Thursday, January 28, 2010


“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” (Romans 13:7)

The title of this post comes from the FOX Network television show, “COPS” which is seen on Saturday nights, and reruns of “COPS” seem to be constantly on one cable channel or another. My daughter Rachel has got to be the number one fan of both “COPS” and “America’s Most Wanted”. Unfortunately, THIS story is about a bad experience a friend of mine had with a bad cop. Lest any readers think I’m some sort of “panty waist, bleeding heart liberal”, I’m not. My father had a distinguished career in law enforcement, starting out as a Boston Police officer and retiring many years later as a Registry of Motor Vehicles official. My sister-in-law’s husband is a recently retired Dedham cop. A friend of mine is a corrections officer at Norfolk State Prison. I LIKE cops. Yet, even my Dad (as well as “America’s Most Wanted’s” John Walsh) used to say that there were some very bad cops. Probably 95% of police officers are outstanding people, but probably about 5% are bad apples who should never be on a police force.

My friend Melanie (not her real name), a woman over age 50, works for a very powerful attorney. A few days ago, she was driving, doing an errand for the attorney. She was driving the attorney’s car. At a MetroWest intersection (it WASN’T Framingham but I’m not going to tell you which town it was in ), she was driving the attorney’s car out of a side street and onto a main road when she noticed a truck barreling down on her. The truck was going MUCH too fast. The truck was messy, with ladders and other implements protruding from it. It all happened very fast, but Melanie fully expected the truck to smash into the attorney’s car. In fact, it missed by only an inch or so, BUT one of the protruding objects did hit the car, damaging a headlight and some of the trim of the left front corner of the car. Melanie was understandably upset.

Not knowing exactly what to do, she quickly made the turn and proceeded to try to catch up with the truck to get its license plate number. The truck was going way over the speed limit and Melanie had to do the same to catch up to it. Finally, she DID and got the number. To her surprise, just a short distance later, the truck turned into a driveway, and Melanie followed.

She got out and told the passive male driver that he’d damaged her car. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, “I thought something fell, but I didn’t know what it was.” Melanie DID get all of his information, and then called her boss. The boss insisted Melanie call the local police station and have an officer come out and write up an accident report. Melanie very much did not want to do that, but if you’re smart you don’t argue with your boss. A few minutes later a middle-aged male police officer responded. Melanie made it a point to get the cop’s name, which WAS smart. She told him what had happened. He then told Melanie to get into her car. The officer then went into the house and spoke to the driver of the truck. (It turned out he was NOT the truck’s owner.) After awhile, the officer came out and spoke to Melanie. As she told the story, the cop was cold and detached. He told her to come to the police station in 90 minutes and pick up a copy of his report.

“Why can’t I see the report NOW?” she protested.

He insisted she come to the station in 90 minutes.

An hour and a half later, Melanie arrived at the police station. There was the officer, again cold and detached. He handed her a copy of his report. According to the report, Melanie was the cause of the accident! He wrote it up that she had failed to yield, had caused the accident, and had later followed the truck and FORCED the driver to stop. He cited her as causing the accident! Melanie said to him, “I don’t believe this, this is NOT what happened!”

The cop couldn’t have cared less. Melanie later showed the report to her boss. He was furious. The attorney did some research of his own, which turned up some interesting facts. The officer had been working for his department for only a couple of years. Previously, he’d worked for another Massachusetts police department from which he was DISMISSED after numerous allegations of impropriety, and much suspicious behavior. Regarding the truck involved in the accident, it turned out to be uninsured and unregistered!

The attorney went to the police station and personally confronted the police officer who’d intimidated Melanie and lied on the accident report. The attorney insisted any charges against Melanie be dropped and that a new report be written.
It happened. The citation was dropped and a new (and much more accurate) accident report was written.

This story is obviously disturbing for a number of reasons! I can’t help but think: what if Melanie WASN’T working for that attorney? What if she was just some ordinary woman in an unfortunate situation? No one would believe her. And WHY did this Town hire this Bozo as one of their officers?!

I pray briefly before I drive, every time I drive! It’s a practice I recommend highly! You never know what’s going to happen when you’re at the wheel, and sadly, you can’t always assume the police are on your side.

Monday, January 25, 2010


“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Peter 2:17)

On a pastoral visit to an elderly couple today I got an insight on still ANOTHER reason why Scott Brown attracted voters...and in many cases, attracted demographic groups that typically do not vote Republican. Nick and Connie (not their real names) are each over 80 and live in Scott Brown’s old State Senate District - just a short distance outside Framingham which is in a different State Senate District. Nick and Connie did not make it out to church service on Sunday. For the elderly, winter is a tough time. They tend to get sick more often, and even when they’re feeling well, both walking and driving on icy and snowy roads will deter them from coming. After lunch I took a quick ride to Nick and Connie's home, bringing along a cassette tape of the service for them to be able to listen to.

I know from visits to the elderly that it’s not unusual for people over 80 to be still in their pajamas at 1:00 in the afternoon, and they were. But they were delighted that I stopped by. In the forty-five minutes I was in their home we discussed everything from the Haiti earthquake, to my daughter Rachel’s upcoming graduation from college, to the weather, and to Scott Brown’s election. They brought up Scott Brown’s victory which each of them was ecstatic about.

“I don’t like to get out, but we made sure Diane (their daughter) got us to the polls,” said Connie. Then she added the reason they were so excited about Scott Brown: “Several times as State Senator, he came to our Senior Center and served us meals,” she said excitedly. “I thought, ‘well, this doesn’t seem like a Senator, he’s such a NICE man’!” That “nice young man” made such an impression on them over the past few years that when he announced for the U.S. Senate seat, they were determined to get out and vote for him.

“The girl was nice, too,” added Nick.

Connie quickly added, “Yes, she’s nice, but when I heard the things she stood for, I wanted Scott Brown all the more.” She expressed legitimate fear of losing Medicare if President Obama’s health plan were to pass.

In his usual excitement, Nick added, “His DAUGHTER called us!” Yes, they’d gotten a “robocall” from Ayla Brown, and perhaps they’re the American Idol girl’s oldest fans!

The story of Scott Brown connecting with and making an impression on these senior citizens reminded me of a story I read many years ago about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. When little Anne was only 6, Presidential Candidate Calvin Coolidge was visiting at her parents home. Anne had a bandage on her finger which Mr. Coolidge had asked about. After he’d left, several of the adults made some negative comments about Calvin Coolidge.

Little Anne immediately piped up, “I LIKED Mr. Coolidge,” and added, “he was the only one who asked me about my sore finger.”

Those little personal touches do go a long way in life!


“And Methu'selah lived a hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:
and Methu'selah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
and all the days of Methu'selah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.” (Genesis 5:25-27)

Former Boston radio personality Scott Allen Miller once mused that something peculiar happens to people upon becoming 55-years-old. He said that people who are 55-plus tend to constantly telling you how old you are in the same way that very young children do. You know; little kids will introduce themselves by saying, “I’m KENNY! And I’m four and a HALF!”. Similarly, senior citizens...even “young senior citizens” tend to say things like, “I’m 62-years-old and when WE were kids, we RESPECTED OUR ELDERS!”

