Saturday, July 29, 2006


“...they were all amazed; and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”  (from Mark 2:12)

On Friday, my wife and I and two people from our church went in to the Benny Hinn crusade.  We decided to take an earlier train and to eat lunch in Boston, so we took the 12:15 out of Framingham.  We ate very good Italian food in the North End, and arrived at TDBankNorth Garden around 3.  I went to the place from where I’d entered the Garden on Thursday.  I was fortunate enough to quite easily find the woman who had the information about special prearranged seating for pastors and guests and to get the special ticket for our “group”.  As with Thursday night, the doors for the Garden opened at 4.  This time it was completely different from Thursday.  Things were much more orderly and professional.  I guess they learned their lesson from Thursday night.  We actually had three “checkpoints” to go through, and we ended up being sat in good seats on the floor.  As seems to always be the case with me, there WAS a “crazy situation” in that at the second point where I was checked off, the person KEPT my ticket.  I did not realize that was NOT supposed to happen.  Once our group was seated, we realized there was no way to get up and move around without a carrying around your “group ticket”.  I felt very foolish borrowing someone else’s just so the others from our group could go to the bathroom. Then I used that ticket to go to the bathroom.  I realized the only way I could get another ticket was to find the woman from the entrance who was in charge of the special seating and get another ticket from her.   Well, with the place already getting pretty mobbed at 5 and the Garden NOT being the easiest place to navigate, that all seemed pretty impossible.  I frankly just prayed and asked God to let me somehow get another ticket.  On the way back from the bathroom, among the mob of people on the floor, I saw the woman who had been in charge of the special seating.  I went to her and explained my plight.  She looked at me as though I’d just come in from the planet Venus and took a minute to thoroughly check out my story- then I did get another ticket!  I was glad because I was then able to get cold drinks for us.

Ironically, just before the service started, another important person handling the seating came up to Mary Ann and I “out of the blue” so to speak and said there were two extra seats on the platform and asked if we wanted to sit there!  I would have done it in a heartbeat, but Mary Ann was kind of nervous about it, so we declined.  Anyway, I know it was a sign from God that He was letting me know I got pretty bad seating and treatment on Thursday night, and that He was just turning around and blessing me!

As with Thursday night, there was a lot of good music.  Benny Hinn’s mother was present at the crusade.  He introduced her and spoke about the importance of honoring your parents.  Famous Charismatic author and speaker Harold Bredesen was present at the service.  I read a book by him about thirty years ago which very much affected my life, so I was quite blessed to see him.  Bredesen is eighty-seven.  He spoke to the crowd briefly.  The  healing service was vintage Benny Hinn- pretty loud and pretty wild.  People were falling down under the power of God like dominos.  The most dramatic healing was that of a young girl who had been totally deaf and had begun hearing in one ear.  She had never heard before or spoken before.  Benny had her try to mimic the sounds she was hearing for the first time.  She’d been brought by a family friend.  Why ONE ear was opened and not two- I don’t know.  I know skeptics will say that healings like that can be staged and faked.  They can, but I will say there’s no way that one was faked.  

Yes, Benny Hinn tends to make sensational statements.  Yes, he is flamboyant.  Yes, he is controversial.  Do I agree with EVERYTHING related to Benny Hinn and his ministry?  As I’ve said on many occasions, I don’t- but I’ve also said that you can’t put God in a box.  Was EVERYTHING last night done “decently and in order” and 100% as the Lord would want?  Maybe not.  Did God bless and move in the service?  He did.

We stayed until 10:45, and the service was still going on as we left.  We got on the last commuter rail train from Back Bay Station and arrived at 12:15 in Framingham- exactly twelve hours after we’d left Framingham.

I almost NEVER sleep in.  I got up at almost 8:30 today which is “sleeping in” for me, and I think it’s going to take until Noon for me to really feel awake!

Friday, July 28, 2006


“When thou are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room;  lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; (Luke 14:8).

The above verse essentially says, “Don’t push your way into the important seats at special events”.  Whether or not that applies to me, I’ll let you be the judge after you’ve read this piece!

Along with my nineteen-year-old daughter Rachel, I went to the Benny Hinn service at TDBankNorth Garden yesterday.  This is my report.

The service starts at 7:00 p.m., BUT the doors open for seating for the “partners” at 5:00 p.m. and I had been told that the doors would open for pastors with a prearranged number of guests at 3:00 p.m.  I received numerous phone calls from Benny Hinn Ministries asking me if I wanted the special premium seating for pastors and guests and I said “yes”.  I prearranged for up to five guests for each night.  I specifically asked the gentlemen I most recently spoke to on the phone which entrance I was to report to and I was told the “East Gate”.

Since we were traveling by train and had to allow for time, we took the 2:00 train out of downtown Framingham.  I arrived at Back Bay Station around 2:50 p.m. and we took the Orange Line from there to North Station.  My friends John and Kathy Ventresco connected with me outside of the TDBankNorth Garden, and we went to the East Gate where there was a mob of people. I kept trying to get information about where we were to go, and I kept being told, “This entrance is for the CHOIR- no one else.”  Finally a woman told me they just weren’t doing any of that special seating for pastors stuff and that we were all to report to the WEST Gate.  I was a bit annoyed but we did go to the West Gate.  At the West Gate, there were two lines- on the right was the “general” line, and on the left was the line for pastors and their they WERE doing the special seating after all.  At 4:00 the doors were opened.  My name and the amount of guests was checked off of the previously arranged list.  We were told to follow a woman.  We did follow her up an escalator and down some long walkways and then were told to go to Sections 11 and 12.  We got there and were told to walk right down to the front area.  The pastor and his guests ahead of us got great seats on the floor.  Suddenly I was stopped by a fortyish white woman with an attitude.  She insisted we could not proceed forward and had to go back.  We were then given one confusing message after another and shuffled from seating area to seating area.  We ended up in pretty lousy seats up pretty high. There was NOTHING special about them.  Now we were NOT in the “nosebleed” section-thank God- but we could have stood in the general line and gotten the seats we did.

You will think I am kidding but at offering time, the fortyish woman who derailed us in the first place showed up next to Kathy Ventresco giving her some kind of directions about passing the offering bucket in our area.  Kathy and I laughed our heads off for at least one full minute.  I absolutely wanted to “dress down” the fortyish white woman, but somehow laughing like a seven-year-old was more enjoyable.  You will also think I am kidding about this but the offering bucket passed back and forth in front of me at least 5 times.  NOBODY knew what they were doing regarding taking the offering and it was not well explained.  I know that is NOT typical of “big” Christian events.

