Rabid Fun

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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Man I Greatly Admire

Friday I drove Ginny to her eye doctor; everything checks out fine.

Pat called very distressed over the breakup with Jennifer and telling quite a different story. I don’t know who to believe and really there is no reason for me to believe anything about this can of worms. They are adults and their affairs are no concern of mine. Nevertheless, all their pain pains me.

Bubba came by and I encouraged him to seek legal aid for the elderly. I tried to explain the advantages of free legal aid as suggested by M.H.’s comment last week but Bubba wants no part of it.

Ginny and I visited the library then went to Dave’s Diner for lunch to nibble fries and read our books for a couple of hours. The waiters gathered around our table asking questions and expressing concern about the J/P breakup.

Brother Richard stopped by our table also.

He’d led a blind man into the restaurant for lunch.

Even though I think he’s a nut, he’s also a man I greatly admire.

He dresses in collar and clerical garb even though he is not ordained. He sports an enormous cross on a heavy chain around his neck. He also sports a striking Mohawk haircut.

For some reason he really likes me and Ginny. I imagine that every person he meets feels that he really likes them. He tells me that when he was younger before he became religious, he fried his brain on drugs and I think I do detect some lingering mental problems.

But even with his mental problems, this man displays more hands-on Christianity than I ever have.

During the 15 or 20 years I’ve known him he has worked as a dispatcher for a taxi company to earn a living and devoted every spare minute ministering to street people. Kids with green or purple spiked hair, winos, derelicts, pimps, prostitutes, druggies and clean-cut youth — all stop to talk with Brother Richard, tell him their problems, cry on his shoulder.

Sometimes he teaches Bible lessons or holds sing-fests in a converted theater. He drives sick kids to the hospital. He bums food for the hungry. He talks folks out of suicide. He stays available at all hours.

Since Ginny and I last saw him a couple of months ago, he’s lost 60 pounds. To breathe, he lugs around an oxygen tank on wheels. He tells me he has to go in for dialysis three times a week now … and still he ministers to the poor misfits and downtrodden.

I think he is a nut because of his strange garb and haircut and a couple of suspect mannerisms. He has applied to become a lay brother in some Roman Catholic order but they turned him down so he began his street ministry on his own.

He feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, comforts the distressed, and is there for anybody.

Long ago I was active in rescue mission work but recently the only Christian thing I do is write about it now and then. I feel I’ve abandoned my true calling but the mission work just overwhelmed me. It really gets filthy.

Brother Richard makes a difference every day.

He’s a nutcase but a far, far better man than I am.

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 @ 5:30 AM

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Friday, September 29, 2006


Most Americans know the word Ichabod only as the funny name of the fop schoolteacher in the tale of the headless horseman in Washington Irving’s Legend Of Sleepy Hollow .

Generations of readers have been amused by the pratfalls of song leader Ichabod Crane as he covets the lovely Katrina Van Tassel, and her father’s fortune, only to be outdone by the Herculean Brom Bones and his pumpkin.

Actually, in the Bible there was a real man by the name Ichabod. He was the grandson of the priest Eli who fell off a stool and broke his neck the very day the boy was born. That was the day the wicked Philistines captured the Ark Of The Covenant. The child’s sad name means “The Glory Of The Lord Has Departed”.


The Glory of the Lord has departed.

I know that feeling.

For the past week I’ve been too down and depressed to do much of anything.

When I try to pinpoint why I feel this way, I come up with all sorts of answers — and no answer at all.

Can I blame this low-down feeling on abysmal book sales? On the problems I had formatting that manuscript last week? On troubles I foresee for my children? Health problems? Laziness? General malaise? Change of seasons? Needed home repairs I can’t afford? That mouse I saw yesterday? The office’s exploitation of Ginny? A chemical imbalance in my brain? Sin? Lack of sleep? Lack of prayer? Not enough chocolate in my diet? Demonic attack? Realizing how I failed in life?….Lots of answers — no answer at all.

I don’t know what triggers it.

I just know the result:

I mope around too listless to dress for the day, to write, to work in the yard, to read seriously, to pray. I feel a mess. I just mull things over continually as ideas sluggishly chase their own tails around and around in my mind.