I think “Scotto” is right! I’m 55 (see, there I go!) but for some reason, I started that aged focus stuff shortly after 50. I’ve got age on the brain because two people I know had birthdays this weekend. Saturday, my friend, female Messianic Jewish Rabbi Tobi Hawksley turned 60. There was a surprise dinner and celebration for her at a restaurant in Norfolk. She was totally surprised and had a great time. Tobi Hawksley and I are very close. When my wife and I were first married, I don’t think she quite understood that, but eventually she came to see that we’re like a brother and sister. I met Tobi when she was in her early 20s and was already married with a couple of kids. (She and her first husband divorced years ago. He’s a very successful Italian-American businessman who bears a striking resemblance to Providence, Rhode Island’s Buddy Cianci.) Back in the 1970s, I knew Tobi as “Punk”. Her legal name was Melodie but nobody called her that. When she was a little kid, her mother called her “My little punkin” and unfortunately what was an endearing nickname to her family became somewhat off-putting when Punk would meet new people. I mean, imagine saying, “Hi, I’m PUNK!” People would look shocked as if she’d just said something profane, or something such as, “Hi, I’m DIRTBAG!” Punk had a very difficult life for many years. I hesitate to write about it because it’s personal stuff she experienced that she might not want me sharing.

Sometime around the mid-1980s, Punk did a very wise thing. She changed her name to Tobiah. Well, actually she changed her middle name to “Tobiah” and began calling herself “Tobi”. The story of how she attended Zion Bible College, married an electrician named Alan Hawksley, and became an Ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbi is truly an amazing and inspiring one! My son Jon thinks a film should be made about her life called, “TOBIAH !” Hey, “Lifetime” or “Oxygen” or one of those outlets...seriously, her life story WOULD make a great film! So, there were Mary Ann and I and a bunch of Tobi’s friends in their 50s and 60s (along with her children and grandchildren) celebrating. It was a special day and a great time.

On Sunday, a man in our church, Don Franklin, turned 63. Don has been battling some health issues. He uses a cane and a walker, and so may seem a lot older than 63, but there’s a lot more to Don than his appearance. He’s a very intelligent guy and quite computer savvy. Don’s also had a very hard life. Don Franklin is a very nice guy. He’s a helpful and very much loved, AND much appreciated Member of our church. It was certainly special to sing Happy Birthday to him during the service, and to be part of his special day! Don was going out to dinner with his girlfriend on Sunday afternoon and was quite excited about that.

This past Friday I was in a meeting with a couple of pastors who are in my age group...well, one’s about 7 years younger than I am and one’s about 7 years older. The latter mentioned that a lot of our peers in ministry are looking grayer and grayer. That’s true of me! A couple of years ago, my wife commented that it seems like yesterday that we were among the YOUNG people in ministry in the Assemblies of God Southern New England District. How true! Now, we’re among the middle aged, and the OLDER middle aged, at that! Also true! I remember sitting through the “25-year Ordination Recognitions” at our May District Councils and being totally unable to even CONCEIVE of being old enough to receive a “25-year Ordination Recognition”. Well, THIS May, I get mine! Unbelievable!

So, YES, Scott Allen Miller, I’m at that stage of life of proudly announcing my age, just as I did 50-plus years ago. As long as I don’t get to Methuselah’s 969, well that will be just fine! (I know, DID Methuselah REALLY live to be 969-years-old? Well, that may be a topic for ANOTHER blog posting someday!)

Congratulations to Tobi Hawksley and Don Franklin...and many more Happy Birthdays are wished for you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:13-14)


Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican...whether you’re a liberal or a conservative...whether you’re very happy that Scott Brown won or very sad that Martha Coakley lost, Scott Brown has taught us ALL a lesson in perseverance!

It’s not often that I’m very happy after an election. Most of the people I vote for LOSE. Many of the people and causes I’ve voted for have lost and have lost very badly. This time, I voted for the winner and I feel great.

How and why did Scott Brown and his supporters accomplish this win? There are many reasons, BUT a huge part of this is Scott’s optimism, hard work, commitment, and PERSEVERANCE. Frankly, Scott Brown did NOT act like an American of 2010- he acted more like an American of 1910! We modern Americans expect everything to be very easy. In my humble opinion, that goes DOUBLE for most of today’s born-again Christians. One of my friends says, “everybody expects everything handed to them on a silver platter”. I’ve found that’s correct! One hundred years ago, all four of my grandparents were recent immigrants to America. For three out of four of them, English was not their first language. With the exception of my grandfather Pierre Baril, they did not go to high school. There was a lot of sacrifice and there were a lot of disappointments so their children and grandchildren could have far better lives than they had. What are 2010’s Americans like? Well, like the kid that practically had a meltdown at the Boston American Idol auditions because he had to WAIT so long to audition (3 hours). We won’t wait. We won’t sacrifice.

The great Protestant churches of America were built by the World War 2 generation. Dan Buentello, a Baptist pastor friend of mine who is originally from Michigan put his finger on the difference between American Christians of the 1960s and American Christians of today. Dan’s parents were immigrants from Mexico. His Dad worked in one of the auto plants in Michigan. Dan’s parents were at their Baptist church for untold hours during the week. If the church needed a new roof, the men of the church put the new roof on during weekends. That was true for all sorts of repairs. Whatever was needed, that World War 2 generation was there with their blood, sweat, and tears. Dan says, “I go back there today. If the church needs roof or something done, they just hire someone. NOBODY my age or younger will do that kind of work.”

That’s true.

I find that if today’s Americans (and today’s evangelical Christians) face an uphill battle with a slim chance of success, THEY WON’T EVEN GET STARTED! That was NOT true of Scott Brown. When Scott Brown announced his candidacy in September to fill the seat that had been occupied by Ted Kennedy for over forty years (and by John F. Kennedy before that) NOBODY thought he had a chance of being elected! I was “on board” with Scott Brown right from September. I am kind of a “news junkie” and “political junkie” as some say. I very much wanted Scott to win, but realistically I knew his chances were very slim. The media focused on the four Democrat candidates. When Martha Coakley won the Democrat primary in early December, it was just assumed she would be the new Senator. At that time, she was leading Scott Brown in the polls, 58% to 27%. “No,” it was said, “This is the BLUEST of all states. This is the most LIBERAL of all states. NO REPUBLICAN CAN WIN.”

How did Scott Brown behave from the time he got into the race? LIKE HE WAS GOING TO WIN! He worked the campaign EVERY DAY! He drove that old truck all over the state. He talked to real people. He connected with real people. He had a big contagious smile! He had a likable and lovable quality that may not have been seen in a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan, and he had the charisma of the late John F. Kennedy. But he PERSEVERED. He toughed it out. He WORKED. And his supporters, like the “little engine that could” did the same!

By early January, Martha Coakley was only 9 points ahead. The “Democrat machine” tried attack ads and threw everything they could at Scott Brown and his supporters. But Scott Brown’s forces only worked all the harder and believed all the more. The impossible happened. A “moderate-to-conservative” Republican won the “Ted Kennedy seat” in Massachusetts!

I’ve written on this blog that I tend to be a dreamer and a Don Quixote type. When you are that way, it gets frustrating when people tell you “it can’t be done”. You can feel so overwhelmed and get so discouraged...because you STUPIDLY believe such people!