I realize I have not said anything about the service.  It was actually pretty good, but as my daughter Rachel said, “We left just before all the good stuff.”  We did.  Benny did not even start the healing service part until 9:30 as we were slipping out to catch the Orange Line and make sure we’d make the 10:10 train.  It turns out there were signaling problems on the Orange Line and it was running with delays so we really needed to leave when we did.  The music at the service reminded me very much of a Gaither Concert.  It was very good.  Benny interviewed a couple of prominent women from the Middle East regarding the current crisis and that was good.  There was an altar call for salvation, and I’d say five hundred people went forward.  Benny’s sermon began after all that at 9:00.  It was a sermon saying God wants every Christian to prosper financially.  Well, I guess I can’t disagree with that... at least not on a purely human, emotional level when I’m constantly strapped for money!  If God want me to suddenly get tons of money, I’ll take it!  The sermon lasted from 9 to 9:20.  Then came the offering.  Then we left.  Tonight I’m going in with my wife and some other people from our church.  We plan to stay later.  Will my seats be any better?  I’ll find out!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


“What then, notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18).

Benedictus Hinn is holding a crusade in Boston at TD BankNorth Garden (formerly Fleet Center) tonight and tomorrow night.  Yes, his real name IS “Benedictus” although he is commonly known as “Benny Hinn”.  I’ll be attending both of the crusade meetings.  

Some of you probably read my piece on this blog (circa early April) about Benny Hinn and my attending the Benny Hinn Pastors’ Breakfast.  Benny Hinn is one of the most controversial Christian ministers/celebrities alive today.  If you do a Google search, you’ll find all sorts of sites and information about Benny Hinn.  One highly critical site lists his occupation as “Charlatan”, and says the Steve Martin character in “Leap Of Faith” was based upon Benny Hinn.  Some sites say Benny Hinn is really a Hindu.  Some say he is really a Roman Catholic.  Some say he claimed his father was the mayor of Haifa, Israel and that it’s a lie.  ABC News did a major expose of Benny Hinn several years ago.  It concluded that he lives a very extravagant lifestyle and that some in his ministry are fast and loose with money.  It also documented that Benny Hinn has dramatically proclaimed some people as “healed” who later died of their ailments.

I’m sure it will surprise many of my readers to learn that I have met Benny Hinn in person several times.  That includes going out to dinner with Benny Hinn (in groups) and having brief one-on-one conversations with Benny Hinn.  Being in Benny’s presence is NOT a relaxing experience.  Have you ever watched “Hell’s Kitchen” on the FOX network?  Except for the swearing, Benny Hinn’s private demeanor is SO much like that of Chef Gordon Ramsay that it’s scary!  Benny is a very intense and demanding guy.  When he wants something, as the saying goes, he “don’t mean maybe”.   Due to his flamboyance and his obnoxious personality, many have concluded that he is a phony and his ministry is not of God.  I don’t care much for Benny Hinn on a personal level, but I’m also not so quick to dismiss his ministry.  My experiences with Benny Hinn were mostly in the 1980s when he didn’t have one-tenth of the fame and following that he does today.  The large church where I served as an Assistant Pastor used to bring Benny Hinn in for special 2 or 3 day meetings several times a year.  I will say people were definitely healed in his meetings.  People definitely received Jesus Christ as their Savior in Benny’s meetings.  The power of God was VERY evident in Benny’s meetings.  I know of one couple that was having a very difficult time having children.  Benny prayed over them and said that not only would they have a child, but, he added, “I see  TWO children”.  That woman became pregnant shortly thereafter and had a baby girl.  Very soon afterward, she became pregnant again.  This time it was a son.

My wife Mary Ann and I would likely never have met were in not for Benny Hinn.  She came to see Benny Hinn at the large Walpole church in 1981.  That was before I was even on staff there.  In Benny’s FIRST meeting there, before I was ever on staff, I was the first person that Benny prayed for.  Benny charged up to me, laid hands on me, asked me what I wanted prayer for (I told him my ministry) and prayed one of those big, dramatic Benny Hinn prayers.  Yes, I  “fell down under the power of God”.  I was also put on staff there three  months later.  Mary Ann and I began dating six months after that first Benny Hinn service and were married less than a year later.  

Tonight, I’m joining my friends John and Kathy (who are coming down from New Hampshire) at TD BankNorth Garden.  They are the ones who had the girl and boy after the prayer and prophecy.  Mary Ann and I along with several folks from our church will be at the service tomorrow night.
Do I endorse EVERYTHING about Benny Hinn?  No, I don’t, and I wish he’d go to charm school and I wish he’d live a simpler lifestyle, but I DO appreciate the fact that God works in Benny’s services and I’m looking forward to them!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


“...for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  (Galatians 6:7)

What goes around comes around.  I believe that.  There is no Bible verse which SPECIFICALLY says, “What goes around comes around”, but Galatians 6:7 comes REALLY close!  I am mindful of these thoughts because of what happened this past Sunday afternoon:

The two-family house which is two houses down from where I live on Harrison Street Framingham has been for sale for at least four months.  There has been little activity in our around that property in at least four months.  Sunday, that property was HOPPING!  I must say that around 2 p.m. I was startled to hear Brazilian music BLASTING all over Harrison Street, AND to hear the amplified voices of mostly Portuguese-speaking males yelling.  Such an occurrence in the church’s South Street neighborhood would not even  raise an eyebrow.  The church property, deep in a poor and ethnic section of Framingham’s southside, is commonly “treated” to loud Latin music and speech, car tires squealing, people yelling, and a whole lot worse.  But Harrison Street is in a “better” part of the southside.  It’s in the “good part of the bad part of Framingham”- the people tend to be blue-collar, but of a better class, and you’ll even get a few white collar workers and professionals thrown in the mix.  But this Sunday, Harrison Street might as well have been South Street.

