Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." (Galatians 2:10)

On Tuesday morning of this week, a group of Assemblies of God ministers from central Massachusetts visited the "New England Dream Center" located in inner city Worcester, only a few blocks from the D.C.U. Center (the former "Worcester Centrum").  After hearing about all that is happening through the ministry of the Dream Center, over a hearty breakfast, and then touring the facility, I think most of us felt like the words of Mark 2:12, "...We never saw it on this fashion".

The New England Dream Center is largely modeled after the Los Angeles Dream Center, which was established in inner city Los Angeles, California by First Assembly of God of Phoenix, Arizona, one of the Assemblies of God's key "mega-churches".  Having once served on the Board of a Christian non-profit ministry (New England Aftercare Ministries-The Bridge House) I am well aware of how difficult it is to establish a Christian social service ministry in Massachusetts.  Usually, there are almost insurmountable hurdles to face from city and state officials, not to mention "Not in My Back Yard" neighborhood groups.  Funds are also always a problem.  Maintaining buildings can be a nightmare.  The fact that the New England Center has gone from an abstract dream to a first-class thriving  ministry facility is (to say the least) miraculous!

The New England Dream Center was the brainchild of Pastor Will Bard of Shrewsbury's Liberty Assembly of God, a thriving church of several hundred, located on Route 20 in Shrewsbury.  In 2004, God literally made the way for the purchase of the former Chestnut Street Congregational Church located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester.  Built in 1895, the church was modeled after France's Notre Dame Cathedral and was once called "The Cathedral of Worcester".  Sadly, by 1984, the church had dwindled to only about twenty-five people.  The building was sold to one wealthy individual.  He leased out the parking out, but just held onto the building doing very little with it.  After the purchase, over 300 construction volunteers renovated the entire facility bringing it up to modern codes.  The cost was $400,000. Without volunteer labor, the cost would have been close to three million!  But that was only the beginning.  Since then, the Dream Center has opened and has offered the community a food pantry, clothing distribution, recovery programs including Narcotics Anonymous,  E.S.L. classes, G.E.D. classes, performing arts programs, a legal clinic, and much more.  On Sunday morning, the Center becomes Liberty City Church.  Pastor Bard comes in to preach at the 10 a.m. service.  (Bard also conducts an early morning service at his original church in Shrewsbury, and an 11 a.m. service back in Shrewsbury.  I hope he doesn't get too many speeding tickets!)  At this time of the year, the New England Dream Center also gives hundreds of toys to  the needy through the donations of local businesses.

Bard believes the New England Dream Center will ultimately have similar "satellite" centers throughout New England (maybe downtown Framingham...why not?).

The New England Dream Center is always looking for donations and volunteers.  I also know there's a newspaper reporter or two who read this blog- this would make a great feature story!

The New England Dream Center is located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester.  Their telephone number is 508-757-3333.  On the web, you can go to   and you can e-mail to

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


“Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, ...” (from Deuteronomy 19:14)

I know this story MAY not put my father in the best light, and it’s really not meant to dishonor him, but here goes...Back in 1959 when I was only four and a half, our family spent a week’s vacation in Harwichport, MA on Cape Cod.  We usually went to Dennisport, but that year, my father and my Aunt Flo rented a house in Harwichport.  We had the first floor, and Aunt Flo’s family had the second floor.   Sometimes, we went to the beach at the public beach at Harwichport, but there was a private beach my father used to like to sneak onto.  We snuck onto the private beach several times and got away with it.  One time, we did NOT get away with it.  A very snooty  Yankee woman came out pointing to the “Private Beach” sign and yelled, “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”  Yes, she pronounced it “preevate”!  For years whenever we were driving and would see a sign saying “Private Way” or “Private Drive” or whatever, my father would almost involuntarily (to try to be funny) yell out,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”

Many times at our 32 South Street church building’s parking lot, I have wanted to yell,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”  at unauthorized parkers.

Many of you know that our building is the former U.A.W. union hall.  We have a paved lot directly behind our building which can accommodate 34 cars, and then we have a dirt/gravel lot adjacent to it which can accommodate around 12 cars.  At the time we bought the building, both lots were routinely being used by the neighborhood, MBTA commuters, and essentially “everybody and their brother”.  The building DOES have a sign (now badly faded) which reads, “No Unauthorized Parking.  Violators will be towed”.  Within the first few weeks (in 1994) of moving the church to that location, I essentially struck a deal with the (somewhat pushy) neighborhood that I’d let them park in the dirt/gravel lot, but that the paved lot was absolutely off limits.  It took awhile, but finally that arrangement pretty well stuck.  Over the years I’ve had at least twenty cars towed.  I usually won’t tow a car unless it’s been on the property at least 48 hours straight.  A couple of years ago, a real estate agent friend of mine told me it was a really bad idea to allow ANY neighborhood parking on our property...that such an arrangement- however informal- can be considered an “easement” and could cause major problems for us in the future.  Since then, I’ve been periodically leaving official parking policy flyers on any car (outside of our “church family”) which parks in either lot.  We still allow neighbors to park there, but the flyer very politely lets them know we aren’t crazy about it.   Since I started doing that a couple of years ago, the amount of neighborhood parkers has declined.

