Saturday, March 26, 2022

SO GLAD!

 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

I've been on sort of an emotional and spiritual rollercoaster over the past few weeks!  Many of you know I've experienced serious car trouble, and some unexpected consequences and setbacks because of that.  But right now, it's all good.

My present car is a silver 2001 Toyota Corolla sedan.  Ironically, the car I owned just prior to this one was also a silver 2001 Toyota Corolla sedan.  Yeah, sometimes that gets confusing even for me!  The first 2001 Toyota Corolla was purchased used in late May of 2015.  It ran and functioned great for thirteen months, then I began having many problems with it - all engine related.  That car died in April of 2018.  I am going to change the names of people in this piece as I don't have their permission to use their names. So I will say that "Terry" a mechanic friend of my sister's helped me in finding and purchasing my present Toyota Corolla a couple weeks after the original '01 Corolla died.  His friend "Neil" has a used car business in the Brockton, Massachusetts area.  Neil told Terry he had an old Toyota Corolla which was for sale.  Neil said it was "nothing to look at" but was actually good mechanically.  When Terry and I went to look at it, I was disappointed.  Somebody had done some amateur body work to it at one point.  Several areas of the body, to use an expression of the late Don Imus, "look awful"!  They really do.  When my wife Mary Ann was looking for a car a couple of years ago she told people, "I don't want a car that looks like Bob's!"  I can't blame her for telling them that.  Yet from the beginning Terry told me the engine sounded excellent- much better than the engine on the other Toyota ever did.  His verdict was the car was a good car.  I paid $800 for it.  Neil said he would have charged anyone else $1500 for it.

The second Toyota Corolla ran well for over three years.  But lately, it just hasn't sounded right.  Unlike my late father and brother, I'm not mechanically inclined at all.  When there are weird sounds and weird behavior, I'm no better than a "valley girl" in telling what's wrong with a car.  "There's like really weird sounds and like a really weird feeling and like a really weird like vibe when you like drive the car."  That's about the level I'm on!  (I'm ashamed to admit that!)  And that was essentially the case with my  present Toyota since we began the calendar year 2022.

Three weeks ago today, my car sounded terrible!  It was making all kinds of scraping noises, some banging noises, and even a woo-woo-woo sound like Curly of The Three Stooges!  There is a small shop I've been going to for oil changes and minor repairs for several years.  I'll call it "Mel's".  I drove the car to Mel's on Saturday, March 5 and left it there.  My sister Dianne picked me up there.  Incidentally, Mary Ann has been in Missouri helping my daughter Amy after surgery, for a month.  I had committed to be at Bread of Life Church in Westminster (over fifty miles from where I live) to oversee the security/attendance procedure for checking in and checking out children from Children's Church (more complicated than you'd ever imagine) for five Sundays in a row.  Thus far, I have missed  two of them, which makes me feel, again to sound like Don Imus, awful.  The car was in the shop at Mel's for over five days.  They determined the problem was struts and sway bars.  Almost $700 and over five days later, I got the car back.  During the next few days it was better.  But in my heart I just knew it wasn't perfectly right.  Again, to sound like the valley girl, there were like really weird sounds and like a really weird feeling and like a really weird vibe when I drove the car.  I did make it to Bread of Life Church on Sunday, March 13.  Now, let's fast-forward to Saturday, March 19.  The car sounded and felt terrible.  Terrible.  It sounded like someone was scraping a piece of heavy metal across a driveway when I drove it.  And it just didn't feel right, either.  As we New Englanders say, "I was wicked depressed".  I had a bunch of errands to do last Saturday and I'm glad my daughter Rachel came and chauffeured me all over the place.  I contacted Dianne's mechanic friend Terry.  On Sunday, March 20, Terry came and checked out the car.  He discovered the rear brakes were terrible.  They truly were not functioning at all and that's where the metal dragging sounds were coming from.

