Saturday, 18 February 2012

A good day, and a belly laugh at the supermarket

Wow!  What a good day.

After walking with Penne a couple of times this morning I shopped for some good produce (parsnips, green peppers, sweet onions, egg plant, parsley, tomatoes, spinach etc.) at our local Mennonite owned fruit and vegetable market.

Next I took out some old and tired shrubs from my garden, planted some new hibiscuses, thinned out and transplanted some oyster plants, then dug in some good cow manure, and spread some mulch.

After lunch (a bowl of my home made cabbage and tomato soup) I settled down to listen to the Metropolitan Opera’s live production of  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” broadcasted on our local Public Broadcasting Station.

Even as I listened to the Opera I continued to read John Updike’s 1974 novel “A Month of Sundays”.

Opera over I made another batch of Baba Ganoush – a healthy enough snack which I will munch on a bit of sliced and toasted baguette.

Dinner was a stir fry with onion, green pepper, parsnip and carrot (these two first par-boiled) and a bit of chicken.

As I cut up and prepared the veggies I listened again to classical music on the PBS radio station.  It was a treat, with the Pittsburgh Symphony playing this music

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1

Oh the joys of retirement.

Not only joy, but also a belly laugh.

Late in the afternoon I zoomed down to my local Sweet Bay Supermarket to pick up a bit of cheese and a few other items.

My clerk/cashier was Grahame.   He is a high school student aged about 16 or 17.  Grahame is more than  6’ tall and is always enthusiastic and even joyful about his work. He has a quick wit.  

Sweet Bay workers wear green shirts so I always call Grahame “the Jolly Green Giant” which he likes.  [“Jolly Green Giant” is a brand name in these United States] 

Today Grahame asked me about my face, and the mess caused by the CARAC cream which I have to use to destroy some pre-cancerous cells.

I explained this to him, and added “it’s an awful mess”.

Without a blink he responded with his innate wit, by saying “but it brings out your eyes”.

I laughed like a madman. 

I love quick wit, and never more than when it comes from a youngster.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Church and Coca-Cola - "promoting thirst without quenching it".

The anti-hero in John Updike’s 1974 novel “A Month Of Sundays” is the Revd. Thomas Marshfield - a disgraced pastor.

In the novel the minister Thomas Marshfield is portrayed as the son of another ineffectual minister.

“Thomas” describes a part of his youth.

He says: **  “I did not confuse my father and God...... Nor was God in the Churches.  In general the churches, visited by me too often on weekdays – when the custodian was moving the communion table about like a packing case, and seeping up the chewing gum wrappers that insolently spangled the sacrosanct  reaches of the choir -  bore for  me the same relation to God that billboards did to Coca-Cola:  they promoted thirst without quenching it”.

**  ( A Month of Sundays”  Alfred A Knopf, 1992   page 22)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Cooking, preaching and farting

Back at SCTI  (Sarasota County Technical Institute) for my second (of two) cooking classes today.  Once again I worked with Joyce, a snowbird from Montreal, Canada.

We made Ratatouille Latkes (latkes using eggplant instead of potato), and Baba Ganoush.

It was “cooking made simple” because all the ingredients had already been diced, chopped, cut or quartered by the full time culinary students at SCTI.

Joyce and I agreed that the classes could have been more challenging.  Either of us could easily have made this week’s dishes and last week’s (Toasted Israeli Couscous, and Chicken/Chorizo Basquaise) from a recipe at home.  Neither of us learned new skills.

But the camaraderie was good and I doubt that I would have ever made the Couscous or the Latkes without the inspiration of the classes.

So if I think of the classes as “trying new recipes” (rather than learning new skills) then I will concede that it was a worthwhile endeavour.

It was also fun to observe the other participants.
One of them “gushed” at every turn, and described the classes as outstanding.

Another class-member interrupted our chef at every turn, airing an existing expertise gleaned from a Cooking Channel.

These two people reminded me of parts of  my life as a Rector.

I had parishioners who “gushed” at every word from my mouth (and sometimes even admired my farts).

Other parishioners could not wait to impress me with their wisdom and learning.