I’m too down and apathetic to either pray or surf porno sites: My prayers seem to go no where and the ladies seem not worth the trouble of clicking.

That is down.

One of the things I vowed last year when I decided to start posting my private journals as a public blog, was that I would be honest. I obligated myself to writing about the Christian life not as it ought to be, but as it really is for this one particular Christian.

So I write about my life, my spiritual experience, as it is, not as it’s supposed to be.

I do this because I 100% believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God, and that He infuses His Spirit into people who trust Him. Therefore I see no need to pretty up the Christian life for public consumption.

But doesn’t it dishonor Christ to show the downside of my Christianity?

Well, on some level I do want to honor the Lord, but, honest to God, how could I do that if I lied about Him and His dealings with me?

If Christianity is true, no need exists to sugarcoat it; if it is false, forget it.

I believe that Christ is real.

I want to be real too.

And my reality right this minute is that being a Christian doesn’t seem to help me one bit.


Will this feeling pass?

Sure. Based on my past experiences (as in my August 13th post in the archives) I suspect it will. But whether my depression passes or not, the truth of God hardly depends on my moods, whims or fluctuations in how I feel.

The joy of the Lord does return.

He does restore the joy of salvation

But, for me, in the meantime … Ichabod.

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 @ 4:52 AM

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

This moorning wwhen I walked out into the kitchen to put on the coffee, a mouse ran across the floor just inches in front of my bare ffeet.

I am traumatized!

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 @ 5:33 AM

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

At All Times... In All Places.

Tuesday, my daughter Jennifer came over fresh from her breakup with Pat.

She fluctuates between remorse and relief as is normal in such situations. I took her out to breakfast at Dave’s where she broke down crying when the waiter ask her whether she wanted toast or a biscuit. Such major decisions come hard for her at the moment.

At least she kept only one of the five dogs.

The fact that Jennifer faces spinal surgery next week complicates the situation. She may need hands-on care for a week or two after the operation and since she is now homeless and couching — all this presents a logistical problem for the rest of the family as to how we will take care of her.

I comforted her by telling her that I know of a doorway in a downtown warehouse where she can huddle out of the rain with her dog at nights. And from my work with the mission, I know all the best dumpsters where she can scrounge for food.

She got the giggles.

Nothing like a supportive Dad in times of trouble.

Ginny and I prayed things over and figure that if we throw away some furniture, which we intended to get rid of eventually anyhow, we can put her up in the back room for a short time. I am the logical person to do any needed nursing care because of my working at home.

Jennifer said she does not want to put anybody out. I explained that somebody will have to be put out; it’s just a matter of who and when and how much — this is called life . We are a family. We make do.

It looks to be a pain in the ass, but it’s manageable.

Yesterday also our middle daughter (I have 3 sons and 3 daughters) Eve announced plans to move in with her boyfriend. She said, “We've really been talking about it pretty thoroughly and making sure any issues are taken care of beforehand”.

My goodness. Any issues to be taken care of beforehand? What could they be?

Like maybe marriage?

Oh, Dad is just an old fuddy-duddy.

However, she is an adult and responsible for her own decisions.

Eve says that she and Mark have never had a fight. To me that bodes ill for a stable relationship. They have not known each other long enough to have a fight.

Although Ginny and I have been happily married for 38 years, we are not marriage counselors. Never even talked to one. But at times young couples have come to ask our advice about love and marriage and getting along.

Our standard advice: Buy A Bicycle In A Box!

That’s right. Buy an unassembled bicycle still in the box. You are going to give this bike to some poor kid at the mission. Then, the two of you put together the bicycle. If you still want to get married after assembling a bicycle, I’d say you have an excellent chance for a long, joyous life together.

The chief end of all human endeavor is to be happy at home.

If you don’t have that, you don’t have diddle squat.

And one element in being happy at home is the security of commitment, an Us Against The World attitude based on the intention of a permanent commitment.

Of course a marriage ceremony hardly guarantees that. Look at the failed marriages right and left (I should know, I failed miserably at my first marriage), but I’ve seen even more split-ups and heartbreak in live-in situations. They sometimes work but why chance it? Stack the deck in your favor. Give yourself every chance at happiness.

