Saturday, September 29, 2007


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

If you’re a “talk radio junkie” like I am, you know that it’s a very active
time on the Boston area talk radio scene. On a sad note, popular WBZ evening host Paul Sullivan passed away from cancer just a few weeks ago. He had replaced David Brudnoy, who died from cancer in late 2004. On a happier note, Howie Carr has things hopping at both WRKO and WTKK. Carr has been in the process of “jumping” from his longtime syndicated afternoon gig at WRKO to become the morning drive man at WTKK. (Incidentally WTKK has changed it’s logo and image from “96.9 FMTalk” to “WTKK Boston’s Talk Evolution”- the new one is longer, harder to hear, and harder to remember- What were they
Howie, like most full-time popular radio show hosts is bound by a non-compete clause that he cannot jump from one station to another in the Boston market without a significant time off the air first (I THINK it’s 6 months in his case). Carr had hoped to start at 96.9 on Sept. 20. However, WRKO is challenging this and it’s still tied up legally. Howie says he will never come back to WRKO.
However, the station is still calling the afternoon drive program “The Howie Carr Show” with Todd Feinberg as the substitute. I have a feeling Todd may become quite a long term substitute. In the meantime Avi Nelson is the long term substitute for Todd Feinberg on the 10-Noon WRKO show. AND, Michael Graham is the long term substitute for Howie Carr on WTKK in the morning drive slot while Michelle McPhee is the late morning ‘TKK hostess, subbing for Michael Graham.
At the rate things are going, the ghost of Jerry Williams will end up subbing for someone!

The last time anything like this happened in Boston radio was when Larry Glick jumped from a very long stint at WBZ to go to (now defunct) WHDH-AM. Larry, being from the old school (in more ways than one, he’s now 85) sat out a year from May 1987 to May 1988 to honor his contract’s non-compete clause.

Radio is a funny business. Actually, the only reason we get to hear Michael Graham on Boston radio is that he got fired from a prime slot on Washington, DC area radio because he made a (ratherinsignificant) crack about Muslims for which he refused to apologize. The slot was open for him at WTKK because Jay Severin had left the station to pursue a national career..although NOW Severin is back at WTKK. I don’t even have TIME to write about how Don Imus’ stupid remark about the Rutgers girls basketball team plays into all this, but the fact is, if Imus had not been fired, much of the above stuff about Howie Carr’s moves and legal issues would not even be taking place!

Avi Nelson has been an interesting “winner” in this situation- getting a
long term (temporary?) show on WRKO after being mostly absent from the airwaves for years. People forget that Avi Nelson brought “right wing talk radio” to Boston in the 1970s, well before Rush Limbaugh, and that he was a significant “player” in the Boston anti-bussing days of over thirty years ago. At that time, he was probably the number 2 or 3 radio personality in Boston. Avi has mellowed quite a bit over the years. Today, he’s much more of a moderate Republican and much less edgy, but he’s bright and interesting. WRKO would be smart to keep him on full time.

If I were on Jeopardy and the category was “Boston Radio Trivia” I would blow my opponents away! Maybe I should be writing some kind of a column about this stuff for one of the local rags! Maybe I should be one of the “long term on-air substitutes”! Whaddya think?!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:  but when I became a man, I put away childish things."  (I Corinthians 12:11)

Yesterday, September 26, 2007 was kind of a milestone in that it was my daughter Rachel's 21st birthday.  She was born exactly one week after my 32nd birthday in 1986.  In fact, Mary Ann and I made a "false alarm" trip to the hospital ON my birthday that year.  She thought she was about to have the baby but was sent home.  I think we had two false alarm trips that year; such that when we came to the hospital for the THIRD time I felt kind of like Ricky Ricardo or something! 

The 21st birthday thing can be problematic for Massachusetts driver's license renewals.  This was Rachel's year to rewew and her first time to have an "adult"'s all tied in to the drinking age.  Thus, you really CAN'T renew ahead of time like most people can.  Rachel is out at Westfield State College.  She is usually not good at directions and finding new places, so I drove out there and we went to Eastfield Mall on the Springfield/Wilbraham line where they have a "Registry express" place right in the mall.  There was NO waiting!  Rachel got her adult license, and I got the registration renewed on our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan.

This has been a busy week for me.  I was in Medford on Tuesday night and was up there too late for my taste.  I had spend the day on Tuesday sealing the rear deck at the parsonage and I still have sore muscles and joints from that!  I got a Deacon from our church to lead the Wednesday night prayer meeting, because I thought I would not get back in time for it, but I did.  Even so, I'm glad I wasn't leading it because I was SO tired I felt like I was dreaming.

Rachel and I did get to have a meal out after the license renewal.  It was at a Friendly's at 4 p.m.  Since it was neither lunch nor supper, Rachel called it "lupper"...well if you can say "brunch", WHY NOT?

At the Westfield State campus yesterday, I noticed all these energetic 20ish kids moving about.  It seems like only yesterday that I was the same age.  Now, it really feels weird that my YOUNGEST is 21!  Internally, I feel about 38-years-old but externally (and factoring in the aches and pains and reduced energy level) I'm reminded I'm really 53!

Did our parents keep such busy calendars 30-plus years ago? 
Sometimes I feel like I'm just running and running like the Energizer bunny.

Well, I gotta go and get back to the running......

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


“And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:20)

Did anybody see “Greater Boston” on WGBH channel 2 on Monday night, September 24?  There were (as there usually are) three short interviews.  The one I want to concentrate on is the third.  In honor of Ken Burns’ PBS World War 2 documentary that’s currently running, “Greater Boston” host Emily Rooney had 2 World War 2 vets on as guests.

I don’t want anybody to misunderstand what I’m about to say.  I agree with Tom Brokaw that the World War 2 generation is “The Greatest Generation”.  Both of my parents were members of that generation.  I am proud of the World War 2 vets.  But interviewing guys over 80...well, you can kind of be asking for trouble.  One vet was a Japanese-American and one was an Anglo Caucasian. I think Greater Boston’s first mistake was giving them only ten minutes or so to be interviewed.  Guys who are over 80 and who fought in the Second World War just can’t “tell their story” as it were in five or ten minutes.  The Japanese-American actually did a pretty good job and was the more interesting of the two.  He had been part of a volunteer force who went to Japan immediately after the war.  His family had been placed in an internment camp and he had worked on an Idaho farm during much of the war.  The Caucasian guy wanted to get into all sorts of nit-picking (Emily Rooney’s term!) about his “unit” and about minute details regarding his service. 

