Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Wonderful Long Weekend

Ginny and I just took a long rainy weekend to get reacquainted and recharge our batteries. While the rain drizzled outside, we holed up in our home like bunnies in a burrow watching a string of 1950’s B-grade science fiction movies like Bloodtide, The Atomic Brain, The Transparent Man, Ro-Man Monster, and other equally distinguished films which we checked out of the library.

Saturday we dined at Yeshi Café. We’d never been to an Ethiopian restaurant. before so I explained to Ginny what to do if robbers held up the place while we were there.

She’s not a cosmopolitan sophisticate like I am so she didn’t know what you’re supposed to do.

At Yeshi Café the owner’s daughter explained that we were to eat with our fingers using torn-off pits of a huge pancake made of exotic flour to scoop up the stew. This is served without silverware on a huge platter set in the center of the table – think extra-large pizza without cheese on a base of sponge cake which absorbs the sauce and spices. Delicious!

Although the menu is printed in a squiggly alphabet, I quickly learned the names of the Ethiopian dishes. Baked chicken served with a hard-boiled egg in a yellow sauce of jalapeno peppers, curry, celery and onions – in the Ethiopian language that’s called Number 13. Other dishes have similar exotic names.

Seriously, Our dining experience at Yeshi Café proved exquisite. The décor is exotic, the waitress was helpful and charming, and the food tasty. Ginny and I walked out of the place saying, "O, we’ve got to bring so and so here”! or, "Wouldn't so and so enjoy this place?". We plan to add this to our regular list of places for our Friday Night Dates.

What? You mean you don’t know what to do about robbers either?

If you’re in an Ethiopian restaurant when the place is robbed, you obviously call a Coptic.

For some reason, Ginny says she’ll be glad to get back to work today.

The proof pages for A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad arrived from the printer yesterday. So I have my own work cut out for me this 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 @ 6:23 AM

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Just For Me

Sorry, server's been down this morning so I'm late posting...Ginny & I plan to take a couple of days off so, unless I have something worth saying, I doubt if I'll post again till next Tuesday -- jwc.

Here's what I had for this morning:

Back in the mid 1980s, I wrote some things that embarrass me now.

I ran across such a piece yesterday. I’d forgotten that I wrote it … I mean, I remember that I wrote on the subject (my mind is not that far gone), but I’d forgotten what I said about it.

Does that make any sense?

Back in the mid ‘80s I wrote a bunch of magazine articles about Christians whose lives inspired me. I collected these pieces into a book which was published by InterVarsity Press in 1990 under the title People Whose Faith Got Them Into Trouble. Although this collective biography was translated into a few foreign languages and was broadcast as a radio series, it pretty much disappeared without a ripple.

It went out of print and a bunch of copies were pulped because I could not afford to buy them at the time.

That hurt.

Several editors at IVP asked me to write another book, one about knowing and following the will of God. They gave me a small cash advance to do the work. I started the project… but some life problems steamrolled me. Depression overwhelmed me. I could not write anything. Although the editors and publishers extended my deadlines several times, and although I accumulated reams of notes, I just could not finish that book. I defaulted on the contract and they generously forgave my debt so I did not have to pay back the advance.

The whole experience wilted me.

For a couple of years I wrote nothing but my personal journal.

Last January when my son Donald encouraged me to attempt this print-on-demand business, Bluefish Books, I thought that reissuing my collective biography, People Whose Faith…, would be an easy task. So I began scanning text and writing a few new chapters. That’s the project I’ve been editing this past week.

I’ve approached the task as a hurdle, anxious to get it over and done with, just words to plough through. Text to edit. Pages to scan. Computer formatting problems to solve. Spacing to adjust…

I had forgotten why I wrote this book in the first place.

Yesterday I’d worked my way up to the chapter on Mary Slessor, a Scottish Presbyterian lass who changed the face of Africa. She was one tough lady. I mean if Indiana Jones ran into her, he’d step aside, go sit in a corner and suck his thumb.

She escaped from an abusive drunken father, became a factory girl in a textile mill, served as a missionary in Africa, and was honored by the King of England, becoming Lady Slessor. She once beat off a charging hippo by banging it on the nose with a metal dishpan.

But those aren’t the important things about her.

The thing that astounds me, the thing I’d forgotten, the reason I’d chosen to write about her back in the ‘80s is her passion for Christ. Her letters and diaries reveal a single-minded dedication to the Savior. Her vision of Christ, high and lifted up, generates such fervor, such a grasp of reality, such an intensity – that her life make me ashamed of my own wallowing in self-pity and seeking after comfort.

Yesterday as I read over what I’d written all those years ago, my own words mad me ashamed of my own lukewarm spirit and my petty desire for a comfortable life. I realized that I’ve put Christ on a back burner while I devote my energies to more important things like getting my books out and watching NFL playoffs.

I had forgotten, but yesterday the chapter I wrote about Mary Slessor reminded me that I must life and write first of all for the benefit of my own soul, if anyone else reads my stuff, well and good. But if my life and work springs from something less than gratitude to Christ for who He is and what He’s done, then who needs it?

Physician, heal thyself. If I am to inspire others, then I myself must first be inspired … I’d lost sight of 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 @ 2:14 PM

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Questions & Complaints While Flying Home

Yesterday my friend Wes came over early bringing me some pipe tobacco I needed and a DVD movie he wants me to watch. We talked a bit about his family's history and publishing his grandfather’s autobiography.

We went out to breakfast at Dave’s Diner where Wes told me about a squabble going on at the church he attends. He said that when he gets to Heaven, he wants to ask God about such things.

That set me to thinking about what questions I might ask.

I thought of this and that, but before long I realized that questions and complaints are for the journey – not for the arrival.

My mind drew the analogy of an airplane flight.

In the terminal waiting room, I have all kinds of questions. Will I get bumped? What time does the plane leave? Will I get a window seat? What’s for dinner? Why this long line at security? …

Here’s a dumb aside that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about:

There was this stewardess checking passengers onto an airplane. She asked this weird guy in the line, “Sir, may I see your ticket?” The pervert flipped open his black overcoat and flashed her. Unperturbed the stewardess said, “Sir, I asked to see your ticket, not your stub”.

Anyhow, getting back to my analogy:

On an air trip I also have a lot of concerns and complaints. That PA system garbles the announcements; I can’t hear what flight they’re calling. I feel airsick. That baby two rows back won’t stop crying. The fat guy beside me hogs the armrest. Bet they’re gonna loose my luggage. The air conditioning is too hot. … and on and on

But, once I reach my final destination the only thing that matters is who is there to meet me.

My questions, concerns and complaints – all perhaps legitimate in their place – no longer matter.

Jim Elliot, a missionary killed by the Auca Indians of Ecuador, once said, “No one in Heaven will complain about anything they lacked on earth”.

The things that concern us now on the trip will just fade when we are greeted. The greatest problem, the most aggravating person, the scariest fear – all forgotten like last Thursday morning’s radio traffic report.

The only thing that matters is who greets us.

At our final destination we shall see Light. Light that shines with such bright splendor we can see nothing else. All that once mattered and seemed important now fades to insignificance.

We’re likely to prostrate ourselves to kiss his nail-scared feet, and his nail-scared hands will raise us up and he’ll say something like, “Welcome! Welcome! I hear you had a rough trip. I’m glad you’re home now”.

We’ll have no questions. No complaints.

We shall see The King in His beauty, and we shall be …


I wanted to end with that last word, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about crashing and burning. We don’t want to do that. Yet there’s not a one of us who doesn’t think we can run this airline better than the present CEO. We’re not content to be passengers, so we wrest the controls out of our Captain’s hands. That’s not too smart. There’s a reason we need a Savior. Enough said?

Oh, the DVD Wes brought me is a remake of a Sherlock Holmes story, Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ll tell you about it when I’ve seen it. Bet it makes a great in-flight movie.

