Unbelievers

(From page 93 of my book, A Dirty Old Man Gets Worse ( www.bluefishbooks.info ); I originally wrote it on March 22, 2006).

During a smoke break from research, I sat by the fountain in our garden thinking about people who feel compelled to defend their religious beliefs with violence.

To me it’s obvious that an urge to defend God reveals a lack of confidence in God.

Do these Believers, who do not believe enough to trust God, really think He is helpless?

Does the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth, lack strength to defend His own honor?

Truth is true whether anybody believes it or not.

Suppose, for instance, that centuries ago a pirate crew buried a chest of gold coins under the ancient oak tree in your back yard and they left a map pinpointing the location.

Suppose that you’re scrounging in the back of a closet and find that old map.

The treasure is there whether you believe the map or dismiss it as a hoax.

I think that’s the situation with truth in the Bible.

The treasure is there whether you choose to dig it out or to ignore it.

If you choose, believing makes you a winner with untold riches; if you choose not to believe, you miss out on the treasure.

A sure mark of people who do not believe very much, is that they feel compelled to adamantly defend their choice. They know that their choice is shaky, cowardly, dishonorable, questionable — but pride compels them to force their wobbly beliefs on other people.

They want to be affirmed.

They’re scared not to be.

We don’t defend truth, we defend sin. I’m so hellbent to justify that — in spite of whatever my favorite sin is — I’m a good man, that I’ll go to any length to prove that I’m right, even when I wallow in sin.

In his own mind, no man is an asshole.

I know I’m not…

Although the people who have to live around me may have a dissenting opinion.

You see, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

I’m not positive but I’d bet that people who insist on self-justification most vehemently are most likely to be harboring some secret sin, some personal evil, some wicked, vile inclination or practice that entangles their souls but that they never want to give up. They want to hold on to something they know damn good and well is wrong, but at the same time they want to think of themselves as good guys. Not sordid squalid fallen human beings, but right.

If I do it, it’s me. And I’m right. And you’d better agree or you’ll be sorry.

God did not come down from Heaven to die on the cross for our petty self righteousness. Jesus did not rise from the grave just to prove that we are right.

The well have no need for a physician; it’s the unhealthy who need a Savior.

But we live in denial.

We refuse to admit that black spot is melanoma.

I’m alright. Nothing wrong with me,” we say.

So unbelievers try to affirm their own unbelief of truth to their own wicked hearts by loud, violent, fanatical, irrational defenses of their substitute for truth.

This vile practice is not limited to religious fanatics burning flags or bras or cars or draft cards or whathaveyou. I mean, look at the scientists who attacked Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian last year (see my August 20, 2005, blog posting).

If you are a true believer, if you are confident that what you believe is true, then you can tolerate, even love, people who do not believe the truth. You pity them and, out of brotherly love, try to show them Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. But you need have no compulsion to beat them over the head thinking you’re defending God.

Relax. God needs no defence.

He’s a Big Boy. He can take care of Himself.

Only unbelievers would believe otherwise.

Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.

Lord Jesus, be merciful to John Cowart, a sinner.

• 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.

No Comments

13 Pipes

Monday, August 25, 2014

13 Pipes

About midnight Friday I spotted an ad for an estate sale offering some 1950s vintage tobacco pipes. Since it was located in a residential area unfamiliar to me, I hesitated driving by myself, so I recruited Donald and Helen to drive me there on Saturday morning.

I bought a box of thirteen pipes—five were drug store pipes, but eight were signature brand names. At a tobacconist shop any one of the signature pipes would cost more than I paid for the whole box.

After church Sunday, I cleaned the new/old pipes and began to retire some of my own battered pipes—ones held together by black electrical tape with cracked bowls patched with children’s Play Dough– yes, that’s how I mend cracked bowls.

Thus, I spent a happy rainy afternoon listening to 1960s music, cleaning pipes– and gloating.

• 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.

No Comments

One More Hurtle?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I thought I was done with it.

Silly me.

About three weeks ago I posted the final revision, number eight, of that book on the history of Christ Church Jacksonville Anglican. I understood that the church planed to order a couple of hundred copies to use as free giveaways during the National Back To Church services in September.

Not so apparently.

