Saturday, October 18, 2014


"So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David."  (I Samuel 17:50)

That sentence reports the results of the brave teenage boy David slaying the "giant" Philistine named Goliath.  Many of us learned that story as children.  I know my grandson Ben loves it.  Yet, it's not just a "story".  It's reality.  David and Goliath were no match for one another.  Mighty Goliath should have killed David in a matter of less than a minute.  That time the guy with everything going against him won!   (What he had going for him was his faith in God and his obedience to God, but that's a subject for another day!)

There's a great "David vs. Goliath" type political race going on in a New England state right now, and I suspect most who will read this piece are completely unaware of it and unfamiliar with it!   It's not the coming election for Massachusetts Governor between Coakley and Baker. It's not the coming election for U.S. Senator from New Hampshire between Jean Shaheen and Scott Brown.  It's not Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot about whether casinos should be allowed in the state.  It's none of those.

How many of you know that there's an election in Massachusetts this November for a U.S. Senate seat?   I must admit that until very recently I did not know this!  A local radio station is running promotional pieces saying they'll have all the coverage of the elections for Governor and U.S. Senate.  I honestly assumed they were talking about the Shaheen/Brown race in New Hampshire- and it turns out they were not!    In fact, incumbent U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts is facing challenger Brian Herr on the ballot.  I had honestly assumed that Ed Markey was running unopposed.  I have heard almost nothing in the media about this election.  In fact, I did not know there was a Republican running against Markey until I voted in the Massachusetts Republican primary in September.  I was stunned to see a Republican listed as running for U.S. Senate.  I had never heard of Brian Herrr.  I figured he was just some party activist who'd agreed to be the "sacrificial lamb"- just putting his name down, not campaigning at all, and probably getting about 13% of the vote. 

It turns out I was dead wrong about that.

In the early days of writing my blog I wrote a fair amount about politics.  In more recent years, I've written very few political columns.  There are a number of reasons for that.  Twenty or more years ago, I was very much a "political junkie".  I was up to my eyeballs in politics.  I couldn't get enough of the stuff.  And, I was (frankly) an obnoxiously far right wing Republican.  Over the years, I've drifted much more toward the political center.  I've also become disillusioned with a lot of what makes up politics.  I've realized that America's hope is frankly in turning back to God in humility and repentance and not in electing any particular person or party.  Frankly, a lot of Democrats are nicer people than many Republicans are.  And, frankly, very few Republican or Democrat politicians are even close to being in the will of God.  I was very disappointed in the choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for President.  I didn't like either one of them!  That's also what I'm going through regarding Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker for Governor this year in Massachusetts.  I honestly don't want either one!  If we put too much faith in politicians we will be very disappointed.  So, I did some real soul searching before writing this.  I don't agree with Brian Herr on all of the issues.  I know that most of my fellow evangelical Christians will be disappointed that he's strongly "pro choice" and that he strongly favors gay marriage.  I still think he's worth voting for over Ed Markey, however.

Brian Herr was a guest on Dan Rea's "Nightside" program on WBZ a few nights ago.  I expected to hear a boring, milquetoast sort of candidate.  Boy, was I wrong!  I did not know that Brian Herr had served for a number of years on the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen and Planning Board.  I did not know that he's a Marathon runner.  I did not know that he's a very articulate, energetic, and (dare I say it?) charismatic guy.  I did not know that he very seriously plans to win the election against Ed Markey!

I checked for publicity about Brian Herr on-line and I enjoyed seeing a photo of Brian and Dan Rea that was taken in the studio.  I have been a guest on "Nightside" in that very studio, myself!  And, I think the white casual shirt Dan is wearing in the photo is the same one he was wearing the night I was in there!  Honestly, I think Dan's lost a little weight, though!  I sent a short communication to Brian Herr about this, and was pleased to get a reply from a woman involved with his campaign.  She asked me to consider writing a piece on my blog about why I'm voting for him.  I wrote back that I'd "consider" doing it, and after a lot of thought, here it is!

Listen, I don't hate Ed Markey.  He seems like a nice guy.  I've shaken Ed Markey's hand at a Natick 4th of July parade.  Ed's done some good things, but he's been in Washington for way too long!   Ed Markey is a "Washington insider".   Frankly, Washington is broken.  I think it is time to send a bright, hard-working, "regular guy" like Brian Herr to Washington as our Senator. 

