Friday, February 24, 2012


“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

The hardest thing of not being in full-time pastoral ministry for me has been hardly ever preaching. I miss that terribly. For many years, I preached at least 40 times a year. This past year I preached only 5 or 6 times as a guest speaker. Right now I’m reading and meditating my way through the Gospel of Mark in my personal devotional times. In the past, some of my greatest sermons came our of things the Lord showed me during such devotional times. Not long ago, I got SO much out of Mark chapter 6. Had I been pastoring, what follows in this piece would have been preached as a sermon in the near future. The best thing I can do now is to write it down and share it with people through the internet.

I know there are some people who feel things in my life are not right and that what I would share from a pulpit would therefore be of little value. Honestly, I disagree with that. My sermons are expository sermons from the Bible, and in Isaiah 55:11 GOD says of His precious Word, “ shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please...”. That’s GOD speaking. So, if God in the past has literally spoken through a DONKEY, He can certainly speak through this flawed vessel.

Were I preaching this, the title would be, “EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED”.

This sermon is mainly taken from Mark chapter 6. I encourage you to check that chapter out!
My RMV Official father was considered a driving expert. He taught many many people to drive. Something he drilled into his students was, “Expect the unexpected”. A close variation of that that he would say is, “Accidents happen when LEAST expected!”
As we approach God and the things of God, our attitude should always be: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. God OFTEN does what we DO NOT and WOULD NOT expect Him to do!
Closely related to that is a line I’VE often used in discipling people: “YOU CAN’T PUT GOD IN A BOX!” God will not be made to fit neatly into our theology or religion (or “expectations”). I think God just loves to shake up people’s theology, and that includes the theology of Pentecostals, Baptists, and other evangelicals! No, you CAN’T put God in a box!

If you forget everything else about this sermon, please remember:

Most Pastors try to make their sermons fit into a format of Three Main Points. I usually did that, too, but THIS one has SEVEN! (Had I actually preached this, the 7 points would have been presented briefly, nobody’s Sunday dinner would have been forfeited!)

In Galatians 2:9, it speaks of being given the “right hand of fellowship”. We still use that term in churches today. But sadly, there’s also the left foot of fellowship! It’s bad enough when a human being is given the left foot of fellowship, but how horrific to give THE LORD the left foot of fellowship! Sadly, some churches DON’T want God. My good friend Dick Germaine has often told the story about his early days of pastoring a very liberal Congregational church. A Board member actually stormed out while he was preaching, yelling, “I’m SO #%^##@
SICK of hearing about the blood of Jesus!” That guy wanted to give the Lord the left foot of fellowship. In the early days of the Pentecostal movement, one hundred years ago, many people were baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoke in other tongues, and were quickly THROWN OUT OF THEIR CHURCHES. They were said to be “of Satan”. Those churches gave Pentecostals and the Holy Spirit the left foot of fellowship. At Nazareth in these verses, JESUS is rejected by his home town. This was NOT the Messiah that they wanted or expected. This was the kid with a runny nose who’d been fussy during a Passover meal; this was the kid who’d tracked wood shavings from his Dad’s shop all over Mrs. Abraham’s nice clean floor. This was NOT who they wanted, and they rejected Him.

Have you or I rejected the Lord because He WASN’T as we wanted or expected him to be?!

