Sunday, October 30, 2011



“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

“Claire” (well, literally “Clair”) was the title of a Gilbert O’Sullivan hit song from the early 1970s. Claire is also the name of a dear lady I’ve known for twenty-four years. I’ve enjoyed the “2010 MetroWest Persons of Distinction” series that has been running in the print editions of the MetroWest Daily News over the past few weeks. Claire would never make such a list as she is one who shuns the limelight and is happiest serving in the background; but in my humble opinion, Claire Post Grimes is absolutely worthy of the title, “2010 MetroWest Person of Distinction”.

My first contact with Claire was by phone in the autumn of 1986. She asked me to come and speak at First Assembly of God of Framingham. I was on the pastoral staff of a church in Walpole at the time. The little Framingham church was without a pastor and Claire, an active church member, was lining up fill-in speakers for the services. I did come and speak. One thing led to another and a few weeks later I was meeting with the church’s pulpit committee. Not long after that I “candidated” for the church’s pastorate and was voted in as pastor.

Upon moving into Framingham, I discovered Claire was truly an amazing woman. She’d only been a born-again Christian for about five years at that time, having previously been a devout Roman Catholic. Claire served on the church’s Board, and volunteered as the church’s secretary. She was present for every activity at church. A person who eschewed tardiness, Claire was always the first person to arrive for any service or meeting. Claire’s husband Jack, an M.I.T. graduate and very intelligent man was not much of a churchgoer, but he was supportive of Claire’s commitment to God and to the church. She once described Jack as “having all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit”...and while I realize that statement is theologically incorrect, I understood what she meant. Both Claire and Jack are kind, warm, hardworking, and generous people.

Claire and Jack are now each in their early eighties. She doesn’t like notoriety, and she’ll probably be unhappy I wrote this, but it’s all the kind of things I’d say at her funeral. As my friend Dave Milley often says, “Send the flowers when people are still alive!” So, this is a way of “sending flowers” to and for Claire. The Grimes are a family of modest means who live in a small 1950s ranch style house. Despite the modesty, when the church would be in a financial crisis, again and again there’d be a generous check from them. When there was any kind of work to be done at the church, you could count on Claire to do it. For the past eleven years or so, she did almost all of the regular cleaning of the church...vacuuming, cleaning the toilets, and even supplying the bathroom paper products. At times, I felt guilty about Claire doing all that cleaning, but she would insist that she wanted to do it.

When you’re in close proximity to people in some of the worst of times, that can take its toll on relationships. My elderly parents were each seriously ill and near death in 2000. I was “stressed to the max” about it. I remember that on one morning Claire made some sort of a casual comment to me and I “let her have it” verbally. Honestly, I can be “short fused” and I’ve had several people angrily leave the church through the years for that reason. Not Claire. She could not have been more warm and forgiving toward me, saying, “There is nothing you could ever say that would cause me to think any less of you.” Claire Grimes models Biblical forgiveness. She and her husband have had close relatives of theirs experience serious crimes (on the level of the type of matters you see on “America’s Most Wanted”). Despite that, Claire could not harbor bitterness toward the perpetrators.

The local Assemblies of God District officials closed the little Framingham church this past March. Most of the “church family” have found other places to attend and most have emotionally “moved on”. For Claire, this was a challenging year as she underwent a hip replacement and almost two months of rehabilitation, and she gave up driving. At 82, Claire’s not ready to jump into another church. She’s an amazingly positive person, but I have heard her sadly declare many times over the past few months, “I miss my CHURCH!” I had to chuckle when Claire said, “You many not believe this, but I even loved cleaning that little church building and I miss doing that so much!”

Every pastor wishes he or she had a congregation full of Claire Grimeses!
As far as I’m concerned I’ll always be her pastor, and I thank God for her and the difference she has made in my life and in the lives of many others!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


"Let all things be done decently and in order." (I Corinthians 14:40)

About a year ago, a pastor friend of mine who has elementary school aged kids commented to me that when one of his kids is ill and he calls the doctor's office, he HATES getting the answering service.

"I just want to talk to my DOCTOR and not an answering service!" he exclaimed.

On a certain level, I can understand his frustration, but after working for a telephone answering service for a year and a half, I can very much see the other side of the coin. I hope this piece will be helpful for you- for when you have that experience of calling a doctor's office and getting an answering service.

