Sunday, May 5, 2019

FAST FOOD -- FAST FOOLISHNESS

"...a fool layeth open his folly." (from Proverbs 13:16)

Earlier this weekend, I found myself in the middle of a harrowing experience while in the Drive Thru line of a fast food restaurant.  I had already placed my order at the speaker and was waiting to pull up to the window to pay and receive my food order.  In front of me was a young white man at the wheel of a late-model mid-sized maroon Nissan sedan.  In back of me was a middle-aged white man at the wheel of a black truck.  It looked like a black dump truck, but at the very least, it was a black oversize pickup truck.  [I knew from past experiences in the Drive Thru line at this establishment that for some reason the employees tend to be slow in processing the orders.]  The guy in front of me was at the window for several minutes.  The man in the truck behind me began impatiently blowing the horn.  I was embarrassed because I was afraid the guy in front of me, as well as the restaurant employees, might think I was the person impatiently blowing the horn.

The man in front of me was passed a hot coffee through the window.
"Is that it?" the man behind me began yelling, "Is that all you were waiting for?  A hot coffee?! "  He began swearing, yelling at, and insulting the young man.

The young guy stuck his head out the window and started yelling and swearing back at the truck driver.  Meanwhile, I'm sitting there at the wheel of my old silver Toyota Corolla thinking a combination of, "This isn't happening," and "Is somebody going to start shooting?  Will the police be arriving?!"

Yelling and swearing continued coming from the driver of the black truck.  The young man was finally given an obviously large food order in a paper bag.  I expected him to drive away, but instead, he pulled up, and immediately darted his car into a parking space off to the right.  The young guy got out of his car!  He was about twenty-two and wearing camouflage military fatigues which had "U.S. NAVY" stamped on the shirt.  The middle-aged man began yelling insults, saying he had served as a Marine.  During a particularly sad and uncomfortable thirty seconds or so, the "Marine" used vile language to denigrate the Navy and the young man used exactly the same kind of language to denigrate the Marines.  By this time, I was at the window.  The two female workers I saw inside the restaurant, one sporting a number of body piercings, looked nervous and agitated.  The woman taking my money said, "That guy in the truck does this every time he comes through our Drive Thru!"

If that's true, that man obviously has some serious problems!  I was genuinely afraid one or both of these antagonists would pull a gun and the very worst possible outcome would take place!  Thank God, that didn't happen.  The young Navy man, while listening to more vile insults and profanities aimed his way, [wisely] got back into the maroon Nissan sedan and drove away.

I suppose my appropriate response here should be to say I was so upset by this scenario that I'd lost my appetite.  But being a man who enjoys his food; even fast food; I dove right into my meal and washed it down with a refreshing ice coffee!  I won't soon forget this incident, however.

This morning, we had Holy Communion at Bread of Life Church in Westminster.  You Catholic and other liturgical friends may be surprised that most evangelical Protestant churches don't have Holy Communion every Sunday.  It's usually observed once a month.  Protestant Reformer John Calvin felt that having Holy Communion every Sunday makes it a "common thing" and tends to trivialize its importance.  I'm honestly not sure if Calvin was right about that or not, but that's just the way it is.  I was genuinely struck by something Pastor Gary Collette said as he opened the Holy Communion part of the service.  He said, "This is the meal that heals".  I know that may sound weird to some people.  In the first century church, Holy Communion literally was a meal.  For hundreds of years now, in churches of virtually all stripes, it has become a ceremony where each person takes a small piece of bread (typically unleavened bread) and grape juice or wine.  It doesn't seem much like a meal, but "The Lord's Supper" is actually quite important.  Most Protestants don't believe the Communion is literally the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ the way Roman Catholics do.  We do, however, believe these elements are holy and important symbols and that Holy Communion is never something a person should receive flippantly.  [I recommend reading I Corinthians chapter 11:23-34 to learn more about what I'm saying here.]  Communion service is frankly an opportunity to repent and get right with God before you take the elements.  If you've been a jerk, or you've done anything wrong, you softly tell the Lord about it, and repent.  If you later need to talk to someone or do something to make a wrong become right, then you do that. 

