Saturday, 17 January 2015

My other Church

I went to my other Church this morning (17th January 2015).   It is known to the public as "Trader Joe's".

My plan was to buy no more, nor less than their high quality canned dog and cat food. Sinner that I am,  I allowed my eyes to wander over the cheese section.

I gave into my food lust and bought 1lb 10oz of "Cave Aged Cheddar Cheese".  I could hardly resist, for the label stated "Aged in the famous Wookey Hole Caves".
Wookey Hole is a village near Wells, Somerset, U.K.  Although I have visited Wells and its splendid Cathedral many times, I have never gotten to the famous caves at Wookey Hole (even though the village is a mere nineteen miles away from my natal City of Bristol).
But I have been to Cheddar, Somerset, U.K. many times; to enjoy the famous gorge, (and as a school-boy on a field trip)  to enter the limestone caves with their marvelous stalactites. (I have seen similar caves with stalactites in Lebanon). 
Cheddar is eighteen miles away from Bristol.  It is, of course the original home of the entirely famous Cheddar Cheese.
Since Cheddar and Wookey Hole are more or less local for Bristolians, my regional pride meant that I chose not to resist the impulse to buy some Cheddar Cheese which had been aged in the Wookey Hole caves.
Odd ain't it?  That is:  it's odd to purchase English made and aged Cheddar Cheese in an American store some 4350 miles from Cheddar/Wookey Hole.  Makes my West Country English heart beat proudly!
Here (from the web) is a photo' of Cheddar Cheese being aged in the Wookey Hole caves.
And here's a bit of the history of Cheddar Cheese (via Wikipedia).
The cheese originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, South West England. Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese. Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 30 miles (48 km) of Wells Cathedral.
Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century. A pipe roll of King Henry II from 1170 records the purchase of 10,240 lb (4,640 kg) at a farthing per pound (totaling £10.13s.4d., about £10.67 in decimal currency). Charles I (1600–1649) also bought cheese from the village.
Romans may have brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France.
Central to the modernisation and standardisation of cheddar cheese, was the 19th century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding.  For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene, and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed "the father of cheddar cheese".
Harding introduced new equipment to the process of cheese-making, including his "revolving breaker" for curd cutting, saving much manual effort.
The "Joseph Harding method" was the first modern system for cheddar production based upon scientific principles. Harding stated that cheddar cheese is "not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy". He and his wife were behind the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William Harding, were responsible for introducing cheddar cheese production to Australia[ and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Friday, 16 January 2015

My cynicism

1.  So there they were today in the White House:  President Obama, pretending to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  and David Cameron, pretending to be Winston Churchill.

(The Employers' "new clothes?")

2.  CNN  (Cable Network News) used to be a trusted source for international news (remember their splendid coverage of the massacre  in  Tiananmen Square?)

Now CNN is no more than a shill for governmental propaganda regarding "terrorism".  Their coverage today has consisted of a hashing and re-hashing of so-called news (with a ton of opinion and speculation)  about so-called terrorist cells in Belgium and France.

I used to respect Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper of CNN, as faithful and honest reporters. Now I have come to understand that they are no more than propagandists for the powers that be.

3.  The public/popular  media in the U.S.A. (and probably in the U.K.)  wants us to believe that the human race is at its greatest peril because of terrorism.

In the meantime the major "news" sources have little or nothing to say about climate change, global warming, the degradation of the oceans etc. etc.: those factors which are the chief threat to all life.

4.  As I think about this  I am sh-t-scared for my young nieces/nephews,  and great nephews/nieces. They face a tough future for which they are ill prepared,

Thursday, 15 January 2015


A huge flock in a nearby tree, chattering up a storm.
They descended onto the grass at the back of my condo., and fed furiously.
Then, off they went.
I am guessing that they were starlings.
Here are some photo's, which are not as clear as I would wish, but I had to take them through windows from inside. 
If I had opened the door to get a better "snap"  I am sure that they would have bolted.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

On the other hand...

On the other hand...

YESTERDAY I was assailed by that ill-tempered man who claimed that Penne had "crapped" on the grass behind his Villa.

TODAY I went to the back of beyond in Sarasota County at an outfit called Lincare to get some filters for my CPAP machine.

I was helped by a employee named Tina who asked "And how is your dog?"

I had previously met Tina when she came to my home in March 2014 to help me set up the CPAP machine. Now, almost ten months later she (with fondness) remembered Penne. That made me feel good.

On the other hand...

YESTERDAY a hapless neighbour drove his Jeep SUV into our pond.

TODAY "pondside" I spotted two Roseate Spoonbills. I've seen these gorgeous waterfowl in the shallow waters of Florida's west coast intra-coastal waterway, but never before in my neck of the woods.

I stood to admire and enjoy them for about two minutes. Then they took off in flight (a first for me, I had previously seen them only on the ground).

It was such a gorgeous sight, maybe "awesome" to use an overworked word!

I did not have my camera to hand, so here are some Roseate Spoonbill pictures from the internet.

