Thursday, July 31, 2008


On Wednesday I sent out an e-mail to our church e-mail list (list of "church family" and "friends of the church") as a promotional- encouraging attendance for this coming Sunday.  I know many of you already received it.  Sorry for being redundant, but for those who DIDN'T receive this:   it's a cute true story and so I thought I would share the exact text of my Wednesday e-mail with you.  Hope you like it.  Here it is:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008  


Dear Church Family and Friends,

I have a cute story from the “Pre-Vatican 2” days of the Roman Catholic Church (pre-1962).  The old time Catholic Church had quite a number of rituals for willing and devout Catholics to perform.  One tradition was that on Holy Thursday (the day Protestants call “Maundy Thursday”) Catholics were to visit seven churches for prayer and quiet reflection during the day.  There was a special blessing for a person who made it to all seven churches.  For those who lived in a predominantly Catholic large city like Boston, visiting seven Catholic Churches on Holy Thursday was relatively easy.  In the suburbs where there was often one (or maybe two) churches per town,  finding seven churches to visit in one day could be challenging.

“Blanche” ( a woman who lived in the neighborhood where I grew up in Canton) has told the story that she drove around the Stoughton/Brockton area one Holy Thursday looking for seven churches to visit.  In the midst of her travels, Blanche stopped at a Methodist Church that she THOUGHT was a Catholic Church.  She went to the door and was greeting by a woman (perhaps the church secretary).  Blanche awkwardly told the woman, “I’d like to make a little visit”.

The Methodist woman led Blanche to the LADIES’ BATHROOM!

I’m telling that story because I hope that this coming Sunday morning, August 3, 2008, you will, “make a little visit” to First Assembly of God of Framingham!  August is usually a low attendance month, but I’m trusting God that at our church this Sunday, we’ll actually have a large attendance and a great service!

For more information, please e-mail me at or

On Sunday, August 3, “make a little visit”!  Worship God, enjoy good fellowship, and you’re welcome to use our rest rooms, too!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

I’m thinking of that line from the film “The Wizard of Oz”:  “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”  Yesterday it was very clear to me that I was not in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania anymore!

Tuesday is my day off.  Sometimes my day off becomes more of a “day on”!  I had originally just planned to work at my office and catch up with “church office stuff” on Tuesday, but upon arriving home, I noticed that the bushes and hedges around my Harrison Street church-owned residence were absolutely overgrown.  Usually I trim them twice a year: in early June and in early October, just like clockwork.  This year I trimmed them in late May.  I’ve NEVER seen the bushes and hedges grow back SO quickly.  It’s got to be ALL the rain and all the warm weather!

The worst part of the trimming is getting all the “equipment” out of the house and later back into the house.  I have a moderate-sized wooden stepladder and a HUGE wooden stepladder.  I’m not exactly George Reeves (“Superman”) and lugging that stuff out and EVERYTHING I have to lug out: tarps, rake, push broom, electric trimmer, extension cord, “outside” trash bags, etc. is a pain.  

I am fortunate that I can dump the yard waste on the periphery of our South Street church property.  For you who know Framingham, I dump it in the wooded area at the extreme northeast corner of the church property which borders the Chicken Bone Restaurant’s fence and dumpsters.  I dumped one load and came back with another.  When I arrived back with the second load, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but an open landscaping/construction trailer and it’s contents which had been left on the church property!  Specifically, it had been left in the dirt/gravel overflow lot, near where I was dumping the yard waste.  On the trailer were empty containers of blacktop sealer and all kinds of junk.  There was no license plate on the trailer.

I wondered: was this left by some crew who was coming back to get it?  Was it just dumped there permanently?  Parked near the church on Taylor Street was a red pickup truck with a trailer hitch.  The “Lt. Columbo” part of me started kicking in.  On the truck was an Illinois TEMPORARY plate.  About five minutes later, a tattooed Hispanic male came walking down Taylor Street to the truck.  I asked him if the trailer was his.  He said it was not.  I asked if he left it there.  He said he had, but that it had been there all day.  I immediately told him I’d been at the church property less than an hour earlier and it wasn’t there.  He then told me it belongs to another guy who is coming to get it.

He claimed he had no idea our church owned that dirt lot.  I hear that a lot.  Actually it DOES look like a separate lot from the church’s.  I frequently place flyers on cars who park there explaining the ownership and parking policy.  I asked him to move the trailer anyway.  He began whining about not knowing where to put it.  He then whined that the real owner of the trailer will arrive to pick it up by late afternoon.

The worst part is, he pulled what MANY people pull:  the “you’re a Christian so you have to allow me to use your property” thing.  Actually, he said, “You’re RELIGIOUS.  You’re a MAN OF GOD.  You should understand.”  I didn’t raise my voice  (at one time I would have but I’ve learned that only makes matters worse) but I did tell him strongly that I reject that argument and that the fact that I’m a Christian and the property belongs to a church doesn’t mean anybody can leave anything they want in the parking lot!

He pleasantly told me he understood and that it would definitely be gone in a couple of hours.  I have not been back to the building since then.  Will I find that trailer on the church property today?  I hope not!

Rita “Daisy” Orcutt who ran “Daisy’s Discoveries” consignment shop in downtown Framingham for years used to say, “Anything can and will happen in downtown Framingham and usually does!”

Ain’t it the truth!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)

In my last posting, I mentioned that on Sunday evening I returned from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The countryside in Lancaster County is BREATHTAKING!  There’s a peacefulness and a quaint, country atmosphere that’s VERY unlike a busy, fast-paced location like Framingham, Massachusetts.  There are more Amish people and Mennonites per capita in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania than there are anywhere else in America.

I admit I still don’t know a LOT about the Amish and the Mennonites, but I learned a great deal on this trip.  I knew that many Mennonites live their lives in a very similar manner to other Americans.  The most liberal Mennonites drive cars, fly planes, and live pretty much the way I do except that (I believe) all Mennonites are pacifists.  I met a very impressive Mennonite physician from Alaska named Dr. Gaede on my March 1991 trip to Haiti.  He used to fly into remote Indian and Eskimo villages in Alaska and treat the sick.  (Sadly, Dr. Gaede, an older man at the time, passed away just six months after that Haiti trip.)

All Amish and Mennonites are from an Anabaptist background.  The Anabaptist movement began in Switzerland in the 1500s.  Their beliefs don’t seem particularly weird today, but in the 1500s and 1600s they were looked upon as “heretics” by both Roman Catholics AND other Protestants.  Many were burned to death or forcibly drowned.  The Anabaptists opposed infant baptism.  They believed baptism should take place only when a person was an adult (or nearly an adult) and that it should indicate a person’s conscious decision to embrace faith in Jesus Christ and Christianity.  The Anabaptist movement eventually spread to Germany and England.  Modern Baptists and others who also hold to the doctrine of baptism by total immersion in water for those who are old enough to understand what they’re doing and NOT infants (such as the Assemblies of God to which I belong) trace their heritage back to the Anabaptists.  Menno Simons was one Anabaptist and the Mennonites trace their beginnings to him.  The Amish trace THEIR beginnings to Jacob Amman who was a Mennonite who thought the Mennonites were NOT strict enough.  He taught the importance of “shunning” those who rejected “the true faith”.

The Amish were severely persecuted in their native Germany and that’s why they came en masse to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.  Although they are called “Pennsylvania Dutch” and although their dialect which is a mixture of English and German is called “Pennsylvania Dutch” that term is a corruption of Deutch (“German”).  I had always been taught (mostly from high school) that the Amish live exactly as though this was still the 1840s and have refused any technological advances of any kind that have happened since the 1840s.  On this trip, I learned that’s absolutely incorrect!  It’s true that the Old Order Amish do not drive cars.  They travel in buggies.  The Amish use gray buggies and the Old Order Mennonites use black buggies. (They are equipped with battery powered lighting for nighttime travel!)  I saw buggies all over the place in Lancaster County.  I don’t mean this in any bad way, but the situation reminded me of the way the Brazilians live almost as a separate society in Framingham.  You run into Brazilians all over the place, but they mostly stay in their own sub-group.  So, you run into Amish all over the place, and they spend much time in their own sub-group, although they DO embrace a surprising amount of the modern world!