Scott Brown is not perfect. He’s pro-choice. I’m pro-life. I see him as a “safe middle of the road Protestant”. Well, as you might guess, I’d prefer a Bible quoting Pentecostal! But I’ve been very INSPIRED by this man!

Now, this man did what he did with sheer determination, optimism, and hard work. I ask you evangelical Christians who say there can’t be a “revival” in New England, or that small struggling churches can’t grow in New England, or that Christian schools will never make it in New England: Don’t we have something Scott Brown didn’t have?! We have the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. If we’d persevere as hard as Scott Brown has the face of the most negative odds; if we’d work and sacrifice as hard as he and his supporters have worked and sacrificed...and if we’d PRAY and FOCUS ON THE LORD the way the Pentecostals of 1910 prayed and focused on the Lord, well, WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE WOULD HAPPEN?!

Monday, January 18, 2010


“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:4-5)

The Haiti earthquake story will have literally hundreds of thousands of heartbreaking stories of human tragedy and suffering. One of those has affected a central Massachusetts family. Britney Gengel of Rutland, Massachusetts (a small town west of Worcester) was on a humanitarian mission to Haiti with a group of students and faculty from Lynn University of Boca Raton, Florida where she’s a student. Initially, the Gengel family received a report that Britney had been located and was O.K. Shortly thereafter, the family was notified that Britney in fact had NOT been found- that she was still missing and unaccounted for.

I can SO relate to that story. My own daughter Amy, age 24, a Springfield, Missouri nurse has been on two medical missionary trips to Haiti. Amy’s most recent trip to Haiti was in May of last year, and she’s scheduled to go again in May of this year. If Amy were missing in Haiti in the aftermath of an earthquake, I’d certainly be devastated. Had I been told she was O.K. and THEN told that information was incorrect, I’d probably be frustrated and angry.

Perhaps you have seen Britney’s Dad, Mr. Gengel making tearful and almost hysterical pleas on television for his daughter to be found. Mr. Gengel has pled with President Obama “as a father” to “DO something and find Britney”. This morning, a group from Lynn University was on the Today show with Meredith Vieira. The group included other parents of missing students who had also gone through the same ordeal as Mr. Gengel. The other parents, obviously distraught, spoke calmly and rationally to Meredith. Mr. Gengel, however, pleaded,
“Meredith! We’re from WORCESTER! You started your career at WORC! HELP us find Britney!”

In fact Meredith Vieira IS a native New Englander. She’s from Rhode Island and she did start her media career in central Massachusetts. So Mr. Gengel was playing the “You’re a fellow New Englander! You have to do something special for us!” card. He then broke into such bad sobbing that I thought they should perhaps cut to commercial.


Like SO many, I feel terrible about Britney and SO many Americans missing in Haiti. And, I certainly feel bad for the Haitians, too! I am no fan of President Obama. On numerous issues I have criticized him and disagreed with him. But on this one, I support the President. He’s been attacked by Rush Limbaugh for doing too much and is being attacked by others for not doing enough. It’s a no-win situation for him. But in this crisis, I believe Obama is being a good leader and doing the best he can.

I relate to Mr. Gengel. More than he could probably ever know. You see, I’m by nature a VERY emotional, very sensational, and very excitable person. That personality and behavior CAN at times be very good and also CAN at times be very bad. If it were Amy missing, I’D probably be tempted to be hysterically yelling all over the airwaves, “BRING AMY HOME!!” I would hope that at that time, my family and friends would talk some sense to me, and I frankly hope if something like that ever happens, someone close to me could be the spokesperson for the media to save me a lot of embarrassment. You see, the Mr. Gengels and Bob Barils of the world are FABULOUS at publicity. We really are. If I really wanted to get a message to a million people over a month, I honestly think through the internet and other means I COULD do it. But in the process, you can become like Cindy Sheehan who is another sensational person. She was the one protesting President Bush and the War in Iraq. She became a celebrity, but also became thought of as a nut. I will admit....I have that capability. That’s why sometimes I need somebody to keep me in check, even if initially that makes me furious. Right now, that’s what Mr. Gengel needs.

I once wrote a piece on this blog praising John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted. He really IS a hero of mine. You know it all began with the abduction and murder of his little boy Adam over 25 years ago. At the time of the abduction, John Walsh was like Mr. Gengel and Bob Baril. He was wall-to-wall all over the media. All of his closest friends were working for the “find Adam” cause, 24/7. Finally after 5 or 6 days, and 24/7...his close friends were all exhausted. They had jobs. They had commitments. They had their own lives. They told John Walsh they had to take a little break.

He did NOT understand. “How DARE you?!” he angrily retorted.

But they were right. That’s a tough fact of life. Nobody is going to go 24/7 on a cause like that for more than 5 or 6 days unless it’s their own child or grandchild that’s missing. There’s a fatigue factor and people need a break.

John Walsh went through a lot of self-pity, which is more than understandable. But then he decided to “make a difference”. He has advocated for and helped SO many victims of crime and has seen to it that more than 1100 escaped criminals have been caught.

We all need to hope and pray that Britney Gengel will be found alive and will soon be home with her family. IF that is not the case- we will all need to pray for and support the Gengels. Mr. Gengel, like me, John Walsh, and others has that SENSATIONAL and EMOTIONAL and even slightly irrational personality and behavior. It COULD destroy him. Or he COULD use that to advocate for the causes his daughter believed in and he could be the greatest advocate for and help to the Haitian people of any American to date.

Let’s pray for Britney and the family, and if Mr. Gengel ever wants to share coffee and have a shoulder to cry on, I’ll be there.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I read a tearjerker story in a magazine about twelve years ago entitled, “The Lives We Touch”. I have shared about that story on the blog sometime ago. It turns out it was fictional (but reads like a true story). It’s about an elementary school teacher who takes an interest in an emotionally and socially troubled student and whose interest in that kid completely turns his life around and leads him on a path to great academic and social success. It is interesting the way God can lead our lives and use us to impact others- whether that’s in long-term relationships with people or whether it’s in what the world would call “chance” encounters.

I am very rarely on-line during the weekends. The internet can sap my time and energy if I allow it to, so most of the time I stay away from it on the weekends and try to focus on other matters. Yesterday I had an experience that I found myself reflecting on over breakfast- to the point that I wanted to share it. Some who read this may think I’m writing this to brag about myself, but I’m really not. I’m just trying to encourage us all to be more “tuned in” to what God may want to do in our lives and how He may want to use us to “touch” others lives for His purpose.

On my way home yesterday afternoon, I drove to the downtown Framingham post office to mail off an anniversary card. I DO pass a mailbox on my regular route home, but the pickup time there is 4:00 and it was now almost 4:30. The card was for an elderly couple whose anniversary is Tuesday. With Sunday and the holiday, I was concerned they might not get the card on time if I mailed it from my usual box. As I walked from my car to the post office door, a woman passed me walking in the opposite direction. She was short, just a little bit overweight, and probably in her 30s. She had kind of a strange look on her face. I’d describe the look as a combination of confusion, frustration, sadness and introspection. I glanced her way and gave her kind of a half smile. I did not expect her reaction. She blurted out:

“Did you ever just want to THROW yourself in front of a TRAIN?!”

