Monday, February 29, 2016


"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  (Psalm 90:12)

February 29, 2016.  This is a special day.  It's what some people call Leap Day!  Yes, every four years we add a day to the calendar because the planet Earth travels one complete revolution around the sun every three hundred sixty-five and one-fourth days.  The extra day in February takes care of that "one-fourth" part.  It's not quite that simple, however.  In elementary school, I was taught that every four years we have a "leap year".  It's usually a presidential election year.  I deliberately wrote "usually" because just a few years ago I learned that not every fourth year is a leap year!  In fact, most years ending in "00" are not leap years.  I know.  2000 was a leap year.  That's true, but 1900 was not a leap year and 2100 will not be a leap year.  I'm no scientist, but I guess the figure of "three hundred sixty-five and one-fourth days" is rounded off somehow.  In fact, over a period of centuries, adding an extra day every four years would be adding too many days.  In order to compensate for that, most years ending in "00" are not leap years.  I think the way it works is that every fourth "00" year is a leap year.  1600 was a leap year, and 2400 will be a leap year.  I could add that about three hundred years ago, the "western world" changed calendars.  For a little less than three hundred years, we've been using the Gregorian calendar, but prior to that time, we used the Julian calendar.  I may have some of my readers confused already, so I will try to not be any more "technical" on this piece!

My cousin Marilyn was born on February 29, 1952.  I wonder how that works [for anyone born on a Febraury 29] as far as figuring elibibility for beginning to receive social security benefits, or the date you have to register for the draft, or the date you can legally purchase alcoholic beverages, or all sorts of other matters?  I guess it is pretty "cool" to have such a unique birthday!  I'm sorry to have to report that Marilyn passed away a couple of years ago.  She was a thoroughly wonderful person, so that makes this February 29 a bit sad for me.  Marilyn would have been sixty-four today; or if you're only counting "February 29ths" she would have been sixteen today.  If I were a radio D.J., today I'd play two hit songs in Marilyn's memory.  One would be, When I'm Sixty-Four, by The Beatles, and the other would be, You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine) by a Beatle, Ringo Starr.

I know some of my readers may be surprised that I'm a fan of the ABC sitcom The Middle, but I am.  Fans of The Middle know that February 29 is the birthday of the character Sue Heck on the show.  Well, it is and it isn't.  In 2012, a whole episode of The Middle was dedicated to Sue's sixteenth [or was it her fourth?] birthday (February 29, 2012).  Sue gave a big impassioned plea in that episode about the importance of being a "Leap" baby.  The writers, however, decided to have her turn sixteen all over again in February of 2013 and to have her turn eighteen in February of 2015 during her senior year of high school.  I guess the writers of The Middle are about as confused about leap years as are the scientists who plot out what years ending in "00" are supposed to be leap years!

Anyway, it's Leap Year Day so I just couldn't pass up posting this!

And, on this special day, this post comes with a P.S. :

I began writing The Blog of Bob Baril in February of 2006.  I had been meaning to write a special post to honor the ten year anniversary of my blog, and I'd almost forgotten to do that!  I'm thankful this is a leap year, so I can still squeeze in the ten year anniversary thing during February!  Wow. I can't believe I've been writing this blog for ten years.  At the time I started this blog there were maybe about one-tenth as many active "bloggers" out there as there are today.  Having a blog in 2006 was much more of a novelty in those days.  I was actually featured on the front page of a local newspaper as a "Framingham blogger" along with Michelle McElroy who wrote a blog called This is Framingham.  My blog was actually in AOL Journals and had a long, complicated, and difficult URL address during its first couple of years.  Most of my blog entries over the first two or three years were about very secular and sometimes silly matters.  No more than ten percent of them were about "spiritual things".  Many of my Christian friends frankly had a difficult time with that.  I wrote about politics, soda-pop, cars, television shows, and I even sometimes used the blog to express my anger or disappointment about service I'd received.  In those days, I wrote an absolutely vicious and scathing piece about a bad experience I'd had with an airline, including having to spend the night in an airport.  Some friends said I'd exhibited conduct, "unbecoming of a minister", and that I should be ashamed of myself.  I will say I gave that a lot of thought, and over time there were fewer and fewer "secular" postings and more and more "Christian" or "Biblical" entries.  Today, probably ninety percent of what I write on the blog is explicitly "Christian", and yes today's is an exception to that.  I think it was in 2008 when AOL decided to drop all of its blogs [what they called AOL Journals].  I wrote one entry saying that the blog may be coming to an end.  I was delighted that blogspot made a way for the AOL folks to "switch over" to their service.  It meant a new [and easier] URL address, and a different and more aesthetically pleasing layout.  I can't remember if it was two or three years ago that during a time of great depression, I posted that the blog was pretty much coming to an end and that in the future I'd only be posting once in a very great while.  I really meant it when I wrote that piece, but after three or four weeks, I realized that writing my blog was so therapeutic for me that I wasn't going to stop it, nor almost stop it, after all.

