Tuesday, October 31, 2006


"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us:  for we are not ignorant of his devices."  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Today is Halloween.  Halloween means many things to many people.  For our church's volunteer Secretary, Claire, it's her birthday!  I won't tell you how old she is, but she's old enough to be my mother, and if I'm half as healthy and active when I'm her age, I'll be most grateful!

My very first memory of Halloween is of being a very small child (maybe 4) at our home on Alpine Street, Roxbury.  The house was a two-family.  Our family lived downstairs, and my grandparents lived upstairs. I remember dressing up for Halloween, walking upstairs to my grandparents' and being given candy corn and other treats.  My parents did not let me go trick or treating in that neighborhood.  Even in 1958 it was a very dangerous neighborhood where you certainly didn't want to be walking around at night!

When I was just a little older, growing up in Canton, I remember going around the neighborhood and coming home with a bag filled with candy every October 31.  It was a holiday I really loved.

As a "born-again Christian" young adult in the late 1970s, I began to get a very different message about Halloween.  Ironically, until that time, evangelical Protestant churches had been some of the biggest promoters of Halloween, often hosting Halloween parties and even "haunted houses" for the teenagers.  In the late 1970s, the message began to get out in the evangelical Christian community from charismatic speaker Mike Warnke and German Christian scholar Dr. Kurt Koch that celebrating Halloween was a pagan and very bad practice which very much displeased the Lord.

In his book "Satan's Devices" (the English translation of the German "Okkultes ABC") Koch writes, "All Saints' Day and Hallowe'en originated in a pagan festival.  Before the days of Christianity, the Druids in England (priests of a Celtic race) had the idea that people needed to be cleansed after they had died.  The soul of the departed was transferred by magic to the body of an animal.  During the night of October 31, the enchanted souls were freed by the Druid god, Samhain, and taken together  into the Druid heaven.  This Druid festival was always accompanied by animal and sometimes human sacrifices and linked with all kinds of magic."

By 1980, Halloween was considered taboo for almost all evangelical Christians.  Often churches WOULD host "Harvest Parties" where kids could dress up as  Bible characters, play games, and get candy, without the pagan trappings of Halloween.  I don't think these Harvest Parties are quite as popular as they were ten or more years ago, but I'm sure some churches still have them.  When our kids were little, we always took them to Harvest Parties on Halloween night.  They had a great time, got lots of candy, and from what they've told me, they never felt deprived for not going "trick or treating".  Now that they're grown, we DO turn on our lights and pass out candy bars to trick or treaters who stop by our home on Halloween night.  Most years, I've also given the kids childrens tracts that talk about Jesus and the Bible.  I know that MAY seem pushy and inappropriate, but the way I look at it, they're coming to my door so I have a right to hand out tracts with the candy.  I'm sure many parents throw out the tracts, and that's their right, also.  One year, we had a very attractive little piece of literature with a "Finding Nemo" theme.  Kids were actually clamoring to get those!

By now, I've usually stopped by a Christian bookstore to pick up childrens' tracts, and I just haven't gotten to it this year, so tonight it may be just candy bars at the Barils' after all.

I will admit, I like seeking the neighborhood kids dressing up and having fun.  I also LOVE the Fall.  It's probably my favorite season.  I just wish Halloween didn't have that pagan/occultic connection!

What do YOU think of Halloween?

Friday, October 27, 2006


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

This is just a reminder that tonight we "fall back".  Well, to be specific, it happens on Sunday in the very early hours of the morning.  I believe at THIS time change, there are two "2 o'clock in the mornings".  There's a Daylight Saving Time "2 o'clock in the morning" and there's a Standard Time "2 o'clock in the morning".  I believe in the Spring, it's just the opposite.  Then, there IS no "2 o'clock in the morning"- it just goes from 1:59 to 3:00.  Yup, it's confusing.  My understand is that Benjamin Franklin invented this whole Daylight Saving Time thing.  I think it's a nuisance, although I like the Fall turning of the clocks, MUCH better than the Spring turning of the clocks.

I remember that when we were kids and we turned the clocks- especially in the Spring- my very dramatic mother would keep saying things like, "Do you know it's REALLY 7:00?" (when it was 6:00 - stuff like that)... or "On the OTHER time it's 5:30, not 6:30" and I can remember my annoyed brother admonishing her, "Will you STOP that?!"

As an eccentric person, the turning of the clocks is kind of traumatic for me.  No matter how hard I try, there's always SOME clock in a weird place I forget about.  Then, three weeks later, I'll glance at a clock and think, "Why is that clock wrong- OH, I forgot to turn it!"  I also dread certain complicated appliance clocks like the digital clock on our kitchen radio or the microwave clock.  I'll probably be digging out owner's manuals just to try to change some of the clocks...then there are the answering machine clocks!

I realize some really high-tech appliances, especially computers, are programmed to change to the "new" time automatically.  But all that will change in 2007.  Thanks to a law that originated with my Congressman Ed Markey, we'll go on Daylight Saving time EARLIER in the year in 2007 and stay on it later in the year.  But all the automatically programmed stuff will continue to work as if Markey's law had never passed, so there will be some real time confusion for a few weeks in 2007.

In my last entry I mentioned that Dr. Ivor Nicklin is at our church at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday.  Please note that's 10:30 STANDARD time!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


It’s very hard for me to believe that January 2007 will mark twenty years that I’ve lived and pastored in Framingham.  Back in 1987, our church was located at Hartford and C Streets. Although it LOOKED like a church- actually it looked like a CHAPEL- our facility seated only 55 people, sat on a tiny lot, and had no parking lot.  It was in that little building, however, that I first met one of the greatest Bible teachers alive today.