She kept going. As I rounded the corner to the front of the post office, I saw her get into an SUV. I mailed my card. To my surprise, there she was AGAIN, now walking back into the post office. Curious, I followed her in. She went up to the counter where there was a pile of large manilla envelopes she was mailing. Apparently she hadn’t had enough money for the postage.

Is it normal to tell a stranger you want to “THROW yourself in front of a TRAIN” because you have to go back to your SUV to get more money for postage? No, of course that’s not normal. In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever had a stranger on the street blurt something like that out before. I have no idea who that woman was. I have no idea what’s really going on in her life. I took out one of my business cards. On it, I wrote in pen, “Yes I have felt like that, but God kept me from it.” I walked up to her SUV and managed to leave it on the driver’s side window- fitting it into the rubber strip just below the window.

She has my phone number and e-mail address. Will I ever hear from that woman? I don’t know. But if she needed some “sign from God” or something like that, I’d say she got one.

Had I left my office a few minutes earlier, or had Monday not been a holiday, I would probably just have dropped that card in my “regular” mailbox and not gone to the post office.

Karen Mains who used to be on the “Chapel of the Air” radio broadcast calls moments such as that “I spies”. It’s when you just know God is in it.

So, no, I’m not writing this to brag. I’m just grateful to have been in the right place at the right time yesterday. We never know what lives we may touch if we’re just open to it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.” (Acts 4:36-37 King James Version)

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement),
sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.”
(Acts 4:36-37 New International Version)

I quoted from two versions because I like the translation of the N.I.V. much better, which says that Barnabas was a “Son of Encouragement”. When I became a born-again Christian in 1970, the only “Barnabas” I’d ever heard of was Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid) on T.V.’s weird and mystical soap opera “Dark Shadows”. At first, finding out there was a Barnabas in the Bible seemed weird, but I quickly discovered he was a great guy. When “Saint Paul” was a young recently converted man who apparently felt out of place and useless, Barnabas sought him out and spent time mentoring him and encouraging him. You know the results: Paul became probably the greatest Christian leader and church planter of the First Century. My friend the Rev. Dick Germaine (who now ministers to the needs of pastors and churches throughout New England) chose to call his nonprofit corporation, “Barnabas Ministries, Inc.” because he seeks to be an encourager like Barnabas in the New Testament.

How we need people who are ENCOURAGERS! A frustration of mine is that I was born with a Melancholic temperament. I don’t have time to explain the four temperaments (and their characteristics) here, but Tim LaHaye does a great job on that in his book, “Spirit Controlled Temperament”. Each of the temperaments has strengths and weaknesses. One of the biggest weaknesses of the Melancholic temperament is that they’re very pessimistic. Melancholics are the types who DON’T say, “THANK you for spending 3 hours washing, polishing, and ‘detailing’ my car!” Rather, Melancholics say (disgustedly), “You MISSED a spot!” My Melancholic tendencies have hurt my ministry in the past. There’s not a thing I can do about THAT, but I DO intend to try to be much more of an ENCOURAGER now and in the future.

Encouragers (like the Bible’s Barnabas) don’t see people AS THEY ARE, but rather, they see them as they CAN be. I know this will make me sound like a total geek, but I LOVE reading people’s biographies. I was reading some biographical information recently about George McGovern. (He was a U.S. Senator representing South Dakota for many years. In 1972, he was the Democrat party’s nominee for President.) I was surprised to find out that I have a lot in common with him. When McGovern was a first-grader he was painfully shy. He absolutely refused to raise his hand in class. When he was in high school, a gym teacher ridiculed him in class because he was nervous about doing some vaulting gymnastics maneuver which if done incorrectly would probably cause you to become seriously injured. Do you suppose that gym teacher or that first-grade teacher ever imagined this man would become a U.S. Senator and become the Presidential nominee of a major political party? Probably not.

In first-grade I was painfully shy. My parents sent me to school wearing white shirts and plaid ties. I know this is hard to believe, but I was painfully thin at that time and I looked like a nerd from the 1940s. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed in first-grade. I may forget where I put my car keys, but I can mentally go back to Room 2 at the Dean S. Luce School in 1960 as if I was just there! At the November parent/teacher conference, Miss Alenger told my father that I never raised my hand in class and that I HAD to start raising my hand in class. My father gave me a big lecture and pep talk about raising my hand in class. I was very nervous, but the next day in school I was determined to conquer my fear and raise my hand and answer a question. During a long session of Miss Alenger asking questions and various kids in the class answering them, it took ALL the courage I could muster up to timidly raise my hand and answer a question. At the end of that session, Miss Alenger said the following:

“Well you ALL did very well answering the questions....EXCEPT Bobby. He only answered ONE question. He might as well not have answered any at all.”

Why have I had problems with self image? Well, stuff like that! As I think about it, right now I wish I could go back in time, walk into that classroom as a 55-year-old man and give Miss Alenger a talking to about that not being the way to instill confidence in a timid 6-year-old. Thank God that I had an outstanding 2nd Grade teacher named Miss Angino. She was a very young teacher. She was not a “pushover” but she DID inspire her students, and THAT year I really came out of my shell and learned to interact with my peers. As far as high school, I had a few of those George McGovern gym class moments but today I couldn’t care less about it.

Well, adversity certainly DOES have its benefits. One of the reasons George McGovern became a heroic fighter pilot in World War 2 was to prove to himself and to that gym teacher that he wasn’t some cowardly wimp.

My friend D.C.M. will probably laugh his head off reading this part. In the Assemblies of God, there was a GREAT missionary (and quite a character) named Charles Greenaway. I remember the first time I saw him speak at Central Bible College. He was so dramatic and intense and emotional and captivating you’d ALMOST think he was mentally ill or putting on an act, but that was the REAL HIM. At that time, he was one of the executives in the Foreign Missions Department at the Assemblies of God headquarters. Almost ten years later, we had him in as our Missions Convention speaker in Walpole, MA one fall. Greenaway was the type who’d go into some jungle in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of headhunters or something “get them all saved” and then become some kind of a great white father to them. (I know this may sound racist, but I don’t know how else to put it!) When he spoke, he’d pull out his handkerchief, wave it around, and yell, “TELL ME ABOUT IT!!” At that church we used to put guests up in a somewhat low cost motel with a pancake house next door. Greenaway actually yelled during a sermon, “I’m getting sick of that MOTEL and that PANCAKE house!!”

Well, Charles Greenaway was representing a college from the South where he was on staff and he had a large fancy display board set up on a table. It was the type of thing that had to be all folded up and dismantled a certain way- then this large display board all neatly fit into a little suitcase. Now, I’m the UNHANDIEST guy you’ve ever seen! And I was asked to dismantle Greenaway’s display board and fold it up into the little suitcase. He stood there in his pale blue suit disgustedly staring at me through his big thick black-rimmed glasses. I felt like Don Knotts or Jerry Lewis. I was dismantling the thing all wrong. The harder I tried, the more of a mess I made. Finally, Greenaway disgustedly, condescendingly, and talking to me as if I were a GIRL, said, “No, no, no, HONEY. Let me help you!” He put it away himself.


Boy did I wish the floor could open up!