The church bought the Harrison Street parsonage back in 1946, when it owned the VERY small church building at nearby Hartford and C Sts.  (That church was sold in 1991 and has changed hands several times.)   When I moved onto Harrison Street in 1987 it was mostly white, middle-class...some middle aged couples and their kids, and a number of elderly folks whose kids were grown.  In 1990, the two-family house directly next door was purchased by a very young couple (with a toddler) who lived on the first floor.  They rented the second floor to a biker friend.  Throughout the summers of 1990 and 1991, Saturday nights featured LOUD BLARING ROCK MUSIC, motorcycles revving up, tattooed bare chested males guzzling beer, with their scantily-clad wives and girlfriends joining right in.  These parties would go until 4 a.m.  Several elderly folks put up “For Sale” signs and moved.  The neighborhood was changing and not for the better.  Ironically, the neighborhood is much more quiet and conservative today!  My next door neighbors are now in their early and mid-forties.  They haven’t had a truly wild party in at least nine years, and I don’t think they’ve had a party go past midnight in at least seven years.  Their house has been beautifully fixed up and looks a lot better than the house I live in.  NOW, the loud obnoxious party was taking place next door to THEM!  I noticed my female next door neighbor walk out in the midst of the Portuguese yelling and look (somewhat aghast) at the party going on next door to her home.

Everything in me wanted to yell, “How does it feel now, Madeline?!”

I didn’t need to.   TODAY,  I doubt she could easily put up with the 1990 version of herself, let alone a bunch of ecstatic and uninhibited Brazilians.

I remarked to my daughter that I wondered if the loud Brazilians had bought the house.  She said she hoped not, but I commented that it couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate group than our next-door neighbors!

In unison we both said, “What goes around comes around!”

Saturday, July 22, 2006


“In  the year tht king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting  upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”  (Isaiah 6:1).

My friend Ed Duddy is what I call a “model train nut”.  He is obscessed wtih model trains.  In Bible College he had a model train set up and running around his dorm room.  He would pass out pieces of model train track to people entering the main lobby of the dorm and tell them he was “passing out tracts”!  Ed loved to quote Isaiah 6:1 and would (tongue-in-cheek) speculate about what kind of train God has.

“He probably has THE REAL THING up there!” Ed would conclude.

A few days ago a woman from the Glen Road area of Wellesley called radio talk show host Howie Carr to complain about the train sounding its whistle near the Wellesley Farms station.  She whined that Weston is a “quiet town” which does not allow the sounding of train whistles and urged fellow Wellesley resident Howie to take up the cause of quieting the trains.  She also complained that her home’s foundation is being shaken and damaged by the trains.  Carr brushed her off.

The train is indeed a mixed blessing.  A couple of months ago I was at a meeting of  “Framingham Downtown Renaissance”.  A woman representing the Rosewood development of the old Dennison factory into luxury condominiums gave an impressive presentation.  One person present asked about the train noise and whether prospective buyers understood how loud the trains can be.  Her only reply was,  “sssshhhhh...”!

I for one am glad that Framingham is a “train town”.  I will admit that I’m NOT so glad when I’m stuck in gridlocked downtown traffic waiting for a long freight train to pass.  I do, however, love the fact that I can buy tickets at Garbarino’s Tobacco Store and take the train into Boston, or to Worcester if I so desire.  I’ve taken the train on numerous trips to Boston over the past fifteen years or so.  When I take the train my behavior is very much like when I fly on a commercial jet.  I’m one of those weirdos who actually LIKES a window seat and who enjoys every leg of the trip as if I were a ten-year-old kid.

The Wellesley woman does  SORT OF have a point, however.  I realize the engineers have to blow the whistle at major intersections, but some of them will give a ten or fifteen second BLAST at the 126 crossing!  When you are a pedestrian in the area, all I can say is “good luck”!  Your ears will hurt, and YOU’LL want to whine on the Howie Carr show!  

I’m not much of a fan of former Governor Mike Dukakis, but I do agree with him about the importance of train travel.  As bad as Boston auto traffic is, things would be CRIPPLED wirhout the commuter rail.  If you live in the Boston area and you’ve never ridden the commuter rail- to quote an old Alka Seltzer commercial, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Friday, July 21, 2006


Today is July 21, 2006.  It’s a Friday.  I know I don’t usually post entries on my blog on Fridays (usually it’s Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays).  But this is a special day.  Some of you will “get this” and some of you won’t, so I will try to explain it:  today is my “spiritual birthday”.  My physical birthday was September 19, 1954.  My spiritual birthday was July 21, 1970.  That’s the day I was “born again” as we evangelicals say.  So, there’s a sense in which I’m 36 today.

I was born into a pretty religious Roman Catholic home.  The one area in which my parents were NOT typical of religious Roman Catholics is that they sent their kids to public and not parochial school, but in just about every other area, they were very religious.  I didn’t know this until I was about eighteen, but my mother entered the convent after high school and spent about two years as a nun (or was it “nun in training”?) in New Jersey.  Thus, she was almost “more Catholic than the Pope”!  Mom was very devoted to Saint Teresa (of France).  My father was very “macho” and did not wear his religion on his sleeve.  Like many Catholics, he had no trouble saying, “Jesus” as an exclamation and expression for just about EVERYTHING.  But he was very faithful to attend mass and I don’t think I ever heard him say a critical word about the Catholic Church.  In our home we were taught that the WORST thing one could EVER do is become a Protestant.  If I’d (hypothetically) ever said, “Mom, Dad, I’m Gay!”,  their instant reply would have been something like, “Oh, thank God;  for a minute there I thought you were going to tell me you were leaving the Catholic Church!”.

Although I had a cesspool mouth as a fourteen-year-old, and I could appreciate most dirty jokes, AND I was a chronic liar and cheater, I secretly said the Rosary every day.  In my heart, I desperately wanted to know God and be right with God.  I thought saying the Rosary would be the way to do it.  One evening in late 1969 there was “nothing” on television.  I ended up watching Billy Graham from Anaheim, California.  Boy did I feel guilty.  Billy said cheaters were going to Hell. MAN, in that case, I was gonna split Hell wide open when I died!  For some reason I was compelled to watch Billy Graham for the next few nights.  

In the Spring of 1970, I became friends with akid named George Barnett.  Our family had two C.B. radios- a base station at home and a mobile unit in my father’s car.  George had a walkie-talkie and was very interested in two-way radios, so that became our point of reference.  George was a very different kid.  He did not appreciate dirty jokes.  He did not use the “f” word.  He did not swear at all.  He seemingly did not do anything wrong.  He was a “goody two shoes”.  I have to say, I profoundly respected him.  I wondered how he could be such a good person.  One day he told me he was a “Christian”.  Well, that did not seem to be such a big deal to me, because I “knew” that every Catholic and Protestant was a Christian.  Was I ever surprised when he told me that most Catholic and Protestants, in fact, were NOT Christians?!  George told me that a Christian is someone who has “asked Jesus Christ into their heart to be their personal Savior and Lord”.  I was confused but I asked him if that was what Billy Graham was asking people to do when he had them come forward at his crusades.  George told me it was.