I hadn’t been in Framingham much more than a few weeks before Claire, our volunteer part-time Secretary began speaking of Dr. Ivor Nicklin.  She raved about him being an outstanding speaker and teacher.  She explained that he was British and an ordained Anglican priest who traveled to the U.S.A. once a year to do a circuit of speaking at churches and Bible Study groups, mainly in the Northeast.  Under my predecessor, the Rev. Tom Gurney, Ivor Nicklin had spoken at the Framingham church several times.

Over the years, I’d heard people rave about various teachers and speakers.  I’d eventually hear many of them in person.  Usually, such speakers were “O.K.” but did not live up to their billing.  Nevertheless, at Claire’s urging, I booked Ivor Nicklin for a special Sunday night service when his U.S. booking agent phoned the church.

That night proved to be difficult at first.  6:30 (service time) arrived and there was no Dr. Ivor Nicklin to be seen.  We sang choruses, I led congregational prayer, and announcements.  Ultimately, I was nervously starting in on jokes when Nicklin arrived almost one hour late.  I’m very punctual, and I especially don’t like when guest speakers arrive late, so that was not a good beginning.   Dr. Ivor Nicklin was not the typical Assemblies of God church speaker, if there is such a thing.  He wore dark clothes and a clerical collar, and large rimless glasses.  He looked like he came out of “Central Casting” to be cast as either an Episcopalian priest, or even more likely, a Professor of Theology.  I slipped Nicklin a card asking him to limit his talk to 35 minutes.  When he opened his sermon he pleasantly (but bluntly) in a VERY British accent dramatically announced, “I’ve been told I have THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES!”  Wow.  This was going to be uncomfortable.

It wasn’t.

When I’m right, I’m right, and when I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  That time I was wrong.  Ivor Nicklin turned out to be one of the finest, most interesting, and most entertaining speakers I’d ever heard!  His Biblical and theological knowledge was “way up there”...definitely Ph.D. level stuff- but he was funny, and interesting, and yet VERY practical.  I could have listened to him all night.  In reality, I think he spoke about forty-five minutes that evening.  After the service, I noticed he’d arrived in a Pontiac Grand Prix coupe with Rhode Island plates, and had “planted it” right on the church front lawn!  What a character!  My wife and I went out with him to Friendly’s in Saxonville (when there was a Friendly’s in Saxonville) and had a delightful time.  I had to apologize to him about my reservations about him.

Since then, I’ve had Nicklin in at least a dozen times in the various locations were our church has met through the years, and I’ve loved every time Dr. Nicklin has been with us.

If you’re anywhere in the Framingham area on Sunday, October 29, you’ll want to come to our 10:30 a.m. service at 32 South Street (off Route 135) to hear Dr. Ivor Nicklin.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  As Billy Graham would say, “You may be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or no religion”- but you’ll enjoy Ivor Nicklin.  If you’d like more information you can e-mail me at either RevRBaril@aol.com  or  AGframingham@aol.com

“Study to shew (“show”) thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


“...for the labourer is worthy of his hire...” (from Luke 10:7)

Many of you will recall that a few weeks ago I asked for suggestions regarding a problem with a sinkhole in our church parking lot.  A local paving company had really “given me a run around”.  Others had given ridiculously huge estimates.

Through a friend from Medway, I learned of a wonderful asphalt repair company.  It is Firehouse Infrared Asphalt Repair in Franklin.  The owner, Leo Gallagher is also a firefighter.  Yesterday, that company repaired our sinkhole and corrected several ‘depressions” in the parking lot.  They did a first class job.  Their workers and equipment were top notch.  And, their price was about HALF of what any other company would charge.

If you need any asphalt repair at your driveway or in a parking lot, I highly recommend them.  Seriously, you’d be smart to make a note of this company:  Firehouse Infrared Asphalt Repair- Telephone 508-541-4488.
Their FAX is 508-528-2018.  Their mailing address is  P.O. Box 463, Franklin, MA 02038.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."  (Romans 14:12)

When I was a kid, my father had a friend who sold, distributed, and maintained juke boxes.  Through that friend, we had a juke box in our basement loaded with 45 RPM records of early 1960s rock 'n roll and other hits.  One song I remember hearing on that juke box is "That's Why the Lady is a Tramp".   Admittedly, it's not a very godly or edifying song, but I think of it as I want to explain why I call myself "eccentric"!

You probably have noticed in the description of myself on the blog I do indeed use the word "eccentric".  On my storytelling cassette tape recorded a year and a half ago, I also introduce myself as "eccentric".  My dictionary states that the word "eccentric" comes from the Greek and literally means "out of center".  The dictionary lists several definitions of "eccentric".  When I use the word, I mean "unconventional".  I know that some people don't like to hear me calling myself "eccentric".  They think I'm putting myself down.  They think of an eccentric person as someone walking around in his pajamas, drooling all over himself, and yelling platitudes in Latin, or some sort of behavior similar to that.  Listen, THAT sort of person is not eccentric; they're NUTS!  No, I'm NOT like that, but as Pastor Phil McCutchen of Bethany Assembly of God of Mendon has told me, "I'm unique".  Yes, I am.

Have you ever watched the animated FOX series, "King of the Hill"?  If so, you're familiar with the character Bobby Hill, a 12-year-old who likes to eat, watch T.V., and perform comedy and drama.  As a kid, I was a lot like that.  In my case, I was like that around 9 or 10.  I would not even hesitate to get up and perform- singing some crazy song, doing imitations of my teachers, etc.  By 12 I was exactly the opposite.  What was very cool in 4th Grade was considered the epitome of uncool in Junior High.  I was in the high school band, but I was a very uncool and unathletic teenager with a very strict father.  Those were not really great years for me.  At Stonehill College in the mid-1970s I was probably the second or third shyest person on campus.  But that crazy 9-year-old performer was still locked deep inside the painfully shy young adult.

