Five Days Last Year

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last week Ginny and I would have celebrated out 46th Anniversary; she died on April 22, 2013.

I plan, God willing, to take next week off. So I’m reposting a few days entries from my diary from last year.

The following selections come from my book A Dirty Old Man Hangs On; My son Donald repaired the links so the whole book is available as a free e-book in my blog sidebar.

Sunday, March 10, 2013
Prophetic Bookends,

Yesterday, I nailed old shoes, toe pointed down, to a tree in our backyard.

No, this is not some weird religious ritual.

Ginny wanted me to nail up old shoes to make nesting sites for the house wrens that frequent our garden; wrens love to nest in deep recesses. Last year a pair laid eggs in a nest they’d built in Ginny’s teapot windchime. And she wanted to offer the little birds more sites this Spring.

For the first time in many weeks, Ginny felt well enough to sit in our backyard enjoying birds and flowers. Friday, Johnny brought in 20 pounds of birdseed and Eve filled the five feeders, so birds flocked to our yard again.

Gin and I relished discussing whether one was a russet sparrow or a peedee—that’s what constitutes argument in our marriage. (She’s wrong! It was a russet sparrow).

Earlier that morning I injected her insulin medicine, then, turn about, she administered my eye-drops. A pathetic team but we take care of eachother.

About 35 years ago, I bought Ginny a pair of bookends at a Salvation Army thrift shop. She thought they were funny because they depicted our marriage with us an an old couple in our dotage. And, though I’m not bald yet, here years later those bookends do look like us. Here’s a photo of them holding our Bible and Prayer Book with the scrap paper book marks from our daily evening devotions:

Ginny & John Bookends

We piddled in the backyard more than we should have and overtired. I helped her back into the house for lunch. I prepared an avocado stuffed with cottage cheese and taboli, tomato and dill pickle slices, served with a scoop of chicken salad. Gin was able to eat most of it, most solid food she’s been able to keep down in weeks.

After lunch we sat happily in our two rocking chairs smoking and discussing options for her burial. We haven’t settled on one way yet but we’re leaning toward either cremation or burial in Evergreen.

An e-mail from one of her brothers asked why she mentions six children when he thought we only had four. She replied that she feels mother toward the two from my first marriage as much as her four natural births.

Our eyes teared up as we talked about how proud we are with our children, how well they have turned out, and how much they please us.

We talked about how much we’ve enjoyed our marriage and family but how nice it is to have a day without visitors after all the boil of the hospice intake process.

Ginny told me that her exhaustion brings her many thoughts and dreams.

She said a recurring phrase in her mind came from a book by Corrie Ten Boon about how you do not get grace to face death in advance. “You don’t pick up your ticket till you get to the train station,” she said.

Ginny dreamed she was in a car with someone else driving her somewhere she did not want to go, but she could not get out of the moving car.

She dreamed about walking through a flower garden, not our own backyard, but a garden lush with flowers and the air filled with swarms of hummingbirds.

She dreamed about walking in downtown Jacksonville with old buildings crumbling all around her but she could not find her way out

She said, “I dreamed about my cancer. I was a tree and the cancer was a vine growing up it and choking the life out of it. But the vine had no evil intent. It did not even know it was killing the tree. It was just doing its natural thing without malice”.

We laughed at the confusion the other day when the social worker asked about our hurricane plans. When the lady asked, both Ginny and I assumed she wanted to know if we would serve on a rescue team. Ginny said, “We’ve had CERT(Civilian Emergency Rescue Team) training, but this time the neighbors will have to fend for themselves”.

Gin at CERT Drill

I said words to the same effect, that with my arthritis, I could no longer lift disaster victims.

Ginny and I were thinking along the same line when the lady explained that whe wanted to know if we wound need to be evacuated to a medical emergency shelter in a storm!

We never thought along those lines.

We’ve always assumed we’d be part of a rescue effort. And even when the lady explained she was talking about us goint to a shelter, we balked because although we trained as Red Cross shelter managers years ago, we would never think of going into a shelter ourselves.

It was so funny to be talking at cross purposes with that social worker and not realizing that we were doing that!

We laughed at funny memories from the years before we even had children—Shut Up and Trust Me Implicitly!…Sand Cave…Middle of the daddy longlegs… All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle… I love you forever but I can’t stand you right this minute!..Tomorrow is also a day.

I do hope that in all the pre-death activities, each one of the kids takes an hour to just sit quiet and talk with Ginny. I doubt if any of us, me included, realize what a smart, wise, deep, and charitable person she is.

We also talked about doctors, Easter, taxes, and the Muppet videos, and about the time when Johnny Carson interviewed Kermit the Frog on the Tonight Show.

As we grew tired of talking, bookends in our chairs, Ginny said, “John, an odd song keeps running through my brain and I can’t shake it. Don’t know if I want to”.

