Saturday, 11 September 2010


On Sep 11th 2001, I shared in the almost universal sense of shock and horror. It was a bad day, with bad deeds, done by bad people.

Within my sense of shock and horror I had a hope. It was that our people would observe "shiva" the Jewish ...period of mourning after a death. I had hoped that we would spend 8 days in grief before we faced the new reality.

Sadly the Presidential response encouraged us to go out shopping, and to take vengeance on Iraq before we had a chance to grieve and mourn.

This meant that the "White House et al" in 2001 never left space for grief.

There is a hole in the American soul, for our broken-heartedness was instantly politicized by the White House.

That's why I am so conflicted each Sep 11th.  And it’s why I am on my way to a Christian/Jewish/Muslim Prayer service at Sarasota’s First Presbyterian Church this evening.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Pay attention J.M.P. (2)

On Wednesday I roasted four chicken legs.  (In fact the oven did the roasting).

 I cut up the meat from two of the legs to make my famous curried chicken salad. (Well at least one person other than I like it - so it’s just a wee bit famous!).

That left two cold cooked chicken legs. Whenever I opened the fridge door they called out to me, saying “do something”   So I decided to “do” a chicken pot pie.

I chose the “quick and easy” recipe with cut up chicken, low fat cream of mushroom soup, frozen green peas, frozen black eyed peas, and a bit of cayenne pepper to spice things up – all to be covered with store bought pie crust.  I mixed up the ingredient in a plastic bowl, and set it aside for the peas to thaw.

By then I needed to run an errand.  I turned the oven on to pre-heat it, planning to transfer the mixture to a glass cooking bowl and cover it with the pastry as soon as I got home.

The errand took a while longer than I’d anticipated but when I arrived back home I was  greeted with the smell of something cooking.

Oh my! When I’d turned the oven on, I’d forgotten that I had previously placed the plastic bowl with its contents on an oven rack,  to keep it from the lips of prying cats.  

By the time I got home the  plastic bowl had started to melt, and the food was cooking!

Unbelievably, none of the plastic had melted into the food, nor had any of the food spilled over.  It was perfectly edible, so my supper last night was chicken pot pie sans pastry!

But  I MUST PAY ATTENTION,  things could have been a lot worse.

I'll never again be able to use this battered old plastic bowl!

Semi molten plastic bowl.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Pay attention J.M.P. (1)

Pay attention jmp

My most recent visit to Sarasota’s excellent “Selby Library” had me looking for one or more of Taylor Caldwell’s novels.  I’d heard that she was a fine writer, and I was looking for her novel “Grandmother and the Priests”.

That book was not on the shelves so I picked out another Caldwell with the intriguing title “God’s Little Acre”.  It was not until I was back at home that I noticed that this book was not by Taylor Caldwell, but by Erskine Caldwell.

Published in 1933, “God’s Little Acre” is a searing tale of the lives of poor farmers in Georgia, and textile mill workers in North Carolina.  It’s a raw and tough tale which still has the power to shock 77 years after it was published.

I am glad that I was not paying attention when I borrowed this powerful novel from our library, for I was utterly engaged with this book by Erskine (rather than Taylor) Caldwell.  It’s a novel whose themes are far from being historic.  They are being lived out in many a poor rural community even today.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sensible news ... Sam's Club... Stilton Cheese

1.      Not all the news is bad!  See for example

2.      I have mixed feelings about “Sam’s Club”, (part of the Walmart Empire).

Re: Walmart.  On the one hand the big box Walmart stores have driven many local “Mom and Pop” out of business.  On the other hand, when a Walmart store is located in a smallish and poor rural town, the residents of that town are enabled to purchase food, clothing, electronics, appliances etc at decently low prices.

Re: Sam’s Club.  This is the semi-wholesale division of Walmart where people can buy essential items in bulk, e.g. 48 rolls of toilet paper, or 10lbs of chicken, or 96 rolls of paper towel, at a good price.

“Sam’s Club” also enables (for example) local Convenience Store proprietors or Cafe owners (etc) to buy essential and re-saleable items at reasonable prices.

I sometimes shop at Sam’s Club because its’ very plump and juicy “Rotisserie Chicken” is better than any that I can buy in the local supermarkets; and also because Sam’s Club one of the few places around here where I can buy Fair Trade Coffee.

It is impossible to be “Simon Pure”.  (I will leave you to look up the reference to “Simon Pure”)

3.      Who would/could not enjoy Stilton Cheese?  It is a Blue Cheese right up there in the Pantheon alongside Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Danish Blue. 

One of my local markets stocks “Stilton” which is crafted in the town of Ilchester in the County of Somerset – very near to my native city of Bristol, U.K.

Damn it is expensive cheese.  Even more damn it is delicious!

A sliver of Ilchester Stilton with a bit of apple, pear, or cantaloupe is a dessert to die for!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Brussels Sprouts - Why?

Why am I so tired at 7:03 p.m.?

On the other hand, why was I "up and at it" at 5:00 a.m.?

And so it goes. 

Nonetheless I had some wondrous Brussels sprouts with my supper/dinner  tonight!  When I eat sprouts I stop asking "why?".  I simply say "wow"!

The world would undoubtedly be a better place if more people, in more places, learned to rejoice in sprouts!

Monday, 6 September 2010

I should have known better

It was probably more than four years ago that I last ate fried chicken: that is until yesterday

I’ve abstained for two reasons.

First: because friend chicken is not a very healthy food. 

Second: because it is hard to find truly excellent fried chicken. 

I have been eating very healthily all this year (and have lost more than 45lbs in weight), with lots of good fruit and vegetables, white meat or fish, and next to no rice, pasta, bread or potatoes: that is until yesterday.