The reason I’m writing this piece is I wonder if anybody who saw the interview was as shocked as I was.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I realize war is war.  People get shot and killed.  Horrible things happen.  I know many of our vets saw and experienced horrible things.  I know many of them killed many of the enemy.  It was kill or be killed.  Usually the World War 2 vets don’t get into the gory details.  Most just kind of keep strong and silent.  That’s why I was blown away when the Anglo Caucasian octogenarian (as matter-of-factly as if he was talking about going to the Stop & Shop for a gallon of milk) said the following:

“My unit went into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  We encountered several female S.S. guards.  I told them, ‘Take off your clothes.’One said, ‘No.’ that was the last thing she ever said.  The others took off their clothes.  We said, ‘Lets hang ‘em’ and we did.  Then we shot ‘em in the head.  Then there was a perfect spot right there with smooth, soft dirt, so we buried ‘em.”

Again, he said that as casually as I’d say, “The right directional signal on my Volkswagen isn’t working.”

The details were SO graphic and SO unexpected that I erupted in nervous laughter.  I was actually laughing so hard I was almost crying.  My son was laughing too.  I know the topic of female S.S. guards stripping naked, being hanged, then being shot in the head and buried  is not really something funny, but the casual way he said it...well, please don’t be mad at me, but it WAS funny!

Emily Rooney seemed shocked and embarrassed and like she wished she hadn’t had these vets on the program.

Well, I just had to share that. If you didn’t like my comments, please don’t get any ideas about hangings or shootings.  Just let me know politely!

Monday, September 24, 2007


“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees;” (Hebrews 12:12)
“...lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (from Hebrews 12:15)

The piece which was posted just before this one “Disappointment or Appointment” is one which a lot of people just plain wouldn’t have written or posted.  (Although posted at the same time, "Disappointment or Appointment" was actually written on Sunday afternoon and "Progress" was actually written on Monday morning.) We all have this “stuff” we deal with. Some people are more honest about that than others are.  It’s amazing the “demons” some people wrestle with.  For reasons of confidentiality, I certainly can’t go into great detail on this one, but I talked to a person recently who went through a complete personal collapse within the past year or so...he lost his job...he became addicted to painkillers...he spent down his family’s assets to support his habit...he literally turned into another person.  He then “hit bottom” as they say in recovery groups, and is slowly but surely coming back to being a reasonably whole and healthy person.  It turns out his total personal collapse was due to deep anger, resentment, and confusion from troubling things that happened in his life over thirty years ago.  Way below the surface this stuff festered and festered, and ultimately there was a complete collapse.  It’s kind of like that bridge in Minnesota.  It may have looked fine, but it WASN’T.  Deterioration was happening below the surface, and when least expected everything let go.  The guy I’m talking about here had a good job and a seemingly great life.  Everything looked to be fine.  It wasn’t, and like the bridge, there was a total collapse.

My sister is gutting and redoing several rooms in the house we grew up in over in Canton, MA.  Along with a friend, we were over there on Saturday afternoon getting things ready in for the drywallers to come in and work on several rooms.  Dianne just had a brand new shower unit installed in the upstairs bathroom, and this revealed something surprising about the rear wall of the house.  It’s NOT straight...not even close.  The entire rear wall of the house leans OUT about an inch and a half from the foundation to the roof.  When the house was framed in  1958, it was done wrong.  Our handyman friend had to fit various pieces of wood in behind the shower unit to secure it and to try to make things a little less crazy for the drywallers.  They already had been out to look the situation over and are aware of the problem.  That’s another of those situations where something LOOKED right but it wasn’t.

The good news is that progress is being made at the Canton house.  For years it had been neglected and in disrepair, but slowly but surely it is being fixed up and improved.  Progress is being made.
In an earlier piece. I wrote about all the “blue collar” projects I really need to have done before Thanksgiving.  I started with 21, and now it’s down to 17 and by the end of this week will be at least 16.  When I think about the schedule I’m keeping at age 53 (much busier than 20 years ago) I don’t know how I do it, but progress is being made.

I guess that’s what’s important.  If we  are honest and real and committed and we keep moving forward, well that’s progress.  “Disappointment or Appointment” is a very “vulnerable” piece even for ME.  Some personal situations last week, well, as I wrote about, they were very painful beneath the surface.  But I’ve both processed them and I’m still processing them.  As much as some people can’t figure Bob Baril out and will never be able to figure Bob Baril out, I can’t allow the kind of “denial” in my life that leads to the kind of meltdown the guy I wrote about above experienced.   I can’t allow myself to be what appears to be a sturdy bridge which really is not, or who appears to be perfectly straight but is not.  The athletes say, “No pain, no gain”.  That’s true emotionally and physically.

So all around and in many areas, progress is being made and that’s what’s important.



“For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them:  but they understood not.” (Acts 7:25)

“For neither did his brethren believe in him.”  (John 7:5)

I have a sort of bizarre sense of humor.  When I watch professional comedians such as those on “Last Comic Standing”, 90% of what they say does not strike me funny at all.  I just sit there being serious and thinking, “So what?”.  But let a guy sporting a bad toupee and an out of style necktie come walking by me on a commuter train, and I’ll be laughing so hard the tears will be running down my cheeks!  Thus, there are a number of comedy films which I don’t find particularly funny, but a line from a “dramedy” may resonate with me.  Such is the line from the Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal”.  I LOVE when the Indian janitor keeps saying, (with that accent straight from Bombay) “And DO you have an APPOINTMENT?!”  You’d have to have seen “The Terminal” to appreciate this, but that’s what I’m thinking of as I begin writing, “And DO you have an APPOINTMENT?!”

I know it’s very important for me to keep my “appointment” lest I collapse in disappointment.  The  “appointment” I’m writing about is precious devotional time with my Lord, Jesus Christ, and it is PRECIOUS.  As the old song says,
“And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known!”  AMEN!

The past seven or eight days for me have been an emotional rollercoaster.  As much as I try to act “mature” “sensible” and “professional”, and I DO try, the “real” Bob Baril is a very sensitive and very easily emotionally wounded guy.  Did you hear that “girly guy” who was “tased” at the University of Florida yelling “ow, ow, ow, ow, OW, OW, OOWW,  OOOWWW!!!!” last week?  Well, admittedly he did not sound very macho, so I’m somewhat hesitant to admit this, but if I could verbalize how I’ve felt several times emotionally this past week, it would HAVE to be, “ow, ow, ow, ow, OW, OW, OOWW,  OOOWWW!!!!”  On the one hand I’ve had some WONDERFUL things happen in the past week or so.  I DID have a great “fun” day off in Boston last Thursday.  I DID have a great “Pizza Birthday Bash” at our church last Wednesday night.  I DID lead a great Bible Study last Friday night. I DID lead a great Men’s Group (thanks to a wonderful video presentation by Pastor Jim Cymbola of The Brooklyn Tabernacle) on Saturday morning.  But, in the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7, “The things that I hate are the things that I do.”  One of the biggest mistakes I continually make is that I EXPECT people to just LOVE be captivated by my opinions and be on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what I have to say.  Is that “narcissism”?  Well, I guess it is.  I do know THAT sort of thinking CAN be VERY dangerous.  It can set you up for a big fall (or many big falls).  It’s a stupid and unrealistic and very irresponsible way to think. I’d tell that to anyone else who had the same problem.  So WHY do I continue to fall back into that way of thinking?  I’m not sure.