2. ONE “FAR OUT” TRIP (vv.7-13)
Here, Jesus sent his twelve apostles out to do ministry and He gave them some really weird directions. Imagine God telling you to drive out to Springfield, Missouri, but telling you to take NO cash with credit debit checkbook, and just the most minor change of clothes. Imagine HIm saying, “Don’t worry about where you’re going to stay; people will just invited you into their homes, they’ll make you meals, AND they’ll give you gas money!”
Would you go? Well, that’s pretty much how it was. They went, and things DID work out. Yeah, I imagine it was one “far out” trip! A lot of people TALK a lot about “faith”. In fact, VERY few people have ever really walked by faith. Honestly, it’s a difficult area for me, and I’ve failed at this many times. Now, granted there IS a fine line between faith and foolishness. If you want to see a great example of someone in modern times who has walked by face, watch the DVD “Faith Like Potatoes”, the TRUE story of the life of Angus Buchan. He’s a South African farmer and preacher and he is very much alive. What would you be willing to do if God called you to do it? Sadly, I knew a guy who was called to preach; he was called to go to Bible College. In 1982, he was ACCEPTED to attend Central Bible College. He knew he was called. He knew he was supposed to go. But, he got scared. He just couldn’t go through with it. He did not go. He is still a Christian. But his Christian life has been very wishy-washy, and even included a time of drug abuse in which he pretty much lost EVERYTHING material in his life. I can’t help but wonder where that guy would be IF he had continued on and done what the Lord had called him to do.

What is God calling YOU to do? Are you going to do it, or are you too scared?

3. A KING AND A FOOL (vv. 14-29)
Almost anyone in the world who read this story would say the King here is “King Herod” and the fool here is “John the Baptist”. Herod was a puppet king under the Roman government, but he still “lived like a king”. He had money and power. He had fame. John the Baptist had publicly criticized King Herod, and for that, he’d been thrown into prison. Yet, Herod kind of liked John. Incidentally, Herod had more faith than many Christians do. When Herod heard about Jesus doing great miracles, he assumed it was John the Baptist who had been risen from the dead. Now, John the Baptist was executed; he was beheaded/ But Herod believed he had been raised from the dead, his head had been miraculously reattached, and he was doing miracles. I’ve gotta say, that’s faith! But Herod’s no role model. He threw himself a big birthday party. He had too much to drink. A girl there did a sexy belly dance for him. He was so captivated by the girl that he offered her ANYTHING...even half his kingdom. She chose John the Baptist’s head on a platter! Herod really did NOT want to do that..but he had his pride...what would people think? So he had John beheaded. Have you ever thought about what it must have been like for John that night? All of a sudden some guards burst into his cell and yell, “All right, LET’S GO!” John probably thought, “Let’s go? Go WHERE? What did I possibly do?!”
The next thing he knew, his head was cut off!
Yes, the world would say Herod was the king and John was the fool. NO! John is in Heaven. John will reign with Christ as a King and Priest forever! Herod is eternally lost. Who is the fool?

Where are YOUR priorities? What is most important in life to YOU?

4. ONE LOUSY RETREAT (vv.30-34)
When Jesus and his disciples heard about John’s execution, they were pretty shaken by it. Have you ever just needed to get away and process something? Even Jesus and His disciples needed to get away, be alone, have kind of a private retreat, and process this. They went with that intention, and what do you suppose happened?
Look at what it says.
The crowds showed up, essentially saying, “Here WE are, and WE want to be ministered to”.
Do you know what I would have done in that situation? I would have FLIPPED OUT!
I would have told those crowds, “Do you GET this?! We need to be on a private retreat! We need to be by ourselves. GOOD BYE! GO!! We’ll see you in a few days, now GET OUTTA HERE!!”
That’s what I would have done.
Jesus is not like me!
Jesus had compassion for them. Jesus went out and ministered to them, in his own time of need. When you’re spent and just need to be alone and “process” do you know what God may do? He may send people that you’d rather NOT have around for you to minister to. I know, it’s happened to me. Initially, I have NOT liked it. But during those times that I have suppressed my real feelings and have NOT flipped out, and have actually ministered to people when I did NOT feel like doing so, God ALWAYS blessed, and you know what, I got more out of the ministering to the people than they did. I got the blessing because I did what God wanted me to do.

What inconvenient annoying thing are you willing to endure for the cause of Christ? Frankly, what annoying person are you willing to minister to for the cause of Christ?