The song dwelling in her mind proved to be the World War II signature battle song of the United States Army Air Corps. So Ginny and I sang it together:

Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder,
Flying high Into The sun!

I doubt this song was originally written as a thanksgiving hymn, but when Ginny and I sang it together yesterday, it became one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Like Preparing For Christmas

Last night Ginny and I sat up into the wee small hours talking about life and love and family and body disposal. I got that same feeling I used to get when we made plans for Christmas.

We talked about rearranging furniture, about gifts for each of our six kids, about worship services, about the coming of Christ into our lives, about mess and bother and shopping and finances and love.

We enjoyed such a good time!

And we enjoyed bowls of ice orange sherbet—to Hell with dieting and blodo sugar readings for tonight. It’s a time of feasting and celebration.

We tried to sing that old, I think 1940s, song, Two Sleepy People Too Much n Love To say Goodnight. And we laughed at ourselves for not remembering all the words.

But we know the feeling.

We also talked about the love shown in our family and how proud we are of each of our children in their individual trials, defeats, dreams, and accomplishments. All six are better than we deserve; we feel honored to be their parents.

We also talked about the silence of God.

I’ve heard that some people feel especially close to Christ in hard times of trial.

We just feel normal.

We are reading the Bible and praying together even less than we do in normal times. And if we do try to pray, we fall asleep without giving God a thought.

Well, you don’t fall asleep in the presence of an enemy.

In preparing for Ginny’s approaching death, we are not aware of any special grace or any communication from the Lord. If fact, at times it feels as though we are going through this test alone, almost as if there were no God in the universe. There is no word from Him.

That’s to be expected.

In life, as in a schoolroom—Teacher does not talk while you are taking a test.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Popsicles. Brussels Sprouts, and Porno

My beautiful Ginny ran a high fever yesterday. Since her rare form of cancer precludes use of the usual pain and fever remedies, we had to cool her down some way.

Three nurses clustered around her bed. Sixteen members of our family had gathered for an Easter picnic in our backyard. Beautiful gifts of flowers filled our bedroom room. Our children took turns soothing her brow and spoon-feding Ginny crushed fruit juice Popsicles.

Someone, I think it was Jennifer, came up with a resourceful response to the fever problem— The ladies. took packs of frozen Brussels Sprouts, peas, and green beans from our refrigerator; they wrapped the sealed plastic packets in bath towels, and placed these cooling aids under Ginny’s armpits and all around her—like a display in the produce section of a grocery store.

I’d never have thought of doing that. Yet the odd tactic worked.

Frozen veggies hold their temperature longer than ice-packs.

By evening Gin’s temperature had dropped back into the normal range.

Thank God for sending us resourceful people with good ideas.

Monday, a different nurse, one who does not know us, came to check out Ginny’s condition… I think we shocked the poor dear.

When she walked in the house, she discovered me kneeling on the floor beside Gin’s chair, we were locked in eachother’s arms, and praying together…

A few minutes later in our bedroom, Ginny had to assume the usual position for a patient having a catheter inserted.

Naturally, I observed and commented with one of my usual tasteful remarks.

Ginny responded in kind, and the two of us began laughing hysterically about the possibility of us staring in a porno film…

Poor little nurse did not know what to make of us—crazy Christians long in love.

Thanks be to God.

Gin & Me

Monday, April 8, 2013
They That Wait…

Waiting rooms—they happen to all of us.

You drive someone to the airport or to the bus depot or to the train station. You arrive on time for them to catch their flight. Their bags are packed; they’re ready to go. You’ve eaten a last meal together. Last minute instructions have been given. All the important things have been said. No business left undone. Kisses exchanged. Hugs given and received. Love expressed. Nothing left to be said or done…

Then the intercom announces that the flight has been delayed and will not arrive for another hour and 45 minutes!

All on earth you can do is hang around the waiting room and wait.

Ginny and I are living in that waiting room.

We know she is dieing. We have given and received all endearments. No unfinished business. She’s ready to go. I’m ready for her to leave.

But her flight Home still circles the airport.

And all we can do is hang around the waiting room and wait.

Is it any wonder that so many people feel relief when their loved one finally departs? I think Ginny will be glad to finally die; and, while I will weep heartbroken, I’ll also be glad to see her leave for Home.

Funny thing: in a stupor of pain the other day, delirious, Ginny said, “I’ll get to Heaven first and get things all straightened out before you come”.

“Honey,” I asked, “What do you think you’ll need to straighten out in God’s Heaven”?

“Whatever is amiss,” she said and fell back asleep.

She felt cold, and I covered her with a blanket, and as I did I realized that it was the blanket that bum had given me back in 2011.

How precious!

Tiny reminders of God’s goodness surround us even in our situation.