On another happy note: an old friend I have not seen for months and months came by yesterday to pick up his copy of the Civil War diary.

When he arrived, he first removed his hat and placed it on the coffee table. Then he shed his suit coat and draped it over the back of a chair. He took out a pack of unfiltered Camels and his lighter and placed them on the table. Then he unhooked his cell phone from his belt. Then he reached down and drew his pistol (revolver?) from his ankle holster (he’s in law enforcement), opened the chamber and placed that on the table too.

I began to perceive we were in for some serious conversation.

We enjoyed a delightful talk about sex and politics and prayer.

The gist of our talk is that since God is omnipresent, He is at all times in all places, and since much prayer involves talking with Him about specifics, then we can enjoy prayer at all times in all places too.

He and I discovered that we both practice conversational prayer.

This is not get-down-on-your-knees, bow your head, fold your hands and close your eyes kind of prayer, but it means keeping up a running mental conversation with Lord all day long, whatever else you might be doing.

Typically mine goes something like this:

Good morning, Lord… Please help me find my glasses… What should I do about this?… Please keep Ginny safe as she drives to work this morning… Thanks for that idea… Lord, You do remember that the Lotto drawing is tonight, don’t You?… Please help Ginny with whatever she’d doing at work…Old Mr. Jackson, he’s on oxygen, asked me for help mowing his yard. I just can’t do it. Please send him somebody who can… This damn computer crashed again! What should I do now?… Thank You so much for Ginny. I’m glad to be her husband… There goes the phone ringing, please give me wisdom to say the right thing to whoever it is… How should I word this?…This paragraph just is not working, how should I fix it?…I feel bitter and resentful about so and so, please forgive me. Again… Wow! That girl is really stacked! But her face looks troubled; Lord Jesus, please help her with the problem that’s bothering her most…What would You have me do about this can of worms? Is it really any of my business? Do I need to do anything about it?…Ginny should be getting off about now, please keep her safe in rush hour traffic … I think they should go for a field goal, don’t You… All praise and glory and honor be unto Thee O Lord… On some level, I love You… This is really good corned-beef hash, Thank You… The Viagra is not working Lord! Never mind. It's kicking in now… Good night Lord Jesus. Thank you for a good fuck, a good day, a good life!

Well, you get the idea.

At all times and in all places, no matter what is going on within us, around us, in spite of us — we are loved.

He is there — All times. All places. All circumstances.

Lord, please make me more aware of Your happy presence.




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 @ 5:47 AM

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Exasperating Monday

Exasperated in three areas, so I don’t know which one to start writing about.

Perhaps a chronological approach may be best:

I’ve been formatting a book manuscript for a friend who added stuff to the ms and making structural changes. Each time I thought the work near finished, here she comes with another eight or ten pages of text, or a new additional batch of photos.

Monday I thought my friend was coming over to make the final corrections herself. But some family crisis intervened and she told me to present the final draft myself.

This necessitated an abrupt restructuring of my day.

I thought the ms ready to go to the printers for a proof copy but I could not change it into a pdf. On re-examining the ms I discovered that the last 15 or 20 photographs had been processed by a commercial firm before I scanned them into my computer.

I had blithely inserted them into the book text.

Turns out each photo proved large enough to paper a highway bill board!

I had to cut each one out of the text, resize it, then re-insert the smaller version which changed the pagination, the headers, the footers, the section breaks…

Like the lines on an old clipper ship, when you change the tension on one rope, you must change the tension on them all.

My computer ran out of virtually memory.

It crashed utterly. Not even the on/off button worked.

I had to unplug it from the wall while the screen was lit up — something I understand you’re never supposed to do because you could lose everything on the hard drive. By that time, I didn’t care if I did — but I didn’t…. And on and on and on… then I found the printer has changed the size perimeters for the book covers and they will have to be re-done from scratch…Again…

On some future Monday.

They say tribulation is good for your soul.

They lie like dogs!

When Ginny came home, her day had been a mirror image of mine. Only hers involved more people.

(I wrote several long paragraphs about this but I’m deleting them. I doubt if anyone at her office reads my blog, but why stir the crock?) .… If it had been me, I’d have shredded the work I’d already done on it and let the guy in Clearwater figure out the mess.

