Wednesday, August 28, 2013


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

On last night's "Nightside" program on WBZ Boston (1030 on the AM dial) host Dan Rea asked the questions, "What would be your fantasy job?" and "What would be your dream job?" By "fantasy job" he meant something honestly unattainable, but just something (crazy) you'd imagine yourself being a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox or piloting a spaceship to the Moon. By dream job, he meant something that you'd love to do that (perhaps) could happen- like being a writer for The Boston Globe or being a cameraman on "Dr. Phil". Dan discussed these topics late in the show- 10 to Midnight; well, actually because Jen Brien was late for her shift, he discussed them on the first half hour of her show, as well.

I regret that I dozed through much of the discussion, but I enjoyed what I did hear. I got to thinking about what my fantasy job would be and what my dream job would be. There's actually not much of a difference between the two. My fantasy job is that of being a motivational speaker. I know- people who really know me may laugh at this because in my personal life I've struggled with great depression and negativity. It may seem very strange for someone who has so struggled with these matters to fancy himself being a nationally and internationally famous motivational speaker. In fact, I think the fact that I have struggled with this stuff is part of what would motivate me to become a motivational speaker! I know "the agony of defeat" but I also long for "the thrill of victory" and I have tremendous compassion for people who feel hopeless. It's my own loss and pain that has given me this tremendous passion! Now, many of you know that Jen Brien currently has my dream job! When Steve Leveille retired from WBZ in June of 2012 I actually contacted the program director of WBZ asking to be considered for the job- and I posted about this on my blog. I knew I was a huge long shot for that job for many reasons, but I still think I'd have done a fantastic job and would have made others (and myself) very happy! For a long time it appeared that WBZ just wasn't going to fill that slot with a permanent host, but honestly, from the very first time I heard Jen Brien fill in on the overnight shift, I knew she would get the job. She absolutely has the "right stuff" that WBZ was looking for.

I'm a very, very good speaker and a very, very good storyteller. I also happen to love Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" show on National Public Radio. Keillor is a lot more talented than I am, but I have the same gift of story telling, drama, and love of being before an audience that he does. I guess another fantasy job would be of doing a national story telling and humor radio show like he does.

Now, for everybody who is shocked that as an Ordained minister I did not list clergy as my fantasy job or as my dream job, let me say that I loved pastoring- especially the preaching and the teaching. I'm in a temporary and transitional time in my life. Should I be asked to serve as either an Associate Pastor or a "solo" Pastor again, I will do it! The tough part for me, though, was the "business end" of pastoring. A lot of it (frankly) is the stuff of running a small business or more accurately running a small non-profit corporation. For the most part, I was not very good at that. I also did not like church conflicts, and listen, every church has church conflicts! It's the preaching and the teaching that I loved- not only the actual preaching and teaching, but all the preparation that went into it, as well. I am believing God that I'll do that stuff again some day!

You may have expected that I'd have given my dream job as "newspaper columnist". Honestly, that is my Number 2 dream job! Some of you know that I had quite a number of columns published in the MetroWest Daily News between 2000 and 2009. The problem is that newspaper readership is on the decline and columnist positions are being eliminated rather than being added. I'd love to be a newspaper columnist- more as a part-time thing than full-time and such a "gig" is possible but probably unlikely for me.

Well, for what it's worth, those are my answers to Dan Rea's questions!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


"But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it." (2 Kings 6:5-7)

In the above Bible passage, there was a group of young men who were sort of "prophets in training" under Elisha the Prophet. As funny as this may sound, they were like a lot of college students who are moving in this weekend- they needed a bigger dorm! Unlike most of today's students, they were perfectly willing to build a new dorm themselves, and they were engaged in that task when a problem happened. The young men were cutting down trees. Suddenly, an axe head came loose and flew right into the Jordan River. The young man was beside himself because the axe was borrowed and now what was he going to do? Elisha the Prophet did not consider this any big deal. Elisha cast a stick into the Jordan River and suddenly the axe head "swam" to the top! The kid reached out and got it, and his problem was solved. Does God really care about a lost axe head? God's got a whole universe to run, filled with not only billions of stars, but filled with billions of galaxies. God also has billions of people to focus on; and there are countless very serious problems in this world. Does it seem likely that God would care about a lost axe head or some other trivial matter? It may seem unlikely, but the fact is that God cares about the most minute little problems and situations that we have. I was reminded of this on Saturday!

