Me Feeling Sorry For Me

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Here’s a pity party diary entry from June 29, 2009: I could just as well have written it yesterday:

Somewhere in the Book Of Common Prayer occurs the phrase “Miserable Offenders”. I identify with that phrase.

While other Christians of my acquaintance talk about feeling happy, joyous, and prosperous, my own experience tends more toward Christian misery.

I don’t know if this is an accurate perception or merely a quirk of my own psyche, some imbalance of chemicals in my brain, some morose hereditary defect, some buried childhood experience, some vile sin—or it my own spiritual/mental state reflects reality.

Or maybe I just overreact to external circumstances.

More likely than any of the above, maybe I’m just a bitter, grouchy old bastard given to whining and bemoaning my state.

So, when in misery, I turn to devotions and Scripture hoping to see some glimmer of light. That’s what’s supposed to work for other Christians. Again and again I’ve heard others gush about the promises of God and the comfort of bible reading.

Good for them.

Feeling low yesterday I turned to devotions:

Nineteenth Century revivalist Charles Finney wrote, “If we do not enjoy the service of God, it is because we do not truly serve Him… Always remember that whenever you lose your enjoyment of serving God, you may know you are not serving Him right”.

Whoopee!

Isn’t that a comfort?

I turned to another devotional book to find that the reading for today deals with the sin of impatience. … Impatience? Who me? After all I’ve been hounding Donald for six months to fix whatever computer glitch has been blocking me from my website… And he came over tonight to fix it and now I have no internet access at all.

My internet was down for eleven days last month, and now it’s gone again. So yesterday I called AT&T Fast Access to be told by some girl in some foreign country who does not speak much English that the company will not send our a service man because I have the wrong equipment. The line repairman says the fault is in the DSL system; the DSL repairman says it’s in the phone lines.

Bottom line: I have no internet again.

A pox on all their houses.

Impatient? Who me?

Anyhow, I turned to the Holy Bible and my scheduled reading takes me to that place where God tells King David that he’s not qualified to build the temple but that he’s welcome to gather materials so one of his descendants can build it.

Ever wonder why I hate having devotions?

Why am I writing this stuff? If I want to win readers to Christ, shouldn’t I be upbeat and positive?

Well, maybe so. But I think Christ places a certain value on honesty. And this is where I am in my spiritual life right now. I may not be right, but I try to be real.

To me it seems that for decades I’ve been molding bricks without straw and I’m really tired of it.

I feel the game’s not worth the candle and I’m ready to cash in my chips. If I was working a job, I’d retire. I feel as though I’ve worked and worked as hard as I can and ended up with nothing to show for it. I’m just weary to the bone. Gone down in utter defeat.

And it’s not that I don’t believe there is a resurrection, it’s that I just don’t care.

What about my writing?

Who cares.

Again and again over the years, editors and readers have told me that I’m a good writer—so long as they can use my stuff for free. Hardly anyone anywhere thinks I’m a good enough writer to pay for anything I write. Were it not for Ginny’s working at a real job, we’d starve. My work has no value.

I’ve heard it said that if you are doing something and it doesn’t help you, then you can stop doing it and it won’t hurt you.

I feel as though I’ve pissed away my whole life fiddling around with things that are not quite right, that I’ve taken up space and wasted time.

But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, and all that crap.

That’s what I hear anyhow.

Somehow I’ve missed out on that part of the Christian life. The fact that I’ve missed out does not make Christianity any less real. It just means that I miss out on that element in it.

Maybe I’m just a trifle down today.

Maybe I should read Ecclesiastes to cheer up.

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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A Powerful Message!

Monday, April 14, 2014

 

Yesterday as we observed Palm Sunday, as members of the church congregation held palm fronds, the pastor prayed:

Bless, O Lord, we pray You, these branches of palms; and grant that, as Your people outwardly with their bodies, do worship You, so inwardly in their souls, they may serve You with pure devotion, that they may be victorious over the assaults of the enemy and cleave steadfastly unto all good works, through Christ, our Lord”.

And all the people say, “Amen.”

When it came time for the sermon part of the worship service, the pastor told us to “Concentrate only on Jesus Christ and His death on the cross”.

