Friday, December 28, 2012


"...the labourer is worthy of his hire..." (from Luke 10:7)

To "cut right to the chase" I learned from Michael Graham on Facebook today that he will not be returning to the airwaves of 96.9 WTKK after the holidays. The station has informed him that last Friday's show was, in fact, his last show there. My son Jon commented that last Friday Michael (and the guests who joined him) talked about it being the last show due to the Mayan "end of the world";and then Jon speculated that maybe there was something symbolic in what they were saying.

I have posted about Michael Graham and his show a few times on this blog. I was very upset when the station took his afternoon drive time slot away in the Fall of 2006 and I was delighted when they restored it to him in the Summer of 2011 after he'd worked just about every shift at the station except for the overnight shift! About 85% of the time, I strongly agreed with Michael who is an outspoken conservative Republican, and about 15% of the time I strongly disagreed with him. I will admit that I didn't like the weird way he could use his evangelical background as both an asset and a liability and as something he seemed to be proud of and ashamed of, simultaneously. Well, Michael won't like this part, but I guess that tends to be typical behavior of what we committed evangelicals call "backsliders". That said, Michael is a nice guy and a talented guy. We met briefly a couple of times and we've exchanged a number of e-mails over the past seven years. I hope he lands a good position soon, and I wish him well. And, honestly, I'd like to see him come back into the evangelical fold!

Monday, December 24, 2012


"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)

I don't live in Leominster (pronounced: LEMON - stir), Mass. and until yesterday I had never heard of the Lahti Jeep dealership. I happened to pick up the free "Leominster Champion" newspaper as I dined at a McDonald's restaurant for breakfast and was truly moved by their advertisement. It wasn't what you'd expect from a car dealership. There was nothing about an "end of the year clearance sale" or "New Jeeps at 1990 prices!" or any of that kind of stuff. Instead, their ad contained a publishing of the poem "One Solitary Life" about the life and significance of Jesus Christ. The heading of the ad was worded, "A Christmas Greeting to all Our Friends". At the bottom of the ad was the line, "May the Life, the Love, and the presence of Jesus Bless your homes this Christmas Season. The Lahti Family."

Now, I might not have been as surprised to see an ad like that in a newspaper in the Springfield, Missouri area where my daughter lives. That area, which I happen to really love, is part of the Bible belt. But in New England and especially in a state like Massachusetts which I'm sure commentator Bill O'Reilly would describe as "secular progressive" it takes real guts to run an ad like that. Frankly, there are some folks who'll see an ad like that and determine they'd never buy a car from such a dealership and they'd encourage their friends to not shop there. In my case, I don't currently live near Leominster, but if I ever do, I'd definitely go there if I were looking to buy a vehicle, and although Leominster is over forty miles from where I currently live, I wouldn't necessarily rule that out!

Thank YOU Lahti family for not being ashamed to publicly proclaim your faith and your love for the Lord Jesus Christ! Merry Christmas! May 2013 be the greatest year your business has ever had!

Friday, December 21, 2012


"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." (2 Peter 3:3-4)

I am no expert on the ancient Mayan calendar, but unless you've been on another planet for the past couple of years you know that the ancient Mayan calendar ENDED on what we know as December 21, 2012. There were some people who honestly expected "the end of the world" on December 21. I did not. I want to briefly explain why I did not. But I also hope to shake up those who (as in the passage above) become jaded by these false predictions, confidently assuming that everything will just continue on for millions and millions of years and there's no sudden climactic intervention of God to take place in human history any time soon.

If I gave a thorough Biblical explanation of why I believe Jesus Christ will literally and dramatically return to this planet and why I believe all human beings are accountable to Him, it would probably take a book length document. I suspect it would take at least 150 pages and probably more. So, this will not be thorough and exhaustive. This will just scratch the surface. It is true that for centuries people have arisen setting dates for "the end of the world" and the Second Coming of Jesue Christ. A group called the "Millerites" in the 1840s did exactly that. As I recall, Miller was a Baptist minister in the northeast. He and his followers went to a mountain top in white robes expecting to meet and greet Jesus. They were sorely disappointed, but some of them did not give up. From that group emerged the "Adventist movement" from which we get the Advent Christian Church and the much larger Seventh Day Adventist Cburch. I recall that in 1975, a man named Charles Taylor predicted "the Rapture of the church", that is, the day when Jesus Christ would "catch up" or "rapture" his Church to be with Him and then begin Seven years of Tribuation on the earth. A date was set for September of 1975, which of course turned out to be wrong. In 1988, a man named Edgar Whisenaunt wrote a much read booklet entiled, "88 Reasons Why Jesus Christ Returns in 1988". He predicted the Rapture to take place on September 12 or 13 of 1988. Of course, he was wrong. Amazingly, Whisenaunt came out with another booklet in 1989 arguing that his calculations were off by a year, but that Jesus would definitely return in 1989. Very few of those booklets were distributed! In much more recent times, Harold Camping, for years the Director of "Family Radio" and for years an active Member of the Christian Reformed Church, set a date for the rapture to take place in May of 2011 and later recalculated to October 2011.

These foolish men forgot that the Bible clearly teaches that no one knows the day or hour of the Lord's return.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36)

Now, I know this will sound very arrogant, but the Mayan calendar thing is just pagan conjecture and I'd never pay any attention to such matters, anyway. But, briefly, there is solid New Testament of a "Rature" of the Church and a "Revelation" of Jesus Christ- that is, Jesus Christ literally and physically returning to planet earth at least seven years after the Rapture of the Church takes place. I know this stuff is never taught in "liberal mainline Protestant" churches who consider all of it to be complete nonsense. Such churches teach, for example, that the Book of Revelation is not a book of primarily prophecy about the future but is a Book which speaks in mysterious language about goings on in the Roman Empire of the First Century and has nothing to do with the future. Listen, some of Revelation is about the Roman Empire and the First Century but most of it is not. Churches like the Roman Catholic Church teach that a lot of what is in Revelation is about the future but then go on to make virtually all of it totally symbolic and allegorical and not in any way, shape or form literal. If you carefully read I Thessalonians chapter 4, and I Corinthians chapter 15, you can absolutely see "the Rapture of the Church" there. No, the word Rapture is never used in the Bible, that's true. Neither is the word "Trinity", for that matter. Yet, the idea of the true Believers being "caught up" to be with the Lord and taken out of the world is very Biblical. Most evangelicals believe in a coming Seven year Tribulation period to follow The Rapture. That comes from the Book of Daniel, chapter 9 where it speaks of "70 Weeks". Those "Weeks" are not weeks of days; they are,in fact, weeks of years. Sixty-nine of them have happened. Sixty-nine of them have taken place. One has not. It's the "Seventieth Week of Daniel" and it will be the coming Seven Year Tribulation Period. I urge you to also check out Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark chapter 13, Luke chapter 21, and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, as well as the entire Book of Revelation. Before you roll your eyes, take the time. Make the time. Read this stuff. Read it prayerfully. Say, "Lord, show me if this stuff is really true. Show me if You are really going to return to this planet." See what happens.

I know the Rapture has not yet taken place and I know there will be at least seven years to follow the Rapture. That's a big part of why I was not worried about Dec. 21. That's also why most evangelicals do not believe the world will be destroyed in a nuclear least not prior to that Seven Year Tribulation period. If you've ever seen "Thirteen Days", you know that in late 1962 the word came very, very close to total nuclear annihilation. Listen, we came within a whisker of it, but God did not allow it!

Again, this is not an exhaustive treatise! This is just an extremely brief document! But the Second Coming will take place. We don't know the day or the hour, but it will! In the late 1800s and very early 1900s, fiery evangelical preachers were preaching this stuff and were laughed to scorn! These preachers said that Israel would become a political nation in the middle east; that multitude of Jews would return there; that the City of Jerusalem would become an all Israeli city; that this would prove the validity of these end time prophecies. Incidentally, this does not mean that whatever the nation of Israel does is always right. Sometimes, the nation of Israel is dead wrong in its policies! But God has decreed that Israel be a political nation there in "Palestine" and that Israel control Jerusalem. And God has decreed that one day Jesus Christ will physically, literally return to the Mount of Olives and that this will literally freak out everyone, Jew and Gentile alike!

No, Iam not setting any dates or going up on any mountains wearing a white robe. But, yes, I am "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" as Titus 2:13 says! Will it happen during my lifetime? Only God knows, but this 58-year-old does indeed consider that a possibility!

