Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Hebrews chapter thirteen, verse  eight says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever”.  Jesus IS the same, but other things in life can remarkably SEEM to be the same!

A previous entry tells about the deck being built.  This one will tell “the rest of the story” - with a twist.

Up until now, the hardest I have ever worked on a Memorial Day weekend was in 1972.   It was just a few days prior to my graduation from high school.  I was invited by an underclassmen friend, Glenn Pickett, to join his family at their summer place in Meredith, New Hampshire for the weekend.  Glenn’s Dad, Mr. Arthur Pickett, was in his late thirties and was a very calm, jovial guy.  But Arthur’s older brother, Glenn’s “Uncle Pat” was what I call a “piece of work”.  Pat was a tough blue collar guy who toted a tool box and was very outspoken and opinionated.  Also present were Glenn’s paternal grandparents.  The elderly Mr. Pickett had a serious heart condition.  He was under strict medical orders to rest.  

Uncle Pat firmly and confidently explained it.  “That doctor said ‘You give me three months and I’ll give YOU ten years’!” Pat said.  Pat must have said that line forty-seven times that weekend!  Old Mr. Pickett would try to do some job and Pat would loudly and angrily yell, “What did that doctor tell ya?!”

Although my own father was a hard taskmaster, on that Saturday, Uncle Pat worked me harder than I’d ever been worked in my life!  He was not big on patience.  I was unable to find the correct tool in his box.  “Why, you gotta be s__ttin’ me!!” he not so politely exclaimed.

I was very unhandy and very unathletic.  It was a tough weekend for me!  Sunday was the “fun” day when we went water skiing in the lake.  Well, I tried and I tried and I tried, to get up on the skis, and I nearly drowned, and I was exhausted and scared to death!  I was SO happy that Glenn and I had to march in the Canton, Massachusetts Memorial Day parade.  For that reason, we had to leave late Sunday night to get back home.

2006 was so much like 1972 it was scary.  Randy, who is married to my wife’s sister Lynn (and is a carpenter and contractor) was the “Uncle Pat” of the weekend.  Having never been in the service, I’ve never endured boot camp, but this felt like it.  I haven’t been yelled at or called stupid so much since I was high school gym classes!  If God is trying to make sure I don’t have a big ego, well I’d say it worked!  I don’t know why Uncle Pat/Randy types expect nerdy, unhandy, unathletic white collar guys like me to “get” their program.  We just don’t.  I worked at least as hard as I did in 1972!  You will think I’m making this up, but Randy’s father Wally (age 65) was present. He’s had a heart attack in his past and has health issues.  He was the elderly Mr. Pickett of the group.  Yesterday morning as they were doing the finishing touches on the deck, Wally was struggling in his breathing.  “Maybe this deck will need work in ten years.” he said. “If I’m alive I’ll come back and work on it!”

I honestly wanted to say to him, “You give me three months and I’ll give you ten years,” but I thought that would be a little presumptuous of me!

Incidentally old Mr. Pickett did NOT make it the ten years.  I think he lasted about three or four.  My understanding is that Uncle Pat is still alive.  He’s gotta be at least seventy-five today.  If he’s healthy, maybe he’d like to work part time with Randy!

The more things change, the more they remain the same...

Monday, May 29, 2006


I know that there is a famous written work entitled “The Apology” written by Plato.  I hope no one confuses this piece with that!

One of the worst aspects of a written on-line public “thing” like this “blog” is that you can find yourself with “egg on your face” and a lot worse than that!

This afternoon, Monday, May 29, was a profoundly significant one for me.  I can say that God spoke to me.  No, I did not hear anything audibly.  I did not see any angels or any great supernatural manifestations.  But as I cut my lawn in the hot sun, it was as though Jesus walked with me by that mower.  We had a powerful dialogue.  I am aware that I have struggled with great anger, depression, and negativity (particularly) over the last five weeks or so.  It’s difficult to write this, but I’m sorry for writing some things that I know had to have been very difficult to read.  I know there were a few entries that reeked of cynicism and self-pity.  For that, I’m sorry.

But, to use an expression of Joanne Lincoln from our church, “It’s not all bad.”  And it’s not.  In our culture, an “apology” means saying you’re sorry, and I am.  But in the culture of Plato, it means a defense.  In that sense, “it’s not all bad” because it helps some of you to realize how human pastors are.  The philosophy of ministry that was common in Protestant churches and ministers up until only about fifteen or twenty years ago was that the pastor was PERFECT; well, ALMOST PERFECT.  He very rarely did anything wrong.  He always had perfect faith.  He always said and did just the right thing.  Many of us remember “perfect” clergymen like that.  But it was an act.  It wasn’t real.

No, I don’t struggle with alcohol or extramarital sex or any of that stuff.  But I DO (at times) struggle with great depression and cynicism and anger.  For whatever reason, it’s been really bad over the past five weeks.  When I’m “in that place” I honestly don’t think I’m all that bad.  I’ll even get very defensive and angry if somebody tries to tell me I’m too negative.  Today, I was able to see it for what it was and to (just like an alcoholic) admit I was powerless over it and ask God for help one day at a time.  I do feel a lot better.

Several years ago, Rev. Dick Germaine complimented me for always smiling and for being such a cheerful, upbeat person.  I was embarrassed, but I knew that so often that’s NOT what I’m like.  Ironically, my struggles with depression, cynicism, and even despair and hopelessness tend to ultimately (that is, later on) produce some of my very best public speaking and writing.  The thing about “the tears of a clown” is true.  Really effective stand up comedians and performers can really struggle with the stuff I’ve talked about.

Some of you will not understand this, but what REALLY goes on with me is a spiritual battle.  When I’m truly at my best, I’m a very effective speaker, writer, and “exhorter”.  There are some people whose very lives have been markedly changed and improved because of having known me.  (Listen, I know when I’m THAT effective it’s God’s gifting, not anything of me.)  I’ve been told I have some very special gifts- and I really do.  Satan knows that.  His purpose is to get me worried about virtually everything and to even cause me to despise myself and lapse into cynicism, depression, and anger.

