Warnings and Illicit Kissing On Christmas Eve

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back in the late 1960s, I drove Ginny to a mall to Christmas shop for the first time: Here’s the way I remember it :


 

Caution: this posting contains — among other things — a warning about illicit kissing.

What would a nice, 47-years-married, old  guy like me know about illicit kissing?

Well, let me tell you:

When Ginny and I were first engaged, I drove a brand new 1967, four-on-the floor (I don’t think they even had automatic transmissions back then), Mustang. Bright yellow, the yellow you only see nowadays edging the cover of a National Geographic magazine.

Wow! A sporty new car and a beautiful woman.

Wasn’t I something!

On Christmas Eve, Ginny wanted a few last minute things from the mall and I was proud to drive her in spite of the heavy traffic.

To turn left off the main highway into the mall, we got stuck in a monster long line of plain drab old cars which inched up a steep hill to trickle through the light one or two at a time.

We were obviously going to be stuck in traffic on that hill for a while and since even back then I was a biblically minded man, I decided to “redeem the time”.

So… whenever the line of traffic stopped, I reached for Ginny, or she reached for me, and we smooched fervently.

HONK! Honk, honk!

What’s this?

The guy behind me kept hitting his horn, the creep.

What’s the matter with him? Traffic isn’t going anywhere.

We started kissing again.

Again, he started honking.

The spoilsport. Let him find his own girl. What business is it of his what I do in the privacy of my own new yellow four-on-the floor Mustang.

The light changed. I crept forward in the line maybe three car lengths and stopped again.

Again I kissed; again he honked. He not only honked, he also flashed his lights at me!

Now, I’m getting mad. This guy is a pest, a creep, a voyeur, a busybody. I’m half a mind to…

The traffic light changed again. I inched up the hill toward the turnoff again and stopped on red to resume smooching.

The dirty so-and-so really leaned on his horn this time.

I ignored the killjoy and kept on kissing Ginny until…..

CRUNCH!

Here, younger readers should know that a car with a manual transmission requires that the driver keep one foot on the brake and the other on the clutch when stopped on a hill in traffic. If you don’t do that, then your car rolls backward.

That’s what I had done!

Yes, every time, I’d lean over to kiss Ginny, I had let up on both clutch and brake until I rolled backward and smacked into the driver behind, who had done everything in his power to warn me of the danger.

I did not feel quiet so sporty when I had to get out of the car and apologize to him. I felt stupid and silly …and I discovered that I’d crumpled my own rear end (You can take that figuratively and literally.).

Now let me say straight out that as a fundamentalist Christian I have nothing against engaged couples kissing. I wish them joy.

However, I’d be a dunce if I did not learn from my own experience that when God warns me about something He’s not being a spoilsport, a killjoy or a busybody meddling in affairs which are no concern of His.

If the scripture teaches nothing else, it teaches that God hates to see His children get hurt.

So He warns us.

He warns us again and again.

He blows the horn and blinks the lights when we do certain things because He can see that by doing them we are going to crumple our own rear ends.

But most of us do just like I did with that other driver, we ignore the danger signs or get peeved at the person doing the warning.

As sure as cars roll downhill when the driver is not keeping his foot on the brake, there are other rules in the universe. The rules are not arbitrary but they are absolute.

Take an easy one for instance, the Bible again and again warns us that we ought to care for the poor.

“He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord,” says the Proverb (19:17).

Jesus equates our care of the poor to our own eternal destiny (Matthew 24).

Yet, the Bible also reveals a flip side to this concern for the poor.

In Leviticus 19:15, the Lord declares, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.”

In other words, right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of the status of the person acting. Stealing the pennies from a blind beggar’s cup is stealing — and charging a few personal bucks on Donald Trump’s credit card is also stealing.

And God’s word warns us not to steal. Stealing makes us thieves and God hates to see that happen to one of His beloved ones. And that’s just what you and I are, beloved ones of God.

As a  Christian, I believe that Christ warned and warned us away from the sins that bring us down, defeat us and corrupt us.

Then He died to save us from the sin that has us beat. He died the death for us and rose again from that death to lift us up to where He is.

Wow! What can we say after all that?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t say much. We’re too proud to  say thank you to God or to even repeat the warnings even those we care about most.

I suspect most other people do just like I did when they ignore the warnings and back into trouble: I fussed and fumed and blamed and then ended up driving around with my own rear end crumpled.

Nobody should live like that.

