Sunday, December 29, 2013


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Those verses from Isaiah chapter 55 are both significant and powerful! At this New Year's season, I want to draw on them and on chapter 16 of the Book of Acts in the New Testament as I share some heartfelt thoughts here. If it would not take up so much space, I'd "cut and paste" Acts chapter 16 here, but that would be too much, so I'll let you look at that on your own.

I have grown children who are very talented when it comes to acting and theater. My daughter Rachel has a Bachelor's degree in Theater Arts and longs to be doing something full-time in that field but for now her job at a major insurance company pays the bills. Rachel is involved with several community theater groups, both acting and directing. A few weeks ago, she had a part in "Annie" in Needham. Part of that show is a mention of President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal". That was the inspiration for my title, "Different Deal in the New Year". I know some people may not care for the word "deal" so you can use "Different Ball Game" or some other such title- the intent and effect are the same. Bob Dylan had a song on his first Christian album way back in 1979 entitled, "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking". It's a typical Dylan type of song, but in my opinion, it's got a really good message. So many of us are Christians, but so much of our thinking comes from the world, the flesh, and even the devil; frankly it harms us and holds us back!

My dear friend Ed Duddy was once told that he has a "sanctified imagination". I believe, I have a "sanctified imagination", as well! I know this may sound really crazy, but just use your imagination here: Imagine that Jesus Christ brought you to a special meeting in Heaven, way back before He was born in Bethlehem. I know, that's pretty wild, but just imagine it. He asks you to be part of a committee to help Him decide what things He will do in His ministry on earth.

"Now, for my first miracle," He announces, "here's what I'm thinking. My disciples and I will be at a wedding in a small village where pretty much everybody in the village is present. They've not planned well, and they run out of wine early. I have some servants fill up six large stone waterpots with water; then I miraculously change the water into wine! It will be some of the best wine anybody's ever tasted! What do you think of that?"

What would you think; what would you say? Honestly, I'd probably say something like, "Please, Lord, do you know what a big issue all that 'Jesus drinking wine' stuff is gonna be for twentieth and twentieth-first century pastors? There's the constant matter of 'I can drink wine because Jesus drank wine!' Please consider something else! And, what about the thing that they didn't plan well for the wedding?!"

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I think that's what I'd say. Then imagine Jesus bringing up something else (that also happens to be in John chapter 2 for you Bible scholars out there).

"Let's look at a different matter. There will be a serious problem with animals being sold at the Temple to be used as sacrifices and with moneychangers cheating the people who came to the Temple. I'm thinking of making a whip, going in there, flipping their tables over, swinging the whip around, and throwing the moneychangers out! What do you think of that?!"

I can just hear myself saying, "Oh, Lord, pastors are always trying to tell people to tone things down and be civil. How are we going to explain that one in our Bible studies?!"

I suspect a lot of other pastors would give similar answers to Jesus Christ that I've given here. But, my observations are frankly all wrong! It's human thinking and reasoning; it may sound good, but it's not of God!! I deliberately used those examples to make my point: So often our thinking and living is so far afield of what God wants it to be! (Read that passage from Isaiah again!)

I want to get into the "meat" of this piece now, and it's found in Acts chapter 16. This was part of Paul's Second Missionary Journey. Please don't fall asleep or stop reading here! This is very powerful and important stuff. The only part of Acts 16 that I'm not going to deal with is Timothy being circumcised in the first few verses- it's just too much to go into at this time. Let's look, however, at FIVE AREAS from Acts chapter 16 that are very important for us to consider! GOD WANTS YOU TO BE OPEN TO A "DIFFERENT DEAL" AS IT WERE IN YOUR WALK WITH GOD! GET OUT OF GOD'S WAY! YOU CAN BE A NEW YOU IN THE NEW YEAR!

Notice Acts 16 verses 6-10. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were setting out from what we would call "central Turkey" to bring the Gospel to new areas. There are two places that they seriously considered going to, but they got a strong impression from the Holy Spirit to not go into "Asia" or "Bithynia". Doesn't that seem strange?! I have a pastor friend who believes the Holy Spirit said this because there were already Christians in those places. I honestly don't agree with that. I don't think there were Christians there, but the Holy Spirit said, "Don't go there!". If you were Paul and his companions, what would you have done? Many of us would have said, "That's got to be the devil! I'm going in!" Do modern Christians do things like that? In my opinion, yes and fairly often. Listen, I've done that! If they had gone to Asia or Bithynia, would God have done some good things and would there have been some fruit of their ministry? I honestly belive: yes. But, they would have settled for far less than God had for them! Read James chapter 4:13-16 about human thinking and planning and how flawed it can be. Jesus said in John 10:27 that His sheep hear His voice. How we need to learn to hear the Lord and what He is saying to us! This will save us from a lot of heartache! In fact, Paul next had a vision of a man of Macedonia (northern Greece) saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" and that's exactly what they did.