Did you know most of the Amish have refrigerators in their homes?  They are powered by propane gas.  They also typically have gas stoves in their homes.  In addition, they typically use old technology “wringer” washing machines which were what pretty much all washing machines were prior to World War 2.  (I’m old enough to remember my family having a wringer washer back when I was about 3.)  There are SOME companies who still produce wringer washers.  The Amish have no dryers, however, gas or otherwise.  They DO use flashlights, and they have modern indoor plumbing!  They also shop at Wal-Mart, go out to eat at McDonald’s and other restaurants, AND many Amish young people use cell phones!  (One rule is you can NEVER turn a cell phone on inside the house!)  Over half of Amish adults are NOT farmers.  Many run businesses.  Eight percent of Amish are multi-millionaires and many Amish are wealthy.  They pay CASH for their homes and farms!  They NEVER use credit cards!  They go to doctors and have modern medical procedures done, including heart bypass surgery, and they pay CASH for all medical procedures.  If a family is too poor to pay medical bills, other Amish take up the slack.  The Amish hold their church services in homes, never in a church building.  They educate their children separately from the public schools and school ends for them after Eighth Grade.  (They won the right to have separate schools in in a 1972 Supreme Court case.)  The Amish refuse to fly, but they do ride on trains and on busses, and will sometimes hire a car to take them on a long trip.  

The Amish are very fearful of becoming “too worldly”.  That’s why they NEVER hook a home up to the electrical or telephone wiring.  They are very fearful of radio, television, and computers.  They WILL use telephones and computers at their places of business, but NEVER in their homes.  I think one of the SADDEST beliefs that the Amish have is that they NEVER allow themselves to be photographed as they think that’s “making a graven image”.  They are NOT fond of artwork and never have drawings or paintings in their homes.  They will only display what is “functional” (such as a calendar) but NEVER any kind of artwork.  The Scripture in the Old Testament which forbids graven images actually forbids graven images of GOD.   That DOES mean the Catholics are wrong when they have statues of Jesus.  BUT, that verse about “graven images” does NOT forbid photos or artwork!  Their misconception and wrong interpretation of that reminds me of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs against blood transfusions which are also a gross misinterpretation of Scripture.

I must say I DID find being around these people fascinating. On the road, one of the buggies we passed was filled with balloons and presents- a young family obviously on the way to a child’s birthday party.

Ironically, neither Jesus Christ nor the Apostle Paul would have qualified to be Amish.  Since I wear a mustache (the ONE part of the beard that must be shaved in their culture) and I wear a wedding ring (ALL jewelry is forbidden) I would not qualify, either!

Incidentally, comedian “Weird Al Yankovic” sings a song called, “Amish Paradise” and that’s how I got the title for this posting.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:  but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

I’ve just returned from five (or so) days on vacation in Pennsylvania.  This was not my first time in Pennsylvania.  I’ve been to “Penna” a number of times before.  I’ve driven or ridden across Pennsylvania on Interstate 80 on several occasions.  I’ve also been to Erie, PA and that northwestern part of the state several times.  Until this past week, I’d never been inside the Philadelphia city limits, and I’d never been to Lancaster County which is famous for having far more Amish and Mennonite people per capita than anywhere else in America.  If I have time, I’ll write more about Pennsylvania, the Amish, etc. over the next few weeks.

Mary Ann and I went on vacation with Tim and Sonda McCarthy from our church.  (Incidentally, they run Moody Optical in Ashland, MA.  If you ever need an eye exam, eyeglasses, or contact lenses, Moody Optical is the place to go!)  On our way home today Tim and I each agreed that the event on this vacation that we each enjoyed the most was our visit to The Stoogeum in suburban Philadelphia!  (Only the guys went...the gals did something else during that time.  You’re not surprised, are you?!)

Tim found the information about The Stoogeum on-line and prearranged our visit through President Gary Lassin of The Three Stooges Fan Club, Inc.  You can check out The Stoogeum’s website at:

Our appointment was for Thursday, July 24 at 11 a.m. and was scheduled to last three hours.  There were a few other people visiting the museum at the same time, but I’d say there were fewer than ten of us in the building at any time during our visit.  The Stoogeum is located in a suburban professional building complex (something like “Framingham Technology Park” here in Framingham, only much SMALLER...maybe a fifth the size of F.T.P.).  There were several similar looking buildings located a short distance down a driveway between a bank and a small shopping center.  (Note:  There was an emergency at the bank which appeared to have been a robbery while we were visiting The Stoogeum.  We’re INNOCENT!  nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!)  The Stoogeum was the last building in the complex.  From the outside, it looked as though it could have housed the offices of dentists, pediatricians, and attorneys.  There was an impressive metallic sign on the building which read “The Stoogeum”.

We opened the door and heard Gary Lassin beckoning us upstairs.  On the stairway, was a replica of the Stooges.  As soon as we began ascending the stairway, from the replica came the Stooges’ greeting, “HELLO...HELLO...HELLO!!”  We were definitely in the right place.  Gary Lassin is a very serious, professional looking guy who I’d say is about my age.  He looks like he’d be an architect or an attorney or something like that.  He was very pleasant but strictly business.  In fact, he spent most of his time working at a computer in his office...the office door being a stained glass window depicting who else...the Stooges?!  The Stoogeum is made up of three floors.  Gary recommended we start with the middle, move down to the lower level, and finish up with the upper level.  There is also a movie theater in there which shows continues Columbia Three Stooges “two-reelers”.  Tim and I were impressed that this museum had at least double the amount of stuff we’d ever have expected. We were there for the full three hours.  There are all kinds of artifacts and memorabilia from all SIX Three Stooges...yes there WERE six when you include Shemp, Joe, and Curly Joe along with Moe, Larry, and Curly.  There was all kinds of stuff from their film career.  There were several scripts (obviously under glass) including one which was Shemp’s and in which he’d made some notes and changes.  There was one very rare script for a proposed two-reeler which was never filmed.  There were drivers’ licenses, cancelled checks, and other artifacts.  There was all kinds of personal information about the guys.  Did you know, for instance, that Moe, Shemp, and Larry were all philanthropists who donated lots of time and money to various charities?  Well, ALL of them did that, but those three especially excelled in that area.  There was a whole “Hall of Fame” of Shemp for you to look at on your way into the theater.  I did not know that Columbia Pictures made MANY other “short subject” films besides The Three Stooges.  Shemp starred or co-starred in a bunch of these.  I also didn’t know that for many years the Stooges performed live every Fourth of July in Atlantic City.

On the upper level was all sorts of artwork of The Three Stooges.  There were also samples of product campaigns, comicstrips, etc.  There was a Three Stooges Trivia Game to play.  I was also impressed with all sorts of information about the character actors who were featured such as Vernon Dent and Bud Jamison.

At 2 p.m. Tim and I were in the theater watching “Violent is the Word for Curly” know, when they visit “Mildew College” and sing “Swingin’ the Alphabet”?!  In the middle of that, the electricity went out.  Tim and I walked out of the theater and encountered Gary Lassin.
In a way, the situation was as ironic as the surprises Curly experienced visiting Uncle Bob-O-Link’s haunted house, but that’s something which would take me too long to describe.  

“Did we have a power failure?” I asked Gary Lassin.

“No,” he replied matter-of-factly, “I’m closing up.”

“Oh, O.K.; 2 o’clock,” we responded and thanked him.

Three Stooges lovers- you’ve got to see The Stoogeum!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I put out this e-mail to my "address book" yesterday.  I thought I would share it with my blog readers as well.  Here is what I wrote in my e-mail:

Just so "y'all"  know, my wife and I will be going on vacation to Pennsylvania from Wednesday July 23 through Sunday 27.  Mary Ann will probably have her laptop with her;  It's possible I'll go on-line once or twice with WiFi  but I just want to let you know to try to NOT send me any e-mails between Wed. July 23 and Sunday, July 27.