On the ground (or branch)
In flight

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

An ageing teenager with an overload of testosterone (and another local drama) today,

He moved into our neighbourhood about two years ago. I can see his home from my front door.

"He" is a sixty-something military retiree.

I have never cared for his behaviour. He struts around wearing gym shorts, whilst shirtless. (It is not a pleasant sight.) He does push-ups on his driveway, even more unpleasant to behold. He drives a throaty and noisy Camero, and also a loud Hog, revving it up and over as he cruises our street.

I think of him as an ageing teenager with too much testosterone (real or faked). I have never spoken to him.

He arrived at my front door, all un-announced at 12:20 today. Without a word of greeting he yelled "the next time your dog craps on the grass behind my villa, pick it up".

I protested (with vigour) and said " I have never walked behind your villa (true), and I always pick up my dog's poop (also true).

As he retreated down my driveway I said (with even more vigour), "please make sure of your facts before you make accusations".

He responded with "don't say anything more or I'll be back at your front door". I think that was a threat)

I said "I don't want to see you at my front door", to which he replied "then keep your mouth shut".

I was still standing inside my front porch, so with "righteous indignation",on a very high horse, and with even greater vigour I said "Don't you ever to tell me to keep my mouth shut when I am in my own home".


Once I had calmed down I got into my car with Penne, and drove to the Tampa Airport, there to meet my friend Judy B who is down here to visit our mutual friends Ron and Char.

I had good and safe travel there and back. Judy's flight arrived early. We (Judy, Penne and I) sped back to SRQ. I deposited Judy with Ron and Char, and hung around long enough to have a glass of iced tea, and some gentle conversation.


Meanwhile, back in Glen Oaks Ridge (where I live) there had be3en a huge drama. One of my octogenarian neighbours who lives on the opposite side of the retention pond from me ( I do not know him), managed to mistake reverse gear for first gear, and the accelerator for the brake, and reversed into our pond (with two passengers).

Another resident (on the spur of the movement) dove into the pond, and rescued the three old folks from the car - good and great for him.

No-one was hurt or injured. The driver of the car is utterly embarrassed.

At least two of our local T.V. stations have reported on this high drama.

(Andy Warhol would be pleased. Glen Oaks Ridge has had its moment of fame. "We" were on television!)

If this link does not work, here is the initial report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune


Monday, 12 January 2015

A one skillet (frying pan) meal.

"One skillet meals" are perfect for those of us who live alone

So I made a "one skillet meal" for lunch today.

I started by sautéing five or six stalks of asparagus (cut into 3" pieces), and a heaping handful of edamame (soy) beans in a tablespoon (American size) of butter.

Then I added a three or four ounce portion of lean sirloin steak, and continued the sautéing until the steak was medium rare.

The prep. and cooking time was no more than ten minutes. The one skillet meal itself was delicious.

It was most probably a reasonably healthy meal.

It was certainly a quick and easy meal for a bachelor who lives alone.

(and the "clean up" was simplicity itself. ): one skillet, one plate, one knife and one fork!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The art of preaching (and my sermon today).

1.   Sermons are essentially oral presentations.  So when we read a sermon we do not see:
(a)  The body language of the preacher ( I "dance" and move my arms about a great deal when I preach).  I could not preach were my hands tied behind my back.
(b)  The variations in tone, speed, and volume of the preacher's voice.
(c)  The ways in which the preacher looks (or does not look)  at the congregation as she/he preaches.
(d) The pauses between sentences and phrases which the preacher uses.
(e)  The connection (or lack of connection) between the preacher and the congregation on any given Sunday.
2.  The preacher has no idea of what will be "heard".  It will most likely NOT be what he/she thinks is the main point of the sermon.
For instance, re my sermon at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL this morning.  This is what I heard after the service:
a) More than one person wanted to comment on the art of window washing (oh the danger of using "life experience" stories).
b) One woman was stirred to great concern about the plight of homeless people in Sarasota.
c)  Three people were fascinated with my brief introduction,  which talked about the Mandaeans.
d)  Others were enlightened by my comments regarding the "rivalry"  between the John the Baptiser movement, and the Jesus movement.
3.  But all was not lost!
a)  One parishioner said  "thank you, I was fed this morning".
b) Another said  (and this was music to my ears),  "You made me think".
Preaching is not all that it is cracked up to be. 
On the other hand, sometimes, (by the grace of God),  it is much more than it is cracked up to be.
So here is my sermon.  Do please open your bible and read the passages from which my sermon took root.


Sermon for 11th January 2015.

The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL

Acts 19:1-7, Mark 4:1-11

Is it John the Baptiser, or is it Jesus?

My friend Johanna used to work with overseas students at Suffolk University in Boston. In the course of her work she met a young man from Iraq who was a Mandaean: that is, a member of a minority ethnic and religious people who live in Iraq and Iran. Mandaeists are not Muslims, or Jews, or Christians.  They revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist, but reject Abraham, Moses and Jesus of Nazareth.  (Information from Wikipedia).   The John the Baptiser movement never entirely died out.  