On Monday, March 21, Terry took the car to his good friend and outstanding mechanic friend "Zach's" small shop just outside Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Zach replaced the rear brakes.  He checked the front brakes and found out they really were not good, although not as bad as the rear brakes.  He replaced the front brake pads, and feels the front brakes will be good for quite a few months.  But the big thing was the front axles.  Zach and Terry cannot understand how I drove that car without being killed.  They said the front driver's axle was so bad that when when they began checking it, it just totally fell apart!  Zach replaced the front axles.  Zach told Terry that if he did this repair job for anyone else the cost would be a minimum of $1000.  He charged Terry $300 and I reimbursed Terry the $300.  Terry feels the car should be very good for many months from this point.

And that leads me to why I chose Romans 8:28 for my opening Scripture verse and why I call this piece SO GLAD!  A week ago, I was very mad at Mel's Auto Shop.  I felt they ripped me off, and that they were so incompetent that they did not find the brake and axle problems.  But let's think about that for a moment.  If they had found all that stuff, they probably would have given me an estimate of over $2500. to repair it all (including the struts).  I would have said NO.  I would have junked the car.  And, I probably would have been without a car for awhile.  Instead, I paid a total of around $1000. for all of that work, and the car should be good for many months.  And, the axle did not fail on Interstate 95 leaving me dead!

Amy Grant recorded a great song about forty years ago.  The title is So Glad.  In that song, she talks about all the plans she had made and how God intervened and messed them all up.  We all get pretty perturbed when God steps in and messes up our plans.  I sure do!  For a couple of weeks there, I was in a rotten mood about the car and about not being able to get to Bread of Life Church - and about a lot of other things, too.  Now, it's all in perspective.  Incidentally, it's worth doing an online search for Amy Grant's song So Glad and listening to it. In some respects, I feel ashamed and I feel rather stupid.  But beyond that, really I'm SO GLAD!

Friday, February 25, 2022

WAS FRAMINGHAM BETTER IN 1987?

 "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee..." (from Deuteronomy 8:2)

Recently "out of the blue" I found myself thinking about what Framingham was like when my family and I were new residents in 1987.  (I moved out of Framingham in 2011 but I still miss the community.)  In many respects Framingham was a lot different in 1987.  If you're young, or if you did not live or work in Framingham prior to the twenty-first century, you just might find this interesting. 

Framingham was and is probably the most diverse community in Massachusetts.  Not only is it ethnically and racially diverse, but it's diverse in other ways, too.  There are some very rural parts of Framingham, especially in the area known as the "northwest corner".  Parts of the "northwest corner" look like some of New England's most rural areas.  Yet, parts of the Southside look and feel like Boston's blue-collar Hyde Park neighborhood.  They're pretty urban, congested and (sort of) "affordable".  There are really wealthy areas and poor areas.  That hasn't changed in thirty-five years.

Framingham was still a "Town" in 1987.  There were several votes taken through the years about whether Framingham should be a City.  I always voted for "City" but the change didn't happen till just a few years ago. 

There were a couple large employers in 1987 which are long gone:  General Motors and Dennison.  GM's plant was on Western Ave. near the Sherborn line.  I once owned an Oldsmobile which was built there.  After over forty years, GM left in 1989.  Dennison was located in several buildings on Howard Street and Bishop St.  What was their biggest building was converted to luxury apartments around fifteen years ago.

If you're familiar with the layout of Concord Street/Route 126 between downtown Framingham and Route 9, you'll be surprised that it was once very different.  Believe it or not it was two-lane in each direction!  The lanes were really narrow.  People drove it in a fast and furious manner!  During the fall of 1987, it was reconfigured to the way it is currently.  At the time everybody hated the change.  After awhile, drivers reluctantly adjusted to it.