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 @ 5:12 AM

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Living Saint

Worked at my desk all day.

Watched tv all evening.

Got nothing else to say … Except 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 burry 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 @ 3:50 AM

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Driven Crazy By A Crab!

My work has been driving me crazy.

For the past week or ten days, my work floundered as I attempted to convert my book manuscript of A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad from a 467-page Word document into a 325-page PDF file for the printer.

No go.

The thing would not convert.

I tried this. I tried that. I revised. I cursed. I prayed. I copied. I pasted.

Nothing worked.

With weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I labored over this thing but nothing I did made any difference. I consulted my computer guru son Donald and followed his suggestions.

All to no avail.

I pondered reasons why I can’t get this book to the printer?

Perhaps the devil did not want my words of wisdom to reach a needy world of readers anxiously awaiting these autobiographical snippets.

Perhaps the Lord God Almighty did not want my writing to muddy the water for readers headed to His Kingdom.

Perhaps Bill Gates (who I’m convinced personally hates me – although I never did anything to the man) Perhaps Bill Gates hacks into my computer at night and messes up my files.

Or maybe Stephen King, America’s greatest writer, fears my writing will bump him from his spot on the Best Seller List, so he sabotages my work in a fit of petty jealousy. Poor fellow. Must be tough to be the King and see your replacement on the rise.

You know, sometimes when you screw up the same thing again and again, it’s wise to consult an expert.

Donald asked his friend Helen, a graphic artist, to look at my files to see why I’ve floundered. Glancing over my text this morning, she spotted and corrected the problem in just a couple of hours.

It was all the crab’s fault.

You see, my manuscript carries a couple of dozen photos to illustrate the text.

One of these photos is a picture of a crab statue that Donald gave me for my birthday:


One of the people at the party snapped this photo on one of those telephones that not only make noise but also take pictures. This FoneyFoto was e-mailed wirelessly from my backyard to the computer in my living room – a distance of 50 yards. And to illustrate A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad, I used this one photo among all the others which had been taken with real cameras.

The crab picture from the FoneyFoto device carries within it a vastly different electronic structure from real photos. Whenever I’d try to convert my manuscript using pdf software, the thing would perk along fine till it came to this snapping crab.

Terrified of the crab’s pinchers, the software would run screaming out of the water leaving all my manuscript pages to soggify into mush and sink beneath the surface.

Helen did something technical to the crab.

Now the conversion program works.

All those hundreds of pages of text I’ve been revising and revising had nothing to do with my problem. Maybe there’s some spiritual lesson I can learn here, maybe instead of beating my head against a firewall fruitlessly, I should have asked for help sooner.

I think I almost remember a Scripture verse that applies:

Come unto me all ye that labor
and are heavy laden,
and I will swack thy crab
– or something like that.

Anyhow, my manuscript converted into a pdf file last night.

Printer’s proof pages are on the way.

In another week or ten days the book will be available – please mail my copy to the asylum.

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 @ 5:41 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Monday, January 23, 2006

We Are Too A Fun Couple

For me one pain outranks all others.

Ginny and I have been at odds with eachother.

She feels threatened and upset by the prospect of loosing her job in the cutbacks her office announced last week.

I’m frustrated by hitting a dead end in publishing a book I’ve been working on for a long time.

This weekend, we each turned hostile against each other.

Over the 38 years we’ve been married, we’ve seen this happen on occasion. And it’s a recurring problem we never have learned how to handle. I wish there were some Christian magic bullet which would solve relationship problems, but if there is, we haven’t found it.

Normally, we maintain an Us Against The World mindset and that attitude has carried us through all sorts of external problems. But when we lose that and began to function in a Me Against You mode, things deteriorate between us rapidly.

How rapidly?

A single word, a single facial expression or a shrug of the shoulders triggers nuclear meltdown. I feel, Ah Ha! Now it comes out. She never did love me in the first place. All these years have been a charade. Now she’s showing her true colors. All our married life has been meaningless.

And all these feelings can hinge on a single word or even on a silence when I expected a word.

Pain overwhelms me. Mental anguish. Despair. I feel rejected, unloved, defensive.

I suspect she feels the same way.

I withdraw. I become an iceberg. A black, damp rock in the Antarctic Ocean. Untouchable. Barren. Hostile. Incapable of supporting life.

Ginny exhibits similar symptoms.

We are not a fun couple.

Perhaps the best thing we’ve got going for us is that over the years, we’ve come to recognize those symptoms and know that, eventually with much pain, we will survive them. We’ve learned that nobody loves anybody all the time. We know we’ll face interludes when love with hearts and flowers, just is not there – for the moment.

When we first got married, we drove a truck all over the country. For months at a time we lived three feet away from each other 24 hours a day. We learned to be honest with eachother without taking offence. We learned that sometimes all you can say is not “I love you” but “I tolerate you”. We learned that we each carry our own internal demons which have nothing to do with the other person.

For ages I’ve heard that communication is the most important thing in marriage – I don’t believe that.

No, the most important thing in marriage is assuming good will on the part of your partner.

And sometimes that’s hard to do.

But at least, we’ve come to realize that we are going to go through bleak periods like this every once in a while and that while such ghastly periods are truly horrible, they don’t last.

Not forever and ever, but for a passing time long or short.

Eventually one or the other of us makes overtures of reconciliation… Sometimes one or the other of us will apologize -- but most often not, because we each remained convinced that I was right about whatever the triggering disagreement was about. We are both proud individuals and can’t readily admit, “I was wrong” -- but what we can do is say, “I’m sorry that we are at odds and I don’t want to be at odds with you”.

I can’t think of a light note to end this posting. Ginny and I have been at odds most of the weekend. We made up yesterday. We are exhausted – but we’ve exhausted together.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:21 AM

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Calm Continuation Of Yesterday's Posting:

Friday I began to re-do all the work I’ve already done on the Dirty Old Man Goes Bad manuscript. I’m attempting to discover that tiny, little, minor glitch which hinders uploading my book to the printer.

Yes, I did free my shrimp net from that grocery cart beneath the water and I’m confident that in a few minutes calm contemplation I’ll untangle this formatting error also.

As I cheerfully go about my appointed tasks, I work with a song in my heart. And, with my being a dedicated Christian, it’s only natural that that song be a familiar old hymn of the church. The third verse of Amazing Grace rings in my heart:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And ‘tis grace will keep me from pouring lighter fluid into the floppy disc slot on my computer, lighting a match, and cackling madly as the cheap plastic melts into a puddle on the rug, and the glass monitor cracks, and sorry worthless chips fry as I stomp the whole damn thing till my pants catch fire – with this song in my heart.

Or, as St. Paul said, “Let patience have its perfect work…”

But, what did he know?

He never touched a keyboard.

He had an amanuensis.

How else could he stay a saint?

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 @ 11:15 AM

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Invisible Underwater Obstructions

Jacksonville, Florida, my hometown, is often called the River City. The St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the world that flow north, runs right through the center of town and a wooden walkway, appropriately called the Riverwalk, flanks both banks.

Boats of every sort cruise the river. Mighty aircraft carriers name Mayport, at the mouth of the river, their homeport. Water taxis ferry passengers from Southbank to Northbank. Pleasure yachts and cruise ships tie up right behind the old City Hall. Tall sailboats glide under the bridges, which have to be raised bringing auto traffic to a stop. Speed boats dash along. Crab boats work the waters. Tug boats pushing barges trudge through the city. Casino ships sucker in gamblers. Jet skis roar. Kayaks paddle.

Any hour day or night you see boats moving on the river.

What you don’t see is what’s under the dark waters.

Couple of times a year some boater rams his craft into a bridge pilling, dock, tree or other boat. You can assume that he’s drunk or not paying attention.