I thought about the contrast between the two meals;  that is, the fast food meals that the two other drivers and I partook of earlier this weekend, and The Lord's Supper that our church family partook of today.  What a difference!  I felt sad.  I'm hardly flawless.  I "received Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior" on July 21, 1970.  It saddens me that I have not lived one perfect day since then.  Each day, I've failed in some way.  Each day, I have had to ask the Lord to forgive me.  But because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and God's great love for me, I'm "saved" and I'm part of His family.

I also thought about the people involved in the incident at the fast food restaurant.  I think the driver of the black truck was the person most in the wrong during that incident, but the restaurant workers and the young Navy guy each have a piece of it, too.  And maybe I should have had the guts to just pray out loud, "Lord, please intervene and calm down this situation!"  I didn't, so maybe I'm a little bit at fault, too.

Each day I read online posts about how evil and wretched Donald Trump is, and about how evil and wretched Hillary Clinton is, and about how evil and wretched Nancy Pelosi is, and about how evil and wretched Rand Paul is;  I think you know what I mean.  It's ad infinitum.   You know what's needed?  How about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Rand Paul, and for that matter all the people posting all the hostility-- how about they "pull a John chapter 13" and wash each other's feet in love, as Jesus did?

How about we all participate in "The Meal that Heals"?

Later in the service, Associate Pastor Joel Dahlstrom preached a wonderful sermon taken from the latter part of Matthew chapter 6 about worry.   He opened his sermon asking, "What is it that you are fighting for?"  He closed challenging all of us to take Matthew 6:33 really seriously and to live that.  I'm going to let you look up Matthew 6:33.  If you don't own a Bible, just do an online search for Matthew 6:33 and you'll see it in seconds.

Fast Food -- Fast Foolishness.
Yes, there's frankly a lot of sinful foolishness in our world today that [I think] must disgust God.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

WHY I BELIEVE SAYING "HAPPY EASTER" IS O.K.!

"And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."  (Acts 12:4)

I know that verse may seem rather ambiguous, so I'll clarify that it's speaking of the time that King Herod had Peter arrested and jailed, after having orchestrated the killing of James the Son of  Zebedee.  What's significant is that in the King James Version, the word Easter is used in that verse!  I think it's important for my fellow Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians to think about that!  I'm not a Greek scholar, but my understanding is that in the original Greek, the word is pascha.  It's commonly translated "passover" and most other versions of the Bible, including the New King James Version, say "passover" in Acts 12:4, but after researching this matter online, I've found out that it is not wrong to translate it as "Easter".

Most of my readers know that although I pastored an Assemblies of God church for over twenty years, I'm not currently pastoring.  However, my wife and I are active in a very good church.  I think it was last year that I wished a woman who was sitting in front of me, "Happy Easter!" prior to the service.  She gave me a big smile, albeit a slightly nervous smile. 

"Thank you for saying 'Happy Easter!'" she commented, "I get so afraid of people getting offended and saying, 'I'm a Christian!   I don't celebrate Easter!  Don't you know, it's Resurrection Sunday?!'"

I heartily agreed with her.  I told her Easter is one of my favorite days of the year.  I've called it "Easter" all my life and I still call it "Easter"!  Of course it's Resurrection Sunday!  Of course, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that's what we celebrate!  But that woman really "hit it on the head" in my opinion!

One of my professors at Central Bible College (way back there in ancient times!), The Rev. Terry Lewis, used to caution and urge his students, "Let's not major on the minors!"  Amen, Brother Lewis!  Sure, using the admonitions of Romans chapter fourteen as a guide, it's fine for people to call the day we celebrate Jesus Christ's Resurrection just about anything they want to!  Sure, it's a matter of personal convictions!  But we say we want visitors at church for "Resurrection Sunday".  And we say we want people to receive Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior on that Day.  And, yet, they walk in the door, they say "Happy Easter!" and we -- jump down their throats?! --  Again, let's not major on the minors!

