Friday, December 30, 2011


“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Corinthians 9:19-22)

My friend the Rev. Mindi Welton -Mitchell posted a link on Facebook to an interesting article. The article, entitled “Generational Road Blocks” is about the results of a Hartford Seminary study. The study revealed that not only is attendance down at so called “mainline denominational churches” but that the average age of attenders and leaders at such churches is well over sixty and that there is a noticeable absence of folks in their twenties and thirties in these churches.
The article also pointed out that such churches tend to be technology phobic. I’ve visited such “liberal Protestant” churches as well as Roman Catholic churches. It IS true than at any Sunday morning service at a liberal Protestant or Roman Catholic church you’re going to see a LOT of white hair, and you’re going to encounter lot of people who were born before 1945. I recall that one time about fifteen years ago I was involved in a joint service at a liberal Protestant church in Framingham, MA. I called the church’s office to ask if they had a sound system that could play a tape cassette soundtrack during the service. The person at the liberal church acted as though I’d asked if they had a launching pad for the Space Shuttle on their property. Fifteen years ago, most liberal Protestant churches and Roman Catholic churches were using the same fairly primitive “P.A. systems” that they were using in the 1960s, and a lot of them are still using those.

If you want to check out that article which Mindi shared the link to, it’s at:

NOW, here is what I find really ironic: The mainline denominational churches are in a time warp, stuck somewhere around 1971. They still use the same hymns and semi-liturgical (or liturgical) formats they were using forty years ago. Their hymnals and corporate prayers are probably “gender inclusive” which they were not forty years ago. (Honestly, I find that “gender inclusive” stuff in worship services DREADFUL!) The pastor at the liberal Protestant church is probably a woman. (I don’t have a problem with that. We have women pastors in the Assemblies of God.) The female pastor is probably fairly young or middle-aged, but she’s dealing with a bunch of senior citizens in church leadership who want everything just the way it was at their church when John F. Kennedy was President. The contrast is that over the past fifteen years or so there’s been a marked change in the “evangelical” and “charismatic” churches. If you go to a fairly typical “evangelical” or “charismatic” church service of today, you’ll find that the pastor is likely dressed as though he’s on his way to go mini-golfing and then out to Dairy Queen (even if it’s February). I say “he” because 90% of the time the pastor is a male and he’s probably in his late forties. He sports a goatee, and he dyes his hair and goatee. He tries very hard to be cool, and frequently uses the words “suck” and “sucks” in the midst of his preaching. The service focal point is PowerPoint on a screen. Everything is PowerPoint. People no longer flip through their Bibles. All the Scripture verses are on the PowerPoint, so in fact, fewer people bring their Bibles to church. There are no hymnals. They began disappearing around 1990 and were gone for good by 2000. Few traditional hymns are sung. In fact, the music is often rock music and LOUD. The services are likely to be long. It is not unusual to see people in the congregation sipping Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee during the service. The crowd is decidedly YOUNGER than you will find at the mainline church down the street. In fact, the bulk of the people are between thirty and fifty. You’ll find some but very few people over sixty-five. Most will say they don’t like the music...that it’s too loud. The pastor is no longer called the “Senior Pastor”. He is the “Lead Pastor”. He’s likely both a salesman and administrator, but he’s “cool” and very much appeals to “Gen X-ers”.

I’m now fifty-seven years old. I was raised Roman Catholic. I received Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior in 1970 and shortly thereafter began attending Baptist and Presbyterian churches. I visited an Assemblies of God church in 1976, and within a year I was attending the AG’s Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. There is a HUGE difference between the Assemblies of God churches of the late 1970s and today. In 1977, you could walk into any Assemblies of God church in America and predict what hymns they’d be singing and what choruses they’d use. You’d be given a copy of the Pentecostal Evangel magazine. In Sunday School, pretty much every Assemblies of God church in America was using the same material. The format of a service anywhere in the U.S. was almost identical. Today, it’s SO different. The Hartford Seminary study laments the lack of “diversity” in the mainline churches, and that is a very valid point. It’s also a valid point for today’s evangelical and charismatic churches.

I don’t want to say that EVERY liberal church in America is like those that the article described, or that EVERY evangelical and charismatic church in America fits the description I’ve given. In fact, one of the many reasons I attend Bread of Life Assembly of God in Westminster, MA is that they DON’T fall into lockstep with the kind of thing I’ve written about here. At Bread of Life, we DO have announcements on PowerPoint before the service, and we occasionally have video clips during the sermon. But the pastor does NOT depend upon PowerPoint. Most of the time, the PowerPoint is not on during sermons, and I like that. Pastor Gary recently commented that he’s sort of bucking the trend of pastors “dressing down” and that he’s tending to dress up more. Honestly, I like that and I hope he will continue to be his own person and not feel he has to conform to the casual dress trend. Most of Bread of Life’s music is contemporary, but almost none of it is “blastin’ and rockin’”! It’s up-to-date and beautiful but never too loud. The nice thing is that Bread of Life draws people from a wide age spectrum. There are quite a number of folks at the church who are over sixty, and there is one woman that turned one hundred in September. Yet, there is a huge number of people in their forties and a good sized number of children and young people.

In our sphere (Pentecostals and charismatics) there’s quite a belief that if you’re not “up to date” in everything and if you don’t have predominately young people you will not grow and you will not touch your community. I visited a church in Springfield, Missouri in early 2009 that has completely disproven that stuff. Incidentally, another trend I forget to mention earlier is that today’s evangelical and Pentecostal churches are afraid to use the name “Baptist” or “Assemblies of God” in their church name. THIS church in Springfield, Missouri is less than ten years old, and it uses the name “Grace Assembly of God”. The church meets in a converted (small) food store in downtown Springfield, Missouri. It’s a neighborhood where you will find a lot of prostitutes and addicts. Yet, the people in the church come from all over the city of Springfield. The church’s co-pastor is Owen Carr who is in his late eighties but has the energy of a forty-five year old. Many of the church’s constituents ARE over sixty. This church still sings a lot of the hymns and choruses from thirty years ago. I sat next to Sam Balius, a retired Assemblies of God missionary who was in fact one of my Professors at Central Bible College.

“This is the OLD TIME AG!” Sam told me excitedly.

And it IS, but not exactly. They DO use PowerPoint, but they never over use it. The music is certainly not “loud” nor is it “rockin’”. Not EVERYONE at church is over sixty. I scanned the room where about 120 people had gathered for worship. There were several childrean and teenagers and a number of adults in their thirties and forties. Amazingly, the pastors at this church have been active in the neighborhood reaching out to prostitutes, addicts, and very needy people and have seem a number of lives totally transformed.

I don’t think Mindi would ever have imagined how that article she posted would cause me to reflect and to write this piece. I think the whole thing of churches breakinig down by demographics and lacking “diversity” IS a big mistake. I ask,”Why can’t we sing some of the old traditional hymns and some of the older choruses along with the newest stuff?” I also ask, “Why must EVERYTHING be on PowerPoint?”, AND, for my friends at the liberal mainline churches, “Why can’t you incorporate some newer music and worship styles and get a little less stiff?".

Church attendance in America IS, in fact, declining. These are matters we really need to seriously consider.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


"But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." (2 Timothy 2:16)

I hope this does not fall under the category of "profane and vain babblings" (I don't really think it does!) but I have learned two facts of trivia during the past few days that I want to share with you!

ONE is about the name "Marian". Of course, Marian is a woman's name. It's also the name of the Catholic high school where my wife works and from which all of my kids have graduated: Marian High School in Framingham, MA. I notice that Marian High is OFTEN misspelled as "Marion". People spell it "mariOn" and not "mariAn". At the telephone answering service where I work, I often take the names of women named "Marian". MOST of them are over fifty. Well, honestly, most "Marians" are over seventy. It was not a popular name for anyone born after 1945. Now, I have noticed that about 70% of the women spell the name "Marion" and about 30% spell it "Marian". A few days ago, I took a phone message from a very elderly woman named "Marian" and she spelled it just like the high school. I asked her, "So you spell DON'T spell it 'mariOn'?"

"Of COURSE not!" she flatly replied. Then she added, "What MOST people DON'T know is that Marion is a man's name and Marian is a woman's name. For a woman, it should always be spelled, M-A-R-I-A-N."

Maybe I was just asking for trouble, but I then honestly asked her, "Why, then, do so many women spell it Marion?"

She quickly and curtly replied,
"Because their mothers were STUPID!"

I know you may be thinking you don't know too many men named Marion. In fact, the famous T.V. evangelist Pat Robertson's REAL name is Marion Gordon Robertson.

I guess any women named Marion who read this will be upset with me, but I thought this was worth sharing.

THE SECOND fact of trivia I learned is about the control buttons inside an elevator. Are you like me? Do you tend to push the "door close" button when it doesn't seem to be closing fast enough for you. This morning I attended a class at a training center in Marlboro, MA. There's a nice guy named Dave who was in the class and who has been a fellow student in several other classes I've taken there, as well. We were together in the elevator as we left the building today. He pointed at the buttons and asked me if I knew the "door close" button is NEVER hooked up to ANYTHING in any elevator! Dave knew a guy who worked for Otis Elevator and told him that. It just makes people feel good to push the button and think they caused the door to close. In fact, it's just a trick. It's not wired. The button does absolutely nothing!