Ginny’s strength ebbs.

I’m exhausted with caregiving.

Yet, in the frustrations, boredom, weariness, and pain here in the “passenger lounge” we still rely on the Scripture spoken by the Prophet Issiah:

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles;
They shall run, and not be weary;
They shall walk, and not faint.

Friday, April 19, 2013
A Real Fan

The Hospice folks color code various cancer bandages I apply to Ginny; this makes it easier to keep things straight when I’m working in a rush or in middle-of-the-night situations.

Yesterday’s two bandages came in two colors. One is blue, the other orange.

Ginny watched as I applied them.

She said, “At least when I die, I’ll go out wearing Gator colors”.

Ginny died three days later.

• 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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Thin Jesus/Fat Jesus

Monday, November 17, 2014

Since Ginny died,  the chore of keeping this on-line diary overwhelms me. Some days an entry takes me six or eight hours to write

Besides, I don’t know what I think anymore because my life makes little sense–not that it ever did.

So, I contemplated quitting this site altogether. My daughter Eve suggested that since I have over 2,000 entries from previous years, I should pick ones I find meaningful, or ones which readers request, and re-post one of them. Therefore, Eve asked me to play this favorite of hers again. So, here repeated  is Thin Jesus/Fat Jesus, my entry from Sunday, May 22, 2011:

Some of my fellow fundamentalist Christians expected Jesus to appear at 6 a.m. yesterday in New Zealand.

News outlets, talk shows and cartoonists enjoyed a field day making fun of us Christians and mocking those who thought Christ would appear at that time.

I did not expect Him to return yesterday anymore than I expect Him any day, but that’s neither here nor there.

Those believers who did hope for His appearance in New Zealand yesterday have been disappointed. They calculated the precise time and place from a formula factoring in Noah’s Flood, the international dateline, and—can this be right?—a Mayan stone calendar.

According to the newspaper, “Some proponents predict it will all begin around 6 p.m. local time with a devastating earthquake in New Zealand and move time zone to time zone until it goes around the world”.

Jesus did promise to return, but He stipulated no one would know when.

If you’re interested, one place Jesus talked about such things is in the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew’s Gospel.

He said, “If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not…Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. ….Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only….Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come”.

Now, I do not know what happened in New Zealand.

But I do know that Jesus Christ appeared here in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, yesterday.

In fact, Ginny and I saw Him appear a couple of times.

As we ate breakfast at a fast food place talking about the media stir over the anticipated return, Jesus appeared at the garbage can near the door. He was effectively disguised as a bum. He rummaged through the trash hunting leftover food scraps. He was rail thin in a way that made me think of why they call AIDS, the Slim Disease. He wore clothes several sizes too large for him. His pants bunched at his waist.

A Christian who sat near Ginny overheard our conversation about New Zealand. As this man left the restaurant, he gave Jesus a couple of dollars and told Him to buy some breakfast. Then the guy got in his car and drove away.

For I was hungry and you gave me food…

Ginny and I saw Jesus appear again when we stopped to gas up our own car—we drove to Georgia to buy my brand of pipe tobacco. This time Jesus appeared as a fat guy wearing a soiled sleeveless undershirt. He drove a beat-up gray car with New Jersey tags. Imagine that! Jesus disguised as a yankey!

Unthinkable!

When Jesus puts on a disguise, He really puts on a disguise. Sometimes, He’s really hard to recognize

Anyhow, Jesus explained that He needed a dollar to get gas enough to get home and a Christian at a nearby pump gave him enough to buy a couple of galleons. Jesus put gas in His tank and drove away.

I was a stranger and ye took Me in…

Ginny and I saw Jesus appear again just before we got home. Some people had been cleaning out their yard and put at the curb some old lawn chairs we could use. We stopped to pick them out of the trash heap and Jesus appeared calling from behind the screen door of the house next door.

This time Jesus appeared as a feeble old lady wearing a thin cotton housecoat. She ask if I could move two cement flower pots up onto her porch for her. I tried to lift one but it was too heavy for me, so Ginny had to grab one side and me the other to move those pots for old lady Jesus.

I was sick and ye visited me…

We got home, exhausted after a long day’s driving. We kicked out shoes off. We threw sweaty clothes in the laundry hamper and put on swimsuits ready for a cool dip in our pool. Ready to soothe away the rigors of the hottest day of the season. And…

You guessed it.

Jesus appeared again.

Right there on our back porch.

This time He wore His helpless, little animal costume.

Now, not to be disrespectful, when Jesus puts on His animal disguise, He’s not the smartest possum in the woods.

Yes, Jesus appeared on our deck as a possum that had blundered into an animal trap that was not even baited! And He’d been trapped in the hot sun all day without water.

Now there was no way for me to slip a water bowl into the cage. I was afraid He would bite me if I put my hand in.