Then he knelt facing the altar, his back to the people, and he said not another word for the 20 minutes usually devoted to his sermon.

About 200 of us worshipers meditated on the cross in total silence…

Except for the occasional sound of weeping.

What a powerful spiritual experience!

Of course, after the service, being Christ Church’s token representative of the devil, I shook the pastor’s hand and said, “I’d like a tape of today’s sermon”.

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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An Oriental Honor & Hunting A Stolen Prayer Book

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I spent hours yesterday hunting a reference to a stolen Prayer Book.

I spend a lot of time hunting things around the house—my glasses, my cane, my shoes. So I want to write about hunting that stolen Prayer Book…

But first, I felt honored Saturday as I waited at Silver Star, a Chinese restaurant I visit frequently with various members of my family. In fact, I’ve eaten so much Chinese food, I’m shaped like Buddha.

Saturday I sat alone two hours for a in the restaurant waiting to meet a young woman who chose to do something else—but that’s another story.

A Chinese gentleman I’d seen there occasionally approached me at the cash register as I paid my bill. He said, “Your sons are not with you today”. Then he asked how many children I have. “Six. Three sons and three daughters,” I said.

“Ah,” he said, “I have seen. Your sons honor you with great respect”.

“Yes, they do. I have no idea why,” I said.

“Ah, there is a reason,” he said.

And he gave me a little bow.

How uplifting and flattering to hear a man from that culture say such a nice thing.

I almost feel like an ancestor.

Now on to my Prayer Book hunt:

A few weeks ago pastor Mark Eldredge asked me to write a book on the history of Christ Church, Jacksonville, Anglican; I’m researching local history, attending church events, interviewing people, Googling, praying, phoning parishioners, requesting testimonies, cussing my computer, snapping photos, gathering tidbits—all the stuff that goes into writing a history book.

I’m in my element.

Since Ginny died, mostly I’ve sat in the dark smoking my pipe and staring into space. This writing project enlivens me a bit. Not much, but a bit.

Anyhow, I remember that years and years ago in some book or the other, I read a diary entry posted by a man who stole a Prayer Book from a local church.

That incident would fit right in with the chapter I’m writing on the ancestry of Christ Church Anglican.

But where did I read about it?

For 35 years I’ve collected books related to Florida history; hundreds of those books fill my shelves.

Which one contained that stolen Prayer Book incident?

I searched.

I checked Ward’s Old Hickory’s Town. I checked Pleasant Gold’s History of Duval County. I checked Martin’s Trial By Fire. I checked Burton’s Episcopal History….

I know it’s somewhere.

I know I’ve read it… or is my mind slipping?

Ginny used to say that while I’m working, our living room looks like a battle field after a battle of books. Open books with place markers litter every flat surface including the floor as I rummage around for some particular obscure, half-remembered reference that I’m sure I hard or read sometime somewhere in a book by somebody.

A few years ago Ginny snapped this photo of me, in my formal office attire, lighting my pipe and absorbed while working on another history book:

John At Work

Yesterday, after four hours of hunting for that one half-remembered paragraph about the stolen Prayer Book—I found it!

Happy dance!

It was in the 1926 edition of T. Frederic Davis’ History Of Jacksonville, Florida, and Vicinity From 1534 to 1924, page 132.

Happy dance. Happy dance.

Locating that reference will make for one paragraph in my own history book.

I love my work.

Thanks be to God.

 

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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A Bazaar Ministry

April 3, 2014
As I work writing a book on the history of Christ Church Jacksonville, Anglican, I attempt to visit various church activities to get a feel for what’s going on.
The present church campus covers over 13 acres of land at 6310 Blanding Blvd. Where a drive-in movie used to be. To use some of that undeveloped land as a venue for ministry, the church opens a bazaar each Wednesday from 6 a.m. t0 1p.m.
Yesterday my son drove me out there.
It amazed me.
Having never been there before, I expected a rinky-dink affair with few booths and fewer customers.
Not so.
Vendor booths
Vendors filled every booth, every table, and many spread merchandise on blankets on the ground as customers thronged the place.
Bazaar Vendor display

Mike Kieffer, the church’s Bazaar Chairman, told me that yesterday was a slow day. He sees his role there as a ministry to serve Christ. His office serves as a Prayer Room where troubled people can seek the Lord. And Mike uses his contacts at the bazaar to aid disabled people. He’s assembled a crew responsible for building a number of home wheelchair ramps.
The bazaar raises funds for the church—among other things.
The sign is unintentional I’m sure, but the bazaar ministry separates the sheep from the goats.
As Anglican priest John Wesley once said, “It’s hard to live a goat and die a lamb”.