But, other times the wreck is not necessarily the boater’s fault; he hits some invisible obstruction under the water. Some obstructions are natural, a drifting log, a grazing manatee, a shifting sandbar. Other unseen underwater obstructions are man made. For instance, back in 1865 an enemy ship, the Maple Leaf, ran into one of our Confederate mines and sank. If the yankee invaders had stayed where they belonged, their boat wouldn’t have got in trouble. Serves ‘em right. In recent years divers have recovered all sorts of goodies from the Maple Leaf wreck site to put in a museum. The relics draw more yankees.

But, I’m getting sidetracked.

There are unseen things under the water that can mess you up big time.

For instance, one night about 3 a.m. I was out casting a 12-foot net to catch shrimp when my net snagged on something. I tugged this way and I tugged that way, but I couldn’t free my net. I had to go into the dark water, follow the guide line down to the river bottom about 15 reet under, and feel my way around the obstruction to get my net loose. In zero visibility, I discovered that I’d cast my net over a grocery cart which some… citizen… had shoved off the dock into the water. Blessings on him – or something.

A shopping cart.

Upside down.

Under 15 feet of dark water.

With my net tangled over the wheels.

What makes me remember this incident?

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a book manuscript, A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad. Initially it ran to 467 pages. I used a template. I set margins and tabs. I inserted section breaks, headers and footers. I eliminated widows and orphans. I resized graphics. Spellchecked. Removed redundancies. Polished. Tweaked. Designed a book cover … At last my ship was ready to launch. I could cast my perfect bread upon the waters…

Then, last night when I went to upload my manuscript and convert it into a pdf file for the printer, I get an error message. There was a box to click for more information. I clicked it. A dropdown box told me “Formatting Error. Action can not be accomplished.” --- BUT IT WILL NOT TELL ME WHAT THE ERROR IS OR WHERE TO FIND IT IN THE 467-PAGE MANUSCRIPT!!!!

Damn yankee software!

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 @ 8:33 AM

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Worst People/Film On Earth?

Wednesday I continued formatting the two book manuscripts I’m preparing.

With much fussing and fuming and frustration, I managed to post a sample chapter, The Worst People On Earth. on my website.

The chapter title comes from a 1956 Time magazine article referring to the Auca Indians of Ecuador who murdered five missionaries drawing worldwide attention to the previously obscure tribe.

That’s one incident I include in my book, Strangers On The Earth. This book was previously published by InterVarsity Press under the title People Whose Faith Got Them Into Trouble, but that’s been long out of print. So I’ve revamped it and added a few more chapters getting it ready to re-issue it in February – and yes, this is the same manuscript I intended to have published last November, but was too lazy to get it done.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the sample chapter.

The layoff at Ginny’s office made the tv news last night with the emphasis being on how much money would be saved by firing people. No mention of the major service cuts this action will generate. Ginny – as she does in every crisis – lets it all swirl around her as she blithely goes about her duties as though there were no crisis.

I’ve seen her do this again and a gain over the years. She is the most calm, contented, non-excitable, focused person I have ever met. I suppose she has to be in order to stay married to me all this time.

The only time I’ve ever seen her blow up was back when we were first married and driving a truck cross country. A government inspector was giving me a hard time over some paperwork on a shipment I’d already delivered. He and I stood beside the door to the truck as Ginny was sweeping the interior. I attempted peacemaking, conciliation and negotiation to placate the guy. Ginny swept a mighty cloud of dust into his face, brandished the broom over her head like a swarm of avenging Valkyries, and chased him down the street shouting, “One more word out of you! Just one more word! And I’ll cram this broom up your ass sideways and twist it”! The inspector jumped in his car and fled the scene without one more word.

I was impressed.

That was close to 40 years ago and I’ve never seen her loose her cool again.

To relax last night, we watched a DVD borrowed from Donald.

This prime example of the film maker’s art attracts the attention of refined, cultured viewers with discriminating tastes. It’s called Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter.

In the opening scenes of this fictional cinematic event, vampires attack lesbians in the city. Church leaders appeal to the Savior of the world for help. Jesus, who’s been studying karate before his second advent, comes out of retirement to battle the vampires. He recruits followers who follow him as he whisks along the street on his skateboard healing the sick, blind and crippled as he goes. He meets Mary Magnum who makes him get a haircut and one earring then takes him to a thrift store to buy modern clothes. A gang of 36 atheists attack and Jesus karateizes the lot. Then vampires beat him up and leave him bleeding in the gutter. A priest passes by on the other side, a cop passes by, but the Good Transvestite picks him up and nurses him to health. Then Jesus teams up with a professional wrestler and they whack vampires right and left in an auto junk yard and –

Oh yes, have I mentioned that this movie is a musical?

The tunes are not as catchy as those in Godspell; I mean how can you compare “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord” with “Everybody Gets Laid Tonight”?

Is this movie the worst ever made?

I doubt it.

Is it blasphemous?

Well, except for a bit of psychobabble mush toward the end, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter adheres to the Holy Bible closer than some sermons I’ve heard preached in churches.

I’d give it a thumbs up, except that some vampire might bite my thumb off.

Ginny’s evaluation?

“John, that is so terrible that it’s … terrible”.

I love her with all my heart but she will never make it as a movie critic.

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 @ 8:23 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Worry Du Jour

The good news is that using the techniques Donald taught me Monday, I edited close to a hundred pages of Dirty Old Man Goes Bad yesterday. That book is really progressing well.

On the other hand, Ginny’s boss called an All Staff Meeting to announce that, out of 105 people working in her office, 20 will loose their jobs next month.

Ginny may be one of them.

Since she earns much more than I do, I react to this news on two levels:

The first naturally is “Oh Damn!”

The second is “Well, the Lord has brought us through periods of poverty before so I imagine He will do it again”.

It is relatively easy to have faith about doctrines when you have gas in the tank, food in the frig and the rent’s paid. When things go well, then you can believe in the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel in the kitty litter box, the raising of Lazarus, the communion of saints, and the life of the world to come.

But, trusting God for the here and now, relying on Him to feed you and clothe you in real time … that can get hard.

Why is it easier for me to trust Jesus for my soul’s eternal salvation than it is to trust Him for gas money today?

Believing that God cared for and provided for people in the historic past is one thing, believing that He is sufficient for my own prescription coverage, my car repairs, my bus fare, my credit card bill, my pipe tobacco, my every day expenses – those things are not theological doctrines but everyday life…

A life of faith.

I thought I lived a life of faith, but now I wonder.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had to pray for daily bread daily, and we have never lacked, but – don’t tell the preachers this – living by faith is not what it’s cracked up to be.

Susannah Wesley, a woman of great faith whose sons founded the Methodist movement, lived most of her life in grueling poverty. In her old age she said, “I never did want for bread. But then, I had so much care to get it before it was eaten, and to pay for it after, it has often made it very unpleasant to me. And I think to have bread on such terms is the next degree of wretchedness to having none at all”.

OK, if Ginny looses her job, we’ll face some quality of life scaledowns, If other people there loose their jobs, it might even be tougher on them. At least in the past we’ve had more than a nodding acquaintance with Dame Poverty. We’re experienced.

And, who knows the times or tides in the affairs of men?

The lay-offs may not touch us at all. I may be foreseeing a trouble which never comes.

I often do.

But the prospects, the being off balance, that feeling of walking on eggs, and the unsettled atmosphere in which you dare not make plans beyond today … well, all that’s real.

Uncertainty is life’s reality.

And it’s a reality – even though we seldom admit it -- we all live with every hour of every day. But when we have “job security” we tend to loose sight of that reality and live in a mist world where we think all things are solid.

Sometimes, I think God has to shake my tree. Otherwise I’d sling a hammock, lounge with a book in my lap and a tall glass of iced tea in my hand. I’d get to acting as though this world is a permanent home instead of a staging area for eternity. So now and then God shakes my tree just to bring me to the reality of impermanence.