I thank God He called me into the ministry and made the way for me to go to Central Bible College in Missouri in the late 1970s.  It was a new beginning for me.  I forced myself to be much more outgoing and involved, and I made some lifelong friendships.  I also treasure some great memories of Central Bible College.  Formally entering the ministry, however, would once again challenge who the real Bob Baril was.  It was even more true 25 years ago that there was a certain way a minister was supposed to speak and act.  He was never supposed to lose his temper.  He was never supposed to act inappropriately.  He was never to come across as sad or depressed. He could be funny, but NEVER absurdly funny (like Robin Williams).  He had to have a good business head on his shoulders.  He had to be very spiritually minded.  He also had to be very practical, very caring, and just GREAT with people.  Athletic ability was not mandatory, but a big plus in ministry...those church softball leagues, and all that stuff.


Once again, it felt like high school.  I tried and I tried to be the person I've described above.  Many Assemblies of God ministers and other evangelical ministers really DO seem to succeed at that.  After a number of years, I gave up and just decided to be me.  Since I AM so eccentric/unique and since I DON'T live up to most of what's written above, I've tended to be either absolutely loved by some people or absolutely despised by others.  But I concluded years ago that this is the person I am- it's who God made me, and I'm actually PROUD to be eccentric!

God has also used me to greatly encourage people who are "different" to embrace who they are, and to enjoy it!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you some of what qualifies me as "eccentric":

1.  I have virtually all of my things organized in certain ways, like an autistic savant- the difference is, if they DO become disorganized, I don't particularly like it, but I'm not going to have a meltdown like Dustin Hoffman "The Rain Man".

2.  I carry a cluster of pens in my left pants pocket- usually several BIC pens of various colors, and a black and red felt tip.  Usually about once a year, a pen will leak and ruin a pair of pants, but I just insist on doing this.  If I don't have those pens with me, it just doesn't feel right, and you never know when you'll need one of them!

3.  I shave the hair on my back.  It's extremely difficult to do.  I used to have SUCH a hairy back, it honestly looked like the back of a gorilla or a bear---THAT bad.  About a year ago, I decided to do something about it. Once a month, I shave it.  It takes about a half hour.  I primarily use an electric shaver, but sometimes I will use shaving cream and a razor to finish the upper back.

4.  I also get my haircuts at exact 4 week intervals, and I list the dates for haircuts way ahead on the calendar.  Now, I WILL allow myself to actually get the haircut a day early or a day late depending on my exact schedule that week, the weather, etc.

5.  I've seen every episode of Northern Exposure at least once.  Most, I've seen many times. I can get very emotional watching that show.  It can make me laugh or cry and I never get tired of it.

6.  I know all kinds of useless trivia...but I may forget where I put my watch!

7.  Speaking of my watch, I like my watches and clocks to be precisely correct.  I always set my wristwatch exactly 2 minutes ahead.  Pretty much every other clock in my life is set EXACT.  Turning the clocks (as in a few days) is truly a stressful exercise for me.

8. I clip my fingernails so short that my kids think it's kind of funny.  It really is!

9.  I absolutely LOVE the 3 Stooges, and will let pressing matters go just to watch them.

10.  I keep up this blog!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  (James 1:22)

Interestingly enough, we studied that portion of James chapter 1 last night at our Bible Study.  There’s a LOT in that one verse.  In the King James, “Word” isn’t capitalized, but I think it really should be, for it refers to the Bible, the Word of God.  The verse is saying it’s not enough to quote Bible verses and religious platitudes- you have to DO practical things to really make a difference in society and even in “your” own world, that is, your sphere of influence.

Yesterday morning I went to the church’s post office box.  To my surprise it contained a Pastor Appreciation card and check made out to me- I won’t tell you for how much, but I will say it was more than $50.  It was from a couple who had left our church over five years ago.  Their leaving was not on the best terms.  There were areas where this couple and I just did not “see eye-to-to-eye”.  A few times, the man verbally challenged me in public, arguing about my interpretations of Scripture, my personal philosophies, etc.  On other occasions, his wife would have teary outbursts which would reflect in one way or another that I was an insensitive pastor.  That’s why the card and check, along with a warm and personal note were such a surprise- well, I’ll say it, a SHOCK.

I was actually pretty humbled by the card and note.  I would have understood if they’d have sent a nice note to me AND TO THE CHURCH, along with a check to the church.  But to send a note and check to me, personally- you know, if the situation were reversed, I’m not at all sure that I would have even done that!

Over the years, there was one saying of that particular woman that really ”grabbed” me.  I’ve often thought about it, and I’ve often spoken about it.  She used to say, “If people would just DO what the Lord tells them to do, 90% of the problems (in the church) would be solved”.  It’s absolutely true.  It’s not just true for the church, it’s true, period.  There is a very simple key to success in life; just do what the Lord wants you to do.  Now, I know someone may ask, “Well, what if some nut wants to shoot 75 people and say that God told him to do it?!”  I certainly am not advocating anything like that.  And, a very reasonable reading of the Bible will indicate that God is clearly NOT telling theguy to do that.  But God is telling us to love our neighbor, to love God, to do good to others, to think of others more highly than ourselves, to set a good example,  and a whole lot of other “stuff” like that.   And, that’s exactly what James 1:22 is trying to say.

There is even a liberal, secular slogan that says it well:  “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”  I always chuckle at that “senseless” part of it!

I’m just kind of humbled today.  And, you know what, I encourage YOU to
“be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Yesterday I had the blessed experience of being in the presence of a dedicated public servant.

It’s really SOMETHING for me to write that because I’m usually cynical about so-called “dedicated public servants”.  For some reason, most who are hailed as “dedicated public servants” are liberal Democrats.  In all honesty, though, there are conservatives and Republicans who proudly wear that moniker.  I’m pretty cynical about it because usually “dedicated public servants” are dedicated only to feeding their egos, making money, and (as Howie Carr would say) getting “hack” jobs for their relatives.  But yesterday, I really WAS with a dedicated public servant.  That dedicated public servant is the relatively new Framingham Town Manager, Mr. Julian Suso.