Did you know that Jesus can have a nasty bite?

Immediately I filled a bucket with water and from outside the cage, I poured water over poor Jesus. He lapped it up eagerly.

But, nothing for it, we had to let Jesus out of the cage.

Tired as we were, we had to dress again. Put on hurting shoes. Unlock the gate, fold up the car seats, put the cage with Jesus in the back seat (on a plastic sheet. Jesus in His possum disguise is not housebroken), drive to a wooded area by the river to let Him go.

I was thirsty and ye gave Me drink… In prison and ye came unto Me…In as much as ye did it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.

Yes, I don’t know what happened in New Zealand on the other side of the world. But Jesus appeared here in Jacksonville yesterday.

Same as He does everyday.

• 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 Clipping From The Box

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The box of photos Carol mailed from Maryland contained a newspaper clipping from the August 18, 1980, Jacksonville Journal; ti was written by reporter Bob Phelps.

When we first met, Bob said he was an atheist; years later he told me he had become a Christian. He said contact with our family influenced his decision. After he retired from the newspaper, Bob and his wife bought an recreational vehicle and conducted evangelistic services in campgrounds all around the U.S. and even overseas.

Here is a copy of the article he wrote about us:

 Ginny John and Eve August 181980 articlePhelps 1Phelps 2

• 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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Before I Met Her

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Yesterday my middle daughter, Eve, drove me to the cemetery and we saw two small alligators swimming in the Memory Lake beside Ginny’s grave.

Eve plans to have her hair cut today—this is the third time she’s deliberately grows her hair long and then had it sheared to make human-hair wigs for children who’ve become bald because of cancer or other diseases. Eve, a librarian, also visits a shelter for battered women and abused children to tell stories and present puppet shows.

Eve resembles her mother both in appearance and heart-charity.

Yesterday Eve also brought a treat for me; her aunt Carol in Maryland had mailed Eve a big box of old photographs—many photos I’d never seen before from Ginny’s childhood. Eve scanned a few dozen of these into my computer.

Ginny and I were married over 40 years and it’s hard for me to imagine that she had a life before she even met me—Gin was such a deep person that I feel I hardly knew her at all. I’d hoped that had she lived longer, I could have spent more years getting to know and appreciate her. Christian to the boned, Ginny was the most consistently interesting person I’ve ever met. Every little thing fascinated her.

Here is a photo of Ginny in the 1950s as she examines a seashell:

Ginny as kid entranced

And, here’s a snapshot I took of her three years ago as she examined a feather she found; see the similarity?

Gin finds a feather
Ginny found beauty everywhere.

Here are a few early snapshots of her long before she met me In the first one she’s the baby in the basket while her brother, Jack, and sister, Kathy, stand over her:

Kathy and Jack standing Ginny in basket

With her doll:

Ginny with doll

With her bunny:

Ginny and bunny

In her cowgirl costume:

Ginny as cowgirl

Blowing out candles at her birthday in 1958:

Ginny's birthday 1958

As a college girl at her sister’s graduation:

Kathy's graduation (copy)

• 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 Living Saint

Here’s a great joke:

George and Joe, twin brothers, tried to outdo each other in being mean, evil, conniving, sorry, wicked men.

They cheated on their wives. They embezzled from their business partners. They foreclosed on widows and orphans. They corrupted young people. They bribed building inspectors. They never left tips for waitresses. They aggravated neighbors with frivolous law suits. They made life harder than it needs to be for everyone they met.

Then Joe died.

Now George had little use for religion but he got the notion that he wanted his brother buried from a church.

He went to the pastor of a small struggling church and said, “You know who I am? You know about my brother’s heart attack”.

“Yes. Everybody in town knows the two of you”.

“You willing to bury Joe from your church”?

“Yes I am. All men deserve a decent funeral”.

“I got little use for religion,” George said, “But I’ll tell you what. When you preach Joe’s funeral, I want you to say these exact words – ‘Joe was a living saint’! If you’ll say them exact words, then I’ll hand you a check for $10,000 for your building fund; But if you don’t say them exact words – Joe was a living saint – then I won’t give you nothing”.

The preacher thought it over and agreed.

“I thought you would,” George said. “You preachers go around acting holier than anybody else, but when it comes to money, you’re all moneygrubbers. But just to make sure you don’t go back on your word, I’m gonna tell everybody in town about our deal – you’re going to stand right behind that pulpit and say, Joe was a living saint”.

Well, George spread the word. He told the guys at the barbershop, the ladies at the supermarket, everybody everywhere, that for $10.000 that hypocrite preacher was going to say, “Joe was a living saint”.

Come the day of the funeral the whole town turned out to see if the preacher would really do it.