I came as pastor of the small First Assembly of God church which was located at Hartford and C Streets. We sold that building in 1990.  I met some very interesting clergy men and women during my early days in Framingham.  Mason Wilson was the rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal.  He had been in Town for twenty-five years and had vivid memories of pastoring in Framingham during the days of the Kennedy assassination.  John Ambler was pastor at First Methodist.  He had spent a lot of time following Martin Luther King Jr. during the fifties and sixties.  Andrew Finger was pastor at Lutheran Church of Framingham, and Protestant chaplain at Framingham Union Hospital.  He'd been in Framingham since I was a toddler!

Duca's nightclub on Route 9 (where Walgreens is today) was a hopping place in 1987.  Among the most popular supermarkets were Big D on Waverly Street and another one on Franklin Street.  I also sometimes shopped at Purity Supreme in Saxonville.  A popular restaurant was Finally Michael's at Route 9 and Temple Street.

There was still a Framingham South High School and a Framingham North High School in 1987.  And of course there was Marian (Catholic) High School.  They merged North and South in the early nineties. 

The "old" Shoppers World was very much alive in that era, as was the original Natick Mall.  Shoppers World was a state-of-the-art 1951 shopping center.  It was one of the first of its kind in America.

I didn't use a computer until 1993 nor a cell phone until 1999.  The internet barely existed at all in 1987.  You should have seen the first cable box that Framingham Cable TV provided us with in 1987.  There was no remote!  There was an analog channel tuner on the box which you had to manually turn.  It offered a total of twenty-three channels.

Was Framingham better in 1987?  I'm not sure.  But I have great memories of that Framingham.  It was a very cool place!

Saturday, February 5, 2022

MIKE PENCE'S PROBLEMATIC PUZZLING PREDICAMENT

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

Former Vice-President Mike Pence made headlines a few days ago when he made a blistering statement rebuking former President Donald Trump for saying things like, "Mike Pence didn't have to certify the election, making Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the winners.  He could have refused to do that!  The power to change the results was in his hands.  If only Mike Pence had done the right thing; but alas he didn't!"

Trump has said something like that maybe a thousand times since January 6, 2021.  Has Trump "overdone it" with all that complaining about Mike Pence?  In my opinion, yeah he has.  I will admit Pence's statement kind of made me cringe.  But I suppose after listening to a year of Trump essentially calling him a useless, disloyal, unreliable disappointment, Pence had "had it" and needed to vent his own frustration and disappointment with Donald Trump.

I really feel sorry for Mike Pence.  He was put in a terrible position back on the first week of January of 2021.  Honestly, I believe the election was stolen and Biden is an illegitimate president.  It's what I believe and that's my right.  But I don't know what I would have done were I Mike Pence.  It's very possible I would have done exactly what Mike Pence did and certified the election with Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.  As far as I can tell, the Vice-President's role in that whole thing is largely (if not totally) ceremonial.  Back on that first week of January I really felt for Mike Pence.  Again, I thought he was placed in a terrible position.  It was the classic "No Win Situation"!  I didn't know what Pence would do but I knew it was very possible he'd just certify the election.  I also knew it was very possible he'd be hated and rejected by essentially "everybody" and "forever".  And that scenario sure played out!

I voted for Trump both times.  If Trump is the nominee in 2024 I will vote for him again.  (Incidentally,  I seriously doubt Trump will be the nominee in 2024.)  I've been accused in social media of "worshipping Donald Trump" and of "making an idol of Donald Trump".  I'm guilty of neither accusation!  Yes I have written some posts online which were very supportive of Trump.  I've also written some posts which were quite critical of Trump.  He did a number of great things as president.  He also sometimes said and did what could be called "some really stupid things".

In my opinion, Trump's disparaging remarks about what Mike Pence did on January 6 are really out of line and inappropriate.  Mike Pence has often described himself as, "A Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican third."  I've often described myself exactly the same way.  In my lifetime, no vice-president has been as loyal and supportive of  the POTUS as was Mike Pence.  I frankly hated when liberals described Pence as "a stooge... a sycophant... a lackey... a guy who can't think for himself" and so forth.  Pence acted exactly the way I'd expect a devout evangelical Christian who served as vice-president to act.  I'm not saying I'm presidential material, but I would have handled being Donald Trump's vice-president almost exactly as Mike Pence did.