But I don’t like that.

I don’t like it at all.

I was quite comfortable doing exactly what I’ve been doing, thank you..

Still, a Scripture spoken by the prophet Habakkuk comes to my mind:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
Though there be no sheep in the fold,
and no cattle in the stalls –
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength.

Sounds nice, but I worry anyhow.

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 @ 8:12 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

See Any Difference?

Yesterday proved to be an enormously productive day for me.

Although Donald was off work for the national holiday, he devoted the entire day to working with my computer on various projects. I’d compiled a two-page list of questions about computer workings and he taught me how to handle about 2/3 of my list.

To accomplish some of this stuff, he had to access DOS programs in the BIOS of both my computer and the remote dedicated server to reconfigure… stuff. (I have no idea what he did).

But the end result makes my work easier and my on-ling life a lot more fun.

Two immediately evident results show up in this blog:

First, he inserted a link with the Bluefish Books logo into the sidebar to make it easier for readers to browse my storefront. This may increase sales. I hope.

Then, he also set up on the blog sidebar a photo gallery site for me.

I’m having a blast playing with that!

Several e-friends inspire me to try my own hand with a camera.

Robin, in New England (http://alittlebitofmetosee.blogspot.com/) regularly posts hauntingly beautiful landscapes she photographs while driving her kids to school. She captures intriguing details in her pictures:

Funky Bug, a free spirit in Florida (http://funkybug.blogspot.com/) sometimes stands in front of her mirror and photographs herself. She studies photography and posts a wide variety of fascinating subjects:
Platypus in Danktown (http://lastblogstanding.blogspot.com/) works in a hospital emergency room. He ventures into abandoned buildings to photograph unusual architectural features. I consider him to be a brave pioneer in urban art. His gift is to capture beauty amid what others might see only as derelict trash. He inspires me.

Anyhow, with these excellent e-examples before me, I want to begin a photo gallery of my own – and Donald set up this fascinating toy for me to play with – now I can really avoid work with a passion.

However, toys and bookstore front aside, Donald also walked me through some editing techniques which will save me hours of drudge work. For instance he taught me how to use the Paste Special formatting tool which I’d never heard of before.

He showed me that, in ignorance, I’ve been using a lot of unnecessary steps in formatting the two manuscripts I’ve been working on: Strangers On The Earth and A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad. I can attack these two bears with renewed spirit now.

Even more important, he counseled me regarding my work’s focus. He pointed out places I’ve been sidetracked and he helped me think through a number of policy decisions.

I find great pleasure when my children give me wise advice. For years in my roll as father, I’ve dumped boxcar loads of advice on them. But now I often find our rolls reversed when I find that in many areas my children are wiser than I am. And it’s a real delight to heed their counsel.

Ginny was off work today also. While Donald and I played computer geek, she shopped for groceries. Then she announced that the curtains needed washing.

I checked and, sure enough, every window in our house has some cloth around it.

Ginny took this cloth down, ran it through the washer, and placed it around the windows again.

“Doesn’t that look better,” she said.

Since she does not usually read my blog, I think I can safely say that I see no difference; cloth is cloth – but, I haven’t been married for 38 years without learning a few things.

“Yes, those look a lot better now,” I said.


As I prepared Ginny’s lunch this morning, the radio announced a nursing home fire underway in Southside. I recognized the spot as my friend Barbara’s address.

Barbara uses an aluminum walker to get around so her safety concerned us. Since I was up to my elbows in mayonnaise, Ginny phoned. Barbara said the fire is confined to another building in the complex and she’s ok right now. Damage and injury reports have not come in on radio or tv yet. I’ll keep you posted.

--- UPDATE: According to the noon tv news, the nursing home fire at Barbara’s started at 5:30 this morning in a bedroom where a short in an electric adjustable bed covered by an electric blanket ignited. Heroic nurses, aids and police officers successfully rescued and evacuated 20 elderly residents, many of them bed-ridden. Two of the police officers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. But no injuries are reported among the old folks.

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 @ 9:44 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Monday, January 16, 2006

Got The Tee Shirt

In our running around last weekend Ginny & I visited the Angel Aid Thrift Store. To avoid confusion with groups which have similar names, here’s a link to a write up about them: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/compass/0501/community.html

While there I saw a tee shirt on the rack and immediately my mind made a connection between the cartoon on the chest and a scene in my book, Glog (which I think is the best thing I’ve ever written).

I felt I MUST buy this tee shirt. I felt willing to pay almost any price – so imagine my surprise when I found that it was on sale for only 93 cents!

Here’s a photo of me, happy as a clam, wearing my new shirt:

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 @ 9:47 AM

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Friday, January 13, 2006

I've Been Thinking About Scruffy

This week I’ve been formatting and editing my current book manuscript, A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad, I’ve managed to reduce it from a cumbersome 465 pages down to 393 pages so far. – and still working on it.

I haven’t done much else this week, but for some reason recently I’ve been thinking about Scruffy:

Scruffy lived in the crawlspace under someone’s house.

The homeowner didn’t know he lived under there because Scruffy stayed quite and sneaked in and out during the dark hours making sure he was never seen.

Scruffy’s real name was Lewis but everyone called him Scruffy -- for good reason. He never bathed or changed clothes or combed his hair or shaved.

When I first met Scruffy, I worked as the night janitor at a huge church, a church which sponsored, supported and contributed to many programs to help the homeless… the homeless who didn’t happen to show up in the parking lot like Scruffy did, panhandling churchgoers and scaring the hell out of blue-haired old ladies as they got out of their cars at every service.

This behavior got Scruffy barred from the church.

Orders came down from the administration that I was not to feed Scruffy anything from the church pantry or ever give him money for drink and drugs. But he kept coming by late at night when no one else was in the buildings, so I disobeyed.

Ok. I was wrong. I am an enabler; I can live with that.

Several times I offered to drive him to a homeless shelter. He refused saying he felt more comfortable living under buildings than in them. Maybe that was his legacy from Viet Nam?

I attempted to witness to him about Christ, how Jesus came to save sinners, was crucified dead and buried, rose again from the grave, and promised to return. But Scruffy dismissed my words with, “That’s a crock of shit, John, and you know it”.

Then for a period of weeks there was no sign of Scruffy until…

Late one night there was a knock on the church door. I opened it and there stood Lewis, clean shaven, hair combed, decently dressed. He glowed.

“I got saved, John,” he said as I opened the door.

We sat in the church kitchen drinking coffee as he told me that he’d been crossing the street drunk when a car hit him breaking his leg. Fortunately a nurse and her husband in a car following saw the accident and stopped immediately to render aid.

Laying on the pavement, Lewis looked up and saw this beautiful woman leaning over him, examining his injury.

“Be still,” she said, “You’re hurt. You were nearly killed. Do you know Jesus”?

Scruffy spent a few weeks in the hospital, then joined that nurse’s church. He quit drinking and druging. He got a job with a tire company. He moved into an apartment. He talked about Jesus. He was a new creation… for a while.

A month or two passed.

Again in the wee small hours of the night when I was alone in the huge building, there was a knock on the side church door.

There stood Scruffy. Drunk. Wild eyed. Filthy. Profane. Hungry.

Again against orders, I led him back to the kitchen and gave him coffee.

“Didn’t last,” he said. “Nothing to that shit. Not really. Not for guys like me”.

He stumbled out into the night looking for another fix.

Another month or two more went by when I got word that he’d been found dead under somebody’s house. He’d been hit by another car, refused medical attention, but managed to stagger away and crawl up under a house.

The homeowner never knew he was under there till he began to rot and the smell got too bad.

The church I where I janitored paid for his burial.

So, do I think Scruffy went to Heaven?

Well, it’s by grace that any of us are saved through faith . It’s not of ourselves. It is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.