The minister entered the pulpit and said, “Friends, you all know how Joe lived. He cheated on his wife. He embezzled from his business partners. He foreclosed on widows and orphans. He corrupted young people. He bribed building inspectors. He never left tips for waitresses. He aggravated neighbors with frivolous law suits. He made life harder than it needs to be for everyone he met.

“We all know Joe was a mean, evil, conniving, sorry, wicked man. But, compared to his brother, Joe was……

• 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 CANDY!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

This year I was not able to assemble the Halloween packets we gave out to Trick-Or-Treaters in former years; I just lacked energy and finances to do so.

I just settled for handing out candy to the few who showed up at my door.

In the past Ginny and I put together Ziploc bags containing several regular candy bars, a handful of penny candy, plastic rings, whistles, color books & crayons, beads, bird gliders, and whathaveyou. The mainstay of our Halloween packets were evangelistic comicbook tracts; we figured that since people were coming to our doorstep, we might as well make this gesture toward spreading the Gospel. We made sure the packets kids got at our house would be the best things they’d get all evening.

We’d also set up a yard display illustrating the phrase from the 23rd Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me”.

Last night I just gave out candy.

No spirit to do more.

Yet, as usual, several neighbors gathered in my front yard to sit in lawnchairs, watch the moon rise, and tell me about their concerns of daily life.

Some did ask about the packets from former years.

Here is part of my diary entry for November 1, 2010; it comes from page 420 of my book A Dirty Old Man VS The Coons:

November 1, 2010

Last night Ginny and I set up tables and chairs outside in our driveway by the Halloween display. We had a blast as between 30 and 40 Trick-r-Treaters came to our door for the packets of candy, toys, and comicbook tracts we’d prepared.

And best of all, off and on, about ten of our adult neighbors came over to sit around our driveway in lawn chairs to gossip and chat. We meet several people who are new to the neighborhood as well as some folks we usually only see in passing.

All this struck us funny because I’d anticipated hardly any visitors and intended to sit with Beauty talking about sex, vacation plans, sex, retirement plans, sex, car repairs, relationship issues, and sex.

Alas, the best plans of mice and men to get laid oft times go astray!

So much for time alone to talk.

Nevertheless, we spent a beautiful evening having fun with friends and strangers. Beforehand, we’d prayed that the Lord would draw the people He wanted us to meet, and though we’d only had eight or ten kids show up last year, we felt inclined to prepare for more visitors this year.

Last night, one kid refused to take the toys and evangelistic tracts; “I just want My Candy,” he demanded.

Sure thing,” I said giving him a couple of candy bars. Then he asked for more candy since he was not taking the other things.

No,” I said, “I’ve given you the best I have to give. Now bug off and have a Happy Halloween”.

As he sulked away grumbling, my first reaction was to scorn his rude behavior; then I thought of how often I treat the gifts God offers me with the same contempt  saying in effect, “Gee thanks, God, but I don’t want that other stuff. All I want is MY Candy”!

The Lord God fills His world with wonders—most of which we step right over without notice.

He offers joy.

I want My Candy.

But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become …”

When folks stopped coming by, Ginny and I put away most of the display and we came inside to watch a Made-In-Mexico-Lots-Of-Naked-Women-Guns-Gore-And-Explosions zombie movie which I would have thought great if I were still nine years old….

Here’s a snapshot of Ginny at the Zoo that year:

GinWpumpkins1

• 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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Gathered

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Yesterday my friend Rex came by to tell me that his mother-in-law had died.

Marie Arrocena was 90 years old. She used to live next door to me and when she saws me working in the front yard, she’d come out to talk about flowers and her family. Since she mothered a huge extended family with scads of great-grandchildren, I did not always understand which one she was talking about but that didn’t matter because I could pick up on her many joys and concerns.

Marie Arrocena 1924_2014

Her death reminds me of a charming phrase from the Old Testament; when an elderly person would did, the Scripture refers to them as “Being old and full of days”. Then it says the person was “Gathered to his fathers”.

I like the image of being gathered.

We don’t just fall over and die by the wayside; we are gathered.

One of the Prophets, I forget which one, speaks of Christ, the Good Shepherd, as leading His flock, “And He shall gathered the lambs to His bosom and shall gently lead those which are with young”.

Gathered.

Enfolded.

Not just dead.

Last night Helen and Donald treated me to a feast of seafood and beer at Trent’s in downtown Yukon, a tiny community near the Naval Air Station—a wonderful pleasant evening. And afterwards we sat in their backyard watching a possum sneak out of the bushes to nibble tidbits from the cat’s bowl.

Helen just returned from Art Camp in New York (she calls it a seminar) but her enthusiasm and renewal reminds me of a happy kid just back from camp.

While she was away, Donald and I had spent a super-good day browsing in a book store, spending way more than we could afford, and afterwards sitting in a restaurant sipping milk shakes and ignoring eachother in silence as we read our new books—real quality father/son time.