This is one of the most familiar stories in the Gospels, and in fact it’s found in all four Gospels: The feeding of the 5000. There were 5000 MEN (how many women or children?!). They did not have enough food for their journey back. Jesus disciples pretty much said, “That’s OUR problem?! These dopes don’t have enough food. What are we supposed to do? If we bought them all four piece McNugget meals it would probably cost over $10,000. It’s THEIR problem!”
Jesus said, “NO, it’s YOUR problem”. You know the story. Jesus has them all sit down in smaller groups. The disciples find five loaves and two fish that John’s Gospel tells us a “lad” had with him. Jesus blesses the food, the disciples distribute it to the crowds, the food keeps multiplying, and in the end they pick up twelve baskets of LEFTOVERS! Too often, I am a very negative person, like the disciples were. I see things as OBSTACLES. Jesus, rather, saw this as an OPPORTUNITY!

What situation are YOU in today? Honestly, in the natural, I’m in a pretty bad situation in my own life. But the Bible says in Ephesians 3:2 that the Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think! Do we really believe that?

God wants us to see situations NOT as OBSTACLES but as OPPORTUNITIES for Him to work and be glorified.

6. WHAT DO YOU SEE? (vv.47-52)
After the feeding of the 5000, the disciples got into their boat on the Sea of Galilee and sailed off, but Jesus remained behind to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples saw a figure walking on the water, and they FREAKED OUT!
You see, there were all kinds of legends and stories about GHOSTS who haunted the Sea of Galilee. They were convinced they saw a ghost and were terrified. Jesus essentially says in verse 50, “Hey, it’s me, don’t be afraid”.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says we are to walk by faith and not by sight. But DO WE? Listen, a lot of the time, I walk by SIGHT. Back when I was pastoring in Framingham, I remember a woman in our church named Chris who used to often pray, “Help me to NOT go by what I see”. That’s a good prayer. You can go to a magic show and think a guy created a rabbit out of thin air or made a woman disappear. These are all TRICKS. Back to my father that I talked about at the beginning of this sermon, he used to say regarding highway accident investigation that eyewitnesses were often NOT reliable. They would imagine or concoct things. They thought they saw things that they DID NOT SEE.

The question is, in the darkest hours, DO WE SEE JESUS. because, you know what, He is there!

7. STAY FOCUSED (vv. 53-57)
My friend Bob Gill often says, “I have to stay FOCUSED!”
You know, sometimes I have wondered if I have A.D.D.
I can have a hard time “staying focused” on things. I really need to stay focused when I do my job at the answering service. Many times as I’ve gone into work, I’ve prayed (in Bob Gill’s words) “Lord, help me to stay focused on my job today!”
In the region of Genneseret, many crowds came to Jesus. They did not allow anything to deter them from Him. They stayed focused on Him. In fact, they focused on the hem of His garment. They pressed in to touch the hem of His garment. Now, remembering the theme of this sermon, someone may say, “Well, that shouldn’t matter. Jesus can just speak the word and they will be healed. Why focus on touching the hem of his garment? I wouldn’t expect God would need people to do that, nor would He require them to do it. That’s just religious and superstitious.”


In fact, THAT is how the Lord was moving that day and they were moving in the Spirit and they GOT it, and they received their healings!

You know, sometimes in church God wants a VERY quiet and very reverent service...almost like you’d get in a very formal Episcopal Church. And, SOMETIMES He wants a service like a wild southern revival meeting, and there are hundreds of other varieties of what He wants services to be like. Do WE get in the Spirit and DISCERN how God is moving on a particular day, or do we have God in a box and put our own expectations first?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)

If you own an automobile in Massachusetts, is there a legal and valid state inspection sticker affixed to your car’s windshield? Don’t be TOO sure!