Although the editorial committee of the church staff had approved the book before I posted it on my bluefishbooks.info website, yesterday I learned that only a handful of copies are to be bought now; these are to be passed out to the leadership council for their approval, corrections and revisions.

Everyone on the council may love it.

Or not.

At any rate, this means another 12 to 20 people will be supplying their input about the history book.

Not sure how I feel about that. I heard the news with dismay.

I feel I’ve already gone the second mile. I thought the thing was finished—not perfect maybe, but as good as I could make it.

Now, I’m inclined to put my clothes on and go home. This party is not as much fun as I thought it was going to be.

I believe they call situations like this… life.

Looks like I should be used to it by now.

Visited the library yesterday afternoon. Picked up a dozen murder mysteries. Reading them is how I hope to spend next week.

• 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.

No Comments

Fallow? or Useless?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I first wrote the following posting on Wednesday, May 23, 2007; I could just as well have written it this morning. It’s from page 249 of my book A Dirty Old Man Stumbles On:

I Feel Useless

Tuesday, I did nothing.

Well, I did go out for breakfast with my friend Wes, and I caught up with laundry washing four loads of cloth, but I didn’t do a lick of work.

Over breakfast Wes and I talked about Drama Queens in our respective families.

We concluded that if Jerry Springer ever wants to air a week-long, 24-hour-a-day marathon tv show, for material he’d have to look no farther than our families.

We could supply Dr. Phil with material for a season’s worth of shows too — without having to look up a single phone number.

Later, while waiting for washer and dryer to do their thing, I finished reading a book on Florida archaeology and I started reading a murder mystery.

But, I didn’t do a lick of work.

I let my work pile up. There’s plenty of it: I’m a third of the way through editing the Ward Diary; the fire department history waits my attention; my next novel sits in a file drawer; a shopping bag full of clippings to be sorted haunts me; and other projects both larger and smaller will not get done unless I do them…

Yet I did nothing useful all day long.

So, I began to feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be working? Doing something useful? Marching toward my goals? Writing great literature? Making a difference? Serving God, uplifting mankind, rescuing damsels in distress? Something useful?

After all, today is all we have. If I do nothing useful today, then that opportunity is gone forever. Water under the bridge.

Doesn’t God want me to be engaged in worthwhile activities?

Not necessarily.

I got to thinking about King David. He lived a lot of days (I forget how old he was when he died). On one of those days he killed a giant. With a slingshot. How long did that take?

Zap!

Clunk.

Crash.

Ever afterwards, history regarded David as a giant killer.

Most days in his life, David tended a herd of a thousand sheep, either watching where he stepped or scraping off his shoes. He practiced harp. He endured rebellious teenage children. He squabbled with other kings. He wrote Psalms. He peeked over his balcony to watch a naked woman in her shower… But, he is most well known for what he did on one single day out of a lifetime of days.

And in Scripture God calls David, “A man after My own heart”.

I feel useless.

But, I got to thinking that perhaps today I am lying fallow. That means… What does that word mean? I’ve heard it all my life but I’m not clear on the meaning.

I looked it up and it’s a farmer’s word referring to a “field left unplowed and unseeded during a growing season; cultivated land that is undeveloped but potentially useful; a basic way to improve soil fertility”.

In crop rotation, the farmer plants that field one year, then he lets it lie fallow for a year, then the third year he plants it with a different crop.

This process enriches the soil.

While the land lies fallow, underneath the dirt earthworms do their work to the glory of God while on the surface thistles grow and birds nest. Foxes and rabbits and badgers die in their burrows and their decay fertilizes the earth. Snakes move among the weeds catching mice. The land rests. Nature takes its course.

In useless times, invisible stuff is going on.

Good stuff.

The field comes back stronger than before because it has lain fallow for a season.

Not useless.

Fallow.

While all around me others are growing and thriving and bearing fruit and winning souls and proclaiming Christ and getting things done and moving mountains — here I am lying fallow, undeveloped, unseeded, unneeded, resting for the moment, awaiting future use.

Nothing wrong with that.

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

No Comments

Fun With Wes

Monday, August 18, 2014

Last night my friend Wes treated me to supper out and a couple of hours conversation about God, life, history, disease, and endurance.

