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.