Well, George McGovern survived that kind of stuff and so have I!

But, bottom line, try to see the best in people. Try to see what people CAN be and not necessarily what they are. Try to do a lot more praising and complimenting and a lot less “tearing people down”! Be a Barnabas!

Now, if only I could get Simon Cowell to read this...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." (Matthew 26:11)

I was shocked to tune in the Channel 25 news yesterday in the early evening and learn that they had "Breaking News" of a magnitude 7.3 earthquake at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Later reports indicate it was actually a 7.0 quake with several strong aftershocks. Perhaps you've seen photos on-line or on television of Port-Au-Prince. It's DEVASTAED! The relief effort that will be needed is mind boggling. It will likely take 20 years to truly rebuild.

I have been to Haiti twice on ministry trips; one in 1990 and one in 1991. On those trips, I traveled to remote villages on Haiti's southern peninsula. My daughter Amy (a pediatric nurse who lives in Missouri) has been to Haiti twice, most recently last Spring. She is scheduled to go there again in May. I heard from Amy today. She's heard from the small town of Grand Goave where she worked in a children's home and medical clinic, that the place has suffered very severe damage and casualties. I am familiar with Grand Goave. We passed through there by vehicle on the way to the very remote villages. As I recall, Grand Goave is about an hour and a half's drive from Port-Au-Prince. It's actually VERY near the quake's epicenter.

Selfishly, I was very thankful Amy was not in Haiti at the time of the quake.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. I know there will always be those people who ask, "Why would God allow this to happen there?" And the only answer I can give is, "I don't know". In this life, I don't think we'll ever know the answers to such difficult questions.

This IS an opportunity for outpourings of relief from the U.S. and developed world which I trust will be forthcoming. Haiti certainly needs our prayers!


“And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

This past weekend I found a booklet I’d forgotten all about. It was given out at the 1997 Southern New England Assemblies of God District Council. (If you have any connection to Framingham, Massachusetts, you will want to keep reading this post!) The booklet was produced for the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Southern New England District (originally, the “New England District”). It includes a number of photos and stories from the early days of Pentecostalism in New England. (The Assemblies of God is one of the largest of about a dozen church bodies which were formed during the Pentecostal Revival in the early 20th Century.)

Framingham played a major role in New England Pentecostal history. There was a Methodist Campground called “Montwait” (I’ve seen that spelled several different ways) in the part of Framingham where roughly the Tercentennial Park (former Cushing Hospital property) and Keefe Tech High School exist today. (Hence the street name “Mount Wayte Ave.” in that part of Town.) In 1913 a famous female Pentecostal evangelist named Maria Woodworth-Etter held healing services there. She was arrested for “practicing medicine without a license” and was tried at Framingham District Court, where she was found not guilty. Wayne Warner, noted Assemblies of God historian, phoned me when he was writing an article about this incident roughly twenty years ago. He wondered if anyone in our church had parents or grandparents who’d attended these meetings and remembered the incidents. Unfortunately we had no one meeting those qualifications in our church.

Many independent Pentecostal churches began using the name “Assembly of God” during the first decade of the 20th Century, including Bethany Assembly of God of Springfield (now Agawam), Massachusetts, but the actual “Assemblies of God” formal church organization did not begin until 1914. The New England District of the Assemblies of God had their headquarters, campground, and Bible Institute (for the training of ministers) on Route 9 westbound in Framingham on the site of what is now the “Wellness Center” and a number of apartment buildings on Auburn Street - near the Trolley Square strip mall. From time to time I will meet an older minister, usually 80-plus, who went to Bible School in Framingham.

In 1957, the decision was made to divide the District geographically into Northern New England and Southern New England. Attorney John Garrahan, who later became one of the most prominent lawyers in Town, handled the legal aspects of the sale of the Route 9 property. Almost forty years later, John Garrahan did some “pro bono” legal work for our church. Incidentally, our church, First Assembly of God of Framingham, was one of the first Assemblies of God churches in Massachusetts. We’ve been located on South Street in downtown Framingham since 1994, but for decades the church was located at Hartford and C Streets. The church was originally incorporated as “Pentecostal Church of Framingham”. The name was legally changed in 1961 to “First Assembly of God of Framingham”.

Did you know this “stuff” about Framingham? I suspect many of you didn’t! I hope you found it interesting!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

January 12, 1960. Like this year, it also fell on a Tuesday. I was only a 5-year-old on Tuesday, January 12, 1960 - fifty years ago today - but I remember it well.
I believe I wrote about it on one previous occasion on the blog, but this is a fresh entry and reflection. On January 12, 1960, my maternal grandfather, Joseph Philip Richard died almost instantly of a massive heart attack.

I can still see our family seated around the supper table that evening. My mother answered a call on the red kitchen wall phone. She burst into hysterical crying and handed the phone to my father. It was her Uncle “Duke” on the phone telling her that her father had died of a massive heart attack. My mother was very emotional and very dramatic. I remember her hysterically yelling, “All his brothers are dead- and now HE’S DEAD, TOO!” I had never seen her like that before. For the next week, she was weeping and devastated. I remember my Dad leaving for work the next day and telling my brother, sister, and me that “Grandpa died so don’t give your mother a hard time today,” and we didn’t!

I wish I’d known him better, but even though I was so young, I do have a good memory of Joseph Philip Richard. He was French-Canadian, originally from a small town in New Brunswick. To his family, he was always, “Phil” but to most of his friends and coworkers, he was “Joe”. Here, since I’m family, I’ll call him “Phil”. Phil was from a very large family. One of his brothers had fallen through the ice one winter, and his father had jumped in to save him. The father succumbed to pneumonia just a few days later. In the custom of Canada, Phil’s older brother took over the family farm. The brother made Phil quit school and worked him like a slave. He hated it. Phil wrote to another older brother who lived in Maine and worked in a logging camp. The brother urged Phil to come and join him in the logging camp. I assume he paid his way, and Phil did exactly that. Later, Phil moved to Boston. When he first came to Massachusetts, he lived with a kind Irish-American family, the Crowleys, in East Boston. My mother remembers her Dad taking her to visit them many times, and that they always treated her like a little princess. I guess he did sort of become like a son to them.
Phil got various jobs, but eventually qualified for the Boston Police force. (Somewhere along the line, he also became a U.S. citizen.) Phil was one of the Boston cops who went out on strike in 1919 and who were fired by then Governor Calvin Coolidge. He later went to work for the U.S. Post Office and worked there until his retirement in the late 1940s. He was grateful to always have a job during the Great Depression. Phil had purchased a 3-family house in Boston’s Roxbury section and rented out the other two apartments to help pay the mortgage. Along the way, he had married Mary MacDonald a Canadian of Scottish heritage, originally from Prince Edward Island. Mary’s parents did not approve of the marriage. To British Canadians of that period, the French in Canada were looked up the way Blacks were in the American South. The couple was married in a church basement with few relatives present.

Of course, I remember Phil Richard as a man in his 70s. He was 6-feet-tall, which is tall for a Frenchman. He was very thin, but very strong. I remember that he was constantly smoking a pipe. When he was NOT smoking a pipe, he was popping Smith Brothers wild cherry cough drops. He always let me have some Smith Brothers wild cherry cough drops to suck on, and to this day, I have a particular fondness for Smith Brothers wild cherry cough drops.

