Monday, June 29, 2009


“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:10)

Two summers ago, one of the highlights of the drive to Missouri that my daughter Rachel and I took was seeing the Wheel of Fortune “Wheelmobile” on Interstate 90, just a short distance southwest of Buffalo, New York. Yesterday, we got a lot closer to it! A crew from “Wheel of Fortune” was at the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlboro auditioning potential contestants for the show. (They will be taping three weeks worth of shows in Boston this September.) My 25-year-old son Jon is easily the best “Wheel of Fortune” player that I know. Jon was excited to try out, so Rachel and I decided to accompany him to Marlboro.

Tryouts were from 1 to 5 p.m. Our church service usually gets our around 12, so I brought a change of clothes, and the three of us rushed off about fifteen minutes after the service ended. We arrived at the mall around 12:50 p.m. At that time, there was already a LONG line to get into if you wanted to try out for “Wheel of Fortune”. The way it was working is that on Saturday and Sunday there were three “shows” (not for broadcast) in a large meeting room near Sears. On each day the shows were at 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00. To get in for the 1:00 show, Jon would certainly have had to be present by 12 Noon. The line that we encountered was for the 2:30 show. At first all three of us got in line. We were all given information slips to fill out. Rachel and I quickly decided we really didn’t want to try out for the show, so we ducked out and hung around in Waldenbooks and Newbury Comics for awhile. Around 2:30 we made our way to the hallway just outside where the “show” was taking place and actually got a pretty good view from there. Hundreds of potential contestants were in the room. Of them, perhaps 50 or 60 names were drawn to play short “speed” rounds in groups of 5 or 6. It was made clear that just because you did a great job solving puzzles, that didn’t necessarily mean you’d get on the show. The staff from “Wheel” was looking for interesting and excited people.

The most annoying part of being out in the hall area is that a guy from one of those little display sales booths in the middle of the mall was bugging people to sign up to win a $10,000 kitchen makeover. I’m not half as streetwise as my late father was, but I had the feeling that if I signed up it would simply mean the guy’s company would redo the parsonage kitchen and charge the church $10,000 for it. I was not interested! I was pretty proud of myself that with just a few letters showing, I figured out the first puzzle, which was “WILLIAM SHATNER”. You will think I’m making this up, but I guessed the next one correctly with NO letters showing! The category was “fictional character”. I counted the number of letters, and guessed, “ROBINSON CRUSOE”. I turned to Rachel and softly said, “Robinson Crusoe”. The first letter called was “N”, and it fit...then “R”. after a few letters were called, it was obvious that I was RIGHT! Rachel told me I really should have signed up to audition. I began to think maybe I should have!

Something that really disappointed us is that once they called the last group of people to audition (who still were yet to publicly play the game),TWO-THIRDS OF THE AUDIENCE OF WANNABEE CONTESTANTS IMMEDIATELY GOT UP AND WALKED OUT! Their attitude was obviously, “Well if I don’t get to audition, I couldn’t care LESS about these others!” I commented to Rachel that I thought the two-thirds of the crowd who walked out were very rude. I was very proud of my son that he was in the smaller group of the audience who opted to stay to the end. Coming out, Jon commented that it was “mean” of those people to walk out.

Those who had not been picked were given the option to line up AGAIN for the 4 p.m. show. This time, Rachel decided to get in line. I opted not to. Those who know me well know I can be kind of a “time fanatic”. My watch had STOPPED at 3:05. I decided to go to a mall jewelry booth and have the battery replaced while they waited in line. I thought the $10 figure for a new battery was a little seems to me I paid $7 around 3 years ago, but I paid and got the watch working again. This time, the crowd milling around outside the “show” was smaller, and I was glad the kitchen makeover guy was gone! I really hoped Jon or Rachel would be picked to be in one of the groups of 5 or 6 to play the game. They weren’t, although all who filled out those slips were told they have the potential to be called for an audition at some point. One of the most bizarre happenings during the 4 p.m. show is that one female contestant got up and sang “Sweet Caroline” BADLY! No kidding! One disgusted person near me said, “American Idol”! A guy next to me said, “Talk about embarrassing yourself!”
Once again, when it was obvious that they’d picked all the players they were going to pick, the majority of people got up and left the room. I’d say this time three-quarters of them got up and left. The room emptied out so much that I walked in. You weren’t supposed to be in the room if you hadn’t signed up to be a potential contestant, but by this time (almost 5 and almost over) the Security folks were much more lenient about who they were letting in the room. I saw one middle-aged guy with a cane who I’m sure I’ve seen at some church services or Christian functions in the area. I just couldn’t quite place him. It WAS all very exciting to be there. I hoped Jon and Rachel wouldn’t be really disappointed they hadn’t been picked. I was truly blessed that they came over to me with big smiles, just thrilled to have been there.

It was certainly a “different” Sunday! I will say I’m NOT one for shopping on Sundays. In fact, I avoid it like the plague, so to speak, and I don’t even like to buy gasoline on Sundays if I can help it. So, I did feel a tiny bit guilty for being at the mall and for buying the watch battery. On the other hand, I realized the battery would have died at 3:05 wherever I was, and ordinarily I’d have had to find a jewelry store on Monday and get the battery replaced, and it would have been kind of an inconvenience. So, in a way I felt guilty, but in another way, I felt grateful to God that I “happened” to be at a mall with a jewelry booth available when the battery died.

It was announced that information will be given over channel 38 during July about how to get free tickets for the September Boston “Wheel of Fortune” tapings. I have a September birthday and I thought it might be nice to make attending one of the tapings sort of a birthday present.

So, THAT’S how I spent my Sunday afternoon. I must say it was most unusual! The saddest part was the selfishness of those crowds with their “I didn’t get picked so I’m otta here!” attitudes. But most of the day was a lot of fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


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

My mother used to kid about one of her father’s ironic and bizarre sayings: “People are DYING who’ve NEVER died before!!”

Well, my maternal grandfather, J. Philip Richard, died himself on January 12, 1960. This evening, however, I found myself thinking of his old saying. Indeed, people ARE dying who’ve never died before! This week it’s been Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. (I know this is another morbid thought, but somebody must have won “The Death Pool” on the Howie Carr Show!) My friend John Ventresco from New Hampshire is probably the biggest Howie Carr fan I know. I saw John just a couple of days ago- ironically, at his brother’s WAKE! (For you non-New Englanders, a “wake” is a “funeral home visiting hours”.)

Yes, people are dying who’ve never died before. The celebrity whose death has saddened me the most is Michael Jackson. Did it surprise you that he was 50? I knew Michael was born in 1958. The Jackson Five’s first big hit was “I Want You Back” in 1969. At the time, Michael was 11, but it was CLAIMED that he was just 7. It was part of that “little kid image”. As Eddie Murphy said in the first “Beverly Hills Cop” film, “Michael Jackson is Sitting On Top of the World!” Indeed, he was. He had it all! Or, DID HE? Would you have really wanted to be Michael Jackson? Did you know Michael Jackson was a Jehovah’s Witness? He was, at least AT ONE TIME. I don’t think he’d “practiced” the “Watchtower faith” for many years. Can you see Michael Jackson ringing the doorbell and trying to sell you an “Awake” magazine? I think most of us would tell him to “Beat It!” (Pun intended!) The Watchtower faith is a false religion, but I guess what’s even worse is becoming an American idol, YOURSELF. An “idol” , after all, tries to stand in the place of God. Michael started out as a cute black little boy. He died as a white? and effeminate individual. I understand he’d wanted to play Edward Scissorshands instead of Johnny Depp. I think MIchael might have done a better job with that film! Michael had millions. He was famous. He had his own amusement park. There were those “sleep overs” (we won’t talk about those!). There was his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. There was the “Thriller” album, and the “moonwalk”. Would you have wanted to be Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson couldn’t just anonymously hop in the car and go to the mall. He couldn’t go to the beach. He couldn’t just take a walk, or have breakfast at McDonald’s while casually reading the Los Angeles Times. He couldn’t just go for a walk down a busy street. Is Michael Jackson in Heaven? Unless there’s been some miracle which we have no right to expect, he’s lost.