I can’t help but notice things like license plates and inspection stickers. My father, Eugene A. Baril retired as a Supervisor from the old 100 Nashua Street Registry of Motor Vehicles headquarters back in 1982 after a distinguished career. He was presented with Mass. license plate #280 upon his retirement. Today, that plate is affixed to the Honda that my wife drives. Dad also was known as the “honorary historian” of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. He was often cited in local publications during the early years of his retirement. (If you do a little on-line searching you’ll find the Registry’s history page which includes a photo of him holding up the first license plate issued in Massachusetts.)

Dad left me a number of collectible license plates and inspection stickers upon his death. Decades ago, Massachusetts had (frankly) very boring looking license plates, but the COOLEST inspection stickers of probably any state or province! I actually sell these “mint” stickers at classic car shows. My favorites are the stickers from 1957 through 1981. Stickers of that period are glossy and colorful. In those days, Massachusetts alternated between rectangular stickers and square stickers, based upon the year. The stickers were glossy and bright and colorful. Some are green, some orange, some blue, some red, even some PINK!

Back in the pre-1982 era, it was very easy to tell if a car was not legally inspected. For example, if the current inspection stickers were green and square and your car sported a rectangular and orange sticker, it would be unusual for you to drive around much more than two days before an officer would stop you and issue a ticket. Cars without legal stickers were very rare in those days.

Today, non compliant automobiles ABOUND. Walk through ANY parking lot, and you’ll notice that typically one out of every fifteen cars displays an out-of-date inspection sticker. They’re harder to spot. The stickers are now always the same shape. They do change colors from year to year, but the MAJORITY of the sticker is white and black, AND people may not notice that the large number in the middle of the sticker indicates the sticker has actually expired.

Recently, I wrote to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation pointing out the above facts. My recommendation was a public relations campaign using television commercials warning drivers to check their stickers and to get the car inspected if the sticker is expired.

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from Erin Deveney who is Chief of Staff
of the Registry of Motor Vehicles Division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Ms. Deveney states that there are no funds to pay for such a public relations/public education campaign, BUT that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is seriously considering:

“...additional measures that may be employed to compel compliance, including the implementation of a vehicle registration suspension process for the owners of vehicles that do not obtain an annual inspection. “

Did you catch that? SUSPENDING the car’s registration! While that WOULD get many unsafe automobiles off the road, can you imagine one out of fifteen cars having their registrations suspended? That means the plates are gone. That means violations to pay, insurance surcharges, and certainly fees to reregister the cars. The state makes a ton of money, and much of it from decent people who just plain don’t realize their sticker has expired. This reminds be of the fact that a couple of years ago, the state stopped notifying licensed drivers when their licenses were about to expire. NOW, if they’re stopped and the license is expired THERE IS A HUGE FINE!

I think there ARE ways to have a public relations/public education television and radio campaign about the expired inspection sticker problem. What about businesses or foundations who’d FUND such a campaign?! I think a number of the larger auto dealers in Massachusetts would be willing to do this, as well as a number of foundations and some philanthropists.

I don’t think we should let this get to the place that people’s car registrations are suspended. Nor, should we continue to allow for so many uninspected cars to be on the road, risking the safety of us all!

If you care about this, please contact your state representative and state senator. You can also e-mail Ms. Deveney at

Let’s do all we can to pass this information on to EVERY Massachusetts car owner!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)

Several times in the recent past, I have written about lessons I have learned from working at a telephone answering service. THIS is another. I have learned SO many practical lessons from this job! You know, some day I may even write a booklet or even a BOOK about all I have learned.

What I am sharing now may seem ridiculously simple, annoyingly basic, and logically unnecessary. Please DON'T make the mistake of thinking that! You NEED to read this piece and you need to share it! I am learning that people make SO many communication errors over the telephone! SO many times, people "hang themselves" on the phone- they GUARANTEE they will be misunderstood and/or brushed aside and ignored. This DOES NOT EVER HAVE TO HAPPEN!

Let me tell you about an actual conversation I had while on the phone answering a call this week; the mistakes the caller made, and HOW the caller could have totally turned that call around by just making some MINOR changes in her approach and manner.