The most important characteristic of Phil Richard is that he was a very spiritual man. He was a Catholic and a very devout Catholic. But I think with him, his faith was much more than just religion. He loved JESUS. In some versions of Pre-Vatican 2 Catholicism, there’s a big devotion to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus”. Now, as a Protestant, I realize some of that gets excessive and downright idolatrous. BUT, Phil was not really into “Maryolatry” as were so many Catholics of that period. He was into Jesus. He went to mass EVERY day, and TWICE on Sunday. He spent a great deal of private time in prayer. When my mother as a little one was stricken with the worst form of meningitis, he prayed for a miraculous healing, and she was miraculously healed!

You might think that since he was so “religious” he was a wimp, but that was not the case at all. My mother described him as very outspoken and opinionated. He said exactly what he thought and was never phony in any way. Phil Richard was also an amazingly optimistic man. My mother remembered him as cheerful, positive and optimistic. This was particularly amazing because he came from a family in which there was a lot of depression and some suicides. My own mother battled depression all her life, and I’ve battled depression. I believe we inherited it from that family, yet Joseph Philip Richard was not a depressive man at all.

Yes, it was fifty years ago today, and I remember.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Here’s my 2nd rerun (You really should first read the posting below this one which is my FIRST rerun of the day)! THIS one originally ran on Monday, September 14, 2009. Ministers who have blogs are generally encouraged to NOT post political stuff on the blog. In the almost 4 years I’ve had the blog (first as an America On-Line Journal; and then as a blogspot blog beginning in October of 2008) I have very rarely done political postings. I WILL say I strongly favor Scott Brown in the upcoming January 19 Special Electon for U.S. Senator. When I posted this on September 14, Scott Brown was considered a HUGE longshot with almost no chance of winning. 90% of the focus of the race was on 4 Democrats: Coakley, Capuano, Kehazi, and Pagliucca. Well, now it’s Brown vs. Coakley. (There IS an Independent named Joe Kennedy - of all names - who is also running but he is not expected to get any more than 3% of the vote.) At this point, Coakley has a slight lead in the polls but Brown has a realistic chance of winning. Here is what I wrote on September 14, originally entitled “ ‘American Idol’ Dad to Replace Ted Kennedy?” :

“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” (Proberbs 16:33)

Who will fill the late Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate? Several Democrats are already in the running, and on Saturday, September 12, Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown (Republican) of Wrentham announced that he is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat.

For those of you who live outside of MA, this will be an interesting race for a number of reasons.

First, Scott Brown is an “American Idol Dad”. His daughter Ayla Brown was in the top 24 in Season 5 of American Idol. She made it to #13 but missed out on being in the Top 10. Ayla is often featured singing at special events around Massachusetts AND is a very good basketball player. For more info. about Ayla Brown, check out

Ayla’s not the only famous person in the family, however. Gail Huff, Scott Brown’s wife and Ayla Brown’s mother is a well known television reporter at Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB channel 5. You can read more about Gail Huff at

Scott Brown and family reside in the small town of Wrentham, MA which is on the Rhode Island border and is located a very short distance from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.

Brown is a very bright and likable guy. He’s not perfect- nobody is. But, he’s conscientious, levelheaded, hardworking, and conservative on most issues. I would not, however, call him an ideologue. He’s a common sense guy kind of guy who would be able to “work with both sides of the aisle”.

I’m delighted Scott Brown’s running and I wish him well. You can read more about the launch of his campaign at:


I very rarely run “reruns” on the blog, but today I there are two blog postings from the past that I want to rerun. This one originally ran on Sunday, November 23, 2008 and was entitled, “Check Your Furnace Filter”. I forgot to take my own advice! For the past couple of weeks our home has been BITTER COLD seemingly no matter how high we would turn up the thermostat. Yesterday morning, I checked our furnace filter. It had not been changed in probably 9 months. It was completely clogged with dust! I put in a new filter, and voila, WE HAD HEAT! So, CHECK YOUR FURNACE FILTER! Here’s that November 2008 posting word-for-word:

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

Our family lives in a 116-year-old house about a half mile south of Route 9 in Framingham which the church purchased in 1946. (The church hasn’t always owned the circa 1950s Union Hall building. Originally it was located in a small “churchy” looking facility which was built in the 1880s.) The 116-year-old house has some “issues”. There is no garage, which I really hate. The “basement” is really a “cellar”. It has somewhat low ceilings and is not the kind of place you could turn into a “rec room”. And, while “this old house” IS somewhat charming, the heating system has always been an issue.

The house has ONE heating zone which is insane. The thermostat is located in the very cold and drafty living room. Thus, the system is constantly calling for heat. In the dead of the winter, it’s hard to get the temperature of the living room above 62, while the second floor is around 74, and the attic is almost 80! Yesterday, my son pointed out to me that although the thermostat was set on 70 the heat had not gotten above 60 in the living room all day. THAT’S unusual. Usually, even on a very cold day like yesterday, it would eventually get up to around 66 or 67 degrees. The room IS drafty, and we need to try to do something about that, but it still seemed odd.

When I got up this morning, the heat was on, but things just did not seem “up to par”. We have those old flat iron “registers” that can be a fixture with some old houses, and usually you can stand on them and feel the heat blasting through. Instead, the “heat” was more like the “warm” and the intensity was pretty wimpy.
I went down to the furnace, and suddenly I realized something. I’m usually very good about changing the filters every month or two, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d changed the filter. We have gas forced hot air heat. There is a 16x25x1 filter which is supposed to get changed preferably at least once every three months, if not sooner. I opened took out the filter. It was CAKED with dust. Fortunately, I had two new filters on hand. I changed the filter, and it was like I had flipped on some kind of turbo switch! The heat came blasting through the way it should and the temperature in the house improved.

I’m going to be much more careful about checking and changing those filters every month or two from now on! Is your home heated with gas forced hot air? Have you changed the filter lately?

Friday, January 8, 2010


“...but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (from James 5:12)

I’ve been on the mailing list of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association since the summer of 1970- almost forty years. I’ve also been a huge admirer of Billy Graham and his associates. Somewhere around eight years ago, Billy Graham semiretired and somewhere around two years ago, he fully retired. You may know that Billy Graham suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and is now 91-years-old.

About twenty years ago, Billy Graham’s son Franklin became one of his “Associate Evangelists” and for the past few years, Franklin has been the “big gun” in the organization, filling the role that his Dad previously filled. I knew that mantle had been passed a couple of years ago when the monthly newsletters to the BGEA mailing list began to be written by Franklin rather than Billy. Franklin is definitely less “politically correct” than is Billy. He’s much more outspokenly conservative and much more opinionated. He’s definitely got a bit more of an “edge” than does Billy.

Yesterday, I received Franklin Graham’s newsletter, and from both a social point of view and a political point of view, it was “LOADED”! In much of the newsletter, Franklin expresses strong displeasure with the extremists in the “global warming” movement and disapproval of the recent Copenhagen climate summit. But something else was even more “charged”. He’s gone back to calling their evangelistic events “crusades”!