Yes, people are dying who’ve never died before. If you went into cardiac arrest within the next 24 hours, would you be ready to stand before God?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


“Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.” (Judges 12:6)

Last Thursday, I attended the final meeting of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association for the 2008-2009 year. Our final meeting of the year is always in June and always at a restaurant. We met at Bella Costa on Route 30/Cochituate Road in Framingham (which, incidentally, is a GREAT place). During the course of conversation, Julie Heagney who is the representative to the group from the Framingham Friends’ Meeting happened to make some comments about where she lives in Holliston.

“Oh,” I said, “you must live near the Sherborn line”.

She did not understand me and asked me to repeat myself. I did several times, and I did not do any better with my speech than the ancient peoples who said “Sibboleth”! She looked perplexed and had no idea what I was saying.

Finally, my friend Rich Hurst, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Framingham, interjected “SHER - bin”! She got it!

My error was pronouncing Sherborn as “SHER - BORN”. I will say that I grew up in the suburbs SOUTH of Boston, and there, we pronounced Sherborn as “SHER - BORN”. The natives of the MetroWest suburbs say “SHER - bin”.

I got to thinking about that this week...why we pronounce place names the way we do, and WHAT is the correct pronunciation? Massachusetts place names can be REALLY challenging! There’s a town in north central Massachusetts called “Petersham”. How would you pronounce that? I’ve noticed that WRKO radio’s Howie Carr pronounces it the same way I do: “Peter Sham”. We say it like there’s a guy named Peter who is a phony so everything he does is a “sham”: “Peter Sham”. In fact, the correct pronunciation is “Peters - HAM”. It’s said kind of like, “Boy, Peter’s ham and eggs are the best breakfast food I’ve ever had!”

Now, come to think of it, why do we pronounce “HAM” at the end of SOME Massachusetts communities but abbreviate it for others? Framingham is definitely pronounced “Framing - HAM”. But my wife’s home town of Dedham is “DEAD - um”. Needham is “NEEED - um”. The “Gateway to Cape Cod” town of Wareham is usually pronounced “Ware - HAM” by native New Englanders, but “Ware-um” by people in the local media.

Another Massachusetts oddity is the City (or is it a Town?) of Taunton in Bristol County (going towards Cape Cod, for you non-New Englanders). Most people in New England pronounce it the way I do. They say the word “taunt” like, “Watch that cat taunt that mouse!” and add a quick “nnnn”. Thus, it’s “TAUNT-nnn”. NATIVES of Taunton do NOT pronounce it that way. They all say, “TANton” like I get lots of sun tans in TANton!

Did you know Massachusetts has a unique pronunciation for “Quincy”? In most of the U.S.A., people say, “Quin - SEE”. In Massachusetts, we say, “QUIN -zee”. Well, I grew up saying “QUIN - zee” but I actually now say, “Quin - SEE”.

It’s not only Massachusetts and New England that can have odd pronunciations for place names. One of the main roads on the north side of Springfield, Missouri is Kearney Street. In New England, we’d say, “KURN-ee”. Within a couple of days of being at Central Bible College, I learned that in Springfield, Missouri, the pronunciation is “CAR-ney”. Out there you can quickly tell an out-of-towner just by how they pronounce “Kearney Street”.

Some of you history buffs may remember the late Hamilton Jordan who was Chief of Staff during the Jimmy Carter administration. Here in Boston, we say “Jord - EN” as in “Jord -EN Marsh Company” or “Jord -EN’s Furniture”. Hamilton Jordon (and Jimmy Carter) always said, “GERR - den”.

No, this is not a real super-spiritual entry today, but if we take seriously Judges 12:6, pronouncing something incorrectly could get you killed! So I guess we’d all better be careful about our pronunciations! And for the record, my last name is not pronounced “Barrel”! It’s “Berr - ILL”!


I’m not usually one for including “commercials” on the blog but I’ve been doing some “tweaking” to our church’s website and I’d love to have you check it out.
We started the website in early 2007. I set it up using the “free” basic website materials available from the national office of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri. For a long time, I had absolutely no idea how to edit or change the site, and so it frankly did not look very good at all.

I am grateful to Missionary Kathy Vanaria (to Papua New Guinea) who during her time home of “furlough” over the past year has made a number of changes and improvements to our website.

I still have a LOT to learn, but I’ve kind of gotten through “Webmaster 101” by trial and error and I’ve recently made some improvements to the church website. I will be continuing to change and improve the church website step-by-step over the next 6 months, and I hope that by Jan. 1, 2010, it will truly be “first class”! All that said, it’s now the best it’s ever been.

Please check it out at

I’d LOVE to receive your feedback about the website...comments...suggestions... likes/dislikes, etc.... at


Monday, June 22, 2009


“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Most of you know I had a “sabbatical month” off from mid-April through mid-May. That was a very special time for me. It was a time to disconnect (as much as I could) from “regular” life in Massachusetts and to “connect” with God in a powerful way. Much of what happened during the sabbatical month is very personal- too personal to write about. I know that to some people I may seem to be the same person I've always been, but if you could truly see inside my “heart”...inside my soul and spirit, you’d see that a lot of things changed as a result of the month in Missouri.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the secluded retreat facility where I spent several days in late April and early May. That was a wonderful place and a wonderful time. I can honestly say that I “got in touch with God” at that place. But I can also say that God allowed a big “challenge” to “stretch me”. I had prearranged to be “on retreat” from a Tuesday morning through a Friday midday. I arrived around 11 on the Tuesday morning. A home made sign announced, “Welcome Charlie! (not his real name) Welcome Bob! May you have great retreats!”

Shortly after I pulled into the retreat center, the “hermit priest” who runs it met with me and gave me a brief tour. “Father Paul” is quite a guy. He’s an ex-Methodist minister, a handyman, a writer, and a self described “extrovert”. I stayed on the bottom level of a house near the lake, and the guy I’m calling “Charlie” stayed on the top level. As Father Paul was showing me around, Charlie came out on the deck. “Hi, Charlie!” I smiled and waved to him.

Nothing. No response. Only a cold look. Charlie was thin, and around 45-years-old. I immediately felt somewhat apprehensive and wondered what kind of guy I was sharing the house with. After Father Paul left me and I got settled in, I read the rules of the house. It was made clear that no smoking was allowed. It was also made clear that retreatants were to leave one another alone to enjoy their time with God. I had been there about two hours when, to my surprise, Charlie came downstairs and introduced himself. He was somewhat socially awkward. He was insistent that I come up and see “his” part of the house. I did. It was pretty much identical to mine, except that I had a washer and a dryer and he did not.

“I will leave you alone,” announced Charlie, “you won’t even know I’m here!”

That night, I had a nightmare! In the dream, Charlie had brought a bunch of undesirable people into the house who were rude to me and tried to steal my things. In the dream, I was angry, and I wandered around trying to find Father Paul. I finally found him, and complained. Then I woke up feeling quite agitated.

Just minutes after waking I HEARD CHARLIE’S VOICE BEHIND ME!

“Here’s a couple biscuits.” he said in a monotone.

I turned around and he was gone. On a saucer were 2 Pillsbury type dinner biscuits he had baked. On the one hand, it seemed kind of bizarre. On the other hand, I tried to tell myself he was just trying to be friendly and helpful. I ate the biscuits along with a bowl of cereal.