My friend Dave thinks I share much too much about myself and my feelings on my blog. He thinks readers could think I'm quite neurotic, quite eccentric, and frankly a little nutty! Well, they could- but I think it's much better for me to just be myself, even though I know that making myself very vulnerable does hurt me in some circles. I certainly do have my quirks! I once asked a woman who has an autistic son if it's possible to be "just a little bit autistic". She said that she thought it was possible. I asked that because I honestly love routine and order in my life, kind of like "Raymond" in "Rain Man". Now, before anyone tries to have me institutionalized, that character is about forty times more intense about patterns and routines than I am, and if I drop a box of toothpicks on the ground I can't tell you how many there are! I do love my routines, however! One of those routines is that I get my hair cut every four weeks...not three, not five, but every four weeks. My reasoning is that if I get my hair cut after three weeks, it has not grown enough. In that case, it ends up being cut too short and looks really bad. If I get my hair cut after five or six weeks, it's grown a little too much. The barber tends to then not take enough off, and at home I end up with a pair of scissors and a comb trying to "fix" it and then looking like my head was run over by a lawn mower! Four weeks is just right. I actually plot out every fourth Saturday on the calendar and mark it "HAIRCUT". I follow that schedule "religiously". Now, it has been a problem since I usually work a pretty full day on Saturdays at the answering service. For that reason, I still mark off Saturdays, but a lot of times, I actually get the haircut on a Friday, preferably a Friday afternoon. Sometimes I get really "liberal" about it. For example, if it's winter and a blizzard is forecast for the Friday/Saturday of what's supposed to be my haircut day, I will get it done on Thursday, but no earlier than Thursday.

I usually get my hair cut at Collotta's Hairstyling at Hartford and Concord Streets in Framingham. Sometimes, but rarely, I'll get the haircut at Frank & Vinny's in Canton, near where I currently live, and very rarely at a barber shop off Route 9 in Natick. Saturday, August 24 was the calendar date for the haircut. Collotta's closes at 2 p.m. which means I'd have to get into the shop by 1:30 at the latest. I was scheduled to work from 7:30 to 3:00 on Saturday, so that was a problem. I did have some free time on Friday morning and this would have been the perfect time to get a haircut, but that was also a problem. Money has been horrendously tight and challenging since my eye surgery in early July. By Thursday, I was hunting around for quarters and barely putting gasoline in the car. There was just no way I would have money for a haircut before cashing my check on Saturday. Yes, I could wait until Tuesday to get my hair cut, but that's the "autistic" part of me. I just did not want to do that! I may not be "Rain Man" but that prospect would almost have had me yelling, "Vern, V-E-R-N!!" I did come up with a plan, however. Frank & Vinny's is open a lot longer on Saturdays than is Collotta's. I was not sure if they closed at 4 or 5, but I was pretty sure it was 5. If I hurried, I could get there by around 4:10 and get my hair cut before they closed.

I was just picturing the inside of Frank & Vinnie's and the smiling barbers at their chairs as I drove from Framingham to Canton on Saturday afternoon. I could imagine myself having a conversation with Frank, Jr. (His late father - the original Frank - was the best barber Canton had ever seen.) As I rounded the corner from Washington Street to Church Street, my heart sank. The place was all shuttered up. The "Open" sign was not illuminated. I pulled the old Subaru into the parking lot and noticed the sign on the door which listed the hours. Closing time on Saturdays was 4:00. I had missed it by less than fifteen minutes. Boy, was I disappointed! I was just about to sadly drive home, but I got a ray of hope. I remembered there was at least one other barber shop in downtown Canton. Maybe I could still get a haircut. I drove through downtown Canton, "rubbernecking" to look for barber shops. I found two. Both were closed! I was ninety-nine percent ready to sadly drive home, but I had another thought: maybe there was a hair styling place in the Cobb's Corner shopping area (the area of clusters of stores, restaurants, gasoline stations, and professional buildings at the Canton/Stoughton/Sharon town lines). It was only a mile from downtown Canton. Honestly, I could not remember any hair styling place in that area but "something" was telling me there was one. I pulled into the "Village Shoppes at Canton" shopping center frantically looking for a hair styling shop. I did not see one. I was all set to turn around and drive home, when "what to my wondering eyes did appear" but Supercuts! Yes, there is a Supercuts at that shopping center! And, it was open!