And, now I'll add to my blog readers, if we have any criminal types reading this, I have two young adult offspring of mine who will be at the house while I am away and both the house and church facility will be carefully watched, so if you have any ideas about illegal activity, don't even THINK about it!

I've frankly had a tough day today (Tuesday), one of those kind of days in which you're dealing with one really stupid thing after another.  I feel exhausted and annoyed, and it probably means I really do need a vacation!

Monday, July 21, 2008


"And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." (Acts 12:22)

Around 1:30 p.m. today, I stopped by the Framingham Coperative Bank/Dunkin' Donuts
parking lot on Concord St. in downtown Framingham as I wanted to cash a check and
pick up our church's night deposit bag.

There was a green panel truck in the parking lot with a big DAWN HARKNESS
sign. She is what Howie Carr calls a "Moon Bat" (a MoveOn.Org type). There was
a crowd around the truck...enough people that it was hard to get into the
parking lot. I thought, "Is DAWN HARKNESS attracting this much of a crowd in the
middle of the day?!" THEN I saw a bunch of John Kerry signs. I thought,
"Aren't they left over from 2004?!" Suddenly I saw that John Kerry was
addressing the crowd.

I just plain got out of there and drove over to pick up some things at
Staples on Route 9. I came back and the Harkness vehicle was gone. In the bank, a
bunch of cameras were ready and everybody looked like they were about to
audition for American Idol. One teller excitedly told me that John Kerry was
about to come into the bank at any time. I told them I'd be voting Repblican,
and another told me "you can keep that to yourself".

I left the bank and proceeded to go over to Dunkin' Donuts for an ice coffee.
I realized Kerry was in there having some sort of Town Meeting or something,
so I gave up and drove to Dunkin' Donuts on Franklin Street. THERE, I ran
into the new directors of the Framingham Salvation Army (whom I recognized from
a recent newspaper article) which was more exciting and meaningful to me.
Incidentally, one of the infamous Rizoli brothers of Framingham was across the street from
Concord St. Dunkin' Donuts holding a protest sign.

All this, just from trying to do a simple errand at the Framingham Cooperative Bank!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

PHOEBE (reposted)

This was originally posted on July 8 and at that time caused the layout of the blog
to get all messed up (see "Thank You Dave and Jon" for an explanation). I have
decided to try to repost it today. Phoebe, like me, described herself as
ECCENTRIC". I think she would have gotten a laugh about all the problems she
caused me with my blog layout. So here is what I originally posted on July 8:

"I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which

is at Cenchrea:" (Romans 16:1)

In my entire life I think I've only known ONE Phoebe. (Well, there WAS a
character named Phoebe on a soap opera I used to watch in the 1970s, but

I don't think that counts!) The one Phoebe I've known was Phoebe Yphantis.
(Yphantis is a Greek last name. She pronounced it "Yee-FAN-tis").

To the best of my knowledge, Phoebe Yphantis never set foot in our church
building, but in many respects she considered First Assembly of God of Framingham
HER church. My first contact with Phoebe was about ten years ago. In those
days, we had a weekly radio program on (now defunct) J-Light Christian Radio
AND I was a frequent guest on J-Light's morning drive program. Phoebe began
regularly telephoning our church, sending in financial contributions to our
church, and praying for our church.

From time to time, I'd visit Phoebe with Claire Grimes, an older woman from
our church. Phoebe lived in a small apartment in a complex for the elderly and
disabled in Wayland. She was heavy-set. She wasn't much to look it. Well,
she wasn't ugly or anything, but she was not the kind of woman that guys would
even remotely feel physically attracted to. When we were first visiting her,
she was in her early 60s. Over the years, I learned that Phoebe had been the
daughter of a minister. I also learned she'd attended Lexington Christian
High School with Paul Hubley, who I know. (Paul was pastor of "Chapel of the
Cross" - a Baptist church in Southborough- in the 1990s.) I learned she had a
sister in Tennessee and a brother in western Massachusetts who was financially
comfortable but had pretty much walked away from the Christianity of his

Phoebe called on the phone quite a bit, and she could talk for at least
thirty minutes at a time. Sometimes that got kind of taxing, but I did feel sorry
for her. She DID make fairly regular financial contributions to the church.
Phoebe was poor. The checks were mostly small, but I'd say over the past ten
years she gave at least $1000. to our little church. In September of 2002,
we held a special outreach to the children and families of our church's
neighborhood which we called,"Fun Fiesta:. For us it was a huge undertaking.
made "Fun Fiesta" a huge prayer matter and prayed a LOT for it. It was a
very successful event. My wife Mary Ann made Phoebe a photo album about "Fun
Fiesta" as a thank you to her.

About eighteen months ago, Phoebe Yphantis moved from the apartment complex
in Wayland to a nursing home in Sudbury. I sent her regular newsletters, and
she phoned me probably about once every two weeks or so. On Saturday, I
received a blunt phone call from the nursing home asking me to stop sending mail
Phoebe as she is no longer a resident.

"Did she pass away?" I asked.

The called somewhat reluctantly told me she'd passed away a couple of weeks

I thought about the last phone call I had with her which was about four or
five weeks ago. She was having a lot of health issues and I made it a point to
pray for her before I hung up.

"Stay in touch," I encouraged her.

I did an on-line search for Phoebe Yphantis. I could not find an Obituary, a
Death Notice, or ANYTHING. I wonder if her family just had the body
cremated, or quickly buried. Come to think of it, I think she MAY have had her
donated to science.

Yes, sometimes Phoebe's phone calls could be kind of long and feel a bit
intrusive, but, I'm going to miss them...

Friday, July 18, 2008

THANKS DAVE AND JON (extra entry)

You'd have to be quite a geek to notice this, but the entry "Phoebe" is gone and the blog looks more "normal".  This was somehow due to getting the new iMac computer and my first posting done on the new iMac on July 8 through "Firefox" but it caused the whole layout of the blog to be very wide and big and difficult to read.

Dave a personal friend and regular blog reader e-mailed me about the problem today.

After extensive troubleshooting, my son found that something went crazy when I posted the July 8 posting entitled "Phoebe".  Jon found that when "Phoebe" became an "archieve" the blog would correct itself and look normal....OR I could just delete the posting. 

Since I started the blog in Feb. of 2006, I don't think I've ever deleted ANY posting, but I deleted "Phoebe" and everything went back to normal.

This reminds me of a teaching I heard many years ago from Denny Seler who is a mutual friend of Dave and me.  Denny said nobody is truly "independent"; rather a mature person recognizes that he or she is INTERDEPENDENT.  I needed Dave's feedback, and I needed Jon's help to get the blog layout back the way it's supposed to be!

Sorry, Phoebe, but your memorial posting just had to go!


“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

I LOVE old-fashioned (dare I say it) “Black” Gospel songs.  I’m nervous because I don’t want to sound like a racist, and I’m NOT a racist.  But, one time after a special community service which had featured a dynamic Black Gospel choir, I commented to my clergy colleague The Rev. Ellen Tatreau (a white, American Baptist) “I love a good Black Gospel choir!” She immediately (with political correctness) turned to me and said, “No, you love a GOSPEL choir!”  Well; I love a Black Gospel choir!  It’s the experience of slavery, racism, “Jim Crow”, etc. that gives the music it’s “soul” and very few, if any, whites can really grab hold of that.  

I LOVE the Black Gospel song that radio talk show host Jimmy Myers uses to open his program every Sunday afternoon on 96.9 WTKK.  It’s called “Somebody Ought to Testify”.  It’s fast, and “cool” and soulful, and I could listen to it all day.  Sorry, Jimmy Myers, but I’m going to steal it and make it MY theme song for THIS posting!

What a GREAT day I had on this past Thursday!  

A few weeks ago, I was asked to host a meeting of mostly Protestant Massachusetts Prison Chaplains.  All I had to do was provide the meeting place, which was our church facility.  Since our church building is small and not handicapped accessible (ssshhhhh, don’t remind the Town about that!) I don’t get to host many special events, so this was an honor.  I was actually even a little bit nervous about it.

When I was asked to host the meeting,  I was also asked to share a 15-20 minute devotional (short sermon)  from the Bible.