Whoever your pastor is, he faces battles and temptations.  They may be totally different from mine- they probably are...but he does.  Pray for him (or her). The devil wants to “take out” as many pastors as he can.  

As I told my wife a little while ago, I can’t promise I won’t lapse into depression and all the rest again.  But I’m really endeavoring to keep my eyes on Jesus and do things his way.  He made a great lawn mowing companion today!

My Scripture for this entry is I John 1:9.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


As of this writing the deck  work is 95% done.

Randy will be back on Monday to do some finishing touches which will take an hour or so.

Although all of the  debris of the old deck is gone, there is still plenty of "junk" from today's project in the yard.  Mary Ann expects us to have it all cleaned up by Monday night.  Realistically (and Bill Lincoln agrees) there is so much stuff and such a mess that the property will need to be cleaned up in stages over a month.


My Bible passage for this blog entry is Romans chapter fourteen- the WHOLE thing!  That’s one of the most famous New Testament chapters which deals with the issue of “gray areas”.  Oh, yes, there are gray areas in the Christian life!  For instance, is it O.K. to drink alcoholic beverages?  That’s a gray area.  Should evangelical Christians serve in the military?  That’s a gray area.  Is it O.K. to buy a raffle ticket to support a worthy charity?  That’s a gray area.  AND, the area I’m hitting on today:  Is it O.K. for born-again Christians to enjoy their television shows?

I realize there is a lot of “trash” on television- there’s sort core and hard core pornography; there’s excessive violence, there are shows which are VERY anti-Christian.  I don’t think that stuff is O.K.  And, I DO think you can watch too much television.  (For that matter, you can do anything too much- you can DIE from drinking too much water!)  In the comical film, “Being There”, the Peter Sellers character “Chauncey Gardner” frequently says, “I like to watch T.V.”.  Well, I realize that after comparing myself to Chauncey Gardner I’m risking being called a “total vidiot” but I like to watch T.V., too!

There’s a real snobbery against people who like to watch T.V. and it’s especially bad among evangelical Christians.  Each year, Mrs. Fennell (who used to teach at New Covenant Christian School) writes a very judgmental piece in the MetroWest Daily News encouraging everyone to observe “T.V. Turn Off Week”.  New Covenant Christian School used to encourage that, but even when my wife worked there and all my kids attended we NEVER did that.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the MOST prayerful and committed and Godly people at the church I pastor watch the most T.V.  I’m serious.  On the other hand, one guy who boasted frequently about how LITTLE television he watched and said it should be called “Hell-evision”; well THAT guy failed a random drug test on his job and was exposed as a secret drug abuser and alcoholic!

I like Christian programming.  I love to watch Billy Graham when he’s on T.V.  I love public affairs programming.  Although most of my family can’t stand the show, I like the “McLaughlin Group” on PBS.  I also like “Nova” and “Frontline”.  If every Christian family in America watched “Nova”, “Frontline”, and “McLaughlin Group” every week,we’d be much smarter people and we’d have a much better idea of how to pray for our country and our world.

I like entertainment programming, too.  I love “Seventh Heaven”.  Although we all watched what was SUPPOSEDLY the “final episode ever” a couple of weeks ago, “Seventh Heaven” has been picked up by the new “CW” Network so it will be back next year.  I like ABC’s “Lost” as well.  For those of you who are “Lost” fans, I LOVE the character John Locke.  I don’t look ANYTHING like him, but I am “wired” SO much like that character that it kind of scares me!  One early episode of this season showed how Locke was transformed from a man paralyzed by fear and insecurity to a man who boldly launched out believing in faith and fate.  I saw SO much of myself in that episode.  I was actually wiping the tears away as I watched it.  And, although “American Idol” is predictable and manipulative, I generally watch it and I like it.  (Of course, sometimes it conflicts with “Lost” and usually “Lost” wins that one!)

I will admit to liking really silly stuff.  “Malcolm in the Middle” is a cross between The Brady Bunch on crack and The Three Stooges.  For those who know “Malcolm in the Middle”, I’ll say in my best “Stevie” voice:
“Sometimes (SIGH) it’s (SIGH) just (SIGH) good (SIGH) to let (SIGH) the stress (SIGH) go (SIGH) and watch (SIGH) a totally (SIGH) crazy (SIGH) slapstick family comedy (BIG SIGH).”  I also LOVE the animated “King of the Hill”.  My kids think I’m a lot like Hank Hill.  Well, I’m a New Englander, not a Texan, and I’m white collar and not blue collar, but I’m AS fanatical about keeping up my lawn and about people being responsible and not foolish as Hank Hill is!

I know, I know, some of you don’t even think I’m saved after reading this column.  Well, read Romans 14 three times, and then put your feet up and watch a good T.V. show!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


“...Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a Memorial before God.” (from Acts 10:4)

This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend.  I’m old enough to remember when Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30- always May 30 whether it fell on a Monday, a Thursday, or a Saturday.  In those days,  IF May 30 fell on a Sunday, it was celebrated on Monday, May 31.  Somewhere around 1971, all of that changed.  Memorial Day became the last Monday in May and “Memorial Day weekend” became enshrined as “the beginning of Summer” (even as Labor Day weekend had previously been enshrined as “the end of Summer”.)  As a teenager, I used to march with the Canton High School band in the Canton, Massachusetts Memorial Day parades.  Back in the 1960s and 1970s, parades remembering our fallen heroes along with solemn visits to cemeteries were regular parts of Memorial Day.  Sadly, that is not as true today.