Scruffy was in bad shape to start with. Then, at rock bottom, he called on Jesus to save him. He believed in his heart that Jesus is the Risen Lord and he confessed that with his own lips.

For whatever my opinion is worth, I think Jesus saved him

And Jesus has the reputation of being mighty good at what He does.

But a spiritual commitment and a physical addiction are two different things. So, in so far as I can perceive such things, Scruffy made the deepest commitment he was capable of making, but was physically defeated by his addiction.

I may be entirely wrong about such a thing, but when you get to Heaven, take a look in the crawlspace under the Throne and see if there isn’t somebody hiding under there.

His name is Lewis.

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 @ 11:31 AM

Your comments are welcome: 11 comments

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An Off Day

No posting from me today.

I’m still here, but I’m burned out.

I’ve been editing a 463 page manuscript to reduce it to under 400 pages, lest the price be exorbitant when published.

I’ve just got nothing to say today. If you browse my archives you’re likely to find … Well, you’re likely to find that I had nothing to say in earlier days either – but that didn’t stop me from posting then.

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 @ 6:33 AM

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's Devilishly Good!

Yesterday? Yesterday? Oh, yes, I remember what I did yesterday; I stayed very busy and accomplished?? Let’s see, come to think of it, I accomplished nothing.

First thing, my friend Wes called and took me out for breakfast where he lavishly tipped the tired, discouraged, old woman who served our table. We delivered some clothes and junk for the poor to the mission. He drove me to the store to buy pipe tobacco – but they were out of my brand. Then we came back to my house where Wes, who is a Master Craftsman Printer, told me all about paper resisters and ink bleeds.

Then I blogged, and then I read computer books, and then my friend Rick dropped by to tell me about his brother in Afghanistan…

Then Ginny came home from work….

And we faced starvation!

We have plenty of groceries in the house… but not a single plate to eat off of.

Unlike many happy couples, Ginny and I have no division of labor rules. Sometimes I cook, sometimes she cooks. Sometimes I take out garbage, sometimes she does, Sometimes she laundrys clothes, sometimes I do. Sometimes she washes dishes, sometimes I do – and sometimes neither one of us does any of that stuff.

We have more important ways to spend our time together.

For instance, Friday we went out for supper, Saturday I took her to that cat show, Sunday, we watched football play off games, Monday we both worked late – so Tuesday, no one had washed the pile of dishes left in the sink, we had no clean plates, no forks, no spoons, no bowls, and thus we faced starvation.

Obviously it was all the cats’ fault!

We saw two possible ways out of our dilemma: we could either wash dishes, or we could order a pizza delivered and eat it with our fingers in front of the tv.

Back before Christmas a local pizza company ran tv ads offering three medium size pizzas with a sprinkling of toppings for five dollars each. They called it their Five, Five, Five Deal.

But when their tv ad ran during the football games Sunday they’d changed the offer. Now they offer three pizzas for SEVEN dollars each. Wisely, they do not call this promotion a Seven, Seven, Seven Deal.

Their ad outraged Ginny.

“They’ve bumped the price of the same pizza up by two dollars each,” she said. “That’s a bigger price hike than gasoline! That’s just too much”.

“They had to go up two dollars because of religious convictions,” I explained.

“What does religion have to do with pizza,” she asked?

“Well, they wanted their pizzas to bring in more cash but they couldn’t raise the price by only one dollar, so they had to raise it by two”.

“Why is that”?

“Well, this is the Bible Belt,” I explained.

“What does that have to do with it”?

“Can you imagine trying to sell 666 Pizza in the Bible Belt”?

We washed the dishes.

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 @ 6:12 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Words From The Throne

Last night, for want of better reading material, I took a dictionary with me into the bathroom.

Words interest me.

Lots of times, I’ll use a word thinking I know what it means only to find out that I don’t. So I check the meaning of a lot of words.

With my Southern accent, I apparently hear words different from other people. I remember in grammar school a teacher called me to the front of the room in front of everybody and demanded that I spell the word for that stuff the ocean is made of, the stuff boats sail on, the liquid people drink.

W.A.R.T.E.R., I proudly spelled.

Everybody laughed at me.

Anyhow, last night – God only knows why -- I looked up the word VERT and words related to it.

I discovered that VERT means the color green. It’s an Old English word which refers to green vegetation where deer browse.

I didn’t know that.

Maybe what got me started on this word search was that somebody on tv news said something about congress investigating some COVERT military operation. My dictionary informs me that in zoology the word covert means small bird feathers or “a flock of coots”.

Surely the tv announcer was not using the word covert, a flock of coots, to mean our distinguished senators?

On further investigation I find that covert also means “hidden, not openly practiced, covered”.

On the other hand, the word OVERT means “open and observable, not secret or hidden, open to view”.

I’d like to live an overt life before my children, with some things private but with no shady secrets.

When I was a kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old. A man down the block stopped my Dad and me on the street and asked my father for a cigarette. The guy was shaped like a string-bean and he constantly scratched his arms and acted as jumpy as a squirrel.

After the man walked away, Daddy said, “John, I don’t ever want to see you talking to him. He’s a pervert”.

“What’s a pervert,” I asked.

I’d never heard the word before.

Daddy explained, as only a father can, by whacking me aside the head and saying, “Never you mind! But I’d better never see you talking to him!”

Last night I looked up the word PERVERT to find the dictionary says it means “To cause to turn away from what is right, proper, or good; To bring to a bad or worse condition; To debase; To put to a wrong or improper use; To interpret incorrectly; misconstrue or distort”

Once when St. Paul was talking to a Roman army officer, a sorcerer named Elymas tried to turn the officer away from the faith. Paul said to the rascal, ”Thou child of the devil! Thou enemy of all righteousness! Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”

The sorcerer went blind. “Immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking someone to lead him by the hand”.


Since I have macular degeneration myself, I can sympathize with the bad guy. But I certainly want to watch out that I don’t pervert the right ways of the Lord myself.

I’ve been in church services where I heard men who were being paid to preach Christianity teach something less. Instead of declaring that Jesus is indeed God come in the flesh, who died on the cross because of our sins and who rose from death because He is the Prince of Life, these guys, who get a salary to teach Christianity, get up there and say that folks should be nice because poor ‘ol Jesus was a nice guy who got whacked because he was ahead of his times but his spirit lives on in flowers.

Any man is free to believe as he chooses. I’d never dispute that. But to take money to teach one thing and to teach something less instead – I’d call such a guy a pervert of the worst sort.

O yes, the dictionary also says the word relates to sex, but you can look that part up for yourself if you’re interested.

The next word I examined was SUBVERT, meaning to undermine or corrupt. Enough said?

All last week Ginny got home from work later than usual every day because of road construction. That brings me to the word DIVERT -- To turn aside from a course or direction: Traffic was diverted around the construction.

It also means to distract or to entertain -- as in “NFL Football on tv is my main diversion”.

Of course, that brings me to the word CONVERT -- to convert the extra point after a touchdown, the kicker has to put the ball between the uprights. Unless the team goes for a two-point conversion; then, in essence they have to score another touchdown right after the first…. I think there’s a religious meaning too.

But, if a football team does not move advance the ball at least ten yards in four tries, the ball REVERTS to the opposing team.

Revert means to go back. For instance if I can’t make my mortgage payment, our home reverts to the bank.

But to revert is not always a bad thing.

The prophet Isaiah gives a good example of what it means to revert. He said, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”.

By turning around and returning to God, we prevent many troubles, turn aside a lot of bad things and AVERT tragic loss.

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 @ 6:18 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Monday, January 09, 2006

Exploring A Shipwreck

A few years ago my friend Wes and his brother explored a shipwreck site on Ponte Vedra Beach, a few miles south of Jacksonville, Florida. Just before Christmas, Wes gave me a set of photos of the wreck to post on my website.

Every once in a while as hurricanes surge up Florida’s east coast, the wind and waves and tides uncover things buried in the sands of the beach.