Until Wednesday,  I did not know what I was going to share, but yesterday I
felt strongly impressed from the Lord to share a "Readers' Digest  condensed version" of
last Sunday's Isaiah 6 sermon.   I don’t have the space here on the blog to write all there is to write about last Sunday’s sermon.  I have pastored First Assembly of God of Framingham for twenty-one years.  This was the finest and most powerful and most anointed sermon I’ve preached in twenty-one years; no thanks to me, but thanks to GOD!

I had not told anyone at the chaplain’s meeting what I was speaking about.  When the "leader" Mark Henenway opened the meeting he quoted from Isaiah 6 about the Seraphim saying "Holy, Holy, Holy".  I was so moved I literally almost started crying.  When I shared the devotional there was a heavy anointing on it, just like Sunday. The chaplains were all moved by the devotional.  One said, "This is the best kept secret in Massachusetts! (meaning our church)  If I lived nearer, I'd come to church here and I'd encourage others to come!"  Another said it was very anointed and that "God is about to do a great work here".   Another requested I be called forward and special prayer be prayed over me.   It was very powerful.  One prophecy was given about the church and two prophetic words were given to me, personally.

As far as next Sunday's sermons and a bunch of other stuff I had to do and still have to do, I got absolutely nothing done on Thursday morning, but I know I was supposed to be in this
chaplains’ meeting and I just have to trust God I'm going to get all that stuff done before Sunday morning.

I don’t know how many of you can appreciate what I’ve written here.
Some may think I’m crazy.
Some may think it’s no big deal.
It is.


Thursday, July 17, 2008


“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:” (Luke 15:23)

In the past, I’ve mentioned on this blog that I tend to be a workaholic.  My “to do” lists are unbelievably long.  The amount of “blue collar” and “white collar” tasks I have to accomplish before Thanksgiving Day 2008 is so overwhelming, that sometimes it drives me to staring vacantly and sadly into space for 10-15 minutes and wondering if there’s any way to clone several more Bob Barils and/or instantly produce $10,000 to hire people to do some of it.

Despite my workaholism and despite the overwhelming tasks I really DO still face for 2008, once in awhile somebody kind of makes a way for me to have a, “Ferris Buheler’s Day Off” and that was the case with Tuesday, July 15.  My 21-year-old daughter Rachel loves Rockport, MA and desperately wanted to spend a day there this summer, but she did not want to go there alone, and she has NO sense of direction.  SO, a few weeks ago, Rachel asked me if I’d consider taking a Tuesday (my day off) and going with her to Rockport.  I agreed.  She got July 15 off from work, and we had our version of “Ferris Buheler’s Day Off” .

I have desperately wanted a sunny dry day to do some prepping for outdoor painting.  YES, our house is covered with what Jay Severin calls “cheap, plastic junk” (that more sensitive people call “vinyl siding”)  but I still have a porch and railings that get painted, and they look terrible.  It was a bit hard to give up a sunny dry day of working at the parsonage, but I honestly needed this fun trip to Rockport!  The weather could not have been better.  We left around 8:45 a.m. and and arrived in Rockport around 10.  Honestly, I think tourism has GOT to be done this year.  Yes, there were crowds of tourists in Rockport, but I’d say only about half the number of people you’d typically have seen in past years.  We easily found an on-street parking place.  I was surprised that you can feed the meter to park up to 5 hours!  I think there was a 2-3 hours limit in the past.  We did feed it so it would allow us 5 hours of visiting the town, and we walked the 10-15 minutes to Bearskin Neck.  Rockport reminds me a lot of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  It’s not quite as nice as Boothbay Harbor, but it IS almost as good.  There’s a sense in which it’s nicer than just about anything on Cape Cod, (and I love Cape Cod).  Bearskin Neck is quaint and touristy.  It’s filled with art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops.  We looked around a few art galleries which was fun.  At the end of Bearskin Neck is a “jetty”.  I think most of you know a jetty is a pile of rocks in a row that jut out into the water.  Rachel really wanted to walk out to the end of the jetty.  It was REALLY rugged, and I had to stop and sit down about a fourth of the way out, but she made it to the end and I snapped her picture a number of times.

For lunch, we ate at Portside Chowder House right on Bearskin Neck.  Although SOME of the items on the menu were a little pricey, the place was pretty much “family style” and most of the prices were reasonable.  I had a cup of clam chowder which was really good and a huge steak and cheese sub which was filling and delicious.  Rachel had chicken fingers and fries which she could not finish.  The service was good.  The best part was we were seated at a window looking right out on the water!  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE PORTSIDE CHOWDER HOUSE.

Later, we went to the Bearskin Neck Ice Cream Store and each got frappes.  For those of you from outside New England, a “frappe” is a New England milk shake.  There’s something about a frappe...a generous amount of ice cream, milk and syrup, that just doesn’t compare with the “shakes” you get in the rest of the country.  The frappes were outstanding!  I also highly recommend this place!

One of the shops we stopped in was Bearskin Neck Leathers.  I couldn’t imagine I’d buy anything in there, but I did!  My cell phone holder broke some time ago.  If you go to buy a new one at the cell phone store, they’re pricey and not that great.  I’d had my cell phone on my belt in a goofy oversized holder.  There was a PERFECT leather cell phone holder which I bought for just 8 bucks!  I was delighted!  We also stopped in a candy/gift shop in the downtown for some souvenir magnets, and Rachel bought a tee shirt.

We did NOT come prepared for swimming, but we DID take a five minute stroll across the public beach.  Rachel noticed that across the street from the beach was a public park called “Millbrook Meadow”, and we decided to walk over and check it out.  What a WONDERFUL place Millbrook Meadow is!  We had a blast walking through and picturesque with a bubbling brook running through it.  There was a huge snapping turtle in the brook! There’s a path leading uphill from the meadow to a very old burial ground.  From the burial ground you can look across to the ocean.  What a spectacular view!

Have I whet your appetite for Rockport?  I hope so!  My wife and I are seriously considering spending an overnight there before the end of 2008.

Yes, I’ve got an overwhelming amount of work to do, but sometimes you DO have to take a “Ferris Buheler’s Day Off” or I guess I’ll call it a “Bob Baril’s Day Off”!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


“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)

Sometime ago on her blog ( ) , my clergy friend and colleague, The Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, wrote a piece entitled, “Be the Buddah of the Road”.  I’d have preferred, “Be the Jesus of the Road,” but I got her point.  

Bluntly, I don’t know why so many people are in SUCH a HURRY and have SUCH an “ATTITUDE”.  I think the WORST drivers in America are in the New York City area and the second worst are in the immediate vicinity of Providence, Rhode Island, but pretty much anyplace in eastern or central Massachusetts would qualify for the third worst drivers in the country.  Driving is no fun.  And as for the “rules” that I learned in Driver Ed in the early 1970s: WHAT RULES?!  It seems they’ve all vanished!

On Monday morning I was driving in Framingham; specifically I was on Mount Wayte AVE at the intersection with Franklin ST, proceeding south (ultimately heading for the Pond Street, Ashland area).  At that congested intersection, a few cars coming from the opposite direction were turning from Mount Wayte onto Franklin to head towards the Route 9/Famingham Centre area.  A couple of cars were pretty much into the intersection to make their turns anyway, so I stopped and waved them through.  In my rear-view mirror was a disgusted woman (probably late 30s or early 40s) who threw her hands into the air as if to say to me, “You stupid goofy idiot.  Why don’t you let 63,000 people turn in front of us while you’re at it!?”

I think I’ve written about this before, but I HATE the “hands in the air” thing when people are driving.  Honestly, I’d rather have someone give me the finger.  It’s clear. It’s concise.  It’s abrupt.  I don’t like it, but O.K. I get the point; but the hands in the air thing?!  Thirty  or more years agowhen my Dad was with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, he’d stop a driver who gave him a gesture like that and he’d give them a condescending ten minute lecture that would ruin their whole day.  Of course, if they didn’t want the ten minute lecture, he’d just find some excuse to give them a citation and make them come into the old 100 Nashua Street Registry headquarters for a hearing.  Boy, I sometimes wish I had that power that my Dad had!  