Have you learned some things today? Well, I thought these facts of trivia were pretty interesting and I thought I would share them with you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


"And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:" (Luke 10:8)

This may seem like a very strange thing to write on the blog on Christmas Eve but today I heard someone in conversation say they can't make good French toast. I'm no gourmet cook, and probably not even all that great of a cook, but I think I make pretty good French toast. I don't know if anybody is thinking of making a nice Christmas morning breakfast, or maybe a "Boxing Day" breakfast. (For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Boxing Day is Dec. 26 and is a holiday in many countries. Its origins are that on the day after Christmas many years ago, people would box up gifts for the poor and go out and donate them.) I like French toast. I used to make it A LOT. Lately, I've been lazy and have not made it as much, but I HAVE made French toast a couple of times just in the past couple of weeks.

I'm NOT one of those "exacting" type cooks who follows a recipe. I'm more like those who throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that. (Some other time, I will tell you about how I make meat loaf!) Anyway, for French toast you need a loaf of bread, some milk, some eggs, some maple syrup, some margarine or butter, and maybe even some vanilla extract. (I know some people like cinnamon French toast. I like cinnamon ROLLS but I'm not really fond of cinnamon French toast. I think the cinnamon tends to just overpower the meal, but that's my opinion.)

HOW much bread you'll use, and how much milk and how many eggs really depends on how many people you're cooking for. At least a half hour before you start making the French toast, take a number of slices from the loaf of bread and just lay them on a table. If the bread is just SLIGHTLY stale, it makes better French toast. Laying the bread out on a table for an hour or so will help with that. If you're making a small batch just pour a couple of cups (roughly) of milk into a bowl. Of course, if you're making a big batch, you'll want more than that. If you're making a small batch, use two eggs, for a big one use three. It's ideal to use an eggbeater to "mix up" the milk and eggs. If you don't have an eggbeater, and believe it or not, I don't, then you can use one of those wire whip things which is what I do. Just mix it up really good. A key ingredient is putting maple syrup INTO the milk and egg mix. I just give it a good squirt of maple syrup from the container.

You can make French toast on a griddle and I have done that many times. However, my favorite way to make it is to fry it in a pan or skillet on the stovetop. Try not to get the pan TOO hot, as the French toast can burn pretty easily. I put butter or margarine liberally into the pan or skillet. Yeah, you've gotta turn that stove exhaust fan on, and plan on giving the stove top and nearby counter top a good scrub down after the meal! French toast that's really DRY, well, just isn't that appetizing. It's best when it's kind of buttery and gooey. Now I don't mean SICKENINGLY gooey...and sometimes I've gotten it TOO gooey...just kind of a little gooey.

If you're worried about the French toast cooling off too fast and being kind of cold when you serve it, then put it on a plate and put that plate in the oven on low heat.
Another thing I like to do is HEAT UP a small bowl of syrup in the microwave. HOT maple syrup on the gooey French toast...well, it's a meal to die for! (Yeah, I know, if you keep eating meals like that you WILL die, but this is particularly for special occasions and not necessarily for all the time!)

Of course, bacon or sausage will add to the meal. You CAN fry that stuff in another pan. But it is just as easy to heat it up in the microwave...especially the brown and serve sausages and microwave bacon.

Well, I hope you will like my French toast and bon appetite!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


“And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” (Mark 5:22-28)

It’s unusual for me to quote more than a verse or two at the beginning of one of my blog entries, but I had to use AT LEAST this much to do the story justice. In this passage from the fifth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is asked to go and heal the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. She is very sick and near death. In fact, by the time Jesus gets there, she IS dead, and He raises her from the dead. But I want to focus on the woman with the issue of blood. She did something many of us just can’t imagine. Right smack in the middle of Jesus being on His way to work a great miracle, she barges into the story and INTERRUPTS Him! I wonder if this really bothered Jairus. Did Jairus think, “LOOK lady; I know you’ve been sick for years and all that but my little girl is gonna DIE if we don’t get there so can ya just get outta here right now and see Jesus ANOTHER time?!”?

Had I been Jairus, that’s what I would have been thinking. In fact, I think if most people will be honest, they’ll admit that’s what they would have been thinking. It amazes me that in this story, and other times in Jesus’ ministry, He is interrupted and He is inconvenienced, and He just goes with the flow. Jesus was SO in tune with His Heavenly Father. Jesus SO walked in the LOVE of God and with love and compassion for humanity. AND with God’s purpose and will at the heart of His life. He really didn’t seen an interruption as an interruption or an inconvenience as an inconvenience. He saw all this as the plan of God and “went with it.” Jesus never became harried or flustered or rude in such situations. In this case, Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood and ministers to her, THEN he proceeds on to Jarius’ home. Although the daughter has died and there were all kinds of nay sayers in the picture, Jesus raised the little girl from the dead.

Another such passage that always causes me to pause and think is when Jesus and His disciples learn of the beheading of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was not only Jesus’ “forerunner” and baptizer, but John was Jesus’ cousin. Jesus and His disciples were grief-stricken. They went to a remote spot on the Sea of Galilee to just rest, process the whole thing, and pretty much get away from it all. Yet, the crowds followed Jesus and the disciples there. The crowds showed up essentially saying, “Hey, here we are. We want you to minister to us!”

This was at a very difficult time for Jesus and His disciples. They were tired. They were grief-stricken. They needed to be by themselves. What would I have done in such a situation? Honestly, I would probably have “flipped out”! I would have gone out, yelled at the people, told them we were on a private retreat, told them this was not the time for ministry, and told them to go away. Jesus did not do that. Jesus was moved with compassion and with total unselfishness, ministered to them.

I don’t think I’ve ever written or even spoken about this, but early in my pastorate at Framingham, one Board member of the church told me his wife’s impression of me was that I could get very preoccupied and self absorbed and very much give off a vibe of “don’t interrupt me!”. There was not much I could say to that critique, because sadly it was true. This is an area of great weakness for me. I don’t like to be interrupted and I don’t like to be inconvenienced. Oh, listen, I have come a long way and while I’m not QUITE as bad as I used to be about interruptions and inconveniences, I still really don’t like them, and I have to admit I still don’t “totally have the victory” in this area. It’s something I’m very much ashamed of. What will be the test that I’ve come to true experiential sanctification? Probably that interruptions and inconveniences will not really bother me at all.

I have written several times about lessons I have learned while working at my job as a telephone answering service operator. Yesterday, I was reminded of another. Due to confidentiality and legality/privacy issues I have to try to keep the details general, but I took a call from a woman who had a sick child. The pediatrics office she was calling was closed. It listed another practice as covering. In fact, the information I had on my computer screen was incorrect. Was that the fault of one of these pediatric practices, of the answering service staff, or of all of the above? That really doesn't matter at this point. But it told me a certain pediatric practice which I’ll call “Joe’s Pediatrics” was covering. I called Joe’s Pediatrics and spoke to the secretary.

“Well, we’re JUST CLOSING,” the secretary said. She sounded a little annoyed. When I told her the information I had was that their practice was covering for the one the woman’s call had some in on, she disputed that but then told me she would put one of the nurses on the phone.

The nurse came on the phone with the demeanor of a state trooper who’d stopped a driver for driving at 85 M.P.H. in a school zone.

“WHO is it you have on the phone...WHO ??!!” she angrily barked.
“And WHY are you calling us?! WHAT is her problem?! WHAT ??!!
Oh, PUT HER ON!!” she yelled with complete disgust in her voice.

As soon as I’d patched the call through, I heard that same nurse try to say, “This is nurse so-in-so.” She was trying to sound nice, but she really sounded phony.
Of course, at that time, I disconnected my part of the call. (I did inform my supervisor of the discrepancy regarding who was on-call and that all got straightened out.) I couldn’t help but think that if I knew someone who moved into the geographic area where Joe’s Pediatrics is located and they asked me if that would be a good place for them to take their children for medical care, how might I advise them?

We don’t realized that we really are “on” at all times, and how we handle interruptions and inconveniences speaks VOLUMES about who and what we are.

Now, about a year ago, a very different situation took place on that answering service job. A man called an Adult Medicine practice. He was experiencing an medical problem. This was during an evening, and he needed a doctor right away. My computer told me (I’ll make up a name) Dr. Bronson was on call. I phoned Dr. Bronson. He told me, “No that’s a mistake, I’m actually not on call.” Sometimes when you call a doctor who is not on call he or she can become very angry, much like that nurse at the pediatrics practice I just wrote about. I told Dr. Bronson an error had been made and that I was very sorry for calling him. To my shock, Dr. Bronson replied calmly and pleasantly,

“We can fix that later. Right now there is a patient who needs my help. Please put the person through to me. I want to make sure I help that patient.”

THAT spoke VOLUMES to me. If someone moved into the community where Dr. Bronson is located and asked me if I knew of any good doctors there, do you think I’d have any problems recommending someone?

This is Christmastime. Some theologians call the Incarnation (that is God becoming Man at that first Christmas) “God’s great INTERRUPTION.” God certainly DID interrupt history, and God will do so again at the Second Coming of Christ, and I’m glad He did.

Do you struggle with interruptions and inconveniences as I do? If so, I hope this piece somehow speaks to you and helps you. Maybe you want to pray along with me:

“Father, God,

I am so sorry and so ashamed of the way that so often I have poorly handled interruptions and inconveniences. This is selfish behavior on my part. May I be mindful of the example of Jesus Christ. May I be mindful of Your plan. May I do Your will. Help me, Lord to be more like You. And thank you for Your Great Interruption with the birth of Your Only Begotten Son.

In Jesus Name, AMEN”.

Friday, December 16, 2011


"A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke." (Proverbs 13:1)

I guess it was about ten years ago that there was that dating book for females entitled, "The Rules". Well, my father had rules; and I suppose you could also call them principles or policies or even convictions. I have written about my father, Eugene A. "Gene" Baril several times on the blog. My Dad was a complicated guy; authoritarian, yet hysterically funny. He was also strict, yet sometimes surprisingly merciful. He was very politically conservative, yet he came to strongly oppose the Vietnam War and voted for George McGovern. Dad was definitely his own person. During the sideburns craze of the early 1970s, he refused to grow them.