One issue is that adjacent to our property is a housing complex for the disabled at 40 Taylor St. which has a woefully inadequate parking lot.  Many of the “Personal Care Assistants” who work at 40 Taylor St. park in our dirt/gravel lot.  Last week, I blanketed all cars in the lots with flyers, as I hadn’t done that in about 4 months.  A 40ish guy who is trying to dress and act like a cool 20ish guy came over and talked to me.  He was kind of “bent out of shape” that I had put a flyer on his girlfriend’s P.C.A.’s car.

“If she can’t have a P.C.A. we’re gonna be real upset!” he said.

I told him that for now I don’t have a problem with the P.C.A. parking there, but I also told him about the potential easement problem and that I’ve been advised that legally I’m foolish to allow ANY non-church parking EVER in either lot.  He realized that instead of being a jerk to the P.C.A. I’m actually being a pretty nice guy to her, and he backed off.

WHY the Town of Framingham EVER allowed the 40 Taylor Street property to be built (in the early 1990s) with a woefully inadequate parking lot is beyond me.  I hope this piece hasn’t bored you, but I just  wanted to vent about this stuff.  I didn’t even tell you about the FRONT END LOADER that the owners of the Chicken Bone Restaurant have parked on our property for several days without our permission!

I wish people would just respect private property!  Yes,  “Don’t cha know what the PREEVATE is for?!”

Saturday, November 25, 2006


“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:” (3 John 13)

A number of years ago, an older woman in our congregation asked me if God is speeding up time and making things go faster.  I told her “no”, although I don’t think she quite believed me.  At this time of year, I’m almost ready to say that maybe she’s right!  I find that the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the fastest period of any year.  As a kid, I absolutely loved Christmas.  By the time I was 40, I absolutely hated it.   Now, at 52, I’m kind of “in between” about it, but it definitely is not my favorite time of the year.  I’ll write more about this in another entry, but what I’m thinking about today is Christmas cards.

Friday morning, I updated my Christmas card list (stored in my office computer) as well as my Christmas card mailing labels list.  That IS a great blessing; up until just a few years ago, I did all the Christmas card stuff by hand.  I know this entry could easily start wandering all over the place and make little sense, so I’m going to try to give it some sort of an order that I’ll call CHRISTMAS PAST, CHRISTMAS PRESENT, and CHRISTMAS FUTURE.

CHRISTMAS PAST:  Back in the 1960s, Christmas cards were a very big deal.  Unless you were Jewish, if you were an American, you sent out and received lots and lots of Christmas cards!  Even some Jewish people DID send them out...usually theirs said something like “Seasons Greetings”.  I well remember my mother writing the Christmas cards.  I can remember helping to put the stamps on them.  The first year or two that I was married, it quickly became evident to me that cataloging and sending Christmas cards was not my wife’s thing.  Our cards went out very late.  By the mid-1980s, I told her I would take on the Christmas cards as my project each year.  I put together elaborate Christmas address lists, and carefully bought, wrote out, and sent cards each year.  At our Framingham residence, each year I have hung up the Christmas cards we’ve received.   Some years we got so many I almost had no more room to hang them!  I also used to do one of those “Baril Family Newsletter” things with my Christmas cards.  A few years ago, a friend tactfully told me she dislikes those newsletters that come with Christmas cards, and that she calls them “brag letters”.  I realized that I liked WRITING my letter, but I didn’t like READING other people’s letters, so I stopped doing a newsletter with the cards.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT:  In the past few years, I’ve noticed the number of Christmas cards we’ve received has really gone down.  Each year, there are fewer, although I still send about the same amount (around 65-70).  Sending them IS getting more and more expensive.  People of the Twenty-First Century also seem to be SO busy that they just don’t have time to write and send Christmas cards anymore.  As I’ve written above, I kind of “cheat” with the mailing labels, which does save a lot of time.  My goal is to have all of my Christmas cards sent by Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).  I don’t always succeed with that, but once again, I’m going to try.

CHRISTMAS FUTURE:  I’m really debating whether I want to send Christmas cards after this year.  I AM going to send them this year, but I’ve considered including a note (photocopied and mass produced, of course) saying this will be the last year I’ll be sending Christmas cards.  I have not made a final decision about it.  It’s just that I think the custom is  dying, and I’m reevaluating the whole thing.  I know some will suggest I should send all e-cards for Christmas.  I hope this will not offend anyone, but I absolutely will NOT send e-cards for Christmas -  EVER.  I love e-mail, and I enjoy the blog, and a lot of other stuff about computers and the internet, but a Christmas card is a card.  It’s made of “card stock”.  It’s something somebody held and signed and dropped in a mail box and that you hang up for others to see.  That’s a card.  I won’t send Christmas e-cards.  Some churches display one large Christmas card and have everybody in the congregation sign it in lieu of sending Christmas cards.  Honestly, THAT’S kind of a cop out, too.  So, I haven’t made a final decision.  Maybe I’ll STILL be writing and sending Christmas cards in 2026 ... only God knows ...