As the three of us talked last night, we planed and prayed for the Lord’s guidance about future develops. Looks like I may not become a Hobbit after all moving in with the kids; new, exciting directions appear to be developing before us. We’ll see what happens.

As the Scripture says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth”.

• 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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The Raccoon Of Resentment

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yesterday, aside from driving a neighbor downtown to meet his parole officer, I did little but read murder mysteries and mull over old resentments.

Looks like as I mature in the grace of Christ I’d get over some things.

Not necessarily.

A recent conversation with a friend about the sins of the elderly reminded me that back in 2010, raccoons gnawed through the roof of my outdoor office and ate some of my research books. A battle with the varmints ensued.

They won.

I no longer have that outside office.

Here is the June 9, 2010, posting from my diary; it comes from page 269 of my book A Dirty Old Man Vs The Coons.

The Raccoon Of Resentment

I checked the live-trap and still no raccoon.

Yes, I borrowed a live-trap from Donald and Helen (I have no idea why they happened to have one) and I’ve been baiting it for the past couple of days hoping to catch the beast that gnawed a hole in the roof of my outside office.

The creature thrives on peanut butter crackers and granola bars, but has yet to spring the trap. The varmint better get caught soon or my next step till be either poison or the shotgun….

Maybe both.

Way I’m feeling this morning, I’d like to trap the coon, then instead of releasing him in the forest, I’d like to feed him poison through the wire, then shotgun him as he writhes in agony… That’ll teach him to chew on my books!

Pipe dreams.

What I’ll do is, since I borrowed the empty trap from Donald and Helen, I’ll just return it to them full of live raccoon.

That’s the Christian thing to do—always give back more than you get.

But, the raccoon is the least of my problems; my biggest one is resentment.

Yes, I still struggle with resentment and bitterness. A recent situation arose wherein somebody did me dirt and instead of forgiving them, I harbor bitterness—and bitterness is harder to get rid of than any coon!

It looks as though after 71 years on this earth, the last 50 or so of them as a Christian, I would have learned by now how to forgive people I feel have wronged me.

But, I haven’t.

In my mind, I can still replay, in glowing living color, offences that other kids did to me when I was a Boy Scout!

And the effect is cumulative.

My first boss. My first wife. My present wife. My children. My church. My neighbors. My dog. My neighbor’s dog. My readers. My editor. My God… Is there anybody who hasn’t wronged John Cowart?

There is no short list.

You know, when you’re young, you can always flee youthful sins. That which is born of the flesh is flesh—but that’s all it is. Flesh. But, at my age, I seethe in the sins an old man is able to commit.

I cherish the damn things.

This endangers my soul’s health.

For years and years I have observed that as a Christian ages– and I’ve seen this lots of times– there is a tendency to either mellow or sour. And that in a man’s advanced age, the Lord Christ sends some aggravation or test which kicks all the props out. Even a saintly man has chinks in his armor and the Lord scratches him through one of those chinks to gall the real man inside. And, the weak spot revealed, the man stands—though thoroughly shaken—or he rages in righteous indignation…

Ugly, ugly, ugly righteous indignation.

Sure, he is right.

But he’s nasty about it.

I feel I’m on the brink of such a testing period in my life right now.

I can mellow and sweeten, or curdle and sour.

And I’m not at all sure which it will be.

Frustrating.

So, for  relief of my stress, for my peace of mind, and for my spiritual growth in Christ, when I trap that coon, I’m going to stomp the crap out of him!

Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

• 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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20 Years Ago They Threw Beer At Me

Monday, October 27, 2014

The pastor of the church I attend got married Saturday, so yesterday Larry Ragan, who is preparing for the ministry, preached about on biblical ways to manage my feelings.

Thing is… I don’t have any.

I live in a state of gray murk. Numb with less than fifth shades to my gray—but nobody wants to hear about my spiritual apathy as I tread water—thrashing and splashing to keep my head from going under but not actually moving anywhere.

I spend my days trying unsuccessfully to find a comfortable position in one chair or another while reading escapist books, mostly murder mysteries.

However, one book which helped me gain prospective last week was an 1885 diary written by a young lady named Helen Mckenny

Helen, daughter of Methodist minister living in John Wesley’s house in London, recorded her life and her ministry to the poor as herds of tourists wanted to view Wesley’s clock, chair, tea pot, etc.

She managed her life with three principles; she said, “Do the next thing. Help the next person. Cease to cry over aggregate wrong”.

I think less and less about my present or my future, but more and more about my past–that’s a sign of growing old, I suspect.

In keeping with that mind set, here is the July 7, 1994, posting from my own diary:

Thursday, July 7, 1994:

Gin off to work at CC; Patricia off to summer school.