Yesterday at dinner time my body revolted against yet more stir fry or roasted vegetables, and grilled fish. It cried out “I want fried chicken”. 

Now I can scarcely pass a KFC without gagging. The smell from the exhaust pipes of the fryers is vile. 

But a friend had asserted that “Popeyes” had good stuff, so off I drove there to get my three pieces of fried chicken, with a side of coleslaw, a biscuit and a soft drink thrown in.

(Two of the pieces turned out to be nothing more than wings, and the third piece was half a breast). I had opted for white meat rather than dark, and “spicy” rather than spice less. 

I salivated as I drove home. It was a scandalous waste of saliva. The three bits of chicken were thickly coated in a semi-glutinous, under-fried, and inedible batter with which I had to wrestle before I could find the few morsels of edible chicken. (I exaggerate when I say “few morsels”!). It was a horrid dinner!

I do not believe that my body had lied to me. It was saying that after 8 months on a low fat, low sodium, next-to-no carbs regime it was time for a treat; time for some disgustingly unhealthy food. 

The mistake was in my choice to go to a fast food joint. 

In about four years from now I’ll be searching for a true “southern cook”, one who knows how to fry chicken to perfection, and serve it with collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and home-made biscuits. 

(If I can find such a person in 2014!) 

(The photo’ illustrates the difference between American and British biscuits. The biscuits we eat with hot meals in the U.S.A. are like those on the left).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sermon for 5th September 2010.

(B) Sermon for 5th September 2010. The Revd. J Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL
Luke 14:25-33
25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

The Jesus who is presented to us in the gospels is ambivalent about the large crowds who often followed him. 
On the one hand he has compassion on them for they were, as it says “sheep without a shepherd.  And when the twelve disciples wanted to turn the crowds away at the end of a long and busy day, Jesus orders the disciples to feed the crowds.  And Jesus tickled the ears of poor and oppressed peasants, by pointing out the hypocrisies of their religious leaders, and by poking fun at the foolishness of the rich and famous.
On the other hand, Jesus is a man with a mission.  He is headed towards Jerusalem where he will provoke a crisis with the religious and political oligarchs, a crisis which will lead to his capital punishment.  He seems to be supremely uninterested in leading a mass movement, and in today’s gospel he dares the crowd to follow him, in the sense of “just you dare”.  The stories of the person who started to build a tower but ran out of money, and the king who decided to sue for peace long before his army could be defeated have a clear intent and point: “be prudent and count the cost”.
But what does Jesus mean in this business about “hating” father, mother, wife and children etc?  The force of the English word “hate” baffles us, especially when it comes from the lips of Jesus.  "Hate" is a Semitic expression meaning "to turn away from, to detach oneself from," rather than our animosity-laden understanding(Brian Stoffregen, Faith Lutheran Church, Yuma, AZ)  Jesus is saying “in face of the impending crisis, if you want to follow me, you will have to separate yourselves from your nearest and dearest”.
He goes on to tell the crowds that those who would follow him must sell all their possessions.  That of course makes every bit of sense if his followers are about to have their lives upended following his crucifixion.  What use then will their possessions be?
These indeed are tough words.  I welcome them. I welcome them because in Church I will hear words that go against my grain.  Words which will challenge some of my unexamined values: words which will not confirm my prejudices but challenge them.
I was born in 1944 and grew up in a family of ten children in Bristol, England. One of my siblings died soon after birth, but nine of us yet live.  Mum and Dad were Methodists, and I was baptised in the Methodist Church.  Dad held a steady but low paying job, but we were poor. I truly remember the shame of poverty.
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper my parents got involved in a fundamentalist Church.  That was not all bad.  At a time in the fifties when our mortgage was about to be foreclosed, these fundamentalists created a long term, low interest loan to Dad and Mum, which paid up the mortgage deficit.  Had they not done so we would have been homeless, and some if not all of we children would have been placed into foster homes or orphanages.
When I was 16 years old I became “Mr. Fundamentalist”.  I was a “boy preacher”, full of the certainties of youth. (Yes, I have been preaching for more than 50 years!)
 Ten years later I left fundamentalist Christianity and joined the Church of England – the historical “mother” of the Episcopal Church.
I had to do this for an array of reasons.
First:   I had intuited that in the Church of England/Episcopal Church my God-given sexuality would not be condemned and damned. 
Second: I had come to understand that fundamentalism was concerned more with answers than it was with questions.  I had more questions than fundamentalism could bear to hear, but I sensed that in the Church of England those questions would be respected and honoured.
Third:  In my fundamentalist Church the choice of the Scripture to be read each Sunday was entirely at the discretion of the preacher.  This meant that we read and heard many old biblical saw-horses, i.e. mostly those passages about “being saved”.
But in the Church of England, with its set readings for each Sunday we had to read biblical passages which we might otherwise have ignored.
Those included tough passages such as we read today.  They are passages which challenge my assumptions about family life, and about possessions.  There are other passages which call me to deep forgiveness and mercy, or to love and respect for all of God’s people, and passages which remind me of my responsibility to the poor.
I dislike them.  I’d prefer not to hear them.    Concepts such as forgiveness, mercy, justice, and respect for all human beings are not rooted in my DNA.  But by being in a Church such as the Episcopal Church with its set Sunday readings I am forced to encounter values which are contrary to my own. 
 The Christian faith as loved and lived in our Episcopal Church challenges us  Sunday by Sunday to re-connect with such vital concepts and values. Our self-centred hubris is challenged week by week in order to summon out our better selves.