I’m truly curious.  Do you send Christmas cards?  Do you think I should keep up the practice or is it something from a bygone era?  

I’d really like to know.  Please post a comment or e-mail me at

Thursday, November 23, 2006


“In every thing give thanks:  for this is he will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

One of the most unfortunate parts of Thanksgiving is that it’s SUPPOSED to be a day of giving thanks - to God, and others- and so often it’s just a day for “pigging out”.  All that said, I really like Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Easter are my favorite holidays of the year.  And I even like Patriots Day, which we in Massachusetts have in mid-April.  I’m NOT real big on Christmas.  I know that may surprise people, but I’ll write more about that in a few weeks.

I’m thankful for all sorts of things:

I’m thankful for Mr. Carrier or WHOEVER invented air conditioning about a hundred years ago.  Even with the problems of mold growing in condensers and the ozone layer being destroyed, I still am a big fan of air conditioning!

I’m thankful for automatic transmission cars.  No, I’m just not one of those European stick-shift types!  In fact, I’m thankful for cars!

I’m thankful for hot and cold running water.  Much of the world has NO clean water.  Having clean, running water is a TREMENDOUS blessing!

I’m thankful for how much razors have improved in my lifetime!  I started shaving at around 14 with a typical 1960s Gillette razor with the old fashioned razor blades.  The original Trac II came out when I was 16 and it was marvelous compared to traditional blades.  However today’s MACH 3 blades are WAY better than Trac II - and I haven’t even tried Gillette Fusion yet!

I’m thankful for eyeglasses.  If I lived in the time of Jesus, I’d be walking into trees and other things all the time!  I’m quite nearsighted, and I need glasses for reading, too, which is why I’m thankful for “progressive lenses”.

I’m thankful for coffee.  My mother was a big coffee drinker.  My Dad wasn’t. My siblings never cared for coffee.  My wife and kids don’t like coffee, but I just love the stuff!

I’m thankful for good health.

I’m thankful for my wife, Mary Ann.  She has been a very good wife to me; probably a better wife to me than I’ve been a husband to her.  Being married to a pastor who makes very little money and who has a unique and eccentric personality has GOT to be challenging!

I’m thankful for my kids.  Jon, age 23 has a very high I.Q. and is a phenomenal writer.  He didn’t get his brains from me!  Amy, age 21, is going to make a great nurse.  She’s a real “go getter” (more than I am) and very compassionate.  Rachel, age 20, is a very talented artist and actress.  She’s good enough to be some sort of a famous performer.  I’m not just saying that ‘cause she’s my kid- she really is THAT gifted.

I’m thankful for you who read this blog.  As Billy Crystal says in “Throw Momma From the Train”:  “a writer writes”.  Well, that’s true, but if nobody ever read the stuff- well, what would be the point of it?

And, I’m thankful most of all for the Lord Jesus Christ and His great salvation.  He’s really made everything possible!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Last week, I received a mass e-mail that is making the rounds among (mostly) evangelicals.  It’s an exciting story saying that Billy Graham just led a victory march through New Orleans “winning souls for Christ” (as we say) singing and praising God, and testifying that “like Caleb, although I’m 85-years-old I have the strength of a young man”.  Sadly, the story is COMPLETELY UNTRUE.  An Assemblies of God minister checked out the story with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  They said the story is spreading all over the internet like wildfire, but is not true at all.  Sunday morning, someone else sent me that same story, and I e-mailed the sender back advising him that the story is not true.

I guess some prankster wanted to make fools of born-again Christians in general and of Billy Graham specifically.  Maybe the Christians who don’t check out the story but simply believe it ARE fools; but Billy Graham certainly does not deserve to be characterized in that way.

In fact, Billy Graham is not 85, he is 88.  Billy turned 88 on November 7.  I know that because November 7 happens to be my sister’s birthday.  (Obviously, my sister is a lot younger than Dr. Graham!)

I have enormous respect for Billy Graham.  He is probably the person I’ve most admired in life.  I’d love to (even briefly) meet Billy Graham in person and have a short conversation with him.  I don’t suppose that will happen in this life.  I first heard the true Gospel from Billy Graham’s lips via television in late 1969.  At that time, I didn’t understand it, but I was intrigued by Graham’s preaching.  Through the “witness” and encouragement of my friend George Barnett, I wrote away to Graham’s organization during the Summer of 1970.  They sent me back a letter with several pamphlets telling me how to receive Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior and Lord.  I did so at that time.  I also took the Graham “Christian Life and Witness Course” by mail in 1970.  It was very simple discipleship material, but it made a big difference in my life.  In the 1970s, I devoured anything by Billy Graham that I possibly could, and I watched him on television and listened to him on radio as much as possible.  Billy Graham made a HUGE difference in my life.  My early evangelical Christian theology and philosophy came from Billy Graham, and I have no doubt that his influence comes through in my ministry today.