That afternoon, I walked down by the lake. There was Charlie fishing. He began talking incessantly about fishing, and also began doing bird calls. After awhile, he went back up to the house. I waited and came up a half hour later. Once again, Charlie came down into my part of the house. He brought a number of brochures about other retreat facilities and insisted on going over them with me. He also insisted on giving me a State of Missouri manual about fishing and a State of Missouri manual about hunting and trapping.

The next morning, I was sitting at a table journaling. At that table were some art supplies with a sign urging guests to help themselves to the art supplies. Obviously some previous retreatants had. There were several nice watercolor paintings displayed on the wall. As I journaled, I had no idea Charlie was standing behind me.

“Them’s real nice pictures!” he announced.

I gasped!

“Charlie, don’t be sneaking up behind me like that!” I said half kidding, but half serious!

He began to tell me that he’s an artist and brought his sketch pad with him. After talking to me for about twenty minutes, Charlie went back upstairs. I began to chuckle about his statement on the day I arrived, “You won’t even know I’m here!” Yeah, RIGHT!

That night, shortly after I finished my supper, Charlie came downstairs again. This time he was in his PAJAMAS! He had brought down his sketch pad.

“I wanted to show you the pictures I done” he announced.

To my shock, the sketch pad was one which had been designed for a young child! There was a cartoon drawing of a pirate and a pirate ship on the cover. When I opened the pictures, the entire sketch pad was like that. It was essentially a child’s coloring book. There were “fill in the dots” exercises, such as, “connect the dots to see what the pirate found”. Charlie had done the “connect the dots” exercises, and had colored each picture. He had also put children’s stickers on each page. He was as proud of that sketch pad as if it was on the level of a famous artist’s paintings.

I was honestly scared. “This guy’s crazy!” is what I thought.

I was nervously pleasant.

“I’d like to visit for awhile.” he announced.

“O.K.” I said, pensively.

We went into the living room. There were two sofas. I sat on one, expecting him to sit on the other. Instead, he sat right next to me as though we were on a date! I began to try to make conversation, while inwardly I was praying, “Lord, what do I do?!”

Suddenly, Charlie got up, went to the other sofa, lay down, and fell asleep!

I went in to the kitchen and cleaned up my dishes. I came back in and woke up Charlie. I nicely told him, “You’ll have to go back upstairs now”. He did, but I knew this was not the last I’d be seeing him.

He had asked me if he could wash his clothes in my apartment the next morning, and I told him he could. I locked and secured the two doors to my bedroom that night! I awoke at 5:10 a.m. to hear a BANGING sound. It was the washer and dryer! Charlie was in the next room doing his laundry!

I got up at 6 and he was back upstairs. The place reeked of smoke. It was obvious he’d been smoking at “my” kitchen table. He came back downstairs and announced he was about to leave. I asked him what time he’d come down to do laundry. No kidding, it was 2 a.m. when he came down!

Charlie went out to his car and started it. He sat “revving” the engine for 20 minutes! My face was pressed against the window, waiting for him to leave. After what seemed like forever, he did!

Boy, what peace I felt.

Mind you, I DID have a great retreat during the times Charlie was not bothering me. But I realized Charlie was part of the retreat. The people God sends to us for ministry are not always the people we’d choose. Relating to them is not always easy! They may be NOTHING like us! They may make us uncomfortable! They may even scare us! But God can show us how to minister to them, if we’ll allow Him to lead and direct us.

Yes, sometimes God sends us people like Charlie and there’s a reason for it!

Friday, June 19, 2009


“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)

You may think I’m crazy (a lot of people DO think that!) but I want to share a plumbing miracle story that has greatly excited me and built my faith today!

Our kitchen faucet set is probably eighteen years old. I remember having it installed in the early ‘90s when we had major problems with the previous one. This kitchen faucet set, like our bathroom one is washerless. That has its good points and its bad points. I’m TERRIBLY unhandy but even I can change washers. Back in the ‘80s I was changing bathroom and kitchen washers several times a year. I was very proud of myself that I could “fix” the drips without calling a plumber. The washerless sets can go 5 years, 10 years, or even far more without dripping, but once they start dripping, you’ve got problems!

In our kitchen we have a portable dishwasher which has to be hooked up to the spigot. I believe the hot water pressure coming through the faucet set is very hard on the whole system. Thus, I was not surprised when in February, our spigot began dripping hot water at about one drip a minute, no matter how tight I could turn the handle off. By mid-April when I left for my sabbatical trip to Missouri, it was dripping one drip every 10 seconds. I had tried turning off the shutoff valve under the sink, but it was rusted in place and I could not move it.

When I got home in mid-May it was dripping one drip a second. By last week, it was just a constant stream. I was getting concerned that we have been going through (well WASTING) many gallons of hot water a day. The dilemma is that although our church has an account with an excellent plumbing company, the church has no money and the Barils have no money. I didn’t want to run up a bill the church could not pay.

Last night at supper, my son Jon asked me how much it would cost to fix the problem. He’d concluded we just had to call a plumber and he was willing to contribute $100. towards the repair. I had decided that today I would just bite the bullet and set up a plumbing repair appointment for sometime next week.

The funny thing is that yesterday the thought had actually occurred to me to “lay hands” on the kitchen sink and pray for a miracle. Well, even for ME that seemed pretty foolish and I didn’t do it. But the thought kept coming to me: what if God miraculously fixed it?! Boy would that be awesome!

This morning, I went downstairs to unhook the dishwasher. I turned off the hot water. No drip. None. And we’ve had a steady stream for 10 days and had dripping for 4 months. No drip. No drip! I turned the hot handle on and off a number of times. Working fine. No drip!

Did God work a miracle? Can God do anything INCLUDING the kitchen sink?!
I hope that cheers you up today, because even with a lot of problems I’m facing, it cheered me up!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19)

In the Autumn of 2007, I posted a piece on the blog entitled “Protocol.” In that piece I wrote of what “protocol” is, why it’s something that’s very important to me, and what I think should be “protocol” (rules for living) in church (that is, in the evangelical Christian community) and in society in general. I had no idea that piece would spark SO much anger. It has to have been one of the 5 most controversial and anger producing pieces I’ve ever posted on the blog!

Over and over and over again, that matter of “protocol” has kept coming to my mind this week. I just can’t shake it. Yesterday, I dug through the blog archives and found the piece. I carefully and thoroughly read it over. It was evident that 99% of the anger and objections did NOT come from what I wrote about “church protocol” but rather from the latter part of the piece which stated what I believed should be “protocol in society”. So, I’ve decided to post a “kinder, gentler” piece about PROTOCOL. I’ve COMPLETELY ELIMINATED the part about protocol in SOCIETY (again the part that was objectionable for most people), and I’ve tried to rewrite and improve the part about protocol in the Christian community.

Yeah, I know, after all the past anger and controversy I suppose I’m taking quite a risk in doing this, but Pastor Mark Batterson in his book “Wild Goose Chase” says a real man or woman of God has GOT to take risks if he or she really believes God is directing them to do something! Some may doubt this, but I have such a solemn conviction God wants me to post this today, I honestly feel I’d have to repent to Him if I do not post it!

Protocol IS really important to me. Before anyone flies off the handle in anger about this piece, PLEASE carefully think about it and PRAY about it. I think there are practical tips here that could truly help you! Now, here is the “kinder and gentler” version of “Protocol”:

One Sunday in late 2007 as I was preaching from Daniel chapter 6, I spent at least five minutes on a diversion speaking about PROTOCOL. I realized during that service that protocol is SUCH an important matter to me that l almost should give a whole topical sermon on the subject, and I don’t usually give topical sermons! I am surprised and disappointed that most Christians and church members have NO IDEA how protocol is supposed to “work” in a church. I’m also perplexed that most people in general have NO IDEA how protocol is supposed to work in life, itself. I feel so strongly about this that I’m almost inclined to write a book about “Protocol” and its importance. The problem is, it’s (sadly) unlikely anybody would publish it!