"Protocol" is the proper way things are done. Paul had a certain protocol when he went into a major city on a missions trip. He always went to the synagogue for several weeks and ministered. Usually, he'd gain a number of converts, but he'd also make a lot of enemies and be driven out of the synagogue and then would go and preach and teach somewhere else. Paul also seems to have especially been drawn to men. In verses 11-15, we see that at Philippi, a major city, there was no synagogue. This was very unusual. Instead, there was a group of women who met for prayer by the riverside, led by a businesswoman named Lydia. This was not typical. I wonder if Paul, Silas and Timothy wondered what had gone wrong...if they wondered, "What about the man Paul saw in the vision?" I wonder if they thought they had missed God's plan somehow. Honestly, I would have wondered about this stuff. It's said that New Englanders hate change. My experience is that's true. And, in New England churches, we often resist change, saying, "But we've never done it that way before!" Listen, I hate change! I'm one of the worst. I like to be very rigid and do everything a certain way. I remember that years ago I insisted on teaching my Adult Sunday School class exactly a certain way. I was not open to suggestions or change at all. Finally, a couple of people really pressed me to begin offering video classes and becoming more of a facilitator and less of a lecturer. Initially, I hated it. However, the class became much better, and we ended up doing a lot more of these type classes! I also like to have the same work schedule each week. I currently work a secular job where my work hours change each week! Do you think I like that? Well, I don't, but sometimes we have to be open to changes God wants to make in our churches and in our lives!

Would you be described as a "moody" person? I am ashamed to admit it, but I am often a moody person. I am still "under construction" in that area. At Philippi, there was a slave girl who was demon possessed. She brought her owners big money from fortune-telling. Scripture tells us she kept whining aloud day after day that Paul and his companions were servants of God who proclaimed the way of salvation. Well, they were, but Paul really didn't need or want this demon's endorsement. The Bible says that Paul became "greatly annoyed" and cast out the demon. Was Paul right to do this? I don't know. The bottom line is, it was something he did in an angry reactive manner. I can certainly understand that, but it backfired on Paul! The slave girl's owners were furious! I am not sure where Timothy was here, but Paul and Silas were arrested, brought before the city magistrates, beaten with many stripes and thrown in jail! How would you have reacted or felt here? Honestly, I think I would have been in the pits of despair. Amazingly, Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise to God! The other prisoners were listening. Hebrews chapter 13 verse 15 speaks of bringing the sacrifice of praise. Listen, anybody can sing songs of praise to God when thing are going great, but what about when you've been beaten and thrown in jail?! That's when it becomes the sacrifice of praise!

The portion of Scripture in Acts 16 verses 25-34 is very powerful! Suddenly there was an earthquake! All of the prisoners chains were loosed! There was a miracle here! Nobody escaped! I think the other prisoners were so freaked out they didn't dare move! Suddenly, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself! He assumed the prisoners had all escaped and Rome would have him executed. He couldn't have been more wrong. Humbly, he received Paul's Gospel witness, and he and his family "get saved" and baptized and he washes Paul and Silas' wounds! WOW! My friend Dick Germaine believes the man Paul saw in his vision was the Philippian jailer, and I think Dick is probably correct. The jailer changed his way of thinking, as Bob Dylan's song says. Yes, we need to "get saved" if we don't know Jesus as our Personal Savior and Lord. But many of us have "been saved" but we still think, live, act and function according to the world, the flesh, and the devil. We truly need to change our allegiance! We need to change our way of thinking! One of the most Godly men I have ever known was the late Norman Milley, Sr. During the Depression and during World War 2 he was faced with situations on his jobs where if he told the truth he would be fired. He always told the truth, and would supernaturally watch God change the heart of his bosses who would then not fire him! I wish all of you could have met and known him! Listen, we need more Norman Milley, Srs. in this hour!