Graham is NOT a typical televangelist.  Although his books have generated a huge income, he has turned most of the royalties over to Christian ministry and has kept only a small percentage for himself.  (I don’t think I’d have been as generous, were I receiving large royalties!)
Graham lives in a nice but simple house in the mountains of western North Carolina.  All of his expenses for attending his Crusades were (of course) covered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associaton (which is NOT run by Graham, but by a Board of upright Christian leaders and businessmen). However, Billy Graham took a relatively modest salary which I don’t think ever got above 5 figures annually.  

Billy Graham’s personal friendship with President Richard Nixon confused a lot of people.  He was seen as a shill for Nixon and the Republican party.  That’s ironic, because Graham is actually a Democrat and was probably closer to Lyndon Johnson that he was to Richard Nixon.  Some liberals have criticized Graham for being a defender of the Establishment and the status quo.  In fact, Billy Graham took a very strong stand for civil rights in the 1950s- praising Martin Luther King, Jr., and insisting that all of the Billy Graham crusades held in the South be fully integrated.

No, that e-mail about New Orleans is not true.  But it IS true that Billy Graham is a fine, decent man who loves God and has been used of God to bless many people including me.

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)  

He has!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


"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)

Not long ago on this blog I "took a shot" at Boston's 96.9 FMTalk for its shoddy treatment of radio talk show host Michael Graham.  Today, I want to take a shot at their AM competitor, WRKO "The Talk Station".

In a "nice" move for the holidays. WRKO "canned" their entire news staff! It's all covered in The Boston Herald (Friday, November 17, 2006) on page 7.  On Thursday afternoon of this week, the news staff was called in and "axed" to use the Herald's term.  That includes Listo Fisher who was a mainstay at the old WHDH radio before he came to 'RKO.  (Larry Glick fans may remember Larry's silly song, "Listo Fisher is my pal"!)  We also won't hear Rod Fritz, Paul Tuthill, Marga Bessette, Mary Blake or any of the rest of 'em anymore.  Instead we get to hear Generic right-wing national news from the Fox News Network.  (96.9 FMTalk DOES have Generic left-wing CNN news late at night and on weekends, to be fair, but during the weekdays, they've got Ed Cherubino and Hank Morse who cover the local news and do a super job.  They also feature headlines from NBC.)

What 'RKO did is actually much nastier than what 96.9 FMTalk did to Michael Graham.  Do people really care THAT much about news personalities?  Well, let me tell you a story...

There is a woman named Tammy who is a Member of our church.  She lives in a housing complex for the disabled.  Tammy has been through some real difficulties in life.  A few years ago, I was quite surprised when she told me she was going to spend a major holiday in the Midwest with former WRKO newsman Owen May and his wife.  I remembered that Owen May used to be the weekend guy who did the news during the Mo Lauzier shows around 1990. I asked Tammy how she knew them.  She told me that during those years when she was desperately lonely, she would call Owen May because he was such a pleasant person to listen to on the radio.  May and his wife took a real interest in Tammy and befriended her.  They've stayed in close contact.  Once again, this Christmas, Tammy will be going to the Midwest to spend Christmas with Owen May and his wife.  It's touching to hear that a radio broadcaster who is a (small scale) celebrity and his wife have such a holiday spirit as to want to help and encourage a lonely person who doesn't have many relatives.  It would be nice if the WRKO management had a small fraction of that holiday spirit.

No, I'm not going to STOP listening to WRKO, but if I want local news I'll listen to WBZ or 96.9 FMTalk, but NOT 'RKO!

Friday, November 17, 2006


"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;" (Matthew 26:27)

One guy I enjoy seeing at the New England Pastors' Prayer Summit is the Rev. Walden Chandler of St. George, Maine.  Walden looks a bit like Mister Clean.  He's both a pastor and a fire department chaplain.  A few years ago, Walden broke out the Moxie at the Prayer Summit and only the bravest of souls imbibed!  At the time, I hadn't had Moxie for quite awhile, although I'd had it on occasion.  I was one of the handful who drank the Moxie and enjoyed it!  That kind of started a tradition at the Prayer Summit and each year we look for Walden and Moxie!

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the origin of carbonated soft drinks.  I got some good feedback about that piece.  I don't want to go into all of that detail again, but I will say that Moxie originated in the late 1800s as a "tonic" (as did Coca-Cola) and that's why older people in the Boston area still call carbonated beverages "tonic".  The original name of the Moxie company was the Moxie Nerve Food Company!  Moxie tastes SOMETHING like Dr. Pepper, but it tastes even more like a very strong and slightly bitter root beer.  It's got caffeine.  Today, Moxie and the much newer Diet Moxie are bottled and sold by Coca-Cola.  My understanding is that Moxie's strongest market is Maine, but that it's sold throughout New England and parts of Pennsylvania.  I've seen it at Stop & Shop supermarkets.