"I'm not one of the sheep," he declared about it.

Sometimes I think I should write a book of my father's rules. Honestly, if done correctly, it would be one of those "reads" that would be kind of interesting to a lot of people. It would not be some great work of prose like "War and Peace". Rather, it would be the kind of thing you'd enjoy leafing through in the bathroom.

Today as I saw a young man at a supermarket struggling to push a large cluster of shopping carts (or "carriages" as they're usually called in New England) I thought of another of his rules that I usually DO follow. Dad did 95% of the grocery shopping in the family. Unlike most fathers of his generation, he believed grocery shopping was the MAN'S job and his rule was that he ALWAYS wheeled his shopping cart back into the store when he was done. Dad considered it very lazy and irresponsible to just leave your shopping cart in the parking lot. Now, those "outdoor corrals" of carts that we see today were NOT so popular in the pre-1980 days, but I don't think he'd have thought much of them. You wheeled your cart back into the store; OR if you saw a shopper arrive and get out of their car when you'd just finished up with yours, you offered it to that person. The only time I have ever deviated from my father's rule is when I had very young children. If you've got a two-year-old with you, it can be a pain in the neck to wheel the cart all the way back and then bring your kid back to the car. Otherwise, I always follow my father's rule. And, certainly he'd apply it to DEPARTMENT stores as well as grocery stores.

At this busy shopping season, I don't think following Dad's shopping cart rule would be a bad idea! After all, it's one of those, "random acts of kindness" we often hear we should be doing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


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

I've written a couple of other times about things I've learned on my job as a telephone answering service operator that I never knew before. I've been surprised at what the most common issue is on calls we get "off hours"- that is, on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and evenings - times when most of the regular doctors' offices are closed. Some of my fellow operators may disagree with me, but I'd say the most common call is, "My prescription is not at the pharmacy"; often it's, "My child's prescription is not at the pharmacy". If I had a $5 bill for every time I got one of those calls, I'd have a LOT of money. I never would have dreamed how COMMON this problem is.

The thing I get a chuckle out of are the callers who call regarding this issue who sound shocked and very upset; as though they are the one person in a MILLION whose prescription was actually NOT at the pharmacy as they expected. In fact, it's SUCH a common problem, I'd say it's EPIDEMIC! I'm no inventor, and I'm not at all "technical". If I were, I'd try to figure out a way to minimize this problem. Listen, if some inventor DOES figure that out, he or she will become a multi-millionaire.

You'd think with the fact that the overwhelming number of prescriptions are FAXed to pharmacies or phoned to them (rather than the old fashioned way of the doctor writing a prescription out that no one can read) that things would have gotten much better, but that's not at all the case. (Now, some doctors still DO hand write out their prescriptions, but very few still do that.) Matters can get really dicey and somewhat comical when pharmacies and doctors get into kind of a war of trying to blame each other about why the prescription was not there. I can't name any names, but there's one particularly nice male doctor we answer for. One of my coworkers called him to inform him a patient had phoned to say he never called in the prescription to the pharmacy. My coworker was shocked that the doctor let some choice language fly about that! Pharmacies say the prescription was never received, and doctors insist they sent it. But, alas, many seem to end up in "never never land". And, many times the prescription COMES but its details are WRONG in one way or another. I take two prescription meds, myself, and I've had that experience.

One of my own doctors told me that pharmacies messing up the prescriptions is amazingly common. Well, he was a doctor, so he blames the pharmacies. But it goes the other way, too.

Now, it's actually GOOD for our answering service. For, the more prescriptions that are not at the pharmacies and the more prescriptions that are incorrect, well, the more calls and messages we take, and that's good for us! But, it really isn't good for medical care. I wonder why this problem is SO common and what can be done to fix it?!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


“Render therefore to all their dues:... honour to whom honour.” (from Romans 13:7)

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)

At this Christmas season, I am hoping that you have a few minutes for Martin.

If you’re on Facebook, you can view Martin’s facebook page at:

I have never met Wade Martin Hughes in person (to his friends, he’s “Martin”) but we have spoken over the phone several times and have exchanged a number of e-mails.

Several years ago, Martin organized a Christmastime project to encourage a disabled young woman he knew in California. It meant the world to this simple woman to receive Christmas cards. SO, Martin put a request out on-line. He e-mailed her U.S. mail street address, and asked if each of us would mail her a Christmas card, and that we’d encourage others to send her a Christmas card, too. I sent out a Christmas card to the woman and at my encouragement, so did several other folks. She got a LOT of cards, and it absolutely thrilled her. That simple person has since passed away, but kindhearted Martin made sure she had a Happy Christmas that year.

I thought about that last night.

Martin and his wife Linda are now facing the greatest time of crises of their entire lives. Most of what they’re dealing with is deeply personal and cannot be spoken about or written about. Martin HAS shared the details with several good friends, including me. One issue is that he’s had a very serious health problem this month. But that pales into insignificance in comparison to other challenges Martin and Linda are facing. Martin is the pastor of a small church in rural Kentucky: Faith Assembly of God in Smiths Grove, just outside the city of Bowling Green. He is also a “Presbyter”. In the Assemblies of God, a Presbyter is like an “area minister” in Baptist denominations. The position could even be called “bishop” in some churches. It means Martin oversees all of the other Assemblies of God churches in the area, offering counsel to the pastors and support to the pastors and church boards during difficult times. In addition, Martin has touched countless lives with the sermons he posts on-line and the CDs that he mails out. I have several of Martin’s sermon CDs. His preaching and ministry of God’s Word is ANOINTED and very helpful. His sermon, “Pour Yourself Into Others” honestly should be listened to by every Christian in America. Martin is also a great guitar player and a good singer. But I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Martin. Martin is a VERY humble and ordinary guy. He’s much more comfortable wielding a chain saw or running a snow blower than he is prancing around in clerical garb. During some difficult times in MY life, Martin has spent HOURS in prayer for me. The pastors and churches in his area are SO blessed that he is their Presbyter.

Well, Martin got that idea of sending encouraging Christmas cards to that disabled lady, and this year I’ve got the idea to send encouraging Christmas cards to Martin and his wife Linda. Today, I picked up a very nice Christmas card at a drugstore, and I wrote Martin and Linda a few encouraging words, and signed it from my wife and me. I also taped a dollar bill inside the card and wrote, “For all you do, this buck’s for you!!”

I am praying for Martin. That’s what he needs MOST of all.

I’m encouraging you to PRAY for Martin, but I’m also encouraging you to send Martin and Linda Hughes an encouraging Christmas card. If you want to throw a buck in there like I did, that would sure be nice, but the most important thing is to send an encouraging card and pray for them.


Please address your cards to:

Rev. & Mrs. Martin Hughes
Faith Assembly of God
P.O. Box 331
Smiths Grove, KY 42171

I did not want to give out Martin’s home address, so the cards are going to the church he pastors. I marked the envelope I sent “PERSONAL” just so it would not be confused with regular church business. You may want to do the same.

Please sent the link to my blog to others you know!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


"And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:" (Luke 10:8)

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, today, December 1, 2011, would have been my father's 89th birthday...not his 90th as I had mistakenly thought. Last week, Boston radio talk show host Doug Meehan had people calling in with their favorite turkey recipes and favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. After many calls, a gentleman caller came on and said he was surprised no one had yet called about "French meat stuffing".

"French meat stuffing?!" Meehan asked, and commented that he'd never heard of it.

Well, actually it's French CANADIAN meat stuffing. I have absolutely heard of it because my father prepared it each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey dinners. It was his mother's recipe. The meat stuffing is very common in homes of French heritage in Quebec. In fact, it's not only used to stuff turkeys, but is also often baked into meat pies. The meat pie is the traditional New Year's Day meal of the French Canadian family.

There are ALL SORTS of variations on French Canadian meat stuffing, but just about however you make it, it is delicious. My father actually had an electric meat grinder, and would "re-grind" the already "ground beef" and sausage meat. Of course, you don't HAVE to do that! It all depends on how much you want to make, but I'd say you've got to get at least two pounds of ground beef. You also need to buy some of that sausage meat that's sold in the refrigerated section in those packages wrapped in plastic wrap. You know, like "Jimmy Dean's pure pork sausage"...stuff like that. You've got to use at least one of those packages. DON'T buy Italian hot sausage or anything like that. I also don't recommend spicy barbecue or even smoked. Just get mild pork sausage meat. My father liked to use Pepperidge Farm stuffing. It doesn't HAVE to be Pepperidge Farm. You can use Stove Top or some other brand. You mix up in a big bowl the ground beef, the sausage meat, and the stuffing mix. My parents also usually added cut up celery pieces. I THINK you can use onion, too, although I'd prefer it without onion. AND, you can make up a small batch of mashed potatoes and mix in some mashed potatoes with it. My parents used to like to do that. But IF you do use the mashed potatoes, don't "go crazy" with them. A little goes a long way. Otherwise, too much mashed potatoes can make it too bland and not meaty enough. ALSO, my father also always added Bells Seasoning to give it more of that "stuffing flavor". I'll tell you what, if you make meat stuffing like that even once, you'll never want to go back to "regular bread stuffing".

Now, to cars, my father owned all sorts of cars during his life. Today, I'm talking about the Volkswagens. He loved Volkswagens and owned a bunch of them. I think his first was a blue 1963. He owned a tan 1966. He owned a red 1968. He owned a light blue 1970 automatic transmission Beetle, which he hated. (Dad was a big stick shift guy!) Then he owned an orange standard shift 1974 Super Beetle for many years. My kids remember that from when they were very little. Ever see those Disney "Herbie" movies. It was his "Herbie" car!