There’s a whole lot more to it, but several weeks later, Billy Graham was on T.V. again.  There was no “1-800” number to call in those days.  You had to “write to Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota”.  I did.  On Tuesday, July 21, 1970, a reply letter came from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  I still have that letter.  It’s the most important letter I ever received. The letter included several pamphlets which explained to me HOW to receive Christ as my personal Savior and what that all meant.  I did.  I had no idea on that Tuesday afternoon in 1970 what a profound difference that would make in my life!  Originally, I had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church.  Over the next few years, it became clear to me that the Catholic Church’s beliefs were in conflict with Scripture in a number of places.  By the time I was twenty-one, I was completely out of the Catholic church.  I fellowshiped for a time at a Baptist Church and for a time at a Presbyterian Church.  In 1976, I attended my first service at an Assemblies of God church.  I NEVER thought I’d ever become a pastor, but one thing led to another, and I attended Bible College, eventually became an assistant pastor and nineteen years ago I became a pastor.  (I was formally Ordained an Assemblies of God minister in 1985.)  

Several months before he died, my father received Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior as an Alzheimer’s patient in a nursing home.  My mother never left the Catholic church, but during the last year of her life she attended church on Sundays at the A/G church in Framingham where I pastor, and she put her faith and trust in Jesus rather than in “the Pope, Mary and the Saints”.

What’s so special about July 21?  Well, I hope after reading this, you get it!

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

(extra entry!) NOW you can get to HOWE STREET!

Several weeks ago, I posted a piece entitled , "How Do You Get to Howe Street?" which examined the convoluted new traffic pattern and restrictions of driving on Howe Street, Framingham.  These signs along with their crazy restrictions are gone.  I sent an e-mail to the new Framingham Town Manager, Mr. Julian Suso, asking him to check out my blog.  I'm honestly wondering if this blog played a role in Howe Street being returned to normal!  I like to think that it did!


The other day, in the midst of a very hot and very humid day, I found myself missing The Friday Group.

Shortly after moving into Framingham in early 1987, Pastor Chuck Pierce from what was then known as Village Bible Chapel (now "Crossroads Community Church") phoned me to invite me to a fellowship group of full-time clergy that had been meeting since 1977.  I'd certainly heard of many such groups, but I was very surprised to learn that it met EVERY WEEK and YEAR ROUND.  I remember telling my volunteer secretary,  "That's crazy.  EVERY week.  I'm not going to go to that EVERY week.  I think I'll go maybe once a month."

The group met Fridays from 12 Noon to 2 p.m.  The location changed from month to month.  Almost always it met at a pastor's home, although occasionally a pastor would host at a private room at his church.  The first hour was for eating lunch and just telling funny stories, talking sports or the weather.  The second hour was for serious sharing and prayer.  After a few months, Pastor David Dean of First Baptist Church in Sudbury ran into me at a post office.  Almost twenty years my senior, he gave me a very short fatherly talk and told me that as a pastor I really needed that group each week.  He was right.  I began to attend every Friday unless I was out of town, ill, or had a church emergency.  There were weeks that I went and laughed and joked, and there were weeks of tears and the other guys ministering to me- AND weeks of me ministering to them.  Over the years the group became very, very special to me.

In 1991, David Dean (one of the original 1977 founders of the group) left to take a high level position in his denomination in New York City.  He bought a house in the New Jersey suburbs.  One of the most "fun" things that The Friday Group ever did was to arrange with David's wife to surprise him one Friday in 1992.  She arranged for him to be home on that Friday.  We drove down to New Jersey...arrived at his home at Noon... had a "very special Friday group" there and departed for Massachusetts at 3.  The last of the original 1977 Friday Group was Chuck Pierce.  He took a position in southern Rhode Island in 1994.  One of the group remarked, "Now all of the originals are gone- the dynamic of this group will change- it will be interesting to see if it will survive."

A year later that guy announced to the group that he was Gay, and subsequently left the group.  The first BIG change we made was we stopped meeting during the summer months.  Over time the average weekly attendance dwindled from seven to five to three to two or three.  The very last time we met was in June of 2002.  I hosted the group at my church's Conference Room and showed a favorite videotape of mine- an episode of Northern Exposure focusing on the themes of "What does it mean to be a man?" and "How does a grown man relate to his father?".  The three or four of us present that day had a good time.

I tried to get the group started up again in the early Fall of 2002, but only one guy was highly interested in doing that.  It was ironic that I had balked at attending this group in 1987, and now I was quite grief-stricken to see it die.

In the late fall of 2002, I joined the "John 17:23 Fellowship", a network of small groups for pastors started by the Rev. Dick Germaine in the early 1990s.  Our small group meets every other week on Wednesday mornings and we have "big group" meetings four times a year, plus a retreat.  I really enjoy the John 17:23 Fellowship, but for some reason I really found myself missing The Friday Group this week, and I just had to write about it.

Do you have a regular fellowship group and/or accountability group to which you belong?  If not, that's something you should really pray about and seek out.  If you'd like some input from me, I'd be happy to try to help.

E-mail to

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."  (Psalm 133:1)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I know it’s been said that there are only two kinds of people:  Those who LOVE Neil Diamond music and those who HATE Neil Diamond music!  That may be true, but I’ll add two other types:  Those who LOVE classic cars and classic car paraphernalia and those who HATE classic cars and classic car paraphernalia.  Believe it or not, I really enjoy classic cars and classic car paraphernalia.

I don’t own a classic car because of the great expense involved.  It’s not only the money to BUY a classic car, but the cost to maintain it is almost unbelievable.  It’s nothing to spend $20,000 to $75,000 for a classic car, and then thousands and thousands to maintain it.  For Massachusetts classic car aficionados, there is a “poor man’s” classic car hobby:  Collectible Massachusetts inspection stickers.  I happen to own hundreds of mint condition authentic Massachusetts inspection stickers from the late 1930s through and including 1981.  

My father worked for the Registry of Motor Vehicles for many years, retiring as a Supervisor in 1982.  Most of his stickers were being thrown out from the back rooms at the Registry’s old 100 Nashua Street headquarters, and he brought them home (along with a large number of collectible license plates).  Up until about fourteen years ago, Massachusetts had the plainest and ugliest license plates in the country.  The state staunchly refused to put any catchy slogans or pictures on the plates.  Of course, that is certainly no longer true at all.  But what Massachusetts lacked in its plates it made up for in its inspection stickers.  Today’s inspection stickers are dull and boring.  I don’t think they will have any collectible value.  AND, you can’t really look at them unless they’re on a windshield because they’re made in the modern “peel and stick” fashion.