Today, it seems like "everybody" writes a blog.  It's not so special and unique anymore.  Writing a blog is probably not going to get you featured on the front page of your local newspaper, for instance!  I admit that probably about half of the posts I've placed on the blog over the years are not very good at all.  There's a lot of drivel.  I will also admit that one of my early purposes for writing was, what a friend of mine calls, "shameless self-promotion".  One of the deacons at the church I attend [i.e. "Bread of Life Church"] teaches a "new believers" class and I've actually gone through it a couple of times.  No, I'm certainly not a "new believer" but it's amazing how much you can learn in such a class.  In one session he warned against "shameless self-promotion", and I have to admit I felt very guilty.  As I kid, I was terribly uncool and kind of awkward.  Maybe this is talking about The Middle a little bit too much, but I was a kid like the character Brick Heck.  Well, I admit, I wasn't quite that weird;  I didn't lower my head and whisper two words at the end of every sentence and I didn't yell "whoop!" when I was excited, but I was terribly uncool!  As a [seemingly] failed pastor of a tiny and non-spectacular church, I felt totally marginalized and pushed aside, and I longed for recognition.  Part of why I almost stopped the blog a couple of years ago, frankly, is that behind the scenes, I know how many "hits" the blog gets and how many "hits" each individual posting gets.  Let's put it like this:  If my blog were a 2016 presidential candidate, it would be Rand Paul!

I've gone way too long with this, and perhaps it should have been two postings instead of one!  And, maybe this is more "shameless self-promotion" but I'd really appreciate your feedback to me by e-mail or on Facebook or by your comments here at this very posting.

Again:  Happy February 29, 2016!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


"Blessed are they that mourn:  for they shall be comforted."  (Matthew 5:4)

"Where is it written that 'life is fair'?"

During the many years I pastored at First Assembly of God of Framingham (MA) that line was spoken countless times by Claire, the church's volunteer secretary.  Please don't misunderstand.  She had great faith in God and had a wonderful disposition, but (like most of us) she sometimes had difficulty processing life's disappointments, challenges, and heartaches.

Canton, Massachusetts, the community in which I was raised, is currently trying to come to grips with two devastating accidental deaths.  Not one, but two people in Canton have been killed by falling tree limbs.  A six-year-old girl, Kaleigh Kenyon, died on Friday, February 5 and a forty-eight-year-old man, Thomas Gunning, died on Saturday, February 6.  The heavy, wet snow which fell on Friday [much more than had been forecasted] brought down some trees and a number of large limbs.  Mr. Gunning was a well known and very well liked and admired hockey coach in town.  He was clearing off a hockey rink located in his back yard when the terrible accident happened.  Little Kaleigh had gone out to do what countless New England children do every winter day- play in the snow, when she was knocked down by a huge limb.

My sister Dianne has been deeply affected by little Kaleigh's death.  The child attended church where Dianne worships each Sunday morning:  Faith Baptist Church in Stoughton [just over the Canton line].  Kaleigh's aunt had been bringing her to worship services for several months.  Dianne says she particularly noticed little Kaleigh each week, admiring her beautiful red hair and blue eyes, and appreciating the child's cheerful demeanor.  The church's pastor has recently been preaching a series of sermons from the Gospel of Luke.  Last Sunday's passage happened to be from Luke chapter eighteen verses sixteen and seventeen.  Ironically, that's the famous, "Let the little children come to me...for of such is the kingdom of God," passage.  The wise pastor tied in the passage with the devastating loss of little Kaleigh, reminding the tearful church family that she's now in Heaven with the Lord.

Claire was right.  Unexpected, accidental deaths such as happened in Canton this past week are very difficult to accept and to understand.  There are no adequate words to describe the grief the families and close friends of Kaleigh Kenyon and Thomas Gunning are walking through.  About a year ago, I was called upon the conduct the funeral service of a two-month-old baby who had passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  I haven't actively pastored a church for several years, so I felt "rusty" as I prepared for that service.  I admit to having felt nervous and overwhelmed as I stood before the mourners.  I opened with a story I'd heard my Uncle Raymond tell.  It was the story of his seven-year-old sister Irene's funeral procession in 1915.  The little casket was on a horse-drawn hearse.  Uncle Raymond remembered his father [my grandfather] grief-stricken and sobbing.  I commented that the world of today is so much more technologically sophisticated and advanced that that of a hundred years ago, but that processing the loss of a little child is not any easier.

Claire the volunteer secretary is still living, but frankly facing some very "unfair" challenges and difficulties of her own at this time.  I had lunch with a friend last Thursday who has walked through several difficult years, as have I.  We shared our hope for God to work things out in our lives and for things to ultimately get better.  I know that for many people, the concept of putting one's faith and trust in God, even when life doesn't make sense, is considered "pie in the sky" and foolishness.  But for me, my faith in God and in His Word is the only thing that keeps me sane and pressing on through difficult times.

I've seen and experienced great miracles from God and wonderful answers to prayer in my life.  I've also experienced times when God seemed to be a billion miles away, circumstances were dark and confusing, and seemingly nothing made sense.  I wish life consisted of just one miraculous answer to prayer after another!  I "wouldn't sign up for" (to use a friend's expression) those horrific experiences that bring great pain and make no sense.  I hate those things.  But they're part of life, and no matter how hard I try, I can't run away from them.

The Apostle Paul wrote the following while serving time in prison:

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:  every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."  (Philippians 4:12)

In other words, "No matter what happens I'm perfectly content and fully trusting in God".  Wow.  I'm frequently not "there", but I want to be!  One more "very real" verse from the Bible says:

"...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."  (from Mark 9:24)

No, from our point of view, life definitely isn't fair.  But one hundred years from today, for probably everyone who reads this; this life will be over; but if we've walked and talked with the Lord, and trusted Him with our hearts and lives, we'll be with Him forever and our joy will be eternally full.

In closing, I want to extend my sincere condolences to the families of Kaleigh Kenyon and Thomas Gunning.  I say to them and to the people of Canton, please look to the Lord.  In Him, there really is hope.