Wes is one of the most thoroughly Christian men I have ever met. He is brilliant and dogmatic (I love to bait him on theological points) but his compassionate heart is bigger than his brain.

Last week, Wes, a medical professional, volunteered for service in an Ebola unit.

No, he is not headed for West Africa; the hospital where he works is setting up an isolation ward as a precautionary measure against the future possible arrival of Ebola patients in Jacksonville.

In my recent readings of local history, I find that epidemic diseases have decimated Jacksonville in the past—Yellow Jack, the popular name for yellow fever made the city into a ghost town several times. Typhoid Fever in 1898 killed more soldiers here than in the battles of the Spanish American war. And Spanish Lady, the influenza epidemic of 1918 caused death carts to roll and mass burials in open pits–whole families dying the same day.

Then there were polio, and scarlet fever, and Creeping Corruption (TB), and break-bone fever, and a host of less well known epidemics which scoured the city—all of which seemed to have been forgotten by the Chamber of Commerce within in a few months after they passed.

So, yes, it can happen here.

No danger yet.

But preparations are underway just in case.

I’m proud of my friend for his facing even the remote possibility of Ebola.

Another, more immediate, thing he faces, which strikes closer to home, is that his father, a man in his upper 80s, has a puppy, Bella, his constant companion for the past 13 years—this week the vet said that Bella has a tumor which will soon lead to her death.

Wes’s dad wants his pet to be comfortable and not to suffer, yet he needs to hold on to Bella as long as possible; Bella was his late wife’s dog.

He is devastated at having to make such a decision.

Wes and I talked about dispensationalism, diving healing, the charismatic movement, prayer, death, parables, the will of God in our workaday lives, and the role of faith in our mundane decisions—usual guy stuff as Wes puffed his cigar and I stoked my pipe.

Of course we enjoyed discrete, tasteful Christian jokes too.

Here’s one Wes told me which I hadn’t heard before:

This godly man winds up in a modest house on a far back lot in Heaven.

One day he spots his notoriously wicked neighbor floating by on a cloud with a fifth of whiskey in his hand and a curvaceous woman snuggled in his arm.

Outraged, the godly man stomps to Heaven’s complaint department to protest.

Why should that wicked man float around Heaven with a fifth and a beautiful woman,” he demanded.

The recording angel explained, “You don’t understand. The whiskey bottle has a hole in it; that woman doesn’t”.

• 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.

No Comments

A Fine Fine

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This bit of news from a London newspaper caught my attention:

Downstate last week here in Florida, I’m not exactly sure where, maybe Orlando, a dork disturbed mourners in a cemetery by pretending to be a ghost.

Anthony Stallard, a British tourist age 24, had been bounding a soccer ball against tombstones then decided he would try to scare some people attending a funeral.

Police stopped him.

He was throwing himself backwards, waving his arms and going “whooooh”, the prosecutor said in court.

It was not clear whether this action was exactly illegal.

Nevertheless, the judge ordered Stallard to pay a fine of $125… “For stupidity”.

• 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.

2 Comments

Helping Hands Helped Me

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Remember the old schoolyard taunt, “You are ugly and your mother dresses you funny”?

Well, my mother does not dress me.

I dress myself. But I look funny because for the past eight or ten months I’ve had to dress in the dark because some doohickey in my bedroom ceiling light burned out.

All clothes, like all cats, look gray in the dark.

Ok, having to dress in the dark is not an emergency situation; but it is a nuisance. So, I’ve just picked whatever shirt hangs nearest the closet door. Things buried deep in dark recesses of my closet remain there on hangers till they may see the light of day.

This weekend Fred Estep, leader of the Helping Hands Ministry at Christ Church Jacksonville Anglican, came to my rescue. He came to my house, climbed a ladder, and fixed the doohickey in the ceiling. I now have light. That red shirt is actually brown (sort of).

I dressed quiet natty for church today. If I do say so myself.

Fred also repaired the control switch on my motorized reclining chair so I can actually get out of the thing now (picture a walrus on the beach)..