Please remember that doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician's assistants are human. They don't "work 24/7". Like all of us, they enjoy having time off with family and friends. They also like to eat their lunch in peace without the phone ringing off the hook. (That's also true of medical secretaries.) If you want to be sure to "get the doctor's office" the best time to call is usually between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. or between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. At other hours you are very likely to get voice mail or an answering service.

SOME doctors offices are open on Saturdays and Sundays and some are open on major holidays, but these are few and far between. If you're calling on weekends, holidays, early morning, or nights, you're most likely going to get voice mail or an answering service. USUALLY, the answering service will be able to page a doctor or nurse practitioner for you who will likely call you back within fifteen minutes.

ATTITUDE is important. Most of the callers I answer for are pretty pleasant and understanding. But some are "a piece of work". As soon as some callers realize they're talking to a telephone answering service operator, they immediately assume a bad attitude. They may yell, "WHY isn't my DOCTOR answering??!! Is she LAZY?!"

They may yell a lot worse things than that.

I may ask for the caller's name who will then yell, "My CHILD'S name is Justin Smith!!!"

(Question: did I ask for the child's name? No, I did not.)

I may ask "could I have your telephone number?" and hear "875-555-3965" repeated SO fast that there's NO WAY I can understand it. Then, I'm asking, "Could you repeat that slower, please?"

The reply will be a very disgusted and very slow, "EIGHT!! SEVEN!! FIVE!! FIVE!! FIVE!! FIVE!! THREE!! NINE!! SIX!! FIVE!!"

I get a few of that type of call each shift. Another question that can set people off is "Date of birth?" I am amazed that most nurses who call with messages from nursing homes (to be given to doctors) virtually NEVER have the date of birth ready and act as though asking for it is a major inconvenience. I've had (especially women) refuse to give the year of their birth. I'm 57-years-old. I don't care that people know I was born in 1954. Usually, it's some woman who was born in some year like 1962 who does not want to give the year of birth.

On calls, I'm reading from and filling in previously set up fields on a computer screen. I'm asking questions the doctor's office has requested that I ask, and I'm asking them in the order that they want them asked. A pediatrician's office is not going to be calling back little 5-year-old Justin Smith. They're calling back the mother, Daphne Peterson-Smith. SHE or her husband are responsible for the account. They want to know WHO they're calling, THEN they want to know the child's name and information and what is wrong.

People get furious if they call at 9 p.m. and want to talk to Dr. Nelson (Their doctor) only to find out that Dr. McGillicuddy is on call. I've had callers become irate and say things like, "I DEMAND to speak to Dr. Nelson RIGHT NOW!"

Maybe Dr. Nelson is on Cape Cod with his family celebrating his daughter's 16th birthday. Isn't he entitled to do that? If things are really bad enough, Dr. McGillicuddy WILL phone Dr. Nelson, but these folks are human and entitled to protocol being followed.

I've had callers become IRATE because the doctor's office goes on answering service for lunch for 90 minutes. Honestly, MOST doctor's offices go on answering service or voice mail during lunch for anywhere from 60-120 minutes. That's their prerogative.

When you try to get concise information for a message in paging a doctor, some callers want to tell their life story. Melissa, one of my Supervisors, laughed one time when I told a caller, "You've got to give that to me IN A PHRASE."

I had a field in my computer to fill in that would only take about seven words. There is no way I could begin with, "It all started three weeks ago..."

We can also see how many calls are holding for the answering service to get to. If I glance and notice 13 calls are holding, I know I've GOT to kind of rush through the calls. I'm not trying to be a jerk. I'm just trying to make sure we can get to each caller to help them.

Finally, some callers will angrily say, "I was on hold for FIVE MINUTES before you picked up!" We hate that anyone has to wait that long, and it seldom happens, but sometimes we get flooded with calls all at one time. The answering service I work for has soft rock secular music and sometimes soft rock Christian music playing for people to listen to before we pick up. I've had some folks want to argue with me that they didn't like the music that was playing. REALLY! There are much more important issues in life to worry about.

Rarely, perhaps once a week, a caller will tell me I have a good telephone manner and was very helpful. Those comments are rare, but they help me to feel that what I'm doing matters.

I hope this information will be helpful to you the next time you call a doctor's office (or a business) and an answering service operator takes the call.

