Saturday, 20 October 2012

Life without a car

I have now been a week without a car.

Regular readers will know that I borrowed a friend’s car last Sunday to get to my preaching gig, and on Monday  I rented a car for a couple of days to get down and back to Cape Coral, and to get to medical appointments.

To be car-less leads to careful planning. 

I found this out on Thursday when I again borrowed a car and in the space of 75 minutes I went to a pharmacy, to a hardware store, to the bank, to the post office, to my barber and to the supermarket (how lucky I am that each of these businesses are within a mile of my home)

The supermarket visit entailed a detailed list of the comestibles and beverages I would need for five days.

Wednesday and Friday were the tests.  It felt odd to be never more than ¾ mile from my home - when I walked Penne.

But the days also helped me understand that sometime my quick car trips to the supermarket or to “Target” are rooted in impulse.

For instance, a few weeks ago I got it into my head that I wanted a veggie Pizza for dinner.  Nothing, it seemed, would shake that whim, so I went off driving to “Sweetbay” - and of course whilst I was there I picked up a few other items which leaped off the shelves into my basket.

I took the ‘bus today.  I needed to go downtown to return two books to the library, and I wanted to be there to take a look at the arts and crafts festival, and to mingle with the crowds (and see some friends) at Sarasota’s Pride Fest.

The ‘bus stop is a ten minute walk from my home – a piece of cake! I got there in good time ‘cause our locals ‘buses are more likely to run early than late.  Todays ‘bus was on time, and 15 minutes and $1.25 after boarding I was downtown.

The place was hopping.  I grinned to myself thinking “if I had driven here I never would have found a parking spot”.

I did what I needed to do, saw some good friends at PrideFest, stopped by the St. Boniface Church Table there, got free orange juice courtesy of “Tropicana” – a major sponsor of the Fest, and journeyed back home by ‘bus.

That was all very fine.

My good pal Ben is lending me his car again tomorrow so that I can get to Church, and then to a birthday brunch for my pal the Revd. Jack Chrisman.

What I am discovering is that I could “get by” here in SRQ without a car.

But it would be inconvenient.

I could of course get one of those shopping carts and wheel it down a mile to my favourite supermarket a couple of times a week.  All very well except for in monsoon seasons (May – Nov).

I could walk to the bank, the post office, the pharmacy etc.

I could use the ‘bus to get to my dentist, general practitioner and dermatologist.

The dentist is on my local route ‘bus #6.

 But I’d have to take two ‘buses to get to my G.P. and my dermatologist -  with darned inconvenient waits between ‘bus A and ‘bus B.

It’s next to impossible to get to my Church by ‘bus – so I'd have to rely on others for rides.

 And my social life, slim as it is, would be utterly impossible without a car.

ALL THIS IS TO SAY that I'll be glad to get my car back next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.


1. I have a new sense of how hard it is to be poor in urban America, or to live in rural America.  We city-living car owners take so much for granted.

2. I have a new sense of “what is to come” when I am older and no longer able to drive.

P.S.  As I walked Penne tonight I encountered my neighbour Jean. She had noticed the absence of my car so she offered transportation should I need it. Cool!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Play Misty for me

It was a grand start to the day as I walked my dog at 7:00 a.m.

There was a gorgeous mist/fog.

The sun “struggled” to break through.

Maybe it’s the Englishman in me, for  I truly enjoyed walking through the mist.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Providence and a broken down car.

My car is very sick.  It will be in the shop for at least a week. The repairs will be highly expensive.

It broke down last Saturday.
In the providence of God my car failed about 300 yards from my home. So it was easy to stroll home and call AAA who took it to the car repair shop.

The diagnosis is not good.  

A repair shop I used last year failed to replace one vital component when I had the timing belt replaced, with the result that a chain reaction of failures has led to a badly damaged engine. (Don't ask me for the technical details, but the newish timing belt failed and the  valves are all messed up).

I cannot prove the mistake, so I have to suck it up, be patient, and thank goodness for some savings into which I shall dip (that’s why we have savings).

Providentially I have a good friend, Ben who lent me his car so that I could get down to Englewood FL for last Sunday’s services.  What a blessing that the car failed on Saturday afternoon, not on Sunday morning!

Furthermore (see Monday's blog)  I so much wanted to see Gwen Sears who was visiting down in Cape Coral, so I rented a car from “Enterprise” for two days.  It took me down to Cape Coral and back, and I needed it yesterday to visit the Dermatologist for my stitches to be removed, and to the Optician for an eye test.

 “Enterprise” has a good scheme by which you estimate how much gas you will need, and that amount (in my case half a tank full) is built into the charge. When I returned the car this morning, I was just 1 gallon short, for which they charged be $3.47 (a bargain these days).  And they gave me a ride home.  Total cost for renting the car, plus gas for two days --- $136.  Not bad!

Now I will learn to live without a car for a few days. (Ben will lend me his for a shopping run, and to get to Church on Sunday).

How providential it is for me:

to have a good friend who will lend me his car; 

to live in a city in which I can get around by ‘bus if necessary; 

to have some savings; 

to have easy access to car rental companies; 

and to be within a mile of three supermarkets should I have to walk

Although I am not overjoyed that my car is so sick, I realise how blessed I am in this situation.

My blessings are in marked contrast with the urban and rural poor who often have limited or no access to public transportation;  are many miles away from supermarkets, banks, car rental companies, hospitals and clinics etc; and have no savings on which to fall back in emergencies.