Monday, December 17, 2012


"while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

President Obama's address in Newtown, Connecticut last night was outstanding. I did not vote for him either time. I have strongly disagreed with the President and have soundly criticized him on numerous occasions. I was pleasantly surprised at HOW well done that address was. I particularly appreciated the very fine use of Scripture from 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 regarding eternal life and Heaven, as well as the reference to Jesus saying, "Let the little children come to me". I fear many detractors will see these references as pandering to the religious or as just trying to placate people. I did not receive or perceive this that way at all. I was pleased with President Obama truly being Presidential and bringing the appropriate words. The media is focusing on his inference to gun control in that speech, and yes it was there. And, as much as I'm a big Second Amendment person, I see no problem with banning military style assault weapons. But it's the proper and appropriate usage of Scripture and references to Jesus in a "secular public" setting that delighted me. Mr. President, may we see more of that sort of thing. And, if you'll draw more strength and comfort from Scripture and pass that along to the citizens, I see that as a very good thing, indeed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:16-18)

This past Thursday night as I was driving along Route 2 heading east from Westminster, Massachusetts to Route 95 I noticed an exit sign for "Newtown Road". That's nowhere near Connecticut, but the word "Newtown" triggered a memory. I remembered that Newtown is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut just outside Danbury. I can recall driving through it a few times. That part of Connecticut contains some pleasant memories for me. There's a large Assemblies of God church in Brookfield, just outside Danbury. I was Ordained there in 1985. Through the years, I've been to a number of church-related events in the Danbury, CT area; staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, etc. How shocking and stunning it was to hear the news of the shootings on the radio the next morning. I can't help but wonder why Newtown, Connecticut came so vividly into my mind on Thursday night, just hours before the massacre. Sadly, now when I think of Newtown, I don't think I'll be remembering pleasant spiritual experiences. No, my first thought will be of the horrific shcool killings.

Many of you know I'm not pastoring at the moment. I loved most of pastoring, and most of the whole experience of being part of the clergy. Honestly, the part I least liked was trying to cope with events such as this terrible crime of little kids being massacred. Of course, all the atheists and God-haters love to throw in the faces of Believers that, "there is no God or this would not have happened"; or even worse, "God is cruel, doesn't care, and caused those kids to be murdered". Then there's also the famous, "God is weak and can't do anything about evil" line, and finally, "this proves it does no good to pray". While I don't agree with any of those comments, I will admit that the mass murder of (mostly) children does leave me speechless. There are simply no words that are adequate to express how evil and senseless these killings were. I can certainly quote some Bible passages and put my arm around grieving people, but there is no way I nor anyone can bring back lost loved ones or remove the devastating pain and loss. I'm one who frankly did a very good job conducting funeral services. It's one thing to eulogize a Godly 90-year-old who died peacefully in his sleep, but it's frankly another to make sense of a 6-year-old being shot dead. I can't imagine what I would say at such a funeral service; honestly. I am not a fan of President Obama, but his words to the nation just a short time after learning of the shootings were powerful and well said.

One thing's for sure. Things will never be the same for that Town, that school, and those grieving families. The Bible passage I quoted above comes from the Christmas story in Matthew's Gospel. It's a portion of the Christmas story that is usually left out of Christmas pagents and Christmas songs. It's one we don't like to think about. That passage speaks of what the Roman Catholic Church calls, "The Feast of the Holy Innocents". King Herod the Great was so jealous of the possibility that a future "King of the Jews" was born in the Bethlehem area that he had all male children age two and under slaughtered. It made about as much sense as the killings in Newtown did. I realize many believe that story is just a "myth" or "fable" to add drama to the Christmas story. I don't believe that. Just like that killings in Newtown, it can leave you wondering about a loving God, fairness, justice, etc. Yes, as a famous Rabbi from Natick, Massachusetts has often reminded us, "Bad things happen to good people".

Experiencing an evil event such as either one of these slaughters of little children will make some people forever better, but can be an opportunity for great spiritual growth. Several decades ago, an affluent Sharon, Massachusetts mom came home to her find her 9-year-old daughter and her maid both dead in the family swimming pool...their bodies floating there. Neighbors said they'd never heard screams such as Patti, the mom screamed that day. It was later theorized that the child had been trying to teach the maid to swim. That terrible tragedy led to the parents, David and Patti searching for God and coming into a very deep commitment to God and relationship with Him. A number of years later, Patti was a layleader doing children's ministry at a large church were I served as a staff pastor. She referred to that 9-year-old child she'd lost as "my little angel who brought me to the Lord". It is my prayer that as terrible and senseless as this massacre is, ultimately there will be many "David and Pattis" who emerge victorious and Godly in its aftermath.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


"So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, 'Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!' But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking." (Genesis 19:14 New King James Version)

Some things are, well, just not a laughing matter. That would be true of the situation going on that's described in the Biblical passage which the above verse is taken from. It's the place where God is about to rain down fire and brimstone and destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's nephew Lot was trying to tell his sons-in-law to join him and several others in fleeing the city of Sodom before the wrath of God was unleashed. His sons-in-law did not join Lot and the others. Scripture tells us they thought he was joking! And, a few days ago, a couple of popular Australian disc jockeys called the King Edward VII Hospital in England pretending to be from the royal family and trying to get information about Kate Middleton. Jacintha Saldanha was at the hospital switchboard at the time. She was completely taken in by the hoaxters. Over the air, she transferred them to Kate's Ward. Jacintha Saldanha, originally from India, was married with two grown daughters. She'd worked as a nurse and had a good reputation. Jacintha Saldanha was made a laughingstock of in front of a lot of Australian radio listeners, but also in front of the British press and in front of the world on the internet.

Shortly thereafter, Jacintha Saldanha was found unconscious near King Edward VII Hospital. Her death was a suicide.

I know. I know. The woman's reaction seems a bit extreme. Was it, really? Had she lived for another thirty years, her obituary would have identified her as the poor fool duped by Australian radio pranksters in 2012. She was never going to live this down. And, we don't know what else may have been going on in her life over the past weeks and months. Trust me, she may have seemed fine, but she could have been enduring deep mental and emotional pain that nobody else even recognized and perhaps that stupid prank phone call and the shame and embarrassment of it was just the last straw for her.

I know Andy Williams' song proclaims, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" but it isn't for everybody. Without going into detail, I'd skip this Christmas in a heartbeat. Of course, I'm not opposed to celebrating the birth of the Christ Child! But it's so much of the materialism and expectations and junk that I'm honestly having a very hard time facing this year. And, don't even get me started on that prankster stuff! So many people like to laugh at others' expense. Listen, I'm ashamed to admit, I've done it. But, again, some things are just not a laughing matter. A friend told me of a man he knows who is big and strong, balding, always wears a hat, and is very sensitive. Just yesterday in a public setting, a prankster sneaked up aside of the big, hatted man and tried to grab his hat. The prankster's intent was to humiliate the big man for his hair loss. The big man who is sort of a gentle giant instantly backhanded the prankster who flew backwards and fell. There's one prankster who won't do that again!

Keep in mind: you don't know what people are going through! There's nothing wrong with humor, but be careful! Some things are just not a laughing matter. This time fourteen years ago a much loved church attender of the Framingham church I used to pastor disconnected the airbags in his late model Lincoln and drove the car at high speed into a giant tree on Edmands Road on Framingham's north side. Yes, it was a suicide. It was a Christmastime suicide. Just a few days before that, he called me and said, "Pastor, I want you to know that everything's O.K.!"

Everything wasn't O.K. I didn't pick up on it. Nobody did. What a needless tragedy.

So this Christmas season, will ya do me a favor?


and Think

and remember that not everything is a laughing matter.

And please notice people and be concerned for people.

Friday, November 30, 2012


"Greet one another with an holy kiss." (2 Corinthians 12:13)

Not everyone likes that famous Frank Capra Christmas classic film, "It's a Wonderful Life". Boston area radio talk show host Michael Graham says it's an incredibly stupid story- that Clarence the angel should have just said, "Mr. Potter stole the money!" and somehow gone and scared Mr. Potter half to death, recovered the funds, and all would have been solved. Of course, technically, Michael Graham is correct about that. But, Michael's just not considering the artistic value of the film and a much deeper message: that of the lives we touch and the people we affect that we are not even aware of. I've gotten to know a young man in the past few months that most people have never heard of, and that most would consider totally unimportant and insignificant. The guy is about 25-years-old. His name is "Daniel". I don't even know Daniel's last name. As much as I have hated going through the experience of having the small church I pastored closed up, having my ministry seriously questioned and scrutinized, and being deemed not healthy to be doing ministry at this time, this experience has caused me to look at life very differently. I've been very humbled, and I've gotten to know quite a few people that I never would have met were I still pastoring. One of those is Daniel.

I have often mentioned that I work at a telephone answering service, and I do about thirty-three hours a week. I do have another job, however. I hand out leaflets for the BJ's Wholesale Club Optical Department anywhere from two to six hours a week at the main entrance of the store. That's where I got to know Daniel as despite his right arm being in a cast, he was cheerfully greeting customers. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that Daniel suffers from some disabilities. His speech can be difficult to understand. He tends to speak with sort of slurred speech and sort of lisping speech. You have to really pay attention to follow what Daniel's talking about. I felt so bad for Daniel one day about three months ago. A slim, bright, attractive and very impatient female shopper probably in her 30s asked him where some item was located in the store. With his slurred and lisping speech, he tried to tell her.

"I can't even understand you, I don't know what you're saying!" she said.

Her words were angry, cutting, and demaning. I wanted to say to her, "Can't you see that he's disabled?! Can't you see that he's trying to help you?!" I didn't, and maybe I should have.