St. Paul was not speaking tongue in cheek when he linked two rules for living in I Thessalonians 5:14; he told Christians to “warn the unruly” in one breath, and in the next he commanded, “Comfort the feebleminded.”

That’s fundamental.

 

• 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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Love Tokens

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

At the Maple Street Coffee Shop when you place an order, the cashier asks a question to identify your food for pick up when it is served.

This month’s question is, “What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?”

The cook shouts out the answer when he places the order on the pick up counter.

I’ve heard him shout about puppies and bikes and flowers and skates and baby dolls—and to the crowded restaurant Saturday he called out, “The Lord Jesus Christ”.

The password for my own order was “The Kiss”.

Yes, the first Christmas gift Ginny gave me, almost 50 years ago, was a museum quality replica of Rodin’s famous statue The Kiss. I still treasure that statue.

Rodin's KissWhen I arranged for Ginny’s funeral, at the same time I pre-paid for my own nitch by her’s. The inscription on her bronze marker reads, “She Hath Done What She Could”–that’s a quotation from Mark’s Gospel about the lady who washed Christ’s feet; the inscription to be placed on my marker will read, “My Life Was A Love Story”.

Yes, love marks my life. The love of God is shown towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And while the love of God overshadows all, recently I’ve received many tokens of love from other people who care about me—I’m not sure why. I’ve never done anything to deserve love–God’s, Ginny’s, or other people’s.

Guys from church took time off work to come over and repair a hole in my roof and fix a broken light for me. My sons Fred and John repaired a fence blown down in a storm. Patricia bought soft cookies for me. Eve drove me around on errands. My friend Wes drove me over a hundred miles for  a special meal at the Dixie Grill in Live Oak. Jennifer decorated a Christmas tree for me. My neighbor Carol sent me a top-of-the-line wheelchair for future use when I need it.

Practical hands-on examples of caring.

Donald and Helen bought me a hand-crafted Micah Redmond pipe I’ve admired:

Redmond pipe 2

And the smoke, it encircled my head like a wreath!

The dead fish bronze wind-chime hanging from the lamp is also a gift from them.

Redmond pipe 3
Recently Debi, who worked with Ginny at the office, sent me this note:

John, I have never seen two people so in Love. From Church St. to A. Philip. 16 yrs., I have always admired the true love of you , Virginia, and your family share. In todays world the two of you shared something that not many or most of us will never live or experience. The love that I saw between you and Virginia will always be an inspiration to me. I have been blessed to have known you both. Debora

That touched me deeply

For years Ginny and I ordered our prescriptions from the same pharmacy; last week’s mail brought a card with a note from the pharmacist:

 Card 0002

Yes, although I’m too dense to realize it most of the time, my life truly is a love story—with many chapters.

• 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 Boomerang Food Basket

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Last Saturday as 0ur family helped Donald and Helen pack for their move, we culled stuff to donate to Goodwill to help the poor. My eldest daughter, Jennifer, reminded me of a time when she was little when our family tried to help a poor widow.

It sort of backfired.

Here’s what happened:

grocery bag

THE BOOMERANG FOOD BASKET

Once a few years ago my wife and I sent a food basket to a poor widow and her children.

They never got it.

Yet, that event forever changed our attitude about giving to the poor.

At the time I was digging graves at a local cemetery to support us and our three children while waiting for my first novel to sell. The novel was never published, but I have moved on to better jobs since. And now we have four children.

The cemetery employed 20 or so gravediggers – maintenance caretakers, they called us. Besides taking care of the grounds, we buried from two to ten people each day.

Funerals were mechanical affairs for us. We prepared the gravesite, stood at a discrete distance during the service, closed the grave as soon as the mourners left, then moved on to the next one.

The deaths didn’t touch us – except one.

A young husband and wife, hardly out of their teens,  and their two little boys drove an old clunker to Florida, lured by the state’s low unemployment rate. They rented a house trailer in Jacksonville while looking for work. They didn’t find it.

One day as they nursed their car down the highway, something gave way underneath. The old muffler scraped along the pavement striking a shower of sparks. The husband jacked the car up and crawled under to try to wire pieces together long enough to make it back to the trailer park. The wife and boys watched from beside the road.

Vibration from a passing truck shook the car off the jack.

The falling car squashed the young man’s head between the frame and the pavement.

The truck driver had not seen it happen and kept on moving. The widow and children had to wait over an hour before they could flag down a passing car for help.

