Sunday, October 27, 2013


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

It has been over two weeks since I have placed a post on this blog. Many of you know that's a pretty long time for me! I typically post something on the blog at least once a week, and I prefer to post something about every three or four days, if I can. I've got to tell you, I'm going through quite a time of deep soul-searching. I have considering stopping this blog all together- even considering deleting some or all of the posts. A lot of the "whys" of what I'm saying here are quite private- but I am struggling with the fact that I am a very, very emotional person and I can be a very, very impulsive person. Some have counseled me that at times I'm really "out there": way too open and way too candid. Let's face it; if you think of the famous "Emperor's New Clothes" story (which I think was written by Hans Christian Andersen) I would be they guy to say "You don't have any clothes on!" There wouldn't have needed to be a little boy to say that! I can be very blunt. During my years of pastoring, I found that very few people were neutral about my style, personality, and ways. Some found me very refreshing and absolutely loved the way I am; but many found me inappropriate, insensitive, self-absorbed and offensive. That's also true of my writings which include this blog.

My posts on the blog actually only get an average of 1, 2 or 3 comments apiece, and many get none. But I DO get comments e-mailed to me and spoken to me. As with my pastoring days, some are very, very positive, encouraging, and even exhilarating. But many are very negative and stress the danger and damage of, well, my inappropriateness, insensitivity, self-absorbtion and (in the opinion of some) foolishness. From my earliest days, I have "marched to the beat of a different drummer". I used to describe myself as "eccentric" but even that definition was viewed as very unwise by some so I toned that down to "unconventional". Now, if I had all of these characteristics that I have and yet had been used of God to lead and build a "decent sized" and relatively successful church, I guess I could say to people, "Well, look, there's a lot of merit in being the way I am!" Instead, the past few years of loss and embarrassment admittedly have caused me to do a lot of questioning about what I guess could be called "the way I am".

Things in my private life have come to a point in the past couple of weeks such that I've STOPPED, prayed, and reflected about this "stuff". I used to put out an informal personal "newsletter" to around twenty or so people every week. A couple of weeks ago, I did not put it out. Last week I DID, but saying I may not write any more of my newsletters and that if I do, it may only be a few times a year. I also have done a lot less on Facebook and a lot less e-mailing than I usually do. The ultimate decisions of what I will do about all of these matters has not been fully decided. I will say that it's likely I will post less often on the blog than I used to. At this point I don't think I want to stop it totally, but I do think I want each piece to be something important, edifying and meaningful and not something I'd be ashamed of later on.

I started "The Blog of Bob Baril" as an AOL Journal in early 2006. I was committed to treat it just as I would if I wrote a newspaper column. I posted three times a week. If I posted more often, I'd mark the post "Extra Entry". Only about a third of my posts in the first couple of years were "spiritual" or "religious" in nature. Most were secular, a few were political, and many were light-hearted. I got a lot of feedback in private that as a pastor I should be writing more pieces that were "Christian" in nature, so it has gotten to the point that probably 70% of my posts from the last five years could be described that way. AOL discontinued their Journals feature in late 2008; at that time, I switched the blog to Google/Blogger. We got a new computer in 2008 and around that time I had a problem posting properly. There are a number of posts from 2008 in which the font is WAY TOO BIG and very difficult to read. Somehow, this got straightened out by 2009, but there are still a number of posts from '08 that are too big and difficult to read.

Anyway, that's what is going on. I've also been working more hours per week in the past few weeks than I usually do, and that's given me less time on line than I had before. (Incidentally, I have not had a computer at home since March 2010 and I do not own a smart phone so every time I post it's at a library or on someone else's computer.) So, for what it's worth, that's what has been going on!

Thursday, October 10, 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)

"You can lean something from every person!" I can still hear old Pastor Lloyd Westover preaching that with intensity from his pulpit back in 1976. "And that guy digging a ditch, you can learn something from him !" How right Pastor Westover was! (I'm calling him "old Pastor Westover" but at the time he preached that, he was probably only about six or seven years older than I am now!) Some of us would like to think it's the great intellectuals- the highly educated and accomplished people that have lessons to teach us and important things to say to us; sometimes they do. But, many times, it's the most ordinary blue-collar person who makes a statement that impacts you to the core of your being and you never forget it. That's true of Jimmy Peters (not his real name) and the example of the guy who hung the door wrong.