I looked up “protocol” in the dictionary. It is best defined as “rules of
etiquette and diplomacy”. The word “protocol” comes from the French word “prorocole” which is from the Latin “protocollum” which literally means, “the first leaf”.

I, Bob Baril, would best define “protocol” as “the right way to do things;
the classy way to do things; the way a classy, gracious, and mature person conducts himself or herself in life’s situations”.

Here are a few examples of protocol that should be practiced in “Bible-Believing Churches” (such as an Assemblies of God churches or other evangelical congregations):

1. When people want others to “lay hands” on them and pray for them, men should pray with men and women with women. This just plain prevents a lot of inappropriate emotional contacts and situations. When a woman rushes over to lay hands on a man and pray or vice-versa, well, that’s generally a “red flag” to me. Yes, there COULD rarely be exceptions to this, but in general, it’s always best for men to pray with men and women with women.

2. There are no “assigned seats” in a church. A whole episode of the
animated sit-com “King of the Hill” made that point a few years ago. Please don’t insist on sitting in “your seat”. Please don’t be angry or annoyed if someone else happens to sit in what you perceive to be “your seat”. Sometimes sitting in a different seat helps give you a fresh perspective!

3. If you have an issue with someone in the church, please don’t say something in public to that person, such as, “You SINNED AGAINST me, but I FORGIVE YOU!” Make sure you keep conversations like that private. Keeping matters such as that private helps prevent a lot of embarrassment and confusion for everyone!

4. If you have “issues” with the church or the pastor, then make an
appointment to come in and speak to the pastor or to the Board - in person - in a calm and civil manner. Please don’t leave an unexpected and obviously angry “hit and run” letter on the pastor’s desk. Even worse, please don’t send the pastor an unexpected and obviously angry “hit and run” e-mail, and please don’t leave such a “hit and run” message on the pastor’s voice mail! Leaving such “hit and run” messages quite frankly seems to me to be very unfair, and unreasonable. In the business world, actions such as this are not respected, and are considered inappropriate and unacceptable. Why then should we practice or tolerate such actions in the church? (You can probably tell, YES, all of that stuff has been done to me over the years! I have a lot of pastor friends, and it’s done to them, too. Trust me, my pastor friends don’t like it any more than I do.)

5. Please don’t allow yourself to hold grudges. Be quick to forgive. God was quick to forgive YOU! If you’re struggling with anger and unforgiveness, take this to the Lord in prayer. I can testify, He will help you to forgive and to let go of the bitterness that can destroy you and can confuse and harm innocent people. (See Hebrews 12:15).

There are also a number of other matters of church protocol I could discuss, but I think the above five items are some of the most important. I guess it’s really all summed up in what Jesus said about loving God and loving your neighbor (see Mark 12:30-33). Sometimes we’ve all “blown it”. Listen, many times, I’ve certainly “blown it”, and I’m ashamed of that. Yes, on those many occasions, I’ve had to ask the Lord to forgive me, and I’ve had to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to forgive me. I don’t want to sound like a fanatical prophecy preacher, but the fact is we’re living in perilous times. Our real enemy is NOT our brothers and sisters in’s the forces of darkness (see Ephesians chapter 6). There were times in church history where (maybe) people could get away with being sloppy about “loving their neighbor” and sloppy about what I call “church protocol”. The early 21st Century is absolutely NOT one of those times!

I believe if all born-again Christians would follow the heartfelt suggestions I’ve made in this piece, our churches would be HEALTHIER; our relationship with God and with others would be healthier; things would be better off for everybody, and we’d be in “one accord” as in the Book of Acts. Most of all, I believe the Lord would be honored and pleased! We’d probably experience the revival so many of us have been praying for!

Now, in the words of my old boss, Dave Milley, “If you still love me, say AMEN!”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” (Acts 17:26)

On Monday night as I was sitting in my living room “channel surfing” I stumbled across a documentary on New Hampshire Public Television. The narrator was Tom Bergeron of Funniest Home Videos, but this was a thoughtful and educational documentary. I don’t know what the title of the program was, but it was about the French Canadian immigrants to New England in general and New Hampshire in particular. I probably spent about a half hour watching, and it put me in quite a reflective mood.

Many of you know I’m of primarily French Canadian ancestry. “Baril” is a French last name. (Well, it can also be a Russian Jewish last name, but we’ll leave that alone for now.) My father’s parents were immigrants from rural communities in southern Quebec. My mother’s parents were immigrants from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Her Dad was French, and her Mom was Scottish. Many Americans don’t realize that there are distinctions between the Quebec French and the New Brunswick French. They speak different dialects and have different traditions. (In fact, the New Brunswick French are much more closely related in dialect and culture to the French of the state of Louisiana than they are to the Quebec French.)

Anyway, back to the documentary, it was about the Quebec French in America, from whom Tom Bergeron, like me, is descended. There was much discussion of the French Catholicism. Centuries ago, France and Britain fought for control of North America. Of course, the British won out, but the French had the covert plan of having huge families, believing that would keep them from assimilation and extinction, and it did! My own father grew up in one of those large families. He was the youngest of eight children. Many children of Quebec immigrants were interviewed and spoke about the homes in which they were raised in New England. In some cases, the families kept VERY French, right down to language and customs. Others, like my father’s, strove to be very “Anglo” and American. Yet even the very Americanized French Canadian families kept many of the traditions, especially holiday traditions.

Food customs and traditions are very important to French Canadians. Probably nothing is “bigger” than the Canadian meat pies. The meat pie filling is also used for turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each family has its own variation on the Canadian stuffing/meat pie recipe. All are very similar, but no two family’s recipes are exactly alike. My father made the Canadian meat stuffing for holidays and today my (non-French Canadian) wife has carried on that tradition. As a kid, I liked the stuffing much better than the turkey, and I’d say that’s still true today. New Year’s Day is a huge holiday for French Canadians. The traditional New Year’s dinner is the Canadian meat pie, and in fact,we have that every New Year’s Day. Rich and fattening foods are also a big part of the Christmas season. Of course, our ancestors in Quebec were mostly very hard working farmers who burned off all the fat with hard work, and too many of us just pile on the pounds during the holidays!

One middle-aged woman who was interviewed said that when she visits and drives through Quebec’s Eastern Townships she feels a real connection- like she belongs there. I’ve had the same experience. As some of the program’s guests said, “Our ancestors spent hundreds of years farming that land and so there’s something about it that we just feel a connection to it.”

Many varied people were interviewed including Mr. Aubuchon who owns the Aubuchon Hardware chain in New England. He has an interesting accent, which is a combination of a Quebec French accent and a Boston accent. (The Quebec French cannot make the English “th” sound. They will say “dare” for “there” etc. He spoke like that, or “dat”, yet he also dropped the letter “r” at the end of his syllables in Boston fashion.) Mr. Aubuchon spoke of his mother who made such an impact on his life and yet never learned to speak English. The role of the MOTHER in the French Canadian home was particularly strong. My paternal grandmother died when I was only about 18 months old, but I’ve heard she fit the profile of the typical French Canadian matriarch.