Walden wore his orange Moxie tee-shirt on the last day of the Prayer Summit.  He served Moxie in small paper cups for anyone who was "game" to try it.  For us hearty souls (like me) we got to drink it in twelve-once cans.  I had a total of three cans of Moxie this week.  I'm a Dr. Pepper drinker, which I think is actually stronger than Moxie-though less bitter, so I had no problem enjoying Moxie.  I may pick some up from time to time, and each time I drink it, I'll think of Walden, the Moxie man!

I dare ya, try some Moxie if you've "got any Moxie"!


This will be very short, but as an addendum to the last entry, I returned from the Prayer Summit yesterday afternoon.  It was outstanding- the best one I've ever attended!
I am not usually at a loss for words, but no matter what I write it would never and could never do it justice.

Well, I'm back and it's POURING rain in Framingham as I write- the next couple of days will be very busy- but I'm very glad I went to the Prayer Summit.

I'll try to have a "regular entry" tomorrow or very soon!

Sunday, November 12, 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)

This week I am going to the 15th Annual New England Pastors’ Prayer Summit (sponsored by “Vision New England”) at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in W. Swanzey, New Hampshire (just south of Keene, NH).   This will be my 8th “Prayer Summit”.

It is very hard to describe what Prayer Summit is like.  I usually tell people it’s a prayer retreat- and it is, but it’s more than that.  I went to my first Prayer Summit at Pilgrim Pines back in 1994. at someone’s invitation.  I was scared to death.  I wondered how I was going to pray CONSTANTLY for three days straight.  I wondered if we would fast the whole time.  (I’ve never fasted much more than 30 hours straight, and I just didn’t think I could do it!)  I wondered if I was totally inadequate for this great spiritual experience.  That year, I was relieved to find out that we would eat a total of 9 meals at the Prayer Summit- each of them fit for a king!  Some stayed in rustic cottages around Swanzey Lake, and some stayed in more plush townhouse facilities at the conference center.  Over the years I’ve stayed in both type accommodations, and I actually like the rustic ones better, because when you stay in those facilities, those accommodation actually have  more privacy.  

Most of the meetings are in a beautiful hexagonal chapel that’s simple but modern.   We sit in a circle in moveable chairs.  Sometimes we pray as a group.  Sometimes we break into small groups to “share and pray”.  Sometimes we sing contemporary Christian “Praise & Worship” songs.  Each year we’re given free time and encouraged to spend it walking around the lake (about 3 miles all the way around), or sitting quietly in the parlor of the main conference center, or just laying down in our beds.   After three days, I always leave feeling very uplifted and refreshed.  

The Prayer Summits HAVE changed a bit.  Originally, they were just for pastors.  Now, 90% of those who attend are pastors, but they’ve been opened up to lay leaders.  Last year, women were allowed to attend for the first time.  I did not go last year, so I don’t know how that went.  I used to like the Prayer Summits as kind of a spiritual  “guys bonding thing” but I guess I can’t complain because we also get that at Promise Keepers.

I will be leaving for the Prayer Summit on Monday morning and will be home late Thursday afternoon.  I’m not sure when I’ll post on the blog again... when I return, I’m sure I’ll be “wicked busy” as we Bostonians say!

Friday, November 10, 2006


“Thus have I been twenty years in thy house;”  (from Genesis 31:41)

Fans of The Beatles will recognize that,  “It was 20 years ago today” is a line from the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  I’m in a reflective mood today.  I’ve been thinking about the fact that it’s been roughly twenty years that I’ve been at First Assembly of God of Framingham.  The small church’s previous pastor, The Rev. Tom Gurney, left in August 1986 after having been pastor for a little over eight years.   At the time, I was serving as an Assistant Pastor at a large church in Walpole.  I first came to the Framingham church as a guest speaker on a Sunday morning in October of 1986.  Shortly thereafter, I was invited to meet with the church’s Pulpit Committee.  We did meet on a weeknight in early November of 1986.  I was craving Dunkin’ Donuts when I arrived at that meeting, and I guess it was a “God thing” that they had Dunkin’ Donuts as refreshments that night!

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I “candidated” to be the pastor of the Framingham church.  In the Assemblies of God,  like most other Pentecostal bodies, as well as Baptist and Congregational churches, the local church usually chooses their pastor, actually voting “yes” or “no” in a secret ballot vote.  I got a unanimous “yes” vote that day.