Recently a listener asked radio talk show host Jesse Kelly if he thought Mike Pence has any political future.  Jesse Kelly responded that Pence has no political future.  Jesse Kelly is right about that.  It's sad.  Mike Pence is still very much loved and praised by Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham.  But when it comes to Mike Pence, I'd say Franklin Graham is probably one in million.

Now, I said earlier that Mike Pence's recent statement made me cringe.  And it did.  I feared it would only stir up a lot of "bad stuff" that probably doesn't need to be stirred up.

This will certainly never happen,  but if I could sit down in a room with Donald Trump and Mike Pence, here's what I'd say to them:

I would tell Donald Trump, "Stop it!  Just stop it!  You've more than said your peace about Mike Pence and certifying that election.  Maybe he was right and maybe he was wrong, but please forgive him.  No one would have been more loyal to you than Mike Pence was.  Appreciate him.  Pray for him.  Don't say another bad word about him."

I would tell Mike Pence, "You were put in a terrible position.  I wouldn't have traded places with you for a million dollars.  There are a lot of people who will always see you as a traitor and a weasel.  But God doesn't see you that way.  I don't know if you were right or wrong to say what you said this week.  But I know Donald Trump badly hurt you and you vented out your feelings.  Now leave it at the altar.  Pray for Donald Trump.  And seek the Lord's direction for the rest of your life."

Mike Pence is human.  He's a fallible and sincere guy who tried to do the right thing as he best understood the right thing to be.  People may never stop arguing about whether Mike Pence was right or wrong, but Mike Pence deserves fair consideration and not firm condemnation! 

Friday, January 7, 2022

JESSE KELLY: THANK YOU

 "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another just as you also are doing." (I Thessalonians 5:11 New King James Version)

One year ago this week I listened to the Jesse Kelly Show (locally in Boston on WRKO 680 A.M.) for the very first time.  I had no idea who Jesse Kelly was, and for the first few days I didn't know what to make of him!  The first week of January in 2021 was a difficult week for me.  I had several people completely reject me due to my political views.  On that painful and soul-searching week, I needed something to cheer me up and help me refocus my thoughts and feelings.  The Jesse Kelly Show became exactly that for me!  It wasn't long before I couldn't wait to tune in to hear Jesse Kelly.  And, honestly, in many respects Jesse Kelly (a guy who's twenty-seven years younger than I am) helped me with my thinking, and my confidence, and my whole approach to life.

There are 10 Things about Jesse Kelly that I deeply appreciate:

1.  VERY ENTERTAINING.  Jesse's not boring!  His show goes by very quickly because he's so interesting. 

2.  GREAT STORYTELLER.  I honestly don't have many talents, but I am a very good storyteller.  Some of you know I've told a story on Public Radio's The Moth Story Hour.  Jesse Kelly is a great storyteller!  He and Public Radio are exact opposites when it comes to politics (same with me) but he's as good or better as anyone I've ever heard on The Moth.

3.  A PATRIOT.  Jesse served in the U.S. Marines from 2000 to 2004 and has been in combat. 

4.  FOCUS ON VETERANS.  Every Monday is "Medal of Honor Monday" in which Jesse focuses on at least one Medal of Honor citation.  He believes the brave actions of our veterans should never be forgotten.

5.  FOCUS ON GRATITUDE.  One theme you'll constantly hear on the Jesse Kelly Show is "Gratitude".  Jesse Kelly believes lack of appreciation is the root of much really bad behavior in individuals and in societies.

6.  PRAYING REGULARLY WITH HIS SONS.  This one goes right along with Number 5.  Yes, Jesse Kelly could be described as very macho.  But he's not too macho to pray with his sons (ages 11 and 13) every night and to encourage each of them to "name something you're grateful for" when they pray.  Jesse is also not afraid to ask people to pray for him about various matters.  That's something I greatly respect about him.