Sheep and Goats
Yes you can buy sheep, goats, roosters, pots, backpacks, brassieres, tea cups, car parts, toys, bows & arrows, books, keys, Confederate money, drift wood, jewelry—things you can not live without, but you just didn’t know it until you see it on display at this flea market.

Smile Train
Don Neeley sells things—I call ‘em dolls, he calls ‘em Action Figures—at his display called., The Smile Train. His slogan is, “Changing The World One Smile At A Time”.
Proceeds from sales at his Bazaar display, Neeley said, go to pay for operations for babies and kids with a clef palate. His vendor display includes before and after photos of smiling kids who once suffered disfigured faces.
Purely in the interest of research for the church history book you understand, yesterday I bought a used jacket and an alarm clock and a statue of a naked girl with a spear and a goldfish bowl and an empty 1927 whiskey bottle and a Norman Rockwell coffee mug and a tablecloth and a pipe stand and a ….
How have I ever managed to live without these treasures?

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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I Rob The Poor

Monday, March 31, 2014

First, my work on the history of Christ Church Jacksonville, Anglican, progresses nicely as I continue gathering material for the book.

Last week the Rev. Ed Murfin, a retired Methodist minister, supplied me with a huge packet of photos he assembled of the early days of Christ Church. His help is proving invaluable in my work.

This morning, I sent members a request that they write a page or two of their own history telling how contact with Christ Church helps them draw closer to Jesus.

And yesterday I snapped a photo of the Blood Mobile ministry at church:

 DSCF0541

Worshipers in this congregation often demonstrate their faith through various hands-on works.

The Apostle James said, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

But last week I robed the poor and paid dearly for it.

Monday I ate barbecue at Sonny’s BBQ and when it came time to tip the waitress I lacked change.

For years I’ve carried a billfold with an outside pocket where I always kept a couple of dollars designated for the poor. Ginny, God rest her, had the same arrangement in her pursed; we called it the Poor Pocket. That way when a panhandler approached, I could slip him the price of burger, fried and a coke without exposing MY Money in an inside pocket of the billfold.

Well, lacking change to tip the cute waitress, I took the money for the poor out my Poor Pocket and left that on her tray….

The plot thickens.

Wednesday night my grown children treated me to beer and pizza.

Afterwards we sat at a table on an open-air patio at a Starbucks drinking coffee.

A bum approached from behind me and asked for a bit of change to get something to eat.

Wanting to impress my kids with my generous charity and well-known kindness, and godly nature and incredible good looks, without looking up I said, “Sure. I’ve got something for you”.

Then I reached for my billfold and opened the Poor Pocket—to find it empty.

Alas, I’d given the designated poor cash to the cute waitress.

I had nothing in my Poor Pocket.

I wanted to tell the bum to go away.

But I’d already said in front of witnesses that I would help him out.

The poor are always with you and are always a pain in the ass.

Is that in the Bible?

So I flipped my billfold open to fish out a dollar… only to discover that all I had in there was a ten dollar bill.

Did I want to give this guy Ten Dollars of MY MONEY?

No! But I’d already said I would help him.

Suppose he could have changed a ten for me?

I felt so embarrassed.

I should have broken that ten to tip the waitress instead of taking money from the Poor Pocket.

Nothing for it.

The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.

I don’t qualify.

I grudgingly gave the guy the ten.

Racked up no points with God at all.

The bum went inside the Starbucks and bought himself a treat.

Me.

I fumed.

 

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Anatomy Of A History

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yesterday, in a  grief counseling session with hospice nurse Katie McConnell,  we talked about how, almost  a year after Ginny’s death, I am only just now beginning to function and gain equilibrium after months .of doing little beyond puffing my pipe while  gazing into vacant space and maybe getting up to feed my goldfish once in a while.