When I was a boy, I heard about a man who, as he strolled the beach down south of here, found an 18-foot-long chain made of heavy gold links. And on this gold chain hung a cross studded with emeralds and rubies It had been buried in the sand for centuries, debris from a Spanish galleon’s wreck in the 1500s.

Yes, the waves uncover odd things in the sand.

But the sand washes back in to cover all sorts of things too. I’ve seen cars, parked on the beach for only a few hours, completely covered by sand so you can only see the roof and radio antenna. Docks disappear beneath the sand and even whole houses.

Then, after a time long or short, the tides uncover them again. I’ve heard of ancient Indian dugout canoes which were buried in the sand being uncovered by the moving waters.

My friend Wes has no idea of the name of the ship he and his brother found, but he did take photos of the Ponte Vedra shipwreck. I’ve tried to Google search Florida shipwreck sites without being able to find any information at all about this particular ship. The hand-hewn timbers and rusty square-cut nails indicate it is an ancient wreck.

The 15 photos Wes took are posted in the Jacksonville history section of my website at www.cowart.info .(Left-hand column, under the heading Ponte Vedra Shipwreck). If anyone out there in the Blog World has any information about this ill-fated ship, I’d appreciate an e-mail.

I chose today to post these shipwreck photos because today marks the one-year anniversary of my venture into blogging.

In that year I’ve seen many things uncovered within myself that I thought were safely buried beneath the sands of time. Waterlogged timbers from the shipwreck of my life, rusty twisted wrought-iron ideas, sharp slivers of broken glass from my past … but even, now and then, a tiny flake of gold.

In ways, I feel exposed, ashamed, uncovered, when I realize that people read my posting – the counter software says about 13,000 readers of the blog in this first year and scads more readers on the website.

I brag and feel proud and flattered…

Yet, like a ghost crab, I’m tempted to scurry for cover and burrow back under the sand when exposed to light. It’s uncomfortable to be so vulnerable.

I feel I am a singularly unsuccessful man, a looser, a washout,. a shipwrecked soul, a man Christ rescued by the skin of my teeth.

Other men have to drink heavily to get to where I am in life. And I got here sober!

I feel ashamed of myself and my failings and I want to bury all in the sands of time…

Yet I feel there are a lot of beachcombers out there in the world, people wandering the beach hoping to find something of value in the litter washed up by the tide, people searching for a flake of gold, people hoping to find something worthwhile leftover from a floundered ship -- or from my floundered life.

I write with these beachcombers in mind, thinking they may find something useful in the shipwreck site that is my life.

So, I let the tide wash over me exposing worm-eaten timbers and broken crockery and shipwrecked dreams -- and an occasional bit of glitter worth putting in your pocket.

I try to be honest in this blog, writing happy things and pleasures as well as frustration and despair; temptations and failures as well as giddy joys.

You’ll find a lot of plain old aluminum tab tops when digging through my blog. But every once in a while, maybe someone will uncover a cross in the sand. That’s what I hope they’ll find.

Or, maybe my musings are just flotsam and jetsam which should rightfully be covered by the sands of time with no loss to anyone.

But, nevertheless, I keep on believing and I keep on writing.

It’s what I 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 @ 5:14 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Things I Do For Love

Ginny did not have any idea of where we were driving. I’d made all the arrangements and kept all secret from her.

I told her to trust me implicitly and to wear the shirt I picked out of her closet.

We’ve been in a bit of a rut recently and I wanted to thrill and delight her, to bring joy and light into her dull, drab existence.

But, for this post to make any sense, you need to understand that I am NOT a cat person.

That means that when I go into a room where there are eight or ten cat lovers all calling “Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty”, the cat will ignore all of them with distain and jump into my lap and purr.

I’ll gently shove the filthy varmint onto the floor. The cat lovers will all Ooh and Aah, and the creature will glare at them with hate and climb into my lap again.

While the serpent may be the most subtle of all beasts of the field, the cat is surely the most perverse.

But in spite of that, I took Ginny to a Cat Show – which she did not know was in town. I think it made her happy:

The place swarmed with cats and cat lovers:

I was reminded of the Wanda Gag poem:

Cats here.
Cats there.
Cats and Kittens everywhere.
Hundreds of cats.
Thousands of cats.
Millions and billions and trillions of cats!

When I paid the fine and went into the place, they stamped my hand with the mark of the beast:

Ginny went around cages actually touching cats. Live ones:

I endured.

The cat people at this show acted so intense. Indistinguishable cats were being given ribbons for some reason and the owners acted as though they were competing in the Olympics. Some owners were actually swilling Gatorade to calm their jitters about the judging.

Ginny appeared enthralled and charmed by the show; she didn’t even balk at my many clever, witty jokes involving never having seen so much pussy in one place before.

She tolerates me.

I love her.

I took her to a cat show.

Ah, the things I do for love.

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 @ 4:58 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Second Thoughts

I'm having second thoughts about my Christianity.

Meeting a man covered with tattoos brought this about.

About a month ago I was over in Arlington to see a lady on business and she introduced me to her son who happened to be in the office. Blue and red tattoos snaked up both his arms and before we shook hands, before the guy said one word, in my mind I wrote him off as a sleaze.

Because some of the tattoos appeared to be amateurish, I thought he’d been in prison when he got them. I thought of him a worthless, no-account, vicious criminal.

But, no sooner than I had these thoughts judging the man, a second thought came to mind: Get real, John! Here is a child of God, a potential saint, a man who may walk in obedience to Christ better than you do, John Cowart. You are judging on an impression with a bare minimum of information.

That second thought caught me up short.

Last Saturday as Ginny and I drove to WalMart, the driver of another car, full of people, crowded us because he was in the turn lane but wanted to drive straight ahead. My first thought – in fact I said most of it aloud – was: You son of a bitch! I hope you crash into that lamp pole and mangle your whole family. I’ll stop and watch you bleed. And I’ll spit in the puddle of blood as I drive past. And darn if I’ll waste one of our cell phone minutes calling 911!

No sooner than I thought all this, I has a second thought: Why are you cursing that guy, John? Haven’t you ever been stuck in the wrong lane yourself?

I saw a girl.

A well endowed girl.

A very well endowed girl.

My first thought was …. Any guesses?

But then comes a second thought: John Cowart. Why are you thinking like that? You have no evidence that she’s a slut. And, no, those would not bounce so vigorously they’d splinter the headboard. What you’re thinking says nothing about her; everything about you. Have you prayed about her problems, her hopes, her destination in life?

I watch the evening news and see more Americans killed in Iraq.

My first thought is: We ought to bring our soldiers home then nuke every town between Spain and Hawaii! No mater which way the wind is blowing, it won’t drop radiation on anyone who means America well.

Then comes a second thought: Many of our soldiers in Iraq are dedicated Christians and by exposing the people to their lives and testimonies, they are influencing the people whose paths they cross toward the Kingdom of Christ. Perhaps, that is why God allows this otherwise senseless war.

I could go on and on – about Hurricane Katrina victims, about foreigners, about politicians, about … Well, you name it.

There’s a pattern here.

My first thought is always hostile, bitter, negative, lustful, greedy, mean-spirited.

My second thought comes closer to being Christian.

In fact, my second thoughts define and identify my faith.

I am not the first Christian to entertain such duel thoughts. St. Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I can not do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is I do… I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind…”

There may be people out there who always put Jesus first in their thoughts and actions; but that state is beyond my experience.

Of all the things which race through my mind, Jesus is not always running in first place. He’s not always even in second place. I confess that sometimes He’s number 18 in a field of 30.

But I am a Christian; He is always in the running.

If my life were a tv talk show, on occasion I obey Him as though Jesus were the Director; at other times I treat Him as though He were only a guest celebrity putting in a spot appearance to raise my ratings.

What a shabby way to think.