I also could have called this, "Different Outcome". The ending here in verses 35-40 is not what we might expect. The city magistrates were alarmed to find out that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (most people weren't citizens) and that they had been beaten and jailed illegally. They sent word through the jailer to depart in "peace". I can just about imagine the jailer smiling and waving the 1960s peace sign with his fingers! "Peace!" "PEACE!" That sounds good, right, peace? Actually, Paul said, "NO!" He said he did not intend to depart in peace at all! He felt like a big stink should be made about what was done to he and Silas. Does that seem strange to you? Listen, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 admonishes that there's a time to speak and a time to be silent. Each case is different and unique. We really need the wisdom of God for each situation in our lives. (James 1:5 says we can and should ask God for wisdom about the challenges and situations we face in life.) To use an expression of my late father, Gene Baril, the city magistrates were "singing a different tune" in the final verses of the chapter! Ultimately, after Paul expressing his feelings and concerns, they do leave Philippi. As far as practical application about "DIFFERENT ENDING" consider this true story from one of my Bible College professors. Brother Flokstra pastored in Southern New England, in fact. He told the story that one of his church members lost his job. The whole church interceded and prayed for a miracle that the guy would get his job back. How likely do you think it was that he'd get his job back? Amazingly, the guy did get his job back! However, several weeks later he was offered a much better job (a dream job) with a different company. Now, he had a problem. After taking his old job back and making a bunch of commitments to the company, he didn't feel he could just quit. So, he had to turn down the dream job. GOD had a dream job laid out for this man, but Brother Flokstra and the church twisted God's arm to give the guy his old job back. They really messed up what God wanted to do. Isn't that sobering? How we need to let the words of Isaiah 55:8-9 permeate our souls and spirits!


Thursday, December 26, 2013


"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

My son Jon gave me a wonderful birthday present this past September. Jon works at Framingham Public Library. It seems the library was getting rid of quite a few outdated periodicals which were taking up too much space. This included decades worth of Life Magazine. Over several days, Jon brought home several boxes worth of the Life Magazine issues which were being discarded. His birthday present to me was a copy of Life from the week I was born in September of 1954, and a copy of Life for that week in September for each year for eighteen years; and then some other issues of Life, as well.

Jon also gave a creative Christmas present to my sister Dianne from his Life magazine collection. Dianne is a huge fan of Lucille Ball, and particularly of the old 1950s "I Love Lucy" sit-com. For Christmas, Jon gave her the April 6, 1953 issue of Life. Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, and their children are featured on the cover. The title is, "TV's First Family". Dianne loved the gift. On Christmas Day in her living room, I found myself leafing through that issue and was absolutely amazed at what I discovered! This must have been the "Easter" issue that year. I was absolutely "blown away" by the Editorial and by a very prominent article. I can't imagine either of these pieces being proclaimed or published by modern secular media; and I especially can't imagine the Editorial being published, let alone written or even considered for use. This issue came out over a year before I was born. If anybody doubts how much our country has changed in sixty years, all you have to do is look through that April 6, 1953 issue of Life!

The editorial's title is, "The Churches of America". The subtitle is, "A Generation of Crisis Has Brought Them Not Only Members but a Stronger Faith". The editorial is long. It takes up an entire page, and in those days, the actual size of a magazine's page was huge by today's standards. The editorial begins by observing that just twelve days after his inauguration, President Dwight Eisenhower was baptized and joined the National Presbyterian Church of Washington, DC. Eisenhower had attended non-denominational chapel services throughout his military career, but had never publicly professed faith in Christ nor joined a church. He wanted to start off his presidency by doing these things. The editorial discusses the struggle within American Protestantism of the previous one hundred years or so between the theologically liberal modernists and the much more conservative and literal fundamentalists, but concludes that the church of the 1950s had come to a satisfactory balance between the two and was effectively proclaiming the Gospel. The final paragraph is powerful:

"The churches exist for one thing only; they have the ultimate evidence that each man's life and human history are alike meaningful. This evidence is the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. At Easter church members review the evidence, and discover anew the deep, tragic, hopeful and eternal meaning of life. Others who sense that meaning, but are dissatisfied with their reasons, might well follow their President's example, and join a church."