In October of 1989, he bought a brand new 1989 blue 2-door Volkswagen Rabbit. It was an automatic, because my Mom insisted on that, and he gave in. After each of my parents died in the summer of 2000, I inherited that car. I drove it until February of 2010. At that point there was SO much wrong with it that I took it off the road. I sold it to a young man who is really "into" Volkswagens...fixing them up, restoring them, etc. He picked it up with a big flatbed truck and has big plans for it.

I never saw the car around after that, and I have sometimes wondered what happened to it. It's ironic then that TODAY on my father's birthday I saw what appeared to be that Volkswagen (or one just like it) on Route 20 in the Grafton area heading east. I saw the same car again on Route 9 east in the Westboro area. Was it THAT car? I don't know but I know my Dad would have gotten a kick out of seeing it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

OOPS! IS IT 89 OR 90?!

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10)

The above verse about a typical human's lifespan being seventy or eighty years comes from Psalm 90. No, in the title, I don't mean I was confused about whether the verse is from Psalm 89 or 90. I feel like I've had some Rick Perry moments lately (if you're not somebody who follows politics you probably will not know what I am talking about). I've been telling all sorts of people that tomorrow, December 1, would have been my father's 90th birthday. I was totally convinced of this. I think it's largely because I have 2012 on the brain. We have all this medial coverage about the 2012 New Hampshire Primary that's coming up in just about five weeks. We have all the promotions about 2012 cars, and high school seniors are in the Class of 2012. SO, since my father was born in 1922, I kept thinking he would be 90 this week. A couple of days ago, it HIT me that since this is 1922 he would actually be 89! My father was a character. He was a very complicated guy. He was very authoritarian and very opinionated but also could be hysterically funny and have a great sense of humor.

My father was very mechanically inclined and pretty technically inclined. He was pretty good at math. I was TERRIBLE at Math. TERRIBLE! I actually went to summer school in 1969 because I failed Math in my Freshman high school year. In elementary school, I just couldn't "get" arithmetic. I can remember night after night my father standing over me at the kitchen table, making me do arithmetic exercises, and very sternly correcting my errors. Last night, I balanced the checkbook. Every time I do that, I can "hear" him in my head yelling about the correct way to add and subtract! So I guess about me saying he would be 90, he'd be saying, "So, you STILL didn't get addition right!"

(And he'd be correct!!)

I hope to jump on the computer sometime in the next couple of days, and write something of interest about my father. This one won't be about his law enforcement career or about him being a pilot or any of that stuff. I actually hope to write about his French Canadian stuffing that he made every Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you've never had French Canadian meat stuffing, it's a real TREAT! So watch the blog over the next few days, and when I get a chance I'll post that!

Friday, November 25, 2011


“And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.” (Luke 19:20-24)

It took place nineteen years ago- in late 1992.

I hadn’t thought about it for a long, long, time.

Until this week. I was driving along the MassPike and all of a sudden it all came back to me, as vividly as if I were reliving the events of the autumn of 1992. And, it’s caused me to do a lot of thinking and reviewing and reflecting. And wondering. Wondering what would have happened if things had been different.

There is one big reason why I hesitated in putting this story forth, and I want to deal with that here at the outset. It COULD be badly misinterpreted by some people and COULD be used to try to put former Assemblies of God Southern New England District Superintendent in a bad light or to in some way subject him to harsh criticism. That is the furthest thing from my mind as I write this. “Brother Berkey” as we called him is now retired, and I assume happily. He is an amazing man. Ed Berkey led our District out of a very difficult fiscal situation. He is a very gifted leader and a wise man. He is an insightful man and a warmhearted man. There were several times that I sat in Brother Berkey’s office during his tenure; times when I went there for counsel and advice. He always had time for me, listened to me, prayed for and with me, and loved me. I have only positive feelings and thoughts about him.

Now, back to the story and to 1992. Little First Assembly of God of Framingham’s church building had been a cute but old and tiny white church building on a small lot at the corner of Hartford and C Streets in Framingham for over sixty years. In late 1988 the facility was PACKED. At that time, it only seated fifty-five, and for Sunday after Sunday it was packed. To make a very long story short, our congregation sold that property, and began renting office space in a modern professional building on Route 9 to use as my office and the church’s office, and we began holding Sunday services in a school. It was a lot of work setting up and breaking down every Sunday morning, but prior to the purchase of the 32 South Street former UAW building in 1994, we did that for several years.

In ‘92 the church had two high-interest-yielding savings accounts as well as the regular checking account. We literally never touched ONE of those accounts. Well, not until 1994 when we used its contents as the down payment on the UAW building. The other was being drained week by week. Now, there was a LOT of money in it at that time...I’d say at least $60,000; but it was being drained as our income was not matching our expenses. Everybody was comfortable with these arrangements. I was conformable with these arrangements. Well, too comfortable. Somewhere around Labor Day, I sensed God really challenging me about that money and our somewhat poor stewardship of it. The thought actually came to me several times that we’d be better off taking a giant step of faith and donating tens of thousands of dollars of that to missionaries and other ministries; then believing God to honor and bless that. I didn’t tell anybody about these feelings, but they grew stronger and stronger with each passing day.

Each October, the Southern New England District (now called the Southern New England Ministry Network) has a Ministers’ Retreat. In those days, it was called “Ministers’ Institute”. I never dreamed what would happen in my life at that Fall’s Minister’s Institute. I honestly forget who the guest speaker was that year. Well, he was from the deep South, but I do not remember much else about him. But he gave one very powerful sermon about stepping out in faith and doing something very difficult. I went to the altar after that sermon, got on my knees, and soberly thought and prayed and “listened”. After I got back on my feet that morning, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to publicly propose to the church body that we give away $50,000. of that money to missionaries and other ministries. To be more accurate, I actually was proposing giving away $40,000. and making an investment in a new, big step for our church “in house”.

I now know, I made a huge mistake at that time. I never shared anything about this with my Board or ANYONE. Please don’t get me wrong. My Board overwhelmingly favored my proposal when I presented it. But it was very unfair to them. Ironically, at another Assemblies of God function for ministers, the speaker told us to “never surprise your Board” with something you propose to the church you pastor. I never did that again, but I strongly wish I had brought this proposal to my Board first. At this time, I was still using an electronic typewriter and photocopier. No computer yet! So, I typed up my proposal and ran off copies. I presented it to the church on a Sunday morning.

I was greatly elated when right after that service, Jan Connell, a prominent Member of the church and a Deacon’s wife came up to me with a HUGH smile on her face, looked me right in the eye, and enthusiastically said “YES!!” I received several other very positive comments about my pretty radical proposal, and several somewhat cooler comments of “We’ll have to pray about it”. That was not a problem. The proposal ended with my admonition for us all to take three weeks and pray about it, and then we’d have a Special Business Meeting and vote on the proposal.

Just a few days later, my office phone rang. It was Ed Berkey from the District Office.

“I understand you want to GIVE AWAY THE CHURCH’S ASSETS,” he said with an obviously disturbed tone in his voice, then added, “and as your Superintendent I’m asking you to NOT DO THIS.”

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Very nervously, I told him I really believed God wanted this done and that he had now put me in a very difficult predicament.

“You’ll SPLIT that church,” Brother Berkey added, “That is not your money. It’s the money people sowed into that church over many years. It’s their money and it’s not yours to give away.”

I sat sad and stunned in my office for one hour.
What could I do? What should I do? Could I thumb my nose at the Superintendent and just proceed anyway? I concluded I just couldn’t do that.
I phoned Brother Berkey back and told him I could withdraw the proposal and submit to his authority.

To my surprise, I was called in to meet with the highest level leaders of the Southern New England District on December 2, 1992. It was scary. This was a genuine experience of being “called in on the carpet”. They were all very gracious, but each in their own way cautioned me that I must never do anything like that again.

I did learn in that meeting that one Member of our church had seen Brother Berkey at a special function at another church shortly after I had given my proposal. The Member had given Brother Berkey a copy of my handout, and had expressed disdain for what I was proposing. Ironically, over the next few weeks, many, many people came to me saying they’d have absolutely voted for the money giveaway. Like me, they did not REALLY view it as a “giveaway”. Rather, they saw it as a great step of faith and an investment in ministry.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we’d have been able to donate those tens of thousands as we’d planned to. WOULD our church have ultimately declined and closed? Would we have forged relationships with other churches and ministries which would have served to enhance the work of the Kingdom of God? Would we have even reaped some great unexpected blessings?

I’ve already stated my regret about not presenting this to my Board FIRST. Maybe if I’d have done that and a Board member or two had presented it to the Body as OUR idea rather than my idea, things would have been different. And, what if that person HADN’T gone to Ed Berkey? He would not have learned about the giveaway until after the fact. I could have said, “Sorry I won’t do it AGAIN,” but the step of faith would still have been done. And, maybe Ed Berkey should have just left it alone, or have cautioned me about it, but not have actually told em not to do it.

I’d love to know what would have happened, but alas, it’s all speculation.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback about this piece.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

At this time of the year, Americans think of Thanksgiving Day: turkey dinners, football, parades, and the official beginning of the Christmas seasons. Historically minded people like me (especially here in Massachusetts) think of Plymouth, which is known as "America's Hometown"- the place there (supposedly) the first Thanksgiving Day celebration took place with Indians ("Native Americans") and Pilgrims present in 1627.
Thanksgiving means a lot of things to a lot of people. For committed Christians and other Believers, it is a time to thank God for His faithfulness and provision.