I'm changing the name of the medical practice, the location of the medical practice, and the name of the caller and any other details. I'll call it BARIL MEDICAL ASSOCIATES OF CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

Here is how the call went:

BOB: Good afternoon, Baril Medical Associates of Canton.


BOB: The office is open but they're probably getting a high call volume at this time, so that's why the call is coming to us. I can take a message and FAX it to the office, if you like, or you can call back in a little bit.


BOB: So, you'd like me to take a message?


BOB: OK, now what is your name?

CALLER: Nanette Jones.

BOB: No, not who you wish to SPEAK to, what is YOUR name?


BOB: WHO do you wish to speak to at Baril Medical Associates?


BOB: I'm confused. What is YOUR name?

CALLER: NANETTE JONES! This never happens, I can always get right through! What is going on? Get me Nancy Jones! Get me Nancy Jones!

BOB: So YOU are Nanette Jones and you're calling Nancy Jones? I'm confused.

CALLER: (speaking very fast, and yelling) I had a car accident, I want to speak to Nancy Jones, I'm Nanette Jones, Nancy Jones is my mother, I want to speak to Nancy Jones I want to speak to Nancy Jones (faster and louder) I WANT TO SPEAK TO NANCY JONES now stop all this stuff and give me Nancy Jones!

BOB: OK, please calm down and speak slowly. I just am required to take your phone number and I will patch you right through to the office.

CALLER: (fast and disgusted) 555-555-2068

BOB: (calls inside line- line is answered after TEN rings!)
RECEPTIONIST: Baril Medical Associates of Canton.

BOB: I have a Nanette Jones on the line. She was in a car accident. She needs to speak to Nancy Jones immediately.

RECEPTIONIST: (flustered) she OK...oh...Nancy...oh...
BOB (to CALLER): Nanette, I have the office

RECEPTIONIST: Nanette, are you OK?

CALLER: (sounding hysterical) I was in a car accident...

(BOB disconnects himself from conversation at this point.)

Now, for those of you who think the caller did nothing wrong, here is how she could have changed that whole situation:

BOB: Good afternoon, Baril Medical Associates of Canton.

CALLER: Bob? My mother works there and I've just been in a car accident. I need to speak to her right away. Her name is Nancy Jones and my name is Nanette Jones. Is there a way I can speak to her?

BOB: Of course, Nanette. I am sorry to hear that. Just give me your phone number for in case we are disconnected, then I will patch you right to the office.

See? What a difference!

The caller was probably around age eighteen. A big lesson I have learned is that the first sentence you use on a call is CRUCIAL! That sentence will make you or break you!
She needed to give me the facts RIGHT AWAY, so I understood what I was dealing with.

Please understand this from an answering service operator's point of view. When we take a call for a medical practice and we hear, "I WANT TO TALK TO NANCY JONES; LET ME TALK TO NANCY JONES!" in a demanding and rapid delivery, we are thinking:

1. Is this person a drug addict who is calling to demand drugs? IT HAPPENS!

2. Is this person a former patient who has an axe to grind against the office?

3. Is this a person who has been asked to NOT call the office for some reason? IT happens!

4. Is catering to this person going to get me IN TROUBLE with that practice? (Later, we could hear, "WHY did you put that person right through to the office? Couldn't you tell they were high on drugs? That person had threatened the life of Dr. Nelson the day before. You COULD have just taken a message!")

You see, WE don't know it's the child of an employee! WE don't know there's just been a car accident. WE don't realize how TIME SENSITIVE the call is.

There are SO many other things I could write.

This week, I've had a few other people angrily hang up when I've asked "date of birth?" or "could I take your phone number?". Some have yelled, "I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!!" In fact, I was within seconds of patching them through to the office when they hung up!


1. Choose your FIRST SENTENCE very carefully. Make sure it contains the information you need to give. DON'T yell it. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace, BUT NOT TOO FAST. And, please TRY TO AVOID SPEAKING IN A THREATENING TONE.