You may not realize this, but the “diaspora” of the French Canadians across North America is somewhat akin to the Jewish diaspora. Over a period of several decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries HALF of the population of Quebec left to spread elsewhere in North America! Thus at least half of the people of North America of Quebec French heritage do NOT live in Quebec. Some are scattered through the Canadian provinces such as Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. But most went to the United States, particularly the New England states, upstate New York, and Michigan. Today, the children,
grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the Quebec immigrants are scattered throughout the 48 contiguous states. Yet, there are cultural elements such as the Canadian meat stuffing and other traditions which still bind us together as a people.

I will add that in addition to the traditional French Catholicism, the French Canadians are a deeply spiritual people. I’d say about half of those of Quebec French heritage in North America have abandoned the Catholic religion of their ancestors. Yet, we remain a people who are largely hungry for spiritual things and hungry for God. Interestingly enough, I’m not the only “Pastor Baril” in Massachusetts. There’s also Pastor Dennis Baril of Community Covenant Church in Rehoboth who is probably related to me WAY BACK. One of my “mentors” in ministry is the Rev. Dick Germaine. This deeply spiritual man who spent thirty years as pastor of First Congregational Church of Hopkinton is also of French Canadian heritage.

Something else we people of French Canadian heritage have in common with Jewish people is that there are elements of people who DON’T like us. In Canada, until not too many years ago, the French were considered second-class citizens, almost like the African-Americans in the southern U.S. The French were often stereotyped as stupid (“Canuck,” for instance, is a derogatory name) and yet as cheap, greedy, and dishonest. A hundred years ago, the French of New England were largely looked at the way the Brazilians in New England are viewed intrusive, working-class people who don’t seem to belong. Yet, the French Canadians in America have made remarkable strides. Did you know, for instance, that the largest “white European” people group in New England is not the Irish, nor the Italians, and not the English? It’s the French.

So, pardon my French, but I just had to share how that New Hampshire Public Television program impacted me. And, Tom Bergeron- you did a great job!

Monday, June 15, 2009


“...your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (from Romans 1:8)

My sermon yesterday morning was mainly taken from Romans chapter 1. Last week, as I prepared the sermon and studied Romans chapter 1, verse 8 sort of LEAPED off the page at me. I found myself really THINKING about it. It says the faith of the Roman church was “spoken of throughout the whole world”. The first-century church at Rome made such an impact that by around the late 50s or early 60s A.D. when Paul wrote it, they were essentially world famous! Wow!

Now, I realize you’ve got to understand the culture and the context in order to properly understand “whole world” in that verse. Was the Roman church known and discussed by the Native Americans living in present day Massachusetts at that time? Was it known and discussed in Japan? I think it’s obvious that the answer to each question is “no”. Paul is surely referring to the Mediterranean the Roman empire and its immediate environs. Even so, that was still quite an accomplishment for the little church at Rome in the very earliest days of Christianity!

During part of my sermon, I posed the question, “Would it be possible for our little church- First Assembly of God of Framingham - to be known throughout the whole world? If so, what would or could bring that about?”

Today, totally unknown people become instant celebrities on youtube. Remember the college kid in Florida who yelled, “Don’t taze me, bro!” for instance? Sadly some churches become famous for very bad reasons such as children being molested by a perverted clergyperson...a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Yes, that’s fame, but a church certainly doesn’t want or need THAT kind of fame! There are the churches who become famous because their buildings burn to the ground and their pastors are interviewed on the 11 o’clock news, “vowing to rebuild”. There are the churches who experience devastating tragedies such as the terrible accident involving a Kentucky church’s school bus returning from an amusement park trip at least twenty years ago in which many were killed in the awful fire that ensued. No, I wouldn’t want our church to become world famous that way.

But, assuming we’re talking about something POSITIVE, what would it take for a church to become world famous?

....a bunch of miraculous healings happening in their services?

....some famous person like Sarah Palin being booked as a guest speaker and making some gaffe that goes out all over the media?

....some Christian multimillionaire showing up and passing out hundred dollar bills to everybody?

I don’t know.

A very famous and moving book is Charles Sheldon’s, “In His Steps”. It was first published in the 1890s and is the fictional story of a Kansas church in which most of its members take a pledge that for one year before they make ANY decision or take and decisive action, they will FIRST ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” and act accordingly. (Yes, unfortunately all the “WWJD” religious junk of the last twenty years is based on that book and I’m sure Charles Sheldon would be rolling over in his grave if he knew his fine book had been trivialized in that manner!) In the book, the effect of that church’s actions on society is RADICAL and REVOLUTIONARY.

Our church is small and is frankly struggling at this time; but I challenged our church yesterday that I’d love us to be famous for a reason like the church in Sheldon’s novel. Listen, churches CAN’T get people to show up for midweek prayer meeting. I stressed to our church that I’d like to see midweek prayer be the best attended event of the week... and not just some so-so,boring time of prayer, but a real “Holy Ghost” prayer meeting in which we are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit and “do business for God”! I also said I’d love to see people showing up for church so early on Sunday that they’re standing and waiting for me to open the doors when I arrive (early) on Sundays. I’d like to see our church be much more involved in the Framingham community. I am purposing to do that myself in the coming year more than ever before, but I hope others follow my lead. FINALLY, I challenged our people that we ought to be committed to Missions more than ever before...whether it’s missions across the street or halfway around the world. We ought to be giving financially to missions; praying for missionaries, and OURSELVES sharing the Gospel to those around us.

Will our little church become world famous for the above reasons? Could yours? In this critical day in which we live I PRAY THE ANSWER IS “YES”!

I’d honestly love to hear your thoughts on this one! Please don’t hesitate to post a comment or to e-mail me!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Genesis 4:8)

That verse tells of the first murder. Sometime after the fall of the human race, Cain hated his brother Abel and killed him. Hatred, violence and murder have been with us ever since. We aren’t typically shocked by hearing about murders. It seems like there are at least three or four of them reported on T.V. news in the Boston area every week. I WAS shocked and saddened to hear about the Washington, DC murder of security guard Stephen Johns at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. By now, most of you have heard that 88-year-old James von Brunn was the murderer. Those who knew von Brunn say he was consumed with hatred for Jews and Blacks. Some of you will consider this a stretch, but I think it could be argued that African-American Stephen Johns was in a sense the latest victim of the holocaust. No he wasn’t Jewish, but keep in mind that Adolph Hitler was an “equal opportunity hater”. He hated Blacks and Gypsies equally as much as he hated Jews. Nazis were responsible for the extermination of 100,000 Gypsies as well as six million Jews. Let’s face it, there weren’t too many Black Africans in Europe in 1940. If there were, there would have been full blown extermination camps for them, too.

This morning, I arrived at our church building to find gang graffiti scrawled in blue spray paint on the front of the building. Whoever the sprayer was, the person was “smart” enough to spray it on the yellow brick and not on the painted area. Our building has been graffitied at least twelve times in the past fifteen years. At least when it’s done on the painted area, I can easily paint it out. On the brickwork, it means getting liquid graffiti remover, a wire brush, S.O.S. pads, paper towels, and a bucket of water and working like a fanatic to get the stuff cleaned off. Well, you never get it 100% cleaned off, but I had to consider that 95% was good enough. Back in 2000 when our building was hit with graffiti I was told by a police officer that in some instances such an incident could be considered a “hate crime”. As frustrating as it is when our church building is sprayed with graffiti, it’s not much compared to a swastika being painted on a synagogue. Even so, you definitely feel violated and disrespected.

A prominent Boston radio talk show host was recently suspended for several weeks for making derogatory remarks over the air against Mexicans. I share some of his concerns about illegal aliens, but he went WAY OVER THE LINE into racism! In fact, we have a Mexican-American family who attend our church. The Dad is a naturalized U.S. citizen. The Mom is has a “green card”. The kids were born in this country. It really saddens me that someone would hate this family because Spanish is their first language and because their skin is quite a bit darker than mine. Don’t get me wrong. When certain Black militants call white people “blue-eyed devils”, I am equally appalled and disgusted.

My late mother used to say things (very dramatically) like, “Oooohhhh WHY can’t people get along?!” or “Oooohhhh I just want PEACE AND QUIET!”. Yes, she was kind of dramatic and emotional, but she had a point. Forty years ago, Sly and the Family Stone sang about all the groups of people who won’t accept other groups of people. And, who was it who sang, “Where have all the flowers gone?” Pete Seeger or someone like that?

I know. I’m freaking out all my conservative Republican friends. Listen, I’m still a registered Republican and I’m still pretty conservative on most issues. I’m also under no illusions that there will be any lasting peace before the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to set up his Millennial and Messianic Kingdom. There will be TEMPORARY times of peace, yes, and thank God for them, but only the Lord can and will bring lasting peace.

But when the liberals cry and wring their hands singing stuff like, “All we are saying is give peace a chance”, well I think they’re very naive, but I do appreciate the sentiment. My clergy friend the Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell wrote a piece some time ago on her blog called, “Be the Buddha of the Road”. I told her I liked it but I’d rather she called it “Be the Jesus of the Road”. I knew what she meant, though. This afternoon, a guy in a late model Chevrolet Impala was following SO close to my old Volkswagen Golf here in Framingham that he nearly hit me! At one point I was driving five miles over the speed limit in moderate traffic and he was still “on my bumper”. Eventually on Concord St. he roared past on the left. I’ve gotta tell ya, everything in me wanted to “gun it” and get right on HIS bumper! But, I thought a second and decided to be “the Jesus of the Road” and let him speed off. (Now, my Registry cop father would have stopped him and issued him a ticket!) It actually felt good to do the right thing. Suddenly, I thought about the “individual” who scrawled the graffiti on our church building. The thought came to me: “Pray for that kid.”

“I don’t want to pray for that kid!!” I annoyingly thought.

Well, somewhat grudgingly, I did pray for him. That, too, was the right thing to do.

No, I haven’t turned into a bleeding heart liberal, but at some point, we DO have to say no to hate. I sure wish James von Brunn had learned that about 80 years ago!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)

In the U.S.A., Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of May and Father’s Day is always celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June. I’m not sure why those particular weeks were chosen. When I was a kid, I often asked my parents, “When is ‘Children’s Day’?” They used to tell me that every day was children’s day! In fact, there IS a “Children’s Sunday” which is the second Sunday of June, so this coming Sunday is “Children’s Sunday”.

Now, back to Father’s Day. I know Father’s Day is not until June 21, but for me, yesterday was Father’s Day. June 9, 2009 marked nine years since my father’s death. I have only been present at the time of someone’s death twice, and that was for the deaths of my parents. There is something about watching your father become elderly, then develop dementia, become literally as a little child, and then fade away and die. It’s sobering. My father was 77 at the time of his death. I’m now 54, so I’m 23 years younger than he was at the time of his death.

I was addressing a letter (printing it, no computer or typewriter) a couple of days ago, and as I looked at the printing, I realized my printing is REMARKABLY like my father’s. I did not have a really close relationship with my father. Patti Davis Reagan, for instance, has said that her father, President Ronald Reagan was not the type who cried and wore his feelings on his sleeve. There was always a professionalism and a distance about him. He just was never going to start crying and “get in touch with his feelings” or anything like that. She has said that when he was alive that drove her crazy about him and she often fought and feuded with him. When he became quite senile and childlike, she very much regretted that she was not closer to her father, and came to understand that President Reagan’s demeanor was just the way “men’s men” of the pre-1950 era were. Patti Davis came to appreciate her Dad a little bit too late.

I was never at war with my father the way Patti Davis was with Ronald Reagan, but I very much relate to a lot of what she went through. I have my Dad’s booming speaking voice and I have his perfectionism. But internally I’m MUCH more like my mother. My mother could cry almost on cue. She was actually very smart, but had lots of self doubt. Dad was a leader. Mom wasn’t. Dad was ready to face any and every obstacle that came his way. Given similar circumstances, Mom would rather run and hide and pull the covers up over her head! My brother Eddie and I had a hard time living up to my father’s expectations. Dad was a very accomplished pilot, a World War 2 veteran, a flight instructor. Neither Eddie nor I were all that interested in flying. Dad played several high school sports. Eddie was a bit better at sports than I was, but neither of us even came CLOSE to my father as far as sports and athletics. I think Eddie felt inferior because he wasn’t a good public speaker, and I felt inferior because I was a poor mechanic. Yes, Dad was both a great public speaker and a good mechanic.

Eugene A. Baril was this towering figure in my life. Both of my parents had taught their children from the time we were very young that the WORST thing we could ever do was leave the Catholic Church. Well, becoming an Assemblies of God minister was not exactly their dream career for their oldest son! My father was the type that treated you like you were a kid, even when you were over 21. It got a little better when I moved out of the house, but that “parent and child” dynamic never stopped. Well, actually, it DID. It reversed. Watching my father go from a towering authority figure to a helpless and confused child over just a four year period was shocking, confusing, and devastating. Taking him to doctor appointments and leading him around and directing him like you would a little kid was very bizarre. After all these years, I’m still sad and struggling to type these words.

Dad entered the Charwell House nursing home on October 1, 1999. We had to trick him to get him into the car and get him to the nursing home. His old friend Tony said, “Gene, come for a ride with me.” That’s how we got him there. Tony walked out of the nursing home crying that day. He hated having to trick him, but in Dad’s confused and agitated state, that’s the only way we were going to get him there. I visited him every Sunday afternoon at the nursing home. On the final Sunday visit on June 4, 2000 it was like he wasn’t there at all. We brought him a chocolate milk shake. He’d usually drink them right down, and he hardly touched it. Word came on June 8 that he was near death. I spent most of June 8 and June 9 at the nursing home. He passed away at 3:35 p.m. on Friday, June 9, 2000.

Like Patti Davis about Ronald Reagan, there’s a lot of reflecting and emotion. Was my father proud of me? Was he disappointed that I became a minister? Did it still bother him that I had almost no mechanical ability? Did he wish I’d have died and not Eddie? Did he think I did a good job raising my kids? Was he proud of my kids? Did he regret that we hadn’t been closer?

My father’s favorite soft drink was Seven-Up. I actually STILL get a little teary and emotional when I see a bottle of Seven-Up. His favorite dessert was “Creme Horns”. I actually really like “Creme Horns”, too, and I think of him every time I eat one. Dad loved to go flying in his friend Vic Sorgente’s Piper Cub. He also used to make extra money in the 1950s towing signs over beaches and special events. I never see a plane towing a sign that it doesn’t make me think of my father. Dad’s favorite possession was his 1952 antique Jeep. Any time I see an old Jeep on the road, I think of my father. Many of you know I have Massachusetts plate number 280 on my car which I inherited from my father, and I’m proud to have it. Yes, my father has passed away. And so June 9, the 9th Anniversary of his death has been a Father’s Day for me.

Please don’t get me wrong. I had a good father. He was hardworking and a good provider and family man. I just wish I’d have had a better relationship with him. I realize a lot of that was probably my fault. In closing, I do want to add that I’m very grateful for God my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally! I’m very grateful that my earthly father accepted Jesus Christ as His Personal Lord and Savior before he died, and that one day I’ll see him again in Heaven. I’m very grateful to BE a father, have three kids who are now young adults and who each are committed Christians; and I’m just as grateful for my son-in-law, David Julian. For those of you whose fathers are living- please make every effort to appreciate them and to reach out in love to them this Father’s Day, June 21.

Monday, June 8, 2009


“But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.” (2 Kings 6:5-6)

This is an amazing story from the ministry of the Prophet Elisha in the Old Testament. As a group of guys were working on a construction project, one man’s axe head flew off and fell into the nearby Jordan River. The guy was quite upset because it was borrowed! I can relate to that sort of thing, because it seems like I have experiences like that all the time. You borrow some guy’s lawn mower because yours is out-of-order, for instance, and then while mowing in an obscure corner of your yard, you hit a large hunk of metal someone threw there and RUIN the borrowed mower! Then, what do you do?! The borrower cried to Elisha. I guess I’d add he probably whined and complained to Elisha, which I probably also would have done! Elisha takes a stick, throws it into the Jordan River, and the axe head swims to the top!

Yes, it sounds like a scene from a Three Stooges movie, but it’s real. It’s was a miracle from God, and it shows that God cares about the little things. For some reason, I tend to get much more excited about such small but special miracles than I do about someone getting healed of cancer or some great miracle. I guess it means a lot to me that God really cares if I lost my car keys, or I can’t find my glasses, or something. I experienced one of those small but special miracles in my life this past weekend. The air conditioner in our church sanctuary (main meeting room) is right now “very temperamental”. It’s fourteen-years-old. The motor and compressor are actually fine, but the problem is that the “touch pad” control panel has gotten all messed up. Sometimes you can touch it and touch it and touch it, and it won’t turn off. Of course, in a case like that, you merely have to unplug it. But other times, no matter what you do, it will not turn on! And, it’s been known to turn itself off every 5-10 minutes. I guess that can be the most aggravating...when I (or someone else) have to keep walking over and “re-turning” it on.

On Saturday, we had our church’s monthly “Day of Fasting and Prayer”. The church is open pretty much all day for people to come and go and pray for the church and for other needs they may have. I arrived at 6:20 in the morning, and attempted to turn the air conditioner on. I must have attempted to turn on the air conditioner a hundred times between 6:20 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., all to no avail. I kept plugging it in and unplugging it. I even punched the touch pad control panel like it was my enemy (oops, I just put that in print, so pretend I didn’t write that!). Nothing worked.

Our “basement sanctuary” doesn’t get as warm as our upper floor does, but during the summer months when the room is full of people, it CAN get up to around 78 in there and become sticky and sultry. The 14,000 B.T.U. air conditioner is actually not powerful enough for the room, but even so, it will get the room down to a pretty comfortable 71 with low humidity. I warned a few people that we’d have no A/C in the sanctuary on Sunday. I began wondering how much it would cost to get a new air conditioner and if that was even feasible.

Each Sunday morning, I go over to the church building very early to make coffee, and check on other matters. I had prayed that God would cause the sanctuary air conditioner to run with no problems for Sunday, but I guess I had little faith. As I touched the “Power” button, I frankly expected no response, as had happened scores of times on Saturday. Instantly, the air conditioner came on! I felt as if I’d just seen the Red Sea part. I was so grateful and so excited!

This reminded me of something that happened over twenty years ago. At that time, our little church was located in another building. When I became pastor, I asked the pastor of the large church where I’d served as an Assistant Pastor if I could have their old copy machine which was just sitting unused in a room. He let us have it! It was wonderful to have that Sharp copier, but there was one “catch” with that machine. Every once in a while, out of the blue, it would freeze and malfunction. There was a long complicated factory code which needed to be entered to “clear” the machine and get it working again. Without that code, you might as well throw the copier into a dumpster! Several times while I was working there at Christian Life Center, the coper froze up. We had to call for service. The service man would come in, enter the 16-digit code, and we’d be back in business. After this happened three or four times, the service man said, “Listen, I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to write the code on a piece of paper so you can just punch it in and I won’t have to come out on a service call just for this.” A few times, in fact, we were glad to have that piece of paper!

Well, after a couple of months of happily using that Sharp copier at First Assembly of God of Framingham, one day, I walked in and it was flashing “HL” which meant it was FROZEN and that code had to be entered! The only problem was I DIDN’T HAVE A SERVICE CONTRACT ON THE MACHINE AND I DID NOT KNOW THE CODE. I frantically tried entering all kinds of random combinations. Of course, nothing happened. I was sad. The copier was done for. Then, I did something which many people would consider very foolish. I prayed and said, “Lord, you know I need that code to get this machine to work. I don’t know the code. Would YOU tell me the code?”

I walked up and punched 16 digits in and hit “enter”. The machine turned on!
I did lots of praising of God that day, as I did yesterday!

I know many skeptics will ask why God cares about a lost axe head or a broken down copier or air conditioner but doesn’t heal a little child of cancer, or doesn’t stop a tsunami from taking place. Matters like that are a mystery. I can’t answer them. But I continue to be grateful for small but special miracles!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Several months ago, my friend Ed Duddy from Texas sent me a paperback book entitled, "WILD GOOSE CHASE" by Mark Batterson. I know pastors are supposed to be avid readers. Many claim to read 50 or even 100 books a year. I enjoy both Christian and secular journals and magazines, and I START a number of books, reading a chapter or two but seldom finish them. I may complete 3 or 4 books a year. Books just don't tend to hold my interest. SO, at first I let this one sit and begin collecting dust for a few months.

I am so glad I took "WILD GOOSE CHASE" with me on my month of Sabbatical rest back in late April and early May. I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! I read the book through twice, and I'm now planning to read it for the third time! (I also loaned the book to a Christian brother who read it and also loved it.)

The subtitle of "WILD GOOSE CHASE" is "Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God". It's a 176 page book and it's a very easy read, but a very "meaty" read. Mark Batterson, the author, is a very unconventional Assemblies of God pastor. The church he leads is "National Community Church" in Washington, DC. It's a multi-site church which predominantly draws 18 to 35-year-olds and meets in rental space at movie theaters. The church also runs Ebenezer Coffee House which is considered one of the better coffee houses in the DC area. Batterson is a bright and radical guy around 40. In his photo on the back cover of the book, he actually looks more like 30, and based on his dress and grooming, looks like he'd either be a judge on American Idol or a CONTESTANT on American Idol! Batterson tells of enjoying movies and '80s pop music. No, he's not your stereotypical Assemblies of God minister, and that's a good thing. This radical, creative Christian man's words are very entertaining, interesting, and VERY challenging!

I don't get through a lot of Christian books because they're either too boring, too predictable, or too preachy. This book is anything but boring! Batterson discusses the "Six Cages" that keep Christians stuck in safe, dead-end, boring, and essentially ungodly liives. The six cages are: responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure, and fear. Throughout the book, Batterson explores how and why Christians get stuck in one or more of these cages and how to get OUT of them! Batterson lists a bunch of axioms toward the end of the book, including, "Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself." Thank you, Mark, for validating that philosophy of mine which I feel is so often NOT validated!

Sadly, society, including most of American Christendom is constantly trying to get us mired in responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure, and fear. I experience the assault of these 6 every single day. That's why I know I need to read "WILD GOOSE CHASE" again!

"WILD GOOSE CHASE" is anything BUT a crazy self-help book or a sappy motivational book. The book is very Scriptural. You can't possibly read this book and put it's admonitions into practice without drawing closer to the Lord!

Whether you buy it on-line, or pick it up in a bookstore, I exhort you, PLEASE get "WILD GOOSE CHASE" and please read it. If you are already a committed Christian, this book will be a great help to you. If you are NOT a committed Christian and not at all a religious person, I challenge YOU to read this book also! I think you'll be surprised by it and I think you'll greatly enjoy it.

In any case, I'd love to hear from you if you read "WILD GOOSE CHASE" !

I also encourage you to tell your friends about "WILD GOOSE CHASE"!


