are NOT being patriotic and not saying the Pledge. That's GOOD. Keep it up!"

By Senior year, only TWO of us continued to stand and say the Pledge in our homeroom, Tony and me. One say Tony said to me, "It's not that I think it's THAT big of a deal, but if we stop saying it those kids will think they've won something." I felt that was true. It was NOT easy. A couple of times Tony was absent from school and I had to stand and say the Pledge by myself. Once as I did, a very liberal activist girl muttered, "blind obedience!" about me. That was really hurtful.

Now, to fast forward about twenty-five years, my son Jon was a kid who would NOT say the Pledge of Allegiance! Pretty much he'd stand with everybody at the Catholic high school but he refused to say it. One day I asked him WHY he refused to say it. Jon was pretty adamant that saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was idolatry. It was making the flag, a cloth, an object of respect, worship and allegiance. I disagreed with Jon, saying, "When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I'm not really expressing allegiance to the FLAG, I'm expressing allegiance and support to the COUNTRY."

But Jon was pretty firm. "Think of the WORDS," he cautioned, "That's NOT what it says. It pledges allegiance to the flag, AND 'to the republic for which it stands'!"

You know, I did not have a comeback for that.

He was right.

Incidentally, another of Jon's criticisms of the Pledge of Allegiance is that in Evangelical Protestant churches in American often a "Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag" is recited, too. (Did you know there's a Protestant Christian flag?!) AND, a "Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible" is also often recited!

I still recite the Pledge of Allegiance when I'm at a public gathering and it's recited. But it HAS lost some of its luster for me. I honestly think it should be rewritten. That opening line, in my opinion, really DOESN'T reflect what I'm pledging allegiance to.

I'm inclined to think Brookline should keep the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. BUT I think it behooves all of us to consider the author of the pledge, the original intent of the pledge, the fact that there's nothing in the Constitution about saying a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, AND the fact that most of us are more than happy to pledge our allegiance to the country SYMBOLIZED by the flag, but may not REALLY be so comfortable pledging allegiance TO THE FLAG.

Monday, September 5, 2011


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

Sometimes I think I must have "Adult A.D.D.", for my mind can wander in myriads of directions, seemingly like a runaway horse at times! This morning as I was working passing out fliers to the shoppers at BJs Wholesale Club, I found myself thinking about MARKETING and wondering why so many "experts" have gotten marketing SO wrong. (I guess it was just looking at all that merchandise and all those shoppers, AND the fact that it's Labor Day that got me thinking about this.)

During the more than fifty years I've been living on this planet, I've seen a lot of these kinds of things. One example is "Square Spaghetti". It was introduced by Prince in the middle 1960s. The television commercial sang a theme song to the tune of "Frere Jacques". The square spaghetti came in a distinctive purple spaghetti box. Our family bought it a number of times, and frankly we liked it. It was actually a little EASIER to twirl on a fork and was kind of "cool" but within a couple of years, it was gone. Another product that came and went was Smucker's peanut butter and jelly, all in ONE jar! I don't remember the EXACT year that product came out. I'm guessing somewhere around 1970. It also was very unpopular and did not last.

You know, products are brought out after EXTENSIVE marketing research by experts. WHY then did these fail? I suspect test subjects sometimes LIE during the research...they may give the answers that they think researchers WANT to hear, rather than just giving their honest opinions. Much more famous and dramatic cases of business getting it ALL wrong are "New" Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company's "Edsel" car.

I am not sure exactly when "New Coke" was introduced. It was during the 1980s; I'd guess around 1985. "New Coke", that is Coca-Cola made with a totally new formula, was introduced with great fanfare. The "New Coke" was much sweeter and tasted much more like Pepsi. Marketing surveys indicated young people vastly preferred the taste of Pepsi and that Pepsi outsold Coke among youth and young adults. The concern was that as these folks aged, they'd keep buying Pepsi and not Coke. SO, this New Coke SHOULD have been a winner. But it wasn't. It was a DISASTER. The New Coke did not sell, and the public DEMANDED that traditional Coca-Cola be brought back. After only a couple of months, the company reintroduced traditional Coca-Cola under the name "Coca-Cola Classic". The company still had no intention of getting rid of New Coke. At that time, all Coca-Cola sold at fountains and restaurants was STILL going to be New Coke. And, Diet Coke and caffeine free Coke were still New Coke. The company felt that in time the New stuff would eventually catch on, but in never did! Within a couple of years, "New Coke" was GONE. Everything went back to "normal"...all that planning and marketing was wrong and a failure!

In the early 1050s Ford Motor Company's executives were wringing their hands over the fact that their luxury Lincoln automobiles and medium-priced Mercury cars were poor sellers. General Motors offered a whole selection of various makes and models based on demographics. Chevrolet buyers often went on to become Pontiac or Oldsmobile customers, and by the time they were wealthy old people, they were driving Cadillacs. Ford customers "moved up" also, but to GENREAL MOTORS cars! The idea was to offer a very cool and very desirable medium priced car that would be superior to Pontiac in looks and image and would keep Ford customers in the family. Years of research and work resulted in the 1958 Edsel which was introduced in the Fall of 1957. The car had a VERY weird looking "horse collar" grille, AND its NAME left something to be desired. ("Edsel" was named after Henry Ford's son.) But Ford executives were CONVINCED this car was a winner- a winner like the cool Ford Thunderbird they'd introduced a few years earlier, only GREATER. Ford executives expected Edsel to be a huge seller. They confidently stated that if they could not build and sell 100,000 Edsels (minimum) for 1958, then the car was a total failure. In fact, they sold just over 30,000 1958 Edsels. The public never warmed up to the car, at all. For 1959, they toned the car's looks down A BIT, but Edsel sold even more poorly. Many people don't realize there WAS a 1960 Edsel. Only around 500 were built. The '60 Edsel did NOT have the "horse collar" grille. I've seen photos of 1960 Edsels, but never one in person. Any one of these 1960 Edsels found TODAY would be worth a lot of money as a collectible car. The '60 Edsel looks very much like a combination of a 1960 Ford Galaxie and a 1959 Pontiac Catalina.

On this Labor Day, during such tough economic times, I guess I'm thinking about these things because we can't afford any of these kind of products which executives think are so great, but are actually a disaster. U.S. industry has got to get it right.

AND, for my minister and Christian friends, there IS a real parallel in why some churches fail...because they're out of touch with people, etc.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


"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)

Happy Labor Day!

I have just not had the time to get onto the blog or even onto the internet all that much in the past few days, but I wanted to post this. For Christian laborer, whether pastors or missionaries, or ushers, or church janitors, or church secretaries, please KNOW that what you do for the Lord is not in vain.

And WHATEVER work we do (unless it's blatantly sinful like selling drugs or running a casino) THAT'S something we can thank God for!

There are many good verses on "work" and "labor" or "labour" as the Brits put it.

Again, Happy Labor Day!