The other "religious" feature of the April 6, 1953 issue of Life is a piece entitled "12 Great Preachers". An impressive black-and-white portrait of each man (yes, they were all men- this was 1953) is presented, as well as a paragraph about what made each of the twelve preachers great. I suspect the only one of the twelve who is still alive is Billy Graham. He was number 9 on this list, and was 34-years-old at the time. The entire list is as follows:

1. Dr. Louis Hadley Evans (Presbyterian)
2. Dr. Theodore P. Ferris (Episcopal)
3. Dr. Ralph Washington Sockman (Methodist)
4. Dr. Harold Thurman (Baptist) (a black man)
5. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver (Jewish Reformed)
6. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (Reformed Church in America)
7. Dr. George Arthur Buttrick (Presbyterian)
8. Dr. Robert James McCracken (Baptist)
9. Rev. William Franklin Graham (Southern Baptist)
10. Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo (Reformed Church in America)
11. Very Rev. Robert Ignatius Gannon (Roman Catholic)
12. Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen (Roman Catholic)

How does our country (spiritually speaking) stack up with the United States of America of 1953? It's something we really need to think about as we stand at the threshold of 2014.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22).

A few days ago, I pondered the results of a sad and terrible event: The massacre of so many innocent ones a year ago at Newtown, Connecticut. Such events are deeply troubling. I thought about how one young man left such a negative and catastrophic legacy. In some ways, he was very similar to Lee Harvey Oswald: A young nobody who perpetrated an evil act which ironically made him famous but who was dead very shortly afterward. I pondered that, and then I wondered: If one person could cause such an evil event which devastated and hurt so many, what could be the outcome of one person who determined to totally live for God and do good? And, what about a bunch of people who would purpose to do that? There could be a very positive transformation to our society! The story is told that many decades ago, a preacher proclaimed, "The world has yet to see the great things that would be accomplished if one man would purpose to totally live for God." Humble shoe salesman D.L. Moody said, "I will be that man!" He became the greatest evangelist of the Nineteenth Century. His legacy includes Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

There are two words of advice from two different Christians (which I've been privileged to hear) that have the potential to transform the world if followed and applied. Each was spoken by an ordinary layperson- a woman and a man. I don't have the permission of either of these people to quote them here- and I suspect they wouldn't want the publicity, anyway. I'm going to call the woman "Carla" and the man "Rocky". Carla has been an evangelical Christian for many years. She was a leader in the church I pastored, and she works as a schoolteacher. Rocky is an active layman in a large Congregational church. He runs his own blue-collar business and has a bit of a "biker" background. One time, about twenty years ago, Carla said this: "If every Christian would just seek the Lord and do what the Lord is telling them to do, ninety percent of problems in their churches would be instantly solved." Much more recently, about eighteen months ago, Rocky said this to me in a private conversation: "This is not a poor third-world country! It might be understandable that churches in poor countries can't pay their bills or that ministries there fail for lack of support. In America there's no excuse for this kind of stuff! Why should churches in our country close for lack of funds?! Why must pastors have to accept pay cuts or go without being paid?! Why should Christian schools have to close their doors each year due to lack of funds?! Why should Christian missionaries have to come home from the mission field each year due to lack of financial support?! THERE IS PLENTY OF MONEY IN THIS COUNTRY! Quite a few Christians have a surplus of money. There is just no excuse for any of this, and God is not pleased with us!".

I totally agree with Carla, and I totally agree with Rocky. IF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN IN THIS COUNTRY WOULD SEEK THE LORD AND DO WHAT HE TOLD THEM TO DO (whatever that is), AND IF EVERY CHRISTIAN WOULD GIVE LIBERALLY AND SACRIFICALLY TO THEIR CHURCH, CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, AND MISSIONARIES, THE IMPACT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY TRANSFORMATIONAL! One time, many years ago, I quoted Carla's advice. A middle-aged woman shot back this comment: "But that's not realistic!" And that's the problem. I've seen quality Christian schools, including the one my own kids once attended close their doors due to lack of funds. Missionaries have had to come home due to little financial support. Quality ministries have had to drastically cut back their efforts. Listen, do you think Satan and the forces of evil are cutting back on their efforts? NO!! They're stepping their efforts up in this hour!.

I don't have a pulpit anymore, and I get very, very few opportunities to preach. But this message is burning in my soul at this hour! Frankly, there are a number of material things I'd love to receive for Christmas, BUT far more than that, how I'd love it this Christmas if hundreds of Christians (maybe thousands) read this piece and before God purposed to follow Carla and Rocky's advice. And, I'd love it if they would share this piece with their Christian friends.