2. Then, as hard as it is to do: LISTEN! I KNOW you don't want to give your phone number. "I don't need to give my phone number, my mother knows it". But I don't know it! I am taking the number because the client (Baril Medical Associates) requires it and so I can call you back if we are disconnected.

Read those two rules again. Next time you are really annoyed when you get a receptionist or an answering service operator, please remember those rules and practice them.



“But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.” (Matthew 27:20-21)

Barabbas is the title of a 1961 epic film starring Anthony Quinn.  Of course, the basis for that film was the Biblical account of Barabbas, a notorious criminal being chosen to live and Jesus Christ being chosen to die.

In my personal devotional reading I’ve just read through the last few chapters of Matthew during the past week.  While most of the 1961 film is total fiction, there is some fascinating stuff we can see in the Bible account about Barabbas that most people miss, entirely!

The “synoptic gospels” (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) state that Barabbas was an insurrectionist and that he has murdered people in his insurrectionist activities.  It has been speculated that he was a Zealot.  The Zealots were a radical group of Jews from the time of Jesus Christ who wanted to overthrow the Roman government’s rule over Palestine.  He may have been a Zealot, but that isn’t stated anywhere.  Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor thought he had a nice little solution to his “problem” of Jesus Christ.   (The Jewish religious establishment wanted him dead, but he still had many, many committed followers.)  Each year at the Passover holiday, Pilate released a prisoner to them.  This would be an easy way out for Pilate.  He would have Jesus scourged (a horrific experience from which some did die), beaten and humiliated, and ask the crowds if they’d rather have Jesus released or Barabbas released.   It seemed like a no brainer.  As far as Pilate was concerned, there was no way they’d ever want Barabbas released, so they’d pick Jesus and everybody would be happy. Of course, to Pilate’s shock, things did not go that way at all.

There are four words at the end of chapter eighteen of John's Gospel which seem to be totally out of place and/or even incorrect.  The words are: “now Barabbas was a robber.”  It’s almost like a throw away line such as, “Now Barabbas had bad breath,” or “Now Barabbas liked Greek women.” Barabbas was in prison for murder and insurrection.  That was his crime.  If he was also a thief or also liked Greek women, or had a mole on his left cheek, well, so what?!

Not so fast!

Do you know that every detail in the Bible is important?!

Now, we’re going to uncover something I find fascinating...the skinny on Barabbas!  Did you ever hear what his name means. (In the Bible, names almost always have significance.)  The name “Barabbas” is Aramaic.  Aramaic is the language Jesus and his disciples spoke; not Hebrew.  If you take the time to check it out, you’ll find that the Aramaic word “Bar” means “son of”.  And, the Aramaic word for father is “abba”.  “Bar-abbas” literally means, “Son of the Father”.  Now, you’ve got to admit, “Son of the father” is kind of a weird name!

Now, do you know what the name “Jesus” means?  The name Jesus is actually the name Joshua or Yeshua.   (Jesus is the English version of the Greek version of that name; it would actually be more correct to call Jesus “Joshua” or “Yeshua”.)  Jesus means “Salvation”...or quite literally: “Jehovah is salvation.”

I’m not done.

In John chapter eight, Jesus has an amazing conversation and confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders.   To anyone who thinks Jesus was a wimp, read that chapter!  He tells them they are not of God but are of the Devil.  In fact, he says something to them that would make them fighting mad.  He tells them Abraham is NOT their father (or ancestor) but that the Devil is their father.  (See John’s Gospel, chapter 8 verses 39-45.)

I’m still not done.

In John chapter ten, Jesus says he came to give life more abundantly, but that the Devil’s purpose is “ steal, and to kill, and to destroy...” (from John 10:10).

Barabbas was a robber, so like the Devil, he stole.

Barabbas was a murderer, so like the Devil, he killed.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist, so like the Devil, he destroyed (and was bent on destruction).