Friday, October 21, 2011


"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (i John 3:17)

I usually start work at 7 in the morning. Today, I've been assigned an unusual schedule; I'm starting at 2:30 and finishing at 8 p.m. Thus, I was able to do some early morning grocery shopping and now I'm on the computer at the public library, and I'm "musing". I received a desperate e-mail this morning about a truly needy Christian woman. She has lost her husband. She has five kids; the youngest is VERY small. Their housing was tied into the husband's career, and the family is losing that in December. They pretty much have NOTHING. The woman is a highly committed Christian. I received one e-mail from a dear friend of hers, and a forward of that same e-mail from a pastor. (Listen, it IS a "legit" story.)

Thought: there's way too much of this stuff going on in the evangelical Christian community.

I guess the Rev. John DeBrine (of "Songtime") is still around. He's got to be around 85 now. John is a character...a Conservative Baptist minister, a bachelor, and VERY outspoken. One thing I recall him saying often on his radio program is that "Christians just aren't believable" and that "If we're going to win them (family, friends, etc.) to Christ we've GOT to become believable." He's right.

I don't want to write a LOT here about the closing of the small church I pastored, First Assembly of God of Framingham, but one thing I WILL say is that my son Jon commented that while a number of people of means outside of the little church essentially said to us "be warmed and filled" (see James 2:16), few of them really stepped up to help us in tangible ways. He's right.

I served on the Pastoral Advisory Council of New Covenant Christian School (grades K-6 and for a short time K-8) for several years. My wife taught there for years, and all of our kids went there. Back in the 1980s, Christians from Boston's MetroWest suburbs WORKED, GAVE, AND SACRIFICED to start this school and keep it going. I could name five or six families who PARTICULARLY were HEROES for all they did for that school. Sadly, when "the economy hit" in the late 2000s and the school was in financial trouble, that generation of parents and boosters, well, for the most part didn't "boost". After all the years of blood, sweat, tears, and prayer, the school closed a couple of years ago. I served on the Board of New England Aftercare Ministries "The Bridge House" of Framingham for around seven years. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when that ministry had a need or a crisis, the Body of Christ would RALLY. People would show up for special prayer meetings and people would did into their pockets and give sacrificially, if it was $10. or $1000. or any amount in between. Today, that ministry is "hanging by a thread" to use an old expression from my parents' generation. I know appeals have gone out from them, and there's been very little response.

I hope he won't be embarrassed to be quoted here, but my friend Ron Sebastian who is very active at Faith Community Church of Hopkinton (formerly First Congregational Church of Hopkinton) has said that in America even in this economy there's plenty of money around. There should be no churches or ministries "going under". People who've served in ministry, like that woman I started off this piece about just should not be destitute.

All I can say is, I've experienced a lot first hand, but I'll leave it at that.

Missionaries should NOT be unable to get back to the field due to lack of funds. Ministries should not be closing their doors. Christian young people called to the ministry should not have to quit Bible College or Seminary due to lack of funds. Christian families should not be put out on the street while others turn away and yawn. The fact is, if we want real revival, John DeBrine is right. We've got to
become believable.

Monday, October 17, 2011


"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)

First, I need to explain that this piece is NOT about the ancient saint of the church, St. James the Greater. Rather, it is about the plight of the St. James the Greater Roman Catholic parish in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

St. James the Greater Catholic Church has an impressive facility and piece of property on Route 9 (a major thoroughfare through Boston's western suburbs). St. James is one of many Catholic churches which were closed by the Archdiocese of Boston several years ago. The story is complicated, but to try to simplify it, the Archdiocese of Boston faced two great crises during the 2000s. The first was the "clergy sex scandal". It was the Boston Globe that broke this story wide open in 2002. Scores of people came forward to say they'd been sexually molested by priests between the 1950s and 1990s. Perhaps 5% of the priests had been pedophiles. Very few Roman Catholic parishes in the Boston area were not somehow affected by this scandal. There were HUGE lawsuits and the Archdiocese had to pay out millions. The second crisis was declining attendance. The weekend attendance at Roman Catholic churches in metro Boston today is probably only about half what it was forty years ago. Due to these crises, the Archdiocese moved to close quite a few church properties and sell them.