As soon as I was able to pull through the intersection, I pulled to the side of the road and dramatically waved Mrs. “Hands in the Air” forward with both arms as if she was the Queen of England or something. Maybe that wasn’t the “Buddah of the Road” thing to do, but it sure felt good!  Ironically, Mrs. “Hands in the Air” made a right turn down that street that goes through the old Cushing Hospital property to Winter Street.  I say ironically, because as she did, a car was in front of HER on that side street “crawling”!  I knew she’d be disgusted and she’d be slowed down.  It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person!

Maybe Mrs. “Hands in the Air” is married to Mr. “Are You With Don?” from the “Raining On My Parade” story.  Wouldn’t THAT be wild?!

My message to all drivers:  Slow down.  Lighten up.  Be courteous.  

One of the many jobs my father had over his years at the Registry of Motor Vehicles was investigating fatal car accidents.  I’ve seen some very gory photos.  I’m tempted to describe one to you, but I honestly might get in trouble with AOL for being too graphic.  We all want to get to Heaven, but do we want to get there THAT quick?!

And, this may offend some of my very strict born-again Christian friends, but a bumper sticker I saw about twenty years ago says it all:  “DRIVE LIKE HELL.  YOU’LL GET THERE!”

Friday, July 11, 2008


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

First of all, I want to make it very clear that this posting is NOT about James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston criminal who has been hiding from the feds for over twelve years.  This is about a CAR!

Whitey was the name we gave to our 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon.  On Thursday afternoon, Whitey was hauled off to the junk yard.  I know a car is really nothing more than a pile of rubber, steel, plastic, and stainless steel, with oil and gasoline and power steering fluid, brake fluid, and other stuff pumping through its various systems.  But Americans are very personal and emotional about their cars.  Some of you know that I sell various auto collectibles so I find myself at a lot of car shows, and even with the increase in gas prices, car shows are as popular as ever.  There’s something about seeing the ”gull wing” design of a ’59 Chevrolet or the cool, sleek, innovative look of a ’49 Ford coupe that puts many a baby-boomer in a pleasant, nostalgic mood.  Maybe it’s because my father was SUCH a big “car person” that (although I’m not mechanically inclined) I notice cars and I tend to form sentimental attachments to cars.  I was pretty attached to Whitey.

I’m actually not a big fan of General Motors cars (with the exception of Saturn cars).  I tend to prefer Ford products, and for minivans, I prefer Chrysler products, but due to the economic situations I’ve found myself in throughout my life, if a car was reasonably priced and in good mechanical condition, I’d buy it despite the make.  I’ve owned an AMC, a couple of Fords, a Plymouth, a Dodge, a couple of Oldsmobiles, and let's not forget my 1989 Volkswagen!  I DO like station wagons very much.  I’m sad that there are fewer and fewer station wagons available today.  They’ve been largely replaced by SUVs, “crossovers”, and minivans.  In 1995, I was junking my 1986 Plymouth Caravelle sedan and I needed a cheap, reliable replacement.  At that time, I bought a dark blue 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon.  I really liked the car.   It was GREAT for the first year that I owned it, but after that I did start having a lot of mechanical problems with it.  In late 1997, the ’85 Oldsmobile was at the stage to be junked, and I did not know what to do.  For those of you who don’t believe in miracles and answers to prayer, I want to testify that in late ’97 I had an answer to prayer and a “sort-of” miracle.  To my total surprise, a guy I know offered to sell me his 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon (book value $5200.) for one dollar.  He had just purchased a new Chevrolet truck, and he just plain wanted to do this to help me out!  I bought “Whitey” (yes the car was WHITE with gray interior) for one 1972 Eisenhower dollar coin.

I did not have any serious problems with Whitey for many years.  In fact, my wife and I owned Whitey for over ten years and six months.  That’s the longest we’ve ever owned any car.  Two of my kids learned to drive on Whitey.  I took my father to a number of doctor appointments in Whitey.  In those days, he was still at home but quite senile.  I remember my daughter Amy and I taking him to the barber shop for a haircut in Whitey.  I was regularly driving Whitey during the crises when each of my parents died.  I could go on and on telling stories about Whitey and boring you.  I do remember the time one of Whitey’s side windows was shot out with a B-B gun.  I was in the church building at the time and the perpetrator was never caught.  I also remember hosing Whitey down one hot day and cracking the windshield in the process.  One of the wheel covers kept falling off, and finally I just kept it off and hung it in our basement where it still hangs to this day.  

In September of 2005, Whitey broke down with my daughter Rachel driving it.  I had AAA haul it to our driveway.  Whitey had several serious problems which I could not afford to fix for quite awhile.  Whitey sat in our driveway from September of 2005 to August of 2006 when it was repaired.  After that, we started down the cycle of some sort of major repair needing to be done about every three to four months.  Rachel had become Whitey’s principal driver and had also become even more emotionally attached to the car than I was.  In early January of 2008, we got the diagnosis that Whitey needed MAJOR work, and a key part would have to be ordered through a General Motors dealership.  Rachel did not take the news well, but I made the decision that Whitey was coming off the road for good.  It took until April for us to find a 2000 Saturn sedan which became Whitey’s replacement.  After Whitey sitting in the driveway for six months, it was time for it to go.  I called a Brazilian guy who hauls away junk cars.  He and his partner came and got it and paid me $200. for  it.

The afternoon before Whitey was hauled away, Rachel posed for a few pictures in front of it.

Yes, it’s the “circle of life” and it was finally time for Whitey to go. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008


“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)

At the outset, I’m going to tell you “point blank” that this posting may “come back to bite me”.  It’s likely it will confuse some folks.  It COULD even upset a few people.  I expect at least 25% of those who’ll read it to disagree with what I write here and to not like this posting.  I also expect about 30% of those who read this and who THINK they understand it to in fact NOT understand it at all.  With that disclaimer in mind- if you’re “game”, then keep reading!

On weekends, one of Boston’s PBS television stations (we MAY be the only T.V. market in America that has two PBS television stations!) ran the Tom Hanks film, “Big” with no commercial interruptions. I was glued to it.  I LOVE “Big”!  It’s not my absolute favorite film, but it IS in my top ten.  (My top film is “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner.)  I know that a lot of strict born-again Christians would have a lot of problems and disagreements with each film.  (That’s the kind of thing that drives my 24-year-old son crazy! Jon happens to be an avid film buff AND a committed Christian, and he can’t understand why so many committed evangelicals find that an impossibility!)  We DO need to “lighten up” at times!  These ARE fantasy films which are NOT meant to be taken literally any more than is, “The Wizard of Oz”, and YES I know that some born-again Christian hate THAT film!  In “Big” I don’t like some of the language.  The “F” word is used at least once.  (To my surprise, PBS bleeped that- PBS usually lets ALL language go.)  There are several uses of “G.D.” which PBS did NOT bleep and I find “G.D.” more offensive than “F”.  There are also several other choice words in “Big”.  Had it been up to ME when the film was made, I’d have eliminated all profanities, but you’ve got to understand I actually cannot tell you the last time I uttered a profanity- it was many years ago.  There is pre-marital sex in “Big” - almost nothing is actually shown, but in the film, pre-marital sex is O.K., and I’m well aware that in God’s eyes, it’s NOT O.K.  I also realize that in “Big”, the twelve-year-old kid Josh wishes to be “big” in front of an occultic/demonic wishing machine that looks like something right out of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” from circa 1960.  (In SOME respects, “Big” IS like a long episode of “The Twilight Zone”.) I know most born-again Christians would prefer he’d have made his wish in front of a friendly stuffed bunny or something, but that’s not the way the film was written, and again, it’s a FANTASY, a STORY;  it’s FICTION, and not meant to be taken literally!

I’m guessing most of my readers have seen “Big”.  For the sake of any who have not seen it, a 12-year-old kid is magically changed into a 30-year-old man, and later magically changed back.  It’s NOT, however, that he’s changed into a 30-year-old man who suddenly thinks, lives, and acts like a 30-year-old man.  Instead, he’s a 12-year-old trapped in a 30-year-old man’s body.  The character Josh ends up going to work for a toy company, and just by being HIMSELF, ends up being promoted to being a Vice-President in charge of toy development. You’d have to SEE the film, and I can’t do it justice on paper, but the film is both funny and sad to watch.  What you realize as you watch it is the world would be a MUCH better place if we were all really just a bunch of 12-year-olds trapped in adult bodies instead of the sophisticated, selfish, manipulative, phonies that at least half of adults become.  Did I really mean that last statement?  Are at least half of adults sophisticated, selfish, manipulative, and phony?  In my life experience, YES.  

One of the reasons I like “Big” and I relate to Josh is that I’m a lot like him.  Back in the 1990s one fellow pastor angrily told me, “Grow UP, man!!”  I’ve faced similar rejections when I just won’t play all the stupid games that so called “grown ups” play.  Ironically, the woman who falls in love with Josh says she falls in love with him because, “He’s a GROWN UP!”  By that, she means, he’s open, and honest, and vulnerable, and genuine.  In the film, many people REJECT Josh, but a minority of people greatly love, respect, and appreciate him.

It’s interesting that Jesus did NOT tell us, “Grow UP, man!!”  Rather, he told us to become as little children!

Now, I realize that there are some NEGATIVES to this “childlike behavior” thing.  Many children TALK way too much.  They babble and babble and babble and tell EVERYBODY, EVERYTHING.  That’s very unwise.  In Matthew 10:16, Jesus DID tell us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.  In the film, Josh ultimately learns to act a little more like an adult.  He stops telling everybody everything, and that helps him.  As much as I tend to be child-LIKE, I have tried to learn to not be child-ISH.  Many times in public meetings, I don’t say a whole lot.  I’ve found the Mark Twain maxim very know, the one about, “better to be quiet and thought of as a fool than to speak and to leave no doubt about it”.  That’s TRUE.  One of my instructors at Stonehill College, (Mr. Chamberlain) said it’s always better to be quiet; that people will THINK you know more than you do when you’re quiet, and that people will be more impressed with you.  I’ve found that’s absolutely true.

This next paragraph may not “go over” with some folks, either, but somebody I’ve admired in life is Larry Glick.  I know, “Larry WHO?!”  Larry Glick retired from being a Boston area radio personality over fifteen years ago.  He is now 86 and lives in South Florida.  I’ve actually spoken to him a few times, both on the air, and in private conversations (though not lately).  Larry Glick is a very childlike guy.  Larry Glick is a “Josh” and a “Bob Baril” kind of person, and he became very successful in life by being himself.  I’m still naive enough (“childlike enough”!) to believe I will be successful in life by being MYself.  Larry Glick may be humorous and childlike, but he’s not some jerk.  Glick fought in World War 2 and was wounded in combat in France.  In the early 1960s after doing various things in radio in both the business management side of radio and the broadcasting performer side of radio, he was not too happy.  Larry Glick was inMiami, Florida doing an issues oriented talk show.  Each night, he argued politics and national issues with callers.  Glick was miserable.  He really didn’t like all the anger and arguing.  One night, he just came in and did a light, fun, and I’ll say it:  “childlike” show.  He had a blast!  He never went back to the confrontational/issues format.  In time, he was hired to return to his hometown of Boston, MA to do a show with his trademark light and entertaining format, and over a twenty-five year period of time he did just that on WMEX, WBZ, and later WHDH.  He was “real”, he was “vulnerable”, he was “childlike”, and he was happy.  The fact that he’s still alive and in reasonably good health at 86 has GOT to say something.

Yes, that character Josh in “Big”- he’s a lot like Bob Baril; or Bob Baril’s a lot like him.  And, despite what a lot of grown-ups may THINK of that, I think it’s a good thing.

Monday, July 7, 2008

THE  VINEGAR  THING (extra entry)

"...Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them..." (from Matthew 13:30)

I’ve posted this tip on my blog at least once before (quite awhile ago) and I’ve put this information out as mass e-mailings at least twice before, but I thought I’d share it again this year:

This is around the time of year that many of us are bothered with crabgrass, wild grasses, and all sorts of other weeds growing up through cracks in our driveways and walkways or through cracks in the sidewalks and curbing in front of our residences.  Sometimes the weeds can grow a foot or more high or spread out (like crabgrass) all over the place and look TERRIBLE.  If you’ve ever tried digging up and pulling out the weeds you know how frustrating that is, and many times you’ve done further damage to your driveway in the process! My father used to pour gasoline on such growth.  Gasoline kills the weeds but it’s hazardous, and will potentially do damage to asphalt.  There ARE some pretty good weed killers sold at hardware stores.  The problem is, many of them are at least somewhat environmentally hazardous, also, and most of them cost a lot of money.

Seven years ago, my friend Dave Connell gave me a WONDERFUL tip!  He told me the thing to use on that unwanted weed growth in your driveway cracks, walkway cracks, and sidewalks and curbing  is VINEGAR!  That sounded crazy, but I tried it and IT WORKS!  In fact, vinegar works better on those weeds than conventional weed killers do, and vinegar is NOT harmful to the environment!

The thing to do is buy the vinegar in gallon jugs.  You can find vinegar in gallon jugs in the salad dressing aisle in almost any supermarket in America.  Prices do vary widely.  I will say that the place with usually sells it for the lowest price in the Boston area is Market Basket, but I did get some jugs of vinegar on sale a few days ago at Stop & Shop.  I usually buy the white vinegar, but cider vinegar works just the same.  Depending on how much of an area you need to treat, buy two or three or four jugs, and pour vinegar directly on the weeds you want to kill.  Within 24 hours you’ll see them dying and in 3 days they’ll be brown, wilted, and dead! In the past I’ve told people not to do a vinegar application just before the torrential rains of a thunderstorm as that could weaken the effects of the vinegar.  Well, this week, I applied the vinegar just a couple of hours before the torrential rains of a thunderstorm.  The vinegar worked just fine and all that water on top of it seemed to have NO detrimental effects!

I’m so glad Dave Connell gave me this great tip!  Hope you’ll try it and share it with a friend!

Friday, July 4, 2008


“And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room,” (Luke 14:9)

It’s become a tradition for my 21-year-old daughter Rachel and me to attend the Natick 4th of July parade together, and  this year was no exception.  We’ve got it all down to a routine.  We get up early and take portable outdoor chairs with us.  We pick up coffee and juice and doughnuts, and I bring the MetroWest Daily News along to read before the parade starts.  Many years ago we began attending the parade every year with my friend the Rev. Stafford Trapp who was then pastor of First Baptist Church of Natick.  When Stafford and his family lived there, we’d drive to his Beacon Street home and walk down to a certain area of Route 27 where we’d sit and watch the parade.  Stafford moved to Marlborough over ten years ago, and although Rachel and I park off of  Washington Avenue, we always cross Route 27 and find a nice place to sit on the non-sidewalk part of the street.

About five minutes after we’d comfortably settled into a nice spot, a man called to us from his yard, “Are you with Don?” .  We replied that we were not, and I guess I should have realized that could mean there would be some kind of a problem.  About a minute later the same man called to us, “You know you’re on private property?!” Then, almost in the same breath he said, “Enjoy the fourth”.  I wasn’t quite sure if his, “Enjoy the fourth,” was sincere, or said out of a bit of annoyance.  It has always been my understanding that the four or five feet immediately off of a public roadway is NOT private property.  Rather, it belongs to the local municipality.  Often, the municipality will use that strip of land to construct a sidewalk, but even if they don’t, it’s still the property of the municipality.  I guess what I did next was probably NOT in the, “What Would Jesus Do?” category.  It was more in the category of,. “What Would Don Imus Do?” or “What Would Andy Rooney Do?”.

I said, “Really, I’m not on your property.  This is a strip of land owned by the Town of Natick where a sidewalk would go.”

“Do you see a sidewalk there?!” he defensively shot back.

“Well, no,” I answered, “But I know in the house I grew up in over in Canton, we had a strip of land by our property like this which looked like our property, but it was really ownedby the Town.”