This morning, I found myself thinking of a Plymouth provision in my life that happened many years ago. This Plymouth was not a town, however, but a Plymouth automobile. In 1988, Mary Ann and I shared one car. In fact for quite a few years we were a one car family. In June of 1988 as we were about to leave for a week's vacation on Cape Cod, we had car trouble with our 1982 AMC Concord station wagon, and so it looked as though we weren't even going to get out of the driveway, let alone from Framingham to South Dennis. At that time, I was having all sorts of problems with the AMC wagon. It leaked oil like no car I have owned before or since. Our driveway was one huge oil slick. As fast as I could pour the oil in, it poured out. The car had numerous vacuum leaks which would cause it to stall out at inopportune times. And, the car had serious carburetor problems. THAT morning, it was the carburetor that was preventing us from leaving. My mechanic friend Bill had to come over, pull the carburetor out and clean it before we could leave.

During the drive to the Cape one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me took place. I heard a voice. It was NOT an audible voice, but it might as well have been. I want to say it was "inside my head" but really it was "in my spirit". It was as real as "If you build it, he will come." This voice (which I believe was God) told me that I would drive this car onto the Cape, but that I would leave this car on Cape Cod and drive off one week later in a different and much better car. I could not understand how this could be. I really couldn't afford a better car. I had no intention of going to car lots and looking at cars. I just did not want to buy a car on vacation. HOW could this be?! I did not tell my wife, as it just seemed so crazy.

On Thursday of the coming week, our family had stopped to tour the Sandwich Fish Hatchery. As we were walking around, I looked and there was Tom Wagers and his daughter. They'd just arrived. Tom Wagers is a fellow Assemblies of God minister. At that time, he was a part time Associate Pastor on Cape Cod and he worked as a salesman at Cape Cod Chrysler-Plymouth. I had no idea what Tom Wagers was doing there. He later told me he'd been to the Sandwich Fish Hatchery before and that he'd had no plans to go there that day. Tom heard a similar "voice" to mine that "told" him to pull into the Sandwich Fish Hatchery and start walking around. Tom walked right up to me and asked, "Do you want to buy a car?"

I nervously answered, "Well, in the flesh, no; but in the Spirit, maybe!" Tom asked me to come to Cape Cod Chrysler-Plymouth on Friday morning. The next morning, our whole family showed up at the dealership. Tom showed us a 1986 Plymouth Caravelle sedan with just over 30,000 miles on it. We took it for a test drive. He started talking prices, and so forth. To make a long story short, we traded the 1982 AMC and purchased the Plymouth. I signed up for a five and a half year loan. In many respects I did not know how I was ever going to pay for the car. As had been prophesied to me, I drove off Cape Cod on the next day in that 1986 Plymouth Caravelle.

The Plymouth was a nice car but it was not perfect. It was the first car I'd ever owned which was equipped with air conditioning and I loved that! I will say, the car had brake problems all the time I owned it. I put several sets of brakes on the car. The brakes were really never quite right. There were ups and downs like you have with any car. Thank God, in 1993 we were able to buy a 1993 Ford Taurus which became exclusively Mary Ann's car and the Plymouth remained my car. I paid off the Plymouth. I made every one of those payments, as God provided! In 1995, I literally junked the Plymouth. It was hauled off to a junkyard.

This Thanksgiving, I remember that Plymouth provision. At a time in my life when there are many difficulties, many challenges, and some discouragements, I remember what God did in the past, and I trust that God can do the same and even more again!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:13)

Many of us have watched Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" more than once. Ferris is kind of like the guy in the Biblical Parable of the Unjust Steward when he hacks into the school computer and changes his absence record from 9 times to 2. Yes, it's funny in that setting, but when your own personal e-mail account gets hacked, it's not all that funny. My own AOL account was hacked into just a few days ago. Somebody sent out links to a site promoting Viagara to to everyone on my contact list. There are probably over three hundred on my complete contact list. I heard that while most folks on my contact list received one of these promos for Viagara, a few received three or more of the spam e-mails.

I learned of this while I was driving home on the MassPike a few evenings ago. A friend called me and said he'd just received a spam e-mail from my account. I told him I couldn't have sent it because I hadn't been on-line for over two hours and that someone had obviously hacked into my account. At first, I thought maybe someone had just sent out a FEW of these things. Not so. Next morning when I signed on AOL at the Framingham Public Library, there were a number of "undeliverable" e-mails which had gone to people whose accounts no longer exist. There were also a number of e-mails from confused friends wondering why they received a spam link from "me". In fact, whoever hacked my account was only a semi-professional. I'll tell you why. The really sophisticated hackers and spammers hack into one person's account to use their screen name to SEND spam e-mails; then they send them to all the contacts of someone else's account that they've hacked into. In THIS way, the victim likely doesn't even know his or her account was hacked into. I WILL say, sometimes I have received a spam e-mail from my own e-mail address. When that happens, it means someone likely hacked into my account then sent a bunch of spam to someone ELSE'S contacts. In THIS case, the person sent them to MY contacts, so it was pretty obvious what happened.

Literally anybody's account can be hacked into and used to send spam, but some accounts are much more likely to be hacked into than others. If you have not changed your password for awhile, you are more likely to be hacked. (I hadn't.) If you go to a lot of websites, your screen name is "out there" in cyberspace and more likely to be hacked. This is true even if you do a Google search or Yahoo search. If you forward a lot of mass e-mails, you are also more likely to be hacked, and as you know, I do. However, people who DON'T do internet searches, don't go on websites, change their passwords, etc. still get hacked. It's not foolproof.

I had an interesting time changing my password. I've had AOL since 1996. In the past when I wanted to change my password, I just went into the AOL software on our home iMac computer and just changed it. It was easy. Now, I go on AOL through their website. When I tried to change my password through the website I had a hard time. I had to answer a security question which I passed. I then had to enter my first and last name. (You DON'T have to do that on actual AOL software; only on the website.) I entered Robert Baril and Bob Baril and Rev. Bob Baril and Rev. Robert Baril and other combinations. NOTHING worked. It kept saying I was NOT the account holder and that was NOT my name. Finally, it said that I had one more try and then my account would be suspended! I went to my daughter's apartment in Framingham and went on what USED to be our old home iMac computer. I then went on the AOL software and changed my password. BUT, when I then went on the AOL website, it STILL wanted my first and last name even with my new screen name AND IT SUSPENDED MY ACCOUNT! It's a good thing I did not have a heart attack!

I got the number of AOL customer service, and was put on hold for fifteen minutes. Finally, I got a young woman in India...well, where else?! I explained my whole problem. She told me what my actual first and last name are on the account. I learned there is a certain WAY you have to enter your names or it won't work. I had to pick still ANOTHER new password. In fact, I have two AOL accounts, my own and the one that used to be First Assembly of God of Framingham's. I changed the passwords on both. It felt good to then go on the web and find out the AOL worked fine again. I know now I will have to frequently change my passwords. I also learned that if you receive an e-mail from someone you know, but it shows NO SUBJECT and when you open it ALL it contains is a URL address link and nothing else, it's spam and DON"T open it.

One friend asked, "why do these things happen to good people?!" and another answered "sin!" Yup, it's due to sinful man (and woman!). You can't avoid this stuff. I know some people will say, "I'll NEVER forward an e-mail again!" or "I'll NEVER go on a website again!" Can I say (bluntly) that's stupid!? If someone stole and trashed your automobile, would you stop driving?! Of course not!

The internet is a wonderful tool. The revolution in Egypt this year has been credited to one person who began posting on Facebook. Honestly, there's a lot of junk and drivel sent out as mass e-mailings and I've sent a lot of dumb stuff, myself, BUT every once in awhile there's that rare e-mail piece that's powerfully anointed of the Lord and can be used to powerfully minister to thousands and even millions and CHANGE LIVES. So, don't be so quick to NOT use the internet as a powerful tool for the Lord.

And, since Jesus said to pray for those who do harm to you and persecute you: "Lord, please bring that hacker to his or her knees, and please bring that person to true salvation." Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Ephesians 4:11)

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)

Recently, Janis Collette (the wife of Senior Pastor Gary Collette at Bread of Life Church in Westminster) preached an outstanding sermon about getting rid of the “boxes” in our lives. Janis is an Ordained minister in her own right. The sermon was powerful and really got me thinking. This past Sunday, the Lord put a strong impression on my heart during the praise and worship (music) time. I think the impression was the answer to what I’d been trying to figure out about my life and ministry, especially since Janis’ “Boxes” sermon. My friend D.C.M. tells me to not put things on the blog that are “nobody’s business”. And certainly there are SOME things I shouldn’t write here. Maybe D.C.M. won’t like this one, but I don’t feel bad about sharing it. I’ve found that sometimes being an “open book” has been a tremendous encouragement to others, especially some who were greatly struggling and felt like misfits. God made some of us to be just a little bit “different”. And- thank God! So often, it’s these folks who “march to the beat of a different drummer” who make a tremendous impact on the world that no one else could have made.

There ARE some very personal things I’m NOT going to tell you (regarding what’s been happening in my life and ministry over the past two to three years), But I will say, since the church I pastored closed in March 2010, and since I haven’t served in any Pastorate or Associate Pastorate since then, I’ve wondered WHAT my place is...WHERE I FIT. The late Larry Glick used to ask callers to his Boston radio show, “What’s your FUNCTION?” My wife and I have become Members at Bread of Life Church . Even though the church is fifty miles northwest of where we live, the fit is right. I enjoy Bread of Life, but one thing that’s weird for me is that many people in the church call me “Pastor”. I know they're trying to be respectful, and I don’t stop them. But, I’m not their Pastor or Associate Pastor. At Bread of Life, I should be “Bob”. I’m their brother in Christ.