Supercuts only made me partially happy, however. I once had my hair cut at Supercuts in Framingham- many years ago. At that time, it was cut by a female in her twenties. She was all "fancy/schmancy" and gave me an "O.K." cut, but did nothing with my neckline, so I had all kinds of annoying growth there. And, the haircut was way overpriced. I resigned myself to having to shave my neck when I got home and to getting a "so/so" overpriced haircut. Boy, was I wrong! "Jill" the stylist was a woman in her forties. I believe she was Russian. She was a fantastic barber! She was fast and incredibly good! And, she not only cut my hair with scissors and a comb, but she pulled out electric clippers and did my neck line, the area around my ears, my eyebrows, and even a few stray hairs on my forehead that no barber ever touches! (I always end up cutting those with scissors, myself.) I was thrilled with the fantastic haircut I got, but I figured this was going to really cost me! I expected to just about empty the cash out of my wallet. To my shock, Supercuts charged less than Collotta's! I was so thrilled that I gave Jill a generous tip and I still paid less than I usually do! I was out of Supercuts before 5:00. (They close at 6.)

Saturday evening, I reflected a lot about my haircut experience. I've had a very difficult year. In March I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease after being hospitalized with massive rectal bleeding. In July, I experienced a detached retina in my right eye. I've got major dental problems that I can't afford to pay for. I've had problems with my 1995 Subaru which is operating "on a wing and a prayer". I've been very depressed and very discouraged at times. In my distant past, I experienced many great miracles from God, answers to prayer, supernatural signs, etc. This was a way of life for me. The past five years, and especially the past one year has been a time that God seemed to be a million miles away and I wondered if I'd offended God beyond repair or if God had abandoned me. I've wondered where the God is that I once knew. Listen, this is why Christians cannot go by feelings. Sometimes it feels like God is a million miles away and has abandoned you- but that doesn't mean it's true! My story of the haircut may not seem like any big deal to you, but it was to me! Even after Frank & Vinnie's and two other barber shops were closed, late Saturday afternoon, God led me right to a great hair stylist at a great price. I got my haircut right on schedule! God cared about that kid who lost the axe head and God cared about my haircut!

Friday, August 23, 2013


"And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;" (Hebrews 11:36-37)

On Tuesday evening, August 20, 2013, in a parking lot off Clinton Street in Brockton, Massachusetts, the Rev. Lee Harmon, age 74, an Associate Pastor at the Church of God in Christ in Boston's Roxbury section, was beaten to death with a hammer!

Please read that last sentence again!

Can you imagine what the reaction would be if an elderly white minister of Anglo-Saxon heritage was riding his bicycle in affluent, suburban Wellesley, Massachusetts and was accosted by a young man who beat him to death with a hammer?! I would expect "wall to wall" media coverage- certainly so in the Boston area, and likely by the national news media. It's likely all we'd hear about for at least several days. President Obama might at least mention it in a speech. I would certainly expect Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to talk about it. People would be shocked and outraged.

I must confess that I haven't always "bought" the argument that crimes which happen in the affluent suburbs get all the attention while crimes that happen in poor and lower middle class "minority" neighborhoods are marginalized, usually bringing a "ho hum" attitude. I now definitely "buy" that argument! It may be because I'm an Ordained Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) minister, too, and because I'm getting older that this story really touched my heart. The Church of God in Christ is a predominantly African-American Pentecostal denomination, and this dear man was one of its ministers. He was out riding his bicycle when the attack happened. Family friends said he often collected cans and used the money he got for turning the cans in to help the homeless. Pastor Harmon's wife, briefly interviewed on a Boston area news program, said her husband did not get into confrontations with people. "All he did is talk about Jesus and say 'we must be born again'," she stated.