Wow. Imagine the impact that could me made. IT COULD HAPPEN.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


"Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." (Isaiah 35:4)

It's about 11:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. I'm sitting at the five-year-old iMac computer at my grown children's apartment. I'm sipping a delicious cup of hot coffee- not a nice porcelain cup, but one of those throwaway cups you get at fast food restaurants. After what I'd experienced this morning, I felt I deserved a cup of McDonald's coffee, and it sure tastes good! I'm a planner. When I was pastoring a church, I was such a planner that I supposed I nearly drove people crazy. We Pentecostals like to "leave room for the Holy Spirit" to move in our services, but I had everything about the service planned out; I guess in case the Holy Spirit did not "move"! I won't bore you with all the details, but in virtually every area of my life, I'm a planner. When I get up, I mentally rehearse what I'll be doing over the course of the upcoming day. This morning, early, I did that the same way I always do. Today, my wife Mary Ann was to be running an afternoon practice for the children's Christmas musical which will be presented in a few weeks. Part of my duty was to pick up my son Jon in Framingham. Jon attends another church but was helping Mary ANN with the practice today - both during and after the church service. I got to Framingham a little bit earlier than I'd expected, but Jon was ready to go.

"I just want to go on-line a little bit, first," I told him, "then we'll go."

I also let Jon know the church would be serving some kind of lunch right after the service for those who'd be staying for the rehearsal. "Maybe pizza!" I announced. (I guess I hoped it might be pizza!)

As I pulled the car onto Waushakum Street, I turned the radio on. The announcer on WGBH-FM was warning that treacherous driving conditions existed in central Massachusetts. He cautioned that portions of Interstate 290 in the Worcester area were completely shut down, and that driving was also bad on parts of Interstate 190 in Worcester County. Driving in Framingham was perhaps a little bit slippery, but overall the roads were good and the cars were moving along fine. We crossed the line into Southborough on Route 9 and the roadway was in good condition with cars driving at (I'd guess) the speed limit. I did wonder how the roads would be once we got onto Interstate 495 and traveled farther northwest. North Central Worcester County sits at a higher elevation than does the Framingham/MetroWest area. I wasn't really nervous. I'd say I was just a tad apprehensive.

Upon driving the old Subaru onto the Interstate 495 Northbound entry ramp, I will admit I did get a very brief and fleeting thought: "I wonder if I'm making a mistake!" At first, 495 seemed pretty "normal". I'd say traffic was moving along just a little bit slower than usual. In other words, everybody was driving at between 60 and 65 M.P.H. and nobody seemed to be speeding. After proceeding about five or six miles, I noticed the cars were drastically slowing down. There was a police vehicle at the side of the road with all lights flashing. Within a couple of minutes, I could feel the road's slippery surface under the car's wheels. The scariest part of the trip was driving over bridges. Perhaps you've seen those signs on Interstate 89 in Vermont which state, "Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface". Well, those bridges sure do freeze when the temperature is "border line" as it was this morning! A couple of the bridge surfaces were "really bad"! Just past the exit for Route 62, the traffic was greatly slowing down and there was the sense that this whole situation was just the place where a person didn't want to be today! Then, something I never would have expected to take place HAPPENED:

Suddenly, I saw what appeared to be a large white blur in my rear view mirror! It was, in fact, a large white S.U.V. rapidly moving to the right, and positioned at a ninety-degree angle to the rest of the traffic! I can only describe the sensation as fast, bizarre, and scary! "What a beaut!" I yelled, as though the driver was doing that deliberately. Of course, the driver was not deliberately driving in that fashion, but it was an instant reaction; and I really wasn't processing what I was saying. It was a lot like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration suggesting that three booths be build there, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. Scripture tells us that Peter stated that, not really aware of what he was saying.

As I've tried to remember what happened in those moments, ironically I saw the S.U.V. in the mirror just behind my Subaru, but then I saw it at the right side of the car and moving ahead of the car! It was all very fast! The white S.U.V. was in fact, skidding and slipping and out of control. It went behind the Subaru, then to the right of the Subaru, then I saw it just ahead of us slide right off the road surface, go slightly airbound, and land on its left side! In a way, it was all like watching it in slow motion, and in a way it was terribly fast. It was shocking and terrifying!