In time, Daniel trusted me enough to tell me he was very seriously injured in a car accident as a very young child. There is brain damage. He was in the cast due to breaking his wrist in an accident on the job. I don't want to violate any confidences here, but I have had the opportunity to share my faith in Jesus Christ with Daniel. I've done that a couple of times. I don't push,but if the opportunity arises, I don't mind sharing my faith.

Some people would see Daniel as very juvenile. He likes video games and is a huge fan of "My Little Pony" which he sometimes talks about almost endlessly. Despite his handicaps and limitations, however, Daniel actually has some talent, in my opinion, as an entertainer.

"Welcome to BJ's Welcome to BJ's Welcome to BJ's" he will jump and yell rapidfire as customers enter the store. And with just as much gusto he will yell, "Have a nice evening!" over and over again to those who are leaving. Daniel seems to take real pride and joy in connecting with customers and in representing the store with his antics, which have sometimes included performances with a hand puppet!

No, Daniel's not a manager nor is he a leader nor is he a macho strongman or tradesman or handyman, and he probably will never be any of those things. Yet, I think Daniel's much more of an asset to BJ's Wholesale Club than their management would ever imagine and even more than he would ever imagine. Yesterday, as I handed out leaflets and watched Daniel greet customers, I thought that someone with some kind of importance really ought to give Daniel a big handshake, a warm greeting, and let him know that what he's doing really matters. I sadly realized that's just not likely to happen, but I then purposed to write this blog piece. Daniel will never be named a "Citizen of the Year" in Framingham or anything close to that, but he deserves kudos and recognition. Honestly, as nutty as this would sound to corporate BJ's management, they ought to feature him in a television commercial. I think he'd become a popular and liked symbol of their store. That's just my opinion.

If you're anywhere near Framingham, Massachusetts at this holiday season, and especially if you're a BJ's Member, you ought to come through the doors of the Framingham store and experience Daniel's warm greeting, and let him know it's appreciated. I think you'd really make his Christmas. Again, Daniel is about twenty-five. He recently had his cast removed after ten months. Daniel's of average height, and has dark brown hair which can have a bit of a slicked down look at times. He also tend to go without shaving for days on end and sport a scruffy beard. You can't miss the smile and antics. Now, he DOES go on break from time to time and isn't always working there, of course, but he typically is there Monday through Friday from late morning to early evening. Again, if you want to do a really nice thing at Christmas, you'd really bless him by stopping by and being friendly.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:3)

My son Jon is a huge "movie" person. I probably have not seen half as many movies as he has, nor do I have a tenth of his film expertise, but I want to tell you on this post about my two favorite films. You will probably be surprised at my title, as neither of these films is even remotely considered a Christmas film, but I want to tell you why I love these films and why I chose that title. My absolute favorite film of all time is "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner and a very close second is "The Apostle" starring Robert Duval.

Recently a Facebook friend of mine who is a very committed Christian posted a wonderful piece about the line "Go the Distance" from "Field of Dreams". If you've never seen the film I don't want to spoil it for you, but I highly urge you to watch it before the end of 2012. I know many of my evangelical Christian friends may have some problems with the film- with the New Age overtones, the fantasy, and even the glorification of a writer who wrote books in the 1960s which included dirty words. If you can look past that stuff, there's so much you can glean from "Field of Dreams". The movie is the story of Kevin Costner's character Ray Kansella building a baseball field on his Iowa farm in obedience to a mysterious voice he hears. Ray believes something wonderful will happen as a result. The film has a great ending, but initially the building of the field brings Kansella great financial problems and the ridicule and disdain of many of his neighbors. The "Christmas" scene I remember is of Ray at Christmas time sitting and sadly looking at his baseball field filling up with snow. At that point, nothing special has happened, and he's feeling the great financial pressure and some embarrassment. Boy, have I been there! No, I never built a baseball field, but if you're a person who "marches to the beat of a different drummer" as I definitely do, and if you've done things that others called crazy and brought you disdain and ridicule, and even in a few cases financial stress, and I definitely have, then you will relate. I have seen "Field of Dreams" in its entirety abut five times. The James Earl Jones, "People will come, Ray" scene is very powerful and kind of a tearjerker. I'm feeling emotional just writing these words. Maybe this Christmas you feel like Ray. You're just sitting there looking out the window, feeling disconcerted and embarrassed (or just plain sad). Things have not turned out the way you expected. This doesn't seem like much of a Christmas season, and you're dreading the next month. WATCH THAT FILM!

I love "The Apostle" almost as much as "Field of Dreams". I've seen "The Apostle" in full probably twelve times. I never tire of it Many of my fellow evangelical Christians don't like the film. It includes just a few swears. The story includes murder, adultery, drinking, and other "stuff" that makes conservative Christians very uncomfortable. Sadly, those who so oppose the film totally miss its message! I also don't want to spoil this film for you if you have never seen it, but in fact it does not glorify those sins I've mentioned. Rather, it presents the reality that people are sometimes sinful, fallible and hypocritical. In the end, the murderer goes to jail. But Robert Duval's character wants to do something special, meaningful and glorifying to God before he goes to prison, and God grants that desire. I am so thankful that (as I often tell people) "you can't put God in a box". God is so much more forgiving than people are. Is God the "type" to let a murderer have a few months to do a special work before being arrested? This may not square with your theology, but yes, He is! Something that is very special about this film is that many, many of the ministers and devout Christians in the film are really ministers and devout Christians in real life! Now, to be fair and accurate, the guy who plays Rev. Blackwell is an actor. And, the Spanish-speaking female revival preacher is an actor and dancer who is a friend of Duval's. But almost all of the rest are just real devout Christian people, mostly from the rural South. The blind African-American preacher in the opening scene is a real preacher, and he gave a real sermon and led a real service for that scene. The one-legged black guy that Duval's character stays with for a short time is a pastor in real life. The guy was going through a difficult time in his personal life when asked to act in that movie, and playing that role was therapeutic for him. "Elmo" the businessman is a devout Christian from Arkansas in real life. In the final scene where Sammy "gets saved" the guy playing that role just relived the night he did "get saved" in real life as a teenager. His tears of love for Jesus were genuine. The cops who arrest Duval's character are real Louisiana police officers who were asked to handle the arrest exactly as they would in real life.

Listen, do you think you have done something so bad that God could and would never love you or use you for His glory? You have not! That's the message of "The Apostle". And, the Christmas connection is that in Duval's character's final church service, it's right around this time of year- late November. "Apostle E.F." is looking for volunteers to act in the church's Christmas pagent!

It takes guts to do what you think God is calling you to do, even if it means almost everybody thinks you're crazy and you lose some friends and supporters. I've lived that. But if you really believe God is calling you to do something, as long as it is not contrary to the Bible, I think you should do it! And, if you think you're too bad to "make a difference" and do something special for God, you're not!

Incidentally, my "behind the scenes" information on "The Apostle" came from watching the film one time with Robert Duval's commentary track on! If you have not seen these films in years, get copies of them and watch them before the end of the year. And, if you've never seen them, you've GOT to!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." (Romans 14:5)

Dan Rea, for many years a popular television reporter in the Boston market, has been hosting an early evening radio talk show on Boston's major 50,000 watt WBZ radio for the past several years. Rea's program called "Nightside" gets into 38 states and 6 Canadian provinces.

I caught most of Dan's first hour as I drove home from Framingham to Canton last night. Dan Rea is pretty disturbed at the marginalization of Thanksgiving Day. For those who have not heard, several "big box" stores, including WalMart, Sears, and Target plan to open on Thanksgiving evening- some at 8 p.m. and some at 9 p.m. (Now, I understand that in Massachusetts due to rigid state laws, this won't happen. However, those stores will be opening at one minute after Midnight Friday morning in Mass.) Dan Rea is just a few years older than I am. We remember an era when Thanksgiving Day was a major event. It was not just a pre-Christmas holiday tacked in there to kick off the shopping season. It was the quintessential American holiday. While technically speaking not a "religious" holiday, it was sacred. And, since most "religious" folks did thank God on Thanksgiving Day, in that sense, it was a religious holiday. I remember that in the Baril household, Thanksgiving Day was very important. We'd have my grandmother and her sister Celia over for dinner. This was the fanciest dinner of the year, and only Christmas Day rivaled the "fanciness" of the dinner. You wouldn't even think of doing something like going shopping at a department store on Thanksgiving Day. When I was a little older, I played in the Canton High band, and of course we performed at the halftime shows of the high school football games on Thanksgiving morning. A lot of people may not understand the significance of New England Thanksgiving morning high school football games, but in a crazy sense, there was even something sacred about those!