Even so, my identity was “Pastor Bob Baril” for many years, and I admit, I’ve missed that identity. Now, back to “thinking outside the box” and all I started writing about. I still feel VERY much called to preach and to teach and even to evangelize. I will say that a guy recently told me that in my life long-term it was likely the only person who would listen to me when I preached is the Devil! That deeply troubled me, but I prayed about it, and I decided to follow the advice of an old friend and, “take the meat and leave the bones”. I understand that guy’s comment was in the “bones” category. God has blessed me with the Gift of Teaching and with the talent of public speaking. God uses me to make complicated matters simple and understandable; and to sometimes say very “heavy” things in a lighthearted manner (and people DO “get the meaning” of them). I may or may not ever be in the position of Pastor or Assistant Pastor again. I may or may not always be a formally credentialled minister. Yet I am NOT going to neglect or bury the Gift and talent God has bestowed upon me.

It IS difficult when the conventional church roles and titles don’t seem to fit anymore- and may never fit. I think of a very famous Christian; a FAR greater Christian than I’ll ever be, who was in a similar predicament. I am referring to the late Corrie Ten Boom. She and her family hid Jews in Haarlem, Holland during World War 2, and helped many escape. The rest of her family died in the concentration camps, but she was released from Ravensbruck after a horrific time as an inmate there. Corrie traveled for the remainder of her life. She spoke, she preached, she taught, and she wrote during the three decades following the war. Corrie just didn’t fit into the role of “pastor”, “evangelist”, “prophet”, “teacher”, or “apostle”. How did SHE handle that? She gave herself a title: “Tramp For the Lord”! I know “tramp” has a dirty connotation to many of us, but she used it more like the terms “hobo” or “vagabond”. She traipsed around the world with her suitcase, wore out quite a few pairs of shoes, and ministered for the Lord.

Now, don’t panic! I’m NOT going to call myself, “Tramp For the Lord”! But unless and until I ever become a Pastor, an Associate Pastor, or a full-time Evangelist, I’m going to call myself: “Bob Baril; Sales Rep. and Service Rep. for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God”. (Well, “Sales Rep. and Service Rep.” for short!) I’m serious. No matter what secular jobs I have or where I find myself, I know I’m Bob Baril; Sales Rep. and Service Rep. It will actually be a great conversation starter. A lot of traditionalists absolutely will NOT understand it, but that’s who and what I am, and who and what I will be. This coming Sunday, I have a preaching engagement at a church in MetroWest and I’m looking forward to that. If any other church would like to invite me to speak, please e-mail me (the address is on the info. section of the blog).

Thanks Bread of Life Church for your services where I’ve been able to process this matter. Thanks to my family and friends for their support. And, most of all, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ who in His grace and mercy called me to His service.

Friday, November 11, 2011


“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)

Most of his friends and peers called him “Bill”. His legal name was “William” and he used “William” in his e-mail address. To me, he was always “Billy”. I received a shocking call on my cell phone yesterday in the late afternoon. I was on the MassPike about halfway between Framingham and the Route 395 Exit. My friend Rob Woods, pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Marlboro was calling and he informed me that Billy McCulley had died.

It seems fitting that I’m posting this on my blog because Billy McCulley was a regular reader of “The Blog of Bob Baril”. He had posted a number of comments on the blog over the past few years. We also occasionally exchanged e-mails. I remember that when First Assembly of God of Framingham was closed I received a very encouraging e-mail from Billy (loaded with Biblical exhortations) in which he said he’d always consider me “Pastor Bob”. It is also fitting that I’m writing this on November 11 because Billy was a Veteran and a very patriotic American.

I want to tell you about Billy McCulley here. Much of what I’m writing about him will seem exaggerated and hyperbolic. It isn’t. It’s true that when people die we tend to give glowing eulogies about them. We “canonize” them and many times we make ordinary slobs into magnificent and Godly people. Well, in THIS case, there’s no need to make anything up. Billy McCulley was in his early forties. He was one of the most Godly people I have ever known. If I were speaking at Billy’s funeral, I would describe him as: gracious, Godly, wise, serene, and intelligent. Now, I know some would hear these descriptions and picture some pious little wimp. But THAT wasn’t Billy! Billy was pretty soft spoken, but he was very masculine and strong. He served in the military proudly and as humble and soft spoken as he was, I suspect he could have decked an opponent with one punch to the jaw if he had to.

Our family met the McCulleys when we came to pastor the church in Framingham in 1987. The McCulleys were one of those kind of families that just stood out among others. They had been active in the Framingham church since 1967 and when we arrived they were the longest term family in the church. Jim, the Dad was in his mid-sixties. This was Jim’s second marriage and second family. The kids from his first marriage were well into their thirties by this time. Jim was highly intelligent, very bald, and an engineer at Raytheon. Jim McCulley was one of the developers of the Patriot missile. Jim’s wife Anneli was (and is) quite a character. Anneli (pronounced AnnaLee) is originally from Finland. She came to America by way of England and Canada, and has a strong accent which is a mixture of Finnish and British. She’s a lovely person, but can be very difficult to understand. When she senses a person is having trouble understanding her she speaks louder and higher. It can be quite comical. The McCulleys had three boys. In 1987, Conrad the oldest was around seventeen. Conrad is highly intelligent and very blunt. He’s the type that will have no qualms about asking you sort of a challenging and embarrassing question. The youngest kid, Matt, was probably around eleven in ‘87. Matt was the best looking and “coolest” of the McCulley boys. Years later, he went on to Purdue University and a distinguished career in the Army.

Billy was a very wonderful young man. At sixteen he was regularly visiting my office to borrow Commentaries and ask me theological and Biblical questions. Unlike his brother Conrad, Billy wasn’t so much interested in intellectual gymnastics as he was interested in really knowing God and getting close to Him. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more Godly teenager with such a hunger for the Lord. Billy applied for and was accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We were all SO proud of him! During his years at Annapolis, he faithfully attended an Assemblies of God church there, sort of being “adopted” by that pastor and his family as an honorary family member. Billy became an Officer after graduation. . .I forget if he went into the Navy or the Marines, but as I recall, it was the Marines.

I haven’t even mentioned that Billy liked to sing and play guitar. And, he had studied some Finnish. Billy never lived back in Massachusetts again, but he came to visit a lot. Whenever he was home, he came to church and would also just drop by the parsonage to visit. Billy married quite some years ago and settled in Texas.
He and his wife have several children. I think the last time I saw him was two years ago. He had taken vacation time and had come up to do some some work on the family’s Marlboro residence where his Mom now resided as a widow. Billy had been diagnosed with cancer sometime before that, and a tumor was removed. He visited with us and told us he was regularly having medical checkups and was cancer free and feeling well and doing quite well.

Several times this year, Billy posted some great comments on my blog, and once in awhile we’d exchange e-mails. What I did not realize is that the cancer had come back with a vengeance and that a few weeks ago he was given six weeks to live. I am sad that he did not tell me. But, Billy was like that. He was very selfless. Those who know me well know that I tend to be quite sensational and dramatic. If I were given six weeks to live, I’d probably tell EVERYBODY. I would want people praying for me, but I’d also want to say my “good-byes”. That’s me. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I like attention. Billy DIDN’T. The last thing he’d have wanted to do is burden me with his situation. I know he loved, respected, and cared about me. Billy’s the type who would have thought, “The last thing I want to do is dump this on Pastor Bob. He has enough of his own problems.”

I wish he had. I wish he’d told me. I wish I could have prayed for him and with him. I wish, in my own way, I could have told him “good-bye”. I wish I could have told him how much his prayers and support encouraged me; how much his affirmation of me at the time of the church’s closing meant to me. I wish I could have told him I was very proud of him.

As I write, I have the Avril Lavigne song, “Slipped Away” playing in a continuous loop on iTunes on the computer. It’s about how she felt when she got the news of her grandfather’s death. To use a famous line from a Neil Diamond song, “Except for the names and a few other changes” the song expresses how I feel about Billy’s death.

It’s Veteran’s Day. In my heart today, Taps is playing for Billy, a twenty-one gun salute is being fired, and I’m standing at attention and saluting this wonderful young man that I was privileged to know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


"My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." (James 2:1)

There's a line from a Top Forty song of the early 1970s that I'll never forget. (The song is, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" by Joe South.) It goes like this:
"Well, there are people on reservations and out in the ghetto; and brother there but for the grace of God, go you and I..."

That's a line my mother often used, "There but for the grace of God go you and I". This was also the theme of a Phil Collins song from over twenty years ago entitled, "Think Twice".

How and why do we FORGET and IGNORE the neediest people- the most hurting people- in our society? But we do. Listen; I DO!

I've made a number of references on my blog about my job as a telephone answering service operator and things I've learned from that job. Today, I'm going to write about another. I can be quite a complainer. I can look on the worst side of things. I can sometimes get pretty negative. On this job, I've come face-to-face, well, NOT "face-to-face" but "EAR-TO-EAR" with some deeply hurting people. There are calls that would bring me to tears if I didn't keep myself under control.

Think you've got it really tough? We answer for a neurological practice that specializes in CHILDREN and ADOLESCENTS. Imagine taking a call from a Mom in Boston's western suburbs whose eight-year-old daughter has just had her third seizure of the day and now her speech has become quite slurred. Mom wants to talk to whatever doctor is on call. Can you "type" the paging message on the computer screen without feeling SO sorry for that poor family? I can't. I wonder, "HOW do these families DO it?" Imagine a kid of yours having, say, twenty seizures A MONTH!