Some of the closed parishes were in poor urban areas. Attendance had declined, and facilities were falling apart. Closing such churches DID make quite a bit of sense. What did NOT make sense, however, was closing churches in suburban areas which seemed to be doing well. One such Catholic church was St. Jeremiah's in Framingham's fairly affluent north side. Part of that church's claim to fame was that teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe grew up in that church and her mother still attended church there. Another, was St. James the Greater in Wellesley which is one of the most wealthy suburbs of Boston. At many of the closed church facilities, laypeople from the parishes began to occupy the buildings in "vigil" twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. This was done at both St. Jeremiah's and St. James the Greater. The Archdiocese DID sort of compromise on St. Jeremiah's. It still functions as a Catholic worship center in a somewhat limited capacity. But the Archdiocese has been firm that St. James the Greater will not reopen. Frankly, the parishioners there argued that the Archdiocese did NOT close St. James the Greater because of declining attendance nor because of financial problems. Racher, the people argued that this was just TOO valuable a piece of property for the Archdiocese to sit on, and that their church was being sacrificed so the Archdiocese could sell the property for "big money".
Honestly, I'd say that charge probably has merit.

The church has been "in vigil" since 2004. When I was still pastoring First Assembly of God of Framingham, the guy who serviced our fire extinguishers a couple of years ago told he me had some relatives who were among those standing vigil at St. James and that he was very proud of them. St. James the Greater parish has been in the news in the Boston media this past weekend. The Archdiocese has shut down the boiler and shut off the water to the building. Their reason is that the insurance company has demanded this, saying the boiler is unsafe. The "faithful" at St. James the Greater do not believe that story and say it is an "underhanded" move by the Archdiocese to try to force them out. The "faithful" have had a port-a-potty installed on the property and say they'll "wear overcoats" and keep up the vigil throughout the winter.

I have mixed feelings about those staging the vigil. On the one hand, the church PROPERTY and BUILDINGS are really NOT "the church". The Bible teaches that the PEOPLE make up the church. The building is just a place for the people to worship. The Greek word for church is "ekklesia" from which we get the term "ecclesiastical". "Ekklesia" literally means "assembly". (Incidentally, that's where the Assemblies of God got their name from!) But, on the other hand, there are tremendous emotional attachments to a church building. The little church that I pastored has been closed, but a Spanish-speaking church continues to hold services there. THAT'S been a big encouragement to the former members of First Assembly of God of Framingham. BUT the church facility where my wife and I were married, and where all of our babies were decicated (Assemblies of God and Baptists do "baby dedications" rather than infant baptisms) AND where I served as an Assistant Pastor is now a public school there on Route 27 in Walpole near the Medfield line. Ironically, when the foundation for that building was poured, a Bible was placed right into the concrete to indicate its founding on the Bible. Today, it's an elementary school. I've driven up there once in awhile. For those of us who were part of Christian Life Center during its glory days of the 1980s, seeing what happened to that property is pretty sad.

They've been in vigil at St. James the Greater for seven years. I know that those in vigil think if they give up now, the hierarchy has won. They'd probably even feel that evil triumphed over good. I wonder, though, if it isn't time to move on to a different tactic. Those in vigil have certainly made their point. I'd suspect the Archdiocese probably WOULDN'T have opted for this closing in 2004 if they knew all the grief it would cause them. Maybe this IS the time to end that phase, and move on to something else.

I think either a documentary or a book including a lot of glossy photos that tells the story of what happened to the church and of the people who fought the hierarchy COULD be very interesting and COULD get them a lot of publicity. Both in the story of the exodus and the "recent" story of the holocaust, we've learned from our Jewish friends the value of continuing to tell a story so that it is not forgotten.

NO, I'm not equating the closing of a Catholic church facility to the murder of six million Jews or of the Hebrew slavery in Egypt. Certainly not! But the lesson is "TELL THE STORY"! I don't know if the right filmmaker could be found...or the right author...or photographer...or all three. Maybe a website could be set up dedicated to such a project. Yes, the property there on Route 9 might be bulldozed to put in a Japanese car dealership or something, but the story could be spread and told to least to prevent such a happening in the future.

Yeah, that's my advice to the faithful at St. James the Greater in Wellesley, Massachusetts...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


"And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9)

Today at the answering service I heard this from a caller:

"I want to get my ceiling done".

He was calling a driveway company.

I thought, "Why does he want a driveway company to do his CEILING?!"

... Suddenly, it hit me...he was saying "sealing"!

(I would have said "I'd like an estimate on having my driveway sealed" but that's me!)

It's amazing how someone can SAY one thing and someone else can HEAR something else!