People who know me know that I'm a guy who believes in "underdogs" and who believes in "dreaming impossible dreams".  Some of you may know my favorite film is "Field of Dreams".  In my own life, many times I've been that Kevin Costner character sitting and watching my baseball field filling up with snow, wondering why Shoeless Joe Jackson did not show up.  Sometimes I think we are all too sensible.  Truly, a big part of me hates the notion that we have to "be sensible"!   No, it's not sensible for Brian Herr to give his all running for U.S. Senate against Ed Markey and actually think he can win.  It's a total "David vs. Goliath" thing.  But I admire what he's doing, and I'm planning to vote for him.

Whether you're liberal or conservative or somewhere in the middle...whether you're Democrat or Republican or independent:  I hope you'll do something that's not one bit sensible on Election Day.  I hope you'll cast a vote for Brian Herr.  Wouldn't it be cool if the "not sensible" people prevailed?!  Wouldn't it be cool if "David" won this time?!

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Did you SEE that GUY?!"

"And they laughed him to scorn..." (from Mark 5:40)

The "Him" in that sentence is the Lord Jesus Christ.  The people who laughed him to scorn (believe it or not) were a group of "professional mourners"!  You'd have to read the whole passage to appreciate it.  I chose that short quote to illustrate the point that since a group also "laughed me to scorn" today, I guess I'm in good company!

Today, right around 12:30 in the early afternoon, I was driving in downtown Framingham.   You literally never know know what you're going to encounter driving or walking in downtown Framingham.  It's a complicated mess of streets, traffic lights, and railroad tracks, and all sorts of cars and trucks and pedestrians.  The one thing driving in downtown Framingham is not is relaxing!  Something that can really make things go from bad to worse in downtown Framingham traffic is a construction site in the middle of the road.  I know not all of you are familiar with Framingham.  For those of you who aren't, I guess you'll just have to use your imagination.   There was some sort of Verizon telephone work going on.  It was not on one of the poles.
  Rather, there was a manhole cover open, and a big Verizon utility truck in the middle of the road with several workers milling around and doing one thing or another.  This was on Union Avenue, just a very short distance from the Memorial Building and the heart of downtown.  The truck was at the intersection of Proctor Street and William Welch Way (where the police station is).  That's a very busy and confusing spot.  I was planning to stop at the downtown post office and check to see if there was any mail in my post office box.  In order to do this, I would need to take a left turn onto Proctor Street.  (I was heading from the Memorial Building area toward the direction of Bowditch Field on Union Avenue.)  I put on my left turn signal.  At that very moment, a white van was coming in the opposite direction and the driver was signaling for her own left turn onto William Welch Way by the police station.  I stopped and made a point to stick my hand out the window and gesture for her to turn.  One of the workers watched me do this.  When she was done, I went into my own left turn to get onto Proctor Street and head down to the post office.  I did instantly encounter a PROBLEM!   As I was making the turn just past the big utility truck, I saw that I was actually somewhat past Proctor Street.  This was not going to be a quick and easy turn!  Proctor Street was just to the left  of where I needed it to be!  I started making the sharpest left turn I could possibly make, and I was still aiming into the sidewalk and just shy of Proctor Street. 

It gets worse.

"Hey, what do you think you're doing?!"

I looked and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a middle-aged police officer!   That was about that last person I wanted to see in that moment.  The look on his face was one of total disrespect and disgust.  The look said, "You're the stupidest, poorest excuse for a man I've ever seen, and you're the worst driver I've ever seen, you moron!"  No, he did not say that, but the look did.

I was now starting to back up slightly to try to reposition to make the turn.

"Stop backing up," he said with even more disrespect and disgust, "you're going to hit a car!"

He then said, "Just drive through the parking lot and onto the street!"

Now, there was a Brazilian restaurant's parking lot which I knew from the very beginning (of realizing I was in trouble) that I could easily have driven through to avoid the problem, but I am of the understanding that it's wrong and frankly illegal to just drive through a private parking lot for your own convenience.  Yes, it was nice to just drive through the parking lot, onto Proctor Street, and then on to the post office.  The worst part was what I heard as I pulled into that parking lot.

"Did you SEE that GUY?!" the cop bellowed out and the macho utility workers all had a big, macho belly laughs over it.