He then said, “I SAID ‘Enjoy the Fourth’ didn’t I?!”

At that point, I just shut up, but the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.  My daughter Rachel asked me, “Dad, did you HAVE to argue with that guy?”  

“Well,” I said, “Who made the big deal about ‘you’re on private property’?”

We sat there for twenty more minutes and it was a very long twenty minutes!  Ultimately, Rachel said, “This is really awkward.  Do you think we should move?”

I agreed I was also very uncomfortable. We ended up moving across the street to the sidewalk side, and down the road far enough that we hoped Mr “Are you with Don?” would not see us!  It did drizzle off an on and at times I had to use my umbrella, but we did not allow that incident with the homeowner to “rain on our parade”.

This raises an interesting question:  in a case like we experienced with that homeowner, who’s“property” is it?  I have always understood that the land which is four to five feet immediately off of a roadway belongs to the Town or City and NOT to the person whose house is right there.  Maybe he mows the grass there, maybe his driveway runs over that strip, maybe he FEELS like it’s his property, maybe he THINKS it’s his property, but IS IT?  And, when a community such as Natick encourages people from far and wide to come to watch their parade, it is fitting and proper to sit in a locale such as Rachel and I originally picked?  I’d honestly love to know, and I think it would be great if someone in an official capacity could clear that issue up for everybody!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

OUT OF MY TREE (extra entry)

“And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luke 13:9)

Maybe I’m paranoid but you’ve got to admit a lot of weird things happen to me, and in life, I end up encountering (what I think is) more than my share of challenging situations!  Among the weird and challenging stuff going on right now is I’m doing battle with a huge double Norway maple tree in the back yard of my residence.  Ironically, it looks EXACTLY like a huge Norway maple that was next door to my parents’ home in Canton during the years I was growing up.

That tree in Canton was old and huge.  In heavy windstorms it dropped huge limbs and branches.  In the early 1970s., my Dad had a 2 car garage with an upper storage area built on his small lot.  Well, he lost most of his backyard, but he was a pack rat and this was pretty much before the days of those “rental/storage” places.  Anyway, I remember one time that a huge limb from that Norway maple crashed right into the roof of that garage.  I remember my Dad slapping a bunch of roofing tar in the hole area and not being very happy about the incident.  He was always picking up and hauling away limbs and branches from that tree.  I know that the tree ultimately came down in a hurricane.  I can’t remember if it came down in Hurricane Gloria of 1985 or in Hurricane Bob of 1991, but when it came down it did little actual damage to his property and he was relieved his battle with the tree was over.

Well,. now  when I’m not trying to solve the telephone static problem at the church, I’m doing battle with that Canton maple tree’s double!  Like the old Canton tree, this one is huge.  In 1991, the church paid a tree company to come in and “prune” it, at that time cutting and hauling away probably 20% of its branches.  At the very least that needs to be done again.  Every Spring, it takes me almost one full day to cut up and haul away the limbs and branches and debris that has fallen on the property over the winter.  (This is our little secret, but I dump all my leaves and tree debris in an isolated, somewhat overlooked and overgrown extremity of the church property, but that’s just between us, right?!)  Well, I had my day this April of cleaning up tree debris, but in ONE NIGHT in May more tree debris fell during a thunderstorm than in all of last winter!  Then, about two weeks ago, during one thunderstorm a twenty foot limb (probably at least five inches thick) DISLODGED and is hung, suspended up in the tree!  If it falls while I’m cutting the lawn or something, well, I want my funeral out of Boyle Brothers Funeral Home on Union Avenue.  Actually, the Church Board knows about it and we’ve talked about the need to get a tree company in there before the winter, but first I’ve got to get my unregistered Olds station wagon hauled away out of the driveway before a tree company can get a big bucket truck in there.

Today I came home and saw a huge limb down in the yard.  “Wow,” I thought, “That huge limb FELL.”

It didn’t.  It’s STILL suspended in the tree!

This was ANOTHER limb!  This one is about twelve or thirteen feet long and maybe three or four inches thick.  After I watch the Natick 4th of July parade, I’ll be cutting it up and hauling it away.

I’m getting an awful feeling that maybe a tree company will tell me the whole tree’s got to come down.  I know the prices for taking trees down are going through the roof.  Well, if they tell us that, I guess it will be better than the tree going through our roof.

My old boss Dave Milley used to say, “If Jesus returns before the next Communion service, I’ll see you just inside that Eastern Gate!”  
and I'LL say
if that tree DOES fall on me, in a sense I’ll catch you at Boyle Brothers Funeral Home!


“Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.” (Matthew 12:29)

I’ve made the road trip between the Boston, MA area and Springfield, Missouri so many times that I’ve lost count on how many times  it has been.  In recent years, it’s been trips related in one way or another to my daughter Amy who was attending Evangel University in Missouri and who is now married and living and working in Springfield, MO.  In the distant past, it was commuting between home and school when I was a student at Central Bible College.  I know the route so well I could practically make the 1400 mile trip in my sleep!  For someone from the congested northeast, I think one of the most pleasant parts of the trip is the farm country between Columbus, Ohio and St. Louis.  I have noticed in the past few years that many of the farms along Interstate 70 are being sold and developed into housing subdivisions and strip malls, and that’s especially true of western Ohio.  I feel sad about that. There’s something else I miss along Interstate 70. In the 1970s there was a large handpainted sign on a farm in either Ohio or Indiana (I THINK it was Indiana) which read, “God, Guns, & Guts made America great”.  I think of that sign when I make the trip, and I miss seeing it.

I can just imagine liberal suburban Bostonians snickering at that sign, and picturing some old wild-eyed white-beareded redneck painting it.  I don’t expect to win a popularity contest from the Jim Braudes of the world for this posting, but I happen to AGREE with the sentiments on that sign.  God, Guns, & Guts DID make America great!

Speaking of guns, there was an important 5-4 Decision of the United States Supreme Court late last week which went in favor of the rights of gun ownership.  The Supreme Court overturned a forty-year-old District of Columbia law which did not allow private gun ownership in D.C.  As could be expected, the N.R.A. is ecstatic about the decision, and the “bleeding heart liberals” are, well, bleeding in their hearts about the Decision.

Some of my conservative friends have been disappointed with me in the past few years, fearing I’ve gone “soft” and “liberal” because I’m no longer a 100% hard-line right wing conservative.  On THIS issue (guns), however, I happen to be a 100% hard-line right wing conservative.  The left considers the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be confusing, ambiguous, and hard to understand.  It’s not!   Just read it, word for word.  It’s crystal clear IN CONTEXT that every American citizen is supposed to able to own guns.  I know, I know, that wording about the “militia” is what throws everybody off.  Liberals interpret that to mean that only police officers and soldiers are free to keep firearms in their homes and to have farily easy accessibility to guns.  That’s NOT what the Second Amendment says.  Rather it’s pointing out that one of many benefits of guns being plentiful and found in almost every American home is that when it’s time to “call out the militia” the guys (or gals) can just grab their guns and go!  Would I be frightened if every (mentally competent person who has not been convicted of a felony) U.S. citizen age 18 or older in Framingham had licensed firearms, not only in their homes but on their persons?  I would not be a bit frightened about it!  In fact, I think it would be a great idea.  Statistically, the municipalities in the U.S.A. that have the most “gun friendly” laws and policies have the LOWEST crime rates in America.  WHAT criminal in his or her right mind would want to take on a community where people are armed to the teeth and ready to shoot if necessary?!

I know this piece is “blowing a lot of my friends away”.  I know there’s the argument that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and so HOW can I write something like this?  Well, keep in mind that Revelation chapter 19 describes Jesus Christ returning to Earth wielding “a sharp sword to smite the nations”!