It's not just the families with neurological problems that get to you. It's the 85-year-old woman in tears because she just got the news that her doctor of forty years has just retired. I had a call a few weeks ago from a very troubles Dad whose young daughter had cancer. Yesterday, during the midday "lunch time", a woman called a suburban Boston medical practice. She sounded nervous and upset.

"It's VERY important!" she stated, "I need my medical records FAXed to the Shelter I'm moving into down in New Bedford. If they don't get those records I can't move in. I'll be living in my car again."

I took the message and sent it. Then I did something I don't do often at work. I told the caller that I'm an Assemblies of God minister and I offered to pray for her. She burst into tears and accepted my offer; and I began to pray. I finished by saying, "I want you to know God knows you and cares about you." She told me through tears that she's having a hard time believing God cares about her.

People such as I have described here are all over the place. The last thing they need is our judgment and condemnation.

The late Keith Green was killed in a plane crash almost thirty years ago, but his poignant writings and songs continue to prod the church world and make us feel uncomfortable. Check out Keith's song entitled, "Open Your Eyes" sometime.

We've all got to do a lot better about this stuff. That includes me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011



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

This coming Sunday night, Andy Rooney give his final three-minute blurb at the conclusion of 60 Minutes. He is retiring at age 92. I am not surprised. Up until the 2010-2011 season of 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney's little comical, eccentric, and ironic monologues had closed virtually every 60 Minutes program for over thirty years. It was only once in a great while that the show did not include Andy Rooney. THIS PAST YEAR, it seemed like he was hardly ever there. Maybe my count was off, but I think he's only done about eight of his little pieces over the past year so he was already semi-retired.

Andy Rooney is often called a "curmudgeon". I checked out that work at a site that gives on-line definitions, and it defined the word as "an ill-tempered and surly person." I don't think THAT is the best definition of "curmudgeon". I think of a "curmudgeon" as somebody who's a character; who complains a lot and acts a bit annoying and eccentric, but is somehow lovable at the same time. THAT is how I think of Andy Rooney.

I generally enjoyed his pieces. He WAS controversial. Around fifteen years ago, he wrote a newspaper column stating that homosexuality was not normal. He was "suspended" from writing his column for several months and was greatly condemned by the politically correct set. But, he came back and it seemed like all was forgiven. There's a piece that's been floating around the internet for years which was SUPPOSEDLY written by Andy Rooney. It praises prayer and giving public praise to God. It makes Andy almost sound like a curmudgeonly Billy Graham or Pat Robertson. The problem is: he never wrote it. Andy Rooney is an atheist. He finds little use for organized religion and does not believe in God. Of course, in that area, Andy and I disagree.

I once played Andy Rooney in a variety show at New Covenant Christian School. One year I dressed up as Johnny Most and did a whole bit about him. Another year, I came as Peter Falk/Lt. Columbo. AND, another year, I was Andy Rooney. I wore an oversized and sloppy suit, and dumped baby powder in my hair, AND made my hair kind of messy. I got up and delivered a three minute monologue, Andy Rooney style. Some parents thought that I was out of sorts and not myself that night. I got a kick out of that, because I stayed in character for THE ENTIRE EVENT! If someone said "hello" to me, I would sarcastically say, "Oh HI!" just like Andy Rooney would!

At the time of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Andy Rooney was in town (Boston). His daughter Emily Rooney featured him on Channel 2, Boston's PBS television station. Andy was having trouble using his ear piece. Right no the air, he kept saying, "I can't get this ear piece to work" and acted like a typical confused elderly person. I realized that maybe off camera he wasn't quite as together as he appeared to be on 60 Minutes, but again remembered that he was well in his eighties. Andy started writing for "Stars and Stripes" during World War 2!

Back when CBS tried doing a spin-off show called "60 Minutes 2" they had Boston's Jimmy Tingle doing the final monologue. Poor Jimmy got fired after one season, although I thought he was pretty good. I know there will never be another Andy Rooney, but if CBS is looking for a comical eccentric guy who is a good writer and has an unusual take on life, my son Jon Baril is available for the job, and so am I!

Friday, November 4, 2011


"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)

Yesterday afternoon as I was on a long highway drive I was listening to Hank Morse and Matt Shearer fill in for Michael Graham on BostonTalks 96.9. The topic was, "Should 'In God We trust' be the motto of the United States?" You may know that this week the U.S. Congress voted to reaffirm the "In God We Trust" motto that was originally adopted by Congress in 1956. Hank Morse had no problems with the motto. Matt had a lot of problems with it, feeling the motto should be, "E Pluribus Unim".

The callers were frankly typical and predictable. There were those who had an obvious chip on their shoulder (frankly mostly WOMEN)who argued things like, "I don't WANT God in our country!" Really? Shall we then BAN God as some illegal alien? Then there were those who took a very pro-God viewpoint, and frankly an almost TOO God viewpoint, saying things like, "America is a CHRISTIAN nation!" Really? In fact, American is not a Christian nation. It is a secular nation with freedom of religion that has a strong Judeo-Christian heritage.

Hank Morse argued that the Pilgrims came here for religious freedom, and that "this country was founded on the Christian religion". Well, not exactly. In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts indeed WAS founded on the Christian religion, but the country itself (150 years later) really was not.

Now, I will say I don't really care either way about the motto being "In God We Trust". If I HAD to vote, I suppose I would vote to keep it. But it's not Christian or religious sayings and proclamations that make a country and its people Godly. For us to PROCLAIM "In God We Trust" and then live like the devil is, well, a sacrilege!

I will say I have seen a lot of changes regarding the matter of God and religion in America over my lifetime. During the Kennedy administration, the U.S. Post Office (in those days THAT is what it was called) used "PRAY FOR PEACE" as a postmark! That would be stamped right over the postage stamp, and to the left of the stamp would be that circle that we're used to seeing that would say, "Canton, Mass." or "Springfield, Mo." or whatever. I don't remember ANYONE being offended at that "PRAY FOR PEACE" postmark! Do you remember that Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life?" (If you don't you should be seeing it on television soon!) In it, the narrator says that at the end of World War 2 everyone "Wept and prayed". THAT was the America I was born into.

I remember prayer in the public schools. It had its pros and its cons, but I remember it. As I recall, the first year we DID NOT have it was when I was in fourth grade (1963-1964). Prior to that, we would sing "America", recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and recite the Roman Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer. It's interesting that in Massachusetts we recited the Roman Catholic version of it. The Protestant version adds "For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory..." while the Roman Catholic version does not. The Protestant version also SOMETIMES uses "debts" rather than "trespasses". I think it was felt that although the Lord's prayer was Christian, it was pretty safe for Jews. After all, Jesus was Jewish and it is a thoroughly Jewish prayer. I will say that my first-grade teacher was a "piece of work". I did not realize that at the time. One time she asked all of us what our mother's maiden names were. But ONE day, she decided to implement some sort of religious education upon us. As we stood to say the Lord's Prayer, she allowed the Catholic kids to sit down after "but deliver us from evil, Amen" but made the Protestant and Jewish kids keep standing. The Protestant kids had to add the "For Thine is the Kingdom.." part, and I guess the Jewish kids had to add some, "Baruch Atah Adonai" thing or something. It was all very embarrassing and uncomfortable. I just didn't understand what she was doing or why she was doing it, but I was SO thankful to be Catholic that day.

Well most of you know I am now an evangelical Protestant. I once was featured on a video taped editorial response on Boston's channel 5 speaking in favor of school prayer. Today, I am not sure how I feel about it, although I really DON'T like the idea of it being banned altogether. Maybe Miss Alenger really butchered that prayer moment at the Dean S. Luce School, but I can't see anything wrong with a moment of silence, or at the high school lever a student who wants to, leading in a brief prayer.

Do we have too much of God in America or too little? What should the national motto be? Well, these are some of my thoughts on those subjects.

Sunday, October 30, 2011



“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

“Claire” (well, literally “Clair”) was the title of a Gilbert O’Sullivan hit song from the early 1970s. Claire is also the name of a dear lady I’ve known for twenty-four years. I’ve enjoyed the “2010 MetroWest Persons of Distinction” series that has been running in the print editions of the MetroWest Daily News over the past few weeks. Claire would never make such a list as she is one who shuns the limelight and is happiest serving in the background; but in my humble opinion, Claire Post Grimes is absolutely worthy of the title, “2010 MetroWest Person of Distinction”.

My first contact with Claire was by phone in the autumn of 1986. She asked me to come and speak at First Assembly of God of Framingham. I was on the pastoral staff of a church in Walpole at the time. The little Framingham church was without a pastor and Claire, an active church member, was lining up fill-in speakers for the services. I did come and speak. One thing led to another and a few weeks later I was meeting with the church’s pulpit committee. Not long after that I “candidated” for the church’s pastorate and was voted in as pastor.

Upon moving into Framingham, I discovered Claire was truly an amazing woman. She’d only been a born-again Christian for about five years at that time, having previously been a devout Roman Catholic. Claire served on the church’s Board, and volunteered as the church’s secretary. She was present for every activity at church. A person who eschewed tardiness, Claire was always the first person to arrive for any service or meeting. Claire’s husband Jack, an M.I.T. graduate and very intelligent man was not much of a churchgoer, but he was supportive of Claire’s commitment to God and to the church. She once described Jack as “having all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit”...and while I realize that statement is theologically incorrect, I understood what she meant. Both Claire and Jack are kind, warm, hardworking, and generous people.