When Billy Graham started out in the late 1940s, his evangelistic meetings were called “campaigns”. At that time, just a few years after World War 2, there was much criticism of the term “evangelistic campaign”. Many said, the term sounded too warlike, as in Rommel’s “campaign” in North Africa, Patten’s campaign in Italy, etc. In a move to appease critics, Billy Graham began calling his evangelistic events “crusades”. If you’re a baby boomer or older, you certainly remember the days of “Billy Graham Crusades” being on television. Other evangelists also picked up the term “crusade” including the fundamental Baptist Jack Van Impe and even charismatic healing evangelist Benny Hinn. From the early 1950s to the late 1980s, “Crusade” was THE term for an evangelistic event.

But around 1990, that began to change for two reasons. One is that the term “Billy Graham Crusade” conjured up images of well dressed white people over fifty listening to George Beverly Shea music and admiring people such as Gerald Ford. There was just nothing “cool” or “youthful” about that. The MAIN reason the term “crusade” fell out of favor, however, is that it was deemed to be OFFENSIVE TO MUSLIMS. Critics argued that the “Crusades” of the Middle Ages involved cruelty and evil against the middle eastern Arabs by fanatical Europeans. SO, there were no more Billy Graham “Crusades”. Rather, Billy Graham’s evangelistic events were called “Missions” and Franklin Graham’s evangelistic events were called “Festivals”. I attended the Billy Graham “Mission Quebec” in Montreal in 1990, for instance.

Up until VERY recently, the Billy Graham organization was still using the term “Festivals”. In this January 2010 newsletter, Franklin Graham lists an upcoming “Crusade” in India and at the end of the newsletter there is the word “CRUSADES” in bold green letters, highlighting upcoming crusades in Brazil, Latvia,Japan, and the U.S. A few years ago, Franklin rocked the boat by calling Islam an evil religion. Now, he’s gone back to using the term “Crusades”. Does Franklin care who is offended or who gets upset? No, and I’ve got to say, “right on, Franklin Graham!”

Yes, “Crusades” is back!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


[IMPORTANT NOTE: Yesterday, one of our Church Members contacted me and strongly encouraged me to post this information on my blog, so I did exactly that. If you’d like to receive this posting by e-mail, just request it at I DO think this IS material worth sharing with others.]

“ have not, because ye ask not.” (from James 4:2)

Did you hear the one about the Orange County, California pastor who asked people to donate $900,000 to his church and actually received $2.4 million?

It’s actually NOT a joke with a punch line! Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (Southern Baptist) who is the author of those “Purpose Driven...” books DID put out an e-mail appeal for $900,000 to close the church’s 2009 deficit. In fact, $2.4 million came in and Warren is calling it a miracle. The story is found (among other places) at:

Please don’t think I’m knocking Rick Warren. I’ve read and recommended his book “The Purpose Driven Life”. You may recall that Warren prayed at President Obama’s Inauguration. And, Warren’s megachurch has given HUGE amounts of money to great causes in the past such as New Orleans hurricane relief. No, I rather say, “More power to them!”

My friend Ed Duddy from Texas e-mailed me about this over the weekend writing, “It’s too bad your church couldn’t raise needed capital in this way.”

Well, our small church (First Assembly of God of Framingham) IS greatly struggling and in fact needs a financial miracle, so if anybody wants to send a donation, we won’t refuse it!

But it did spark a thought as we are in the early days of this new year: there are SO many worthy charities and ministries struggling at this time.
I read stories in the Christian publications about the number of ministries and charities that are expected to close this year. In 2009, our family was shocked that New Covenant Christian School (where we sent all our kids and where my wife taught for several years) had no choice but to close last June.

Most of us don’t have big money! I sure don’t! I encounter many people who are struggling just to put food on the table. But I also see ministries around me that are struggling. There’s a GREAT “Aftercare” residential program here in Framingham (that is, a place for guys to go who are released from prison). I used to be on their Board. They receive a lot of state funding, but due to state cutbacks, they’ll lose a LOT of their funding this year. An older pastor friend set up “Barnabas Ministries, Inc.” seven years ago as a ministry to hurting pastors and churches in crisis. I benefit by attending one of their small groups. They need a lot more funding. The list goes on and on.

No, many of us as individuals don’t have big money, but if we all strove to give what we CAN and do what we CAN (as far as time and energy) for the charities and ministries we care about, we COULD prevent many of them from “going under” in 2010, and we MAYBE could see some of them succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

I hope you’ll consider being part of that in 2010!
Please consider sharing this with your friends!
God bless you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


“And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38)

The context of the above passage is the Apostle Paul saying “Good-Bye” to the elders of the church of Ephesus (in modern day Turkey). The Apostle Paul spent no more than a few days or weeks in many places, but he lived and ministered at Ephesus for over two years and, according to the Bible, he had personal friends there. At this point, Paul has already moved out of Ephesus, but he’s stopped at a port near the area on his way from Greece to Jerusalem. Acts chapter 20 includes a very emotional scene in which Paul shares his heartfelt concerns for the Church at Ephesus, tells them they won’t see they again, and embraces and says “Good-Bye” to many of the leaders and people of the church.

Good-Byes can be difficult. This week, Framingham said good-bye to a “clergy person” who is a “class act” and a truly wonderful person- The Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell. Mindi had been pastor of First Baptist Church on Route 9 in Framingham Centre for almost four years. I remember meeting Mindi at a special prayer vigil the Framingham clergy led on the eve of the Town election in 2006. After the main time of prayer in front of the Memorial Buidling, clergy were assigned to go to variouis polling locations and pray there as well. Mindi and I were assigned to pray at McCarthy School, which happens to by my polling place. This may sound like a weird thing to say about a minister, but I was impressed with Mindi’s spirituality. She prayed a very heartfelt prayer, and I sensed the earnestness of her faith. (Some clergy get into doing rote prayers which sound like they are reading from the phone book and like they don’t mean what they’re praying.)

I quickly got to know Mindi. She was the type that got very involved in the community. Mindi is over twenty years younger than I am, but she’s the type that could mingle and communicate comfortably with anybody from kids in middle school to very elderly people. Mindi was very proud of her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska and liked to talk about Alaska. If she’s reading this, she may not be too happy with me, but I think her accent is a LOT like Sarah Palin’s. (She thinks Sarah has a much heavier Alaska accent- but I say, not really!) Well, people are always kidding me about my Boston accent, and I want to say, “WHAT Boston accent?! I don’t mispronounce ‘bathroom’or ‘laugh’, nor do I add the letter “r” where is doesn’t belong the way JFK did!” But, I get anybody from outside New England, I DO sound like Boston and to anybody from outside Alaska, Mindi sounds like Alaska.

Mindi’s husband is also a minister and pastored a Methodist Church in Needham (although his ordination is with the Disciples of Christ). There are more and more couples in ministry pastoring separate churches that way. I don’t know how they do it! Mindi’s husband has just accepted the pastorate of a “Disciples of Christ” church in Oklahoma. For now, Mindi is going to be the full-time Mom of her toddler son, work on her writing, and make herself available as a retreat speaker.

I think Mindi’s somebody we’ll all “hear” of someday as she gets books published, becomes an accomplished speaker, etc. She’s not “going rogue” like that famous political figure from Wasilla, Alaska...she’s just going ON as God leads. We were blessed to have Mindi in our community of Framingham.