7.  IMPRESSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF HISTORY.  Jesse Kelly often says he had only three years of community college as far as higher education,  but he's done a lot of reading.  His history stories are always riveting and very informative. 

8.  VERSATILE.  Jesse Kelly has lived in Ohio, Montana, Arizona,  suburban Washington D.C., and Texas.  He's been a construction worker, salesman, fundraiser, congressional candidate, and now a radio talk show host and podcaster.

9.  OFFERS GOOD COUNSEL.  Friday's show is always "Ask Doctor Jesse Friday".  People do write in with some silly questions, but many are about job problems or relationship problems or extended family issues or finances or decision making.  I've found much of his advice to be very helpful. 

10.  NOT A TERRIBLE PERSON!  One thing you've got to get used to when you listen to Jesse Kelly is all the "tongue-in-cheek" humor!  He constantly says "I'm a really bad person!" or "I'm a terrible person!"  He isn't!

The Jesse Kelly Show can be found online as a podcast and is also broadcast on over two hundred stations all around America- mostly during early evening hours. 

Jesse Kelly: Thank you. 


Saturday, December 25, 2021

MEMORIES OF THE WAY WE WERE

 "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."  (Luke 2:7)

Last year I wrote a blog post on Christmas Day.  I'm not sure if this will become a tradition or not, but I decided to once again write a piece on Christmas Day - specifically Christmas morning.  I admit through the years I've had a big ego when it comes to my writing.  I still want to write that piece which is read by tens of thousands of people.  Alas, many of my writings never get read by more than thirty!  I suppose a piece about personal Christmas memories could be like watching a slide presentation of somebody's trip to Disney World or a slide presentation featuring their little kids learning to swim on Cape Cod.  Those who show that stuff are bursting with excitement and glee, while the viewers would honestly rather watch paint dry as long as they could do so while eating a delicious pizza!  But if you're one of the thirty (or will it be twenty?) who reads this, I hope it will somehow be meaningful!

Through the decades, I've been emotionally and spiritually "all over the place" when it comes to Christmas.  Some years, I've loved it.  Some years, I've hated it.  This year, as with many, I'm just kind of "in the middle" about it.  I did open this piece with a verse from the beautiful account of Jesus' birth found in Luke's gospel.  But the Bible actually never tells us to celebrate Christmas.  As far as I can tell, Christians in the first century did not celebrate Christmas.  Much of our celebration comes from pagan roots.  And it's the financial stress and pressure over the years that caused me to hate the holiday at times.  However, lest I bring you down, there are aspects of Christmas I truly enjoy.  I love Christmas Carols.  And I love the Dickens story, A Christmas Carol.  I do like Christmas trees - real trees whenever possible.  Along with so many others, I appreciate a good Christmas dinner - not only the food, but the fellowship with family and friends, too.  I know the title is about memories.  Here I want to share some Christmas memories of mine:

Christmas 1962:  That year was a very difficult one financially for my parents.  That's a very long story, but we got a lot fewer gifts from Santa than usual in 1962  Don't get me wrong, I think my brother, sister and I received at least three gifts apiece from Mr. Claus, but it was definitely a scaled down holiday.  Nevertheless, we started Christmas morning going to mass at St. John's Church in Canton as we always did, and as he usually did, my father took home movies of us opening our presents.  Yes, it was a difficult year for my folks, but they focused as much as possible on their kids being happy and having a great Christmas morning.

Christmas 1968:  1968 was the year of the Hong Kong flu.  The only member of the Baril household who did not get it was my mother.  I guess my father wasn't feeling well, but he never said anything.  During the mass at St. John's, he fainted!  I remember an usher assisting us.  My mother started driving cars when she was almost forty, and it's a good thing she did have her license because she was able to drive us home!