Some weeks ago, I posted an entry on my blog stating that if I ever came upon a highway accident, I would stop. I instantly thought of that blog entry. I didn't stop. There was a large flatbed truck driving just ahead of us. That vehicle pulled over to the side of the road, and I could see one or two other cars in my mirror stopping. I know if my daughter Amy (a nurse) had been in the car, we'd have had to stop. I don't walk well on ice, at all. I quickly reasoned that the last thing I wanted to do was pull over, get out of the car, and dramatically slip and fall. Others were stopping, and I figured they would handle the situation.

Jon and I didn't scream or yell or anything like that. I just continued to drive along. I did begin to reflect, however. That S.U.V. was moving from left ot right in a fast, violent fashion which placed it directly behind my car. What if my car's position on the roadway was just slightly different? What if there had been a difference in timing of, say, two seconds? Had the S.U.V. slammed into the left side of the Subaru, it would have resulted in a very bad crash. I would almost certainly have been killed. Jon would have been either killed or very seriously injured. Two seconds. That's all the difference it would have made. Two seconds. Would I have even seen or been aware of what hit me? Probably not. There would probably have been an instant horrific impact and I would have been dead. It would have been about as fast and about as unexpected as part of President Kennedy's head being blown off, as most of us thought about and heard about during all the "Fifty Year Anniversary" telecasts last week. Dead. Instantly dead. Totally unexpected.

I recently told a friend that a Christian should always pray very briefly at the start of a drive. I don't always remember to do this, but just before I flipped on WGBH-FM, I had (internally) asked God to protect the car and give us a safe trip. Did that make the difference? I think it did. I took the exit for Route 117 and drove into Bolton. Route 117 was icy and the drive continued to be scary. I was most surprised, upon crossing into Lancaster, to find that road conditions were better. I fully expected them to be worse as we were traveling more and more to the north and to the west. It had occurred to me, following our near deaths, to phone Mary Ann and see how she was doing in her own drive up to Westminster and to discuss whether we should abort today's trips to church. I came very close to making the phone call, but I feared that if Mary Ann was on a particularly dangerous part of the journey and tried to answer my call, I could cause her to have a bad accident. I also wondered if having one hand off the wheel and talking on the phone would be a smart thing to do, and I quickly realized it would not be. As we approached the Exit for Route 13 on Route 2 Westbound, it was evident the road conditions were good there. I grabbed my phone, and noted there were four voicemail messages that had been left for me! The phone had been in the "vibrate" mode, and it was in a container in the dash area and not on my person. I was unaware that calls had come in. I drove off at the Route 13 exit and stopped in a parking lot. One of the messages was from Mary Ann, warning me that the roads were dangerous, that she was turning around, and that Jon and I should not make the trip. She had left that message over thirty minutes earlier. Boy, do I wish I'd have received that at the time of her call! Another message was from the pastor of Bread of Life Church saying Mary Ann was trying to reach me and that the roads were very bad in certain places. I managed to call each of them back.

Mary Ann warned that Route 2 in the Concord area had been a long sheet of black ice, with traffic struggling along at no more than 20 M.P.H. I knew I could not get back to Framingham on Interstate 495; nor could I get back on Route 2; nor could I try to take Interstates 190 or 290. This would prove to be challenging, but I took back roads from Shirley to Bolton to Hudson to Marlborough and into Framingham. I'm sure you can understand why I felt I "deserved" that McDonald's hot coffee when I got back to Framingham!

Only once before did I come this close to dying in a highway accident. In that incident (from late November of 1980) I was a passenger in a Cadillac that went completely out of control on Route 128 in Needham. The Cadillac was "all over the road" and narrowly missed several vehicles. How we survived that one, I don't know, except that it was a miracle of God! Today's driving event was about as bad. Some of you know that I've had off and on bouts with severe depression over the past several years. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, I have "despaired even of life" (Paul's exact words in verse 8). I am one of those people who tends to get very "blue" in December if I feel the holiday will just mean a month of stress and difficulty. Honestly, early this morning in prayer I said to the Lord, "I don't like the way this month is starting out at all. It's not seeming like this month is going to go the way I want it to. I am facing many challenges that I don't want." Yeah, I told God that- this morning! Think I'd really like to have been killed instantly on Interstate 495?!

Well, I wouldn't have liked that at all!

Is God telling me to rejoice this month, to focus on Him, to believe intently His promises, and to do all I can to reach out to others and be a vessel of honor for Him at this precious season? Yes, I think He is doing exactly that.

Yeah, two seconds made all the difference on this first day of December.

I'm humbled, and I'm doing a lot of thinking, and I'm thanking and glorifying God!