Jimmy Peters was only a superficial friend of mine, at best. Really, he was an acquanitance of mine. Ironically, I knew his parents first, and I knew his parents much better than I knew Jimmy. Jimmy professed to be a born-again Christian, but he was certainly not your "garden variety" evangelical! Jimmy came from a Roman Catholic background. He parents "got saved" when he was around twenty-three years old. Jimmy was big, a muscular guy. He would be described as "macho". He sported several tattoos and he was not a person to walk away from a physical confrontation. He tended to be proud and opinionated. Yet, Jimmy was very intelligent. I'd guess he certainly had a higher I.Q. than I do. He experienced a lot of tragedy and pain in his life. I don't want to write too much about that as it's possible someone reading this who knew him or his family could be deeply grieved by this. I don't know for sure, but my understanding is that Jimmy Peters died several years ago. He was married and he had a son and a daughter who'd each be over thirty today.

As I write today I'm going back in my mind to a Sunday afternoon about twenty-five years ago. Jimmy, his wife and his kids, had come to visit our church's Sunday morning service and we had them back to our home for Sunday dinner. As dinner was being prepared, Jimmy and I were standing and talking near the back door looking out to the yard. Jimmy was doing most of the talking and I was listening. He began to share some observations and disappointments he had about life. It really bothered Jimmy that people, both Christian and non-Christian, almost always focus on the worst points about a person and define a person that way. Jimmy worked in construction, so he used this as an example:

"Let's just say I become a really good builder, and I mean a really good builder! I built all kinds of fantastic buildings. In fact, I'm such a good builder that I put up a building comparable to the Taj Mahal! I won't be remembered as the guy who built the building that's comparable to the Taj Mahal, though." Jimmy lamented. "Now, let's say I'm just having a bad day- for whatever reason. A lady calls me up and asks me to do a simple job; to come and hang a door for her. I'm just having a bad day. I'm not myself. I go there and I hang the door wrong. I will never be known as the guy who built the building comparable to the Taj Mahal. I will be known for the rest of my life as 'the guy who hung the door wrong'!"

I don't remember what my response to him was. In fact, I don't think I had much of any response. I have often thought of that quote. I have often played Jimmy's conversation from that Sunday afternoon over and over in my mind. The sad thing is, he's right. That's how we tend to define people. That's how we tend to remember people. In the way sharks go after blood in the water, we zoom in on people's faults and we magnify them. We define people by their worst flaws. I wish I could tell you that I have never done this, but the fact is, as I think about my adult life, I have often done this. It's so destructive. It's so wrong. And it's so not like Jesus!

I am so ashamed of all the times I've been the one critically characterizing a person as "the one who hung the door wrong!" The factor that's made me really sad and disturbed about this is not that I have done it to others, however. I am very ashamed to say that the factor that's made me really sensitive to this is that it's been done to me. When it's you that's "the guy who hung the door wrong", it's just not very funny.

I read a friend's Facebook post today which exhorted the readers to not sit wallowing in regrets but to "move on". Of course, that post is correct, and it is good advice, but when you're constantly reminded that you're "the one who hung the door wrong" it can be very difficult to "move on". Yes, we sometimes make it very, very difficult for other Christians who are trying to "move on".

In my forty-three years of being a "born-again Christian" I don't think I've ever been more aware of what a flawed person I am (and that I have been) than I am right now. I realize I am nothing without the Lord, Jesus Christ. Nothing. Yes, at one time there was the pride in being "Pastor Bob Baril" and having professional and social recognition. I loved that. I guess I felt like I really deserved it. I know differently, now. I wish I could promise here that I will never make a blanket statement or judgment about another person, essentially labeling him or her as "the one who hung the door wrong". I know I'm flawed. I know in a moment of stupid inattention and pride, I may well do that. I just hope that as soon as God brings to my attention the wrong judgment I have dished out, I will get on my knees and quickly repent! And, I hope and pray I will more and more recognize "Taj Mahal builders" and less and less see and point out those who have "hung the door wrong". Thank you, Jimmy, for your very wise words.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:" (Ephesians 4:15)

It's strange and amazing that brief and seemingly unimportant conversations and life situations can profoundly affect a person. That is the case regarding a little clear plastic pen and pencil container. The story dates from the early 1960s- I'm guessing 1962. I was about seven-years-old at the time. My father and brother Eddie were both outstanding mechanics and outstanding handyman. Both Gene and Eddie could repair anything. Not only did each have great mechanical ability, but each had the mind of an engineer. Now, as for me, I had almost no mechanical ability whatsoever, and I still am very challenged in these areas. When he wasn't functioning as a uniformed law enforcement officer, my father was most frequently found in work clothes doing some project around his house and property in Canton, Massachusetts. He built a wall- most of which is still standing today. He built an outstanding custom made wooden fence with the most solid cement and stone base (which holds up the metal posts to which the wood is attached) that I have ever seen. My Aunt Milly used to say these projects would go on to be a "memorial" of him; and indeed, they have.