My wife and I, along with our three preschool children, moved into the church owned residence on Harrison Street on a very snowy Saturday in early January of 1987.  I was 32.  I was filled with energy and idealism.  I was (honestly) very impractical and inexperienced.  I envisioned this little church of (give or take) around 45 people growing to hundreds.  The church DID grow over the first couple of years.  (In those days we were in a small wooden church building with no parking lot at Hartford and C Streets.)  Unfortunately, the church shrunk again.  Over the coming twenty years it would grow and shrink and grow and shrink, although we never had more than 85 people at a time.   Currently, we have fewer people than when I came.  In 2001 and 2002, we came very close to closing the church’s doors, but we are actually starting to slowly grow again.  I have a “Christy Mihos” personality.  People either really love me or can’t stand me!  Over the years I’ve been told I’m everything from virtually the greatest pastor alive, to the phoniest and sleaziest pastor alive!  I will say, I’m much more mature than I was in 1987.  I’m much less impulsive.  I tend to be much more realistic.  In those days I was on the far right politically.  I guess today I’d be classified as “moderate” or “slightly right of center” politically.  I began to get very community-minded  somewhere around ten years ago, and that involvement has grown.  Today, I’m widely known around town, whereas in the late 1980s, pretty much nobody outside the church knew I existed.   My late mother struggled with weight and I’ve got that tendency.  I’m forty pounds heavier than I was the day I candidated for the church in November of 1986!  I had only a few stray gray hairs then- now it’s getting to be pretty much “salt and pepper”.  My youngest is now 20 and a Sophomore in college.  

On Thursday,  I made a deposit at the BankNorth on Franklin Street.  The teller was the person my wife and I opened a bank account with at the old Pioneer Financial Bank in 1987, which was on Union Avenue between the police station and the Memorial Building.  (The Town now has a municipal parking lot on that site.)  I wondered if that teller would remember that?  (I didn’t ask!)  That was ANOTHER Framingham, in many respects.  There were very few Brazilians in Framingham at that time.  I think there was one Brazilian business in downtown Framingham.  There was still a Brigham’s ice cream and sandwich shop in downtown Framingham, and there was Laurence Stationery.  Duca’s was still a “hot” nite spot on Route 9 (on the site of what’s now Walgreen’s at Prospect Street.)  There was a very old-fashioned  Stop & Shop at Beaver Street and Route 135.  What’s now the “Han Dynasty” on Concord Street was “Wallace’s” a landmark family restaurant.

At that time, I was amazed at the longevity of the clergy in town.  The Lutheran pastor had been in Framingham since 1955!  The Episcopalian rector had been in Town since 1961!  These guys remembered shepherding their people through the Cuban missile crisis and the J.F.K. assassination.  I could not imagine what if would feel like to be in Framingham THAT long.  Now I pretty much know!  

It freaks me out, because when I add twenty years to my present age, I’ll be 72.  Will I still be pastoring then, or will I be retired?  (Will I even still be on this earth?!)  I WOULD love to see the church grow to at least a hundred and become a much more stable congregation!  I’d also like to see our church make much more of an impact in the community.  I have dreams for myself, as well.  I’m a very good speaker, and I’d love to book a number of speaking engagements outside of the Framingham church.  I DID book a number of speaking engagements a couple of years ago, but after awhile I got SO tired of trying to sell myself as a speaker that I kind of gave up on it...maybe that was a mistake.  I’d love to write a regular newspaper column.  I’d love to have a part-time radio talk show.  But I will never put anything ABOVE pastoring, which is probably the highest calling God will ever give an ordinary human being.

Well, to quote a singer from my kids’ generation (Avril Lavigne), “I’m wishin’ my life away, with these things I’ll never say...”

Listen, make the most of EVERY day- twenty years goes by really fast!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


“I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  (I Timothy 2:1-2)

Yup.  We are supposed to pray for those who are in authority, whether or not we like them or agree with them.  I realize that may raise many questions, and I can’t possibly deal with them all in this piece.  My motivation is to try to give comforting words to any readers who are disappointed in this week’s election results.

I have a friend in Texas who is SO disappointed in the election results that it’s possible a suicide watch should be started.  I’m half kidding but I’m half serious.  He essentially believes that living in an America with liberal Democrats controlling the Congress is the equivalent of living someplace like North Korea!  I don’t agree, but judging from the depressed and angry e-mails Rush Limbaugh yesterday claimed to be receiving from devastated conservative listeners, there are a lot of folks who feel the way my Texas friend does.

I remember when Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992.  As a “Ronald Reagan conservative Republican” I was certainly not happy.  It was very hard to believe Clinton won- especially after Dukakis lost so badly in 1988 and Walter Mondale was trounced in 1984.  I had an Assemblies of God ministers’ meeting in Worcester the morning after Clinton’s election.  Many guys were so down, you’d have thought their kids had just been murdered or something.  The speaker, who was the pastor of the First Assembly of God of Worcester at the time, spoke to the issue.

“What is wrong with you?” he asked the group.  “Why are you so downcast?  Isn’t the Lord still on His throne in Heaven?  What’s the matter with you?”

He got that group to snap out of it, and he was correct.  The Apostle Paul lived under the rule of cruel despots, yet he urged his readers to pray for those in authority.   I did not vote for Deval Patrick.  I did not vote for Ted Kennedy.  Very few that I voted for won.  But I’m commanded to pray for those in authority.  And, I’m to respect them, though I may not agree with them.