St Paul once said, “What person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of that man? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”.

So we see thoughts of man on one hand, and thoughts of God on the other.

And His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, yet He knows the very thoughts and intents of our heart.

So here I stand with my first thoughts and my second thoughts.

Sometimes I act on one, and sometimes on the other.

And the Scripture teaches that a Christian’s life involves bringing every thought captive to Christ.

Is it any wonder that I get befuddled?

I’m tempted to say with Miss Scarlet, “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

In fact, I’m tempted to avoid thinking about such stuff at all.

But the spirit of a prophet is subject to the prophet. I chose which thought I act on.

I hardly ever sit down at my computer without my first thought being, Hey, I wonder if there are any new pictures on that porno site? What harm is there in seeing? Then comes a second thought, How about browsing cartoons instead? Or maybe you should work on that manuscript. Or maybe write a blog posting Both my first and second thoughts hang before me; But I choose where to click.

My second thoughts – and how I act on them – reveal my heart.

OK. Those are my thoughts on the matter, but what about God’s thoughts? What do His thoughts reveal?

One Scripture comes to my mind, a paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:11:

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, they are thoughts for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

And I think that’s great!

God Almighty has let us in on His own thoughts. And I think that’s great.

I think That's really great.

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 @ 2:50 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Virtual Sidetrack

For days now I’ve had this great idea to write a blog posting which would inspire and educate, amuse and uplift, convince and convert, thrill and bring joy to all readers.

So, this morning I Google searched for a cool graphic, something perfect to illustrate my brilliant idea.

I looked at the Reverend Fun cartoons at http://www.reverendfun.com/artchives/ .

I got hung up.

I kept clicking from one cartoon to another all morning till time ran out.


Maybe I can write something inspiring some other day.

In my own exciting real-time life, yesterday I formatted 76 pages of my manuscript, cleaned the pool filter, cut my own hair, ate supper, then fell asleep in front of the tv.

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 @ 5:50 AM

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Made A Top Ten List!

I am honored (sort of) to have made a Top Ten List.

At least I think I’m honored.

Yes. I am indeed honored. And I’m very pleased.

You see, I maintain three spots on the World Wide Web: There’s this Rabid Fun Blog (which you are reading), my Rabid Fundamentalist website (www.cowart.info ), and my book store front (www.bluefishbooks.info ).

Yesterday, according to the Webalizer Counter Software my son installed for me, 95 readers visited my blog from 15 countries; 390 readers from 50 countries visited my website; and not one single one of my books sold.

A typical day.

But I got a surprise and a laugh when I looked at the top search strings readers used to arrive at my blog:

  • Pool boy
  • Weird
  • John Cowart
  • Living in a bus
  • Little tin boxes
  • Crazy party food
  • Recycle plastic grocery bags
  • Socks and shorts, and …
  • The top ten twerps of year 2005 in the Philippines!

How did I make this list in the Philippines?

The only thing I can think of is that last spring an edition of my little book on prayer was published in that country and it was this book that earned me my spot on the top ten list.

It’s good to know that my writing is appreciated.

And I am indeed honored that readers in the Philippines have noticed my books more than readers in my own country.

I wish the Philippine people joy and peace.

Thank you.

I am honored.

PS: The book I’m Confused About Prayer (or portions of it) has also been translated and published in German, French, Spanish, Indonesian and Afrikaans. Alas, most of these are long out of print. But an English edition is still available at www.bluefishbooks.info .

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 @ 5:59 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Beauty In The Junk Yard

Note: My website server was down for a good part of Tuesday so not many readers were able to get through to my Dracula posting; I doubt if anyone missed much.... Also, I'm having trouble with photos today. Please be patient.

My youngest daughter stayed over an extra day from college to hang around with me, get reacquainted, explore and take photographs.

We had a great day!

After breakfast out, she took a picture of the phone post outside Dave’s Restaurant where for years folks have posted Lost Dog or Garage Sale signs; hundreds of nails and staples remain in the post giving it an intriguing texture.

(But Blogger refuses to transfer that photo! Please use your imagination for this one.)

We are both interested in beauty, shapes and textures, especially as they appear in unintentional art, i.e. ordinary objects left out to weather until they gain a rustic beauty.

So I took her to photograph a rusty door in a tiny house near the railroad tracks:

(But the Rusty Door photo will not transfer to Blogger for some reason??? I think Blogger hates me.)

Then for a special treat, I took her to a junk yard … excuse me, the proper term is salvage yard. For over 70 years workers at Burkhalter Wrecking have dismantled abandoned buildings in Jacksonville. They salvage architectural features worth preserving for resale. These range from a sea of toilets to a galaxy of chandeliers.

Mr. Trey Burkhalter gave us permission to photograph some of the treasures in the huge collection and we spent about three hours roaming amid hundreds of doors, roof tiles, old sign boards, antique toys and bottles and door knobs.

Patricia took over a hundred photos and I’ve posted a sample of them in the Jacksonville History section of my website at www.cowart.info under the title, Jax Junk Yard. My favorite picture is one of a bucket full of door knobs:

Patricia plans to post a selection of her own favorite photos on her blog , The Rabbit Hole at http://www.holerabbit.blogspot.com/ .

Also Mr, Trey Burkhalter, who is proficient with computers, designed his company website at http://www.burkhalters.com/ where he offers a virtual tour of the grounds.

Our father/daughter outing was a resounding success; we have not spent such a happy time together in ages. I came to a new appreciation of my grown daughter’s beauty, wisdom, grace and maturity. And her business acumen also impressed me greatly – How in the world did I miss all that before by just thinking of her as a college kid?

Dads are denser than anybody.

But looking for beauty in a junk yard, I found it.

Sometimes I think God gives us glimpses of beauty, mystery and wonder in the most mundane settings. Seeing all the debris of once-great buildings with my daughter reminded me that the only thing on earth that lasts forever is people.

The ones we love, the ones we hate, the ones we discount with indifference – every person around us – we ourselves – will spend all eternity Somewhere.

And the Scripture reveals God’s odd promise of giving beauty for ashes.

I think that's wonderful.

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 @ 9:28 AM

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Owe A Debt To Dracula

The first book I ever stole was a library copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

In 1951 I became a Boy Scout and other boys in my troop introduced me to the thrill of horror movies. Having seen Bela Lugosi in the movie, I naturally had to read the book.

The story and its format captivated me. I found it not horrifying, but charming.

And Stoker’s choice of format changed my life.

A series of journal entries, diaries and letters give the book its structure.

As a 12-year-old boy I had never before heard of a journal or diary. Discovering that some people led lives so interesting that they recorded what happened to them every day intrigued me.

The fact that Jonathan Harker kept a record of what he did each day and that tracking his days led to the destruction of the monster … Wow! What 12-year-old boy could resist? I had to begin writing a daily journal so that when I encountered some great adventure, or met a vampire, I’d know how to cope.

I began to record my life’s days in a school notebook. … Alas, what a bore.

So I quit journaling.

Too much work.

But the idea stayed with me. I remained convinced that life is worth recording.

Then, as a young man I encountered the Journal of David Brainerd (1718-1747), a missionary to the American Indians, and I was deeply touched by this man’s life. Then I read excerpts from the extensive diaries of Samuel Pepys (1603-1733); the massive journals of John Wesley (1703-1791) ; the utterly charming diary of 8-year-old Marjorie Fleming (1803-1811) … and a host of other journal writers, people who wrote for themselves trying to make sense of their own lives.

I collected a whole bookcase full of other people’s journals.

The real life daily struggles, problems, observations, concerns, and triumphs of ordinary people fascinate me. I look for meaning in their lives and my own.

Off and on over the years I have started and stopped my own journal a number of times. Some of my earlier attempts were lost through divorce, house fire, moving, etc. But a back closet still contains my own daily record of my life and thoughts for the past 25 years…

And then last year, in conversation, my youngest son used a word I’d never before heard – Blog.