Witing cartoon Shoe window
Mrs. McConnell cautioned me that it’s common to expect more intense manifestations of grief as the one year anniversary date, April 22, 2013, approaches.
Katie asked me about the process I’m using to work on a book about the history of Christ Church Jacksonville, Anglican Inc..
Trying to describe that process feels like trying to verbally describe how to write a cursive M to a person who has never seen one—and without your having a pencil or paper at hand.
When the Rev. Mark Eldridge asked me to write this history of Christ Church, I balked.
Even the thought of trying overwhelmed me.
That drove me to prayer—mostly praying how to get out of it.
I’m a new-comer to the congregation and I do not know enough to ask intelligent questions . For instance during the parish meeting last Sunday, I did not hear the speaker’s name, so I asked Deacon Ann Stewart Hemphill, “Who is that guy up front”?
She said, “That’s my husband”?
Once I decided to undertake writing the history book, I met with the church staff to determine what they envision for the book and what, with my limitations, I am capable of doing.
We agreed the purpose of this book is to honor God, to exalt His name, and to inform and inspire potential readers.
I borrowed copies of six years of Leadership Council meeting minutes to establish a time line. Parish Administrator, Patricia Rioux, made my life easier by the thorough, orderly, concise notes she keeps in these minutes.
So far I’ve only read them twice; and a third time is in the offing for me to grasp the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of events.
I Googled various terms, names, and references to get outside input—guess what? I could not find an arrest record for our pastor.
But I did discover that Christ Church Jacksonville, Anglican, Inc. once earned mention in a newspaper in India.
Logistically, I weighed options and decided the book’s content format should combine chronology, program profiles and individual testimonies—the God Stories—along with a few odd tidbits of background that interest me—like the story of the praying  pirate.
I decided to used 6X9 inch paper with one inch borders and a quarter inch gutter. I’ll use 12-point Times New Roman font for text—we old folks need larger print—with block quotes in aerial..That way I won’t need to embed fonts when the PDF manuscript goes to the printer. I chose to justify graphs, single-space,  without first-line indentation but with a .07 space between graphs. I tentatively locked in headers and footers. And I chose footnotes over end notes just because I find endnotes annoying.
I set up 32 individual computer files—for each year, notes, background, outside sources, doings of bishops, various church programs, graphics, etc.. And I’ve begun gathering photographs.
All that stuff is book skeleton—invisible bones come before visible flesh.
Then, during last week’s heavy rain storm. a huge oak branch fell on my house punching a hole in the roof, and drenching my computer. My sons, geeks to a man, moved all my furniture, and did whatever computer guys do to dry out and rescue my system.
It’s working fine again now.
Roofers repaired the hole.
Now, only the living room  carpet squishes a bit,  but I can live with that.
Notice, I have not actually written a word yet.
Initially I’d hope to have a proof pages in the staff’s hands for correction by Easter. Not gonna happen. Got started too late. And, I’m like the old man who said, “I starts slow, then I tapers off”.
I’ve begun to visit various church activities to get the flavor of what’s going on.
I’m continually praying, Lord, this is too much for me, I’m sure to screw up big time. But honor Your name in my trying and Please, Please Dear God, help me spell everybody’s name right!
And that, Katie, is how I make a cursive M.

Writing cartoon Shoe idea

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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SOLD!–A Scam Alert

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Man that is born of woman is few of days and full of troubles. That’s what the Patriarch Job said; unfortunately there are people who add to those troubles.

Last week a barrage of letters arrived in my mailbox announcing that my home has been sold—without my knowledge—to some guy I’d never heard of before.

Under various official-sounding company names, these four letters described the home I’ve lived in for 20 years by address, parcel number, zone code, lot designation, and lot code, square footage, original purchase price, GPS coordinates, appraised value, and other accurate detail.

The letters–headed Deed Processing Notice, Record Transfer, Mortgage Protection, New Mortgage Holder, Current Grant Deed, Deed Processing Center, etc.–all told how the new owner of my home could register the deed.–for a fee.

These letters came from: Brulington, North Carolina; Thousand Oats, California;; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Englewood, Colorado.