Devotions: Psalms 35 to 37, BCP.

I worked on The Reincarnationists novel  all morning  — actually what I did was not work but read over the stuff I’ve already written.

Then I walked across the bridge to the Post Office to mail Donald’s birthday present: a new Far Side cartoon book, a copy of T.S. Elliot’s Old Possum’s Practical Book Of Cats, a religious tee shirt (a thorn-crowned head with the caption “What Has God Ever Done For YOU?”) and, for old time’s sake, a packet of toilet paper (remember the past two years).

I was supposed to mail the July payment to the collection agency but decided to hold it back another month.

On the way home I stopped at the drug store and  bought some treats to go in Gin’s lunches (since she can’t smoke in that wimpy office, I fixed her a bowl of hard candies), a new phone cord, and about $30 worth of luxury items we have been doing without for ages  such as stamps, toothpaste, matches, roach spray, etc. I ran out of money before I could get extra amenities of my own such as razors and hair tonic, but the things I did buy will go a long way toward improving our quality of life.

As I returned home, walking in the blazing sun across the bridge, for the pure hell of it, some ass yelled and threw a drink cup full of beer and ice cubes at me from a passing pickup.

Missed me but made me mad.

This morning’s devotional reading from Psalm included phrases such as, “Let them be turned back and brought to confusion that imagine mischief against me… Let the angel of the Lord scatter them… Let their way be dark and slippery. For they have privily laid their net to destroy me without a cause… (Ps 35)

“The ungodly have drawn out the sword and have bent their bow to cast down the poor and needy… The ungodly watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him… (PS 36)”

Since I try to get along with everyone and I have no human enemies that I know of, such passages puzzle me; recently I have generally thought them to refer to demon enemies. Nevertheless, this morning as I prayed along with the Psalmist, these passages seemed more important than usual (I normally more or less skip over them); now I wonder if they did not take on added significance in my devotions so that I would pray for physical protection — that could well have been a beer bottle or a brick the ass threw at me.

The pickup truck full of young men appeared to be just cruising around seeking a target of opportunity and seeing me as an old man walking with a cane and an arm-load of grocery bags the temptation for devilment was just too great for them to pass up. Any target will do for the devil; you don’t have to be special.

So first I raged at the bastards, I prayed imprecatory prayers that would make David blush. I imagined how nice it would be to have a shotgun and answer their attack with a scorching blast.

I imagined how nice it would be that if in throwing the beer, the driver had lost control of the pickup, crashed through the bridge rail and landed in the river below. I could see my self calmly leaning against the rail, lighting my pipe and watching the whole truck-load of yelling young men drown (damn shame there aren’t more alligators in the river).

Then I imagined how nice it would be if the young men has squealed to a stop on the bridge,  jumped out of their pick-up and came over to hassle me face to face; imagine their surprise when they discovered that I walk with a cane not only because I’m crippled but because years ago I studied aikido, a Japanese martial art which includes training in stick fighting, and I believe that  my cane could effectively put down three unarmed thugs.

Possibly without killing them.

O but I wish they had stopped.

They might have found the experience educational.

Then I wondered what kind of creep would throw things from a passing truck at any pedestrian? Did they think it funny? Had they seen me somewhere before and found me offensive for some reason? Were they spaced out on drugs? Drunk? Just being mean and cussed?

God ought to do something about people like that.

The words of David’s Psalms I’d read this morning returned to my mind: Lord, how long wilt thou look upon this?… Let them be put to confusion and shame together that rejoice at my trouble; let them be clothed with rebuke and dishonor… Wicked doers shall be rooted out… The ungodly shall be clean gone… Their sword shall go through their own heart… The arms of the ungodly shall be broken.

Sounds all right to me.

Sic ‘em Lord.

Show the creeps who’s Boss.

But what about forgiving my enemies? Didn’t Jesus say to turn the other cheek when some ass throws a bottle at you? Didn’t He say, “Resist not evil”. When the soldiers spit on Him and beat Him and mocked Him, didn’t He teach compassion even then. When they drove the nails through His hands, didn’t He say, “Father, forgive them”?

Ok. So I’m a Christian, my mind grudgingly admitted — why do I think about religion at such inconvenient times as this? — I ought to forgive these guys because Christ forgives me. “Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.”

But how can I dismiss this incident as a youthful prank? What if the missile had hit me; I could have been blinded, crippled or killed — that truck must have been going 50 miles per hour. What if Ginny had been walking with me and they hit her? What kind of person throws things at an old guy walking with a cane?

At this point — God must get a perverse pleasure out of doing this to me — I suddenly remembered another pesky phrase about wicked ungodly people from this morning’s Psalm:

Right in there with curses on evil people who set traps for others, and dig pits in another person’s path, and who wink with their eyes and gnash with their teeth, busy mockers who steal from the poor and trip the blind — right there in that same cluster of verses, God mentions:

“The ungodly borroweth and payeth not again”.