What a tragedy! What a travesty! I have been very moved by this story. I'm not currently serving in a pastoral position at any church, but I did serve in pastoral positions for almost thirty years- and I hope to do so again at some point in the future. When I took the pastorate at First Assembly of God of Framingham in 1987, the Rev. Hugh Corey who was my District Superintendent (like a Bishop in most denominations) told me, "You're not going there to pastor a church, you're going there to pastor a city!" Yes, I may not hold a formal church pastor position right now, but I want to speak to my fellow Believers in New England, and even to the non-believers of New England. This murder should not be trivialized! The Rev. Lee Harmon must not be forgotten- his death must not be in vain. The person or persons who committed this horrific act must be brought to justice. Nevertheless, if that person or persons truly repents, God will forgive them; though they must pay a debt to society by being incarcerated. Pastor Harmon was a humble man with a heart for the homeless. He did not pastor a megachurch. He was not famous. He was known and loved by God, however! He is in Heaven now. WHO will pick up his mantle? WHO will roll up his or her sleeves and fight the good fight as he did? WHO will be there to support and encourage his family? WHO will make sure that Pastor Lee Harmon is not forgotten?

What will YOU do in response to my questions TODAY?

Saturday, August 17, 2013


"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

"Automobile accidents happen when least expected!" So proclaimed Eugene A. Baril, my father, on many occasions. Dad had a distinguished career as a law enforcement officer and later as a law enforcement executive. Most of his service was with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (what's called the "D.M.V." in most states). Dad was not only the leading authority on "early motoring" in Massachusetts (i.e. automobiles and their drivers of the 1890s and 1900s); he was also an expert on the causes of automobile accidents, having investigated many car crashes during the 1960s. That line, "Automobile accidents happen when least expected!" was uttered by him on many occasions. I believe it's not only automobile accidents that happen when least expected, but there are countless sudden, unpleasant, disturbing occurrences which happen when least expected. I experienced one of those this past Friday afternoon in downtown Framingham, Massachusetts.

My shift at the answering service ended at 5:30 p.m. but I needed to see my boss briefly about something at 6:30. I had an hour's time to kill. My life can be so stressful and so hectic that I greatly looked forward to an hour of just sitting in my old Subaru, checking voicemail messages and calling folks back, and then reading from the Book of Romans in the New Testament. I checked and discovered that a friend had left a voicemail message. I'd give him a call back, then I'd relax and read.

The parking lot I'd parked the Subaru in is not a particularly well designed lot at all. The spaces are way too small. The compact Subaru just about fits into a space there. It's common to see large pickup trucks and SUVs, as it were, bursting out of the diagonal spaces. It's a private lot, but it has parking meters. Many of the meters are broken. The owners should frankly be embarrassed to even charge for parking there. There's very little room to maneuver between rows of cars. My own car has been hit and damaged in that lot, as was my daughter's previous car. More often than not, I choose to park in a lot that's farther away, but on Friday, it was in that tiny, cramped lot next door to where my place of employment is that I chose to park, for some reason.

As I was listening to the my friend's voicemail message, I was distracted by the sound of loud talking coming from a short distance across the parking lot. I glanced over, through the front passenger window, to see a little boy around age eight and a man around forty engaged in a rather intense discussion. (Both appeared to be white, middle-class Americans.) The man, a bit stocky, wearing dark but summery clothes and having thinning black hair spoke in a stern, angry tone. The boy, wearing what most moms would probably describe as "red playclothes" was blonde. The boy did not look very much like the man, so I wondered if they were related. The boy, sounding quite intelligent and much older than his years asked, "Why are you threatening me?" and later pled, "Stop threatening me!" to the man. I was genuinely alarmed. I wondered if this was a kidnapping victim or something like that. I felt apprehensive, but continued to watch and listen.

I then heard the man tell the boy that he could speak to his son in that manner because he was his father. That explained some of what I was witnessing. I felt better; or did I? I'm pretty conservative when it comes to the whole thing of parents disciplining their children. I don't have a problem with parents speaking loudly when they need to, or even spanking, on occasion. My own father did plenty of each. My own father also gave plenty of lectures. Over the course of my life, I must have heard hundreds of lectures from my father. I can't remember one time, however, that my father lectured me in public; and I'm hard pressed to think of a time that he even yelled at me in public. Dad reserved those moments for the privacy of his own home. The father I was watching went on and on, accusing his son of constantly answering adults back, constantly not paying attention, being disrespectful, and being irresponsible. He hammered the point that his son had to be constantly told to brush his teeth and other such things. The son did not yell at his father, but it was obvious he had only minimal respect for him. Again, he confronted his father regarding "threatening" him. Amazingly, the son did not sound angry. He sounded like a professional psychologist giving directions and trying to facilitate a difficult discussion in the middle of a therapy session. For better or for worse, this was no typical eight year old! I did think the father was a bit too intense and a bit too overbearing. I also could not understand why this conversation had to take place loudly, outdoors, in the midst of a public parking lot. Yet, I felt some sympathy for the father. At one point, he knelt down, looking his son in the eye. "Get out of my face," the boy retorted. I honestly felt a little bit sorry for the father. His approach was wrong, but he seemed to be trying to get on the son's level.