I suppose I'll offend some of my fellow Christians here, but I've loved milk chocolate bunnies since I was a little kid, and I still do.  And, I like the Easter dinners, and coloring Easter eggs, and even the little marshmallow chicks!  One fond memory is that I'd just come home from the hospital after having had my tonsils out around Easter time in 1961.  My father felt so bad that I'd had to go through that over Easter that he got me an unusually large milk chocolate bunny which he kept in the refrigerator for when I could eat it.  I know, the eggs, and the bunnies, are from pagan fertility traditions and have nothing to do with Christ's Resurrection.   Yet, it's kind of all part of our culture, and I don't have a problem with that stuff.  Listen, Christmas trees, and so many nativity traditions have nothing to do with Jesus Christ's birth, and He certainly wasn't born on December 25.  Yet most of the people who refuse to say, "Happy Easter!" have Christmas trees and other cultural traditions at that time of year, so again, let's not major on the minors.

I know I'm a little bit early.  We still have Palm Sunday and Holy Week to get through, but I'll say it now and I'll say it a week from tomorrow:  "Happy Easter!"

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A REALITY SLAP

"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  (Ephesians 5:15-16)

I'm a very verbal and expressive person, yet as I sit here at the computer typing, I'm finding myself at quite a loss for words!  I was about to write that I got some upsetting news yesterday.  I did - however, it really wasn't "news" because it happened a long time ago.  But I learned of it yesterday, so for me I guess it really was news.

Before I get into that, I want to say I've been wrestling for weeks about things I want to write on this blog and things I just plain want to say.  But I'm also afraid.  I've learned in life that it's very easy to be rejected.  I've also felt marginalized for much of my life;  I've felt like I just plain didn't fit in.  I know my writing these words may surprise a lot of folks.  I've done a lot of public speaking during my adult life, and I know I usually come across as very comfortable and confident when I speak in public.  And, I know a lot of my writing probably seems the same way.  It might surprise you that one of my favorite songs is The Warrior is a Child by Twila Paris.  In that song she talks about what a giant, confident, assertive and victorious Christian everybody believes she is; but that when she's away from the crowds and in private, she says, "I drop my sword and cry for just awhile, for deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child."  Those words very much fit me, too, but I guess that's not bad.  I have to depend on the Lord and trust the Lord, and not myself, and that's a good thing.

I got a reality slap yesterday.  It jolted me into thinking about how I want to live and what is and isn't important.  Listen, I could almost take myself off Facebook and maybe at some point I will. I am absolutely sick and disgusted with all of the hate and hand-wringing from both the political right and the religious right and the political left and the religious left (and, trust me, there is a religious left).

It's interesting when you think of somebody from the distant past that you haven't seen or heard from in over thirty years, so you do an online search to try to find out where they live and what happened to them.  I do that from time to time, and it's one of the things I do like about Facebook and about being online.  This week it just kind of came to me to do a search for one of my father's closest friends back in the 1960s and 1970s named Bill Schimmel.  Bill had to be my father's coolest friend!  He was ten years younger and from an affluent family in suburban Milton, Mass.  My dad met him at Civil Air Patrol in the 1950s.  Bill Schimmel had been a radio personality on a country music station in the early days that my dad knew him.  Bill didn't use his real name when he was a D.J.  He was funny, likable, extroverted, interesting, fun-loving, but also very humble and very nice.  He didn't come over to our house a lot, but when he did, he was one of the few grown-ups who would make a point of talking to and being friendly to the kids.  I know my brother, sister, and I appreciated that.  My father was a very complicated person.  At one extreme, he could be very authoritarian, very strict, and very rigid.  At the other extreme, he could be relaxed, fun-loving, and even silly.  It was that side of my father that always manifested itself when Bill Schimmel was around.  My father had kind of a playful relationship with Bill Schimmel, almost like Bill was a kid brother to him.  Maybe Dad needed that because he was the youngest of a large family, so he never got to have a kid brother.  Dad used to joke and fool at lot with Bill.  He called Bill "Newt" and "Sonny".  I have no idea what the possible significance of those nicknames could have been!  If you've ever listened to radio host Bruce Stevens, his voice and persona is almost identical to Bill Schimmel.  (Bruce Stevens worked at Boston's WBZ radio in the late 1980s.  He was later a weekend host on WTKK-FM, and most recently he was a weekend fill-in overnight guy at WBZ, although he's also had longterm radio jobs in Hartford and Indianapolis.)  Yes, every time I'd hear Bruce Stevens, it would make me think of Bill Schimmel, and I'd wonder where Bill is now.