Thus I began this on-line series of daily postings – which are not very much different from my journal entries except that I’m MUCH more inhibited in these, and all too aware that other people may read over my shoulder practically as I write.

Two odd incidents related to my journaling:

Once a few years ago the phone rang and an attorney I’d never heard of before asked me to appear as an expert witness at a trial concerning a dispute over an old diary. He’d read a book review I’d written for a local newspaper and I’d mentioned diaries in the review. I certainly never think of myself as an expert on diaries but the judge paid attention to my testimony.

Another time years back, a young lady where I worked asked me if I had kept track of the day an unusual incident had happened on the job. Puzzled by her request, I checked back six or seven weeks and found that I had recorded the incident.

I was able to tell her the exact day it happened – but I asked why she needed to know.

Blushing, she told me that she wanted to know because that was the night she’d gotten pregnant!

Wasn’t me!

Maybe Dracula slipped into her bedroom that night.

Actually, she now had -- thanks to my journal – a specific date and time for a long talk with her boyfriend.

Anyhow, if anyone is interested in some of my old journal excerpts, I’ve posted a sampling in the right-hand column of my website under the heading “Today In Former Years”. That section takes a random date and tracks that date back over a number of years.

When I read back over the events of my own life, I see certain patterns in the mercy of God to me; I see recurring problems and failures; I see jokes I’d forgotten; I see the growth of the love Ginny and I share; and I see our (now grown) children flourish and thrive.

I’m pleased.

Mr. Dracula, I owe you a great debt.


After watching the Rose Parade and football all day yesterday, Ginny & I drove to Jennifer and Pat’s new home for dinner with them, Donald and Helen, Eve and Patricia.

We lounged in pool and hot tub and around the fireplace listening to heavy rain on the roof.

We talked about each person’s hopes, and especially career plans, for the next year. We also kicked around ideas about a family charitable endeavor we’re considering.

In a mini family conference, we discussed ways to market and increase sales of my books. About the only thing we actually decided was not to post more blatant ads on either my website or blog.

I hope that my writing gives readers hope and nudges them closer to Christ, so I (and, to a lesser degree, the family) feel that advertising might muddy the water.

So many people think that religious folk are just in it for the money. Thus, to avoid that putting that stumbling block in the way of readers, we again decided not to clutter the sites with any more promotional material.

Therefore, Jennifer urged me to write a book about coping with poverty.

Now, that’s a field I am indeed an expert in.

Anyhow, we all had a great time and laughed our heads off over juvenal jokes and ancient family stories – the kids told about a pissing/vomiting contest among themselves that Ginny and I never knew about until last night.

This teaches me that no matter how carefully I record my life – I don’t have the slightest idea of what’s been going on around me in my own home.

No, I’ve never seen a vampire scale an ancient stone wall clutching a bag-full of squirming babies to feed his voluptuous companions; my journal has never recorded such an incident… but should I ever see such a thing, my pen is ready.

And you'll get to read about it right here.

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 @ 6:04 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Monday, January 02, 2006

An Ordinary Day

Yesterday I drained the car’s radiator and poured in new antifreeze. A neighbor saw me working on my car and asked me to jump start hers.

Ginny mended clothes and caught up on odds and ends chores she’s been meaning to get around to.

I answered a few e-mails and researched the shipwreck photos Wes gave me last week, but I couldn’t identify the wreck. It was not the one I thought.

Ginny & I watched football on tv.

A common, ordinary, unexciting day.

My blog heading says I’m a guy who looks for spiritual reality in daily life. So, where is God on a day like this?

The Bible says, “God is near”. It says, “In Him we live and move and have our very being”.

Why wasn’t I aware of Him as I fiddled with the car or watched football?

I wonder if it’s not that He’s far off, but that all of us -- like people who live in the mountains who take the view for granted – I wonder if we grow so accustom to ordinary, daily mercies that we loose sight of Majesty.

I live my life unaware of wonders, insensitive to splendor. Plodding along with my head down, seeing only dirt on earth.

I wonder, are fish aware of water?

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 @ 6:00 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Future Plans

An old saying goes: If you want to hear God laugh, make plans!

A dizzy spell woke me up at 3:30 Saturday morning and stayed with me throughout the day; this curtailed plans I had to work on the car. I felt leery of taking the radiator apart if I might not feel well enough to put it back together again, so I stayed inside working on my manuscript all day.

While Ginny disassembled Christmas decorations, I wrote out a work plan for the coming year. This meant trying to realistically examine what I hope to accomplish and evaluating whether or not it’s worth doing.

Sometimes yea and sometimes nay.

On some level I do want to be 100% at the disposal of Jesus Christ and available to fit into His plans; on another level, I have my own ideas that I want to push through come Hell or high water.

I’ve pretty much decided to let other people take care of the young man dying of cancer, yet I’m trying to stay open to the work if I see I’m really needed. I’ve looked at my motives for wanting to be involved (being with a group of insiders, wanting to impress folks with my hands-on piety, and crap like that) and I see my motivation is a great deal less than love. On the other hand, I realize that a person in need doesn’t give a damn about the motives of the helper – the soup tastes just as good to him even if I cooked with paternalistic motives.

At any rate, I decided not to help in this instance but I’m not satisfied with my decision and I’m open to changing my mind.

During break times from our work, Ginny and I sat together smoking and recounting various things we have to be thankful about in 2005. We accumulated quite a list. Things have gone very well for us. We also nosed about things, good and ill, to anticipate in 2006. We’ll take those as they come.

She also advised me about some formatting problems I’m having with the current manuscripts. As a writer, I used to envision a special niche in hell where editors would thrash around in flaming piles fueled by manuscript pages they had rejected.

Now that I’m editing my own copy, I can see that editors may have suffered a bit in the here and now already. Their job is not as easy as it looks.

I did get a pleasant stroke when an e-mail arrived from a young historian asking permission to quote from Crackers & Carpetbaggers, my book on Jacksonville history,. He’s writing his own book on J.E.T. Bowden, a politician in the 1880s, and wants to quote me as a source.

I couldn’t be more flattered!

I’m putting together a response with some tips so he can avoid some of the bogs I got stuck in as I wrote my own work.

Another happy thing is that about 4 in the afternoon I received my very first New Year’s Greeting from Jellyhead, a young lady in Australia – where it was already the New Year. Her blog address is http://jellyheadrambles.blogspot.com/ . That was certainly a lift.

Jennifer and Pat hosted a New Year’s Party at their house with pizza, videos, and milk shakes, with a trip downtown to see fireworks at midnight. Ginny & I planned to stay home and watch tv – but I fell asleep about 9:30 and the New Year managed to arrive without me.

Reuters News Service reports that in Palu, Indonesia, a New Year’s Eve bomb exploded in a Christian market killing 8 people and mangling 53 others. The bomb was packed with nails to maximize damage.

According to the wire:

Central Sulawesi has been plagued by religious violence and tension since the late 1990s. Fighting between Muslims and Christians from 1998-2001 killed 2,000 people, mainly around the Muslim town of Poso….

While a peace accord halted the 1998-2001 bloodshed in Central Sulawesi, violence has erupted sporadically.

In one of the worst incidents, three teenage Christian girls were beheaded near Poso last October. Bombings last May in the Central Sulawesi Christian town of Tentena killed 22 people.

Inter-communal violence has killed thousands in Indonesia since the downfall of longtime autocrat Suharto in 1998.

The nation of 220 million people has experienced several major bomb attacks on Western targets as well, mostly blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, a group seen as al Qaeda's Southeast Asian arm.

In addition to such violence, Indonesia is experiencing an outbreak of polio, and bird flu still looms on the horizon.

If you're inclined to pray, please ask the Lord to help my little book on prayer honor Him in this troubled place and time.

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 @ 6:12 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments