Monday, August 31, 2009


“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)

Last Friday, Mary Ann and I observed our 27th Wedding Anniversary. That fact was hard to believe! In fact, I was 27 when I got married (and she was 23) so I’ve been married roughly half my life! We had our young neices with us for a few days last week while Mary Ann’s sister and her husband were away, and so they spent the day with us on Friday. (Jessie, age 12, actually made us a card saying something to the effect of “Aren’t you surprised you’re still together?!” Well, that’s kids!) We took Jessie and her younger sister Beth with us to the South Boston waterfront. After a picnic lunch at Castle Island, we took the mile and a quarter “Boston Harbor Walkway” all around the area. Part of it juts right out into the harbor and is absolutely breath taking.

Suddenly, I experience a “deja vu” which was NOT an imagined memory, but a distant memory which I tapped into. I had been on that walkway several times, well over 40 years ago! My maternal grandmother lived in a apartment in Boston’s Mission Hill section. During the summer months, she’d let me, or one of my siblings, come and spend a few days with her from time to time. We’d be treated like royalty, eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and all sorts of other “cool stuff” such as drinking “fizzies” (you’ve got to be over 50 to know what they were!) and snacking on all kinds of junk food. In addition, we’d go to all kinds of interesting places in the city. To be most accurate, although my grandmother DID take me to a lot of interesting places, I did most of my traveling with her younger sister Cecelia “Celia” MacDonald.

Celia would be over 115 if still alive. She died of natural causes in her 90s. Sadly, despite the fact that she was VERY sociable and popular, and was from a very large family, by the time she died most of her peers were dead and her funeral was one of the smallest I’ve ever attended. Celia was a CHARACTER!
She had a dry wit and could be very funny. She made up names for people like “the old slow guy” or “the tramp” or “the loon”. Today, as a born-again Christian I know dabbling in psychic phenomena is something we don’t approve of, but Celia was also into psychic stuff and at least claimed to have some psychic abilities. Unlike my very overweight grandmother, Celia was slim. Celia had never married. I think she may have had a few factory jobs and and house cleaning jobs, but she spent at least half of her life taking care of sick relatives. She was very efficient at that sort of thing. Had she grown up 40 years later, I think she might well have become a Licensed Practical Nurse or something like that. By the time I was a little kid taking those “vacations” at my grandmother’s, Celia was in her early 70s. She shared an apartment with her brother Arthur who was a retired Boston cop. Celia LOVED to just get on the Boston public transit system and GO. She loved exploring. She’d get on that transit and go ANYWHERE. She could have been called “Celia on the M.T.A.!”

She’d take me with her and we’d go all over the place on the transit system. I learned the city and the transit system very well because of Celia. As a young adult, I was very confident using the “T” and I owe that to Celia. (My mother also told me SHE’D traveled all over the city with Celia as a child and also was very confident finding her way around the city because of that.) I really liked the Boston Common and Public Garden areas, and we went there many times. One of Celia’s favorite places to go was the South Boston waterfront. We’d get a bus at “Roxbury Crossing” (just south of Mission Hill) and take it to “City Point”. We’d walk on the beautiful harborwalk. I recall a soft serve ice cream stand or two and park style benches along the harborwalk. We’d walk along looking at the boats and the water and watching jet planes overhead, and I felt totally happy and totally at peace and that all was right with the world.

That all came back to me on Friday.

One difference is there are far fewer park benches available on the walkway, but otherwise those pleasant feelings all flooded back to me after probably 43 or 44 years. I was very happy walking there on Friday, but I also got kind of misty eyed. To my right across the harbor was the JFK Library where Ted Kennedy’s body was there for “visiting hours”. The last time I walked this harborwalk with Celia, Ted Kennedy was a young senator. The FIRST time I walked it, JFK was President! It seemed AMAZING that all those years had passed, but mentally it was like there was perfect continuity. I felt very grateful to Celia for bringing me to this place on several occasions. I actually wished I could thank her. I then realized that in 43 years I’ll be 97! (No, I don’t expect to be alive at 97!) So, as often happens with me, I was put into a reflective mood, but it was a mostly good reflective mood.

“I used to come here as a KID.” I told Mary Ann.

We sat for awhile just watching the boats and planes. I could have sat there for two hours, but the girls were getting restless so we hopped into the minivan and drove out to the suburbs for ice cream.

Yes, it was quite a nostalgic and pleasant experience, Friday afternoon on the waterfront.

Friday, August 28, 2009



“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

What are the odds that Senator Edward Kennedy would ever have occasion to read my blog? I don’t know, maybe one in ten million or something like that. What would be the results if I tried to send Senator Kennedy an e-mail or a letter by U.S. mail? Well, somebody from his staff would read it and send me a form letter. Big deal. But if I could write Senator Edward Kennedy a letter, and if he could truly read it, this is what it would say:

Dear Senator Kennedy,

I’m writing this on Tuesday evening, May 20. I’m surprised. This afternoon I heard the news of your diagnosis, and it made me feel very sad. I’ve never met you in person. I’ve never seen you in person. I’m a guy who tends to try to write letters and make phone calls to famous people, but the thought has never even remotely crossed my mind to try to get in touch with you...until now.

As soon as Jay Severin opened his show on WTKK this afternoon, speaking of you as an adversary, and yet obviously moved with deep sorrow about your health, I realized I was missing SOMETHING. I flipped the dial to WBZ and learned of the diagnosis. I’m so sorry.

I’m a registered Republican. I’m pretty “right of center” on most issues. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for you. I did vote for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976, but I don’t think I voted for you even on that day. I’ve laughed when Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr played the parodies of you and the clips of embarrassing moments... you know, that convention where you are introducing the Democratic candidate for Governor saying, “Will ya help me, will ya aaoougggghhhmmmmrrrr?” (Whatever “aaoougggghhhmmmmrrrr” means!) I probably disagree with 75% of what you stand for politically...maybe even more than that. That’s why I’m so surprised.

Being a Massachusetts native....being the son of Roman Catholic, Democrat parents... yes, whether I want to admit it or not, there’s some kind of connection I feel. There’s so much more I could write, it would probably take 23 pages, and I don’t think either one of us are up for that! I’ll try to keep it brief.

I watched “Greater Boston” tonight. Peter Meade said you’ll get through this by “being a fighter” and holding the whole family together. Senator Kennedy, that’s all well and good, but that’s probably a huge form of denial. People are praying for you. You need to focus on Ted Kennedy and Ted Kennedy’s health right now. Ironically, this past Sunday night, I preached on “What the Bible Says About Healing”. It says quite a bit. There’s spiritual healing, there’s emotional healing, there’s healing in relationships, there’s deliverance from oppression, and there’s physical healing. Honestly, I think you need all of the above.

God loves you. Don’t be surprised at the wonderful things He will do for you at this time. One of the things I least liked about you is the way you treated and spoke to John Ashcroft at his confirmation hearings. Contrary to what you may think, Ashcroft is not some cruel, Fascist oppressor. In fact, Ashcroft is a warm and wonderful Christian man from a wonderful Christian family. I don’t know him personally, but he is a guy I have seen in person. I suspect he’s praying for you now, and I suspect he bears you no ill will. If you were to contact him, I think you’d be surprised at how he would minister to you. But whether you do that or not, many love you and are praying for you. Please don’t close the door on anything God may want to do in your life.

What I’m feeling tonight is what millions of people are feeling. Many are your political allies, but many others are your political adversaries...yet they look beyond those issues and feel genuine compassion for Senator Edward Kennedy THE MAN- the soul.

If you’ll seek the Lord at this difficult time, you will not be disappointed.

In Christ’s love,

Thursday, August 27, 2009


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

I found it interesting that Ted Kennedy's funeral will be at the "Basilica of our Lady of Perpetual Help" commonly known as "The Mission Church" in Boston's "Mission Hill" neighborhood.

"Basilica" is a Roman word that is only applied to a small number of Roman Catholic Churches. I think this is the only Basilica in New England.

Here is some of what WIKIPEDIA says about "Basilica":

"After the Roman Empire became officially Christian, the term came by extension to specifically refer to a large and important church that has been given special ceremonial rites by the Pope. Thus the word retains two senses today, one architectural and the other ecclesiastical."

My parents grew up in St. Joseph's Catholic parish about 2 miles south of "Mission Church" but MANY of my mother's family lived in the Mission Hill neighborhood and were active at Mission Church. That's where my maternal grandmother went to mass, and I went to mass with her there several times as a child. I’ve also attended a number of family funerals there. The latest was that of my mother's cousin "Connie" who was a schoolteacher in Cambridge, MA. She died from complications resulting from a stroke in 1993.

Mission Church was built in the late 1800s. The facility fits the stereotype of a northeastern urban Roman Catholic Church of importance from that period. It's all stone and concrete on the outside. Inside it's VERY ornate. The confessional booths line each side of the sanctuary looking almost like little apartments. The interior is full of marble and spectacular artwork, and the acoustics (ECHO!!) are TERRIBLE!! I understand Barack Obama is going to deliver a eulogy during the mass. That that that that Will will will will will Likely likely likely likely likely Have have have have Quite quite quite quite An an an an Echo echo echo echo !!

In a surreal way, I feel I really have something in common with the Kennedys with the funeral mass being there. I THINK Ted’s Grandfather (“Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald) was originally from that Mission Hill neighborhood, so maybe that’s part of the connection.

Mission Church is on the border between some very “good” neighborhoods and some very “bad” neighborhoods. A 10 minute walk in one direction puts you in the heart of Boston and Brookline’s “Longwood Medical Area”. A 20 minute walk in another direction puts you in the heart of Boston’s Copley Square in the Back Bay. And a 7 minute walk in ANOTHER direction will put you in one of the worst, crime ridden neighborhoods of the city.

Incidentally, MA is supposed to get brushed by Hurricane Danny on Saturday and Sunday with very heavy rain. My mother’s Uncle “Duke” MacDonald was buried from Mission Church in August of 1976 on a day that Boston was brushed by a hurricane and the city was impacted by torrential rains.

Who knew we’d have some “stuff” in common with the Kennedys?!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


“Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity." (I Timothy 5:1-2)

This morning, I was talking to a friend whose elderly father has many health problems and is in the early stages of dementia. How well I understand what my friend is going through. I’m pretty much a political conservative, but I will admit that when it comes to funding for the elderly, programs for the elderly, etc., I guess I’m pretty liberal. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years prior to his death in mid-2000. At around the same time, my mother was battling bone cancer. She died only seven weeks after my father did. During their last couple of years, my sister and I struggled to find available help for them. We DID manage to get a home health aide into their home for a couple of days a week, but we found that there was surprisingly little help available. Frankly, things are worse today. I’ve heard some people boast, “I’d NEVER put one of my parents in a nursing home!” If your parent did not know who they were, where they were, was completely incontinent, and was a danger to themself and others, I think you’d feel differently! I have told my own kids that if I ever get like that, they should not feel guilty about any steps they’d have to take. This morning’s conversation made me think of a piece I wrote almost ten years ago called “Missed Appointment”. I intended it to be either the first chapter of a book or a short story. Admittedly it needs editing. But I wanted to share it with you. If someone you know is going through the heartache of trying to care for a parent with dimentia, I hope this will give you an idea of what they’re going through. Here is “Missed Appointment”:

I don’t remember the date, but I will never forget the day. It was July of 1999. It was Thursday. This was my second drive of the week from Framingham to Canton. I seldom took the highway to Canton. I don’t like highway driving. The scenic and forested back roads made the trip so pleasant. Tuesday had gone well. It shouldn’t have. Tuesday’s weather had been stifling hot. I didn’t think Daddy would ever let me walk him out of the house into such sweltering heat. The advanced Alzheimer’s Disease had seemingly turned my formerly overconfident and authoritarian father into a confused little boy. I’d heard the horror stories of others who’d tried to take him to various medical appointments only to have him trembling and yelling in fear
of the stairs. My parents’ home has stairs, lots of stairs. I’ll share more about that later. Tuesday went well. Daddy had his pacemaker checked out at the Norwood Hospital. He followed me and cooperated like a dutiful child. The role reversal we’d done was incredible. Mama was so relieved that the pacemaker check had gone well.

I was worried about this second trip of the week. At our church’s Wednesday evening prayer meeting, I’d prayed my heart out for a successful Thursday appointment. This was an early morning appointment. Daddy never liked getting up early. This was a very important appointment. My father had to be evaluated by his neurologist. The temporary guardianship that named my mother and me as his guardians had expired. Mama never had a Power of Attorney on Daddy. It was too late to obtain that now. Daddy would soon need to be placed in a nursing home. That placement could not be made without the legal guardianship in place.

“Oh God,” I prayed, driving along Edge Hill Road in Sharon, “I know anything can happen today. Please help me. Please give me Your wisdom. Please give me Your strength. I can’t do this without You.”

There was an uneasy feeling, a fearful feeling in the pit of my stomach as I unlocked the garage door and let myself into the basement of my parents’ oversized Cape Cod style house. Trying to muster courage and confidence, I climbed the stairway to the first floor. I inherited my tendency toward worry and pessimism from Mama. She was obviously tense and worried on that Thursday morning.

“I just hope I can get him up,” she said nervously, “he won’t understand. He’s usually in bed till eleven.”

“C’mon Gene, “ I heard her say to him from the master bedroom. Then, I heard my father’s awful groaning.

“Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh ...” he repeated methodically, loudly, and annoyingly all the way to the bathroom. Then to the kitchen.

“Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh ...” He hardly seemed to notice me.

My mother tried to talk to him and treat him as though everything was perfectly normal, the way things had been twenty years earlier. She served him a muffin. I don’t think this was a usual breakfast food for him.

“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho ...” he repeated like a stuck electronic alarm. She looked so pained.

“Gene, let’s take the pills,” she suggested. My father was on so many medications, I was amazed she could keep track of all of them. He took about half of them. Considering his level of confusion and dementia, that was not bad.

Now it was time to get him up out of the chair and head off to the appointment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the simple procedure of rising up out of a wooden kitchen chair become such a complicated affair. He yelled and contorted into various positions, but finally he was calm and passively walking with us toward the cellar door and the stairway. With every step toward the door I could sense my mother’s fear and worry. I think Daddy sensed it, too. At the doorway he suddenly balked and became completely rigid.

“Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh ...” It had started again.

“Dad”, I announced calmly, “We going on a doctor’s appointment just like we did the other day; just like the other day. It’s no big deal. Okay?”

“Okay,” he calmly repeated.

“Now,” I continued, “You need to just let me place your hand on the bannister and we’ll walk slowly down the stairs, just like we did the other day.”

Suddenly, he growled, became very rigid, and yelled out in anger, “Ahhhh....” We must have spent five minutes at the top of that stairway. Ours was not a mushy, huggy, lovey family, so my next admonition to him was unusual. I deliberately spoke softly, almost in a whisper.

“Now, Dad, I love you. Do you know that? I love you,” I looked him in the eye. “We have to go to this doctor’s appointment in Norwood today. I will walk you down the stairs. I absolutely will not let you fall. Don’t you trust me? Please, you can trust me. I won’t let you fall. Please trust me. Please let me walk you down the stairs.”

It was no use. Again, the growling, the yelling, and the rigidity. My mother began hysterically weeping.

“God help us, God help us,” she sobbed.

I got an idea. “Maybe we should take him out the back door,” I offered. “There are fewer stairs. Maybe we could do it.”

I walked Daddy back into the large kitchen and to the back door. Here, he would have to descend five smooth concrete stairs, walk down a concrete walkway, and descend five cobblestone and cement stairs that he had built some forty years earlier. There was a lot of fear and yelling on my father’s part, but I walked him down the concrete stairs and down the concrete walk. How hopeful I felt!

Suddenly, he became completely rigid again. He would not walk on the cobblestone and cement stairs.

“Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh ...” the nightmare was raging all over again. Two or three minutes went by. There was no way I was going to get him down those stairs. Suddenly I panicked! What if I could not get him to go back up the concrete stairs and into the kitchen? It took some effort and a couple of minutes, but I did get him back into the kitchen.

My mother was devastated. “I’ll have to call and cancel the appointment,” she lamented. Just give me one more chance I pleaded.

“Wha, wha, wha, wha ....” my father stammered.

I spoke up. “What is this all about? Where are we going? Is that what you want to know?” Daddy surprised me.

“Yeah.” he said matter-of-factly.

I explained about a doctor’s appointment in Norwood. “Will you go with us now? Can we take you to Norwood?”

“Okay.” he said, pleasantly.

I was elated! We would take him to the appointment after all! We reached the cellar door and the stairway. To my shock, it all started up again! Then, over and over again, we walked from the kitchen to the cellar door, and repeated the devastating scene.

Mama sobbed and yelled, “It’s all that Peter’s fault!”

Peter was our attorney.

“If he hadn’t let that guardianship expire. It’s all his fault!”

“Now that’s not right either!” I angrily snapped at her. I felt guilty that I’d spoken to her in that manner.

My father stood in the short hallway leading to the living room. He pounded the light green plaster walls yelling, “Godd___n it! Godd___n it!” I hadn’t seen such an outburst of anger from him in years. Frankly, it was very frightening. We walked him into the kitchen and sat him down. Mama went into my sister’s bedroom, and called Dr. Niles. We could hear her trembling voice as she explained that there was no way we could get Daddy to his appointment. He was agitated. He fidgeted. He knew he had done something wrong. He knew we were not happy with him. But in his dementia there was no way he could comprehend it.

“It’s been rescheduled,” Mama sadly told me the date of the new appointment. “I don’t think we’ll be able to take him then, either.” With the help of a family friend, we were able to get Daddy to the neurologist’s appointment a couple of weeks later.

“Crazy ... crazy ... crazy ...” my father repeated. “This is crazy!” he cried out. He looked intently at my mother. “You’re crazy!” he told her.

Have you ever simultaneously felt completely numb emotionally and sad and hopeless and helpless? As I started up my Oldsmobile station wagon and drove down the hill at Prospect Street Canton, that’s how I felt. I will never forget that day.

Monday, August 24, 2009


This post is bout my prayer at the “Amazing Grace Motorcycle Run” last Saturday and NOT about the beautiful Andrea Bocelli song, “The Prayer”. HOWEVER, I want to mention that the song “The Prayer” is one of the most beautiful songs I can think of. At the bottom of this post is a link to the song “The Prayer” on youtube being sung by Andrea Bocelli (incidentally, “Andrea” is a GUY) and Celine Dion.

I mentioned sometime back on the blog about the “Amazing Grace Motorcycle Run” and I e-mailed a number of people about it, also. Grace Morrison is a 7-year-old girl with leukemia. Her parents, Paul and Nancy Morrison are very nice people. Paul Morrison is a guard at M.C.I. Norfolk. I’ve known him for several years. The “Amazing Grace Motorcycle Run” was an important fundraiser. I was honored to be asked to do the “Blessing of the Bikes”.

I guess there IS a special way you’re supposed to do a “Blessing of the Bikes” which I did not do, because I really don’t know what it is! I’m usually one for “just winging” other words, not really preparing them but just praying whatever comes to mind. My wife urged me NOT to do that for Saturday’s event, but rather to write something out and be prepared. I did that, and I’m glad I did.

There was a D.J. on Saturday and thus a sound system. I was glad to have a microphone with all those people, motorcycles, etc.! The prayer was well received by the crowd. When I concluded with “...and everybody said AMEN!!” we had a LOUD “AMEN”! Here is the exact text of Saturday’s prayer:

Our Precious Heavenly Father,

We are thankful that you have brought each of us together THIS DAY for the “Amazing Grace Ride”! We thank you for the weather and ask your continued favor for today’s weather.

We lift up in prayer right now EVERY motorcycle and motorcycle rider participating in today’s event. Lord, your word prophesies in Nahum 2:4 : “The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like lightnings.” Lord, as these “chariots” and their riders travel today, may they go with YOUR hedge of protection about them. May there be no harm to any motorcycle or any motorcycle rider in any way shape or form, IN JESUS’ NAME. BLESS THEM, LORD! PSALM 98:4 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” May that LOUD noise of the bikes today be a sweet sound in Your ear, Lord!

Lord, thank you for all the volunteers and workers and all that’s going on today. Would you BLESS each one Lord? Would you bless the fruit of their labours? May everything said and done today here be pleasing in your sight, Lord!

And, Heavenly Father, Your Holy Word says in EXODUS 15:26 “...I am the Lord that healeth thee.” We lift up little Grace Morrison to you in prayer this day, and we pray that both by medicine and by miracles that you will BLESS and HEAL this child! We will give you the honor and praise for her healing in Jesus’ Name!

And FINALLY, Heavenly Father, we ask Your blessing on each member of the Morrison family....draw them very close to You, may they each know You in a Personal way, may they be richly blessed and have a great testimony of what You have done for them,
and everybody said AMEN!!

It was a blessing to be part of the “Amazing Grace Motorcycle Run”. Mary Ann made a beautiful gift basket for Grace and took a number of photos. It’s one of the highlights of my year so far!

AND, the youtube video of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion singing “The Prayer” can be found at:

Friday, August 21, 2009


“ But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:5-11)

A couple of days ago I had the Howie Carr show on as I drove home. Howie told the humorous story that when he was a young kid and had heard that Sargent Shriver was the director of the Peace Corps, he asked his father, “How come they’ve got a Sergeant in charge of the Peace Corps?”

“That’s his first name, stupid!” was his father’s abrupt response!

Yes, we can all understand why that confused little Howie! It’s kind of like a woman I know who’s first name is “Princess”. I’m sure a lot of people wonder what country honors her as nobility! The above verses include what Jesus thinks of titles, and it doesn’t appear to be much!

“Reverend” is frankly a very controversial title in evangelical Protestant circles. In the Assemblies of God, Licensed and Ordained ministers are given that title. (In many denominations, it’s only given to Ordained ministers. Please don’t ask me to explain the difference between “Licensed” and “Ordained” because you’ll fall asleep!) A lot of guys who have been given the title are embarrassed by it and never use it. GROUP Publishing’s magazine for ministers is called “Rev”. They’re constantly getting complaints about the title! The argument is that “only God is all holy and therefore truly ‘reverend’”, and I think that’s true.

I know, I know. I use Rev. in my AOL screen name. I frankly wish I DIDN’T. When I chose my screen name in 1996, at that time it could not have more than 9 characters. I felt it needed to be unique and that it would help if it identified me as a minister, so I chose RevRBaril which is now commonly written as I know there IS a BobBaril screen name on AOL, but I now wish I HADN’T chosen “Rev” in my screen name. I think it may make me come across as prideful of my title or “holier than thou”, but now SO many people know my screen name that I’m reluctant to change it.

The “call no man ‘father’” thing is also awkward for evangelicals. Many times we end up talking to Catholic priests and saying something like, “So JOE how are you doing?” We feel kind of rude, but we don’t like saying “Father”. I USED to avoid using the “Father” title, but I’ve decided that since Catholics and Episcopalians and others like to use it, I just go with it and use it in the spirit of I Corinthians 9:19-23 (you’ll have to look that up!).

This business of titles gets really weird when you’ve got pastors and others who get Doctorates from degree factories and diploma mills. Every once in awhile, I’ll get a brochure from one of these “institutions”. All you have to do is, say, read 5 books on the history of the Pentecostal movement and write a 20 page paper on the importance of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, mail in $500., and you get a Doctorate of Theology degree! (That assignment would be a typical assignment for a Junior at any accredited Bible College taking a Systematic Theology course. For a DOCTORATE?! It’s a JOKE?!) Such “doctorates” would never be accepted by any real academic institution, but guys do that to get a title and in many cases to earn more money. Similarly, there are outfits catering to egotistical laypeople which give you a written test in Bible and “Pastoral Studies” that anybody who has gone to Sunday School in a Bible-believing church for 6 or 7 years could pass, and then have you send in your $300. with the completed test and you’re a legally Ordained minister! In the profession, that’s called “M.O.O.” (“mail order ordination”). It really gets awkward when a friend gets, say, a mail order doctorate, and THEN insists on getting a new screen name with “Dr.” in it. Technically, when you e-mail him you’re just enabling his pride and pseudo success by using that screen name. Do you TELL him that? Do you just go along with it? What do you do? I usually just go along with it and don’t want to hurt th e person’s feelings, but it can all get very dicey!


Back in Bible College, one of my Professors was Charles Harris. He held a Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, but he would NEVER allow himself to be called “Doctor”. Students were to call him “Brother Harris” and faculty were to call him “Charles” or “Charles Harris”. One time he was asked about this in class. He said he’d taken a class many years earlier at Drury University and that the highly educated and esteemed Professor who taught the class never allowed himself to be called anything but “Gus”. Brother Harris was so impressed by his humility that he adopted a similar practice.