A particularly happy memory I have is of our family spending a day with Bill and his extended family on Cape Cod during the summer of 1966.  Bill's parents had a beautiful home right on the waterfront in East Dennis.  Bill took us out in his boat and we went deep-sea fishing.  Later, Bill's extended family had us all to a cookout on their property.  The steaks were burnt on the outside and raw on the inside!  My dad hated rare steak and he joked a lot about that, but it was such a memorable day and a lot of fun!  Bill's father was an executive at WBZ radio and television.  As kids, we all went on Boomtown.  For those of you who are not Baby-Boomers from Boston, Boomtown was a children's show on Boston's channel 4 hosted by cowboy Rex Trailer which had about twenty-five kids on the show each week as sort of a participatory audience.  It wasn't till I was probably around twenty that my mother told me we went on Boomtown  through the arrangement of Bill Schimmel's father, and that Bill's father was the Boomtown Santa Claus at Christmastime!

As a high school kid, I wanted to go into broadcasting as a career in the worst way.  My father didn't think it was a good idea.  He had Bill Schimmel talk to me about it.  Bill left broadcasting to become a schoolteacher.  Bill told me, "You're a nice guy, and I'm a nice guy.  Broadcasting is a cutthroat business.  That cutthroat stuff wasn't for me, and I don't think it would be for you, either."  That ended my broadcasting desires.  In fact, my father strongly encouraged Bill to become a Driver Education instructor in addition to public school teaching, and Bill did.

Well, what was my big jolt- my big shock this week?!  I remembered that Bill got married and settled in a little town called Margaretville, New York.  My parents lost touch with him.  I don't think they had any contact with him at all after the 1970s.  What I found on line was a Victim Impact Statement which Bill's widow had given, in the aftermath of Bill being killed instantly by a reckless drunk driver in August of 1987!  What devastating news; and to think it happened to such a truly nice guy!  In the statement, his widow speaks of the irony that Bill was a Driver Education instructor.  He was just out on an errand, and a drunk driver ended his life.  She talked about the terrible loss of her husband.

I asked my sister if she had any idea that Bill Schimmel had died that way in 1987.  Like me, she was shocked and devastated.  She is certain my parents knew nothing of that, and that they'd have been very, very upset if the had known about it.  It happened so long ago, and I've had no contact with Bill Schimmel since the 1970s, but right now I'm truly grieving over thirty years later.

What does this have to so with some of the stuff I wrote at the beginning of this piece?  A lot!  People are so worried about "what a jerk Trump is" and "what a jerk Nancy Pelosi is" and they won't speak to this one and they won't speak to that one, and everbody's got "an agenda" and everybody's got a chip on their shoulder, and frankly I'm sick of it!

There's so much more important- like God.  Like what His plan is for your life.  Like what His will is.  And, what about your family?  And, what about your loved ones?  And, how are you spending your time?  And, are you sowing money into things that really matter, or are you socking it all away in the bank like Ebenezer Scrooge?

Our lives can end at any time.  Any time!  Our loved one's lives can end at any time!

Where are our priorities?

What are we doing?

And the fact that good people like Bill Schimmel are killed by drunk drivers- well it stinks!  But it makes me glad that someday the Lord will return to this planet, and that this "vale of tears" is only the beginning of eternity.

I've gotta stop.

If this piece touched you in any way, I'd love to hear from you.

MAYBE NOT GOING AWAY AFTER ALL!

"...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  (from Job 1:21)

It's been a few weeks since I posted my possible farewell thoughts as I'd received a surprising and troubling email from Google telling me my blog would be going away by early April. 

In fact, it's Google Plus blogs that are going away by early April.  I never remember upgrading or changing to Google Plus.  Thus, I've been just "biding my time" as they say in waiting to see what, if anything, would happen to my blog.  I did receive a couple of additional emails.  One said that my blog would now appear as scrambled (for security purposes) to anyone "new" who came to read it that had never been to the site before.  That turned out to be not accurate information.  I'm concluding that I don't have Google Plus and that the blog is not going away.  If it does go away, that will happen on or very shortly after April 2, 2019; but right now I'm feeling that I was incorrectly notified in early February that my blog was going away and I believe that at least for awhile, it's staying!  For that, I do thank God!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A SURPRISING AND CONFUSING E-MAIL I RECEIVED...