Most of you know from an earlier blog entry that I’ll be spending Memorial Day working on putting on a new deck at my residence.  I would, however, like to share about what our small church will be doing for Memorial Day SUNDAY, on May 28.  Well over ten years ago, I used to get SO frustrated on Memorial Day weekend,  Fourth of July weekend, and Labor Day weekend.  The attendance would be WAY down.  “Everybody” would be at Cape Cod or New Hampshire frolicking and enjoying the holiday.  I resented trying to run a Sunday School without workers, and all sorts of other church problems that come from having your “best workers” away.  Then, one year, God gave me wisdom.  It was like God was saying to me in an audible voice, “Don’t fight it.  Enjoy the weekend.  Dress casual.  Don’t have Sunday School.  Have the service earlier.”  Back in the mid-1990s, we even used to have church outdoors on those weekends.  (In fact, tentatively, this year on Fourth of July weekend we will meet outdoors!)  I began to LOVE those big 3 Summer weekends. I still do!  Man, it seems like it was JUST New Year’s Day!  Can it really be...Summer?!

If you’re anywhere within driving distance of downtown Framingham, Massachusetts, we’d LOVE to have you join us for the Morning Worship Service at First Assembly of God of Framingham.  It’s a small church of well under 50, but don’t let that scare you!  Our church building (which we bought in 1994) is the former United Auto Workers union hall located at 32 South St. off Route 135.  Believe it or not, our property borders the Chicken Bone Saloon!  If you can find the “Chicken Bone” you can find our facility!  I do ask that you at least wear sneakers (or “tennis shoes” as they call them in the Midwest) and that guys at least wear tee-shirts and gals have no bare midriffs.  In other words, dress “modestly” but casually.  I’ll probably be in jeans and a very casual shirt.  For Memorial Day Sunday we meet at 9:30 a.m. and the service will end around 11.  Our church IS not BORING!  

What else are you possibly going to do on Sunday morning that’s more important?!

I’ll be attending a cookout on Sunday afternoon, and I’ll be working on my deck on Saturday and Monday, but on Sunday morning, I’ll be in “the house of God” in downtown Framingham, and I can’t think of a better place to be!

Hope to see you Sunday!
check out www.framingham.com/religion/1stasgod.htm

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


“For which of you, intending to built a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”  (Luke 14:28)

Some time ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Why Don’t I Like Change?”  THIS one is, “Why Don’t I Like Construction?” I know that Tim the Tool man Taylor from “Home Improvement” likes construction.  I know the guys on “This Old House” like construction.  For the most part, I don’t like construction.  Well, I generally DO like it AFTER IT’S ALL DONE, but there’s something about that messy “stuff all over the place”- everything is inconvenient and looks and seems like, well NOT like Heaven, that I just DON’T LIKE!

Within the next week, we’re demolishing the 18-year-old rear deck at our residence and building a replacement deck.  Mary Ann’s sister Lynn is married to Randy who is a carpenter’s carpenter and a contractor’s contractor.  He will be providing free labor as long as a few of us from the church help him.  A guy from the church is demolishing the old deck later this week.  According the Randy, the building of the new deck can all be done on Saturday and Monday.  I guess it will be nice when it’s done.  The lumber is being delivered today.  At our house, there’s really NO good place to drop the lumber, so I will lose my driveway for a few days.  Being terribly unhandy, not liking change, and not liking messes, (yes I’m a real life Felix Unger) this is really hard for me.  

A new roof was put on the parsonage two years ago.  I’m glad it was done, but I picked up well over 100 nails on my driveway and on the grass around the house.  After the roofers finished, our attic was full of boards, nails, old shingles, and dirt.  I mean FULL.  It was a nightmare to try to clean it.  I wish a new roof could have just miraculously appeared on the house.  The roofer had promised he would not leave one stray nail.  He lied.

In 2000, our bathroom (we only have one) was completely gutted and redone.  The contractor took a vacation in the middle of the job.  For a couple of nights we had no shower or toilet.  We slept at the church and washed our heads in the sink there.  The bathroom was not finished for almost a month after it was started.  In fact, the contractor never completed some of the fine points of the room- you can see nail holes, etc, so technically it never was completely finished.

My sister just had a retaining wall rebuilt at her Canton home.  The mason came with high recommendations.  He did a poor job.  She is holding off final payment until the wall is done to her specifications.

Most pastors love building programs, blueprints, the smell of new sheet rock, etc.  Honestly, the thought of all that stuff makes me want to throw up.  You know, as much as I generally hate surprises, maybe I WOULD like one of those extreme makeovers on a residence.  You go off to Disney World or somewhere, then you come back and it’s all done.  That’s a pretty good deal.  Again, I typically DO like it when it’s all done, but I just hate the construction process.  

Am I weird?  What do you think?  Do you like construction projects?

Saturday, May 20, 2006


“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

I’m almost afraid to quote that verse, because ironically, people tend to take that verse out of context, “run” with it, and turn around and JUDGE the people whom they PERCEIVE are judgmental!

The fact is we ARE to be “fruit inspectors”  according to the SAME passage in Matthew 7:17 and 18.  It IS appropriate to examine behavior to see if it lines up with basic Biblical principles and especially when choosing Christian leaders.  BUT, it is very unfair to condemn someone who may have “walked” a difficult situation which you do not know or understand.  (It takes real maturity and discernment to understand the difference between judging and fruit inspection.  I will try to at least scratch the surface between the two in this blog entry.)

In evangelical Christian circles, the following people (among others) tend to be CONDEMNED:  divorced and remarried people, smokers, people in excessive debt, people who are viewed as “soft”  on homosexuality, people who oppose the war in Iraq, and people who are tattooed or have “weird” body piercings.