About twenty years ago, all that began to be watered down by stores opening very early on Friday mornings for Christmas shopping sales. Now, "Black Friday" as a big shopping day is nothing new. I remember that one year in the 1960s, my mother and sister had gone shopping at Boston's "Downtown Crossing" on Black Friday and their black and white photo as "shoppers" appeared on the front page of The Boston Globe on the Saturday after Thanksgiving that year. But shopping began around 9:30 a.m. in those days. In the early '90s, the practice of stores opening at 6 a.m. started. A few years later, it was 4 a.m. Still a few years later, it was 1 a.m., and now it's going to be Thanksgiving Day itself! I don't think it's crazy to state that if this trend continues, within fifteen years, Thanksgiving Day will be no different from any other and all stores and malls will be open and packed with shoppers all day long on Thanksgiving Day. I wouldn't be surprised to then see the Thanksgiving Day high school football games moved to Black Friday nights.

Dan Rea has purposed to do something about this!

Last night, he began what he hopes to quickly become a national grass roots protest. He is urging that we just DON'T go shopping at any "big box" stores on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday. He's sort of open to a truce of people shopping after 9 a.m. on Friday, although I get the feeling he's not even crazy about that, and neither am I. I am posting this because I heartily agree with Dan Rea. I am asking you to not shop on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday. Now, understand that I do work on Thanksgiving Day. I work at a telephone answering service. On Thanksgiving Day this year, I will be working from 6 to 10 p.m. And I know nurses work, and firefighters and police and others work on Thanksgiving Day. But this whole crazy early Christmas shopping stuff which is encroaching on Thanksgiving is ridiculous and it's got to stop!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." (Romans 13:7)

This morning, Ron, a very good friend of mine from Ashland, MA, called me on my cell phone as I drove from Canton to Framingham, MA. We had not had a chance to chat for awhile and so Ron updated me on a number of things. One story of Ron's this morning speaks volumes. Like me, Ron is a huge admirer of Scott Brown. At his home he had a Scott Brown yard sign on display. Last Saturday as he was outside doing yard work, Ron noticed a woman canvassing his neighborhood. She wore an Elizabeth Warren sweatshirt and carried a clipboard.

"She's going door to door for Elizabeth Warren," Ron quickly thought.

As the female Elizabeth Warren supporter passed by Ron's property, she pointed to the Scott Brown Sign and said, "Well, I guess we have nothing to talk about!"

"Actually," Ron replied, "I think we DO have some things to talk about."

The woman stopped and they had a friendly and lengthy conversation. Ron said he commended the woman for getting involved in the political process. He listened to her spiel about Elizabeth Warren. Then he asked her some tough questions.

"Scott Brown is the kind of Republican that Democrat activists say they want," said Ron, "he frequently crosses the aisle to work with Democrats. He's got a strong bipartisan record. He's moderate on the issues and a very fair and nice man. He's not an ideologue or a party hack. Conversely, Elizabeth Warren is an elitist who has been hand picked by the corrupt Democratic party establishment. How can you be working against Scott Brown?!"

Ron, a guy around age 50, went on to tell her that this was only the second time he has ever displayed a political sign on his lawn, but it's because he felt that strongly in favor of Scott Brown. He said the Warren supporter was visibly shaken. She told him that while she was still voting for Elizabeth Warren, he'd left her with a lot to think about.

A lot of people in Massachusetts should have done a lot of thinking before going to the polls this Tuesday. They got the U.S. Senate race wrong.

Some of you may know that "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is a 1967 musical comedy by Clark Gesner, Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip. I couldn't resist doing a little tweaking of that title for this piece! Any similarities to Scott Brown end with that title, however! Scott's not a socially awkward little kid who couldn't lead his way out of a paper bag. He's a truly outstanding American who was a very hardworking and very good U.S. Senator. When was the last time you saw prominent Democrats such as former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn doing television commercials for a Republican candidate? When was the last time you saw a Republican's signs all over lawns all over the state? There had to be twenty Scott Brown signs for every Romney sign. When was the last time you saw prominent Massachusetts celebrities such as Doug Flutie and the Andelmans of the "Phantom Gourmet" radio and television shows actively promoting a Republican candidate? The fact is, Scott Brown, although registered as a Republican is far more than just a Republican. Brown's slogan, "He's for us" was absolutely correct.

I'm one of those "civics geeks" who follows what's going on in local politics. I knew who Scott Brown was long before he ran for U.S. Senator. I greatly admired him as a State Senator. Scott Brown was a great State Senator who (unlike Barack Obama when he was an Illinois State Senator) did not merely show up and vote "Present"! Scott Brown began his political career as an Assessor and Selectman in the Massachusetts Town of Wrentham (which for you non-New Englanders is very near the Patriots' Gillette Stadium). He did an outstanding job and had an outstanding reputation with people of all stripes in Massachuestts. His wife, Gail Huff, was a highly respected television reporter for Boston's ABC affiliate station. His daughter Ayla is a talented singer who was a semi-finalist on American Idol a few years ago. His other daughter Arianna is a competitive equestrian. Scott has served honorably for many years with the Massachusetts National Guard.

I will admit that I'm more socially conservative than is Scott Brown. I'm pro-life and he's pro-choice, for instance. There are other issues where we differ. I suspect that my good friend Ron differs with Scott Brown on some issues, too. Why, then, do people like Ron and me, and my sister Dianne feel so strongly about Scott Brown? (Dianne has said that if Brown runs for any political office in the future, she'll actively work in the campaign!) It's because he's a one in a million kind of guy and not at all a typical politician.

This week a woman called the Michael Graham radio show in Boston with a very touching story about Scott Brown. Her Dad had enlisted for military service just one month short of graduating from a Massachusetts high school. Now elderly, her Dad had always regretted not having his high school diploma. The woman had gone to the high school to ask if they'd award the diploma to her father, even at this late date. (The diploma was still sitting in a box at the school after all these years.) The school principal refused her request. She phoned Scott Brown's office. Amazingly, Scott Brown went to the school, got the diploma, and in a special ceremony at a Veteran's hall, Senator Scott Brown presented the high school diploma to her father! That's no isolated incident. A few years ago, I was honored to do the "blessing of the bikes" at a fundraising motorcycle ride for an 8-year-old girl with cancer. Guess who attended that event? Yes, Scott Brown who was a State Senator at that time.

Interestingly enough, virtually nothing has been said in the media about Scott Brown's Christian faith. If you check out Wikipedia, you'll see that: "Brown and his family are members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and attend New England Chapel in Franklin, Massachusetts. They also have a relationship with a community of Cistercians, more commonly known as Trappistine, Roman Catholic nuns at Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts." The Christian Reformed denomination is kind of interesting in that it's a very theologically Protestant denominations. It's one that a lot of people would label as evangelical. There are very few Christian Reformed Churches in New England. Most are in the upper mid-west, especially Michigan, and at least half Christian Reformed members in America are of Dutch ancestry. For those who understand theology, it's a very Calvinist organization. Christian Reformed people, however, unlike most evangelicals do not tend to be the types who beat people's doors down trying to evangelize them. Their faith tends to be more quiet and personal. So, they may not be jamming their faith down people's throats (which, again, liberal Democrats are supposed to view as a good thing) but they are people of faith.

There's so much more I could write about Scott Brown. In my opinion, Elizabeth Warren won't even come close to being the great Senator he has been. And, Marisa DeFranco who wanted to be the Democrat to run against Brown says that much of the negative stuff Brown spoke about Warren being in the pocket of big insurance companies is true! (If you doubt that, contact Marisa DeFranco. I have personally contacted her several times!)

You're a good man, Scott Brown! I hope you'll be back running for some political office in the future!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (I Timothy 4:12)

It had been well over three years since I'd done any commercial airline travel, but a few afternoons ago I found myself on Spirit Airlines Flight 857 from Boston's Logan Airport to Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport in Texas. Almost immediately upon being seated, and well prior to take-off I began to overhear the conversation of three young men seated in the row directly behind me. Their words caught my attention because they were laced with phrases about Theology, phrases about Philosophy, and quoting of Bible verses. At least two of the young men speaking had heavy British accents. A took a few very quick glances at the men seated to the rear of me and noticed they were caucasians but somewhat dark-skinned. I wondered if they might be from some foreign country like Guyana.

I took the title for this piece as a slight re-doing of the Alfred Hitchcock film title "Strangers on a Train". Indeed these WERE strangers on a PLANE. I'm not ashamed to speak about my faith in public, but I'm not even sure I'd have been comfortable talking on and on in the manner that these young male students did. They spoke of the faculty and students they admired at their school due to their intellectual qualities. They talked a bit about romance and dating. They spoke with great judgmentalism about those who did not accept their faith, and proudly proclaimed matters such as "I'm now CONVINCED and I'm declaring myself a CALVINIST!".

I wondered if they were seminary students. Upon listening further, however, it was evident they were undergraduates at a secular university. They were evangelical Christians and they were very sure of themselves. One stated he intended to go into politics; not immediately after graduation, but certainly in his young like. All had great ambition. All were filled with confidence. All seemed ready to take on the world and confident that with a few Bible verses quoted and explained and a few theologians quoted and explained they could silence any and every argument and solve the world's problems. They annoyed me.

I wondered what they'd tell a mother struggling to care for her autistic young child. I wondered what they'd tell a troubled 60-year-old with terminal lung cancer. I wondered how they'd convince a pro-choice liberal to support their political aspirations. I wondered if any of them knew how to change a tire or bleed a heating system.