Good? Bad? I don’t know. I will admit that when I was a lot younger I loved having the title “Reverend”. Now, I find it cumbersome and almost embarrassing.
At the other extreme is a new movement where kids do NOT even call their parents Dad and Mom. They just call their parents by their first names! Somehow I don’t care for that. But maybe it comes from taking the above Scripture passage VERY literally...or not...?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AUGUST 19, 1961

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

Recently, someone sent me one of those comical on-line quizzes. This particular one included a long list of fads and various other items. You had to indicate whether or not you remembered each item. Perhaps you’ve received a quiz such as this, asking such things as whether you remember P.F. Flyers (a popular children’s sneaker around fifty years ago), Studebakers (an auto make discontinued in the 1960s), mothers darning holes in socks, black and white television stations which spent almost half the day showing a “test pattern”, etc.
The higher the number of items you remember, the older it indicates you are. I remembered MOST of the items, but I did NOT remember the days before refrigerators when people used literal ice boxes (that’s my parents’ era) or cars which did NOT come equipped with turn signals (turn signals came in somewhere in the 1940s). The “winning” category was “Older Than Dirt!” No, I DIDN’T make “Older Than Dirt!” but after you read this posting, you’ll probably think I should have!

Forty-eight years ago today, I attended my first wedding. (I did not go to the first wedding reception was in 1969, but this was the first time I’d ever attended a wedding ceremony.) The wedding was that of my first-grade teacher. I won’t use the whole names, but Miss “A” married Mr. “G” at a ceremony at St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church in Dorchester. Miss “A” had written the church date and time information on all of her class’s report card envelopes in case our parents wanted to bring us to her wedding. My parents actually WEREN’T much for doing things like that, so I’m surprised they took me, but they did. I can’t remember for sure if my younger brother or sister came along, but somehow I think they did. I can actually still remember that my first grade teacher drove a 1958 brown Ford sedan, and I can still see it parked outside the church that day (probably used by her parents as she must have arrived by limousine). For me, being at that ceremony that day felt like being at the social event of the century. I had never seen my teacher in any setting other than in her classroom teaching, so seeing her in a wedding gown was pretty strange. I still remember the groomsmen putting down the “runner” (which I’m finding is a little less common today) and my father softly explaining to me what it was. Many would think that August is NOT a good month for weddings, being too hot and humid, but as I recall, Miss “A” got married on a very pleasant summer day.

Ironically, my wife and I were married on a Saturday in August, twenty-one years later. THAT day was also very pleasant and not at all hot and humid. Of course Miss “A” was an “old grown-up” to me in 1961, but I now know she couldn’t have been much older than 26. Like most brides, she was radiant and ecstatic. I don’t even recall if she taught at our school during the next school year or not, but I know that by the time I was a 3rd grader she was definitely not there anymore. I don’t recall any contact with her after that. Sometime in the early 1980s, there was a tragic story in the newspaper about a teenage boy who’d been killed in a terrible accident. The Town was listed (as I recall it was somewhere in the Hanson, MA area) and the names of the parents were given. I realized the parents were my first-grade teacher and her husband. How could she have imagined on that happy wedding day that twenty-plus years later, her son would die in a terrible tragedy?

I sent her off a card and note explaining who I was and offering my condolences. I was a little disappointed, but I never received a reply. Could it be that writing to me, and about such a sensitive subject was much too painful? Probably.

In another touch of irony, after many years of school, I realize Miss “A” was not one of my better teachers. Although she DID teach me to read and she did introduce me to arithmetic, she did not have much finesse. Some of my later teachers, including those in Grades 2, 3, and 5 were just plain MUCH more personable and gracious people. As I look back upon it, Miss “A” did some strange things. Back in 1960 and 1961, prayer and Bible reading still took place in the American public school classrooms. We started each day in the first grade with the pledge of allegiance to the flag, singing “America”, and reciting the Roman Catholic version of The Lord’s Prayer. One day, after doing our usual opening exercises, Miss “A” let all the Catholic students sit down. (We made up around 60% of the class.) She then had the Protestant and Jewish kids recite MORE from their own traditions, saying to them, “Haven’t YOU got MORE to say?!” I was too little to understand much about what was going on, but at the time I was SO happy to be Catholic! Another time she asked all of us what our mother’s maiden names were! So, looking back, she was actually kind of weird!

Even so, I remember that Saturday and that wedding ceremony- August 19, 1961 like it was yesterday. And, just think- in 48 more years, I’ll be 102! Maybe I’ll be attending a wedding ceremony that day in a wheelchair and wearing Depends!

Monday, August 17, 2009


“The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.” (Revelation 8:7)

The first time I ever heard the probing philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one present, did it make a sound?” It was asked by Dr. Fred Petti in an “Introduction to Philosophy” class at Stonehill College in Easton, MA.
I thought, “Boy, this guy’s really SMART, I’ve never thought of such a thing!” (not realizing that question is probably asked at least once in every “Introduction to Philosophy” class at every undergraduate institution of higher learning in North America!). I remember coming home and asking the question to my mother, who answered immediately, “Of course it did!” I don’t think she was impressed at all. I suspect SHE was thinking, “Boy, what a stupid question”!

We can debate that age old philosophical question ad infinitum. But the certainty is trees fall. Yes, they fall in hurricanes, and severe thunderstorms, and other such events. But, sometimes they fall on beautiful still days when LEAST expected! Fourteen years ago, on a beautiful June Friday evening, our kids were out on the sidewalk in front of our home rollerblading. They came in for a minute to get cold drinks. During their break, a large tree FELL right over the area where they’d been rollerblading! It was our neighbor’s tree. Part of it was on the street and sidewalk, part of it was in our yard, and part of it scraped and slightly damaged the vinyl siding on our house. It went down with a BANG- shockingly and unexpectedly! Within minutes an emergency crew from the Town of Framingham was on hand. The tree was essentially HOLLOW and FILLED WITH TERMITES. It’s amazing it stood up as long as it did. Finally, there was really nothing left to hold it, and it fell. Thank God, none of our kids was killed or injured!