I almost wrote that I met him yesterday, but that would not be true because I did meet him a couple of months ago at a “Framingham Downtown Renaissance” meeting.  I’ve also exchanged e-mails with him- shortly after that.  And, I’ve seen Mr. Suso walking around the downtown Framingham area engaging people in conversation.  In the five months that Suso has been Town Manager, I’ve seen him “out and about” in public interacting with “real” people much more than I’d EVER seen ANY previous Town Manager do.  In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw a previous Town Manager out kibitzing with the common folk in downtown Framingham!

Suso was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association  (we call it “F.I.C.A.”) which this month took place at Plymouth Church U.C.C. in Framingham Centre.  A number things strike you about Suso.  He’s NOT a New Englander.  He hails from Ohio.  I must admit I had reservations about the Town hiring a Non-New Englander to be Town Manager.  New England is such a different and distinct region that many times outsiders just cannot understand us and cannot work successfully with us.  In Suso’s case, it’s actually a plus!  He’s got an infectious smile and a warm and positive demeanor.  He says he prefers listening to talking, and I think he really does.  He really wants to bring people together.  He really wants Framingham to be the best community it can be.  How can I tell?  It’s hard to explain, but that’s how I read this guy.  He’s not phony.  He’s very genuine.  And he DOESN’T have that hard, detached “edge” that so many people from metro-Boston and metro-New York have- because he’s NOT from here!

Suso really did LISTEN to us.  Around the table were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy (as well as Bah’ai and others) of “all stripes” but we were all in unity in our criticisms of the “powers that be” in Framingham...the bureaucracy, the stupid rules and regulations, the inconsistencies, the rudeness, the attitude that all churches and non-profit agencies in Town should just go away.  We voiced that loud and clear.  He listened. And he really heard us.  He believed us.  How do I know?  Again, it’s hard to explain, but I’m telling you, the guy believed us.

Suso has committed to coming back in a few months, and to meeting with us periodically.  I think that’s great.  I told him I’ll pray for him.  And I will.  He will need it.  There will be those “good old New Englanders” in and around the Memorial Building who’d like him to just look the other way and “play ball”.  I think Julian Suso could be used as a catalyst for great things in Framingham.

I hope you’ll join me in praying for him!

“Blessed are the peacemakers:  for they shall be called the children of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The church office phone rang just before 5 p.m. last night (Monday).  It’s unusual for me to be in the office at that time, but I’d been preparing for Monday night’s Board Meeting.  The name and number on the Caller I.D. were not familiar to me, so I let the machine answer the call.  On the line was a woman wanting some old church records- I quickly (a little embarrassed) picked up the receiver and spoke to her.  It seems she’d attended our church for quite a number of years in the distant past.  Her brother in New Hampshire is converting to Roman Catholicism and needs proof of his 1948 baptism at our church.  

Our little church was founded in 1922- well, they began “unofficially” meeting in late 1921 and were officially incorporated in early 1922.  There is an old hard bound, handwritten church record book with records and information from the early 1920s through the late 1930s.  We have pretty good information from 1972 to the present and very good information from 1987 to the present.  The caller was very pleasant, but disappointed.  

“I was the Church Secretary for a number of those missing years,” she said,
 “I kept the records.  Where are they?  What happened to them?”

I had to tell her I have no idea.  I have been pastor since 1987, but I can’t take responsibility for before that time.  We’ve been in our present church building (former United Auto Workers Union Hall on South Street, Framingham) since 1994, but previously the church owned a small wooden church building at Hartford & C Sts. for decades, and I live in the 40 Harrison Street parsonage, purchased in 1946.

“You know the cross in that old church building?” she inquired.

I did.  It was kind of cool.  It was hollow inside and contained fluorescent bulbs which made it kind of pretty when lit.

“My Uncle MADE that.” she announced, and continued, “When we were between houses, we lived with our three little children in that house at 40 Harrison Street.”

It was like talking to some long lost relative from the Canadian Maritimes (where most of my long lost relatives are) that you never knew existed.

Currently, the “oldest” church members date back to 1982.  There was a couple who’d joined the church in 1967 that had held the record for longest church members for a significant period of time, but they switched to the Assembly of God in Marlboro about ten years ago and he’s since passed away.  It is kind of interesting to think about WHEN a church really begins or ends.  It’s kind of like that philosophical matter of, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is present to hear it, did it make a sound?”

No one at our church remembers anything at the church prior to 1982, yet there was a hearty and gutsy group of Pentecostals who incorporated the church almost eighty-five years ago.  Until 1961 the church was called “Pentecostal Church of Framingham” and in fact, that’s the name on the house deed.  The Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal group in the world.  Sometime in its early history, the church became an Assemblies of God church, and took the name “First Assembly of God” much later, in 1961, I suspect partly because the name “Pentecostal” has negative connotation to a lot of people.  Also, the name “First Assembly of God” was probably the most popular church name for “A/G” churches in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  That’s not true today.  Many “newer” Assemblies of God churches have names like, “New Life Christian Center”.

Well, she was pleasant, and kind of disappointed, and a blast from the past that kind of got me in a reflective mood!

“And he changeth the times and the seasons...” (from Daniel 2:21)

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I was absolutely stunned this morning to pick up the MetroWest Daily News and read that (my State Rep.) Debby Blumer had died of a heart attack while driving on Dudley Rd. in Framingham yesterday morning.  She was 64.  At one time, I would have considered 64 very old.  Considering I’m 52 and many of my friends and colleagues are in their 50s and 60s, I don’t think of it as old at all.  