Monday, October 10, 2011


“...Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” (from John 2:5)

Her real name is NOT “Katie Sanbourne”. That’s completely fictitious. But I’ll call her Katie Sanbourne in this piece. Katie Sanbourne and her family attended (the now closed) First Assembly of God of Framingham, MA for many years. They departed from the church back in 2001. Katie and her family very very involved in the church. She held some leadership positions there. At times we agreed on things and at times we did not agree. There’s one statement she made one day, however, that I’ll never forget.

Katie said:
“If Christians would SEEK the Lord and then DO what He tells them to do, most of the problems in any church would be solved."

She’s right. That statement is simple. And it’s profound. Not long after Katie made that statement, and older woman in the congregation protested to me, “But THAT’S not REALISTIC?”

I replied that (sadly) it may not be “realistic” but it’s true. Even after Katie and her family left that church, I found myself quoting her statement often when I preached and when I taught classes. Frankly, some people were unhappy I kept quoting that. They became tired of hearing the statement.

“WHY do you have to KEEP quoting her?” one person asked. Another argued, “Katie did NOT take her own advice, so WHY quote her?!”

I answered that even if Katie hadn’t taken her own advice, the statement is absolutely true. And, that statement makes most evangelical Christians very uncomfortable because we tend to want things OUR way and not God’s way.

Yesterday morning at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, MA, Pastor Gary Collette preached a very good sermon. One of his strongest illustrations in the sermon was about the way leaders in churches are often calling for “unity”. Gary recounted that over a decade ago, when that church was in the midst of a major building program, the church’s leaders kept calling for “unity”. People were rebuked for not being in “unity”. There was a constant cry to “pray for unity”. It all sounded familiar. Over the years at Framingham, at times there were similar cries from some folks. Gary Collette bluntly stated that he and his leaders were WRONG in all their pushing for unity. Then, Pastor Gary explained it beautifully: That if each person had truly sought the Lord and truly obeyed Him, the church would have been in unity.

Gary Collette thus agreed with Katie Sanbourne. OR did Katie Sanbourne and Gary Collette both agree with the New Testament?! I’d say so.

Yes, it’s very basic, but most of us don’t practice it. The devil knows that IF and WHEN the Christians DO start practicing this, there will be true revival!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


"Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:1-2)

I did not SEE it, but excerpts of Lawrence O'Donnell's October 6 interview of Presidential candidate Herman Cain (on MSNBC) were all over talk radio yesterday. The biggest controversy was the fact that Cain (a Black man) was NOT involved in the civil rights movement. In Cain's new book, he states that he was very young at the time and that his father had taught him that he should stay out of trouble and continue to sit at the back of the bus, etc. (Cain was living in Georgia at the time.) Cain stated in the book that he was in high school at the height of the civil rights movement.

Lawrence O'Donnell verbally attacked Herman Cain about this. While the WORD was not explicitly used, O'Donnell essentially called Cain a liar. O'Donnell stated that Cain was in fact at MOOREHOUSE COLLEGE from 1963 through 1967 and that THIS was the height of the civil rights movement. Cain DID sound a bit uncomfortable and honestly like he was trying to dodge O'Donnell's questions.

I DO think, however, that there's another side to all this. A number of critics of Cain stated on the radio yesterday that "had Rosa Parks NOT sat at the back of the bus Herman Cain could not be running for President today". In fact, Rosa Parks DID sit at the back of the bus! Did you catch that: ROSA PARKS DID SIT AT THE BACK OF THE BUS!

Rosa Parks' "crime" is that she was asked to get up from her seat at the back of the bus and allow a white man to sit there who otherwise would have had to stand. Listen, I agree with Rosa Parks. That was an ABSURD request of her, and the whole Jim Crow thing in the South was wrong and absurd, but that is what happened. The Rosa Parks thing also happened in the middle 1950s, not the middle 1960s!

I believe the whole "Brown vs. Board of Education" decision which desegregated public schools came down in 1954, the year I was born. I know the whole Little Rock, Arkansas desegregation of the high school which meant federal troops being dispatched took place in 1957. The George Wallace "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" blocking of blacks from Alabama State Colleges happened in early 1963.