They had no real life experience. They were probably between age 19 and age 23. They were just kids. Yes, they annoyed me. But, I suppose that thirty-four years ago when I was a student at Central Bible College, I was a lot like them.

Yes, kids like that read a few books and study a few chapters of the Bible and suddenly they're a Calvinist or an Arminian or a Dispensationalist or a believer in Theistic Evolution, or WHATEVER. Yes, a couple of classes and a couple of books and everything was all set.

Part of me SO wanted to engage them in dialogue! But that would have been very awkward. It would have been very insensitive to the guys traveling in MY row who were working on their laptop computers. It would have been physically uncomfortable to be trying to twiswt my body and talk to them. I decided against it.

Upon arrival at Dallas-Ft.Worth, I simply turned their way to get one final look at these excited, judgmental, hopeful, confident young Believers and I walked off the plane. I fly home on Monday. I wonder if I will encounter any more interesting Strangers on a Plane!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


[ Note: Claire Grimes' 84th Birthday is October 31, 2012. In her honor, I once again post my piece called "Claire". I think this is the 3rd time this has appeared on the blog. No other piece has had so many "reruns". I’m also very pleased that this post was printed as a column in the Dec. 31, 2010 MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) ]

“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. [Added for 2012 posting: Jack Grimes passed away in May 2012.] 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!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


"And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Matthew 8:26-27)

As I write, there is a huge and dangerous hurricane (Hurricane Sandy) off the Carolinas in the Atlantic Ocean. The possible track of this storm and weather forecasts have been "all over the place". We are getting a lot of what I call "gloom 'n doom" from the Boston media. People act as though the worst storm to hit New England in at least a hundred years is about to strike. This situation has caused me to think back to late September of 1985. At that time, Hurricane Gloria was about to strike Virginia Beach, Virginia. Famous and somewhat controversial television evangelist M.G. "Pat" Robertson went on his "700 Club" program and prayed. As I recall, he not only prayed, but essentially commanded Hurricane Gloria to turn and depart from the Virginia coast in the Name of Jesus. In fact, Hurricane Gloria did exactly that to many people's utter shock. Did Pat Robertson, by his prayer of faith actually move Hurricane Gloria? It is true that hurricanes are very strange storms which often defy meteorological logic. They have been know to make sudden drastic turns which make no sense. SO, DID Pat Robertson really move that hurricane? Only God knows. It's possible it would have moved anyway and that he had nothing to do with it. But, as crazy as this will sound to non-Pentecostals and non-charismatics, if you take the New Testament seriously and pretty literally, it IS POSSIBLE to change the weather with a prayer of faith. Incidentally, two days after Pat Robertson's prayer, Hurricane Gloria struck eastern Massachusetts hard. Our residence in Walpole had no electricity for (I think) five days. Some communities in southeastern Massachusetts had no electricity for well over a week. There was a lot of damage. So, if Pat really did that, I guess those of us in New England should have been sarcastically saying, "Thanks a lot, Pat!"

The thing of praying and believing God for a drastic change in weather has gone through my mind a few times over the past few days. I really don't want Hurricane Sandy in any way, shape, or form! But, I learned a drastic lesson about this business of "praying the prayer of faith to change the weather" back in 1999 that makes me very reluctant to engage in this sort of business. This is a very personal story that could make me the butt of jokes and thought of as a very foolish man, but if it does, I'll just have to say, "Pat Robertson, move over!"

It was late December of 1998, to be exact. The upcoming Sunday was the first Sunday of January and the first Sunday of 1999. Like many pastors, I considered the first Sunday sermon of any year vitally important. This sermon would set the spiritual tone for the whole year. It was not just any sermon. It was big. It was like a coach in the NFL whose team is way behind at halftime standing up before his players and verbally "giving them all he had" as far as motivation and exhortation. I was already working hard on my first sermon of 1999. I felt so passionate about it. As far as I was concerned it just had to be preached on the first Sunday of the year. The second Sunday just would not do. There was a problem, however, and that was the weather forecast for the first weekend of 1999. It called for a big snowstorm! Most likely, church service would have to be cancelled. IF we had service, there would probably be 7 people present. I thought about Pat Robertson and the hurricane back in 1985. Could I really pray the prayer of faith, command the weather to change, and have this happen? I decided I would do exactly that! I went outside and faced the direction the snowstorm would be coming from. Out loud and firmly I prayed, commanded, and believed there would be NO snowstorm for Sunday in the Name of Jesus!

Sunday morning came. I looked outside. No snow! NO SNOW! I was ECSTATIC! As I did every Sunday, I drove to the church early to turn on the heat and the coffeemaker. The temperature was around 40. It was drizzling. The driving was fine. Ninety minutes later, the church leaders were there drinking coffee and looking forward to the morning's activities. A phone call came in from Bernadette who lived in Medway, ten miles south of Framingham. She said she'd driven a couple of miles from home and it was treacherous- all dangerous black ice. She and her daughters were staying home. The Lincolns from Ashland had come to church but did report that at their home near the Hopkinton line, there was indeed some ice. Again, downtown Framingham was fine, however, so I was still very happy. We had a good service. I preached my dynamic, important sermon. I felt very victorious and satisfied.

Within twenty-four hours, our family received awful news. This was awful news that pretty much the whole evangelical Christian community of the MetroWest suburbs of Boston received. A girl about fourteen-years-old from a wonderful Christian family had been killed in a tragic accident in Hopkinton near the Ashland line. Her mother's car had gone out of control on ice and was off the road. She and her mom got out of the car. Another car came along, went out of control, and STRUCK THEM, killing the girl! It turned out that the girl had gone to the same nursery school as my daughter Amy. In fact, they were in the same nursery school class. This tragedy was so sad and was felt in so many households. The following weekend, our family attended the girl's memorial service at an Episcopal church. It was, of course, a very sad service. Suddenly, in the middle of the service, I had a HORRIBLE thought: I had done my big Pat Robertson thing and prayed away that big snowstorm and we got the drizzle in Framingham and the black ice in other areas instead. Was this death somehow MY fault?!

I I hung my head down, and had to control myself, for I wanted to burst into uncontrollable sobs. I can't begin to say how selfish and how horrible I felt.

Later that day, after coming home, I took a walk. I took a long walk. And I prayed and thought and prayed and thought and prayed and thought. I know those who are not "born again Christians" will not understand this, but I believe God spoke to me that afternoon...NOT audibly, but in that "still, small voice" deep inside my spirit.

"No, this is not your fault. You had nothing to do with the accident nor with that girl's death. But LEARN A LESSON from this! Praying and commanding the weather to change can and does happen in some cases. But there is always the potential for consequences from changing the weather...sometimes grave consequences. This is not something you ever do casually or lightly."

So, since then, I don't command the weather to change or anything like that! DID my prayer really change the weather? As with Pat Robertson, I don't know. Only God knows. But this is in the category of, "Be careful what you pray for, you just might GET it!"

Will Hurricane Sandy really be a very bad storm in Massachusetts over the next couple of days? I don't know. DID Pat Robertson's prayer really move that hurricane? What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012


"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

I may forget where I put my wallet, as I did a couple of weeks ago, and I may forget what I did with my car keys, but for some reason, I have vivid memories of the distant past. One memory I have involves the dark blue 1955 Ford station wagon owned by the Civil Air Patrol that my father sometimes drove. Dad was a member of a local Civil Air Patrol group. In fact, he was a leader of the group and held the rank of Major. In these days of government austerity, I don't know if they still provide C.A.P. automobiles for the use of the C.A.P. leadership, but they did in those days. Now, please understand, this car, and the 1961 Ford station wagon he later sometimes drove, were not driven by him exclusively, but he did have the use of these cars on occasion. In the days before we were a two car family (in 1964) my father periodically borrowed a C.A.P. car. Since this memory involves the 1955 station wagon, rather than the 1961, I think this must go back to around 1962.

I would have been around 7 or 8 at the time. Sometimes during school vacations, my parents would allow me to go to visit my grandmother at her apartment in Boston for a personal vacation of several days. I loved these vacations! I was treated like a king! My grandmother and her younger sister Celia who lived nearby would dote on me. I got all kinds of cool snacks and got to visit all kinds of cool places in the city with them. I got to watch some great shows on least by 1962 standards! My memory of the 1955 Ford C.A.P. car is that Celia had taken me by public transportation to the City Point/Castle Island park area on the South Boston waterfront. I had a wonderful time. We took the public transportation back, and walked the quarter of a mile or so from the bus stop to "Gram's" apartment.

As we rounded the corner to Gram's street, what to my wondering eyes did appear but the 1955 Ford C.A.P. car?! NO! At that point, I was still scheduled to have at least another couple of days at Grams' in Boston. I was not supposed to be going home now. I was stunned. It wasn't fair! My parents did not keep their word. I had two more days left! It wasn't fair! We went in, and indeed my father was there to bring me home. As a grown up, I realize things can come up. This was not the time frame any of us had planned on, but maybe my parents had a schedule conflict and this worked out better for them. I understand that today, but as a kid, I didn't understand it, at all.