Suddenly and instantly, everything changed. "There's a man watching us," the little boy softly said. The father went on lecturing; ignoring what his son had just said. "There's a man watching us," the little boy said again, this time much louder.

"I don't give a F _ _ K if a guy is watching us!" the father blurted out loudly and angrily. I was not expecting that at all. A few more words were said that I could not hear. In the next moment, the boy was getting into their dark-colored minivan, and the father turned in my direction. Dad raised his right hand and gave me the finger! He then yelled, "F_ _ K YOU!"

In the kind of fashion you'd see in a dramatic movie on television, the minivan and its passengers very quickly rolled out of the parking lot.

For about a minute, I was numb.

Have you ever seen that television program that's on the ABC Television Network called "What Would You Do?" with John Quinones? It features disturbing scenes of one kind or another that are dramatized by actors in order to get the reactions of real people. I so wanted John Quinones and a camera crew to suddenly show up and tell me this was all part of the program and that the boy and the father were just actors. But, no, that did not happen. What I'd seen was all too real!

The sad thing is this: if the father was trying to teach his son respect, civility, and responsibility, he badly blew it. The father failed miserably and catastrophically! I believe that son will never forget that scene- never! When he's eighteen, he will remember it. When he's driving his wife and newborn baby home from the hospital, he'll remember it. When he's standing at his father's graveside, he'll remember it. And, yes, when he's eighty-two and living on the Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home; sitting in a wheelchair, drooling, unable to remember his children's names or his date of birth, he will still be able to vividly remember that scene.

Yes, NUMB is what I was immediately following that troubling scene. My honest questions are: Did I do the wrong thing to sit there, watch and listen? (Keep in mind, it was in a very public place.) Should I have said anything to the father? Is my assessment of the damage I believe that father did to his son correct? And, if you had been there, what would you have done?

Sunday, August 11, 2013


"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This morning, I was shocked to learn that Cliff Grindrod passed away and began walking on the streets on Heaven on Saturday, August 10, 2013.

Cliff Grindrod and his family were very active Members at Christian Life Center church in Walpole back in the 1980s. I would guess I first met Cliff sometime around 1979. He was about twelve years older than I am. I don't know when the last time was that I saw Cliff Grindrod or spoke to him. It has to be well over ten year ago. Cliff was a real character! I remember Cliff having a "flat top" haircut, and very few people had flat top haircuts thirty years ago! He was a construction worker and was a bit stocky. I can remember Cliff showing up for midweek Bible Study at church in work clothes splattered with cement. Thankfully, Pastor Dave Milley was not legalistic about dress (and lots of pastors were in the 1980s)! Cliff had back trouble from his construction work. His wife Joyce did not drive. Cliff had a back operation done at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women's) in 1980. I remember that since we each lived in Canton, MA, he asked me to come to his house, drive him to the hospital, drop him off, and drive his car back to his residence. Cliff had a huge 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Station Wagon. It seemed so weird to just drop Cliff off and the hospital and go joy riding back to Canton along the (slightly scary) Jamaicaway and V.F.W. Parkway in that huge Caprice wagon!

A very funny memory of Cliff took place a few months after that. I often took a back road (Edge Hill Road, Sharon which becomes Walpole Street, Canton) back home from church driving from Walpole to Canton. On a Sunday around 12:45 p.m. I was taking that route and Cliff was immediately behind me in his huge Caprice wagon. In front of me was a woman driving along at a ridiculously slow pace! Well, I wrote "driving" but it was more like "crawling". I'm not a particularly fast driver, but this gal was going so slow it was absurd! When we got to the end of Walpole Street by the famous stone Canton Viaduct railroad bridge, the woman and I had our left turn signals on and Cliff took a right turn onto Neponset Street. As Cliff drove aside of my car, he rolled down his window and yelled with intensity, "You're STUCK WITH HER!!"