Christmas 1981:  I had only been dating Mary Ann for a couple months at the time.  She lived in an apartment with a woman who had a couple of kids.  They had me over for breakfast.  I remember that one kid (I think his name was Jay) had gotten a Rubik's Cube as a present.  He feverishly worked that Rubik's Cube - his hands covered in bacon grease!  My mother wasn't real happy I wanted to spend Christmas early morning with my new girlfriend, but the times they were a changing for me at that point.

Christmas 1983:  My mother was a mess that year; well, each of my parents were a mess.  My brother Eddie had died that summer and our first child Jonathan was born that summer.  It was little baby Jon who kept Christmas 1983 from being a total disaster.  My mother couldn't remain in despair as she held this new little baby!

Christmas 1986:  My father had suffered a stroke a week earlier and was hospitalized.  Mary Ann and I were in the process of moving from Walpole to Framingham over the holidays so we didn't have a tree or any decorations at our Walpole apartment.  That was definitely a scaled down holiday, but a good memory is Mary Ann and me and our three very little kids spending Christmas Eve at my father-in-law's boat docked at Boston's Seaport District.

Christmas 1998:  We had very little financially that year, and my elderly parents were in poor health.  Yet '98 is remembered by me as one of the best Christmasses!  On Christmas Eve a stranger driving an old Chevrolet sedan and wearing a Santa Claus outfit showed up at our Framingham home with a bag of gifts for us!  As President Biden would say, "No joke!"

In the words of the author of the Book of Hebrews (in chapter 11 verse 32) "the time would fail me" if I presented all the memories that I have about past Christmasses, but I'll share one more;

Christmas 2020:  Mary Ann and my daughter Rachel were out in Missouri visiting my other daughter Amy and her family.  I spent Christmas with my son Jon at his apartment in Framingham.  He gave me a very special Christmas present:  An online video message from actor Terry O'Quinn to me personally in which he encouraged me that although I can be a lot like John Locke, the character he played in ABC's drama Lost, I will succeed as I move ahead because I have a son and others who love me.  I'm almost getting choked up as I write this.   Later in the day, Jon and I went to the movies and saw the Tom Hanks film, News of the World.  I had a great time!

I'm hoping you're all still alive - that I haven't bored you to death!  "And so I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two, although it's been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you!"

Saturday, November 6, 2021

A WORD IN SEASON

"A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word in season, how good is it!" (Proverbs 15:23) 

This piece will be very short- possibly the shortest post I've ever written on this blog.  I saw someone yesterday that I haven't seen in months.  This guy mentioned that I have not posted anything on the blog in quite awhile, so if he sees this he will probably chuckle.  But then this man paid me quite a compliment about my writing.  I did not expect that and frankly it really blessed me.  Ironically, a short time later, my boss had a brief conversation with me commending me about many positive things about my job performance.  Frankly I was stunned and shocked by that one, but it did make me feel good. 

It's amazing what a difference we can make in the lives of others just by what we say. 

A man I know recently lost his brother to Covid 19.  My friend is in his late sixties and his brother was in his early seventies.  His brother was energetic with a charismatic personality.  He was a guy who looked and acted as though he were in his fifties.  The surviving brother has been really sad and greieving.  The gentleman who died was not vaccinated and neither is his surviving brother.  I happen to be vaccinated; I've had the first two shots if that still counts as vaccinated!  But some terrible things have been said to the surviving brother.  People have cruelly and harshly told him, "Your brother died because he was not vaccinated."  Then, they've added, "You better get vaccinated or the same thing could happen to you!"  I would never say something like that.  I think the whole vaccination thing should be a very private affair.  I absolutely do not believe in vaccine mandates.  We should respect one another's choices.  But back to the point of this - the last thing that grieving man needs right now is judgment and condemnation. 

Yes, it matters what we say! 