Up until the mid-1980s, Massachusetts inspection stickers were printed with glossy “gummed” fronts.  The auto mechanic who inspected a car would wet the lower passenger corner of the windshield with a sponge and slap the sticker in place,  (Well, VERY far back, the stickers went in the upper center of the windshield area, but from the late 1950s on, they’ve gone in that lower corner).  The stickers of the late 1950s through the early 1980s are particularly colorful and downright pretty, and could be classified as works of art.  I truly think Massachusetts at that time had the most attractive inspection stickers in the country!  Up until we began the annual emissions tests in the mid-1980s, Massachusetts had a TWICE A YEAR safety-only inspection...Spring and Fall.  Many of the stickers are square and many are rectangular.  There are bright reds, blues, greens, orange, and even PINK in 1970!  I think the Pink Spring 1970 stickers look kind of stupid.  The Fall 1970 stickers are yellow and much prettier.  

I go to car shows, sell these stickers, and split the profits with my sister.  I’ve also given them as gifts.  When my mechanic, Bill Lincoln and his wife Joanne celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2002, I made sure there was a 1977 inspection sticker at each place setting.  They were especially appropriate because the 1977 stickers featured a charactature of a mechanic with the slogan, “YOUR SAFETY IS MY BUSINESS”.

If you’d like to see a BEAUTIFUL framed display of Massachusetts Collectible Inspection Stickers (from one of my satisfied customers), I encourage you to go to Absolute Car Care at Clark and Grant Streets in the Dennison Crossing section of Framingham.  (The main office sets back from Clark kind of have to look for it.)  Just tell John Lincoln or Mike Foreman that Bob Baril sent you and ask to see the sticker display.  (You may want to make an oil change appt. while you are there...they’re a great shop!)

If you know any classic car buffs, please let them know about this.  I sell stickers as follows:  

1970s through 1981  $5 per sticker
1960s   $10 per sticker
1950s  $20 per sticker
1940s $10 per sticker (they are less collectible than ‘50s).

Except for those I’m keeping for myself, I am all sold out of 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1967.  

Send a stamped self-addressed envelope to Bob Baril, P.O. Box 4702, Framingham, MA 01704.  SPECIFY the year sticker you want and if you want SPRING, FALL or both.  (Obviously, if you want both you’ll have to pay for both.)  Please enclose a check or money order- no personal checks.

Baby-boomer guys who grew up in Massachusetts like to get a sticker in their birthday cards- seriously.  I’ve done that, and guys have been thrilled to get them.  I’ve used the year of a person’s birth, and the year they got their license.  Even my sister cherishes an inspection sticker of theyear of her birth.
Well, I guess my Scripture for this piece is Luke 20:25, “...Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”  If it weren’t for the Commonwealth’s auto inspection requirement, I wouldn’t have any stickers!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:  for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”  (Luke 21:26)

Did you ever wake up and just not want to get out of bed?  I experienced that on Friday (yesterday).  Sometimes I wish I did NOT understand end-time Bible prophecy.  If you keep things in perspective, end-time Bible prophecy IS actually a great blessing...but on a very human level, if you let your “flesh” start to run wild, you CAN become very fearful.

As Marjorie Egan said on FM Talk 96.9 yesterday, “No one in Boston CARES that there’s a war going on between Lebanon and Israel.   We can’t even THINK about it when we have this thing with the Big Dig going on.”  That’s true.  I think the one place in the country that isn’t focused on the Lebanon-Israel situation is Massachusetts, particularly the area within a 30-mile-radius of downtown Boston.  BUT, that whole situation in the Middle East is not good.  Gasoline prices COULD go to $4 a gallon, or higher in the near future.  And, the price of heating oil this winter?  Well let’s just say it could be unbelievable.  This sort of thing all ties in with end-time propecy, and in my mood on Friday morning, it was causing a feeling of great depression.

What we DO care about in Boston is the Big Dig story!  I have been suspecting for a few days that ultimately the ENTIRE Big Dig tunnel system will be shut down.  The first person to talk about that as a possiblity was Jim Braudie on 96.9 FM Talk yesterday.  Can you even THINK of the ramifications of that?  We have no more elevated Central Artery to divert traffic to.  We’ve torn down our elevated central-city highways AND we’ve built an unsafe, nightmare of underground highways to replace them- which may well all be shut down before 2006 is over!  Boston has the potential to be the next New Orleans...the city that people CAN’T GET AWAY FROM FAST ENOUGH.  Could real estate values plummet over the next year?  Maybe.  Could companies exit the state “left and right” over the next year or two?  That’s very possible.  The good part is that I may actually be able to afford to buy a house in Massachusetts, but the bad part is, maybe I wouldn’t want to.

This is tough stuff.   Who would have believed this stuff twenty-five years ago?

Over the day Friday, I calmed down somewhat.  I remembered that God is in control.  I am His child.   He holds me in the palm of His hand.  The Boston area may “go down the toilet”.  Frankly, the whole world may “go to H__l in a handbasket” as it were.  But as Psalm 27:1  says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”  That’s the botttom line.

This is a day to get as close to God as you ever have and to put God’s will first!  This is a day in which to get priorites straight!  These are perilous times which may get a lot worse.

As the old song says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know He holds my hand.”

Thursday, July 13, 2006


“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light:  and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.”  Matthew 10:27

Talk radio, for the most part, gets a bad rap.  The stereotype is that all talk radio hosts are right-wing hate mongers.  Listeners are stereotyped (even worse) as stupid, blind followers, none of which has had an original thought in his or her life.  Now, there ARE some right-wing hate mongers on talk radio- have you heard nationally syndicated host Michael Savage, for instance.  And, I’m sure there are a few people who stupidly do whatever certain talk radio hosts tell them to do.  But, for the most part, talk radio is a very important part of our American society and culture.

The past few days here in the Boston area have been very difficult.  For a “news junkie” like me, it’s not enough to watch and listen to news reports about the Big Dig tragedy.  I know that I need to think about it and to process it, AND to believe that those responsible will be held accountable.  Boston area hosts have (correctly) been hammering this issue and are determined that the graft and corruption of the Big Dig is exposed and that shoddy workmanship and materials used in the Big Dig are also exposed- -that something RIGHT will ultimately be done after SO many wrongs have been done.