The woman and her children were stuck in a strange city with no husband, no father, no family, no friends, no church membership here for support. And, of course, they carried no insurance.

The burial was held in the cemetery’s least expensive section.

The salesman who arranged the funeral served as pastor of a little store-front church as well as selling burial plots. He conducted the graveside service; only the teen-aged widow, the two toddlers, and a crew of us gravediggers attended.

We discovered that the young families plight was compounded by the fact that she was absolutely broke. She didn’t even have anything to feed the children that night.

Fortunately we buried him on a Friday – a payday.

A liquor store down the road customarily cashed our paychecks, so when one of the guys passed the hat for that family, the whole crew chipped in. A pittance really. Minimum wage pay limits generous hearts. But we did what we could.

That night I told my wife, Ginny, about the situation.

“How much did they collect?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Twelve or fifteen dollars, I think”.

“Well, that’ll get them through tonight, but…”

She stopped and pondered the problem.   “Let’s check the cupboard and see what we can spare,” she said. “Do they have a refrigerator? Just in case, we’d better just send imperishables”?

We pulled everything off the kitchen shelves and took inventory. Immediately we ran into problems.

“Here’s a canned ham,” she said, “Should we send that or keep it for Sunday dinner”?

]”Better keep that,” I answered. “But send ‘em these three cans of tuna”.

Tuna can“You put those back. We’re having tuna casserole tomorrow”.

“Darn,” I said. “That stuff is fit for nothing but cat food”.

“Well, you’d better learn to like it because it’s tomorrow’s casserole. What about coffee? I have an extra pound”.

“You’re not going to give away my coffee, are you”?

“There’s this pack of herbal tea Aunt Hazel sent last Christmas”.

“Good,” I said. “I hate that glop. Look. Here’s two cans of bacon, what about them”?

“They’re for Donald’s scout trip. Pass me the beets and the box of powdered milk”.

We ended up with one box and two grocery bags of stuff and I took it over the pastor’s house so he could deliver it.

Driving back home I recalled the Bible verse where Jesus said for us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked because doing things like that for “the least of these my brethren” counted as service to Christ Himself.

I felt pretty good about that. I had done a good deed. Wow. Jesus must think I’m a really neat guy, I thought.

I told Ginny that the deed was done. And that ended the matter as far as we were concerned – or so we thought.

I’ve heard church folks say that you can’t out give God. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord,” they quote. They say that when you give, God will repay you with interest.

That’s not exactly how it worked out for us.

God did pay us back, but without interest. It happened like this:

A few weeks after we sent the food basket our fortunes changed.

Our car broke down.

Our rent went up.

Shoes wore out.

 Bills poured in.

Every thing got hard but me.

I moved to a better paying job, but the period between my last paycheck from the cemetery and the first one from the new place looked ghastly.

Tuna can 2Ginny coped gallantly. She met the crisis by feeding us tuna with noodles, tuna and rice, tuna-based potato salad…

We had to pray for our daily bread daily.

We ran out of coffee. We longed for coffee. Steak we could do without, but we craved coffee.

One morning Ginny and I had to wake up early and collect beer cans along the road top turn in at a recycling center to earn enough money to buy breakfast food for the kids before they left for school.

That afternoon Ginny was figuring out how to cook supper for the five of us from a bottle of ketchup, two eggs, and a half-jar of green maraschino cherries – all that we had left in the house.

There was a knock on the door – the cemetery salesman.

Boomerang“Remember those groceries you gave me for that girl,” he said. “When I took them out there to the trailer, the woman was getting ready to move back to Detroit; her mother wired her money for bus fare home. She couldn’t take that stuff you sent and I’ve been driving around with it in the trunk of my car for weeks now. I was just passing by and thought of it. Come on out to the car and bring it back in”.

Were we glad to see that food!

Sort of…

I mean it was perfectly adequate tuna fish and beets and corned beef and herbal tea. We were thankful as we unpacked the bags… but regret tempered our thanks.

Grocery bagsLooking over our boomerang food basket, Ginny said, “Don’t you wish we’d sent her that pound of coffee”/

“Or the canned ham,” I said. “Think of ham with sweet potatoes and apple sauce”.

“Well, here’s the can of applesauce, but we didn’t send the ham”.

“If we’d sent her the bacon, we’d have flavoring for the dried peas”.

“At least, thank God, we sent powdered milk and oatmeal; we’ll have breakfast stuff till payday”.