My father was not a guy you argued with. You just didn't say "no" to him. I knew there was not way out of it. I had to pack up my stuff and go with my father in that 1955 Ford station wagon. I was deeply disappointed. The funny thing is, in my brain, I've come to associate deep disappointment with that evening. When I feel there's been a really unfair or deeply disappointing happening in my life, I will picture that 1955 Ford C.A.P. car and remember how I felt that night.

This is very personal, but over the past three years, there have been a lot of 1955 Ford C.A.P. cars in my life! No, not literally, but they might as well have been literal. As a little kid, I had plans for the rest of my vacation at my grandmothers. Those plans were sacred to me, and anything that might interfere with them was, well, unthinkable! I've carried that thinking pattern into adulthood. I am a planner. I've never been known to be particularly "flexible". In fact, "flexible" is not a favorite word! Some years ago, a guy in our church in Framingham called me a "control freak". I really didn't like that. In fact, he was and is a control freak, himself. But, alas, he was correct.

In Scripture, I am amazed that interruptions did not even phase Jesus. He accepted interruptions as just part of life and seems totally unaffected by them. I am embarrassed and convicted each time I read those accounts where someone throws off Jesus' schedule and He is just fine with it. Honestly, I'm a bit better about interruptions than I used to be, but I do like my private world to have all the t's crossed and i's dotted. In fact, over the past three years, and particularly over the past few months, as I have rounded corners of my life's journey, I have encountered many dark blue 1955 Ford C.A.P. cars. Many! Yes, there's also been many a 39-year-old Eugene A. Baril telling me it's time to pack my things and go, no matter what plans or hopes or dreams I may have had. Honestly, right now is a very emotional time for me. I have been holding onto a bunch of hopes and plans and dreams that don't seem to be working out at all. Instead, there is a whole parking lot full of 1955 dark blue Ford C.A.P. station wagons! I don't like it.

I don't like it one bit!

It was so easy to teach about Discipleship, and obedience, and faith, and living the Christian life when I was pastoring. It's just so difficult now. But, you know what? Back there in 1962, I did ride home in that '55 Ford with my father. I was disappointed but it did not kill me. If and when I ever publicly minister again, I have a feeling my ministry will have a lot more depth because of this "Joseph of the Old Testament School" I am in right now. I am grateful for dear Christian friends who are praying me through these days. Excuse me, I think I see a 1955 Ford station wagon I'm being summoned to enter!

Friday, October 19, 2012


"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:" (James 1:19)

I posted this on my Facebook page today. I am NOT against people stating their political opinions, nor I am against freedom of speech- not at all. But I think Facebook, including postings by my Facebook friends, is just inundated and saturated with this stuff. Enough already!

This may upset some folks and seem "off the wall" but I am so tired of reading political stuff on Facebook. Ironically, at one time, I was a HUGE political junkie, so I understand a lot of what is driving this. I AM watching the debates, but I guess I just feel SO bad about the state our country is in which is not good. Yes, I will vote on Nov. 6, the Lord willing; but if we're really all "friends" on Facebook, I think we've all done enough posting about how great Obama is or how horrible Obama is; or how great Romney is or how horrible Romney is; and that all goes for Biden and Ryan, too. I don't think our country has been so divided since 1865. As nutty as this may sound, I think there needs to be a lot of humility and prayer in our country at this point in time. JAMES 1:19 says we should be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. To that I add "Selah".

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A close friend of mine who happens to be an elderly pastor said he was profoundly affected some years ago by a conversation he had with a female missionary to Papua New Guinea. My friend has often struggled with trying to deal with the mundane details of everyday life which seem to get in the way of the work of the ministry. My friend even hates the whole shaving, showering, and exercise routine of each morning, saying he could be so much more productive for God if he didn't have to waste his time with that business each morning. Honestly, I've often felt exactly the same way! His conversation with the missionary, however, was eye opening. She said that at least half of what she and her family did in Papua New Guinea and in America, in fact, had nothing specific to do with active full time ministry. It was preparing meals and tending gardens and washing hair and cleaning house and on and on and on. She called all of this, "the stuff of life" and said that as committed evangelical ministers we all have to come to grips with "the stuff of life" much as we may not like it.

In the Bible there's actually a lot about "the stuff of life". In 2 Kings chapter 6, a young man lamented to Elisha the prophet about a borrowed axe head that had flown off the handle and into the water. In Luke chapter 15, Jesus talks about the "lost coin" and "lost sheep". My friend the elderly pastor freely admits that he's a perfectionist and that this has caused him some pain and frustration in life. I am also a perfectionist. Like my elderly friend, I like to have all my i's dotted and my t's crossed. I like to have "all my ducks in order". I like it when all is right with my world. When I feel things are in chaos, well, I can't begin to tell you how horrible that feels.

I lived a real life nightmare a few days ago. It was Friday. In the "window" of time between 2:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. I had "a million" things to do. To use a favorite phrase of mine, I was "running around like a nut". One of the "million" things I needed to do was to go to the Framingham Public Library, check my e-mail, and send off a couple of important e-mails. I have to enter a lengthy number from my Framingham Public Library card to use the computer. As I always do, I pulled out my wallet, then pulled out the card and entered the number. I lay the wallet on the table next to the computer. About twenty minutes later, I rushed off to BJs Wholesale Club to hand out flyers. Typically at least several times a day, I kind of take a private inventory of what is on my person. I want to make sure I have my wallet, my change purse, my keys, and my cell phone. As I was handing out flyers, during a lull in the action, I did that inventory. NO WALLET! I was a bit surprised and figured I must have stupidly left my wallet in the car. Making a quick apology, I went out to the car to get the wallet. NO WALLET! In the past three years, I have maybe lost my wallet five times, and each time it's been found within an hour and usually within ten minutes. This was scary. Suddenly it hit me. I'd left it at the library!

According to my watch,it was now 5:10 p.m. and the library was CLOSED. I phoned my son Jon, a library employee, asking if there was any way I could get into the library and get my wallet. He was quite unsure, but thought there was a CHANCE a maintenance man could be in there. I felt like an absolute fool, but I clocked out at BJs saying, "I'm really sorry but something's come up!"

I am not proud of this but I was depressed and semi-hyper-ventillating as I drove to the library in very heavy traffic. At the library, I went up to the door and indeed saw a maintenance man inside. I pounded on the glass door. He motioned his hands that the library was closed. I yelled at the top of my lungs, "I LEFT MY WALLET! I LEFT MY WALLET!"

I don't remember being that hysterical since I burned my hands on the heating system of our old church building on a weekday evening and some firemen came in to rescue me. I remember yelling, "SIR," at them, and just yelling and "talking ragtine" I was in such shock. Well, on Friday I was not much better. The maintenance man came to the door. I explained what happened. He assured me he would go up to the reference room and look for the wallet.

The maintenance man was gone for a good ten minutes. That made me nervous. He returned empty handed. He told me he'd combed the computer area and there was no wallet there. He said some librarian may have locked it up in a safe place and that I should return on Saturday morning. How did I feel? I felt like I was in that scene in the film, "The Wizard of Oz" when the doorkeeper comes back and tells Dorothy and her companions, "The Wizard says, 'Go away!'".

I called a friend for prayer. He told he he had a great Christian song he wanted to listen to and that he would play it for me over the phone.

"I don't want to hear any songs!" I said, "I just can't listen to any songs right now!"

What an awful feeling. Yes, I have been known to lose my wallet for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and once over the past year for about an hour. But ALL NIGHT?! No ATM Card. No I.D. No Driver's License. No family photos. No supermarket discount cards. No official Assemblies of God Ordained Minister card. Nothing.

Loss. Loss. The big issue I've been struggling with over the past few years. Loss. Here is was again. Loss. What if I went to the library on Saturday and there WAS no wallet in the safe? What if I needed a new driver's license? I'd have to use my Passport, find a copy of my birth certificate, find who knows what else for an I.D. What a nightmare! I did have one weird dream that night although it was not as weird as the real life nightmare I was experiencing.

Now, I had to work at the answering service around 7 hours on Saturday. I am not sure how I got through that first 90 minutes on the phones before I got a break and could go over to the public library. At the library I went right up to the reference room. I explained my plight to the librarian.

"Oh, yes," she told me, "your son was just up here talking to us about that. We have checked and there is NO wallet here. I'm sorry. Check at the front desk downstairs".

I did go downstairs.

"Oh, yes," the front desk librarian told me, "I heard about that wallet, but we looked and we DON'T have it."

If I had a really bad heart, I'd probably have keeled over dead right about then. Suddenly, the librarian at the INFORMATION desk, not to be confused with the CIRCULATION desk said,

"I THINK I know something about that wallet!"

She went into a back room. In about two minutes, she walked out with MY WALLET!

"It was turned in yesterday," she said, "And I put it in the safe."

Even as I write these words, I feel like bursting into tears. I will never think of Luke chapter 15 quite the same way again. I am not sure why God allowed this to happen, but I'll never preach on Luke 15 without making this story my introduction. Is God really trying to get my attention about the plight of the lost? If so, I think He has succeeded!