Fortunately most of my parishioners were good-hearted and prayerful souls with whom it was a pleasure to minister  ---  or to cook up the gospel!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ain't evolution wonderful.

As Penne and I walked this morning we came across a wonderful sight.  

There they were; two gorgeous woodpeckers.

We watched as they hopped up and down a tree trunk, always in synch with each other, and often playing “peek-a-boo” from either side of the trunk.

It was a joyous and delightful sight.  The birds seemed to be utterly oblivious to our presence.

About then my friend Bill came by, having a workout on his in-line skates (which he does every morning).   Bill is a “techie".  He had his I-phone at the ready and took the following photo’.  

One of the woodpeckers is clearly visible on the left, and you can see a bit of the other on the right.  (It was difficult to take a photo’ as the birds rarely rested from their dance).

Good photo’ or not, it was a splendid moment.

As Bill skated away I cried out “ain’t evolution wonderful”.  It was a serious comment. Bill concurred.

As a Christian I see no conflict between the biblical accounts of “creation” and the scientific accounts of evolution.

On the contrary, it seems utterly plausible to me that the Creator God who (according to the bible)  gives humans the ability to choose, should also “build in” to every bit of matter the chance to “chose” between life, growth, change and advancement --  or death and extinction.

I relished every moment of the woodpecker dance which I saw this morning.  

It was a joy in and of itself, and a powerful endorsement of creation via evolution.

Woodpeckers - Bill's photo' from this morning.

Pilated Woodpecker  (from the web)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Oh what a mess I am

The Dermatologist has me on a cream called CARAC  to help clear up some of the pre-cancerous spots on my face and scalp.  The freezing method is never very efficacious for me, and the celebrated blue light treatment did nothing.

CARAC works, but it’s a messy business. The places where it is applied get red, inflamed and bloody.  (I look a mess).  

Then they dry out and get so damn itchy, before, in due course the scabs fall off.

The cure is but marginally better than the cause.  If only I had a bit more melanin!

But the messy cure is surely better than full blown skin cancer.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A progressive congregation?

The phrase “going to Church” is one that trips off our tongues very easily.  

What we mean is that we are travelling to a particular building for a religious service or some other event which is part of our religious heritage.

For the Church is not a building – we all know that well.  

The Church is the people of God, gathered together by the Holy Spirit, to obey and serve God by being Christ’s body in the world.

That’s the theory. 

But folks join with the Church on Sunday mornings for a host of reasons.  

For some it is habit.  

For some it is because of Holy Communion.  

Others gather to read Scripture and to hear it being taught.  

Some folks are drawn by the music. 

Yet others seek a moral foundation for their lives -  or possibly for the lives of their children!  

Others are seeking “sound theology”.

I would place a check mark (in English english a “tick”) alongside most of those “reasons”.

But in my more honest moments I know that none of them tell the whole truth.  The fact is that I choose to join with this particular congregation because I like the people (at least most of them!).

I am usually glad for those 60 – 90 minutes when I can feel at home, or feel connected with people who are on the whole quite a bit like me: white, educated, middle class, and reasonably prosperous.

 It’s all very safe.

The parish I attend claims to be “progressive” (whatever that means).  In truth we are quite regressive, in the sense that we are all much of a muchness.

We’d actually be making progress if we chose to become a parish which was attractive to people who are not a bit like us!

And here’s the kicker.  

My oldest sister attends a conservative evangelical congregation which is situated in an inner city area of my home City, Bristol, U.K.

When I was young, this was an entirely white area, housing the working classes. Now it is multi-racial to the max.

The leaders of this congregation made a decision to “stay in the City”, and not to flee to the suburbs. 

More than that, the congregation “turned its face” to the neighbourhood.  These days, this lively and flourishing congregation includes members from more than 23 nations.  It is as about as multi-racial as any congregation would hope to be, and should be.

But despite all my theories  about progressive and inclusive Christianity, I opt for the “safety” of a heterogeneous congregation.

In practice I am of the “birds of a feather” school of behaviour. Of this I am profoundly embarrassed.  It is part of my sin.