The U.S. Constitution is definitely pro-guns and pro-gun ownership.  I know I’ve made my conservative friends very happy with this posting, but now I’m going to make my liberal friends happy.  Justice Scalia says the U.S. Constitution is NOT “a living document” (as liberals declare).  Well, sorry Justice Scalia, and sorry conservatives, but OF COURSE THE U.S. CONSTITUTION IS A LIVING DOCUMENT!  Unlike God’s Word (The Bible) which cannot be changed, the U.S. Constitution CAN be changed and can even be discarded entirely IF done legally and correctly.  RIGHT NOW, the Constitution absolutely backs up a hard-line right wing viewpoint on guns (which I support).  If liberals disagree, they can go through the legal channels to amend the Constitution. If someday the liberals succeed in accomplishing that,  well I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll have to give them credit where credit is due for their hard work.

I guess I’ve probably made no one happy with this posting, but that old farmer on Interstate 70 WAS right:  God, Guns, & Guts made America great! Think about that this 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"STATIC GUARD??" (extra entry)

“...tribulation worketh patience...” (from Romans 5:3)

We’ve all said, “Cars are great when they run, but horrible when they DON’T run!”  We’ve also all said, “Computers are great when they work well, but horrible when they crash!”  Well, I can add to that, “Telephone lines and telephone systems are great when they work, but horrible when they don’t!”

Last Sunday I taught an Adult Sunday School lesson about the Israelites complaining in the know, “Where’s the food?!  Where’s the water?!  Moses brought us out here to KILL us in the wilderness!”...all that stuff. There’s a verse in First Corinthians that tells us all that stuff about the Exodus was written as examples for US...that is The Church...people of the New Testament.  Do we act like that Israelites in the wilderness?  DO WE EVER?!

I must admit, I’m not always the most patient person, and this one is kind of trying and testing me!   About three weeks ago, I began noticing that when I’m on the phone at the church, about ten minutes into the call, often, (but not always) I will start to hear a slight static on the phone.  The static will get louder and louder and louder.  After about twenty minutes into the phone call, the static is SO bad it’s not worth continuing the call.  One thing that’s maddening is that the person on the other end of the call CAN’T HEAR THE STATIC AT ALL, so it seems to them like you’re not really listening to them and/or being rude.

After a few days of this, I phoned Verizon repair.  To my surprise, I was told that it was roughly 99% likely that the problem is in our church building and not in the outside telephone lines.  The person at Verizon told me that problem is frequently a faulty cordless phone.  I did not realize that the way TODAY’S phones and phone systems work is that if one phone on the line or one jack on a line has a problem then ALL will have the problem. Even if the bad phone is hung up, the problem will manifest on the other phones.  I was told I’d have to disconnect all phones and phone equipment (& the computer) for at least 5 minutes, then begin adding equipment and testing it to be able to isolate which phone or piece of equipment is faulty.  That may sound easy.  It’s not.  Keep in mind that the static problem doesn’t begin to manifest until you’ve been on the phone for at least ten minutes, and that it doesn’t ALWAYS happen.  In trying to troubleshoot the problem I’d keep being “sure” it was this or that phone, or caller ID box, etc. only to eventually find that WASN’T the problem!  To MY surprise our older model cordless phone has turned out to NOT be the problem. An old caller ID box attached to that cordless phone has also turned out to NOT be the problem.  A couple of days ago, I was sure I’d finally figured it out.  I realized the main office phone runs through an old modem we’d had hooked up to an antiquated MAC computer that I haven’t used for internet access in about 9 years. I figured that old modem must be the problem.  I disconnected the old modem.  For 48 hours the phones worked fine.  I was ecstatic (no pun intended, i.e. “ecstatic” and “static”!).  I figured I’d solved the problem.  Today, a guy from our church called me on his cell phone.  He talked to me for twenty minutes. At exactly ten minutes into the call, the static began. At exactly twenty minutes into the call it became so bad it wasn’t worth trying to hear, so I just politely told him I had to run.  

I’m NOT very technically inclined, but somehow in the next few days I’ve got to still try to isolate the problem to find out EXACTLY what is messing up.  We’ve got 3 traditional corded phones on the church number, one of which has a built in answering machine.  We’ve got one (old) cordless phone on it.  We’ve got our iMac computer hooked up to the phone line.  (It’s old fashioned dial-up service...please don’t laugh!)  I’ve got a portable Caller ID box hooked up in my office next to the cordless phone.

One of our Board Members sent me the following link to check out today.  I read it and WOW; I realized how complicated this thing can get:

So all you super-spiritual people, pray for me that I can get this problem solved.  And all you technical people, if you have any advice (in addition to what’s on the link) I’ll take it!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (I John 2:6)

Nobody likes hanging around in medical waiting rooms, but it’s always a treat for me when I’m in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room and I spot some issues of the children’s magazine, “Highlights”!  I got “Highlights” magazine as a kid, and we got it for our kids when they were roughly in the 7-13 age group.  My favorite feature of  “Highlights” magazine is “Goofus and Gallant”.  In the old days, “Goofus and Gallant” took up a whole page, and I think today it takes up maybe two-thirds of a page.  “Goofus and Gallant” features comic book style illustrations of two boys who (I guess) are supposed to be around ten or eleven-years-old.  Goofus is always pictured as saying or doing something that’s really stupid or inappropriate, and Gallant is always contrasted with him and presented as kind, mature, obedient and responsible.  Reading “Goofus and Gallant” is supposed to be a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) way of telling kids how to behave.

As a pastor I’ve thought, “Too bad there isn’t some way to present a ‘Goofus and Gallant’ type of feature for evangelical Protestant church members so they’d get the message about how a Christian is supposed to act; and they’d be indirectly confronted with their inappropriate behavior!”  In that spirit, and considering that on this summer week I frankly have less study and preparation work than usual to do, I present “DUFUS” AND “VALIANT”.  Unfortunately, I can’t draw, and even if I could, I don’t possess all the equipment necessary to scan drawings and post them so you’re going to have to use your imagination, but try to picture “Dufus” and “Valiant” as 40ish, middle-class, suburban evangelical Protestant guys.

How do Dufus and Valiant differ?  Well, here we go:

-----DUFUS boasts, “I didn’t take Communion- my heart wasn’t right!”
    VALIANT asks God to forgive him, then takes Communion.

-----(on a beautiful Sunday morning)
    “God won’t mind if I skip church to go golfing!” says DUFUS.
    “Sorry I can’t join you, Jeff,” says VALIANT, “I need to go to church with my family.”

----- “Ten percent’s too much,” complains DUFUS, “But I throw a few bucks in  the plate when I’m in church.”
    “I’m happy to give tithesand offerings each week to support our church,”  replies VALIANT.

----- “Sunday School is old-fashioned.  I’ll sleep in!” exclaims DUFUS.
    “Is there a class you’d like me to teach, Pastor?” asks VALIANT.

-----(in the middle of a church service)
    “Yes, my cell phone is ringing,” says DUFUS, “I gotta take this call!”
    “I always keep my cell phone turned off during services,” says VALIANT.

-----DUFUS doesn’t donate any money toward the church’s missions program.
    VALIANT is happy to contribute to home and foreign missions.

----- “Midweek prayer meetings are for old ladies,” declares DUFUS.
    “Let’s go out for ice cream after the prayer meeting,” VALIANT tells his family.

----- “I say NO RAISE for the pastor!” says DUFUS.
    “Let’s give him a cost of living increase,” says VALIANT.

----- “Singing old-fashioned hymns is boring!” complains DUFUS.
    VALIANT (to a Senior Citizen) says, “I’ll help you find ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ in the hymnal.”

----- “I’m not speaking to that usher- he’s a jerk!” says DUFUS.
    “Sorry about last week’s misunderstanding, Norm.” says VALIANT.

----- “I enjoy an occasional ‘Adult beverage’!” DUFUS happily says.
    “I try to avoid doing anything which could cause someone who’s had a  drinking problem to fall into sin.” replies VALIANT.

    ----- DUFUS and his family usually arrive for church service ten minutes after it has started.
    VALIANT and his family are among the first people to arrive at church on Sunday mornings.

    ----- After the church fellowship dinner, DUFUS throws his soda can into the trash.
    VALIANT asks, “Pastor, do we have a place to put the soda cans for recycling?”

Can you think of more DUFUS and VALIANT scenarios?

AND which one are you more like:  DUFUS or VALIANT ?