The stuff of life. Yeah. We just can't get away from it. It can drive you crazy. And, you know what, God is there in the midst of all the nightmares you can experience with the stuff of life!

Friday, October 12, 2012


"And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:" (Genesis 37:6)

Around four months ago I published a post on this blog entitled "WOULD WBZ GIVE BOB BARIL A CHANCE?" Well, I've exchanged some e-mails with a person at that station, and that seems to be just kind of "in limbo" to use an old expression that my father used to use all the time. While there are probably a dozen careers I've had a passing interest in, there have only been two that I have REALLY WANTED TO DO WITH A PASSION: One is be an active and respected evangelical Protestant minister and one is be a successful radio broadcaster; (particularly doing a "call-in" show).

In high school I absolutely wanted to go into broadcasting, although my father strongly talked me out of it. He felt it was a field that offered no job security; that it was like acting, with a few big success stories and scads of disappointed wannabee failures. I trained to be a public school teacher. What little public school teaching I did, and there wasn't much of it, I HATED. I decided I would rather be a janitor in a textile mill than be a public school teacher,and for one summer job I WAS a janitor in a textile mill, so I knew from whence I spoke! Many of you know, I spent over twenty-five years as an Assemblies of God minister. I am still an Ordained AG minister although right now I am on "inactive" status. The church I pastored never had more than eighty people in attendance, and for most of the twenty-three years I pastored that church there were under fifty. In the final days, we felt "lucky" (a distinctly non-evangelical word) if twenty showed up. I'm actually a very good speaker and a very good teacher (just not in public schools!), but I guess I was a lousy leader and not much of a businessman. At least half of what you do as a pastor is functioning a businessman and about another thirty percent is being a leader of men and women. I gave it all I had, but those were areas where I just never seemed to get out of the starting gate, so to speak.

That's a big part of why when the overnight show slot opened up at WBZ, I wanted a crack at it. I may sound like I really sold myself short in what I wrote above, but I really AM a gifted person. Sometimes, it's difficult to "get your foot in the door" to convince others of this. During the Fall of 2011, I took several classes at the job training center in Marlboro. A lot of people thought I was getting "hands on" training there for a new career. Actually, there's really little of that, there. I got SOME of that, but not a lot. Much more common are motivational "you can do it" kind of classes. I don't write that to be critical. Unemployed and underemployed people really have lost their self-esteem and need those classes. I have never told this to anyone outside of those classes, but in several of those sessions, people raised their hands and pointed out that I make an outstanding presentation of myself and have a captivating presence. These comments were made by people who (in many cases) are HIGHLY skilled when it comes to computers and business- much more highly skilled that I am. I was frankly SHOCKED at some of the praises I got from these folks. One INSTRUCTOR there AGREED with my classmates, and said to me (I think half seriously), "Just don't try to take MY job!"

I will say that what I just wrote is not easy to convey on a job interview, despite what people have said to me. Now, that part was all only my "introduction" to this piece! Yes, like Joseph of the Old Testament, I have "dreamed many dreams". He went from the prison to the palace. I would still LOVE to do an overnight radio show, if not on WBZ, on SOME station. I admit as I wrote on the blog a few months ago, I am really not "a trained broadcast professional", as some would say.


IF I were to host an overnight show on a major station like WBZ, I probably would NOT do a lot of "heavy issues"stuff. Of course, there could be exceptions. I'm sure, for instance, that even the most silly and lighthearted of hosts found themselves doing "heavy issues" talk on Sept. 11-18 of 2001. As I recall, that was also the case on May 1, 2011 with the news of Osama Ben Laden's killing. THOSE sort of nights would be the exception to the rule.

I really enjoyed "The David Stein Show/A Celebration of Life" during the few weeks it was on WTKK in the Spring of 2011. I know the national syndication company (I think it was Westwood One) was trying to market that as a major nationally syndicated show. I don't think it was ever on more than 6 stations and it was cancelled. BUT, it was VERY good stuff! I remember that at least HALF of Stein's calls came from Boston's WTKK. I know people would think a spiritual and people-centric show like that would NOT have appealed to New Englanders but apparently, it did. Now, I would NOT do a show EXACTLY like "The David Stein Show/A Celebration of Life", but I must say, that sort of thing would be a big piece of what I would do...maybe 40% of the type of thing I would do.

I'd call my program something like "Bob Baril's Kitchen Table". The idea would be a person who comes downstairs at 3 am and can't sleep and just wants to sit at the kitchen table, have a piece of chocolate cake, and a glass of milk and TALK. The talk COULD be very funny, silly stuff...funny stories, that sort of thing. But it could also be some serious matters...maybe someone's dealing with a child with cancer, or a parent who just had to be put into a nursing home. The "I've been there" callers who'd respond would be very powerful and therapeutic. My thirty years as an Ordained Minister would be very handy and appropriate for that sort of thing. And, I would NOT be ramming evangelical Christianity down people's throats. David Stein is a Jew by birth who today is a "born again Christian". He DID bring Jesus and the Bible into things, but only in a VERY SUBTLE and INCLUSIVE manner....NEVER in a condemnatory or preachy manner. He was always about inspiring and motivating others, and I'd like to do the same.

Again, I would NOT do JUST that sort of thing, though. There IS a place for just funny stories and interviews and other things. I'd love to interview people from Massachusetts who are not particularly famous but who are making a difference in our world.

I DO think the PERSONALITY and the "SCHTICK" of the host is important. I used to enjoy "The John and Jeff Show" when it was on WTKK. I don't know if they EVER had guests. IF they did, that was rare. They'd talk about subjects like tipping in restaurants and "should marijuana be legal?" and there was something about the WAY they talked and conducted themselves that they were RIVETING to listen to! You wanted to hear what was coming next. You did not want to turn off the radio! I don't know if he is on anywhere today, but Tom Leykis also has that quality. True, he's a real jerk "in real life" but the way he tells personal stories, you just can't get enough of listening! I think that is a VERY important quality in a host and it's something I would strive for.

Within reason, there's even a place for some kind of crazy but memorable music themes. Rush Limbaugh used to do that, and I think he was much better when he had those "update themes". I'd LOVE to host a show featuring an audio clip of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" as my musical opener...that's because it SOUNDS like they're singing "BOB BARIL"!

I know what I'm suggesting would scare a lot of program directors as stations want to have a very serious and very professional news image. But, IS there a place for the kind of things I write about to be on the air from Midnight to 5 a.m.? In my humble opinion, ABSOLUTELY! I think it's the idea of a radio station "letting its hair down" and being VERY DIFFERENT during those hours that CAN make listening very attractive- even to people who don't usually listen to talk radio or to AM radio.

What do you think? Is my dream crazy? Would YOU listen to a show such as I'm describing? The program director at WBZ strongly asked me to stop having friends e-mail him, and I did that. Now, I think maybe resuming those e-mails wouldn't be a bad idea! Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5:24-25)

There are some things you write and post that can be viewed as "loaded". If you're not SUPER careful and cautious, such postings can "come back to bite you". This is one of those, and so I'm endeavoring to be very careful as I write. I will be sharing a story but deliberately changing some details just for the reasons I open with. The essential story is true, however.

Several days ago, a friend that I will call "Nikki" shared a sad story with me. She'd gone to church at the medium-sized evangelical church where she attends where the congregation was greeted with devastating news: One of the most beloved Members of that church, a woman in her seventies who'd been an active Member for over thirty years had died that week due to complications following surgery. I will call the woman "Juliette Hudson". Juliette had been in church on the previous Sunday with her husband "Zack". It was known she was going in for surgery. People from the church prayed for her the way evangelical Christians will pray for a fellow Church Member going in for surgery. Everybody expected to see her soon, having had a successful operation. Instead, things went horribly wrong, there were complications, and after a couple of days, she passed away.

Nikki told me that although Zack and Juliette are a lot older, she felt closer to them than to anyone else in the church. The news hit her hard. But the hardest part was Zack's pain. The widower was crushed. He said, "I will never stop loving her", and shared how theirs was really a dream relationship. It was not a perfect marriage, but it was the next best thing. This was one of those one in a thousand couples who were soul mates, desperately in love, almost inseparable, and had an almost perfect marriage. Yes, Zack knows Juliette is in Heaven, and he finds comfort in that. But his loss has left him almost inconsolable.

I must say, Nikki's words just stayed with me. I pondered them. I later saw Nikki and asked her,

"How is that possible? So few people achieve that sort of a marriage. So few people have that kind of a relationship. What do you suppose is their secret? How do you suppose that is possible?"

Her answer was brief but powerful:

"I don't think that sort of thing happens very often at all. I think it's very rare. But I think it's achieved when you have two very unselfish people that marry each other."

If you're like me, that is very sobering. It's true. But how does one truly become unselfish? And if one unselfish person is paired with one selfish person, will that work? I think not. Are you unselfish? Honestly, I can be a very kind person and a very generous person, but I am shamefaced as I write that through most of my adult life I've been a selfish person. Yes, I'm a committed evangelical Christian. I am a nice guy. I can be very kind and very generous. I can be very helpful. And I can also be very selfish.