Did you ever watch the animated FOX series, “King of the Hill”?  If you have, then you’ve seen the character “Bobby Hill”.  Bobby Hill is supposed to be about 13 and an 8th grader.  He’s overweight.  He’s VERY out of shape and VERY unathletic.  He’s lazy.  Yet, he loves “campy” entertainment, magic shows, and stuff like that.  He fancies himself to be a professional comedian.  He THINKS he is extremely cool.  Well, he’s a nice and likable kid, but he IS lazy and unathletic and not cool.   As a kid I was a LOT like Bobby Hill.   A LOT.

I was TERRIBLE at sports.  I was laughed at playing sports on more than one occasion.  My father and my brother were “crackerjack” auto mechanics.  I still can’t really handle a wrench.  What I had going for me was I was a great story teller, I had a great speaking voice, and I also loved to sing.  In elementary school I was the class clown, doing impersonations of the teachers, singing pop songs,  and telling jokes.  I really thought lots of people liked me.

At puberty, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I realized people were not laughing WITH me...they were laughing AT me.  I was not cool and I was never going to be cool.  Honestly, it was devastating.  In high school, especially the first two years, I was very much in the background.  I did play clarinet in the high school band, and I did have a small circle of friends, but I kind of wanted to be INVISIBLE.  I became happiest when I was home totally by myself, either watching television, reading, or listening to Top 40 music.  The description under my Senior year photo said “RESERVED...talented member of the C.H.S. band”.
I WAS “reserved”.  I was not going to be rejected or laughed at again.

Well,  it’s a long way from 1972 to 2007...or maybe it isn’t.  As I wrote above, I can get pretty hurt and disappointed.  I’m a fantastic public speaker. Really.  I listen to some of my preaching tapes, and ...honestly.... they’re GREAT.  But my problem is that whole, “professional, businesslike, mature” thing.  I just keep trying, and I just keep striking out! 

Last week a few disappointing things happened to me ... one big one in particular. I don’t feel at liberty to say what they were, so THAT part I will just havet to keep to myuself.  In the past few days, I’ve  had to do a lot of thinking and a lot of reevaluating about a lot of things.  I thought of people who have left the church over the past ten years, many saying very cutting and critical things to me as they left.  I thought of my puberty years where I realized I was NOT thought of as  funny, and I shut down emotionally.  Most people would NEVER suspect this to see me on the OUTSIDE but I’ve really struggled in the past few days with just wanting to shut down emotionally.  Yes, old wounds have been opened up, and there has been LOTS of pain.  Yup, like that U. of  F. kid, “ow, ow, ow, ow, OW, OW, OOWW,  OOOWWW!!!!”

But THEN I’ve remembered...  (remembering with a Bombay, India accent and all) , “I DO have an APPOINTMENT!”  My “appointment” is my calling from the Lord and my relationship with Him.  Actually, the thing that made my last two years of high school SOMEWHAT better and my young adult years “way better” than they would have been otherwise is my relationship with God.  To those of you who have a close relationship with God , no explanation is necessary for what I’m writing those of you who do NOT have a close relationship with God, no explanation is possible.

I don’t know why God made me unathletic, uncool, and not mechanically inclined.  I don’t know why God made me eccentric and kind of childlike.  I DO know this “personality” has DRIVEN me straight into the arms of Jesus many times, and I do know that I’ve been able to very effectively minister to a lot of lonely and hurting people.

What was the purpose of this piece?
Well, it WAS therapeutic for me to write it, and it was transparent.  If somehow SOMETHING about it ministers to somebody, that will be very good.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I'm writing this from the Boston Public Library.  I'm on a "fun" day off in Boston in honor of my 53rd birthday which was yesterday.  I just wrote a GREAT piece about all I've seen and done here in Boston today and the computer just WIPED IT ALL OUT!  It was entitled "Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters" (based on Ecclesiastes 11:1) and it was a gem.  Well, I just got back on the "Add an Entry" page.  I just don't think I could recreate the gem I just wrote, so this is just more of a "hello- I'm having a nice time in Boston" thing!  I will be "wicked busy" Friday and Saturday so I'm not sure when I'll post again, but keep checking!

Boy software is GREAT when it works, but when it wipes out a wonderful piece you've just wrote, well,  AAAAHHHHH !

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:19)

I wish I could say I was kidding about this one, but it was broadcast on the news Monday morning on 96.9 FMTalk AND discussed by fill-in host Dan York that according to Sunday's Boston Globe, a special commission is recommending MA drivers really take some BIG financial hits.

Of course, it's pretty much already in place that tolls on the MASS PIKE will increase in 2008 and again in 2014.  This is IN ADDITION to that!

One proposal which has a good chance of being implemented is raising the gas tax to 11 and a half cents a gallon starting sometime in 2008.

Another (which will likely face stiff opposition) is making virtually all MA State highways (93,95,495, 290, etc.) toll roads.  They would likely NOT have traditional tickets and toll takers who would take cash.  Rather, it's possible that each car would have to have a transponder (like the MASS PIKE "Fast Lane") and that you'd be billed each months for using these roads.  It's even being thrown around that instead of transponders, photos would be taken of the license plate, so you wouldn't even need a transponder and you'd just get a bill in the mail! Requiring G.P.S. devices on cars to track exactly where they're going is not exactly "off the table" either!  Of course, this stuff would face stiff opposition and the likelihood of it happening within 3 years is low, but the "special commission" sees a major revenue shortfall for highway/infrastructure repairs over the next 20 years.  Thus, this is all being talked about for the long haul (no pun intended) and could realistically happen in MA sometime in the next 20 years.

If this stuff really happen will ANYBODY be left living in the state of Massachusetts?!  On Monday, the Boston Herald’s Michelle McPhee continued talking about this later in the morning.  She is outraged as were most of her callers.  The part about us potentially having to have G.P.S. devices in our cars and having the Commonwealth of Massachusetts track all of our moves ia absolutely ORWELLIAN!

I’m not kidding about any of this but you have to wonder, IS THE STATE KIDDING?!

Monday, September 17, 2007


“...Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God.” (from Mark 10:14)

I like that Crosby, Stills, & Nash song (or is it “Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young”?!) that says “Teach your children well...”