Scott Allen Miller, the morning drive host on Boston’s WRKO has a clip of Deval Patrick from one of the debates in which Patrick says, “I gotta look at that”.  Sometimes he plays that clip and plays it and plays it.  It’s kind of funny.  To those who are not happy with the election results and who don’t feel like praying for authorities with whom you don’t agree, I hope you won’t ignore what the Bible says.  I hope you’ll at least say,  “I gotta look at that”!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006


"And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man."  (Mark 7:20)

This is Election Day.  It's also my sister's birthday.  Ironically, Primary Day (September 19) was MY birthday!  I had originally intended to write about Election Day- and I'll touch on it at the end- but I first want to reflect upon two experiences with jerks that I had recently.  I realize that many people consider politicians to be jerks, and many of them are, but neither of these incidents featured a politician.

Jerk Number One was encountered on Saturday.  A group of us drove out to Westfield State College to see "Into the Woods" a sort of bizarre, symbolic musical featuring virtually every European fairy tale you can think of.  My daughter Rachel, a Sophomore at W.S.C. had a leading role in the play.  The cast did a great job.  The Jerk was an overzealous parent in the audience.  This guy had a camcorder on a tripod set up right in the middle of the audience.  Now, a limited number of people ARE allowed to tape the performances as long as permission is granted ahead of time.  In fact, my son taped the performance- from the back row where he would not disturb anyone.  My sister (today's birthday girl) could not believe the rudeness of Tripod Man who stood there videotaping, blocking a number of people's views, and acting like a total buffoon.  She actually went to some of the students who were in charge of the production and complained.  Unfortunately, no 20ish college kid was going to tell the 45ish buffoon to cease and desist.  Technically, he DID have permission to record the show, but he lacked the grace and manners that my son who is half his age had.  My sister was pretty steamed, but I thought the guy was SUCH a jerk that at one point it struck me so funny and I laughed so hard I almost got sick!

Jerk Number Two was encountered Monday morning at McDonald's on Route 30 in Framingham.  No, he wasn't an employee.  He was a customer.  I've seen this guy around town.  He is at least 80 and drives a huge, white older model Lincoln.  He also works as a greeter at one of those mega department stores.  At the counter, the guy started yelling at the employees like a madman!  Ever see the film "Falling Down"?  It was actually very much like that.  Thank God, there was no gun!  If there was there might have been some fatalities.   Donna, the manager of that McDonald's could not be nicer or more customer friendly.  He threatened her and yelled at her in a manner you'd imagine a Nazi guard speaking to a Jewish prisoner or a 1950s southern  white racist sheriff dressing down a young black man.  She told him, "If you don't like it her, go someplace else."  I don't blame her, but it was like throwing flames on a fire.  I felt bad for her.  It was really awful for her and everyone in McDonald's yesterday morning.

I know they say, "Things run in threes".  I just hope I don't have to experience another such jerk TOO soon!

Now, back to Election Day, I know a lot of politicians ARE jerks.  But there are some good ones, too.  I am planning to vote today.  I expect most of the people I'll vote for to lose.  I don't vote to "pick a winner" like so many do.  I vote for the person I really want even if that person is at 1% in the polls.  Back in 1990 I voted for Len Umina for Governor and he was pretty low in the polls, so that will just give you an idea of what I'm talking about!  Regardless of how things turn out, I'm always pleased to go and cast my ballot.  The poll workers in Framingham are usually very nice, but if there are any jerks that give them a hard time, I'll write about that!

Saturday, November 4, 2006


“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”  (I Timothy 5:23)

Many American evangelical Protestants have a major problem with the above Bible verse.  Many also have a major problem believing Jesus drank wine and argue that he actually drank grape juice.  In fact, Welch’s Grape Juice was developed in the Nineteenth Century by Mr. Welch who was a very devout Christian and developed Welch’s Grape Juice as an alternative to wine for Communion services.  To this day many churches, including the one I pastor, use Welch’s Grape Juice at Communion!  Up until the 1950s, most “born-again Christians” did not drink alcoholic beverages at all.  That’s changing a bit, although I don’t drink and haven’t had an alcoholic beverage to drink in over thirty years.

The topic of why American evangelicals have shunned drinking is one I may tackle another day, but the above was just an introduction to what I have to say about Question #1 on the ballot in Massachusetts this coming Tuesday.   Question #1 would allow the sale of wine at grocery stores and convenience stores.  The liquor store lobby is conducting a media blitz opposing Question #1.  One of the latest ads is the testimony of the Somerville Police Chief who practically expects anarchy if Question #1 passes.  My late parents would NEVER have voted for Question #1- partly because my father was a “career law enforcement professional” and partly because my late brother was an alcoholic.  That said, I’m probably going to shock some people because I’m voting FOR Question #1!