Before you condemn any of those categories of people, please think about the following:

No question, divorce is displeasing to God.  There is Scripture that indicates that IN CERTAIN CASES divorce and remarriage constitute adultery.  But the key phrase is “IN CERTAIN CASES”.  True, we should not have lax standards about divorce and remarriage, but I have known SO many fine Christian brothers and sisters who have been CONDEMNED for being divorced and remarried.  Some Christians have endured unspeakable horrors in nightmare marriages.  Ultimately they divorce before they commit murder or suicide.  In time, they find a soul mate and marry.  Many, many evangelical Christians condemn that.  I know this may seem like I’m contradicting my last blog entry, but I honestly do not believe God condemns this.  Even where there WAS a sinful divorce and remarriage, I am not prepared to say it’s the unpardonable sin.  I’m mindful of Jesus admonition of John chapter eight about he who is without sin cast the first stone (cf. John 8:7).

I absolutely hate the smell of smoke and I especially hate it on my clothes, but I’ve never been addicted to nicotine.  For some people this addiction is a terrible struggle.  They need love, prayer, and not condemnation.  Before you’re too hard on them, are YOU addicted to caffeine?  (As many of you know, I am.)

I have heard more Christians judged, condemned, and rejected for being in excessive debt than for ANY other sins or faults!  I’ve heard them savaged!  True, it’s wrong to be in excessive debt.  But, have you walked it?  I have.
“Mr. Baril, your car’s transmission needs major work.  It will cost $537.18.”  I’ve heard lines like that (and far worse) many times.  What did I do?  I pulled out the plastic and charged it, not knowing how I would ever pay it.  Even worse is your kids needing expensive prescription medicine and not having any money to buy it.  What did I do?  I pulled out the plastic and charged it. For all those who would condemn me- what would you do?   When you see someone who is working 40-plus hours a week, and obviously struggling to keep their 9-year-old car running, to buy their kids medicine, and to make ends meet- someone whose clothes are obviously worn, and you are comfortable to excess...and THEN you look down your nose and condemn that guy because he’s got a credit card debt problem...well, don’t even get me started on that one!  No Christian who works a full-time job, tithes, and makes every effort to be a good parent should EVER have to pull out a credit card just to exist.  We should help out each other.  I really believe that.

Yes, homosexuality is wrong.  It is.  But it’s a complicated subject.  There are complicated reasons why people feel attracted to people of the same sex.  Some guys have been rejected and condemned all their lives for not being macho.  “Fag; fag; FAG!!”  They’ve heard it over and over and OVER.  As very vulnerable adolescents, identifying as “gay” or “bi” can be a lot more accepting and affirming than trying to be some macho person they’re not.  Then that person starts searching for God, and begins to attend an evangelical church.  “God created Adam and Eve, not ADAM AND STEVE!”  we tell them.  They go back out the door, feeling rejected even by God and likely end up eternally lost.  It should never be that way.  I know for a fact of former active homosexuals who are now living happy “normal” heterosexual lives and have good Christian homes.  It takes a lot of love and tolerance for a person to make the journey from being a professing “gay” or “bi” to being the Christian heterosexual person the Lord truly intends them to be.  May we NEVER push such a struggling person away.

I MOSTLY support the war in Iraq.  That doesn’t mean I think President Bush is 100% right, but I do mostly support it.  But I know some fine Christian people who do NOT support it.  I know some fine Christian people who are liberals.  I know some fine Christian people who are Democrats.  I may not agree with them, but I’m not going to be quick to condemn them as unpatriotic.

Tattoos and “weird” body piercings are not for me.  But I don’t want to forget the message of Romans 14:17-19. I may not like these things, but I hope I never push away a person (likely a young person) who sports a tattoo or nose ring, or brass safety pin through the eyebrow, etc.  May I never forget that person is a soul for whom Christ died.  In some parts of the world, my own grooming and dress style could be considered repugnant.

I certainly have not “arrived”.  I think at times we all struggle with inappropriate judging.  There’s that old Native American proverb about “walking a mile in someone’s moccasins”.  Before you condemn that divorced person, or that person in debt, or anyone else- have you experience what they have in life?  Have you walked it?

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I usually quote a Bible passage for each of my blog entries.  This one is kind of long, so I’m just going to give the reference.  It’s First Timothy chapter five, especially verses nine through sixteen.  These were the Apostle Paul’s rules (yes rules) regarding financial support of widows in the church.  They are really tough.  If a widow was under sixty, she didn’t get help.  If she had been married more than once, she didn’t get help.  If she was not a really generous, sacrificial, hospitable type, she didn’t get help.  Paul even goes on to “take a shot” at younger widows, urging them to get married and have kids.

Some people argue that the New Testament church was very lovey-dovey and happy-sappy- that in the New Testament church everybody was just gushed over with “agape love”...even that had the song “Kum-By-Ya” been written, the New Testament Christians would all have been holding hands singing it.  First Timothy chapter five proves that this happy-sappy view of the New Testament church is far from accurate!

I had occasion to “reference” First Timothy chapter five at the Southern New England (Assemblies of God) District Council in Wayland, Massachusetts earlier this week.  Two resolutions were put before the body.  Both passed overwhelmingly.  One called for the establishment of a Portuguese Language Fellowship who would have their own Presbyter (leader with Administrative powers).  The other called for the financial contribution requirements for Brazilian ministers to be substantially less than for their American counterparts.  I voted against both Resolutions, although I do admit that the first resolution had some merit.  One thing that greatly bothered me was the attitude conveyed that anyone who wanted to hold the Brazilians to the same standard as the Americans was unloving, uncharitable, un-Christian, etc.  I finally could listen no longer.  I went to a microphone and pointed out the (admittedly uncomfortable) message of First Timothy chapter five- that there is a place in the church for really hard, firm rules which at times may SEEM cumbersome or irrational.   If you disagree, you’ll have to rip First Timothy chapter five out of your Bible!

This is controversial stuff.  I don’t hate Brazilians!  I have Brazilian friends and I have preached (with interpreters) at Brazilian churches on several occasions.  But I believe we have to follow the rules, and if we move to another country, we have to learn their language and follow their rules.  

You disagree?  Have YOU read First Timothy five?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


When I write these blog entries, I have a choice of "moods" (from AOL) to enter.  I wish they had "reflective" on their list, as many times that's my mood.  Back in the early 1980s, Amy Grant recorded a song in which she sang about being "Happy/Sad".  Today, I'm "happy/sad" but I had to choose "sad" as a mood.

Today is the funeral of 77-year-old Dorothy Chick.  Dorothy Chick was a frail little thing....short and thin.  While she did not have knockout looks, she DID have a knockout smile.  My first contact with Dorothy Chick was back in 1992.  I came into my office one day to find a message on the answering machine.  She did not do well leaving recordings.  I could hardly understand her or what she wanted.  I called back, and learned that she had attended her daughter's church (Assemblies of God) on an out-of-state visit, and that she was looking for an A/G church and for a ride to church.  She was from Natick.  At that time, I had one young adult from Natick attending our church.  In those days, we met at a school and all of our key people were involved in set-up and break-down of the sanctuary every week.  I just did not want any of those people to have to take on another responsibility.  I recommended she call Wellesley Park A/G who had van service for the elderly and brought a lot of people to church from Natick.  About an hour later, Dorothy called me back.  She felt Wellesley Park had brushed her off and she did not want to go there.  I called Chrisine Huey, the young adult, and she brought Dorothy Chick to our service on the following Sunday.  THAT Sunday, Dorothy Chick responded to a salvation altar call, knelt down, and received Jesus Christ as her Personal Lord and Savior  I have the privilege of leading her in the "sinner's prayer".   That evening I gave her a big pep talk about how much she would grow in Christ in the next five years and about all God had in store for her.  It all came to pass.  For the next ten years, she was a "regular" at our church and was much loved.

In 2002, Dorothy Chick abruptly left our church.  I phoned her numerous times but she would not return the call.  Claire Grimes, our Church Secretary had the same experience.  Finally, it got back to me third-hand that Dorothy was very offended at something I'd said or done.  I still could not get any response from her.  I do know that I can be very blunt, and I can recall a very blunt statement (and frankly a very true statement) that I made to her about her son.  I have no idea if that was the offense, or not.

Last August, I did see Dorothy briefly at a service outside of our church that I attended.  She WAS pleasant, but there was that feeling you get from a Harry Chapin song.  You know, the "she said we must get together, but I knew it'd never be arranged..." kind of thing.

This week, someone let me know her obituary was in the paper.  I am attending the local Assemblies of God District Council over these days.  Had she still been a member of our church, I would have opted out of District Council, but with the current circumstances I just could not justify doing that.

So, I'm Happy/Sad. I'm happy Dorothy is in heaven.  I'm happy for the time I knew her.  But, I'm very sad it ended up this way.  As Claire Grimes said,  "There is no closure".  There isn't.  It's a bad ending to a mostly good story.  Well, mabe someday in heaven Dorothy Chick will tell me what I did that was so bad.  Or even better, in heaven, we won't care.

Friday, May 12, 2006


“...whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.”  (Acts 28:15)

If you tend to get seasick or have a really weak stomach, you probably shouldn’t read Acts chapters twenty-seven and twenty-eight!  These chapters describe Paul’s voyage to Rome.  Believe me, it was quite a trip, involving a shipwreck, spending several months on Malta (where Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake) and then finally continuing on to Rome.  As Paul approached Rome, some brethren came out to meet him.  Acts 28:15 tells us that when he saw them he thanked God and took courage.

I am not one who really enjoys long car trips.  I don’t know if it’s because I had a father who was a good mechanic and would tell you everything that could possibly go wrong with a car, or if it’s because in my life I have been left stranded at the side of the road with disabled cars far more times than I can count.  For that reason, when I’m nearing the end of a long car trip, I always think of Acts 28:15 and I verbally thank God and take courage.  Late this afternoon when Amy and I crossed the border into West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, I did exactly that.  She kind of chuckled, but I was very serious.  I thank everybody who prayed we’d have a safe trip.  We did!

My flights to Chicago and then to Springfield, Missouri on Tuesday went well, although on the flight to Chicago there was a fat woman next to me, and I do mean FAT.  I was squished very uncomfortably into my seat!  On another negative note, on the flights, I was reading a precious Christian book that had been given to me, and I (stupidly) left it on the plane when I got “deplaned” at Springfield, Missouri.  When I remembered about an hour later, I felt stupid and disgusted.  I still feel that way, but I just can’t undo that mistake!

It was surreal to be at Evangel University on Tuesday night at a concert of the Springfield, Missouri Youth Symphony Orchestra.  (Ryan Seler, Denny and Debby’s high schooler plays violin in that orchestra.)  Springfield, Missouri gets a real bad rap as a “hick and hillbilly” city full of ignorant rednecks.  For every “ignorant redneck” who resides in that community, there are at least ten very nice people, and MANY who are VERY refined, cultured and sophisticated!  The Youth Symphony is a case in point.  They will be performing at Carnegie Hall within the next year- no kidding!

It rained with a “Noah’s flood” type rain on Wednesday as we were departing the city via Amy’s ‘95 Ford Taurus.  I have never seen such a rainstorm in Springfield, with streets FLOODED!  The traffic in St. Louis on Wednesday night was heavy and gridlocked.  It took a good hour and a half to get through the St. Louis Metro Area.  (Maybe they need a “big dig”!  Well, maybe not!)