My heart certainly goes out to Debby Blumer’s family and friends.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had several occasions to be at local events where Debby was also present.  I also spoke to her on the phone a time or two about matters about which we held opposite positions.  I guess Debby considered me a community leader because she’d sent me several e-mails (which I assume also went to scores of people in the Framingham community) encouraging me to support Deval Patrick and to attend events promoting his candidacy.  I came very close to writing an e-mail back to her saying I like Deval very much as a person but I just can’t support his candidacy (he’s on the wrong side of too many issues).  I decided such an e-mail might hurt her feelings (although that was not my intention) so I didn’t bother to respond.  I didn’t agree with Debby or Deval’s ultra-liberal political views, but I did appreciate Debby’s passion and dedication to Framingham.

Recently I was part of a planning meeting for the Framingham Community Thanksgiving Service run by the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association.  One of the features of these services is the reading of the Governor’s Proclamation.  It’s usually asked how you get that and I remember saying,  “You contact Debby Blumer and she’ll get it”.  Well, no she won’t.

Recently I wrote in a blog piece to think very carefully about what you say or don’t say because you never know when you or someone else will slip away into eternity.  This is just another example of that...

Thursday, October 12, 2006


“...for ye are like unto whited (that is, whitewashed) sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones...” (from Matthew 23:27)

I know that reference is a real stretch, but I was trying (from memory) to find SOMETHING about “painting” in the Bible.  I don’t mean painting as in a painting by Picasso, or something like that.  I mean painting as in painting a house.  On Saturday, October 14, a group of us will be painting the church building at 32 South Street.

When we bought our present church building (former United Auto Workers union hall) in 1994 we were excited about a “no maintenance” building.  

“There’s NO grass,” some people said, “NO lawn to cut!”  What they did not notice is that there are a lot of weeds and a lot of “growth” all over the property.  At least 6 times per year I bring my mower to the church property and “mow the weeds”!

Others said, “It’s a BRICK building!  There’s NO exterior painting!”  

Wrong again.  Now about half of the building’s exterior surface IS “yellowbrick” and does not get painted.  What we failed to realize back in 1994 is that the back of the building and the side of the building facing Waverley Street DOES get painted- yellow.  AND, there is brown trim all around the building.  Now, that may not sound like much, but take a look at it.  We’ll probably end up using at least ten gallons of brown paint.

Around 1998, my daughter Amy and I spent the whole summer painting the exterior of the building “peace-meal”.  Eventually it got done and it looked nice.  Unfortunately, the paint fades quickly and after around three years it starts peeling a lot.  By 2001, it was looking “ratty” again.  In 2002, the brown painted area was covered with gang graffiti one night.  We ended up getting a crew of volunteers from New England Aftercare “The Bridge House” to spend a Saturday painting all the brown.  By 2005, the brown was looking bad and the yellow was looking terrible.  I began whining to our Board that we need to paint the building.  Now, when it comes to a project such as this, in our tiny church, there is no money, and I mean NO money.  Well, after about a year of whining, a very generous person donated $800 towards the paint.  I picked up the paint at the favorite hardware store of Michelle Swartz of www.ThisIsFramingham.com (Monnick’s Supply) this week.  Well, actually it was from Monnick’s larger store in Marlboro only because they have a much bigger paint department than the Framingham store does.

I am a perfectionist.   I was only planning to have 3 or maybe 4 people (that I considered extremely proficient as painters) help me paint.  When I was checking out the paint the female cashier asked me, “Is EVERYBODY from your church going to help with the painting?”  I realized if I really expect the people to “take ownership” of the church, I can’t forbid all but 3 or 4 from painting- so I’ve been putting the word out.   I HAVE told people that if painting really isn’t their thing- if they’re really awful at it, I will not be offended if they do not participate!

(A big test is, if you get paint all over yourself, and all over everything that is NOT supposed to be painted- you’re probably NOT a gifted painter!)

My daughter Rachel will be home from Westfield State College this weekend.  She will be very busy working on school projects, but has promised to try to give me a couple of hours to paint on Saturday.  Honestly, Rachel is one of the best painters I know.  She paints classrooms a Marian High School during her summer college breaks.  She’s as good as any professional painter I’ve ever seen.  I’m an “O.K.” painter- not outstanding, but O.K.

Anyway- Saturday is the day. I hope to get at least 60% of the church building painting done- and perhaps as much as 90%!  If THAT’S the case, I’d finish the other 10% (“fine points”) during the coming week.

If you are in the downtown Framingham area on Saturday, October 14, come by and cheer us on!


“By faith Enoch ... had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  (from Hebrews 11:5)

One of the problems with pastoring the same church for almost twenty years is that you only have so many stories and illustrations  from your life;  you end up using them over and over again.  This story has been told by me many times, but it has a great moral to it.  As I was driving along Route 135 Wednesday morning I thought of it, and I’ve decided to share it with you.

Back in March of 1982, I was an assistant pastor at Christian Life Center on Route 27 in Walpole.  Sadly, that church no longer exists.  At that time, it was quite a going evangelical Protestant congregation.  A large group from the church was going on a two-week missions trip to Haiti.  The main thing they would be doing is construction work on a future orphanage in Port-Au-Prince.  I was single at the time and had agreed to “house sit” for a couple who was going on the trip.  That couple actually stayed at their friends’ home on the night before they were to leave, and I began my stay at their small house in Sharon.  I knew the Missions team would be leaving from Walpole for Logan Airport VERY early on Saturday morning.  I made it a point to set the clock to get up and shower quite early so I could get to the church and be part of the “Send-off” for the Haiti Missions team.  I then  planned to have breakfast at Bickford’s on Route 1 at the Sharon/Walpole line, and then get on with ministry-related plans for the day.  