In 34 states, wine (and in most cases, beer, too) is sold at grocery stores and convenience stores.  In the Bible-belt city of Springfield, Missouri you can find beer and wine prominently displayed (and sold) at virtually all supermarkets.   That’s not only true today; it was true back in the 1970s when I was in school there.  In fact, the supermarkets there were all open on Sundays back in the 1970s when that was taboo in Massachusetts due to the blue laws.  In Missouri, they don’t have anarchy because they sell wine in the supermarkets- far from it!

Again, I don’t drink alcohol at all!  But I don’t see what the big deal is.  I realize the liquor stores are very threatened by this change.  In fact, in the Bible Belt there are FEWER liquor stores than there are here, and it’s probably because beer and wine are regularly purchased at supermarkets.  Let me ask you something, would you like to see FEWER liquor stores around?  Then vote YES on Question #1!  And, do you favor good old American competition and capitalism?  Then vote YES on Question #1.

That’s just my opinion.  But since I don’t drink, I can’t even say something like “I’ll drink to that!”  I guess I’ll have a Coca-Cola to that!

Friday, November 3, 2006


Just for the information of you readers to this blog, I have written an Opinion piece to the MetroWest Daily News about the Ted Haggard scandal.  I thought it would be more appropriate to submit it to the newspaper rather than post it here, because so many more people will read it.

Please watch the MetroWest Daily News over the next few days.  I fully expect them to run it.  You can go oon-line to
then click "Columnists" then look for "Baril".  I'd expect this to appear on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.


Thursday, November 2, 2006


“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!  for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

I don’t hate Mike Barnicle, but I guess he would hate me.

For those of you who don’t know who Mike Barnicle is, he has a late morning radio talk show on Boston’s 96.9 FMTalk.  He also “contributes” to the Chronicle newsmagazine show on Boston’s Channel 5, and is seen occasionally on MS-NBC.  Mike can be very interesting and entertaining and can be quite funny.  Mike Barnicle is probably about 65, from an Irish Catholic background, and I’d say he’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  He leans Democrat, but isn’t a strict partisan.  He’s pretty good at radio, although he constantly says he hates it, along with disdaining many of the callers.  There are so many people who would LOVE a shot at having their own radio talk show that it seems unfair for a guy who HAS one to hate it so much!

If you listened to Mike Barnicle’s program yesterday, you’ll probably think I want to write about Mike’s defense/explanation of John Kerry’s incredibly insensitive remarks a couple of days ago, but that’s NOT what this piece is about.

The reason I think Mike would hate me is not that I’m an avid talk radio listener- although I am.  The reason Mike would hate me is that I’m an evangelical Christian.

A few days ago he commented, “Have you ever met ANY of these EVANGELICALS?!  I mean their WHACKED!  They’re CRAZY!”

Can you imagine if he’d said that about Jews?  Or Mormons?  Or just about anybody else?  He wouldn't have.   Muslims believe they are the most hated religious group in America, but that MAY not be the case.  The stereotyping of evangelicals and the hatred of evangelicals is...well...sad.

Pollster George Barna categorizes “born-again Christians”  and “evangelicals” separately, but I don’t.  My experience is that the terms are pretty much synonymous.  Evangelical Christians believe that just being born into a Christian family, going to church, or having been baptized are not enough to merit Heaven.  We believe there MUST be a definite, distinct, personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  There are Roman Catholics who call themselves “born again” or “evangelical” although such folks make up only about 5% of American Roman Catholics.  Most evangelicals are Protestants.  In America, probably about 40% of Protestants could be classified as evangelicals.  That figure is probably only about 20% of Protestants in Massachusetts, but would be around 70% of Protestants in a  place like Dallas, Texas.

The stereotypical evangelical is white, of northern European extraction, Republican, ultra-conservative, very intolerant, and  wants to force America to become a fundamentalist Christian nation.   Now, there ARE some evangelicals like that.  But my experience is that they’re a minority.  Probably about 25% of evangelical Christians in America fit that description, but probably about 75% do not!  (Incidentally, did you know that at least HALF of the Brazilians living in the Framingham area are evangelicals?  Do THEY fit that description?!)  There are African-American evangelicals, Asians, even Native Americans.  The majority of evangelicals are politically moderate and most likely to NOT belong to any political party.  Admittedly, many evangelical LEADERS are conservative Republicans but that doesn’t tend to be true of the laity.  Some evangelicals are liberals.  Some are Democrats.  Did you know, for instance, that the world’s most famous evangelical Christian, Billy Graham, is a Democrat?

You may think I’m being very touchy about what Mike Barnicle said.  If this were the first time, I’d probably ignore it, but over the years he’s ignorantly taken shots at evangelical Christians time and time again.  I’d e-mail Mike Barnicle, but he doesn’t read his e-mail.  I’d write him a letter, but he’d never answer it.  

I’m just tired of the stereotyping and I wanted to put down my “two cents worth” about what it means to be an evangelical.