“If it ever comes,” I said.

It did.

But until then we ate simply but we did eat.

We ate the very same food we had sent to the poor widow.

And as we dined, we teased eachother…

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had sent…” punctuated every meal; “Yes, but I wish we’d sent…” was always the response. The exchange became a family joke.

But we passed through that bad time.

The other night we heard a stewardship speaker quote the Bible verse that says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days”. He applied the verse to people’s giving and God’s repaying.

Ginny and I glanced at each other with a private smile as we tried not to giggle. We think that verse makes sense not only as an investment-type promise from God, but also as a caution – after all, you may get back the very same bread!

Now, whenever we occasionally send a little something to the poor, Ginny always laughs as she makes out the check or packs the bag. “Should we send them ham and coffee this time,” she says.

“Absolutely!” I say. “I can’t get along without my coffee”.

Cheerful giver

• 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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Dressing For Heaven I Do Not Turn Green

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Yesterday my friends Fred and Travis arrived at my house early to repair some things for me as part of their service in Christ Church’s Helping Hands ministry; repairs done, we shared breakfast then I drove to my son’s Donald’s house where he and his wife, Helen, were packing things for Goodwill as they prepare to move. My daughters Jennifer and Eve joined in as we plundered through Christmas decorations and things from the attic. We culled out more goodies to keep for ourselves than we loaded up to go to the poor.

That fun reminded me of my diary entry for November 26, 2005; this comes from page 248 in my book A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad:

Dressing For Heaven

Traditional imagery pictures people in Heaven as wearing gold-foil hats and flowing white gauze robes. Friday, I imagined a different picture; I imagined that I would stand before the throne of God wearing the very same clothes that I have given to the poor.

Yes, all afternoon Ginny and I padded around the house in our underwear trying on all our clothes to see if they fit as we cleaned out our closets and packed up clothes to send to the poor at the mission.

Ginny is infuriatingly systematic, methodical, and self-disciplined. In her closet she has 20 green clothes hangers, 20 blue ones, 20 white ones, and 10 clear plastic hangers. She keeps 20 dresses for work on the green ones, 20 casual outfits on the blue ones, etc. I’m not sure about the exact numbers or color codes but you get the idea.

She refuses to add to the number of hangers.

That means that whenever she gets a new office dress, an old one must go. A new casual blouse means that one now on the hanger must come off.

That way she only has her very favorite clothes in her closet at any given time. No muss, no fuss, no clutter.

She’s the same way about her books. She has one bookcase. When she gets a new book, an old one must be replaced so her shelf space remains constant…. On the other hand, I have ELEVEN bookcases in our house and piles of books on the floor, in chairs, under the bed, in the closet… Well, you get the idea.

Yet, somehow this strange woman and I remain married.

Another factor adds to the clutter in our house. For some reason our friends, neighbors and children bring us stuff to go to the mission. I mean, even back when we did not own a car, folks who did would bring mission donations to our house and I’d have to borrow a van or something to get the donations out there to the poor. That still goes on, so the foyer of our home is always piled with bags and boxes of stuff to go the mission.

We cleared the foyer yesterday morning and took out a load, but already another three black plastic garbage bags full of clothes are in our foyer. I’m looking at them right this minute!

Anyhow, yesterday Ginny and I also cleaned out our own closets. This meant we were constantly having to make decisions as to what clothes to keep and which items should go to the poor.

This presents me with a dilemma.

What do I sent to the poor, what do I keep for me?

Pants are easy. If they still button and zip and I can sit down in them, they stay. Those that have shrunk too much for me to zip up, some poor guy can wear them.

Shirts present a different problem. Some are easy to send to the suffering poor. For instance that tee-shirt with cute fuzzy kittens in a basket on the chest that Aunt Hazel gave me – hey, the poor like kittens, don’t they?

But here’s that neat tee-shirt I bought myself, the one with the pack of wolves eating into a harp seal with blood and seal guts strewn about in the snow — That’s a keeper. Definitely a keeper. I’ll be such a hit when I wear that one to Jennifer’s Christmas party.

So I made choices about which shirts to send to the poor — that’s when I got the idea that the clothes we’ll have to wear in Heaven will be the ones we give to the poor here on earth.

As I recall, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy said that what we have there, is what we give here; and I think C.S. Lewis said the same thing about the books we’ll still have in Heaven. Apparently, we lay up treasure in Heaven by giving to the poor on earth.