The rain alternated between bright sunshine and heavy rain showers almost all the way home.  The traffic in the Columbus, Ohio area in some respects was worse than St. Louis.  On this trip, as well as on a previous trip, the traffic backed up off the ramps right onto the Interstate highways for miles with traffic just stopped!  Numerous accidents were reported.  Supposedly, Boston has the worst roads, traffic, and drivers.  Honestly, it doesn’t!  Columbus, Ohio has really done something WRONG with its highway planning and design!  Maybe they need a “big dig”- no obviously, I’m just trying to be obnoxious, and they don’t!  Amy and I spent Thursday night at “Truck World” in Hubbard, Ohio which is on the Pennsylvania border.  “Truck World” is a truckers’ mecca, featuring a motel, restaurant, gas station, saloon, and convenience store, as well as an official State of Ohio truck regulatory facility.  Signs warn patrons to NOT bring guns into the buildings!  Although 98% of the patrons are truckers, we love to stay there.  The prices are great, and the food is great.

Today, May 12, 2006 is Amy’s 21st birthday.  Her drivers’ license expires TODAY.  Since she turns 21, she could not renew it on-line nor could she renew early due to  the drinking-age thing.  I was hurrying to make it to the Pittsfield Registry before closing so she could renew.  I did not make it.  She will have to renew Monday morning in Framingham.  I was VERY disappointed that I did not make it on time to the Pittsfield Registry!  As with leaving the book on the plane, I felt stupid and disgusted, but there was nothing I could do.  (Incidentally, although I do not drink any alcoholic beverages at all EVER, I believe the legal drinking age should be 18.  If it was 18 this silly thing would not even have happened.)

Please don’t misunderstand.  Amy was not angry at me or anything.  I was mad at myself.  I’m very hard on myself, and (incidentally) little corrective platitudes from others about this trait of mine (frankly) only make me more determined to be hard on myself, so please pray for me and keep the comments to yourselves!

Did I have a restful vacation?  Am I glad I went away?  Well, the answers are  “not really” and “I’m not sure”.  BUT, am I glad to be back and am I grateful for those who prayed for Amy and me to have a safe trip?  Yes, ABSOLUTELY!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006



“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

One of the longest journeys of my life happened in late April and early May of 1977.  I had just finished up my first semester at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri.  I’d flown in at the beginning of January, and THAT’S a whole story in itself.  I made arrangements to ride home with Donnie Colageo from Walpole, Massachusetts and his girlfriend Debby from Westminster, Massachusetts.  Donnie had just bought a 1969 Ford Econoline van.  We started up Interstate 44 on a Saturday afternoon.  Just about three hours into the trip, the van was overheating “big time”!  We pulled off Route 44 near Union, Missouri- about an hour southwest of downtown St. Louis.  The water pump had failed. I know this sounds like something from a crazy redneck movie, but a drunk in a pickup truck stopped and took us in to stay at his trailer, where he lived with his girlfriend.  “Lou” put on a musical concert for us, singing (badly) and playing hard rock music on his guitar.  I still remember he had three little poodles who looked like little lions.  We stayed with Lou for several nights;  then we stayed with a “more normal” family who took us in for a night.  During that time, the weather was very hot and humid and Donnie got a sunburn.  When the hot weather broke, funnel clouds were forecast for that area.  Donnie was finally able to find a water pump and install it.  From Missouri, we ultimately drove to the Buffalo, New York area where we stayed with mutual friends for a couple of nights.  We arrived back in Massachusetts on May 9, 1977 in the middle of a RECORD-BREAKING MAY SNOWSTORM!  Due to the snow, we stayed overnight at Debby’s home in Westminster, and I got home to Canton, Massachusetts on May 10.  I will never forget that trip!

I have made numerous road trips between the Boston, Massachusetts and Springfield, Missouri areas since then.  Some have been “eventful” but none as eventful as that 1977 trek!  

Ironically, today, May 9, I fly to Springfield, Missouri, and tomorrow, May 10, my daughter Amy and I leave for a road trip back to New England in her 1995 Ford Taurus wagon.  (I hope and pray it won’t be “Found On Road Dead” as the ‘69 Econoline was all those years ago!)  It’s been twenty-nine years since that infamous Donnie Colageo trip.  That doesn’t seem possible.  Today, Don Colageo is married to Debby and he’s a Lutheran minister in Maine.  At that age (I was 22) I just figured things would work out.  I really didn’t worry too much.  I trusted God, and I guess you’d say I had a “whatever” attitude.  Today, at 51 I’m so much more intense, and I hate to say it, but can be so much more negative.  There HAVE been many joys and victories in my life, but there have also been disappointments- many disappointments.  In public, more than ever, I’m working at being (what I call) “cheerful, and positive, and motivational”.  I really think that at church I’ve been more “cheerful, and positive, and motivational” in the past 6 months than I’ve ever been.  And, I pretty much think that’s as it SHOULD be.  But, if you’ve ever heard the Twila Paris Christian song, “The Warrior is a Child”, or the Five For Fighting secular song, “Superman”, you’ll know what I mean when I say that INSIDE my feelings are frequently not “cheerful, and positive, and motivational”.  When you’re a pastor, people expect SO much of you.  They really do.  There are the moments when you literally go into the bathroom and you’re thinking, “Man I just got that person all cheered up and filled with faith, but I wish somebody would do that for me!”   Even more “gut-level” is the feeling of, “How did a nervous, awkward, timid and numb guy like me ever get to the point that he’s so admired as a motivational speaker?”  Wanna know something really weird?  Sometimes I listen to my sermon tapes and they’re SO good and SO well presented and SO inspirational, I just sit and marvel and can’t believe I possibly recorded them!

It shows, doesn’t it?  I really need to get away.  I do.  

It’s ironic I’m starting this trip on May 9/10 when I ended up that other trip on May 9/10. I wish I could capture some of the youthful, faith-filled, trusting, naive kid that I was!  