This may really offend some people. but I think there are some people who just should NOT have children.  Over the past week, largely due to the Framingham Schools being closed for Rosh Hashanah, there have been elementary school kids skateboarding all over my neighborhood.  The worst part of it is all the slamming of the skateboard hitting the curb.  When you’re at the computer trying to concentrate, or when you’re listening to 96.9 FMTalk trying to concentrate on Jay Severin’s monologue, well it’s VERY annoying.  Even worse,. when you’re just driving down Harrison Street minding your own business and some kid on a skateboard literally shoots right out in front of you and you nearly kill him...well it makes you wonder if somehow Rosh Hashanah can’t be observed in school. (Oops, I forgot.  It CAN’T be due to “separation of church and state”.  I guess learning about the Jewish religion and appreciating the faith of our Jewish friends is too stupid and inappropriate to study in school...who really won World War 2 anyway?!)

Back to parenting:  I don’t even think they HAD skateboards when I was a kid, but even if they did, if I’d have had one, my father would have given me an intense one hour lecture about safety before I ever used.  And, if he once caught me defying his lecture, the skateboard would be permanently GONE.  Some of you know that Dad was with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  He once investigated a fatal accident in Westwood where a kid on a bike shot right out of a driveway in front of a car and was instantly killed.  The driver was a male nurse on his way to take care of a sick client in the neighborhood.  Isn’t it a tragedy that the kid was killed?  Yes.  But what about the tragedy that the male nurse had to live with for the rest of his life...the memories of that.  NO ONE could have stopped in time!  Did that kid’s parents EVER warn him about safety on his bicycle?  I don’t know.

In the neighborhood where our church facility is located (a relatively poor neighborhood just outside downtown Framingham) most parents would not win any Parent of the Year Awards.  Kids are out at all hours, on foot, on scooters, on bikes, all over public and private property- yelling the “F” word like longshoremen!  (I’m talking about 8,9, and 10-year-olds!)  Yesterday afternoon, I had stopped by the church building to do a few things.  A group of elementary school boys congregated around the front of the church building.  Suddenly I heard the loud sound of glass smashing.  I figured they’d broken one of our windows.  I went to the door and discovered they were carring a large amount of (one of their parent’s) empty beer bottles and beer cans. I guess they were going to take them someplace to get money for them and one had instead dropped them in the middle of South Street. That was the smashing sound. 

The boys asked me about the church, what we believed, etc.  I was quite surprised, but I tried to answer in a brief but friendly manner.  The majority were Hispanics, but there were several blacks and one very caucasian, nordic type.  Their appearance was diverse, but they could all use the “F” word with equal prowess.  One of the youngest kids asked if he could see the inside of the building.  Inwardly I had some reservations, but I tried not to show that and I did allow them to come in for a couple of minutes.  Shortly thereafter, they rode away, leaving their beer bottles and cans behind them.  I went out and bagged them up.  My volunteer Secretary who is kind of a recycling fanatic will probably want to kill me for this, but I intend to just throw them away.  Sorry, I’m not turning in beer bottles and cans...for a Pentecostal minister it’s kind of bad for the image.

I really felt kind of bad for these kids.  I don’t think they’re really bad kids.  I think they’re curious and they’re teachable.  When we first moved our church into that neighborhood about 13 years ago, a 7-year-old Hispanic boy named Jonathan (very similar to those kids) began regularly attending every time the door was open.  We struck up quite a friendship with him and he almost became like a little mascot or something. Jonathan’s Dad was not around.  His mother maybe came two or three times over an eight year period.  In high school, Jonathan got into real trouble.  A couple of years ago he committed a serious crime and was arrested.  I have not seen him in well over a year.  Our friendship and sort of “love at a distance” thing with Jonathan was not enough to really reach him.  But it gets difficult.  I’ve really never been terribly “macho”.  I don’t relate all that well to most white middle-class American kids....let alone troubled kids from mainly minority homes.  But I know Jesus loves them, and they REALLY need something.  They need parents who will really be parents.

I’m just kind of reflecting today.  I don’t have any easy answers. Any thoughts? 

Saturday, September 15, 2007


“...the night cometh, when no man can work.” (from John 9:4)

I like the NBC sitcom “The Office”.  It’s pretty much “must viewing” for me whenever I’m home on Thursday nights.  Like virtually all television of today, some of the “situations” are more “suggestive” or “risque” than I’d prefer, as is some (although not much) of the language.  The American version of “The Office” is quie tame, however, compared to the original British version which airs at various times on PBS.  The humor on “The Office” is very much MY kind of humor.  In the same way that “Malcolm in the Middle” was a characature of a dysfunctional mddle-class American family, and the animated “King of the Hill” is a characature of a middle-class family from north Texas;  in the exaggerated characters of “The Office” we see glimpses of people we’ve known and worked with.  We may even see ourselves.

I know that if you’ve never seen “The Office” I’m going to be hard pressed to explain the show and the characters to you.  A few days ago, I found myself thinking about “The Office” as I was straightening up some chairs in a room at our church.  The church I pastor is SO small that I end up spending at least two-thirds of the time during my “office hours” all by myself.  It was very different many years ago when I was on staff at a large church.  There, including the janitor and me, there were 6 full-time employees.  I hate to admit that the office dymanics of working there were not all that much different than what you’d see on ,“The Office”, but they weren’t.  People are often shocked to find out that working for a Christian orgaination is not very much different than working for a secular business, and in fact it can be worse.   The Senior Pastor who was our boss was not very much different from “Michael” on “The Office”.  Once, he set off a stink bomb in my office!  He would tell outsiders who came to visit that his employees were all one big happy family and everybody loved him.  Well, there was SOME truth to that, but we were happiest when he was away on long trips, which as the years went on became more and more frequent.  The other Associate Pastor, Denny, was sort of a “Jim”, although he wasn’t flirting with anybody at work- he was happily married.  He did have that “Jim” sense of humor, and was quite willing to play the kind of jokes on people that Jim plays on Dwight on “The Office”.  The main Secretary, Shirley, was kind of like Angela on “The Office”, but she was older and not QUITE so serious.  Even so, Shirely was stuck in her ways theologically and politically and in how she did things, and if you were smart, you just kind of went with that!  Another employee was Alice.  Alice was heavy-set and an accomplished floutist.  She worked as a Secretary and clashed with Shirley all the time.  She was kind of a combination of several of the women on “The Office”.
I like to WATCH “The Office” but (although this may offend some people) I’m really glad I work mostly by myself!

I know that if our church ever does grow into a large church, it would eventually mean having a whole staff full of people.  I don’t know if I’m quite ready for the “Michael” role!

Friday, September 14, 2007


“And when a convenient day was come ... on his birthday ...” (from Mark 6:21)

Yesterday, September 13, 2007, was my (paternal) grandfather’s birthday.   Well, to be more accurate, it WOULD have been his birthday.  If my figuring is correct, Peter (born “Pierre”) Eximier Baril would have been 129-years-old today.