About four years ago, on a nice day, I’d come home to eat lunch, and I’d gotten into my Volkswagen to return to my office. The car was parked on the street in front of the house. As I went to start the car, I got the strangest FEELING a tree was about to fall! I looked into my rear view mirror, and saw a large old tree just a few houses away FALL and COMPLETELY BLOCK THE STREET! (Thought: was that “FEELING” the Holy Spirit? Maybe!) That experience was FREAKY! I live on a dead end street which was now completely blocked, so I wasn’t going anywhere! As with the other situation, within twenty minutes, a crew from the Town arrived and within an hour, the street was cleared.

Yesterday, I went to a funeral home “visiting hours” in Milford (about 15 miles southwest of Framingham). I’d taken my grown kids Jon and Rachel with me, and we picked up two other people from our church who wanted to pay their respects, as well. My wife Mary Ann had been with friends celebrating a birthday, so she met us at the funeral home. Mary Ann left shortly before I did. As I was a couple miles from home, my cell phone rang. It was Mary Ann announcing, “You WON’T be able to get down our street!” She went on to tell me our next door neighbor’s tree dropped a LARGE limb which had the street completely blocked, and there was an emergency crew and some heavy equipment dealing with the problem. Sure enough, we were not able to get down our street so I parked the Saturn at a nearby Chinese restaurant and we walked home.

It turns out the large old tree limb was FULL OF WATER. It finally just dropped. I’m a big walker and I walk under that limb all the time! Fortunately, no one was walking or driving under that large limb when it fell! I kidded with some of the residents of the street who’d come out to watch the cleanup, “Never a dull moment on our street!” and they laughed and agreed!

I live on a small residential street, but these are three true stories of trees falling on the street in perfect weather! I don’t want to make anybody paranoid about trees falling, but you just never know when a tree is going to fall or some other “shoe” is going to drop! There’s certainly a spiritual application to all this. In Adult Sunday School class yesterday morning we talked about the guy in Luke 12 who was SO successful, he planned to build bigger barns, sit back, and eat, drink and be merry for many years of success. BUT, God said, “Tonight, you will die, and then whose shall all these things be?” We all take things for granted! We shouldn’t. The old time Pentecostal preachers used to ask questions like, “Are you ready for the rapture?” or “Friend, are you ready to meet Jesus?” You may laugh, but: ARE YOU?!

And, if a tree were to fall on my street and no one was around....DID it make a sound?...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

This past Wednesday afternoon, in the midst of working on Sunday’s sermon and getting ready for Wednesday night’s Prayer meeting, I got a craving for a Dunkin Donuts ice coffee! I also realized I hadn’t yet picked up the church’s deposit bag at Framingham CoOperative Bank. Those of you who live in Framingham know what’s right next door to the downtown Framingham CoOp Bank branch - YUP Dunkin Donuts! So with the speed and excitement of a 13-year-old, I taped “Back in 20 minutes” signs on the doors, and bounded out to my 20-year-old Volkswagen Golf.

The old VW’S air conditioner has been inoperable for two years. It was HOT in that car and the prospect of a cold ice coffee felt great! Suddenly, my cell phone was vibrating. Fumbling to answer the phone in downtown Framingham traffic, I heard a strange woman’s voice saying the word, “Ashland”.

“It’s GOTTA be a wrong number!” I thought. I thought wrong. She repeated, “This is Officer (last name) of the Ashland Police Department. Is this Pastor Baril?” I wondered why an Ashland Police Officer would be calling me on my cell phone. I quickly learned that the husband of one of our Members had died, and that I was needed at the home. Providentially, I reached my wife Mary Ann on the phone at her desk at Marian High School, and fortunately she was able to leave with me immediately for Ashland.

In many respects, I’ve often thought that a television show about what pastors (really) do and encounter would be fascinating, but it WOULD often violate people’s privacy in their most vulnerable moments. For that reason, I won’t go into too much detail here, but as Mary Ann and I walked in up to the house past an ambulance, fire truck, and two police cars, there was the sense of peace that God was with us. This was the kind of “pastoral call” that really needed a “woman’s touch”. Mary Ann and I tend to be exact opposites, and on a number of (usually stupid) issues, we tend to clash. But Wednesday, we were totally in sync and functioned as one, and it was really just great! There was some very practical and earthy stuff to do at the Ashland home; there was the spiritual stuff, the business side of things as the funeral director arrived and the body was removed, there was functioning as pastors, functioning as friends, and functioning as servants, and being whatever we needed to be and doing whatever needed to be done. No, it wasn’t “fun”; but it was one of those kind of situations where you’re really glad to be in the ministry, and where you feel like you made some kind of a difference.

Mary Ann has taken over laying out and producing the church’s Sunday bulletins over the past few months. (Marian High has given permission to produce them there and they look really sharp.) Wednesday morning, Mary Ann had run the August 16 bulletins. Each weeks’ bulletin highlights one of the families or couples in the church to pray specifically for. I remembered that the August 16 bulletin called for prayer for this woman and her husband who was now deceased.

After such a strenuous afternoon, I hated to say, “Mary Ann, you’re going to have to change the bulletin...” but once I explained myself, she heartily agreed. The bulletins were rerun on Wednesday night asking prayer for this dear lady at her time of loss.

Mary Ann was exhausted and so I encouraged her to stay home and relax on Wednesday night instead of going to prayer meeting. I arrived at our church building with my son Jon at 7, greeted by my “Back in 20 minutes” signs, and noting that I wasn’t set up for prayer meeting and I’d left my office air conditioner running.

I kind of chuckled to myself, thinking, “Boy, that was SOME 20 minutes...and I never DID get that ice coffee!” We had a small turnout for prayer meeting, but we had a good one, nevertheless.

Wednesday, August 12. Quite a day. All in the line of duty...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;” (I Timothy 6:17-18)

I was not surprised to tune into the Noon news on Tuesday and learn that Eunice Kennedy Shriver had died. She had been hospitalized in critical condition and everybody knew her passing was just a matter of time. Even so, it was sad news and my condolences go out to the family and to all whose lives were touched in some way by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Like her brother, John F. Kennedy, Eunice was born at the family’s home in Brookline, Massachusetts (on July 10, 1921). She was the fifth of nine children in that very famous family. Eunice graduated from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1943, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in sociology. She spent a number of years doing social work. In 1953, she married R. Sargent Shriver who later became U.S. Ambassador to France, and was the Democrat candidate for Vice-President 1972.