A few months ago, Fred, a professional building inspector, carpenter, and all-round handyman, saw two needs at Christ Church. One, he saw that many of us who are elderly, feeble and useless, need various home repairs which we can’t do ourselves or afford to have done. Two, he also saw that may of the young people in the congregation have various skills which they’d like to use to serve the Lord.

Fred brings the two needs together in a ministry called Helping Hands.

Helping Hands Logo1 - Copy

Recently his crew cut down a dead tree—one of the guys is a tree climber and skilled with a chain saw—overhanging the home of a wheelchair-bound lady. They built a deck for her and repaired a leaking roof. They’re helping another person with serious illness in the family put a new roof on his barn. They hung a mirror and installed a fuse box for other people, and also performed a bunch of such stuff around the church building.

They scrounge scrap building materials for their projects or pay out of their own pockets. Thus, we elderly get safety and quality of life repairs at our homes and the young skilled workmen and women get the lift of spirit from knowing they have truly helped someone in need.

They charge nothing for their labor.

And, they have built a great spirit of camaraderie within their group while working together on these projects.

Saturday, after Fred fixed my bedroom light—to him a minor chore, to me a major aggravation—we enjoyed breakfast together and I unloaded on him some problems I face which require heavy, life-changing decisions on my part. His advice and wise insights opened new aspects of the problem which I had not even considered.

My mind has been darker than my bedroom closet.

Fred enlightened me.

As we talked, I thought about manifesting the love of Christ through physical action. I remembered how the preacher recently likened faith and work to the two pedals on a bicycle—you can’t go far with only one.

Salvation comes through trusting Christ alone, that’s faith, a spiritual thing. But life comes through working as though there were no Spirit—a physical thing.

We are spiritual beings moving through a physical world. We exist in a world which is both seeable and unseeable at the same time.

For instance, if you watch me in church you may see that my head is bowed and my eyes closed—but you can not tell if I am worshiping the Lord, or napping.

Worship is unseeable—an invisible thing, a spiritual thing.

You can not tell if a person is worshiping—but you can see when a person has worshiped—that shows up in their actions, visible, physical things.

Can I fake the spiritual?

Certainly.

I’ve done it.

As the prophet said, “This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me”.

Can I fake the physical?

Certainly.

I’ve done that too.

As the prophet said, “Even the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”.

But I knew I was faking. My wife knew. My children. Everyone knows whether or not I ring true.

For Heaven’s sake, John Wesley once said, “When a man is truly converted, even his dog knows it”!

And God knows. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Under the terrible scrutiny of the Almighty what I do for show is shown to be what it is.

Jesus said we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth– God is looking for such double-barreled Christians

People who pray and do.

People who worship and work.

People who don’t dress in the dark.

Lord, make me such a man.

• 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.

3 Comments

A Lovely Dream

Friday, August 8, 2014

I dreamed that Ginny and I walked down a hospital corridor headed toward her room. My arm circled her waist supporting her as she snuggled her head cozy on my shoulder.

We passed a lounge and I offered to seat her there but she felt too weak and wanted to go on to her bed. A nurse carrying a glass of orange juice rushed past remarking, “At least he made it to the bathroom”.

We walked past the nurses’ station where my friend Mark, pastor fo the church I attend, was speaking to a circle of people dressed in blue scrubs. He paused in what he was saying and pointed to us. He said, “There walking, is love defined”.

All the doctors and nurses turned to look at us—then, I woke.

Speaking of Mark, last Sunday, his sermon spoke to my condition; in his series on the Book Of Proverbs, he talked about laziness.

He said we are saved by faith but God has work for us to do. Mark likened this dichotomy of faith and work to the pedals on a bicycle: it takes both to go anywhere.

Diver on bike

Mark’s sermon points formed an acrostic from the word L.A.Z.Y.

Let your work be for God.

Apply Effort.

Zoom past excuses– the congregation cheered and clapped at his thinking of a Z word and he took a bow. But his point was that I can always find a reason not to do right. “The lazy person is full of excuses, saying, ‘If I go outside because there might be a lion on the road! Yes, I’m sure there’s a lion out there”! (Proverbs 26:13)

You are a child of God—Mark differentiated between laziness and limited actions because of depression. “Exercise faith in spite of (falsely perceived) reality,” he said. “Be gentle with yourself during temporary down times, but don’t quit. Don’t beat yourself up. But get back on the bicycle when you are able”.