Sadly, I never knew my grandfather.  I was born in 1954, eight years after his passing.  Peter Baril was born and raised in Saint Philippe, Quebec, a farming community about 20 miles southeast of Montreal.   He graduated from the Montreal Normal School (a teacher training institution) and taught elementary school for several years in the Montreal area.  I believe he (and his new wife Marie) immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1904.  I know he first lived in St. Albans, Vermont and worked as a carpenter.  Sometime shortly after that, Peter Baril came to Boston and lived there for the rest of his life.  He became amazingly successful for the time, building several new multifamily homes in Boston’s Dorchester section, and graduating from Law School.   My mother and father grew up in the same working-class neighborhood in Boston’s Roxbury section in the 1930s and 1940s.  My mother said the Barils were (sort of) considered rich (for that neighborhood) because even in the worst days of the Depression they always had a car and they always had a telephone- amenities which most of their neighbors didn’t possess.

Peter Baril fathered 8 children.  My father, Eugene A. Baril was the youngest.  In 1946 when my Dad was 23, “Pa” (my Dad and all his siblings ALWAYS called their father “Pa”) was stricken with a heart attack.  My father drove him to a local hospital, and rushed home to pick up his mother and get back to the hospital.  Upon their arrival at the hospital less than an hour later, they learned that “Pa” had died.  This was one of the biggest regrets of my father’s life.  He always felt he’d let his father down- that he should have stayed with him.  Of course, it wasn’t his fault and he had no way of knowing what was about to happen, but that had to have been a very traumatic experience for a 23-year-old.

One of the eight Baril children, Irene, died as a child at age 7 in 1915.  She and my Uncle Raymond had each been stricken with dyptheria in the great epidemic of that period.  Raymond remembered each of them being sick together.  Raymond also remembered that Irene had a horse-drawn hearse for her burial at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, and that “Pa” was absolutely inconsolable.

I’ve heard that my grandfather was very intelligent, very handy with tools,  but that he also had a great sense of humor and was a very jolly, fun-loving man.  His wife, Marie, was much more serious, and was a “clean-freak” and a perfectionist.  Interestingly enough, I have his sense of humor, but I inherited my grandmother’s compulsion to have everything perfectly clean and orderly...or at least to TRY to!   One of the favorite stories of “Pa” Baril is that he’d invite a female family friend who had a shrieking operatic singing voice over to entertain the family with her singing.  The kids would be in agony trying not to laugh, and they’d end up excusing themselves one by one to go into an adjoining room and laugh hysterically.  By the end of the concert, only “Pa” would be left...I guess clapping and saying his “Bravos”!

I carry the man’s name, and I wanted to share a little something about him on this, the week of his birthday!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


(Look up 2 Corinthians 8:21 !)
A couple of days ago the whole story about the Patriots cheating hit the news.  As I understand it, a cameraman was transmitting pictures of the Jets using hand signals to call their plays.  It’s against the N.F.L rules.  Apparently, the Patriots were also accused of something similar last year in a game against Green Bay.  Yesterday, Bill Belichek (I don’t know if I spelled his name correctly) admitted it- there’s a fine and penalties which the Patriots will face and that will be that.  Overwhelmingly, callers to local radio shows have said things like, “Who cares?! EVERYBODY does it!”  Well, I for one am pretty disappointed.  I think this tarnishes the Patriots’ image and it’s a real shame.   “V.B” Gowdy from the FOX 25 Morning News compared this to Nixon’s Watergate break in and cover up.  Nixon was pretty much guaranteed to win reelection in a landslide in 1972.  Thus, the whole Watergate thing was particularly stupid.  Likewise, the Patriots are very talented and have an excellent shot at being Super Bowl Champions again.  There is no reason for them Belichek to do something so stupid.

I know people lie.  In fact, they misrepresent themselves in SO many ways!  I got one of my first tastes of that back in the winter of 1972, just a few months before Watergate.  Mrs. S.C. a popular and articulate 40-ish writer for a local newspaper in my hometown of Canton, MA was running for Selectman.  She was also a very liberal Democrat...someone that today Howie Carr would call a “moon bat”.  This will surprise some of my readers, but in those days I was a very liberal Democrat.  S.C.’s son was a couple of years younger than me, and looked like he just walked out of Woodstock...the long straight black hair, the oversized fatigue jacket, the jeans, and all that goes with that look and lifestyle, well, S.C. and a bunch of young people from Canton High School got behind her campaign.  We passed out leaflets each Saturday at the Canton dump, sometimes in Zero degree conditions.  People felt so sorry for us, there was a big sympathy factor.  Even elderly Yankee curmudgeon H. Kinsley Draper ENDORSED her!  She took on several powerful Townies, and BEAT THEM!  This may not sound like much, but her leaflets statedshe had a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.  She didn’t.  She had a degree in English, but she didn’t think that sounded impressive enough so she changed it to Political Science.  I campaigned for her, but I couldn’t help but wonder- what else does she lie about or has she lied about?

Over the years, a lot of people have left  First Assembly of God of Framingham. In fact, TOO many have!  Today, there area only about a third as many people in the church as there were when I cam to the church twenty years ago.  Some of the people who have left have said some awful things about me, but one guy who left used a phrase which I took as a compliment.  He said, “You’re a straight shooter.”  I am.  It’s not always easy.  I remember when I was around 7, my father installed a clear plastic pen holder onto the side of one of the wooden cabinets in the kitchen.  He was very proud of it.  This way, there would always be a pen handy if a person needed to write down a phone message.  But my father had no sense of aesthetics.  Honestly, I thought it looked cluttered and awful.  It just didn’t “go” with the decor.  I said so.  That “didn’t go over” as they say!  I learned that a lot of times people ask, “What do you think of _______?” and when you tell them, at best they may give you a verbal dressing down, and at worst they may hate you!

In 1980, I was attending a medium-sized Assemblies of God church which was rapidly growing.  They were planning a special service, and the pastor was convinced that 800 would be present at the special event. 

“How many think there’s not gonna be 800 at the service?” the pastor asked one day IN A PUBLIC SETTING.  No one responded.

“Be HONEST, friend!!” he teased, “How many think there’s not gonna be 800?”
I raised my hand.  It was a very tense awkward moment, but he asked.  Another time at the church I pastor, I was the ONLY one to (publicly) vote down a proposed change to the Constitution and ByLaws.  The change was to make it HARDER to become a Member of our church.  That was our Board’s position.  It was my wife’s position.  It was everyone’s position.  But it was not my position.  I wish it had been a secret ballot.  But it was by voice vote.  You know those deals of  “All those in favor say ‘AYE’!” .... “Those opposed???” and I voted opposed.  It was really embarrassing. At the time I felt like a TERRIBLE leader and I felt very weak.  But today, fifteen years later, I have no regrets and I actually think it showed great strength on my part.