One news report this week quoted a biographer of Eunice Kennedy Shriver as indicating that when the lives and accomplishments of all that generation of Kennedys are weighted, including (of course) J.F.K., the actual accomplishments of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the positive impact she made in the world may well be the greatest!

It was her love for and attention to her mentally retarded sister Rosemary that made advocating for and working with the mentally challenged a lifetime mission.
Eunice will probably be best remembered for helping found the Special Olympics in the 1960s. In 1968, she founded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring at The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. President Ronald Reagan awarded her the nation's highest civilian award, the (U.S.) Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1984, recognizing her outstanding work on behalf of those with mental retardation.

This week, her son-in-law, Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, stated that it was Eunice who got him involved in public service. She first convinced him to become a Coach for the Special Olympics, and the rest is history!

The Kennedys are one of those families that’s very polarizing- some LOVE them and some HATE them. It’s impressive to note that Eunice Kennedy Shriver transcended all that political stuff! Here’s a woman who genuinely cared...who wanted to make a difference in life...who didn’t just TALK....who didn’t just sit around and expect to be catered’s a woman who loved, and gave and sacrificed and genuinely cared. This wealthy woman truly fulfilled the admonition to the rich round in the Bible passage above. She left a wonderful legacy.

When a great person passes on, I always have the same thought: who will take their place?

Monday, August 10, 2009


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

You may remember that there was a Number 1 soft rock and Country song in 1997 called “Butterfly Kisses”. The song was done by Bob Carlisle. It was a HUGE hit that even got Bob Carlisle featured on the “Oprah” show, and in the entertainment world it doesn’t get much bigger than that. I guess the entertainment world would also consider Bob Carlisle a “One Hit Wonder” but I know better. Bob Carlisle is an evangelical Christian artist whose work is much better known in those much more narrow circles.

“Butterfly Kisses” is a good song, but Bob Carlisle has a far better song, first released in late 1997 entitled, “We Fall Down”. For those of us who struggle (and I do mean “US”) with our mistakes, sins, and failures, it contains a powerful message of God’s grace. Last night at our church, I preached on Romans chapter 7. That’s the chapter where the great Apostle Paul lets us in on the fact that he was very human and that at times he greatly struggled with his sins and failures. Toward the end of the sermon, I had the Bob Carlisle recording “We Fall Down” played, and then I had it played again at the very end of the service.

Are you feeling down on yourself or even hopeless today...thinking you’ll just never measure up? It’s worth the 4 minutes and 39 seconds to go to this site and watch “We Fall Down”:

Here are the words to “We Fall Down” and they’re very good, but when you hear the music and watch the video it’s much more powerful:

WE FALL DOWN by Bob Carlisle

Cursing every step of the Way, he bore a heavy load
To the market ten miles away, The journey took its toll
And every day he passed a Monastery's high cathedral Walls
And it made his life seem Meaningless and small

And he wondered how it would Be to live in such a place
To be warm, well fed and at Peace; to shut the world away

So when he saw a priest who Walked, for once, beyond the Iron gate
He said, Tell me of your life Inside the place...
And the priest replied...

We fall down, we get up
We fall down, we get up
We fall down, we get up
And the saints are just the Sinners
Who fall down and get up

Disappointment followed him Home; he'd hoped for so much More
But he saw himself in a light He had never seen before

Cause if the priest who fell Could find the Grace of God To be enough
Then there must be some hope For the rest of us
There must be some hope left For us

We fall down, we get up
We fall down, we get up
We fall down, we get up
And the saints are just the Sinners
Who fall down and get up

Again, please check out

and let me know what you think of it!

Friday, August 7, 2009


“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

Ironically, this is my second posting in a row dealing with items in the news. I was very surprised that the front page story of today’s (Friday, August 7, 2009) MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) was about Ryan O’Connor, a teenager and his friends who love baseball and wiffle ball and have made a mini Fenway Park in the back yard of the teen's Knight Road home. The Town of Framingham is upset because the ballpark displays a “Mobil” sign in the area of the park where you’d notice the “Citgo” sign at the real Fenway Park. Apparently, neighbors have complained to the Town.

Town officials are disturbed because the sign is larger than that allowed in the Framingham sign bylaws and is “a commercialized sign in a residential neighborhood”.

“It’s not really a nuisance, it’s just us having fun.” says Ryan.

You can read this story at:

I just as easily could have quoted a Bible verse about the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law as I began this posting. These are kids having harmless fun in a backyard. With all the trouble in our community of youth gangs, domestic violence, shootings, and all sorts of other major issues, we should be thrilled that these kids are safely in a backyard playing ball. If they have a “Mobil” sign up- big deal!

I think we all understand we wouldn’t want commercial signs “plastered” all over residential neighborhoods in Framingham. And, I’m usually a stickler for obeying the law in the spirit of Romans chapter 13. But we’ve got fine young men and women dying and being seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve got serious problems with the economy. We’re wrestling with what to do about health care. We’ve had several recent murders in MetroWest communities. Framingham’s got serious problems with our downtown. Most of all, our community and our nation need a spiritual revival like the Great Awakenings of old. And we’re worried about a “Mobil” sign at a replica backyard ballpark?!

I think we need to lighten up. On the other hand, the fact that our priorities are so messed up may mean we should be weeping.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:1-4)

How do we know Jesus followed and discussed the news and current events of His day? One indication is the above passage. Items in the news were a group of people that Governor Pilate had ordered killed as they were offering animal sacrifices...their own blood actually ending up mixed with the sacrifices. Another item in the news was a tower unexpectedly falling and killing eighteen people.

Most of the “news” wasn’t any better in Jesus’ day than it is today! I’m usually a guy who can’t get enough of news and current events, but there was a story on last night’s T.V. news on Boston’s FOX channel 25 which put me into a reflective mood. It was a report that longtime incarcerated convicted killer James Riva appeared before the Massachusetts Parole Board this week. Riva’s crime was particularly gruesome. In 1980, he murdered his grandmother. His excuse was that he believed he was a 700-year-old vampire and he wanted to drink her blood. Riva claims HE is in fact a victim, claiming his mother abused him for years. For those who want to read about his Parole Board appearance you can check out:

This story had a personal impact for me because James Riva’s mother (Janet Riva) was my high school Algebra 2 teacher. I had Mrs. Riva a number of years before the murder. I absolutely do not believe Mrs. Riva abused her son. As in all high schools, Canton High had some teachers who were very strict and some who were “pushovers”. The school also employed some teachers who were very well known around school and quite “charismatic” and some who were totally boring and uninspiring. In each of the above categories, I’d rate Mrs. Riva right in the middle. I was terrible in Math, and I can tell you she was a good teacher. (I failed Algebra 1 and had to make it up in summer school. In Algebra 2, most of my grades were Bs and Cs, which was very good for me!) I think anybody who went through Canton High in those days would say that Mrs. Riva was a caring person who liked kids and was a good teacher. I feel so sorry for her that her son turned out the way he did, and most of all, that he blames her for his problems.