It wasn't only big projects that Dad did, however; there were small ones, too. One day he called all of the family into the kitchen. There, he pointed out a small project he'd just completed. Dad had taken a small clear plastic pen container- it was, perhaps, five inches by two inches- and had screwed it onto the side of the wooden cabinets in the kitchen. I must say a word about these cabinets. The house was built in 1958. I am not sure where Dad found the cabinetmaker, but the kitchen cabinets were custom made by an outstanding craftsman at the end of his career. The guy actually died just a short time after he'd built them. The sight of the plastic pen holder attached to the side of the wooden kitchen cabinets looked, well, tacky to me! I loved my father, but there were also some great differences between Gene and his son Eddie. Eddie had a gift for knowing aesthetic beauty. Eddie was very masculine, but could have been an interior decorator. He knew just what furniture looked right; just what colors looked right; just what materials looked right. Eddie knew what looked classy and what looked, well- tacky! Dad sadly had no such gift. His taste in furniture and colors and materials and things like that was, well, to use a word I used about myself in this piece "challenged"! When he bought a brand new 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon, Dad installed the cheap metal tissue holder he'd previously had in his 1951 Plymouth sedan and 1948 Chrysler convertible. I don't know how old that tissue holder was- it looked like it was from 1937! It looked terrible. Yet, he installed it under the dash- just below the glove box area of the '63 Dodge Dart. Yes, Gene Baril did things like that! Did a cheap clear small plastic container containing a couple of pens which was attached to a classy custom made kitchen cabinet look much better than that tissue holder in the Dodge Dart? Well, not much better!

Dad called the family in because he was very proud of what he'd just done.

"What do you think?" he asked excitedly, "Now when you need a pen to jot down a phone number or a message, you can just open the case and there's always a pen there!" As I recall, everybody else liked it.

"NO," I said definitely, "I really don't like it."

I don't remember exactly what my father said to me, but as I recall, it wasn't pleasant! From my point of view, he was asking for an opinion, and I gave him an honest answer. I thought that was what he was looking for. Of course, that was not what he was looking for! It was a stinging and embarrassing and uncomfortable experience for me. As you can tell, I never forgot it. I learned to, yes, lie many times when people asked me things such as, "How do you like my new car?" or "Doesn't this haircut look great?" or "Isn't this the best restaurant you've ever eaten at?" Why do we do that? We ask people, "What do you think about this?" or "How do you like this?" but if they answer honestly, we are hurt and angry. Honestly, this is one of the toughest areas to deal with in evangelical Christian circles. "Nice" Christians lie all the time about matters like this. On the one hand, you don't want to hurt people, but on the other hand, you don't really want to lie! That incident with the little clear plastic pen and pencil container attached to the cabinet in 1962 was a defining moment for me- it was sort of a rite of passage- that of learning to "play the game" or be ridiculed and rejected, and it really doesn't make me feel very good writing about it even now.

My father wasn't all wrong, here! What I did not tell you is that attached to that wooden cabinet end, as well, was a 1958 red Bell telephone wall mount phone! My parents hadn't had it mounted on the actual wall, rather, it went on the cabinet. That was also a bit tacky, I suppose, albeit quite functional. The little plastic pen container only lasted about a year or two. There was a tendency for pens to easily fall out of it when it was opened up. There was also, of course, the tendency to lose the pens and leave the container empty. My father ended up getting a round pen holder- about the size and dimension of a "medium hot coffee cup" at McDonald's. This container could easily hold about fifteen pens and pencils, and if jammed, it could probably hold about forty. It was made of a cheap metal, and covered with some sort of imitation leather, as I recall. There was a brass hook that you attached to the cabinet, and then a hole in the container to hang it onto the hook. That container was there for at least thirty-five years! My sister now owns the house and she's done a magnificent job remodeling and updating the living space. There was no need to get rid of those magnificent custom cabinets, so she had them refaced. The wall phone and pen holder were eliminated! Today, there's a modern cordless phone on the counter. I'm not sure how my father would react to these changes, but I think my late brother Eddie would approve!

I wonder if you've got any "Legacy of a Little Plastic Pen and Pencil Container" stories from your own life, and I wonder how you deal with the, "What do you think?" and "How do you like?" questions.