The bible passages for today speak to the tensions between the earliest followers of John the Baptiser, and the earliest followers of Jesus.

Paul tells the John the Baptist folks that their baptisms “into John” were insufficient and inferior. They seem to have accepted his word, and were baptised again, in the name of the Lord Jesus; the point being (according to Paul) that John would have wanted them to believe in Jesus.  Mark makes a similar point.  According to Mark’s record, John the Baptiser was not “the real thing”, he was but the self effacing precursor for Jesus.  John the Baptiser was the campaign manager, Jesus was the candidate.

Jesus comes from his home town of Nazareth and is baptised by John.  Was this baptism of Jesus a “baptism of repentance” as John taught?

If repentance is a matter of feeling sorry for various sins and offences the answer is no. But if repentance is the desire and action which leads to a journey towards God and in God, then the answer is yes.  Jesus baptism is the event in which his self understanding becomes clear and focused.  He is to live as “the Beloved” of God (hence the voice from heaven).  The “Beloved One” will live in God and move towards God, taking with him those who would be disciples, learners, followers and lovers.

We might think about baptism as that event when our calling to live as the Beloved of God begins to move into focus and clarity?  But of course many of us were infants when we were baptised. We cannot remember our own baptisms.  That does not need to be a problem.  For just as we cannot remember when our mother’s first fed and then weaned us, we do know that they did so because they loved and cared for us in our infant state.  (We learned to eat long before we knew a thing about good nutrition). In the same way in our baptisms baptism God took that maternal initiative to welcome us into a family about which we knew nothing, a family in which we could grow into focus and clarity about our calling, to live in God and to move towards God as the beloved ones.

We sometimes love to binge on fast food (boy is it tasty!) even though we know that it is not good for us. That’s not harmful every now and then, but if we are wise we will be resist the temptation to constantly binge, and remember to make healthy and nutritious food the clear focus of our diets.  In a similar way we need frequent reminders of what it means to live as baptised persons; we need a clearer focus about our journey with Jesus towards God.

That’s why, on this day when Jesus’ own baptism is brought to mind, we will use pray the baptismal covenant.

During the past week I cleaned the windows on my screened in porch.  There are thirty four panels.  I did not realize how dirty they were until I began to clean them, (so dirty that I had to wash each one twice).  I had grown used to a murky view. I should clean them regularly, not just every other year.  Now I can enjoy the view of our lovely pond with greater clarity.  I wished that another person could be with me to stand back and point out the places I missed, for it’s impossible to get windows utterly clean when we stand too close.

It’s a parable about my spiritual life.  I can get used to the murky view and think it to be normal.   Or I can pay attention to it regularly, and look for those Christian friends who will stand with me, but a bit back, to point out the areas which I might otherwise miss.

The renewal of our baptismal promises, done together, not alone, is akin to spiritual window washing.  It’s something we need to do.

Take the other week for example. I can sometimes be proud that I am not racist.  So, if I need to go that way, I’ll drive through Newtown (Sarasota's majority African-American area), as a little (somewhat pretentious) statement that, public opinion to the contrary, it is not a dangerous place to be.

Or I’ll use the North Library in that area. 

The other week I decided to go to the Wal-Mart neighbourhood market on the north Trail as a prideful “statement” that I am happy to shop in a store where most   customers are black.    As I left the store I noticed a thirty-something African American man as he finished his cigarette.  I began to walk toward my car, and he began to follow.  I got unreasonably nervous. I stopped, and then I zigzagged.  He saw this and called out “it’s alright, I am not following you”. Of course he wasn’t. He was simply walking to his car.

“Will you”, the baptismal covenant asks me “respect the dignity of every human being?”  I am not allowed to respond “yes, except when I am in Newtown”.

Then there’s this bit which I wrote in my blog earlier this week.

Wednesday mornings see me at Resurrection House (a day shelter for homeless people in SRQ), to lead a prayer service.  Attendance has been sparse in recent weeks. But on both Wednesday 31st December 2014, and on Wednesday 7th January I met two different homeless men who each wanted to talk about their lives and failures.

 I don't normally offer counsel, but on both weeks I decided to listen, and to respond with care. In each case the men:

1. Blamed others for the failures which best them.

2.  Could not be honest about their own responsibility, until I pressed them not to evade the truth.

3. Found many reasons to reject my suggestions regarding possible ways out of their mire.

 "Tut tut"  you may well say, (as I did as I counselled these men).
But as I drove home this came to mind: "Oh yes I am often just like that". 

I want to blame others for my failures; I fail to be deeply honest about my life;  I reject those suggestions which might upset my apple-cart (even though those suggestions might lead to a greater wholeness in my life).

“Will you”, the baptismal covenant asks me “whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”

Those Mandaeans practice frequent baptisms, some of them on a daily basis.  That is not the Christian practice, but the public affirmation of our Baptismal Covenant is a gracious opportunity for some spiritual window washing:  an important task through which we can see again with clarity our vocation to walk with the Lord Jesus as God’s Beloved Ones.

We’ll do so in a short while, not as triumphal proclamation, but as a humble prayer.