And here this very morning I’d spent a good bit of time and energy trying to figure out how to squirm out of paying that bill I owe!

Now wait just one minute here. Does that mean that in God’s sight my sin of not paying this bill (and Lord, You know that collection agency doesn’t need the money nearly as bad as I do) is equal to the sin of those guys throwing things at pedestrians?

That can’t be right.

Here’s the difference.

Them — the wicked ungodly sinners who yelled at me and threw the beer — is them.

Me — the wicked ungodly sinner who borrowed money and has not repaid it — is me.

Can’t God see the difference?

Here comes another passage from this morning’s Psalm reading to mind (I’ve got to stop reading this stuff, it’s too unsettling):

“Flee from evil and do the thing that is good… the Lord loveth the thing that is right” (Ps 37:27).

God’s primary characteristic is holiness. He is pure. Undefiled. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all — why should he regard my favorite form of darkness any better than He regard’s the other guy’s darkness?

Both I and the beer-throwers will stand before the holy face of God.

They must answer for their deeds.

I must answer for mine.

Makes me squirm.

“Forgive me my trespasses, just as I forgive those who trespass against me.”

As I continued trudging across the bridge in the 98 degree heat, I began to look for a way to excuse the young men in the pick-up.

Maybe they had not really thrown the beer; maybe the guy just had it out the window and it slipped from his hand just as the truck passed me.

Maybe, he saw me trudging with that heavy load in the heat, and, maybe with a distorted sense of compassion, he thought that a cold slosh of beer would refresh me. Maybe he did a misguided act of mercy.

Maybe, he did throw the beer deliberately but next Sunday he will attend an evangelistic meeting and remember the mean thing he did, feel shame and conviction and be converted — so his action was really part of God’s plan.

Maybe…

Bull!

Excusing is not forgiving.

If I excuse a sin against me, I can downplay it, then I don’t have to forgive it.

Excusing takes all human blame away and places it on the circumstance,  and I don’t need to forgive circumstances; God only requires that I forgive the sinner who bugs me personally.

Excusing the sinner’s action is a cop out.

Yes, the guy did it.

And, yes, I must forgive him.

The burden for action, the deed of forgiving, falls on me alone.

It is inescapable.

So, as I reached the other side of the bridge, I said the words: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. But I felt no more kindly toward the guys in the pickup.

Am I supposed to? 

Meanwhile, what am I going to do about that collection agency bill?

• 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 Unexplained Wound

Somehow I’ve managed to cut my face. I have no idea how I did it.

The other morning when I went to brush my teeth, in the bathroom mirror I noticed a line of dried blood down my cheek. Washing it off, I found a cut from my right eyebrow down the side of my facer, a shallow cut about an inch and a half long and a quarter of an inch wide.

How did that happen?

When did it happen?

The cut must have been there for a while because it was beginning to scab over.

And I’d been unaware of it.

How could something have cut that close to my eye without my seeing it?

I can’t explain it.

On the upside, it speaks well of me that I obviously don’t spent much time admiring myself in the mirror, but it got me thinking about wounds.

Long ago I read a story about a sea battle during sailing ship days when a cannonball cut off a man’s foot and he kept hobbling around trying to service his own cannon without being aware of it at first.

It seems that sometimes shock prevents us from the pain of an immediate wound.

On the other hand when I was a kid, I saw a dog get run over by a car. Broken on the pavement the dog snarled and bit at anyone trying to aid it. Crawled up under a neighbor’s house. I crawled up under there too and brought it out. Bit my forearms. Animal control took it away and later my dad pulled me out of class at school because the dog had rabies. I had to get a shot every day for 21 days.

Poor dog’s pain blinded it to anyone trying to rescue it.

Ginny died on April 22, 2013—today marks the anniversary of her death.

Gin Amid yellow flowers 2

Oddly enough after all these months I feel the pain of her loss more than I did at first; maybe the shock is wearing off and the real pain is setting in. I want to snap at everyone and crawl up under a house to lick my wounds.

In this state of mind I remember that Christ was wounded for our transgressions and the chastisement of our peace is upon Him, and by His stripes are we healed….

That’s head knowledge.

Heart knowledge simply aches.

A better Christian might tell of how God comforts them in sorrow.

I just hurt and wonder what the Hell happened.

I go through the motions of duty (some of them at least) numb, listless, close to faithless…. Thy rod and Thy staff, they whack me on the head.

This is where bull-headed faith comes in.

No peace. No comfort. No joy—just raw faith.

Ain’t much fun.

I reluctantly agree with the Patriarch Job who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

But I still wonder how I cut my face?

• 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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