Todd Feinberg has been filling in for Scott Allen Miller on the WRKO morning show this week.  Todd has done a suburb job!  His broadcasts have been riveting.  They’ve kept me away from “Imus in the Morning” and that’s saying something!  WRKO’s Jon DePetro and Howie Carr have also done a super job.  On FM Talk 96.9, Egan and Braudie and Michael Graham have talked tough to the politicians and kept the listeners “up to speed”.  I also caught Peter Blute on Worcester’s WCRN on Wednesday morning chatting with Howie Carr (who is syndicated on ‘CRN afternoons).   The combined media and political credentials of those two guys is unprecedented in the Bay State.

I am sad that the late Jerry Williams who died in 2003 is missing all this.  Jerry was railing against the Big Dig and making dire predictions over ten years ago.

I’m glad talk radio will not leave the politicians or regulators alone.  They do not deserve to be left alone.  Someone must answer for the (I’m not exaggerating)  EVIL that has been done!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


One week ago today, I wrote a piece on my blog lamenting the tragic death of Tony Raucci on Route 93 North of Boston.  One week later, many of us are very saddened by the horrific death of a Jamaica Plain woman last night as three huge chunks of ceiling weighing several tons fell from the ceiling of an I-90 Connector tunnel onto her car.

There is not a lot that I can write or say which has not already been very eloquently said by WRKO’s Jon DePetro and Howie Carr and WTKK’s Jim Braude and Michael Graham.  The Ted Williams Tunnel should have been named the JERRY WILLIAMS TUNNEL.  The late radio talk show host Jerry Williams railed against the Big Dig corruption for years and predicted financial and other disasters would follow.  He was so right.  

Considering I live only twenty miles from downtown Boston this may sound really weird but I have never driven over the Lennie Zakim Bridge and I have never driven through the new I-93 tunnels.  I have driven through the Ted Williams tunnel a few times (pre-2000).  I am not sure if I have ever driven through that connector tunnel where the tragedy took place, but I suspect I may have.  When I travel into the heart of the City of Boston, I usually either take the commuter rail or the “T” rapid-transit system.  I rarely drive anywhere within (say) two miles of the State House.  This incident has made me glad that I’ve not driven through very much of the Big Dig.  There are many facets of the Big Dig that I just don’t understand.

The Big Dig project was obvioulsy filled to overflowing with the worst kind of graft and corruption.  As Michael Graham pointed out on the radio today, a woman paid for it with their life.  

No one lives forever.  One day those who contributed to this poor woman’s death will stand before God in judgment.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: “ (Hebrews 9:27)


“...if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”  (from Judges 16:17)

That line is from Samson, where he finally “caves in” and tells Delilah that if is hair is cut he will lose his super-strength and become like any other man.  No, Samson was not “able to leap tall buildings at a single bound”, but he is the physically strongest man in the Bible, and (physically speaking) the closest thing to Superman I can think of.  Sadly, he was immature and morally loose.  

I really do not intend to say much about Samson in this piece, but I thought that was a great lead-in for a story of something I did this weekend.  Last week, my wife Mary Ann was mentioning that a guy we know was getting his hair cut, and it so happened that a female hairdresser was cutting his hair.

“I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that.”  I said.

She thought that was pretty ridiculous on my part.  I admitted that it probably was, but as I told her, “All my life, men have cut my hair.  It would just seem weird.”

On Saturday, I got up early and went up the street to Colotta’s Hair Stylists (for those of you in Framingham, MA, it’s a great barber shop) to get my hair cut.  The big sign in the window said it all:  “Closed for the holiday week.  We open again Tuesday, July 11”.  I was bummed.  My family always tells me I get my hair cut too often and I usually really don’t need a haircut.  But, what can I say?  I like my hair trimmed and neat.

I decided to drive over to Canton to the shop where I got haircuts for years in my past:  Frank & Vinnie’s (and, for those of you in Canton, MA, it’s a great barber shop).  There are several barbers working simultaneously at Frank & Vinnie’s just as there are at Colotta’s.  I always liked to have Frank, the founder and owner, cut my hair.  He’s a first-class Italian immigrant who has run the shop since 1953.  At Frank & Vinnie’s, I was saddened to learn that during the past year, Frank has suffered a brain tumor and a stroke and is thus no longer cutting hair.  What used to be Frank’s chair is “manned” (well, I’d have to say “womened”) by a female barber.  When the woman’s customer departed.  NO guys who were waiting wanted to get into her chair.  I’m not kidding.  I felt so bad for her that I did!

Boy,I know God has a sense of humor...what was that I’d just said a few days earlier about not having a woman cut my hair?!  She was the type who was very talkative and asked me a million questions.  If you’re familiar with “The Nanny” (Fran Drescher) she talked exactly like her- with that New York Jewish accent.  It turned out she WAS Jewish.  When she found out I was a minister, she had a number of theological questions.  In that Jewish accent she asked,

“My mother died- where do you think she is now?”

There she was, wielding a straight razor- I’m strapped in the chair- and she asks a question like that!  It was a hairy situation!

I did what Billy Graham does when he’s on a national television interview show and is asked a delicate theological question:  I gave a quick, pleasant, generic answer and changed the subject!

Yup, God has a sense of humor.  I’ve found in the many years I’ve served God there’s been never a dull moment!  And, I got a first class haircut on Saturday to boot!

Friday, July 7, 2006


"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 know that anyone who is a Greek scholar, (and truthfully I never got beyond first-year Greek, and it was all Greek to me!) will point out that the work for "time" in the above passage is "kairos", meaning the age, such as, "Baby Ruth was a good player in his time".  It's not "chronos" which means "tick-tick-tick" just like on the CBS program "60 Minutes".  Well, since there is such a thing as "poet's license", you can consider that I'm using "PASTOR'S license" here, and I'm using that passage as if it were talking about "chronos".

At the age of twenty-one, I would never have believed how responsible, serious, and overwhelmed I can feel as a fifty-one year old.  I seldom felt that way at twenty-one!  At twenty-one, if I just frittered away a whole day or even a whole week listening to rock music or watching comedy movies, or doing something even less practical or responsible, well, WHO CARED?!  Certainly not me!  Boy, it sure isn't like that now.  My father was a perfectionist.  Everything HAD to be just so.  He was also a workaholic.  Even my mother used to say, "When he was a young man, he was so much fun, but now he doesn't care about fun- he's SO serious!"  I would never have believed that in some respects I'd follow in his footsteps.  I make lists and set goals, and I DRIVE myself, but I seldom achieve all or most of them.  Now, for you fellow Born-Again Christians, I know all the Bible verses about this problem, and I'm not saying I'm right; I know in many ways I'm NOT right, but I'm just venting and trying to come to terms with it.  There was a juggler on that new NBC talent show recently.  Some of the times that he juggled, he did pretty well, and some he didn't.  I guess that's a lot like me with life.