Farewell, Mindi! God bless you and your family!

Monday, January 4, 2010


“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” (Galatians 4:10)

Not long ago, I read an article recommending we call this year “Twenty Ten” and not “Two Thousand Ten” or “Two Thousand and Ten”. I’ve done some searching on-line about this matter, and have found some interesting postings and articles about the subject. Yes, please forgive me, but I tend to be attracted to trivia and minutia!

It’s true that in the grand scheme of things when we consider the possibility of Iran making nuclear weapons, or the total collapse of the world economy, or whether or not “global warming” is real or a hoax, then exactly WHAT we are supposed to call this year is relatively minor. An interesting thought, however, is that it what we choose to call this year may reveal some personality traits.

Much smarter people than I who have been contemplating this issue are pretty much in agreement that the whole matter of how to vocalize the years of the Twenty-First Century was messed up years ago by the title of the Film “2001- A Space Odyssey”. HAD the movie been pronounced, “Twenty OH-one, A Space Odyssey” that would have settled it. Had there NEVER been a film entitled, “2001- A Space Odyssey,” it’s likely 99% of English-speaking North Americans would have called that year “Twenty OH-one” and the next year, "Twenty OH-two" and so on. We don't say, "My Great Grandma was born in One Thousand Nine Hundred and nine.” Nor do we say, “I was born in One Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifty Four”. We say, “Nineteen OH-nine” and “Nineteen Fifty-Four”. It’s true that most wedding invitations always write out the entire year the old fashioned and long way. At every one of our Framingham Community Thanksgiving Services, The Governor’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day is read. Back in the the 1900s the date and year for Thanksgiving was ALWAYS written out the long way. But calling the years, “Two Thousand and Two, Two Thousand and Three, and even Two Thousand and Fifty-Four” in everyday usage is breaking the tradition of several hundred years and is an anomaly. That’s why I’m in agreement with those (who are admittedly in the minority at present) who are calling this year “Twenty Ten”.

There’s another aspect to this “year” business that is also important and is seldom discussed. When I was a kid, years were reckoned as “B.C.” or “A.D.” Sometime in the past decade it became common to see the designations “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” replace “B.C.” and “A.D.” In all fairness, Jehovah’s Witnesses and (most) Jewish people have been using “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” for decades and decades but THAT was an anomaly. Traditionally, “B.C.” stands for “Before Christ” and “A.D.” stands for “Anno Domini” (NOT “After Death”!). “Anno Domini” is Latin for, “In the year of our Lord.” The year 1 of our calendar is the year of Jesus’ birth. (Experts say the calendar was actually miscalculated and that the present year REALLY is something like 2016, but I don’t even want to get into that here!) In American legal jargon (such as the publication of The Governor’s Proclamation), the phrase, “In the Year of Our Lord” is always used along with the year, and always in English, rather than Latin. I wonder how long it will be before the A.C.L.U. insists we drop “In the Year of Our Lord” and “Anno Domini”!

Back to what the way you pronounce 2010 may say about your personality: I think those who say, “Two Thousand And Ten” tend to be followers and tend to not want to make waves. I think those who say, “Twenty Ten” tend to be more independent and unconventional and perhaps “into” trivia and minutia, as well.

Now, as far as whether you say “B.C.” and “A.D.” or “B.C.E.” or “C.E.” I think THAT says a lot about how you regard the Person of Jesus Christ!

That’s my two cents on the subject! (or is it my “two pennies” ?! ...)

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I know this is "highly irregular" for a posting on the blog, but I'm using every venue (e-mail, church website, phone calling, and even this posting) to let people know we are NOT having our regular Sunday morning activities on Sunday, January 3 but we ARE HAVING A SPECIAL SUNDAY NIGHT SERVICE ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 3 AT 6:30 !

I'd love to have some of my friends who are not usually available to visit a service to come and join us on Sunday night January 3. For more information, our church website is at

Friday, January 1, 2010


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

This year’s New Year’s Eve was pleasant and uneventful, but that was not the case eight years ago! The Fall of 2001 was a tough one for our heating systems. Just a few days after “9/11” the gas company “red tagged” the parsonage furnace as unsafe. It was a real stretch, but the church managed to buy a new gas furnace for the parsonage that Fall. Then, in December of ‘01, we had a serious problem with the oil (forced hot water) heating system at the 32 South Street church building. One circulator pump was non functional and just pouring water into a bucket in the boiler room. On December 31, of all days, we had a service man in to replace the circulator pump.

Now, gas forced hot air (such as we have at the parsonage) creates a house that’s DRY and DUSTY and with that come a number of problems, BUT an oil forced hot water system has problems of its own. After major service such as replacing a circulator pump is done, the system has to be “bled” of the air that’s gotten into the water lines or it just won’t work properly. To “bleed” it PROPERLY can take several hours. The service man finished up around 4:30. Was he going to hang around for 6 more hours bleeding the system? No way. So, it just wasn’t working properly.

At the time, a guy named “Bob” who worked as a custodian for the State was a Member of our church. He offered to go to the church building with me around 7:30 P.M. and spend some time bleeding the lines. It was slow and tedious. The church heating system dates from early 1954. Bob turned one old rusty fitting that started heavily dripping water...well it was more like a “pouring” of water, and he could not get it to stop. We had plastic dishes and towels down. We had water pouring. It was 11:45 P.M. What were we to do?

I telephoned “Bill”, another church Member who is an auto mechanic and former boiler mechanic. Bill arrived at the church building around 12:15.

Happy New Year, 2002! (or not...)

Bill had lots of experience dealing with problems like this one. It took hours of Bill gently applying a wrench and tweaking the entire system. By 2 A.M. the water at the leaking fitting was down to about one drip every 30 seconds. By 4 A.M. it was down to about one drip every 2 minutes. By 5 A.M. it was pretty well stopped...well maybe one drip an hour...
After that it was maybe one drip a week, if that, which is certainly manageable!
We left the building at 5:15 A.M. When I went over to the building at 7:30 I had no idea I’d be there for ten hours ; and that I’d always remember how 2002 arrived! I went to bed at 5:30 and got up at 9:30. I went back over to the church building to discover that someone had scrawled graffiti with blue paint all over one side of the building! (We’ve had probably ten graffiti incidents since July 1994- all of them have happened during summer months EXCEPT that one!) We ended up contacting the Framingham Police Department. In the Spring, the police had a group of young people who had to do community service hours paint out the graffiti.

2002 had a rough start. You’d think it would have been a horrible year. It wasn’t. In fact, 2002 was one of the three or four best years of my life. Mary Ann and I took a wonderful trip to Alaska that summer to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. In the Fall of ‘02 we took a long weekend to Prince Edward Island. In February of ‘02 I traveled to Springfield, Missouri with my daughter Amy to look at Evangel University. That was my first time back to Springfield, Missouri in 23 years, but I’ve been back at least 8 times since then. 2002 was one of the few years in my adult life that I had an excess of spending money around (due to an estate settlement), Yeah, it had a bad start but it was a good year.

It doesn’t seem possible that January 1, 2002 was 8 years ago! That still chalks up as my weirdest New Year’s Eve ever!