Who sold my home?

I didn’t.

Did the bank where I’ve paid my mortgage—never late with a payment—for 20+ years? Did the tax collector? Never missed a tax payment either. Did my home insurance agent—can he do that?

Upsetting.

I worried over this all weekend. One letter may have been a mistake, but four?

What possessions will I be able to take when I’m forced out?

My grown children have offered to take me in when I get too old and feeble and when I get any more incompetent than I’ve always been. Do I want that?

Yesterday I carried all this mail to my bank where three different bankers examined the letters.

It’s all a scam.

Bottom feeders target the old and stupid—I qualify on both counts. They mail letters making people think that their home has been sold and that the deed transfer records can be straightened out—for an initial fee of only $83.

Should you get such a letter—your home has not been sold from under you—take the letters to your bank to confirm.

Every few months the degenerates who pull this scam change the addresses and the company names they use, so treat any such letters with caution.

They may not be real.

Your property description appears in county tax or property appraiser’s records and can be had by anyone anywhere with a computer.

Your own bank can process reports—no charge to you at most banks—to the Post Office Mail Fraud Unit. This hassle to homeowners—and not just the elderly–is a federal crime. The scammers cheat thousands of people ,but because the fee to each one is so small, $83, they try to fly under the radar for most local law enforcement agencies.

Yes, man that is born of woman is few of days and full of troubles, but the One Who Watches has something in mind for those who add to normal human troubles—

That they repent , believe the Gospel, and accept Christ’s forgiveness of sin.

Other than that… well, the ghastly alternative is unthinkable.

They have no idea what trouble is.

Yet.

 

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Eleven Months Ago Today

Ginny died on April 22, 2013 at 10 a.m. We’ve been married almost 45 years. Guess how I feel today.

icecrean-cone

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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A Significant Posting?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A storm last week dropped a heavy tree branch on my roof punching a hole allowing rain to drench my chair, carpet and computer.

Either God has it in for me or I’m experiencing normal life in Florida.

Since Jesus once cursed a fig tree, perhaps He understands why I said what I said about the tree outside my living room window.

Anyhow, I’m back on line working on that church history book. While the computer was down, I’ve spent my time reading and making notes on seven years worth of financial reports and minutes from church leadership council meetings.

Seven. Years. Of. Meeting. Minutes!

 frustration2

 

 I think the folks who actually sat through these meetings praying to discern God’s will in the physical, logistical, and spiritual practicalities of church organization deserve a martyr’s crown!

I’m honored to be appointed to write this church history. Their dedication ought to be remembered and valued.

As Saint Paul said of the church at Thessalonia, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience in hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”.

In such historical research I try to determine what’s significant and what isn’t. I’m not good at that in my own life so I exercise caution about that in studying church records.

What should I say about the golf-cart ministry? Building renovations? A fist-fight in the church parking lot? Decisions at the diocesan level? The church’s huge collection of porno films?

Which events are truly significant and which of passing interest?

While having a limb fall on my head and forcing me to shuffle every stick of furniture in the house to protect it from rain inside seems significant to me at the moment, That’s not a biggie in the eternal scheme of things.

When I first met Ginny, she did not impress me enough to merit a posting in my diary! And she could not remember the first time we met either. At the time, neither of us realized that we’d be enjoying eachother in love for the next 45 year.

Here’s something that impresses me as significant:

At Ginny’s request, after she died last April, I nailed a couple of her bedroom slippers, toe down, to the wall outside our kitchen window to make nesting pockets. This week a family of wren built a nest in one of Ginny’s slippers; in my poor photo here a wren perches on the closest slipper:

 Wren in Gin's slipper

To me that is wonderfully significant. I yearn to be able to show the little birds to Ginny and tell her all about them. She’d be so delighted.

What’s a mere quarter of an inch of water on the living room floor compared to that?

 

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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My computer is out of whack

Heavy rain and a falling branch punched a hole in my roof rendering it necessary to remove my computer out of the water pouring into my living room. Down until the interior flood stops. Back posting then. Sorry for the delay.

John

• Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info, posted by John Cowart. Or contact John at johnwcowart (at) gmail (dot) com.

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