At this point, I feel like "talking like Andy Rooney"- that is with that curmudgeonly voice of his, so imagine you're hearing this next part in his voice:  I marvel when I meet someone, say a fellow pastor who has a spotless office, a spotless automobile, sharp clothing, great grooming, and who is very relaxed saying something like, "Do you golf?".  I want to hit a guy like that with a golf ball!  I'll work like a fanatic to clean my office, and my cars, and my clothing, and to keep up my schedule, and instead of golf, I need a big Dunkin' Donuts coffee or I'll fall asleep.  And, it's not just pastors. When it comes to that "all together" stuff, some people have it and some don't.  If you happen to know the secret of "it" let me know!

(You can "turn off" the Andy Rooney imaginary voice now!)  I hope you don't think I'm really depressed right now.  I'm not.  Honestly, at times I've struggled with depression, (and you might be shocked to learn how many evangelical pastors struggle with depression) although right now I'm not depressed;  I'm just tired and in a very reflective mood.  I know the mood category for the entry says, "anxious"...I'm more "reflective" than "anxious" but they don't have "reflective" for a category!

Incidentally, I originally set a goal to post something on this blog every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  This week I got that ALL messed up, and with my personality that bothers me a little bit, but I'll get back on track.

I'm teaching a Bible study tonight.  I'm getting a haircut first thing in the morning.  I have an unusually busy Sunday because I have a Sunday night service this weekend and I'm going to a car show as a vendor in the afternoon.  I know readers may be falling asleep right now, but I just kind of had to sit and write what I was feeling.

Don't get me wrong because I'm a very good Bible teacher and I really enjoy being a minister- but (as if you can't already tell if you read this blog regularly) for years I've had a secret desire to be either a radio talk show host or a newspaper columnist or both.  Is it just my ego?  Maybe.  But sometimes this blog is the next best thing.

Did I answer the question?  Am I a good juggler?

Tuesday, July 4, 2006


“And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”  (Revelation 13:17)

The above prophetic Bible verse describes a time of bureaucracy gone amok;  a time when the government will care only about itself, and a couple of individuals at the highest governmental level; a time when government will essentially thumb its nose at everybody including God.  No, we aren’t there yet.  But this week we have a little taste of it.  I honestly don’t know how the Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and/or Governor Mitt Romney can do ANYTHING in good conscience before they apologize to Raucci family in sackcloth and ashes!  If I were a Boston area radio talk show host, I’d be all over this one  “wall to wall” much as the late Jerry Williams used to be over “New Braintree”.

The Raucci’s story is found on the front page of the July 4, 2006 MetroWest Daily News, and also on page seven of the Boston Herald for July 4.  Last Friday night, Tony Raucci, age 43, his wife Elena, and their seven-year-old son (who happens to be autistic) found themselves broken down on Interstate 93 in Tewksbury.  They did everything they were supposed to do. They did NOT Call 911 on their cell phone because the state and local police have drummed into us to NOT call 911 “unless it is an emergency” and 90% of what the public considers emergencies THEY DON’T!   The Rauccis didn’t want to listen to some condescending dispatcher lecture them that “a flat tire is not an emergency”, so they didn’t call 911.  However, on several long stretches of Interstate highway in Massachusetts there are “Motorist Aid Call Boxes” as there have been for over thirty years.  I used to feel very comforted knowing those call boxes were there.  I always assumed you’d go to the call box and talk into some kind of telephone or two-way radio device and some nice truck and/or State Police cruiser would quickly arrive to rescue you. Stupid me.  And stupid Mr. and Mrs. Raucci who assumed the same thing.  

In fact, I learned from the newspaper stories that all those boxes do is give you a button to push.  YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING IF ANYONE GOT THE MESSAGE, IF ANYONE IS COMING OR ANYTHING!  The Rauccis pushed the button.  No one came.  Tony Raucci gave up and changed the tire.  As he was putting the jack back into his car he was plowed into by a vehicle driven by a driver who was allegedly high on prescription drugs. Raucci was killed.

I am saddened and sickened by that story.  I know I must sound like the whining, “How many more must die?” line that Howie Carr sarcastically uses on his radio show.  But: HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE.

The front page headline of the MetroWest Daily News reads, “State says not to use call boxes”.  Well, it was really nice of them to tell the Rauccis, wasn’t it?!  Tony Raucci is described by his neighbor as an outstanding father.  Well, that’s one outstanding father who didn’t even get to celebrate this Fourth of July and who sure didn’t get any “outstanding” information from the state!

Had there NOT been all the WHINING about “Don’t call 911 unless it’s a REAL emergency,” the Rauccis would have called, and Tony Raucci would be alive!  And if the state says not to use the call boxes, then that was quite an “April Fool” joke- (oh, excuse me, “June Fool”) wasn’t it?!

How many think Governor Romney and/or the Secretary of Public Safety will publicly and emphatically apologize?  Don’t hold your breath waiting!


“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:  for this is the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12)

I’m not usually one of those “soap box” type preachers who just starts waving his Bible in the middle of a crowded bus station or (in this case) supermarket, yelling “Repent, you’ve got to get saved,” or something like that.  I came VERY close today!  Had I given the sermon, my text would have been the above verse.  There are rules of the supermarket.  Specifically, there is proper supermarket etiquette.  That’s what my sermon would have been about, had I given it!

I enjoyed the Natick, MA Fourth of July parade this morning.  I guess I’m a bit hypocritical, because I really don’t think supermarkets should be open on a major holiday, but (honestly) I needed a few things, so around Noon I went to the Stop & Shop at Old Connecticut Path in Framingham.  I picked up my few items and headed for the checkout area.  There did not appear to be any express lines open, so I got into a line which didn’t seem too crowded.

In front of me was a young woman no older than thirty who had a few items placed on the conveyer belt.  To my surprise, her husband cut in front of me with a shopping cart FULL of groceries.  It seems this was a trick they used to secure a place in line.  They broke the Bob Baril Rule 1 of supermarkets:  No “Saving Places in the Checkout Line” tricks!  I had just a few items.  I almost said something to them, but I just smiled and “sucked it in”.