I arrived at the church early and had a chance to speak with most of the people going on the trip and to wish them well.  We also had a big prayer time for the Missions team.   The Senior Pastor was Dave Milley, a “type A” leader in his early forties.  Today, after having encountered some difficulties in his life, Milley has mellowed quite a bit, but in those days, he could be pretty blunt and harsh.  Dave Milley kept pressuring me to come into Logan Airport to see the group off.  I really didn’t want to do that.  It would eat up at least a couple of hours and I really didn’t see the point of it.  I HAD come to the church in Walpole to wish them well and see them off, and I’d done exactly that.   Dave Milley, however, kept bugging me and bugging me to go to Logan Airport.  Ultimately, the team got into several cars, and began filing down the church driveway to Route 27.  Dave Milley’s Lincoln (driven by a church member) was the last car.  Suddenly, the Lincoln left the formation and pulled up into the circular drive in front of the church building where I was standing.  The passenger window rolled down.  An annoyed Dave Milley condescendingly yelled,

“Are you going into Logan Airport or WHAT?!”

I replied, “No, I told you, that’s O.K. I’m not.”

He waved his hand to me in disgust and yelled, “Oh, go back to bed!!”

The Lincoln drove off.  There I was, alone, quiet, and feeling very unappreciated.

Sadly, I got into my friends’ car (they let me drive their “cool” Mercury Capri while they were away) and drove to Bickford’s.  I sadly and slowly got out of the car and began walking toward the restaurant.  Suddenly I got a strong internal IMPRESSION.  It was as if something was saying to me, “What are you upset about?”.   And it happened again, “What are you upset about?”

This may sound strange to some, but I knew God was trying to get my attention.  In my mind, I sadly and quickly rehearsed what had just happened and why I was so sad.

Then, I “heard” another line:

“Did I tell you to go into Logan Airport?”  I was numb.
“Did I tell you to go into Logan Airport?”.

Meekly, I thought “no”.

“NO!! So what are you upset about?  Isn’t the most important thing that you are where I want you to be and doing what I want you to be doing?!”

Immediately, my countenance changed.  I broke into a smile and confidently walked into Bickford’s.  Never have I enjoyed French Toast and bacon so much!

In my entire Christian life, that is ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENTS THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME!  Almost twenty-five years later, I still think about it a lot.  So many times, well-meaning people want to manipulate you into doing well-meaning things.  But the most important thing is being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do.  The most important thing is PLEASING GOD!

Monday, October 9, 2006


“And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Twenty-four hour vacations are always way too short but SOMETIMES you have to take what you can get!  Mary Ann and I left for western Massachusetts on Sunday around 3 p.m.  We had no reservations and did not know where we’d be staying.  We got off the MASS PIKE at Lee and drove north.  We stopped at several places which had no vacancy (what happened to the old “NO VACANCY” signs from my childhood?).  Ultimately, we stayed at Days Inn in Lenox which was just O.K.  Considering how difficult it was to find a room, I was satisfied.  That area is VERY pretty.  We stopped briefly at Laurel Lake in Lee and Mary Ann snapped a few photos.  We took out pizza from “Arizona Pizza” near the Lenox/Pittsfield line.  The menu was confusing, and the restaurant was dark and I mean DARK.  We went outdoors just to read the menu.  I was hoping to “eat in” but there was SUCH a long wait we ended up getting a take-out pizza and brining it back to our room.  It was a good pizza- not outstanding, but good.

On Monday we drove to Mount Greylock, which I believe is the highest point in the Berkshires.  It was only 20 minutes north of the motel in Lenox...somehow I thought it would be further away than that.  It took twenty minutes to drive to the summit.  Monday was a pretty clear day and the view was spectacular!  (Greylock is over 3,400 feet tall.  I’ve been up Mt. Mansfield in VT a number of times- this one is only a little smaller, but still only about half the height of Mt. Washington in NH.)  There is a tower at the summit with a narrow, winding stairway you can climb to the top.  Mary Ann and I started up and she got very claustrophobic and had to stop.  Honestly, I’m glad we went back down. It was crowded and I mean CROWDED.  It was SO crowded that it was NOT fun.  I’m surprised they don’t restrict how many people can go up in the tower at a time.  Driving down I had the Dodge Caravan in Low Gear PART of the time.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d have had it in Low ALL the time.  Low was slow BUT the trip down was hard on the brakes.  I’m glad we got new brakes on this vehicle just a couple of months ago!  I know this trip was hard on them.

We drove up the mountain from the Lanesborough/Pittsfield end, but took a different route down and ended up in North Adams.  I’ve only been to North Adams once or twice before.  It doesn’t LOOK like Massachusetts at all!  You’d swear you were in VT or in the Adirondack region of New York.  We headed east on Route 2 and stopped at a neat lookout point and gift shop in Florida.  Did you know there’s a Florida, MA?  Mary Ann had never heard of it.
After a late lunch at Friendly’s in Greenfield, it was on to the major highways and we got back to Framingham around 5.  The foliage was not as pretty as we’d hoped for but it WAS nice to get away!

In the next three weeks I’ve got an impossible load of white-collar AND BLUE-COLLAR work to do in my role of “Jack of all trades” at First Assembly of God of Framingham.  I know the Assemblies of God does not believe in cloning but I wish I could clone three other Bob Barils to help me get all this work done.  Even so, it WAS nice to have a brief getaway!

Saturday, October 7, 2006


Standing in line at the supermarket checkout counter, you're likely to see magazines featuring stories such as, "What Women Want", or "What Men Want", or "What Women REALLY Want", and beyond that it gets so graphic that I'd probably be sinning just by writing it down!  Well, this posting is "What Pastors Want".  Maybe I should call it, "What Pastors REALLY Want"!

Tomorrow, Sunday, October 8 is "National Clergy Appreciation Day".  National Clergy Appreciation Day was the brainchild of right-wing psychologist, author, and speaker Dr. James Dobson.  Dobson grew up in a Nazarene Pastor's home.  Like most children of ministers, he saw his Dad used and abused and underpaid and mistreated.  About ten years ago, Dobson, and his minister cousin H.B. London came up with October being "Clergy Appreciation Month" and the second Sunday of October being "Clergy Appreciation Day".