I think that if Cain's Dad was (dare I say it) an "Uncle Tom" who asked his son to keep a low profile at this time, then I think he did the right thing to honor his Dad. (Don't get me wrong, I think Cain HAS waffled on this, and I think it WOULD certainly have been impressive if he'd have been active in the civil rights movement. I have not made up my mind about which Republican candidate I will support (I'm a Republican) but this interview doesn't make me think badly of Herman Cain.

I don't remember his "pre-Pope name" but Pope John Paul II was often hailed for his support of Jews and fighting Nazi policies in Poland during WW 2. In fact, the Pope ultimately came forward and stated that while he deplored the Nazi treatment of the Jews in WW2 he did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the cause, and was embarrassed to be hailed and praised for something he did not do.

I would rather think of John Paul's LATER record in life for which he is best remembered and I am most interested in the Herman Cain of the past ten years when I think of fitness for the Presidency.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


"Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money." (Matthew 25:16-18)

I never met Steve Jobs, nor did I ever see him in person. I WILL say, however, that he has touched my life. MOST of the computers I have used in life have been made by Apple, and (although they're more expensive) I agree with my friend D.K. and my son Jon and daughter Rachel that there's NO COMPUTER as good as an APPLE COMPUTER!

I did not realize until today that Steve Jobs was adopted. I also did not know that his biological father was a Syrian Arab Muslim. And I ALSO don't think I had heard or read this famous quote of Steve Jobs until today:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Steve Jobs

Some people will absolutely not understand what I'm going to write here, but I suspect my much younger friend Ryan Seler WILL. I have been through what an old friend of mine used to call "deep water" over the past few years. I have experienced loss, shock, and deep shame and deep rejection. Listen, it can do a number on you! I know sometimes we have to work at "whatever our hands find to to" to pay the bills, etc., which is why Ryan the outstanding musician and worship leader is right now employed at Marshalls'. AND it's why I'm employed at the answering service. But TODAY after reading Steve Jobs' quote, well, I'm starting to feel like the guy who buried his talent. (For my son Jon, yeah I know, a lot about that parable is taken out of context but "work with me here"!)

We evangelicals and we Pentecostals have got the flawed notion that if someone is not totally perfect they just cannot minister effectively. I realize there have to be standards. I realize you just can't let some child molester have a children's ministry, for instance. And, you can't let some guy who stole all the money from a church treasury pastor a church. I get that.

But, there's a tremendous lesson in the fictional film "The Apostle" starring Robert Duval. Most Christians that I know either LOVE that film or they HATE it. Almost none are neutral. I happen to love it. YES, in that film Duval plays a preacher who commits second degree murder and who sometimes takes a nip of whiskey. He flees from the law. YES, that's wrong. But he prays for God to let him do just one more great work for Him, and God honors that. He reopens a failed church in a small Louisiana town, and is used of God to motivate the church's sickly retired preacher and to win to Christ a number of souls in the community. He THEN is arrested and literally begins a long prison ministry.

I have done nothing worthy of losing my Assemblies of God credentials, and in fact I am still an Ordained AG minister. Yet, I know some look disparagingly at me and won't touch me with the proverbial ten foot pole! I was a lot more bold to ask for speaking engagements back in 2010. This year, I've been very shy about it, fearing I won't be wanted or I won't be taken seriously. I will say I did speak for a friend who was away on a missions trip for two weeks, last month. These were NOT paid engagements, but the pay was knowing my preaching truly blessed and helped people.

I am well aware I may never pastor a church again. Contrary to rumors, I am NOT looking to pastor a church nor trying to get any pastorates. But God HAS given me a special gift. Yes, God has given eccentric, nervous, unconventional Bob Baril a very special gift. I am a captivating speaker, AND I have the ability to preach and teach on some VERY sensitive subjects in a way that has people laughing and crying, and totally engaged, and that THEY'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY HEARD.

Some don't feel I'm worthy to be speaking in public, but let's let God be the judge of that. I can give you names of pastors who've had me minister in their pulpits, and who will give me very good references. I don't want to bury this talent. And, sure, I love to get love offerings and honoraria, but I also do speak for no money whatsoever as I did last month. If you'd like to know more, please contact me at


"And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:" (Luke 10:8)

Yesterday, it was announced that Friendly Ice Cream is declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Around sixty Friendly's restaurants were closed; about half of them were in Massachusetts. Readers outside the northeast and especially outside New England will likely not understand what a huge icon and institution Friendly's was. (Well, it technically still IS; for now a number of restaurants are still open.)