"...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (from Job 1:21)

I received a surprising and confusing e-mail yesterday.  It was from Google.  You may think that since I write a blog and have a Facebook account, I'm very "tech-savvy".  Boy, that's a joke!  Frankly, I'm not "tech-savvy" at all.  I am so glad my son Jon is very "tech-savvy" and my daughters do pretty well in that area, as well.  My wife Mary Ann is also definitely more technically astute than I am.  So, it was really hard for me to process the e-mail.  It was a pretty long e-mail.  It a nutshell, it said that Google is making some major changes which will include shutting down and deleting a number of blogs on Google including mine.  It said that after February 4, I will "not be able to post comments" and that in early April my blog will be eliminated and deleted.  It did say that in March, I will receive instructions about how to download my blog, if I want to save it...I suppose "in the Cloud"!

I forwarded the e-mail to my son and asked if he could make heads or tails of it.  Jon who also has a blog on Google, said he did not receive that e-mail.  Jon looked into it and got back to me.  He said it's not Google blogs that are being eliminated- it's Google Plus blogs that are being eliminated.  He said Google Plus was going to be a social network that Google envisioned would rival Facebook, but that it never really got off the ground.  I went back and re-read the e-mail and it did say "Google Plus".  Jon surmised I must have been "tricked" at some point to upgrade to Google Plus.  Honestly, I don't remember doing any such thing.  Now, I do have a youtube site that I access through Google, and I have posted comments on various people's Google blogs.  I wonder if the e-mail I received is pertaining to any of that and maybe not to my blog.

I don't know.

I've had very mixed emotions about how I would feel if Google does eliminate and discard my blog.  I don't want to save it "in the Cloud".  I feel if it does go away, then the Lord is closing the door on it, and that's that.  If I misunderstood the e-mail and my blog does not go away, well that will certainly be interesting.  I don't know what's going to happen, so I thought I would share this as sort of "farewell thoughts" about "The Blog of Bob Baril"  just in case!

Jon noted that if the blog goes away I could start another one on Word Press.  And, maybe I'd do that; I'm not sure.  Things are very different in my life, and in some respects in my outlook and my philosophy since I started The Blog of Bob Baril in early 2006.  I originally started it on AOL Journals.  If you think this font and format looks blah, you should have seen it on AOL Journals!  It was all very "plain Jane" looking.  And, in those days, my URL address was long, convoluted, and bizarre.  I used to tell friends, "Just save it as a bookmark because you'll never remember the URL address!"

In the autumn of 2008, AOL suddenly announced they were doing away with the AOL Journals blog feature.  I (prematurely) published a kind of sensational, "My blog is ending" post!  Then, I learned AOL had made arrangements with blogspot, (later called Google blogger) that if you wanted to transfer your blog there, you could.  For a non-technical guy like me, it was a little scary, but I followed all the procedures they told me to do, and viola!  I had a new blog home and a new URL address, and all my material from AOL Journals was saved.  (I frankly never thought I'd have to deal with this issue again!)

Between 2006 and 2010 I was a full-time pastor.  Ironically, this blog was anything but a typical pastor's blog.  Only about one in ten posts had anything to do with God or the Bible or church or ethics.  Rather, posts were about things like my favorite soft drinks, or complaints about bad service I'd received, or thoughts about my favorite television shows, or thoughts about politics.  I did have a number of Christian friends and folks from our church who got rather upset about what I wrote on my blog.  Some said I seemed to act like a silly, spoiled, little kid.  They felt I should show Christian leadership and Christian maturity and act more like a pastor.  I was hurt, defensive and angry.  Yet, I must admit that I think they had a point.  Especially since 2013, this blog has evolved into something very different from what it was during the first few years.  In the past five years, probably nine out of ten postings have been the kind of thing that sounds much more like a pastor's blog.  That's interesting because although I'm still an Ordained minister, I haven't pastored in almost nine years!

I frankly have thought about going through and editing and/or deleting a lot of my pre-2013 posts, but that would be so time consuming!  So, it will be interesting to see if this blog survives past April 2, 2019 or not!  It will be interesting to see if the door closes on it!  If it disappears in April 2019, you'll know why!  And, if not, I'll try to post on it occasionally.

Finally, I know a lot of my posts haven't been very good, but for family, friends and others who've read The Blog of Bob Baril during the past thirteen years - thank you!