This couple, Zack and Juliette, was married for fifty-three years in an almost perfect marriage. Yes, it's very rare. It probably shouldn't be. Among evangelical Christians, problematic marriages should be very rare. This incident involving a couple that I never personally met has gripped me, and caused me to do an enormous amount of soul searching.

Friday, September 28, 2012


In my last posting, I lamented the forces change to the new Google/Blogger template that does not allow any paragraph spacing.

I truly prayed about this, and I considered retiring this blog and possibly starting a new one with a new "server".

I asked the Lord if there was any "Trick" I could use to again get paragraphs back onto the blog.

God showed, me, no kidding and it WORKS as you can see. It is a LOT more work and more "tekky" which I do not like, but although it will take me more time and more work I will be able to write with paragraph spacing again!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


NOTE: SORRY that this is all run together!! This was composed on the "NEW" Google blogger template. I HATE IT! I miss the old one, which does not seem to be any longer available. When I composed this piece, it had paragraph divisions, etc. When I "published" it, the piece all ran together. Thanks a lot Google Blogger. I am being sarcastic. I HATE this! Well here is my piece: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority..." (from I Timothy 2:1-2) If you're perceptive and alert, you can experience some interesting encounters with some interesting people in the midst of ordinary life. It makes me think of something that Pastor Westover (my first pastor in the Assemblies of God) preached in a sermon back in the 1970s. He said that you can learn something from almost EVERYONE and ANYONE. I remember him adding, "And, that guy digging ditches, you can learn something from HIM!" Today, I encountered Jay, a very interesting character. Following several hours working at the answering service, I went to my "other" job at BJs Wholesale Club, passing out flyers as people entered the store. After about an hour, and many "people encounters", a couple who appeared to be in their early seventies entered the store. They seemed to be olive skinned, and the man looked Asian...maybe Chinese or Japanese. The woman took a flyer, and the man immediately engaged me in conversation. As the flyers were for the Optical department, he began telling me of the problems he is having reading signs. Honestly, I'm having some of the same problems, so I could relate. This guy was very engaging and he talked and talked. He talked about how difficult it is to read highway signs. Then he commented something like, "this reminds me of the kind of stuff the Obama Administration does" and he chuckled. I chuckled along with him and told him I'm not really a fan of President Obama and that I thought I understood his point. The man told me his name is "Jay". He then said, "I'm sure you would NEVER GUESS where I originally come from." I don't think I could have. He was obviously Asian but his slight accent seemed Spanish. He then told me he was born in South America and that his first language was Spanish. He is ethnically Chinese. His actual legal name is Javier. Jay said that from the age of twelve he had been fascinated with the United States of America and wanted to come here to live. He loved the American culture and customs. Jay came here in the 1950s; he told me the plane landed in Philadelphia and that is what he considers his "birthplace". Jay had slightly bad breath. It wasn't TERRIBLE, it was just slightly bad. He had missed a few spots shaving, which I find is common with a lot of elderly men. He had several moles, including one prominent one in between his eyebrows. His wife stood patiently off to the side as he talked to me. She was around five feet away. I wondered if she was upset or impatient with him, but she seemed very calm, like this is common and he kind of needs to pontificate about life and politics and that she's content to just wait and let him talk. Jay expressed much displeasure about the Obama administration and the direction in which the country is moving. He said he longed for the America of the 1950s and 1960s. Jay's hero is Ronald Reagan. He admitted Reagan's administration incurred much debt, but Jay said he deeply admired how Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet empire and stood as a true leader. I'm also a huge admirer of Ronald Reagan and Jay was pleased that I agreed with him. He told me, "back in 1968 when Reagan first ran for President, I had a FEELING about him that he would be a great President". He was very disappointed that Reagan did not get the nomination that year, but was thrilled that he finally was elected President. "My feelings are not ALWAYS right, though," he added, "I felt the same way about George W. Bush and I was WRONG!" I agreed with Jay's assessment of George W. Bush and I told him so. Jay said he knows Mitt Romney is "wishy washy" and is no Reagan, but he feels confident in voting for him. "I used to be a management consultant," he said. "I have been to Utah many times. Many of those Mormons are better Christians than most Christians are!" I'm not sure I would put it THAT way but I think I know what he meant. Many of you know I'm extremely unhappy about the choices we have for President this year. I think they're BOTH bad choices, but I found Jay's comments valuable and helpful. Jay's final message to me was vivid. He held up his hands in the "Praying hands" posture and he urged me to pray for our country. "Pray,PRAY!" he exhorted. In a moment, Jay and his wife were on their way shopping. It was quite an encounter for me. Jay was in the house!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FROM MY BLOG ARCHIEVES: "Je Me Souviens" -about Sept. 11, 2001

This piece, entitled 'Je Me Souviens' is about my memories of Sept. 11, 2001 and was originally posted on my blog on Sept. 9, 2006.

"...and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord." (from Genesis 12:8)

Here in Massachusetts, we see a fair amount of Quebec license plates over the summer months. Many Canadians vacation in New England and they love Cape Cod. I remember from my early childhood that the Quebec plates used to say "La Belle Province" but the new motto "Je Me Souviens" comes out of the Quebec separatist movement. My paternal grandparents each emigrated from just outside Montreal, and my heritage in Quebec goes way back. I deeply regret that I speak very little French, but I do know that "Je Me Souviens" means "I remember". (No, I won't talk about my French Canadian heritage today- maybe another time.)

I remember.

I remember September 11, 2001. I also remember November 22, 1963, for that matter. Up until 9/11/01, November 22, 1963 held the record in my memory as being the most sad and intense day that I could ever remember in this country. The shock of the news of the Kennedy assassination, and all that followed was so vivid and horrible. I never thought any day would equal the sadness and horror of November 22, 1963; and none did until September 11, 2001- which tied it.

Maybe it's because my birthday is in September, but I absolutely LOVE September. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was on a day off (as I usually am on Tuesdays). At that time, my two daughters were students at Framingham's Marian (Catholic) High School. Since both were on "financial aid" my wife and I had to "give something back" to the school. (That was before my wife was the full-time head administrative assistant at Marian as she is currently.) I was committed to doing clerical work in the Development office at Marian every Tuesday, just as I'd done over the previous school year. Sept. 11 was my first day "serving" for that year. I was up VERY early that day. I drove Amy and Rachel to school. I then went out and took a long walk. It was a BEAUTIFUL morning. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. As I walked, I prayed that (like Joseph in the Old Testament) I would do a good job at Marian and find favor with my superiors. I was so happy and so thankful for the beautiful day. I picked up a Boston Herald and perused it over my breakfast table as I ate a bowl of Special K. One article leaped out at me. It said Regis Philbin was holding tryouts in Boston on Sept. 13 for college students. I ran upstairs and told my son Jon, a Freshman at Emerson at the time. Jon was ecstatic and determined to try out.

After watching the last few minutes of a particularly good episode of Northern Exposure on A&E, I left for Marian at 9 and was in the office by 9:15. After some cheerful "chit chat" I sat at the computer and began to work. At 9:30, Mr. Flynn (one of the teachers) burst into the room.

"My mother just called and said two planes crashed into the World Trade Center," he exclaimed.

There was a radio in the room, so I turned it on. At first I believed some terrible accident had happened. After about fifteen minutes, the announcer speculated that it must be "terrorism". I now feel stupid writing this, but I hadn't even thought of terrorism. I felt almost sick to my stomach. A few minutes later, it was announced that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. Like everyone else, I knew America was under attack. I couldn't believe that this wonderful September morning had turned into what seemed like a horrible nightmare. Then it was announced that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I knew my son was in Boston to attend classes at Emerson, and that my sister worked in an office building near Copley Square. I genuinely feared for their safety. I wondered if the trains would be shut down and how they would get home.

In my heart, I was really afraid. I prayed a silent prayer, asking God to calm me down and to lead me to a Scripture passage to read. I carry a small "New Testament & Psalms" with me at all times. I opened it to Psalm 27. That Psalm gave me such peace and ministered to me in such a powerful way that I used it for the text for my sermon on the following Sunday.

The final period of the day was a special assembly to address the terrible events of the day. Fr. Sheridan, the Catholic Chaplain came in from his parish in Ashland and spoke. I had to give him a lot of credit because I was not even sure what I'd say. Sitting across from me was the mother of a Marian student. She was also a woman who'd left our church six months earlier. It was not a pleasant time and we'd angrily clashed over the departure. After the service, I spoke to her, urging us to forgive each other and reconcile. We did.

The train service was slow and sporadic but Jon finally got home from Boston. I remember feeling very patriotic and very emotional at the end of that day. I suspected other attacks would follow within the next few months, and of course that did not happen. I suspected America would never be the same, that we'd really draw closer to God and to one another. That lasted for about three weeks, and then everything was back to "normal". That still surprises and saddens me.

September 11, 2001. I remember.