How strange it is that both President Obama and Governor Romney have said diddly-squat about the poor.  To listen to them is to hear that we are all either middle class or very wealthy.  Fie on both of them in this instance.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Racism? In the opposition to President Obama? Of course not.

It is utterly clear that there is no racism in the opposition to President Obama.

(My tongue is firmly in my cheek)

At a rally in support of Willard Mitt Romney

Monday, 15 October 2012

Gwen Sears, and the providence of God

The fabulous Diane Rehm had the actor F. Murray Abraham on her show today.  He “came to fame” when he played the role of the composer Antonio Salieri in the film “Amadeus”.

Mr. Abraham has had a distinguished career as an actor, as much on the stage as in film.
You can hear this  Diane Rehm show at

As you listen you will hear Mr. Murray refer more than once to events in his life which he describes as “providential”.

This was unusual because the religious doctrine of “providence”, though much appreciated and favoured by Calvinists/Puritans has fallen out of favour. Nonetheless  Mr Murray speaks freely of “providence”.
The word refers to the gracious provisions which God sends our way.  “God will provide” as they say.

God provides!

In the providence of God I met a fabulous woman back in 1975.  She has been a friend, mentor, ally honest critic, and confessor.

Her name is the Revd. Gwen W Sears. She is a Deacon in our Episcopal Church.  We served together for sixteen years at St. Stephen’s Parish, Pittsfield, MA

This weekend Gwen came down to Cape Coral FL (some 90 miles south of my home in Sarasota) to officiate at the wedding of Matthew Sears, one her grandsons.

I drove to Cape Coral today so that Gwen and I could hook up for lunch.

OMG, it was so wonderful to see her.

Providential eh?

Gwen and Michael

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Sermon for 14th October 2012.

Sermon for 14th October 2012.
The Revd. J. Michael Povey, at St. David’s, Englewood, FL.
Job 23:1-7; Hebrew 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Do you ever fantasise about winning the lottery?   I do. I understand three things about this. First, it would help if I actually bought a lottery ticket. Second, that I stand a greater chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery.  Third, that our state sponsored lotteries are a fool’s game, played by fools.

Yet I fantasise. The first thought I have (pious as I am) is that I would be very generous with my winnings.  But then my conscience or perhaps the Holy Spirit says “how about being generous with what you already have?”

Then I go on to think that I would buy a nicer house (not that there’s anything wrong with the one I now own), and of course that fancier house would need a security system -  even better it would be in a gated community.

Next I would begin to invest my money -  stocks are a bit risky, and bonds pay next to nothing in interest -  so I would start to worry  about the security of my wealth.

Then I would have to think about my friends.  Is this person a true friend, or is she/he hanging around because I am wealthy.

The list would go on. I have a feeling that within a short time I would not possess my wealth, but my wealth would possess me.

And I would probably forget the most important question “where is God in all this?”

I grew up in relative  poverty. Not grinding poverty, but poverty none the less. I am one of ten children and my dad (the sole breadwinner) made a very low wage.

So I grew up with “hand outs” from good intentioned people; with necessary welfare supplements from the government -  without which we could not have survived; and with a mother (she was in charge of the money) who devised every frugal habit you could imagine in order to feed, clothe and house us.  It was not fun.  Worst of all, we knew that we were poor, and we knew what it felt like to be patronised by albeit well meaning folks who somehow managed to convey the message that we were somehow responsible for our poverty.

Thus I have very ambivalent beliefs about money and possessions. I despise poverty.  I distrust wealth.

The scriptures teach a great deal about wealth and poverty, and much of the teaching is not to our liking.

That’s why we need the bible -  to teach us things that we find to be downright disturbing.

The book called Job addresses the connection between wealth and righteousness.  The presumption was that wealth was God’s reward for upright living.  Job had been fabulously rich - therefore – it was thought – he must have been entirely upright.

In a flash all of Job’s wealth was taken away.  Job’s friends think that they know why.  They are sure that he must have sinned gravely, and that his current distress is as a result of his sin.

Job is as certain as any human being can be that he has not sinned, and that God is not punishing him.

He is also quite certain that God is inscrutable, so much so that God has disappeared in this moment of utter distress. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right but I cannot see him”  (vv 8/9)

God is absent from Job. But Job is not mealy mouthed about this.  “If I find God” he says “I (will) lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (v 4).

In short, in God’s eyes, human poverty is not a result of sin, and human wealth is not a sign of virtue.  Life is much more complicated than that, and the ways of God are deeply inscrutable.

Nonetheless, we can “take on God” and argue our case before him. God is accountable to us.

The other side of that coin is that God can take us on, can challenge our ways of life, can call our beliefs into question. We are accountable to God.

God in Jesus Christ challenges a man in today’s gospel reading. He is a likeable man, he is a righteous man.  He “has it all”, but he wants one more thing.  He wants to “inherit” eternal life.

(Interesting is it not, that this man sees eternal life as something one can “inherit” as a right, rather than something one can receive as a gift).

 Jesus loves this man, and he loves him enough to tell him a home truth. Jesus is saying, you cannot receive the gift of eternal life as long as your possessions possess you.

Jesus’ home truth is not directed only at this man.  It is a direct call to modern Christians who value their possessions more than they long for eternal life.

 It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God, and we, on a world scale, are amongst the richest.

I have known poverty.

These days I have a comfortable lifestyle and a more than adequate income.

That’s all very well in its own way, but I’ll not be able to take any of it with me.

So the questions I face as one who seeks to be a follower of Jesus are these:

Am I possessed by my many possessions?

Or am I possessed by a passionate desire to follow Jesus, and thereby to enjoy the gift of eternal life?

I cannot have both.