Yeah, I was laughed to scorn.

Now, think about this:   Is it not the cop's job to manage and direct traffic coming each way when working a detail at a utility work site like that?  (For those of you who do not live in Massachusetts, this whole scenario may seem very strange because in almost every other state, there are "flagmen" and "flagwomen" who work such details and who generally do a great job at it.  The police unions in Massachusetts have a sweetheart deal requiring police to be hired to work all such details- at big money.)  I never saw a cop until I was well into trying to make that left turn.  So much could have been done to make this situation easier for the driver.  Had I seen a cop and then put my signal on, if  he did not want me to make that turn he could have said, "I'm sorry sir but you can't take that turn right now."  Or, he could have said, "Sir, just drive through the parking lot to the street."  Or, they could have posted a bright orange "sandwich board" kind of sign reading, "NO LEFT TURN", or "NO TURNS DUE TO CONSTRUCTION".   All of that would have solved the problem.  If the cop was supposed to give me guidance as a driver coming on an unexpected and confusing situation, he pretty much failed at it.  And, there was certainly no reason to treat me, a guy who has not had a traffic accident since 1985 (and that one was not my fault) and who has had very few traffic tickets as though I were such a terrible driver and a moron!

I honestly found myself giving this a lot of thought today.  I guess you have to have the mind of a pastor or a writer (and of course, I've been both) to think of this, but I began thinking of how evangelical Christians treat "unsaved" and "unchurched" visitors to our churches who don't have a clue about spiritual things or about the evangelical church culture and "language".  Sometimes we do a great job welcoming them.  But sadly, other times, we (perhaps without meaning to) treat them with disrespect and disgust when one enthusiastically remarks that she's "pro choice" or "loves Howard Stern" or asks when told, "Turn to the Book of Romans"- "Is that in the OLD Testament?"

I remember hearing a story of a guy bringing an "unsaved" friend who was in recovery to the exterior door of an evangelical church on a Sunday morning.  The "unsaved" friend had a lit cigarette in his mouth.

"Put that OUT!"  the "greeter" at the door barked with disgust- well, with the same attitude the cop had with me today!

Now, listen, I don't favor smoking on church grounds or inside a church facility, but there is a kind and sensitive way to handle a situation like this so that the person does not feel "rejected" and like a total jerk.  I honestly don't think that visitor ever came back to that church.

Yes, I was laughed to scorn today.  But it did give me some stuff to think about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."   (Proverbs 17:22)

My father, Eugene A. "Gene" Baril passed away in 2000.  He'd be over ninety years old if he were living today.  Dad was a very complicated guy.  He spent many years in law enforcement, starting as a Boston Police officer in the early 1950s and retiring as a Supervisor at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in the early 1980s.  Dad was a very strict father, a perfectionist, and had a very serious side.  Nevertheless, there was also a side of Gene Baril that was hysterically funny.  He had a magnificent sense of humor, was a good storyteller, and sometimes would be struck funny by some of the most unlikely of life's incidents which would render him helplessly laughing with seemingly no ability to stop laughing- almost to the point of crying!   This story from his youth vividly illustrates his "funny side":

Somewhere around 1940 when my father was in his late teens, he had to pose for a very important portrait.  I've wondered if this was for his high school yearbook photo, but I honestly don't think that's what it was.  I do remember that it was a very important portrait and that it had to be taken at a specific photography studio somewhere in the city of Boston.  Dad told this story a few times, and I've even heard my mother tell an abbreviated version of the story (although my mother was generally not one you'd consider to be a captivating storyteller).  Despite the many times I've heard the story, there are some key details I'd love to know, and I'm not sure why I never asked for more details. Now that my parents have each passed on, I'll have to present what I do know of this tale.  My father went by himself to the photography studio.  The photographer was an older man; perhaps he was in his sixties as I am today.  I know he was of foreign origin; having come to America from eastern Europe.  I picture the studio as old.  I picture it as rather dark and a bit imposing.  I can imagine the smells of developing fluids in the place; not overwhelming smells, but just enough odor that you know you were in a place where developing chemicals were used.  I picture the camera and other equipment as old; perhaps dating from the 1900s or 1910s.   I imagine the chairs, stools, and other furniture as old, also. 