To this day, I never pass that intersection of Walpole and Neponset Streets at the Viaduct without thinking of Cliff yelling that! Yes, Cliff was a yeller! He had a great sense of humor and he loved to kid with others. Whenever Cliff would see me he would yell loudly, "BOBBY!!" Sometimes Cliff would yell, "I don't care WHAT they say, THAT BOBBY'S ALL RIGHT!!"

I had the unusual experience of first attending Christian Life Center church as a "layperson" and later being put on the ministerial staff. This was my first professional position as a minister, around the time I received ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God. In those days, Cliff was out of work due to his back injury. Cliff and his wife used to come in on Fridays and clean the church building. Then, at their own expense, they served deli sandwiches, Coca-Cola and Tab. (Remember "Tab"??) When Cliff put the Tab on the table he would yell that he was "Picking up the Tab!"

Cliff was very much a "blue collar" guy, but he had a wide circle of friends. Among them were Joe and Mary Agrusa (who now live in Georgia and are good friends of mine to this day). Joe and Mary came out of the whole Vietnam protest movement of the late sixties. They were classic anti-establishment young people. (Today, Joe and Mary are very conservative people; their past is hard to believe!) You wouldn't expect a "hard hat" type like Cliff and a couple like Joe and Mary to be good friends, but they were! From the Agrusas, Cliff got his love of the "Chemex" way of making coffee. (For those who don't know what "Chemex" is, it's a lot like "Melita". For those who don't know what that is, I suggest you do an on-line search!)

In 1986, Christian Life Center church was building a second building on their property- mostly an athletic complex. One Saturday, I was scheduled to conduct a wedding ceremony. The sound technician never showed up and I could not reach her by phone. (It was the sound technician's job to get all the microphones ready, get the tapes ready, tape the ceremony, etc.) I had no idea how to turn the sound system on or how to do any of that stuff. Cliff was in his work clothes that day, working on the new building. I went over to Cliff and begged him to help me. He did. If you can picture it, there was the beautiful church sanctuary and people all dressed up arriving for the ceremony. And there was Cliff: wearing work clothes, dripping sweat! He "rescued" the ceremony that day and I am eternally grateful!

I hope I don't get in trouble for this one, but Senior Pastor Dave Milley knew a lot about building construction and loved to show up on the job site giving Cliff "suggestions". During the autumn of 1986, each Saturday was a "volunteer work day" at the construction site, as were some weekday evenings. I can still picture situations where Dave Milley would come up to Cliff and give him an earful about what he expected him to do. Cliff would then actually walk up to me, dripping sweat, with a tense and disgusted look on his face, and he would recite the words of the Pointer Sisters' song "I'm So Excited". He did not sing the words, he spoke them. Well, he intensely and slowly yelled them!

"I'm so EXCITED. And I just can't HIDE IT. I'm about to lose control and I THINK I LIKE IT!!"

That song is not played very often anymore, but any time I hear that song on the radio, I get a vivid mental picture of a disgusted Cliff Grindrod! My family and I moved to Framingham when I became pastor of First Assembly of God of Framingham in January of 1987. Just about three weeks after we moved, Cliff's father died. Cliff called me and asked me to conduct the funeral service at a funeral home in Framingham. It was then that I learned Cliff and his wife Joyce were originally from Ashland, MA (just outside Framingham). I did conduct that service. It was the first act of ministry in Framingham that I did outside of ministry at my church.

There are some Christians who have a really hard time with disappointments and with the inconsistencies of other Christians and at the hurts dished out by other Christians. There are some Christians who struggle with the unfairness and pain of life. Cliff could be like that. I'm not judging him. I have also experienced some of those same disappointments and struggles in my own life. I will say that I know that Cliff loved God, and Cliff was a good man. Most importantly, Cliff put his trust in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. I look forward to seeing him in Heaven. Maybe he will yell, "BOBBY!!" when he sees me, and maybe we'll each sit down and enjoy catching up over Chemex coffee.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (I Kings 19:11-12)