Honestly, I need something on this trip.  I really do.  I’m looking for God to do something.  As we Pentecostals say, “I need a fresh anointing”.  I really do need a “fresh anointing” and a lot of other stuff.  Pastoring is much harder than it looks.  At a recent pastors’ support group that I attended, a pastor sat and sobbed like a baby.  Through the years I’ve seen all kids of stuff like that.  People would be shocked.  They have NO idea of the pressures.  It’s not just the business of running a church.  It’s the thing of people expecting you to be perfect.  I’ve listened to guys share issues and struggles that you would not believe.  

Well, I probably wrote “way too much” in many respects!  I covet your prayers for a safe trip, and that God would meet me in a special way on this trip!

Saturday, May 6, 2006


I just looked at the “Framingham TAB” newspaper’s column of “Religion listings” (or  “Worship listings” or whatever they call them).  As usual, it looked poorly laid out and hard to read.  I decided to kind of get back at them and give my amazing and true “story behind the story” regarding the local Religion listings.

Most of you know that the parent newspaper of the Framingham TAB is the MetroWest Daily News.  (Well, the company that owns the Daily News bought out the TAB about ten years ago and essentially turned it into a weekly version of the MWDN.)  When I arrived in Framingham in early 1987, the MetroWest Daily News was then the “Middlesex News”.  They used to carry free (pretty well laid out; well MUCH better than the current TAB listings) church and synagogue listings along with pretty good local “Religion” coverage.  I had a professional black & white glossy photo of my wife and I taken, and I submitted the photo along with information of my having assumed the pastorate of First Assembly of God of Framingham.  In the next Religion section the photo was run along with a story that said, “Rev. Baris Takes the Helm”.  BARIS!  Not Baril.  Not even Boris!  BARIS!  I didn’t even bother asking for a correction to be run, although TODAY I would do that.

About a year later, the paper decided to eliminate free church and synagogue listings.  Each church received an advertising solicitation encouraging us to place weekly ads.  Well, the big churches with money did just that, but most churches did not.  I wondered if I submitted a little article just talking about what I’d be preaching on, or who my guest speaker would be- that sort of thing- would the paper print it? They did!  Next week, they did again!  Next week, they did again!  I began to tip off clergy friends about this way to get “free advertising”.  Soon there were three of these little blurbs a week, then ten, then more than ten.  We kept this up for a number of years.   Finally the paper caught on.  My strategy allowed churches to essentially get free advertising which was frankly better than the old church listing thing they ran in the 1980s.  The paper countered by starting a Religion news column on Thursdays to which items could be submitted by e-mail, and they started another free church and synagogue listing, but it was not well laid out.  Well, it was exactly the format that now appears in the TAB!  Even so, each week, I would continue to send in my blurb, just as if nothing had happened.  WOULD they change my listing each week? They often, but not always, did!  That went on for a few years.

Two years ago, the paper dropped the free church listings but kept Bonnie Gouveia’s Religion news column.  The Framingham clergy complained, but the paper pulled the, “We’re not in business to give free church listings” bit.  As a concession, they returned the church listings to the TAB but not to the MetroWest Daily News.  And, what did I do?  Nothing. I still send in a weekly blurb each week!  Does it make any difference?  Sometimes it actually does, but usually it doesn’t.  I will say there’s a bunch of inaccurate stuff on that whole church listing page which should be corrected.  

Has this “strategery” all been kind of a game for me?  Truthfully, YES!  And, truthfully, this is the first that I’ve actually said anything about it!

“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:
 (III John 13)

Thursday, May 4, 2006


“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” (Philippians 1:3)

“You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt was one of the biggest “Top 40” pop music hits of the first quarter of 2006.  The passion, pathos, and vulnerability of the song make it one of those songs that “plays in your head all day”.   Technically, the song is about fantasy lust;  and I understand the music video features James Blunt naked in the shower.  I certainly don’t endorse that stuff, but I’m not ready to throw the song out with the bathwater...or is it the shower water?!  

Blunt is remembering a special moment.  A moment that for him “will never end”.  THAT element of the song gives it the Bob Baril seal of approval, although I wouldn’t expect all of my fellow evangelicals to agree with me or even to like the song.  There are some special memories and special places that I cherish.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Ann and I drove to a beach in Dennisport (Cape Cod), Massachusetts.  For me, Dennisport is a sacred place.  Most summers of my childhood our family spent two weeks there.  My very first vacation at Dennisport was in August 1955 at age eleven months; and at that time I had my first taste of ice cream at Kreme ‘N Kone, a Dennisport/West Dennis landmark.  There are so many memories that I could write ten whole blog entries about them!  Mary Ann and I used it as a time to pray together and separately.  I can’t begin to tell you how special that place is for me.  If money were no object, I would absolutely buy at least a summer place in Dennisport.

Another place like that for me is Springfield, Missouri (where I’ll be in just a few days).  My time at Central Bible College in the late 1970s was one of the finest in my life.  I graduated from C.B.C. in 1979 and did not get back to Missouri until 2002.  In the past few years there have been several Springfield, Missouri trips due to my daughter Amy’s attending Evangel University there.  The theme song for how I feel when I hit Springfield, Missouri would be the Beatles’, “There are places I remember...”.  Yup, Springfield, MO would also take up ten pages on the blog EASILY.

It might seem strange, but another special place is the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  Even though trips to renew a license or registration are usually not all that pleasant, I ALWAYS think of my father when I’m at the R.M.V.  I can see him as a 40-year-old in his Registry uniform  (they were like a police force in those days before former Gov. Bill Weld eliminated the “Registry Inspectors” in the early 1990s).  I can also see him in a suit as a Registry Supervisor when he was in his late 50s.  It’s hard to believe he retired in 1982 and died in 2000.