It’s not easy, but I’d still rather be a straight shooter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


“...I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head...” (from Luke 7:44)

This entry may seem strange for a September 11 entry.  I believe last year I wrote a piece about where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001.  Although my last entry was about the day BEFORE September 11, today I just couldn’t bring myself to write specifically about September 11. RATHER, I think of the aftermath of September 11, 2001.  For about three weeks, the country was different.  People seemed warm, and friendly, and patient and caring, and as a country we SEEMED united.  I really thought things had changed forever. Boy, was I ever WRONG?!  Somewhere around three weeks later, everything went back to “normal”, and it has been that way ever since.  I wish we’d REALLY changed on September 11, but we had not.

Today, I want to write about a man named Robert.  No, it’s not me.  I won’t use the guy’s whole name, but there’s a guy named Robert who lives in a small apartment in downtown Framingham.  Every time Robert sees me, he greets me in a warm and friendly manner.  He always enthusiastically calls me “Reverend”. (I usually just go by “Pastor Bob” or “Bob”.)  He’s exceptionally pleasant and friendly.  Everybody who is ANYBODY in Framingham knows Robert.  Believe me, all the big shots and “powers that be” know who he is.  Robert is very intelligent.  He was educated as an architect, and he knows his craft.  I believe he worked for a time as an architect, but I don’t know much about that.  I’d say Robert is almost ten years older than I am.  He writes a lot of letters to the MetroWest Daily News and attends a lot of functions and public meetings in Town.  Robert doesn’t work because he’s on some sort of disability.  I don’t know what it is.  A number of years ago, someone told me he has real trouble coping with the pressures of life, and that’s why he’s on disability.  Robert is a dreamer.  He loves art and culture.  He envisions Framingham being a great cultural center and a great social destination.  An amazing optimist, any time something good happens in downtown Framingham, Robert sees it as a sign of great things being ahead for our community.  Around twelve years ago, he wrote letters to the newspaper proposing that a state-of-the-art athletic facility be built in the heart of downtown Framingham for use by the “ghetto kids:”.  In a public meeting I watched Robert be talked down to and ridiculed for that classification.  It wasn’t politically correct.  Robert envisioned corporations and individuals giving huge sums of money to make this youth athletic facility possible, as well as the Town being 100% behind it.  The plan was laughed off.  About a year later, Robert wrote an enthusiastic letter to the MetroWest Daily News.  The letter expressed his dream and desire that the Roman Catholic Church would build a world class “Basilica” in downtown Framingham.  (As I understand it, a Basilica is a very fancy Catholic Church, not quite a Cathedral, but bigger and fancier than the average church.)  This suggestion got a lot more laughs around Town than did the proposal for the youth athletic facility.

About a year ago, Robert’s paintings were put on display at the Framingham Public Library.  I was amazed that he was an artist and that he’d done so many paintings. Honestly, my daughter Rachel is a better artist, but I can’t draw at all, so I was impressed.  Most of the paintings were either religious or scenic.  Last month I drove by Butterworth Field and was surprised to see Robert playing a game of catch with a group of guys at least half his age. Usually a nerdy, eccentric artistic guy isn’t athletic, but Robert wasn’t a bad baseball player.  I’m not athletic at all, so again I was impressed.

Why am I writing this?  Yesterday, in downtown Framingham, Robert enthusiastically greeted me and asked me how my church was doing.  You know, I try to be very active in the Framingham community.  I’m naturally very shy one-on-one, but I make it a point to meet and greet people and cultivate relationships with them.  I speak out about various matters.  Like Robert, I write letters and columns to the paper.  I also write on this blog.  Admittedly, some of what I post here is just “fluff:” but probably one out of every five or six pieces is a very thoughtful, well-written piece.  I e-mail important people when I feel I have something important to say.  I also try to be just as interested in people who are “nobodys”.  

Maybe I’m too sensitive, but I’m frequently surprised that often people don’t write answers to my e-mails.  People also don’t readily act on my suggestions or opinions.  Honestly, outside of my church, many people act as if I don’t matter at all. (Thankfully, WITHIN my church most of the people treat me pretty well.  In the past that was not the case, but most of the ones who did not treat me well are now gone.)

Yesterday, it really touched me that Robert stopped to talk to me. Yes, he’s done that many times before, but for some reason, it really meant a lot this week!  Maybe it IS because of 9/11.  We’re supposed to care for one another.  We’re supposed to be interested in one another.  We’re supposed to have time for one another.  We’re supposed to value the gifts and talents of others.  Dare I say it?  We’re supposed to LOVE one another.  At least, Jesus told us that. 

It’s character I’m talking about.  That’s a big part of why I absolutely love Senator John McCain.  Despite the fact that John McCain is on the wrong side of the illegal immigration issue, I LOVE his loyalty, tenacity, and consistency.  That’s a big part of why I will vote for him in the Massachusetts Republican Primary even though people say he hasn’t got a chance.  When Don Imus “fell” a few months ago, most of the frequent guests on his program couldn’t have plunged the knife into Don Imus’ heart fast enough.  One person who did NOT do that was John McCain!  When asked about Imus, McCain (while of course disagreeing with what Imus said about the Rutgers girls’ basketball team) indicated Imus was his friend and that he’d be happy to go on the air with him again.  THAT’S how a loyal man of CHARACTER behaves!

Back to Robert.  Yup, he’s eccentric, but so am I.  Yup, his ideas are impractical and many would even be classified as unworkable.  But next time he comes up with a crazy idea, well, I may not endorse it or embrace it, but I’m sure not going to laugh at it and I’m sure not going to laugh at him.  Why?  As odd as this may sound, because he took the time to speak to me with genuine interest and show he really cared. 

Practical, politically correct, sophisticated, worldly-wise and self-absorbed people are a dime a dozen in our society.  We need more Roberts.  And, today, I’m proud of the fact that Robert and I share the same first name...

Monday, September 10, 2007

SEPT. 10, 2001

“But when the fulness of the time was come...” (from Galatians 4:4)

I will never forget the date or the day:  September 10, 2001.  Monday.

It was a beautiful September day...sunny, not too hot and not too cold, fairly low humidity, bright blue sky and hardly a cloud in the sky.  My wife Mary Ann and I went to visit one of our church’s most beloved members that morning.  Eighty-year-old Ernie Sleeper of Norfolk was temporarily in a Nursing Home and Rehabilitation facility in Franklin.  Just a few weeks earlier, Ernie had not been feeling well at all and ended up as a patient in a major Boston hospital.  The open heart surgery on Ernie had taken its toll.  Ernie, who had been as strong as an ox and as active and vigorous as the average 55-year-old man had NOT looked like himself at all when Mary Ann and I had visited him in the hospital in August.  At that time, he was hanging between life and death.  I frankly didn’t think he’d make it.  Thus, it was with great excitement that we visited Ernie at the Franklin facility.  Ernie looked and seemed MUCH more like his old self that morning!  Robbie Fregeau, a self-employed guy about my age, who was very close to Ernie had decided to visited him that morning, as well.  All of us met and “had fellowship” in the Nursing Home’s Community Room.  The television set was on, and Ernie LOVED it.  Except for my son Jon, I have never seen anyone love television shows as much as Ernie.  He had taped hours and hours of shows on his V.C.R.  If the “T.V.” section of his Sunday Attleboro Sun Chronicle was ever missing, he went back to the convenience store where he’d purchased the paper and made sure they knew he’d been cheated out of the “T.V.” section!  That morning, a rerun of “Unsolved Mysteries” was on television and Ernie was gripped with it.  I think he was more interested in “Unsolved Mysteries” than in visiting with his guests!  Honestly, I was kind of glued to “Unsolved Mysteries” as well.  Seeing “good old Ernie” again, and knowing he’d be coming back home and back to church was heartwarming.  (Ernie died three years later, but the three years prior to his death WERE mostly healthy and happy ones.)