Early one morning this week, an ordinary man's simple story told on a secular radio program greatly blessed me! This story has encouraged me and given me the incentive to keep plugging and moving ahead on a tough week and in a difficult time in my life. (Without going into a lot of detail, many of you know I had surgery for a detached retina a few weeks ago, after having had a very challenging year prior to this incident. I do not get paid from my two part-time jobs which I am out sick, and so the week and a half that I did not work has really caused some serious problems. I'm grateful for some tangible help a few friends have given me in the midst of it.) The man called in to the "Jen Brien Show" on Boston's WBZ 1030 A.M. radio station. Jen does the overnight show from Midnight to 5. Greg from Pennsylvania called in during the final hour. Jen had asked callers to share inspiring spiritual experiences they'd had.

Greg identified himself as a guy who had "become a Christian" over twenty years ago. This story happened early in his Christian walk. One winter night, Greg was driving his truck a long distance (several hours) home. The weather was bad: freezing rain. As he drove, his truck began experiencing electrical problems. His lights kept going out and coming back on. For Greg, this trip was getting very scary. Suddenly, he heard an inner voice. It was not an audible voice. It was something deep inside that he knew did not originate from him. It said, "Greg, I'm going to bring you home."

Greg told Jen and her listeners that he was so deeply moved by this that he became very emotional and had to fight the urge to completely break down weeping. He knew it was God. Suddenly and immediately, the issue of the lights going on and off stopped! Greg drove for three more hours. There was never an electrical problem for the rest of the trip. The freezing rain kept up, but Greg's truck kept going along with no problems. Ironically, the instant he pulled into his driveway, the lights went out and back on once. It was like a signal from God saying, "Well, Greg, I kept My word and I got you home!"

I've retold that story to several folks this week, and I've thought a lot about it. I've prayed very humbly, asking God to see me through my own troubles just as he brought Greg home. I don't know Greg's last name, nor do I know his address or telephone number, but I am grateful he called Jen Brien this week and shared that testimony! I hope someday I can meet him and thank him in person...maybe it will be far off in the future in Heaven, but that would be just fine, too!

I hope Greg's magnificent story of God's help has blessed you as much as it blessed me!

Sunday, August 4, 2013


"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."(Matthew 7:12)

Today, I had to do something I really don't like to do on Sundays. I needed to stop at a shopping center to do a quick errand. Some other time I may share some of my convictions about Sunday as "The Lord's Day" and things I believe you really shouldn't do on Sunday. Suffice it to say, I did not live up to my usual convictions about Sunday as I stopped at this shopping center and went about my business. Not all shopping centers have actually marked crosswalks for you to walk on between the parking lot and the front of the store, but this one did. I was walking in the crosswalk and a guy who was probably about ten years younger than I am was a couple of steps behind me. As we walked in the crosswalk, a woman driving a gray midsized car drove right across the crosswalk at a pretty good clip! She easily could have hit us, and I thank God that she did not! I immediately commented to the guy behind me that the crosswalk obviously meant nothing to that woman, and he heartily agreed. "Sunday used to be a family day," he sadly said.

Listen, I'm an evangelical, or what we used to commonly call in the 1970s, a "born-again Christian". We evangelicals know that it's not good works that will get us into Heaven. It's faith. It's faith in Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection, and faith in Jesus Christ alone that gets us into Heaven. I absolutely believe that. I guess that's why you don't always hear a lot of sermons in evangelical churches about Matthew 7:12. I haven't preached a lot of those sermons, either. I'm much more likely to preach a sermon that says our good works can't and won't get us into Heaven; and that a lot of "nice" people are going to Hell. I know I just shocked a few readers, but what I just wrote is absolutely true. Yet, that doesn't mean that God wants people living like a bunch of selfish, independent jerks! He doesn't!