In the Assemblies of God, we had traditionally made the third Sunday of September "Pastor Appreciation Day".  I used to like that because it always fell either on my birthday or within four days of my birthday.  By 2000, the Assemblies of God had "bought into" Dobson's new holiday.  I will say that behind the scenes, ministers that I know have very mixed feelings about "Pastor Appreciation Day".  One pastor (who lives in a church owned residence as I do) had asked the church for French Doors to be installed at the entrance to the dining room.  His board flatly refused, considering his request extravagant and ridiculous.  They gave him some "token" gift for Pastor Appreciation Day. He flatly told them he didn't want the "token" gift, and that if they REALLY appreciated him, they'd install the French Doors.  You know what, THEY DID!  (Yeah, this was expensive, but it added value to the house THEY own!)

Sometimes pastors will get something like a pen and pencil set and a sappy card signed by everyone for Pastor Appreciation Day.  Some may be given a cake.  SOME may be given a gift certificate to a nice restaurant.   And, probably at least twenty-five percent of American ministers will be given nothing per se, as their church doesn't recognize "Clergy Appreciation Day".
I'll tell you what I would like, and in my experience, this is what most pastors would like for Pastor Appreciation Day:  I'd like a large (even record-breaking attendance) and a large offering FOR THE CHURCH.

In a small church it's SO depressing to work hard preparing and walk out to a very small attendance.  A pastor friend of mine recently told me of walking out on a Sunday morning and there weren't even ten people present.  He tried not to let it affect him, but it caused him to be very down.  I have experienced that, and it is a HORRIBLE feeling. This group of people hires you, gives you a big job description, doesn't really pay you all that much, and then they can't even bother to consistently attend. THAT hurts!  So first and foremost, pastors want their church people to be in attendance.  It's really great for people to arrive EARLY and to be ENTHUSIASTIC.  It's great to have people offer to help with this or that.  Today, in almost any church, the offering records look like a profile of the Rocky Mountains- one week a BIG offering, one week a tiny offering, and so on.  This reflects the fact that almost no one is paid weekly anymore.  But the church has a WEEKLY budget, and believe it or not, I'm paid weekly.  I think most pastors would rather have someone throw in something every week, rather than give one or two larger checks a month.  Pastors want their people to have a sense of "ownership" in their church. Ministers come and go, but the bottom line is, it's THEIR church, not the pastor's.

At our church, it amazes me that people often don't listen.  If I say something like, "Please pick up one of those missions brochures at the back table on your way out," NO one will!  Well, actually Claire Grimes, my volunteer secretary will, and maybe some visitor will.  No one else.  "Please sign up for the pot luck so we know how many are coming."  No one.  "Please pick up any papers and litter in the sanctuary"...well, Bill Lincoln one of my Deacons will.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't hate the people at the church I pastor.  And I've gone over most of this stuff with them time and time again, but it just keeps happening.  When I meet with other pastors, I usually hear stories MUCH WORSE than my own about THEIR own church people.  One time I went to a service at a church here in Framingham.  I happened to lean against a "post & rail" fence, and it fell down!  The pastor said, "Don't worry about it! I've been after my Deacons to fix that for years.  They just keep saying it will get done and it never does!"

So I think you get the point.  A large attendance of enthusiastic people- a large offering for the church, and people really listening and doing what they're supposed to do.  More than anything else, that's what I want for "Pastor Appreciation Day".

"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.  And, the labourer is worthy of his reward."  (I Timothy 5:17-18).

Thursday, October 5, 2006


When I picked up yesterday’s MetroWest Daily News off my front porch, I expected to see a front page story about the gubernatorial debate.  Instead, I was struck by the front page story of the sudden death of the paper’s 44-year-old Sunday editor named Rich Pedroli.  I did not know Rich at all, but (no pun intended) you can’t help but be stopped dead in your tracks when you read that an active 44-year-old newspaperman, candlepin bowling champion, and lover of life drops dead.  When I was a teenager, that wouldn’t have even phased me.  At 52, it does.

I guess I have very juvenile taste in pop music, but I like Avril Lavigne’s music.  I’m probably her oldest fan.  (I’d never go to one of her concerts- everybody would be over twenty years younger and I’d feel ancient!)  On Avril’s “Under My Skin” album is a song entitled, “Slipped Away”.  It’s about her poignant feelings about the death of her grandfather.  Some of the lyrics:
“I miss you, miss you so bad,
I don’t forget you, oh, it’s so sad.
I hope you can hear me,
I remember it clearly;
The day you slipped away;
Was the day I found it won’t be the same....
I didn’t get around to kiss you goodbye on the hand,
I wish that I could see you again,
I know that I can’t...”

Then there's the haunting, intense and youthful refrain:

She may be only 22 or so, but those are feelings that many of us who are more than twice her age have certainly had.

On Tuesday of this week there was a phone message on my office answering machine. I was puzzled, because the female caller had an out-of-state  area code and said she wanted to talk to me because her father had passed away and she found my business card in his wallet.  I phoned her.  Yes, it was an out-of-state number, but she was in the Boston area.  Upon questioning her I realized I’d met her Dad at a car show this summer.  Many of you know I sell items of auto memorabilia at classic car shows.  Excited classic car owners often clamor for my business card.  This was one of many folks over the summer with whom I’d spoken, shaken hands, and handed over a card.  Maybe I sold him some collectables as well; I just can’t remember.  