I doubt that’s right. Sounds too much like salvation-by-works to me but, nevertheless, I suspect that Christ approves of us giving our best.

We can’t brown nose God. Giving to the poor should simply be an expression of our love for the Lord Christ, Prince of the Poor, who though He were rich yet made Himself poor for our sakes.

Be all that as it may, as I packed stuff to go to the mission, I got this ridiculous idea about what clothes I might have available to wear in Heaven.

Do I really want to appear before the throne of Almighty God in castoffs, with my bare belly hanging over pants that won’t zip and wearing fuzzy damn kittens on my chest?

Speaking of clothing… The following entry is from page 66 of A Dirty Old Man Gets Worse:

I Do Not Turn Green!

When I get uptight, scared or angry, my ribs hurt.

Why do my ribs hurt?

Because I press my elbows so tight against my sides; I also cross my ankles and press my knees together so hard that they hurt too.

I spent most of yesterday and last night and a good part of this morning in that condition.

This is not good.

Oddly enough, this doesn’t happen in times of real danger or crisis, just in social situations. I can speak before a large group with no problem because that is a structured situation, but at a party or funeral or Sunday School breakfast, or such… I clam up big time. It’s really painful.

What about the peace Christ is supposed to give us Christians?

Doesn’t work for me.

Not in social situations.

Anyhow, inspired by the movie I watched last night, as we dressed this morning I put on my Incredible Hulk tee shirt to work in while I formatted the Joseph Pyram King autobiography.

Ginny noticed my Hulk tee shirt and said, “Are you going to be the Incredible Hulk today?”

“No,” I said. “I wish I was. When I get hurt or angry I don’t turn green, grow huge biceps and smash things; I just get quite and withdraw into my shell.”

“I’ve noticed that,” she said. “When you get upset, you turn into — the Incredible Sulk!”

I love her dearly, but sometimes Ginny is a smart ass.

• 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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Happy Times

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Last night Donald and Helen treated me to a super good seafood feast at Trent’s; then they surprised me with a visit to Micah Redmond’s workshop where he hand crafts fine tobacco pipes.
Although I’ve smoked a pipe for over 60 years, I’d never met a pipe maker before.
Micah, a modest young man gifted with great skill, answered my many questions in a fascinating conversation for an hour and a half as he showed me different kinds of briar and other woods. He explained the intricacies of wood-grains, carving, boring, drilling, polishing, and crafting of fine pipes.
It’s all much more complicated than I’d realized.
I’ll never knock out a pipe on a rock again!
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It was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in ages.
Samples of Micah’s craftsmanship can be seen fro9m Google at www.oninstagram.com/profile/micahredmond
Of course, as soon as I heard Micah’s name, my mind flashed to one of my favorite Scriptures; a quote from the Prophet Micah inscribed in the dome of the Library of Congress:
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord
    And bow myself before the high God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
    And what doth the Lord require of thee,
        But to do justly,
            And to love mercy,
                        And to walk humbly with thy God?

After we left the Redmond workshop, Helen helped me retrieve family Thankgiving photos from our camping trip to Suwanee River State Park near Live Oak, Florida. For five days we stayed in the camp’s cabins and twelve of us showed up for Thanksgiving dinner.
If anyone ever needs proof that the whole lot of us are insane, after the traditional dinner we all took turns driving a mobility scooter—linked to three walkers in a crazy train.
I’m thankful no one was injured!

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• 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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On The Bench

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I borrowed a tv set to watch football games.

I joined millions of other men as I reclined feet up munching salties, which the doctor warns me not to eat, and I dozed off and on as back to back to back football teams bruised each other on the field.

I observed several players injured on the field.

Some, injured seriously, were loaded on a golf cart and driven amid cheers of appreciative fans to the locker room.

Other players shaken up, bruised and battered on the field sat out a number of plays on the bench, then managed to reenter the lists and continue to strive for victory.

I identify with bruised players on the bench; I hurt too.

Recently I’ve had to sit out a number of plays in my Christian life that I might have joined had I been younger, not embarrassed by symptoms from my prostate cancer, and not so aching from my arthritis.

Someone in the church I attend nominated me for a seat on the leadership council. That’s an honor I had to turn down.

Someone else, in an area Methodist church, invited me to present a series of five lectures on Jacksonville history.. Again, I’m honored to be asked, but I’m just not up to the task.