It's not difficult to imagine how a young man in his late teens would feel upon entering such an establishment and meeting an older guy who was culturally eastern European.  At that young age, you just kind of want to take care of business as quickly as possible and quickly get out of there!  I can imagine the photographer sitting my father on a stool, and manipulating the positioning of his hands and his legs and his head, and even adjusting his tie and his suit jacket.  

Now, in order to really appreciate what my father heard that day, I want you to think of the word "give"; but I want you to think of the word "give" being mispronounced.  Think of "give" sounding as if it could rhyme with the word "heave".  That word would sound like "geave".  Even so, "geave" is not quite right.  It needs to have a little more of an "f" sound and a little less of a "v" sound; maybe like "geafvfe".  Yes, I think that's perfect.

There was my Dad, in his late teens, in that dark old photography studio sitting on that old stool looking at that old camera and at the old ethnic man operating the camera.  There was my Dad feeling so awkward and uncomfortable and just wanting to get out of there.  There was my Dad thinking, "I just want to get out of here.  If this doesn't get over with fast, I'm liable to burst out laughing."  It got very quiet.  It got very tense.  Fifteen seconds suddenly felt like fifteen hours.  Then, a stark breaking of the silence as my father heard the following from the photographer:

"Now, geafvfe a little smile."

That was all it took!

Out of my father's belly erupted instant hysterical laughter!  Have you ever seen the episode of The Three Stooges where they're under the influence of laughing gas?  Well, I imagine it was like that.  Dad laughed hysterically and uncontrollably.  He couldn't possibly pose for a photograph to be taken!  He laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed- harder, and harder, and harder, and harder!  He laughed until he was almost crying!  He laughed until he had almost lost all bodily control!  He laughed on and on and on and on!  His laughing just did not stop!

Dad got up (laughing) and staggered out of that photography studio!  There was no way that photo was going to be taken that day!

But, now Dad was facing a real problem.  He had to have that picture taken.  It was very important.  I'm not sure how many times he may have tried to go back to the studio and have the picture taken.  Somehow I can picture him walking there only to put his hand on the exterior door, burst out laughing, and be unable to enter the place!   Eventually, however, he did go back.  He walked into the studio.  He exercised agonizing discipline to keep from laughing or feeling silly at all.  I know that as an adult, my father would think of dead loved ones to try to keep from laughing in certain situations.  Dad managed to speak to the photographer, to get back onto the stool, to go through all the preparations, to come to the fifteen seconds that seemed like fifteen hours again.  Everything was done all over again.  Amazingly, the photographer had not recognized him and was not aware that this was the young man who'd had a hysterical meltdown in the studio. 

Following the fifteen seconds and the tension, the words were spoken:

"Now, geafvfe a little smile."

It happened again!  Yes, it happened all over again!  The instant, hysterical, uncontrollable laughter, again!

the angry and bewildered photographer yelled, "You!  YOU!!"

I don't know why, but several weeks ago, I thought of that story, completely "out of the blue" as it were!  And as I thought of the words: 

"Now, geafvfe a little smile."

a big smile formed on my face and I began to chuckle!

I honestly don't know if that photograph ever got taken!  Somehow, I don't think it did!  If it did, it had to have been done by another photographer.

I've not only inherited my father's talent for storytelling and his tendency to laugh hysterically at the most inappropriate times, but I've also inherited my mother's tendency toward deep depression and hopelessness.  I've walked through many low moments over the past few years.  I've got to tell you, thinking of that story and having that smile form and the happy chuckling that followed sure felt good!  It's ironic that an incident from over seventy years ago would bring such a smile and feeling of happiness to me.  It's especially ironic that it came after I mentally heard the words

"Now, geafvfe a little smile."!

The memory of this story came to me seemingly "out of nowhere".  Our Lord knows that "a merry heart does good like a medicine" as His Word proclaims!   I  choose to believe that God brought this back to my memory to bring me a laugh and to brighten my day!   I know most who read this piece will have never known my father,  but I hope as you picture that nervous teenage boy and his fits of uncontrollable laughter that you'll also at the very least "geafvfe a little smile!".

P.S.  There are very few photos of my father that can be found on-line, but at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles website is an article about the early history of license plates in the state.  At the link below is that article which incluces a photo of my father taken around 1980 when he was in his late fifties.  He's on the left in the photo holding the first Massachusetts license plate and on the right is plate collector Stu Berg holding the state's first Dealer plate.