I remember the closing of the church I pastored.  I was in early 2010 but I remember it like it was yesterday.  One guy (who no longer was part of the church but had attended it previously) actually said to me, "You must be so relieved the church is closing!"  I cannot tell you how devastating that comment was to me at the time.  I have been out of full-time ministry now for over a decade.  Back in 2010 and 2011 a number of people looked at me like I was some sort of pariah, serious sinner, or catastrophic failure.  I was under a psychiatrist's care.  Thank God, that is passed!  This is turning out to be a longer piece than I'd initially predicted.  But I hope you'll take it to heart.  We all need to remember to think before we speak; and to speak words that heal, and not words that kill.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

THE GUY IN THE OLD PICKUP TRUCK

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." (Psalm 32:8 New King James Version)

This year, 2021, on the first week of August, I attended General Council (in Orlando, Florida) for only the second time in my life.  (General Council is the biennial meeting of the Assemblies of God USA.)  I've been an Assemblies of God minister since 1981 and I pastored for over twenty years, but I never attended General Council until 2019, nine years after I left full-time pastoring.  The biggest reason I attended the past two is I went with my daughter Amy and son-in law David who are Assemblies of God Missionaries.  (They've served as Missionaries in various capacities over the past few years.  They're about to go as first-time Missionaries to Papua New Guinea.)  Two years ago, my wife and my other daughter as well as many of David's family members all got together in Orlando.  This year, my wife Mary Ann stayed home with the grandsons and it was just Amy and David and me at General Council.

On Tuesday evening, August 3, we had supper at a burger and shakes place with several folks including a couple Amy and David will be serving with in Papua New Guinea.  We rode in that couple's SUV to the restaurant.  (We did not have a rental car for the week.  We stayed at a Best Western hotel and walked back and forth to the activities at Orange County Convention Center.)  After the meal we drove back to the Convention Center.  Amy and David wanted to spend some time with their friends.  At the beginning of a road which leads from the Convention Center down to where the hotel is they pointed to the direction I'd need to walk in to arrive at the Best Western.  In fact one of them pointed to the roof of a building of several stories and said, "I think that's the Best Western!"

It was a warm, humid August evening in Orlando.  It was a little before eight o'clock.  The three quarters of a mile walk was pleasant.  I liked that there was a literal sidewalk area on this roadway.  I say "literal" because there was a concrete barrier between the walkway and the roadway so no cars could veer into pedestrians!  At the end of this roadway, I saw that the building whose rooftop had been pointed out to me was a short distance to the right.  I turned right and began walking along.  The street I'd turned onto was more like a simple highway or maybe a parkway.  There was a good-sized median strip in the middle of this highway.  I noticed there was a bulldozer in the median strip which had dug up a huge portion of it.  I was surprised I didn't remember seeing that earlier in the day.

The building I was approaching was not the Best Western.  There were a couple of large signs attached to the building which read "TRU".  I had no idea what "TRU" was.  It was O.K.  I had to be very close to the Best Western and the Cheddar's restaurant which was very near it.  I would just keep walking and there they would be!  I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and I walked.  Nothing looked familiar.  In fact the surroundings were beginning to look more "woodsy".  Part of me felt nervous and apprehensive and like I was lost.  This may sound very strange, but part me also felt peaceful and that everything would be fine.  In front of me I saw a small, simple directional sign which read "WESTWOOD CENTER" and included an arrow pointing to the right.

"There!" I thought.  "I know I saw a small shopping center called WESTWOOD CENTER this morning.  I remember it included a restaurant and shops.  I'm close to that!  I'm not lost!  I'll be fine!"

I followed the direction of the sign and found myself walking through the exterior of a large office park.  It didn't look like WESTWOOD CENTER at all, but I reasoned I must be going in the right direction.  Asking the Lord in my heart, "Should I head in this direction?" I felt that I should do so.  It was now probably 8:15 and it was starting to get darker.  This office park seemed pretty empty, but in front of me I could see a ground-level office suite with lights on and several cars parked in front of it.  I reasoned it would not do any harm to see if anyone was inside and if they could direct me to the Best Western.  As I walked to the door I could see maybe four or five people inside seated and talking.  I did suddenly have a thought:  "The door's gotta be locked."  To my shock, I grabbed the door handle and it opened!  I walked right in.