Even Framingham is taking on a “sacred” character for me.  I’ve now lived here almost 20 years.  I well remember Shoppers’ World, the OLD Natick Mall, “Pioneer Financial” Bank (which was our bank when we came to town- it was on the site of what’s now the Memorial Building’s employees parking lot).  I can remember when there was a Purity Supreme Supermarket in Saxonville and a Farm Stand Supermarket on Route 9.  I can even remember when the dominant ethnic group downtown was the Puerto Ricans and there were well under a hundred Brazilians living in Framingham.  I think there was only ONE Brazilian business in downtown when I moved in.  There was actually a Brigham’s restaurant and ice cream shop downtown.  And, what’s now the Han Dynasty restaurant on Route 126 and Harrison St. was STILL Wallace’s ice cream and family restaurant.  There isn’t time to mention Duca’s or Route 126  between Hartford St. and downtown when people drove it and treated it as a 4-lane-highway!  (They introduced the present traffic pattern in late 1987.)  In one year, I will have lived in Framingham longer than I’ve ever lived anyplace.  It seemed like yesterday I was “new” and now I feel as much like “authentic Framingham” as the Dennison factory- yup, I know it’s luxury condos now, but when I came to town it was STILL a factory!

I don’t even have room to tell you that any time I see a 1963 Dodge Dart I’m ready to burst into sentimental tears...I’ll have to save that for another time on the blog...

Tuesday, May 2, 2006


When it comes to shaving, I buy one brand:  Gillette.   I have nothing against the other brands, but I buy Gillette shaving products because the father of the kid who led me into a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”  (or “got me saved” or however you want to put it) back in 1970 worked for Gillette.  That’s all I needed to know.  This family brought me the good news of salvation.  The least thing I could do is use Gillette products!

When it comes to photocopiers, I lease one brand:  Sharp.  Granted, there are other good photocopiers, but back in 1987 an Assemblies of God church donated their old Sharp photocopier to our church in Framingham.  That copier has long ago died and been disposed of, and we’re on probably our 6th Sharp photocopier since then.

When I was a “new born-again Christian” I devoured material from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  I got my “spiritual pediatrics” from them.  Although my theological positions today are actually slightly different than Billy Graham’s, I’m still and always will be VERY supportive of the Billy Graham organization.  I have not forgotten that spiritual nurturing.

I think my favorite kind of coffee is Dunkin’ Donuts, but when it comes to “store-bought” coffee, it’s always Folgers.  Years ago I knew a guy who worked for Proctor & Gamble.  Folgers is made by Proctor & Gamble- so I still buy it.

Melaleuca Inc. would probably not want me sharing this because in a sense sharing it goes against their marketing policy and techniques, but my wife and I “enrolled” in Melaleuca in June 1995 though Rev. and Mrs. Jim Spence.  Jim was Executive Director of “The Bridge House” in Framingham.  Since Non-Profits can enroll as Melaleuca members, Jim and Bev encouraged us that if we enrolled it would really help them and The Bridge House financially.  That was all I needed to know.  We enrolled.  I was surprised a few years later when Jim told me I was the most enthusiastic and committed Melaleuca “Marketing Executive” they had enrolled.  I had TRIED several times to enroll others and never had any success.  I love the Melaleuca bathroom bar soap and “tooth polish” as well as the hairspray and vitamins.  That’s part of why I continue to place a Melaleuca phone order each month (as required).  But the biggest reason is that I know it helps Jim and Bev Spence (now retired) and The Bridge House.  It amazed me that in “presenting Melaleuca” to people, even when I pointed that out (about helping the Spences and The Bridge House) it did not persuade them to sign up!

In the Assemblies of God a local pastor who is “over” about twenty other pastors and churches is called the Sectional Presbyter.  I think the world of my current Sectional Presbyter, Rev. Rick Amendola of Webster, MA.  No matter how inconvenient a Sectional meeting may be, I always try to attend and be supportive out of loyalty and appreciation.

I also appreciate the Rev. Rich Hurst, the current “Convener” of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association.  I have actually reworked my schedule several times this past year to make it to meetings out of appreciation to him and this year’s officers.

Admittedly, sometimes the loyalty thing can be challenging.  A few weeks ago, FMTalk 96.9 radio host Michael Graham had a big rally at the State House in opposition to illegal immigration.  Graham pled for his listeners to attend.   I felt for him.  Although I DO believe we need to secure our borders and that we must not allow any more illegal aliens to enter our country, it’s not as much of a hot button issue with me as it is for him.   The number one reason I attended was to show appreciation for Michael Graham.  Last week, Michael Graham chided Ted Welte and the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce for supporting the “Day Without Immigrants” (Monday, May 1).  This DID create a loyalty conflict for me as our church is a Member of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, and I believe Welte and the Chamber have been very good to us.  I chose to take May 1 off (not my usual day off) and not open the church office up on May 1 out of loyalty to Ted.   It was for that reason only- out of loyalty to Ted Welte.  I would not expect Michael Graham to understand that.  Newspaper writer Jeff Adair called me a couple of weeks ago to ask for my take on the illegal alien issue.  Honestly, I kind of wished he hadn’t called me on that one, but he’s been VERY good to our church in print.  You guessed it.  I commented and was quoted in his (Sunday, April 30) piece on the issue out of a sense of loyalty and appreciation to him.

I don’t expect everyone who reads this to “get” it.  And, no, I would not be loyal to the point that I would cover up a crime for somebody or anything like that.  But I do have an admittedly very old-fashioned sense of loyalty to friends, family, ministerial colleagues, and even products.  Honestly, if there is one think I’d change about my world it would be this:  I would want everybody I know to be just as loyal as I am!

From the little book of Third John, verse  11:  “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.  He that doeth good is of God:  but he that doeth evil hath not seen God”.  (I want to focus on “...follow that which is good...” .)  The kid of loyalty I’m talking about is “following that which is good”.  

Now, I hope that out of a sense of loyalty or appreciation you’ll either e-mail me or leave a comment about this piece here on the blog.  If you think I’m trying to MAKE you get into the habit of being more cognizant of being loyal and appreciative to others- you’re right...that’s exactly what I’m doing!  Even if you hated this piece, let me know!