When Mary Ann and I got back to the parking lot and our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, I was NOT a particularly “happy camper”.  A landscaping crew was working on the lawns around the nursing home.  There were all sorts of trucks, mowers, and other equipment.  They essentially had me “pinned” into my parking space.  Mary Ann didn’t mind it too much, but I’m STILL not real good at maneuvering that Dodge Grand Caravan, and it took some real skill and white knuckles to get our vehicle out of that tight parking spot!  Yes, the grass was as green and beautiful as it could be, but I was annoyed!  I HATED when blue collar guys kind of threw their weight around and made me feel like a geeky white-collar nerd.  Why?  Because I’m essentially a geeky white-collar nerd, but I don’t like it when cool blue-collar macho guys remind me of that!

Mary Ann and I went for lunch to a Chinese restaurant located in a Franklin shopping center.  We’d eaten there before, but that had been at least ten years earlier.  As I recall there were a lot of mothers and kids in the restaurant and I’m not sure why.  One would have thought they kids would be in school.  I like Chinese food, and I was happy Ernie Sleeper was coming along so well, but my pride was wounded about that nursing home parking lot situation. I was kind of sullen and just kind of dutifully ate my luncheon special.

Later, it was a typical afternoon at my church office, and the day went by fast.

I do remember watching Allie McBeal on channel 25 that night.  I know it’s thought of as a very worldly show, and even a suggestive show, but I kind of liked the Allie McBeal Show.  I’d seen this episode before- it had originally run around prom season in the Spring- but it’s a touching episode and I greatly enjoyed it.  The guest star was singer Josh Groban.  Speaking of nerds, he played a high school kid who could not get a date for his prom.  Thirty-something Allie McBeal went as his date.  At the prom, he sang a beautiful solo.  All the kids -  even the “really cool kids” -  were shocked and impressed by his outstanding singing voice. 

I did not stay up too late that night.  In those days, I worked at Marian High School every Tuesday (my day off from my Pastoring position).  My kids were on “financial aid” at Marian, and so our family had to “give something back to the school”.  (This was before my wife worked full-time at Marian High.)  Each Tuesday during the school year, I did clerical work at the school’s Development Office.  On the evening of September 10, 2001, I was kind of anxious and excited.  As a Christian and a pastor, I’d been conscious of wanting to make a good impression and be a good “witness for Christ” in this job.  I thought a lot about that as I went to sleep.  I wanted to make sure I was up very early the next day- Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  I wanted to do a great job on that day and set a great tone for the ‘01-’02 school year!  I wanted to spend some time in prayer and in the Bible before I went to the school.  Thus, I went to sleep tired but with a great sense of happiness and anticipation as I considered the day ahead of me and the opportunity ahead for me...

Friday, September 7, 2007


Did anyone see “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” last night on the FOX television network?  The contestant was a Marine who won $500,000.  The producers of the show gave some ERRONEOUS information, however!

One question asked who the only person was to be elected President of the United States four times.  The Marine got it wrong.  He said “Theodore Roosevelt” but he used one of his “cheats” to get the correct answer:  Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The producers then flashed information for the viewers onto the screen about F.D.R.  The information said that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President four times and passed away in 1944.  That is WRONG!  Franklin D. Roosevelt WAS indeed elected President four times.  The fourth time was in November of 1944.  He was then Inaugurated for his Fourth Term in January of 1945.  Roosevelt died several months later in 1945 (not 1944).

I’m surprised NOBODY on the show or with the network caught that mistake! Several years ago, my son Jon caught a factual mistake on the “Millionaire” show.  He wrote in about that and never got a response.

The internet is highly interactive.  I’d love to hear from the people connected to the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” folks about what happened on last night’s show!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”  (John 9:4)

Jesus said what’s in the above verse and it certainly refers to spiritual work, but I’m taking it totally out of context today and applying it to my life and to manual labor.  I love the Fall.  It’s my favorite season of the year.  My second favorite is Spring.  My least favorite is Winter and I’m also not a big fan of Summer, although Summer is better than Winter only because you don’t have to deal with snow!  I love when the leaves turn color.  I don’t even mind raking them up THAT much.  Well, it’s not a lot of fun, but it sure beats shoveling snow.  I like going to a high school Thanksgiving Day football game, and being frozen to the bone, only to come home, take a hot shower, have a hot cup of coffee and later enjoy a wonderful turkey dinner.  Speaking of Thanksgiving, I also enjoy being part of the local clergy association’s Thanksgiving service each year.  But there IS a really bad part of my favorite season:  FALL IS CRUNCH TIME!

Every year there are a bunch of outdoor manual labor projects which have to be done at the parsonage (minister’s residence) built in 1892 and at the church building (former U.A.W. hall which was completed in early 1954).  Every year around April and May I’m aware of these projects.  When you’re pastoring a very small church in which there are very few men and very few handymen (and believe me, I’m not much of a handyman) it ends up that at least 80% of the parsonage projects fall on YOU and at least 50% of the church projects fall on YOU.  Despite the fact that I’ve done all kinds of lawnmowing and bush trimming and painting out graffiti this Summer, most of the major projects have remained untouched.  Each month at the Board meeting I talk about them.  We all say “Yeah, we’ll do them.”  I even say that.  The next month comes, and none of it is done.  I’ve faced this in at least 10 previous years of pastoring in Framingham.  In at least 5 of those years little or none of the projects actually got done.  Being a perfectionist and somewhat compulsive, this meant I had a winter of feeling guilty 90% of the time.  Please spare me the lectures and the Scriptures about the fact that we’re not under condemnation and we’re supposed to be joyful.  I know all about that.  I also know that the way I’m wired, if most of the stuff doesn’t get done I’m going to feel guilty and depressed. HOWEVER, the good news is it’s September and it’s CRUNCH TIME, but at this point the 2007 outdoor manual labor projects are NOT a lost cause!