There have been other intense stories in the news this week. One is the toxic fumes at the trash processing center in New Bedford, which sent a number of people, including emergency first responders, to the hospital. Exactly what caused this is unknown, but the mayor of New Bedford has stated that we all need to be very careful about throwing hazardous waste in our regular household trash. Is there any one of us who hasn’t done that at one time or another? This story has inspired me to be more careful of what I throw in the regular trash.

There’s been the story of former President Bill Clinton traveling to North Korea and securing the release of the two young female American journalists who had been sentenced to twelve years of hard labor. Many believe that there was much more to this story, and that much was discussed between Clinton and the North Korean dictator behind the scenes. Even so, I’m glad the young people were released.

There’s also been the story of Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett who wrote a very racist e-mail letter to a Boston Globe columnist regarding the Henry Louis Gates arrest. He has been suspended and will likely be fired since Mayor Menino has said, “he’s gone ; g-o-n-e.” Barrett is now suing the City arguing among other things that he has essentially been fired already without a fair hearing. If you’ve read the text of Barrett’s e-mail, he frankly doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It’s blatantly racist and sexist. This story is a sobering warning to a lot of us who tend to fire off emotional e-mails. Such an action can literally ruin your life. I have one Baptist pastor friend who got into a very difficult situation when one of his lay leaders contacted him asking for information about a particular man in the church. The pastor fired off an e-mail to the lay leader letting the lay leader know what a real jerk he thought the man was. The problem is that instead of addressing the e-mail to the lay leader, he addressed it to THAT MAN! Needless to say, that family left the church and the pastor was left with egg on his face. I have another Baptist pastor friend who recently told me that she (yes, this one’s a she) saves any e-mail she’s fired off in haste in her “Drafts” folder and leaves it there for 24 hours. At that time she reviews it and makes the decision of whether to send it or not; and usually does NOT.

Yes, the news has put me in a very reflective mood this week. There’s a lot to think about. Finally, most of the news reminds us that this world is in a mess, but it also underscores what all true Christians know: that Jesus Christ is our only hope in times like these!

Monday, August 3, 2009


“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5)

Those of you who get bored with Massachusetts automotive trivia may fall asleep before the end of this posting, but I’ve been noticing a problem with disappearing ink. No, I don’t mean the fun “disappearing ink” that many of us played with as kids and I suppose is still sold at joke shops. Have you noticed that the ink on many of the MA automobile inspection stickers which expire in 2010 is disappearing?! Virtually everybody who has a car registered in Massachusetts currently has an inspection sticker affixed to the windshield somewhere in the lower right (“passenger side”) area. The stickers which expire in 2009 have green background trim and in the center a large numeral which indicates the month the sticker expires. (Incidentally, if your car has one of those greenish 2009 stickers, the numeral should be 8 or higher. If it’s 7 or below, your sticker has expired and you are subject to being ticketed and fined.) If your car has a sticker which expires in 2010, it has a red background trim, and also a large numeral in the center.

I have a numeral 1 (January) sticker on my 1989 Volkswagen Golf. I noticed a few weeks ago that the sticker’s red background trim had faded to pink. The trim is now completely gone! Most of you know my late father was a Registry of Motor Vehicles official, so I just tend to notice this stuff. I’ve noticed that many cars with 2010 stickers with the lower digits...1,2,3....also have badly fading stickers. I wonder to what degree they’ll continue to fade. Will we eventually have nothing more than a white blob on our windshields?

Massachusetts’ inspection stickers of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were very “cool”. In those days we had probably the most boring license plates in the nation. The “Commonwealth” had a policy of not wanting any slogans or pictures on the license places. (Considering today’s “Cape Cod and Islands” “Patriots” “Red Sox” and other Massachusetts license plates, that seems laughable, but things were very different in that era.) Our plates were boring but we had the most attractive auto inspection stickers in the country. I sell authentic, genuine, collectible MA inspection stickers of the period to collectors and classic car buffs. The stickers of that era were often bright orange, bright red, bright green, bright blue, or bright yellow. It was not unusual to see really creative stuff on them. The 1977 stickers (Spring was green and Fall was yellow) had a characature drawing of a mechanic and the slogan “YOUR SAFETY IS MY BUSINESS”. The 1978 stickers (red and blue) had a photo of a Registry cop on them. The 1979 stickers (yellow and green) had the photo of a Registry police car on them.

I don’t ever remember any previous inspections stickers FADING, but I do know Massachusetts had a terrible problem with its 1963 series license plates. In those days, new sets of license plates were issued every other year. (On the off year, the registration was shown as valid by an additional sticker which went on the upper, center of the windshield.) We’d had green ‘61 plates with white lettering which were replaced by black ‘63 plates with white lettering. Almost immediately, the paint started peeling off the plates and the plates started rusting. On my fathers cars, things were fine, because he had the places in secure enclosed transparent frames, but any of the plates which were exposed to the elements rusted. By the time JFK was assassinated, most Massachusetts plates were completely illegible. This made things tough for law enforcement and embarrassing for anybody with a Massachusetts car on the road around the country.

There were a number of theories about what happened with the 1963 plates. A common theory was that the prisoners who made the license plates urinated into the big vats of black paint, but I think that’s an urban legend. Although we were not supposed to get new license plates until 1965, due to the problem, all Massachusetts cars got new maroon and white plates for 1964. The first of the modern white with dark lettering Massachusetts plates with reflectorized paint were issued in 1967 and were intended to be on the cars for several years. Today it’s not uncommon to have the same plates on a car for ten or more years.

Has your sticker expired? Has your stickers paint faded? Have you fallen asleep?!