You may be able to tell that I'm in a somewhat reflective mood today. I'm "killing a lot of time" today in Framingham, waiting to go out to supper to celebrate my son's birthday (a few days late). I'm usually in a rush to get from one place to another. I don't have internet on my very simple cell phone and I don't have my own computer at my residence. I have to jump on the computer when I can- usually for about twenty minutes at a whack at a public library, or when I can, for about an hour at Jon and Rachel's apartment. I've had the luxury of just sitting at the computer for hours today; while I'm simultaneously listening to the radio. I guess it's kind of a waste of time, but I love it. One female friend of our family's who is going through a difficult time sent me an e-mail lamenting that so many people tell her that if she would only trust the Lord her grown daughter would not have serious medical problems and she would not have a job that does not adequately compensate her. She commented that those who send her those messages and make those comments live in nice homes and make plenty of money. I know the feeling because I get a lot of similar comments from a lot of comfortable people. The message of "Job's Comforters" (who were anything but "comforters") lives on! Honestly, I'm embarrassed to say that in the days when I was very healthy and was in a much more comfortable financial position, I made a lot of those type comments to hurting people, as well. Why? I guess I just didn't or couldn't empathize with them. I'm ashamed of that. Many years ago, a Christian guy I know asked me if he could hold a non-smoking A.A. meeting at our Assemblies of God church building. I was very uncomfortable that many "unsaved" people would be at this meeting and that instead of being told to accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior they would be told to "look to a higher power, whatever that means to them". I gave the Christian guy who made that request a firm "No!". I wonder if I'd still deny that request today. I don't think I would. I wasn't thinking about a group of hurting people who were struggling to keep from drinking- who were trying to hold their lives and families together. It didn't dawn on me that I could drop in on the meetings from time to time, get to know these folks, and perhaps open the door for them to visit a Sunday service. It also didn't occur to me that I could reach out and be a friend to a person struggling with substance abuse who might never attend my church and even might never become a born-again Christian.

I loved the freedom and flexibility of pastoring a church. I loved making my own schedule. I loved that in many respects I was my own boss. I never dreamed I'd be working at a telephone answering service, sitting at a work station and facing a computer screen. I never dreamed I'd talk to hundreds of callers every day, briefly greeting them and taking their messages. I've learned a lot there. One of the things I've learned is that the way you treat other people is important. Some callers are so pleasant and so reasonable. Other callers are amazingly unpleasant, amazingly rude, and amazingly demanding. Some will yell at you, using very vile obscenities. A few weeks ago, one woman was furious when I told her the office she was calling asks that we don't take messages, but that callers should call back when the office is open. "Listen to me," she demanded, "LISTEN to me!" She insisted on reciting her information and her plight, despite my instruction that I could not take this message and that she needed to call back. (Note: her situation was not a matter of life and death, nor anything urgent.) Even so, she was going to dominate the call and make me feel like a worthless fool. When she finished, knowing there was absolutely no point in leaving the information, but also knowing she was doing all she could to emphasize that I was a menial person who should feel like a menial person, she said with angry and intense sarcasm, "There, wasn't that FUN?!"

After I hung up, I had a brief thought. Someday, that woman will stand before the Lord, after she has passed from this life. Will God say to her, "In 2013 you dressed down and condescended to an answering service operator. You didn't know he was an Ordained minister, one of My anointed. Do you know that treatment of him cost you a number of blessings?"

I wish I could tell you I'm perfect, but I'm not. I don't always have a lot of patience. I don't enjoy traffic jams. I don't enjoy disappointments or problems. I like to be around people that I like, but I don't like to be around people I don't like. I knew a guy years ago whose behavior was such that if he was having a terrible day, he would become absolutely surly and would make sure anyone who encountered him had a terrible day! It was like a solemn duty of his to make sure they had a terrible day! Honestly, sometimes I've been like that. I've felt that if I was in a foul mood and had nothing go right, then somehow I had some kind of license to make others miserable.

This morning, Pastor Gary Collette preached a sermon about the ten lepers from Luke chapter 17. He took the message in a different direction from how it's usually presented. Gary opened the sermon reminding his audience that one day each of us will have someone conducting our funerals. (Of course, that's unless the Rapture of the Church happens first!) Gary stated that someone will give a eulogy about each of us. He asked a poignant question: Will you be remembered as a person who spoke of the GOOD in other people and things, or will you be remembered as a person who spoke of the BAD in other people and things?

Are you a person who "blows through" crosswalks at shopping centers as you nearly run people down? Are you a person who angrily fires off profanity on the phone because the operator tells you something you don't want to hear? Are you a person who constantly complains? Are you a person who can't say a good thing about another person? Are you a person who condescends to others, treating them as though they are stupid and do not matter? How will you be remembered? How does your behavior and speech affect those around you? What do you bring to the table?