“You need to get the bread,” the young woman told her also young husband.  He rushed off and came back a minute later with a loaf.  They even had a discussion about whether this particular type of bread was what they really wanted or not.   By this time, the poor young Asian checkout girl was ready to start ringing up their order.  It was stacked so poorly and so inappropriately and so messy, that there’s no way the checker could easily process the stuff.  She, the checkout girl, had to rearrange it.  They broke another rule:  “Use some common sense and courtesy in stacking your groceries on the conveyer belt”.  The shopper was asked if she’d like to donate a dollar to the Jimmy Fund (for kids with cancer).  She sweetly said she would.  The groceries were all scanned through.  The woman was paying with a credit card.  What else?!

That’s another Bob Baril rule.  “Never pay with a credit card, a debit card, or a check at the supermarket. Never.  Always use cash.”

The shopper and her husband began to happily walk away.

“Oh,” the Asian checkout girl said with perfect Chinese manners, “Didn’t you forget something?”

She did.  She forgot to PAY!  She never “Pressed Yes” and all that other stuff you do to pay with a credit card. She was just going to walk out!

The shopper said something like, “Oh, silly me.”  and did what she needed to do.

If this was ten years ago, I absolutely would have made an angry remark to this insensitive and clueless shopper.  I didn’t.  I honestly stood there quietly singing Christian “Praise and Worship” songs to myself.

You’re going to think I’m making up this next part, but I assure you, I’m not!  After I was checked out and about to walk out of the store, I saw the male half of that insensitive shopping duo come walking back into the store.  He looked angry.  In his hand was the long shopping receipt.  You could easily predict what was coming.  They got charged twice for one can of tuna, or something like that, and he wasn’t going to hear of it!

Boy, did I have to exercise self-discipline on that one?!

Everything in me wanted to grab him and say, “Buddy, you’ve gotta be kidding!  After you and your wife have been completely rude, selfish, and insensitive, you’re going to go bother that poor Asian checkout girl again?!”
I took a deep breath.  I let it go.  I knew I could channel my energy into a great blog entry, and here it is!

Please, when you go to the supermarket:  everything that couple did- do the EXACT OPPOSITE!   The checkout person and the other shoppers will love you for it!

If you’d like a copy of this blog piece, send me an e-mail to
Just request “Rules of the Supermarket”.

Monday, July 3, 2006


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

Several years ago, I surprised a friend of mine when I told him that the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday.  He couldn’t imagine that I would choose July 4 as my favorite holiday.  His image of July 4 was of all sorts of illegal firecrackers and fireworks being set off- and other revelries.  My friend was amazed that I didn’t choose Christmas or a more “religious” holiday.  I know it pains a lot of people to hear this, but truthfully, I don’t like Christmas very much.  Now, I’m certainly thrilled about the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, but He certainly was not born on Dec. 25!  Over the years, my wife and I got into more arguments over Christmas than any other issue.  We incurred more debt and financial stress over Christmas than over any other event.  As a minister, I have to put on my “game face” in December, and one would think I’m the next Bob Cratchit;  but I’m really not!   I like New Year’s Day a lot better than Christmas, BUT it means cleaning up all the Christmas stuff that’s been up less than a month, so that kind of wrecks New Year’s.  Thanksgiving IS a really good holiday, but in recent years it’s been made just another part of the Christmas season and is sort of treated as “Christmas Lite”.  

I like Independence Day.  I don’t have to shop for presents.  I don’t have to visit everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY.  I don’t have to go broke.  Since it’s a secular holiday, I don’t have to plan or participate in any special (extra) church services.  What we DO at our church for 4th of July weekend is usually a lot of fun (as it was this year).  One tradition we had as a family used to be the Natick fireworks.  This is the first year in MANY that Natick is not having a fireworks show, and I’m kind of “bummed” about that.  But I’m thrilled about the 4th of July parade.  Two of my very favorite events of the year are Patriots Day (when I watch the Boston Marathon) and the Natick Fourth of July parade.  This year’s parade is supposed to be particularly good to try to make up for there being no fireworks show.  At 8:20 a.m., Amy, Rachel and I will have our chairs set-up on Route 27 in Natick just about a quarter mile south of Natick Labs.  I’ll be drinking Honey Dew coffee and eating Honey Dew Donuts, and they’ll be drinking chocolate milk or some other cold drink. We’ve done this every year for over ten.  AND,  this year, I’ve already had several barbecues!  Each year at this time I am very grateful to have been born into this free and great country!

In thinking of Philippians 1:3, I remember watching the Bicentennial Parade in Sharon, Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon, July 4, 1976.  Can it possibly have been thirty years already?  Thank you God for another July 4!

Saturday, July 1, 2006


“Preach the word;  be instant in season, out of season;”  (from 2 Timothy 4:2).

Weather permitting, tomorrow morning’s service at First Assembly of God of Framingham will be outdoors.  We have not done an outdoor service since 2000, so in a sense it’s going to feel a little weird.  Back in early 1997, the church bought a used 20’ X 30’ tent.  We used to erect it in our overflow dirt/gravel lot each summer.  For six Sunday nights during the summers of 1997 through 2000 we had outdoor tent services.  It was a LOT of work.  There was a LOT of lugging of chairs and equipment.  Our best responses to the services were in 1997.  Over the following years, the attendance was so-so and the response was just O.K.  The tent took up a LOT of storage room.  Several years ago, we gave it away.

I had thought my outdoor service days were over, but several months ago, one of our Members suggested we try to do some outdoor services.  Our church Board decided it was worth a try.  Tomorrow’s service is the only outdoor one we have scheduled for 2006, although there is a slight chance we’ll do it again during Labor Day weekend.  This time, we’re setting up in the paved lot near the church building.  People have the option to sit in their cars with the windows down, like a drive-in theater.  They also have been encouraged to bring lawn furniture, and to put on sun screen.  I like everything to work like clockwork, and I kind of like things easy and predictable.  This will be “anything but”.  I’m really not sure how all of the logistics will work.  No doubt, many will be hot and sweaty and uncomfortable, but that’s how church is for many people in the third world every Sunday.

It’s my prayer that at least one person will wander into the service and be ministered to.  That would be worth it all!  Dress for this Sunday is casual.  I’ll be wearing jeans and a tee-shirt.

If you’re in the Framingham area, we’d love to have you join us at 10:30 a.m. at our parking lot at South and Taylor Streets just off Route 135.