Claire and Jack are now each in their early eighties. She doesn’t like notoriety, and she’ll probably be unhappy I wrote this, but it’s all the kind of things I’d say at her funeral. As my friend Dave Milley often says, “Send the flowers when people are still alive!” So, this is a way of “sending flowers” to and for Claire. The Grimes are a family of modest means who live in a small 1950s ranch style house. Despite the modesty, when the church would be in a financial crisis, again and again there’d be a generous check from them. When there was any kind of work to be done at the church, you could count on Claire to do it. For the past eleven years or so, she did almost all of the regular cleaning of the church...vacuuming, cleaning the toilets, and even supplying the bathroom paper products. At times, I felt guilty about Claire doing all that cleaning, but she would insist that she wanted to do it.

When you’re in close proximity to people in some of the worst of times, that can take its toll on relationships. My elderly parents were each seriously ill and near death in 2000. I was “stressed to the max” about it. I remember that on one morning Claire made some sort of a casual comment to me and I “let her have it” verbally. Honestly, I can be “short fused” and I’ve had several people angrily leave the church through the years for that reason. Not Claire. She could not have been more warm and forgiving toward me, saying, “There is nothing you could ever say that would cause me to think any less of you.” Claire Grimes models Biblical forgiveness. She and her husband have had close relatives of theirs experience serious crimes (on the level of the type of matters you see on “America’s Most Wanted”). Despite that, Claire could not harbor bitterness toward the perpetrators.

The local Assemblies of God District officials closed the little Framingham church this past March. Most of the “church family” have found other places to attend and most have emotionally “moved on”. For Claire, this was a challenging year as she underwent a hip replacement and almost two months of rehabilitation, and she gave up driving. At 82, Claire’s not ready to jump into another church. She’s an amazingly positive person, but I have heard her sadly declare many times over the past few months, “I miss my CHURCH!” I had to chuckle when Claire said, “You many not believe this, but I even loved cleaning that little church building and I miss doing that so much!”

Every pastor wishes he or she had a congregation full of Claire Grimeses!
As far as I’m concerned I’ll always be her pastor, and I thank God for her and the difference she has made in my life and in the lives of many others!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


"Let all things be done decently and in order." (I Corinthians 14:40)

About a year ago, a pastor friend of mine who has elementary school aged kids commented to me that when one of his kids is ill and he calls the doctor's office, he HATES getting the answering service.

"I just want to talk to my DOCTOR and not an answering service!" he exclaimed.

On a certain level, I can understand his frustration, but after working for a telephone answering service for a year and a half, I can very much see the other side of the coin. I hope this piece will be helpful for you- for when you have that experience of calling a doctor's office and getting an answering service.

Please remember that doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician's assistants are human. They don't "work 24/7". Like all of us, they enjoy having time off with family and friends. They also like to eat their lunch in peace without the phone ringing off the hook. (That's also true of medical secretaries.) If you want to be sure to "get the doctor's office" the best time to call is usually between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. or between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. At other hours you are very likely to get voice mail or an answering service.

SOME doctors offices are open on Saturdays and Sundays and some are open on major holidays, but these are few and far between. If you're calling on weekends, holidays, early morning, or nights, you're most likely going to get voice mail or an answering service. USUALLY, the answering service will be able to page a doctor or nurse practitioner for you who will likely call you back within fifteen minutes.

ATTITUDE is important. Most of the callers I answer for are pretty pleasant and understanding. But some are "a piece of work". As soon as some callers realize they're talking to a telephone answering service operator, they immediately assume a bad attitude. They may yell, "WHY isn't my DOCTOR answering??!! Is she LAZY?!"

They may yell a lot worse things than that.

I may ask for the caller's name who will then yell, "My CHILD'S name is Justin Smith!!!"

(Question: did I ask for the child's name? No, I did not.)

I may ask "could I have your telephone number?" and hear "875-555-3965" repeated SO fast that there's NO WAY I can understand it. Then, I'm asking, "Could you repeat that slower, please?"

The reply will be a very disgusted and very slow, "EIGHT!! SEVEN!! FIVE!! FIVE!! FIVE!! FIVE!! THREE!! NINE!! SIX!! FIVE!!"

I get a few of that type of call each shift. Another question that can set people off is "Date of birth?" I am amazed that most nurses who call with messages from nursing homes (to be given to doctors) virtually NEVER have the date of birth ready and act as though asking for it is a major inconvenience. I've had (especially women) refuse to give the year of their birth. I'm 57-years-old. I don't care that people know I was born in 1954. Usually, it's some woman who was born in some year like 1962 who does not want to give the year of birth.

On calls, I'm reading from and filling in previously set up fields on a computer screen. I'm asking questions the doctor's office has requested that I ask, and I'm asking them in the order that they want them asked. A pediatrician's office is not going to be calling back little 5-year-old Justin Smith. They're calling back the mother, Daphne Peterson-Smith. SHE or her husband are responsible for the account. They want to know WHO they're calling, THEN they want to know the child's name and information and what is wrong.

People get furious if they call at 9 p.m. and want to talk to Dr. Nelson (Their doctor) only to find out that Dr. McGillicuddy is on call. I've had callers become irate and say things like, "I DEMAND to speak to Dr. Nelson RIGHT NOW!"

Maybe Dr. Nelson is on Cape Cod with his family celebrating his daughter's 16th birthday. Isn't he entitled to do that? If things are really bad enough, Dr. McGillicuddy WILL phone Dr. Nelson, but these folks are human and entitled to protocol being followed.

I've had callers become IRATE because the doctor's office goes on answering service for lunch for 90 minutes. Honestly, MOST doctor's offices go on answering service or voice mail during lunch for anywhere from 60-120 minutes. That's their prerogative.

When you try to get concise information for a message in paging a doctor, some callers want to tell their life story. Melissa, one of my Supervisors, laughed one time when I told a caller, "You've got to give that to me IN A PHRASE."

I had a field in my computer to fill in that would only take about seven words. There is no way I could begin with, "It all started three weeks ago..."

We can also see how many calls are holding for the answering service to get to. If I glance and notice 13 calls are holding, I know I've GOT to kind of rush through the calls. I'm not trying to be a jerk. I'm just trying to make sure we can get to each caller to help them.

Finally, some callers will angrily say, "I was on hold for FIVE MINUTES before you picked up!" We hate that anyone has to wait that long, and it seldom happens, but sometimes we get flooded with calls all at one time. The answering service I work for has soft rock secular music and sometimes soft rock Christian music playing for people to listen to before we pick up. I've had some folks want to argue with me that they didn't like the music that was playing. REALLY! There are much more important issues in life to worry about.

Rarely, perhaps once a week, a caller will tell me I have a good telephone manner and was very helpful. Those comments are rare, but they help me to feel that what I'm doing matters.

I hope this information will be helpful to you the next time you call a doctor's office (or a business) and an answering service operator takes the call.

Friday, October 21, 2011


"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (i John 3:17)

I usually start work at 7 in the morning. Today, I've been assigned an unusual schedule; I'm starting at 2:30 and finishing at 8 p.m. Thus, I was able to do some early morning grocery shopping and now I'm on the computer at the public library, and I'm "musing". I received a desperate e-mail this morning about a truly needy Christian woman. She has lost her husband. She has five kids; the youngest is VERY small. Their housing was tied into the husband's career, and the family is losing that in December. They pretty much have NOTHING. The woman is a highly committed Christian. I received one e-mail from a dear friend of hers, and a forward of that same e-mail from a pastor. (Listen, it IS a "legit" story.)

Thought: there's way too much of this stuff going on in the evangelical Christian community.

I guess the Rev. John DeBrine (of "Songtime") is still around. He's got to be around 85 now. John is a character...a Conservative Baptist minister, a bachelor, and VERY outspoken. One thing I recall him saying often on his radio program is that "Christians just aren't believable" and that "If we're going to win them (family, friends, etc.) to Christ we've GOT to become believable." He's right.

I don't want to write a LOT here about the closing of the small church I pastored, First Assembly of God of Framingham, but one thing I WILL say is that my son Jon commented that while a number of people of means outside of the little church essentially said to us "be warmed and filled" (see James 2:16), few of them really stepped up to help us in tangible ways. He's right.

I served on the Pastoral Advisory Council of New Covenant Christian School (grades K-6 and for a short time K-8) for several years. My wife taught there for years, and all of our kids went there. Back in the 1980s, Christians from Boston's MetroWest suburbs WORKED, GAVE, AND SACRIFICED to start this school and keep it going. I could name five or six families who PARTICULARLY were HEROES for all they did for that school. Sadly, when "the economy hit" in the late 2000s and the school was in financial trouble, that generation of parents and boosters, well, for the most part didn't "boost". After all the years of blood, sweat, tears, and prayer, the school closed a couple of years ago. I served on the Board of New England Aftercare Ministries "The Bridge House" of Framingham for around seven years. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when that ministry had a need or a crisis, the Body of Christ would RALLY. People would show up for special prayer meetings and people would did into their pockets and give sacrificially, if it was $10. or $1000. or any amount in between. Today, that ministry is "hanging by a thread" to use an old expression from my parents' generation. I know appeals have gone out from them, and there's been very little response.

I hope he won't be embarrassed to be quoted here, but my friend Ron Sebastian who is very active at Faith Community Church of Hopkinton (formerly First Congregational Church of Hopkinton) has said that in America even in this economy there's plenty of money around. There should be no churches or ministries "going under". People who've served in ministry, like that woman I started off this piece about just should not be destitute.

All I can say is, I've experienced a lot first hand, but I'll leave it at that.

Missionaries should NOT be unable to get back to the field due to lack of funds. Ministries should not be closing their doors. Christian young people called to the ministry should not have to quit Bible College or Seminary due to lack of funds. Christian families should not be put out on the street while others turn away and yawn. The fact is, if we want real revival, John DeBrine is right. We've got to
become believable.