Pontius Pilate really had no idea of the choice he really offered the crowds that day. They had a choice between “The Son of the father [the Devil]” and “Salvation- the Son of God” and they chose “The Son of the father [the Devil]”.

Bob Dylan’s great song from his 1979 “Slow Train Coming” album says. “Gotta Serve Somebody”. If you’ve listened to that song, you know Bob admonishes his listeners that, “well, it may be the Devil and it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody”.

There’s no neutral.

Whom do you choose to serve?

That's the skinny on Barabbas!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


"I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks , but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us." (Romans 16:1-6)

In the final chapter of the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul thanks a number of people who had been a great help to him through difficult times. That is appropriate for this posting.

A week ago, I was emotionally and mentally stressed to what felt like a breaking point when I posted that "Coming Out of the Closet" piece. It's interesting the reactions you get when you post something like that. Frankly the majority of people I know who read my Facebook page and blog were SILENT. I think a lot of times people are silent because they don't agree with what you did but they don't want to get into a big fight over it. (For others, they just plain don't know what to say or how they're supposed to react.) I did hear from some who were critical of what I wrote. I will say the SURPRISE for me was that I heard from several people by e-mail, by phone, and in person who fully affirmed what I'd written. At least one of them really amazed me, for it was a person I thought would have had a major problem with the piece. I heard some very positive comments and compliments on my "Coming Out of the Closet" piece from some very sensible, and level-headed people including some highly respected evangelical Christians. Honestly, I wondered if that piece would bring ANY positive responses from anyone. So, I am most grateful.

Most people don't understand why anyone would open up in public like that. And, I will admit that as open and vulnerable as I typically tend to be, on THAT piece I went WAY BEYOND anything I have ever done or thought I would do.

I will say, I know of at least one Christian speaker who has gone far beyond what I did in this forum. That's the Christian speaker and comedian Chonda Pierce. Chonda Pierce is a HUGE women's conference speaker and comedian. AND, her videos are extremely popular with Christian women. I would hear Chonda Pierce videos on in the background at various times; to me she sounded like some sort of goofy, very feminine, very hillybilly girly speaker that I could never imagine listening to. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to watch one of her videos. It was NOT so much humorous as it was "very heavy". On THIS video, Chonda spoke freely that in her recent past, she'd ended up in a psychiatric hospital; that she'd been suicidal; that she believed her family including her children would be better off without her; that all the "Christian stuff" people told her...("read you Bible more, pray more, sing and praise more," etc.) did NOT help. This was a very gut level DVD. I was frankly surprised at what she'd shared, and I'M "Mister tell everybody everything about himself". I am not sure even I would go that far! Again, she went way beyond what I did last week. Frankly, I know what Chonda did and what I did are typically NOT well received in the evangelical Christian community. As one perky song says, we're supposed to be "in right, out right, upright, downright happy all the time"! People may ask how Chonda Pierce and Bob Baril who are both talented humorists and who can have audiences in stitches laughing and who can be SO confident talking into a microphone in front of a crowd of people could become so helpless and depressed.

Listen, within a lot of very funny and very public people who love to "ham it up" there's a VERY FINE LINE between comedy and seeming confidence and extreme depression and self doubt. Last week, someone wrote to me, "Don't you know who you are in Christ?!" As Chonda would tell you, those kind of communications DON'T help. They make you feel a whole lot worse. When you're in a Chonda Pierce or a Bob Baril totally stressed out situation, you don't need any Job's comforters. You just need real friends who say, "I may not understand but I care and I'm here".

I want to especially thank R.S., E.R., D.R., G.S., M.S., G.K., P.B., E.S, M.A., and a few others who greatly encouraged me over the past week. I mean this: I will never forget you for your very kind and supportive words at a very difficult personal time.
Chonda Pierce came through her horrific personal ordeal. She will probably always be on medication, but she is back cheering up people and discipling them. By the grace of God, that's also my goal for today and tomorrow, as well!