Along with most New Englanders, Friendly's has occupied a place in my life. On a note of trivia, Friendly's was NOT always known as Friendly's. Up until the early 1980s, the correct label was Friendly with no "s" and no apostrophe. The business is "Friendly Ice Cream" as the huge landscape sign on the MASSPIKE in western Massachusetts proclaims! Now, everybody CALLED it "Friendly's" so the company acquiesced and changed the moniker on the restaurants to "Friendly's".

The first Friendly restaurant I remember was that on Route 1 in Dedham at Dedham Plaza. Some rich relatives of my mother's took us there a few times for ice cream. The NEXT Friendly's I remember was on Nahatan Street in Norwood. THAT store was Friendly Ice Cream's 50th and a sign reading "Our 50th Store" was proudly displayed on the exterior of the building. In fact, Friendly Ice Cream began in Holoyoke, Massachusetts in western Mass. in 1935. The "company headquarters" is on Route 20 in Wilbraham, MA on the Springfield, MA line. Eventually, there was a "Canton Friendly's" although TECHNICALLY it was just over the line at Cobb's Corner on Route 27 in Stoughton. When I was around twelve, my mother would often take us to Brockton's Westgate Mall on Saturday afternoons. There was a Friendly Ice Cream INSIDE the mall and we ALWAYS stopped there for ice cream cones!

When Mary Ann and I were first married, we lived just down the street from Friendly's on Route 1 in Norwood near the Walpole line. I was off on Mondays in those days. Almost every Monday morning when Jon was a baby, I can remember us going there for breakfast. You could have a nice breakfast of eggs, French toast, and bacon or sausages, plus coffee for just $2.22 apiece. Those were delicious breakfasts! Yesterday Doug Meehan on BostonTalks 96.9 was talking about how quality at Friendly's has declined over the past few years, and Jim and Margery in the morning picked that theme up today. Doug particularly highlighted the recent weird items added to the menu like a hamburger with macaroni and cheese on it. I knew what he was talking about. The last time I ate a meal at a Friendly's which was just a few weeks ago, the menu was advertising all these WEIRD items on the menu. I was not interested and had to "dig" to find a normal hamburger meal.

Doug and several callers also talked about how poor the service has become at Friendly's. Some callers said they'd gone into a Friendly's to order takeout ice cream and had gotten so fed up with waiting that they just WALKED OUT. Honestly, I came close to that a couple of weeks ago. I LOVE their "thick milkshakes" (NOT to be confused with the Fribble). Now, the Fribble is some pre-made think loaded with preservatives that they pour out of a carton. A thick milkshake is made with several scoops of ice cream and some milk and syrup. They are very good! (And, although they are no longer advertised on the menu, at most Friendly's they'll STILL make you an old fashioned ice cream soda if you want one.) I had to wait and wait at Friendly's at Temple Street and Route 9 to finally have my order taken and get the thick milkshake.

The number of Friendly's locations actually HAS been declining for awhile. When I moved to Framingham in 1987, we had three Friendly's restaurants in town. It's now down to just that one at Temple Street, next to Stop & Shop. Many Friendly's have very sparse crowds and mostly senior citizens, but that one in Framingham is very busy at supper time with a lot of young families eating there.

I read the list of the stores in Massachusetts that closed. It was sad to see that Dedham Plaza, the first Friendly's I'd ever gone to with rich "Helen and Duke" had been closed, as had the one in Foxboro where I've eaten several times. I am glad the Friendly's in Webster which is just a half mile from where I live is still open and that the one in Framingham survived the chopping block.

A few years ago when I was in Pennsylvania I noticed there were Friendly's restaurants all over the place; for some reason the chain seemed to be more popular there than in Massachusetts. In fact, on an episode of "The Office" set in Scranton, PA, Jim takes Pam out to Friendly's.

Yeah, their service has slipped and the "latest" choices on the menu are absurd. But, I hope this will be a positive wake-up call for Friendly's. I'd like to see them improve as a chain and "come back". I know my daughter Rachel would like to get some Friendly's souvenirs if the chain totally closes. I'm tempted to tell you about the time she ate pistachio ice cream at Friendly's at Natick Mall (thinking it was mint chocolate chip) but I don't want her to stop speaking to me, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Ahh, Friendly's... I used to kid around and call you "Enemy's"! I loved your ice cream pies! (Do you still make 'em?) Please don't totally die!