On Tuesday of this week I mad a list of projects for the church and the parsonage which really should be done by November 22 (Thanksgiving).  I got 6 listed for the church and 15 for the parsonage.  About half of the 15 are pretty simple things that I could easily finish myself in a couple of dats.  But a few of them are pretty intense, especially cleaning and sealing the bulkhead and later wire-brushing it and painting it with a fresh coar of rustoleum.  That may not sound like much, but becuause it really should sit for 24 hours after it’s cleaned and sealed (and the weather has GOT to be really good and dry at the time) it really is a 2 day project.   The one project for the parsonage that I absolutely will NOT do is clean the gutters.  For anyone with any sort of a fear of heights- and that’s me-forget it.  The church hired someone to do that about a year ago and if it gets done the church will have to hire someone...probably around early November after most of the leaves are down.

Last year a group of volunteers took a whole Saturday in October and painted the exterior of the church.  At that time it had not been painted for several years and it looked terrible.  Now, it doesn’t look too bad, but we have enough paint to do it all over again this year and I think we should.  I hope to do that on a Saturday in October.

I’m frustrated that the very sunny and dry weather we’re having this week is PERFECT for outdoor painting, and I’ve got some of that to do at the parsonage but I frankly have all sorts of “white collar” ministry work to do this week and I really don’t see myself getting to it this week.  What often happened in past years is that any day I wanted to paint it rained and any day I wouldn’t paint it was dry and perfect.  That MAY happen this year but I pray it doesn’t.

In Bible College I was taught that the pastor shouldn’t have to worry about most of this stuff- that the church people should do it.  Although I DO have a handful of excellent volunteers who do help me, I’ve found that in a very small church, the pastor just plain has to do a lot of this stuff.  Yup, it’s Fall and it’s crunch time!


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

I suppose I’m scooping Michelle McElroy of (sorry, Michelle) but about ten days ago, signs appeared on the stamp machines at the Framingham main post office located on Route 30.  The signs state that the machines will be removed on or before September 28, 2007.

I’m sad about the machines going.  They’re SO convenient!  Instead of waiting in line for twenty minutes just to buy a 41-cent stamp (FORTY minutes in December) you just walk up to the machine, throw in your coins or dollar bill, and buy the stamp.  My wife thinks they’re getting rid of the machines because at the main post office’s self-service shipping area, you can buy stamps by machine BUT YOU HAVE TO USE A CREDIT CARD OR A DEBIT CARD.  There are also signs posted around the main post office encouraging people to buy stamps on-line.

I know you’ll think I’m a conspiracy nut (and maybe I am) but I believe we’re moving toward a cashless, checkless society.  I don’t have the time or space to explain why that CAN’T be a good idea.  I do have a credit card, and I do have a checking account, but whenever possible in life I buy things with old fashioned bills and coins and I really prefer it that way. 

The good news is, you can still buy stamps at a machine using coins and bills at the downtown post office located at Park Street and Park Place, across from the Armenian Church.  The downtown post office is (frankly) where poor people, elderly people, and illegal aliens do business.  A lot of them don’t have credit cards or computers.  Our church’s post office box is located there and I’’ll still be buying stamps using coins and bills at the downtown post office machine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5)

On Labor Day, just a few days away from her 21st birthday, Rachel Baril went back to Westfield State College.  Her 24-year-old brother Jon and her mother and I went along to help- Mary Ann and I in our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan and Rachel in our (well, she calls it hers!) 1993 Olds station wagon.  We left “wicked” early because Rachel wanted to be one of the first in line to get her key and official room assignment, etc.  Rachel WAS the second person in line, so that was pretty good.  This year’s moving in procedure seemed easier than last year’s, and we got it all taken care of in about an hour faster than last year. 

As I lugged in boxes and watched very young looking college kids and their graying baby boomer parents  doing the same thing I was doing, I found myself thinking of the “Ghosts of Labor Days Past”.  On Labor Day 2001, my son Jon and I went to “new student orientation day” at Emerson College in Boston.  Jon was a commuter student, but there was still all kinds of stuff for the new students and their parents to do.  My wife was conducting a children’s retreat in New Hampshire, so just Jon and I went to the Emerson orientation. At that time we had no idea of the terrible terrorist attack that would take place in just a few days.  I also remembered at least one Labor Day moving in to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri.  If my math is correct, the last time I was a STUDENT moving into college on a Labor Day was 29 years ago.

Some families seem to get the kid moved in and all set up in about 45 minutes.  For others, it’s a major project which lasts at least 6 hours.  My late father would have been one of those “6 hour major project” types, and so I’m kind of glad that I had no parents with me for my Central Bible College moving in days.  I know this sounds terrible but I felt kind of glad that Rachel’s roommate’s Dad looked at least 63-years-old.  Well, honestly, I think he MAY have been as old as 71.  I’m going to be 53 this month, and I’m dealing with “progressive lenses” (expensive high-class bifocals) and aches and pains in the joints, and all that kind of stuff that comes with aging, but compared to Jen’s Dad I felt like what an 82-year-old man in our church calls me: “Just a YOUNG man!”.  Jen’s family seemed more like 6 hour project types than 45 minute quick  set-up types.  The little dorm room was getting AWFUL crowded with 7 people in there so I begged out for about 35 minutes and went to the Dodge Grand Caravan to read.  I found myself reading Revelation 21.  It talks all about the final eternal state of the Believer....the New Heavens and New Earth and the New Jerusalem.  It’s a glorious chapter.  I couldn’t help but think that when I have the Revelation 21 experience in my life that will be my FINAL move!  We were disappointed that Rachel’s room was not all that clean...that “junk” had been left in the room, that one of the main light fixtures was not working, etc.  We had to get the maintenance dept. of the college in to deal with all that stuff.  Being a state school, Howie Carr would have gotten a kick out of it.  It was like one of those jokes like,  “How many _______ does it take to change a light bulb?”  Honestly, to take care of the stuff with Rachel’s dorm room it took THREE maintenance workers.  I’d say they were Moe, Larry, and Curly, except that one was a woman!

Westfield State College actually paid for a big “Welcome Back, Students” billboard on the MASS PIKE.  Rachel was not real thrilled with that.  In conversations I heard around campus on Monday, I don’t think a lot of the kids were thrilled with it.  Well, Rachel is back to school.  I’m actually kind of sad. Well, in a couple of senses, it IS a lot easier at home.  We live in a 115-year-old house with one bathroom, a narrow driveway, and no garage.  Four adults jockeying for the bathroom in the morning can be brutal, so it’s a lot easier with three.  And, it’s easier to moving around 2 cars instead of 3.  But Rachel is an incredibly talented artist who brings a unique and entertaining perspective to literally EVERYTHING she does.  She’s a very special kid.  She also was ALMOST born on my 32nd birthday but the hospital sent us home and she came in her own sweet time a few days later...21 years ago...and maybe someday she’ll be a 52 or 53-year-old moving a kid into that kid’s college dorm room...