See how much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are… We can’t even imagine what we shall be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when He comes, we will be like Him for we will see Him as He really is”. (I John 3:1-2).

• 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.

1 Comment

The Voice Of Bread

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sicne I’ve been a frreelance writer for over 30 years, it might be a good idea if someday I learned how to type.

Having just finished a 200+ page book on the history fo a local chuech, I’m ready to investigate ways to get anothe4er book written, but as I age, my figngers swell bigger and my mind bloats and my typing suffers.

So, Monday two fo my sones, John and Fred, said they’d introdufce me to a way to meerly dictate my pages without typing.

I WENVISION3ED recflining in my easy chair dictatioing my future books to a buxsom blond secretary who’d hang breathless on my eve4ry word jotting down my wisdom on her steno pad balanced on the nylon-clad knees showing beneath her short, skintight skirt.

Not so.

Instead, the guys brought out this computer thingy called Voice Recfognition Software. And you talk to it, and like the RCA dog of yesteryear, it hears its master’s voice, and types the words it hears on the computer screen.

A wonder of communication….

Except…

You need front teeth top talk computeresee.

Anytime, I’d say my son’s name—Fred–the machine translated that word into Bread.

The computer screen fidlled with word jumbles worse than my typing.

I wonder, in the future, should I continue to finger type then go back to edit and correct a few typos and one or two spelling errors—like I’ve done with this posting—or should I speak with the Voice of Bread?

VictorTalkingLogo

• 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.

1 Comment

The Shameless Writer

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ok, so I’ve finished writing that church history book, 200+ pages of carefully researched material—quite an accomplishment—so how do I feel about that?

I feel ashamed.

After writing any book, after teaching a Bible lesson, after mowing my grass, after having an intimate conversation—shame nearly always overwhelms me.

Dr. Brene Brown in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, said, “Shame is like a prison. But a prison that you deserve to be in because something is wrong with you.

“Shame is being exposed—the flawed parts of yourself that you want to hide from everyone are revealed. You want to hide or die.

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefor unworthy of acceptance and belonging”.

Yes, writing a book, talking with a friend, having anyone see me work—all this stuff exposes me. No place to hide. Caught in the act—the cop shining his spotlight right in my eyes so I can’t see him. I’m exposed. Vulnerable. At risk.

I want to scream, “I wasn’t doing anything wrong”.

And I wasn’t.

Yet I’m shamed.

As I’ve worked on this church history book—one the pastor asked me to write—I’ve been thinking that once it is published, I’ll have to stop going to church.

I’ll be ashamed to show my face around there.

I’ll be exposed for what I am.

Yes, guilt reflects what I’ve done wrong, a specific act—I ate the whole pizza—that specific act can be confessed and forgiven; but shame reflects that I am wrong, defective, there’s something wrong with me—shame is a state of being.

I can’t do anything right.

And if this book or anything else I do, turns out to be adequate, that’s just a fluke.

For years my friend, Barbara White, God rest her, wrote Along The Way, one of the most popular newspaper columns. She won numerous local, state and national awards for her columns. Each week thousands of readers followed Barbara’s struggles with faith in daily life. Readers wrote scores of letters rejoicing in how her columns had helped in their own struggles.

Those Along The Way columns caused Barbara anguish.

“John,” she said, “Every week I wait for the hammer to drop. People will realize I’m a fraud; that my column is me putting only my best foot forward”.

Barbara was one of the most godly people I’ve ever met.

Shame is unreasonable. We are what we are—and by and large other people don’t care. They’ve got their own hangups.

I feel shame because I think I’m the star of the show, the center of the universe, when I know damn well that God is, or that you are, and I’m weighted in the balance and found wanting. Inadequate,

In my head I know when the ushers pass out the free copies of my book at the end of a church service in September, folks will stick it in their handbags or toss it on the back shelf of the car—Some may open it only to see if their own name is spelled right, or a few kids may glance at the cartoons…

And the book will disappear without a ripple.

Yet, I squirm and want to run away…

Withdraw because I feel ashamed.

Now, let me tell about my next book in progress…

• 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.

Comments Off

Older Entries