“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)

That’s the last verse in the Old Testament- well, specifically, it’s the last Old Testament verse in most Protestant Bibles. The Bible also says God will wipe away every tear in heaven. I believe that; but it’s kind of challenging for me this week, because if my late father is aware of the demise of General Motors, and especially of the Pontiac brand, I’d expect him to be CRYING! I’ve written on my blog a few times about the fact that my late brother Eddie (who was a great mechanic) hated G.M. cars. My father was just the opposite- he was a big fan of G.M. cars.

Obviously I don’t remember this, but my first car ride was in a General Motors car. The car was my father’s 1947 Pontiac 4-door-sedan. (I’m not sure what the model was...maybe a “Chieftain”.) I know G.M. made Pontiacs with two basic body styles in the late 1940s. There was the “torpedo” which looked more like a typical American car of the early and mid-1950s, and there was the “streamliner” which looked more like a typical American car of the early 1940s. Dad’s Pontiac was a “streamliner”. The Pontiac was black. Dad LOVED that car.

When my father was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps shortly after the end of World War 2, as soon as he could, he bought a brand new Chevrolet. As I recall his story, the Chevrolet was maroon in color, and was a 2 door coupe. New cars were difficult to get in 1946. I’m pretty sure he financed the car, and I guess he must have made a halfway decent salary to be able to afford a new car. The ‘46 Chevrolet was a “stripped” model. In 2009, that pretty much means it doesn't have a C.D. player or cruise control. In 1946, that meant no radio, no heater, NO NOTHING! And it was the lowest trim model, which pretty much meant NO CHROME TRIM. That was the best new car Dad could manage to find in 1946, but he had a hankering for a much nicer car.

In 1947, he dropped into a Pontiac dealership and made a deal on the brand new black Pontiac 4-door-sedan. This car was NOT “stripped”, although, again, this was 1947,so even though it was a “higher end” Pontiac, that still meant no air conditioning and manual transmission. Even so, Dad took meticulous care of that car!

A lot of you don’t know my parents each got jobs at Convair Aircraft in San Deigo, California shortly after they were married in 1950. They drove the Pontiac out to California and lived there for a year. One of their memories was driving through a cave in Missouri on the trip. I suspect it was “Fantastic Caverns” just outside Springfield, Missouri. I often say I was the first one in the family to go to Springfield, Missouri, but actually, THEY probably were! There are many black and white snapshots of the trip to California and many snapshots featuring the 1947 Pontiac. My folks also took a vacation to Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula in 1953 where my father managed to survive using the French he’d learned from his Canadian immigrant parents while growing up.

When I was just under two, my father had the opportunity to buy a 1948 Chrysler convertible which had been owned by his older sister and her husband. The car was a low mileage car, and was a “semiautomatic” (no clutch, but you still had to shift the gears with a lever). (Incidentally, Volkswagen built a semiautomatic in the late 1960s and Chrysler’s “Eagle Vision” of the 1990s came with the option of a semiautomatic transmission.) The Pontiac had never given my Dad any problems, but it DID have high mileage in 1956 and my father figured buying the Chrysler convertible was probably a good idea.

He sold the 1947 Pontiac to a couple of newlyweds who answered his classified ad. It turns out they owned the 1947 Pontiac until 1961 and it wasn’t until they’d had it for 5 years that it gave them any problems. The couple sent my Dad a Christmas card every year for a number of years and often commented how much they’d enjoyed the ‘47 Pontiac.

It’s hard to believe Pontiac is about to become an “orphan make” (a discontinued make like Oldsmobile, LaSalle, Studebaker, AMC and others). When the news of Pontiac’s demise hit the press, I was on my month off in southwest Missouri. A Pontiac enthusiast from Strafford, Missouri who owns a classic ‘67 GTO was interviewed by the Springfield, MO “News-Leader” newspaper. He lamented that G.M. really SHOULD have discontinued the Buick instead of the Pontiac, and I heartily agree. (Pontiac’s sales are much better.) For guys like that, the happenings at G.M. are very sad.

And, for the World War 2 vets who knew the thrill of seeing and driving those beautiful big steel automotive wonders like a “high end” black 1947 Pontiac, well there are certainly a lot of tears.

Monday, June 1, 2009


“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. “ (Genesis 8:22)

I realize that the official “First Day of Summer” is considered to be around the Summer Solstice which is June 21- the longest day of the year. That said, I follow the “meteorological calendar” which considers Summer to be the months of June, July, and August. As far as I am concerned, June 1 is MY First Day of Summer.

Throughout my life, I’ve had mixed feelings about summer. On the one hand, as a kid it meant quite a bit of time off from school. I LOVED that! Summer meant sleeping late, wearing shorts, spending a lot of time riding bikes and being outdoors; and usually it meant a two-week vacation on Cape Cod somewhere around late July or early August. On the other hand, summer meant lots of bugs and lots of heat. When I was a kid, air conditioning was quite a luxury. I did not have a car equipped with A/C until 1988,. and in fact the A/C in my present very old car doesn’t work. At home, we had no A/C at all until I was around 15 or 16. I remember many a day, and night, of the house being STIFLING hot. I also remember having some TERRIBLE sunburns.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, Summer meant working at Draper Mills in Canton. This was blue collar work AT ITS WORST. The mill was HOT, loud, and had all kinds of dust and lint all over the place. (And, there were plenty of dangerous chemicals to be exposed to, as well!)

Most pastors don’t like Summer because the average church attendance can drop anywhere from 25% to 50% during the summer. When the church you pastor already HAS a very low attendance, the thought of that is not particularly appealing.

All that said, I guess it’s my age, but I’m really HAPPY it’s summer! I LOVE the spring and autumn and I’m less fond of summer and winter. HOWEVER, the good news about summer is it’s NOT winter! It seemed like this past winter was particularly difficult. The ice this year was horrible. The cold was pretty horrible. The snow was, well, horrible. The heating bills were worse than horrible, and that’s not to mention the snowplowing bills for the church parking lot. Thank God, winter is over! It’s summer! I don’t have to put a coat on! I don’t have to turn the heat on! I don’t have to shovel snow! I don’t have to slip on the ice! My fingers are not chapped, sore, and bleeding (as they are ALL winter!). I also don’t have to do any Christmas shopping, unless I plan to start my Christmas shopping in August, and I don’t! I get to grille outdoors! Now, sometimes I grille outdoors during the cold weather months, but it’s SO much easier to grille in the summer! If the cars get dirty, the outdoor hose is hooked up and I can just hose them down. If they’re dirty in the winter, well, they usually just STAY dirty.

My 2nd favorite holiday happens during the summer and that’s the Fourth of July. (My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.) Some people are surprised that I like the Fourth of July so much (because of all the firecracker noise, etc.). Well, I’m not crazy about firecracker noise, but it’s a whole lot better than the noise of the snowplow coming down the street in January! I love fireworks shows, parades, and cookouts around July 4, and I’m planning to really enjoy this July 4!

I don’t know how much swimming I’ll get to do this year, but I do LOVE the ocean and if I can get to the Cape or Maine or someplace for the ocean this summer, I’ll do it! Even a jump in a backyard swimming pool would sound real good. Maybe somebody will invite me to a pool party (hint, hint!)

There are always people who whine and complain about the heat and humidity in the summer. I used to complain about that stuff constantly. Two trips to very rural and poor sections of Haiti in the early 1990s cured me of complaining about the heat and humidity. At home, I sleep in air conditioning. My office at church has A/C and even our church sanctuary has A/C. Again, summer means NO SNOW and NO ICE and NO COLD, so I plan to enjoy it!

No “summertime blues” for me this year!

Thank you, God, that I am privileged to be alive and healthy for another summer!