In true Lt. Columbo style I announced, "Sorry to bother you, but I wonder if anyone could direct me to the Best Western hotel?"

Immediately one man stood up.  He was obviously annoyed.  "We're closed!"  he angrily announced.  He repeated, "We're closed!"  

The man walked toward me and proceeded to walk me out the door.  I asked again about the Best Western.  He said he did not know of any Best Western in the area.  I asked if he knew where Cheddar's restaurant is.  He said he did know where Cheddar's restaurant is.  He pointed to a far away STOP sign located at the opposite end of where I'd entered the office park.  He told me "Go to that STOP sign.  Turn left.  Walk about a mile, and you'll come to Cheddar's restaurant."  He quickly dashed back into the office suite.

I admit that I was stunned.  I didn't see how that road at the opposite end of the office park could possibly be where I should go.  I didn't know what to do.  I know many of you will be wondering if I have a smart phone with GPS.  I do.  But frankly I've only used it once or twice in my life.  I never thought of the GPS!  I admit I was starting to feel very fearful and very embarrassed.  Yet I also experienced the Peace of the Lord.  This is all paradoxical and very difficult to describe!  I did walk to the STOP sign and I did turn left.

Once again, I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and I walked.  I was walking on the left side of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic as I walked; although there really wasn't much oncoming traffic.  I suddenly noticed an old pickup truck heading in my direction.  It seemed to be slowing down.  Then it seemed to be moving to the side of the road.  The old pickup truck stopped right aside of where I was walking.

This was scary.

Was I about to be robbed?  Was I about to be shot?  Or, was some weird person about to ask me for directions.  Would such a person be angry if I told him I was lost, too?

The truck's passenger window rolled down.  

"I will take you to Cheddar's restaurant," the driver proclaimed.

I was dumbfounded.  All I could manage was a, "Huh?"

"I will take you to Cheddar's restaurant," the driver repeated.

It was the annoyed guy from the office suite!  He added, "I thought about it.  I wouldn't want my grandfather out wandering around not knowing where he's going, so I decided to take you there.  Get in."

I did.

He told me bluntly the door to their business is never open after hours.  He said a woman was supposed to lock the door and she obviously didn't.  (I wouldn't have wanted to be that woman when he confronted her at some point!)  He explained he initially thought I was some homeless person who'd gone in there to start trouble.  But after I'd left he realized I was wearing a lanyard to which a convention name tag was clipped.  He'd felt guilty and come to rescue me.  He made a U-turn and we headed in the direction in which I'd been walking.  In a short distance he pointed to a roadway and walkway on the left.

"You walked down there from the Convention Center, didn't you?"  he asked.

I did!  That was indeed the roadway I'd walked down earlier!

He explained that if I'd have turned left it would have been only a short distance to the Best Western.  (I could have said, "I thought you didn't know of any Best Western in this area!"  But I didn't!)

He said, "You see that building just ahead on the left?  That's the Best Western!"

We pulled into the parking lot, and he let me out at the door.  "Thank you!  God bless you!" I said, rather emotionally.

I've given that Tuesday night's events a lot of thought since then.  It was a great General Council!  There were wonderful meetings, events, exhibits, and services.  I had a great time.  But my most important takeaway from the 2021 General Council was my experience of being "lost and found" that evening.  I don't preach often these days, but on the Sunday before General Council I preached at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, Massachusetts (where my wife and I attend) about hearing the Lord's voice and doing what He says to do.  I vividly lived that on the next Tuesday night!  How did I know to enter the office park?  Why was the door that's always locked after hours open?  Why did the guy who initially greeted me in a negative manner end up rescuing me?  Is there a lot of symbolism in what happened to me on the night of August 3, 2021 in Orlando?  

I'll answer that:  Yes.  Although it really happened, it's also a parable.  It's something the Lord was wanting to teach me.  And I wanted to share it with you!