This past Sunday I drove my daugher Rachel back to Westfield because the car she usually has out there needed to be put in for service in Framingham.  On the way we passed a terrible auto accident in Palmer.  I knew from glancing at the two decimated cars that no one could have survived. According to WRKO, there were two deaths in that accident.  There was literally a fourteen mile backup on the MassPike Eastbound from Palmer to Springfield.  This past weekend that overpass in Montreal collapsed and a couple of people died.

Am I trying to be morbid? Maybe.  I guess it’s the “line of work” I’m in but the thought of people slipping into eternity is a daily one with me.

For one thing, be careful what you say or don’t say to people.  You may never get a chance to rectify things.  For another thing, none of us is sure of tomorrow.  To use an old cliché, “Don’t be caught dead without...” (being right with God).

I’m sorry if this is a little too intense and too heavy- no I’m not!  It’s just what’s on my heart today.

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2006


Today, I just thought I'd give updates about a few previous postings:

FIXING A HOLE- I contacted a paving company who advertises around Framingham.  A very affluent looking guy in an SUV came by with all sorts of fancy equipment and ended up giving an Estimate of $1250.  That's very high and at least $400 more than our small church can afford.  Incidentally, I was surprised that "Fixing a Hole" only brought one comment on the blog and three or four e-mails.  I have been in touch with a friend of mine from Medway who is trying to come up with a cheap and reasonable way to fix the hole.

...MICHAEL GRAHAM...- I guess the only people in MetroWest who really care about the Michael Graham situation are Jennie Maroney and me (well, not counting Michael Graham and his family, since they live in MetroWest)!  I think I can speak for Jennie Maroney in that the lack of interest in the unethical deed that WTKK-FM has done to Michael Graham really saddens Jennie and me, but, sadly, I guess that's life in fast-paced twenty-first century America.

MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT AN AIRLINE AND A MUFFLER SHOP - I got some flack on and off the blog for that.  My wife feels very strongly that I should not air personal frustrations on the blog.  I will admit that the reason I like Christy Mihos so much and that I'll probably vote for him is that I AM a "Christy Mihos"- eccentric, outspoken, and not afraid to stand alone.  I also know that when you ARE a "Christy Mihos" type, you often DO stand alone... well, why do you think he's only at 7% in the polls?  SO, should I keep the personal frustration stuff off the blog?

I usually share a Bible verse with each posting.  How about John 11:35 "Jesus Wept" ?

Tuesday, October 3, 2006


“He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”  (Proverbs 18:9)

Today I’m talking trash.  No, there won’t be any obscenities used, and I’m not talking about celebrity gossip, nor am I talking about dirty laundry.  I’m literally talking about TRASH- the stuff we throw out every week.

In the Local section (for the Framingham area) of yesterday’s MetroWest Daily News is an article by D. Craig MacCormack about the Town of Framingham’s limit on how much trash a household can throw out and expect the Town to pick up each week.  The title is, “Residents ask to bag trash limit” and the subtitle reads, “People with larger families say three sacks isn’t enough”.   A notice went out to Framingham residents a few weeks ago stating that while the amount of recyclables that can be put out each week is unlimited, the amount of just plain trash is pretty much limited to three of what I call the “large green trash bags” per week.  I read the notice a few weeks ago, but in fact I was not aware that this has been Framingham’s policy since 1999.

I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but honestly, there ARE ways around the trash limitation.  For example, if you live in an “older” neighborhood on the southside in which there are many two or three family houses and you happen to live in a single family home which looks just like the multifamily dwellings your house abuts, you can put out six bags and the trash men will assume your house is a two family.  You could also sort of cut a deal with your neighbors so that when you have a particularly large amount of trash on a particular week, you can just place an extra bag in front of their residence, and when they have a particularly large amount of trash, they can just reciprocate.

In fact, I think Framingham is pretty reasonable when it comes to trash collection.  Ashland and Natick have that awful “pay as you throw” business where you have to buy special trash bags with weird and distinctive colors.  Usually the bags are flimsy, and the whole thing becomes a real nuisance.  As reasonable as Framingham is, the most reasonable community for trash collection in the Boston area is Canton.  Canton’s trash collectors will pretty much pick up ANY amount of trash in any configuration (with the exception of hazardous waste, of course) and never give the homeowners a problem.

I make it a point to have our family’s trash properly and securely bagged.  I also recycle the overwhelming majority of our newspapers, magazines, bottles, cans, and cardboard.  I marvel at the number of people in Framingham who throw huge cardboard boxes out with their trash, as well as huge hunks of styrofoam.  The stuff just stays out there forever.  The only way to get that stuff picked up is that it’s GOT to be cut up in pieces that are no bigger than two feet in any direction and it’s got to be properly bundled/secured.  Some people put out barrels of loose trash.  For many reasons, that’s just asking for trouble!

Maybe I should give a class on local cable T.V. on how to put out your trash!  My wife and kids would laugh, but in our home I’m the “Felix Unger” and indeed I “properly”  put out the trash and recyclables each week.

I’m really not a recycling nut, but it’s just gotten to be a habit.  When Framingham started mandatory recycling about fifteen years ago, I was one of those who grumbled.  Today, I just do it out of habit and I really think it’s a good idea.  Recycling and limitations on trash are frankly very “liberal/blue state” ideas.  As conservative and Republican as I am, that “environmentally friendly” stuff has gotten into my blood.  When I’ve stayed with my friends in Springfield, Missouri I’ve been shocked that in that very “conservative/red state” place, there is virtually NO recycling.  Each family has a big trash dispenser on wheels.  You put ALL your trash in there and I mean all, and it just gets picked up and dumped, almost with an attitude of “we pollute and we don’t recycle and we’re proud of it”.  When I’ve asked my Missouri friends about it they’ve said, “Well, we DID recycle when we lived in Pennsylvania, but here nobody recycles...this is just how we do it here!”

SO, maybe the Framingham trash rules aren’t so bad after all.  I hope there was at least SOMETHING about this posting that you liked.  If not, well, just TRASH it!