For years I’ve tried to engaged in various Christian activities, but now I feel utterly exhausted, compelled to sit on the bench and watch others strive on the field.

The bench is hard on my bottom.

Over the years I’ve met many people who have been injured in the field of play—all too many feel as though they were battered and bruised by the very church they tried to serve. All too many have given up on religion.

They feel wounded by cruel words, harsh doctrines, arbitrary customs, unreasonable rules, and snotty attitudes. They often feel isolated, looked down on, misunderstood, and even abandoned by their church. And by God Himself.

That hurts.

Resentment builds against God as though the battle were His fault, not our rebellion.

When I think on such things, the Scripture that comes to mind is from the first Gospel; speaking of Jesus, Mathew says, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and a smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory”.

So, we may be bruised reeds and smoldering ashes about to go out, Jesus does not squelch us further down.

He still counts us in when His victory comes.

We may be on the bench for now, but we’re still on the team.

• 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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Party Time!

The pastor’s Advent sermon yesterday reminded me of a newspaper column I wrote back in the 1980s. The column upset some clergymen so much they sent a delegation to the managing editor demanding that I be fired. Instead, I was demoted to writing obituaries for the next few years. Must have struck a nerve. Here’s a copy:

THE PARTY AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Party

Welcome! Welcome, welcome.

You are hereby invited to the most splendid, lavish, super-duper, joyous PARTY in the history of the universe!

Really truly, I am not exaggerating.

Many people say this event is the absolute end!

Six months before he died, publisher Malcolm Forbes gave a birthday party for himself. He invited 700 celebrities to his palace in Tangier, Morocco, to celebrate and he spent $2,000,000 on baubles for his guests.

The Forbes party was OK (some guests complained about their accommodations) but it was a paltry affair compared to the one you are invited to attend.

Party pool

Where you have been invited there are guaranteed to be no complaints whatsoever. There will also be no hunger, no thirst, no tears, no death.

Celebrities will be there in abundance. You will associate with some kings and queens, popes and presidents, Olympic athletes, movie stars, businessmen, saints…

Everyone is invited to celebrate; there will be former pimps and prostitutes, winos and drug addicts, thieves… And, oh yes, some churchgoers will also swell the ranks, but you plan to come anyhow.

Rejoicing multitudes will flock in from east and west and north and south, from every tribe and tongue and kindred and nation; a more cosmopolitan crowd has never before assembled.

The apostle John got a sneak preview of the festivities and reported on the crowds: “And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands,” he said in Revelation 5.

Unfortunately, some people will not make the party. They were invited, but chose to make another commitment.

Rolls

Saint Paul said that transportation, better than limousine service, will be provided for everyone on the guest list; in fact, our host personally is coming to pick us up:

“The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout… and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with then in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the lord,” Paul said.

Yes, early arrivals at the party — those people you love who have already died — will come with Christ to welcome you.

Picture it. The sky peels away to reveal Glory. Graves pop open and restored people leap up for joy to meet Christ. The sea gives up its dead (My kids always ask: what if you drown and get eaten by sharks? If that happens to me, I’ll leap furthest fastest! Besides, who created Jaws in the first place?)

And the living will hop right out of their bodies and rush to hug Jesus. The whole creation — a happy dog welcoming its master home — will quiver with pleasure at his coming again.

Imagine this world as a Christmas present wrapped in blue oceans, green forests and purple mountains. It’s splendid. We love it.

But what we see are merely the wrappings and when Christmas morning comes, the wrappings get ripped apart. The real gift inside comes to light and the pretty paper, wonderful as it was, is of no concern to anybody but the trashmen.

As a fundamentalist Christian, I believe the Bible teaches a brief summary of what we can expect as the party starts:

red balloonJesus promised to return.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you,” he said in John 14. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”

red balloonHe is returning for our benefit.

“I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” he said.

red balloonNo one knows when he will return.

“Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only,” he said in Matthew 24.

red balloonWe are to be ready.

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh,” Jesus said.

red balloonHis return will be the best thing ever to happen to us:

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Party table 2

There’s a place saved for you at the table.

You are welcomed.

You are treasured.

You are invited.

You are loved.

Yes, the world will end. Did you think it wouldn’t? But never mind that; good things are in store for us. Wonderful things. Remember that what a caterpillar might call the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.

Oh yes, one other thing about God’s party — RSVP.

Whosoever will may come, but we really should respond to his invitation right now.

That’s fundamental.

 

• 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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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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