Ginny, of course, tried to help and do what is best for all concerned.

Ginny is much more of a Christian than I am.

Finally, right at supper time the phone rang. Our daughter, Jennifer, and Pat are splitting up. Jennifer is moving out…


— with the five dogs.

She did not even know where she’d be sleeping tonight.

Apparently a gun is involved in the split.

This has been on the horizon since before last Christmas but it’s hard to guess which way the wind is blowing in these things.

A lot of pain, anger and anguish.

Sometimes these things blow over — or blow up.

As the situation comes to a head, the lives of a lot of people look to be disrupted.

Ginny and I are not sure what our role should be — if any.

Five, yapping, undisciplined, noisy, neurotic little dogs.

OK, John Cowart, your blog heading says you’re a Christian “looking for spiritual realities in day to day living”.

Let’s see how the Lord and you handle this crock.

Or not.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?

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 @ 5:46 AM

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Monday, September 25, 2006

All Bouncers Welcomed!

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” — Proverbs 25:25.

Server problems have blocked me from receiving e-mail from my website for close to a month now.

I’m not ignoring you; I just haven’t read your message yet.

But, my youngest son, Donald, returned from Europe last week.

He’s been attending an international conference on computer stuff related to his job and he has returned honed and ready to do whatever it is he does. He told me about it but I understand little beyond cut and paste.

He and Helen took us out to lunch yesterday. They came back to our house where they resumed their roles as computer gurus to fix the server problem — found 105 unread messages in my inbox! — and did other stuff to my computer.

Don’t know what I’d do without them.

Donald also brought intriguing gifts from his sojourn in the Alps.

Here’s a photo of a crystal hedgehog he brought Ginny:

His souvenir gift for me is a new pipe. The mouthpiece is vulcanite; the stem, cherry wood; and the bowl, briar with silver appointments. A majestic stag decorates the pipe and a silver lid keeps ashes from falling out and burning more holes in my shirt

Ever touch a hot stove?

Well, that beautiful silver lid gets just that hot.

Guess how I found that out?

Here’s a photo of my new pipe:

Looks positively Teutonic, doesn’t it?

Now, if I got a pointy red cap, I could qualify as a garden gnome.

While Donald was overseas, my e-friend Seth (whose blog is down at the moment) suggested that I signup with Google Analytics, a counter program, for my website. I didn’t know how to do that but Donald and Helen did it for me yesterday.

I’ve been using Webalizer as a visit counter for my site.

I’m not sure how to read the information on either Webalizer or Analytics — but I’m afraid I disappoint a lot of Google searchers out there in the world. Apparently I use a lot of words which potential readers associate with porno sites so they click on my listing, see what I offer, then bounce away as quick as they can.

And the visitor counter lists these folks as “Bouncers”.

For instance, if you need a spare tire for your car and enter “Spare Tire” in a search engine, you might just end up with a photo of me overlapping my swim trunks!

You’d bounce away from that in a hurry.

I’ll spare you the photo.

But it seems that my use of the term “dirty old man” in describing myself confuses some readers.

It shouldn’t because that’s exactly what I am.

You see, I believe in sin. That is not a word I use very often but I live in it all the time. I know deep in my own black heart that there is no sin so despicable or sleazy that I am not capable of doing.

Yes, even that one.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it.

I believe that there has never been any awful thing committed by anybody anywhere that I am not capable of committing myself. I have either done it. Or wanted to do it. Or may do it yet.

I find within myself two reasons for being the degenerate that I am: natural inclination and individual choice.

Natural inclination because I am a descendent of Adam. He is the root of the human family tree; I am a leaf way out here on a branch far away from him.

But if you poison the root, then you’ve poisoned the leaf also, it withers and dies.

Sin poisoned the root. And although I had no say in the matter, I’m infected too.

Deal with it.

Our first father was sort of the President of the human race. And just like I’ve never met the U.S. President and didn’t even vote for the current one, and although he never consults me about any policy — yet when he says our nation is at war with some other country, then I’m at war with that country too.

That’s what the President decided.

I enjoy the benefits, or suffer the consequences, for things the President did.

Then there are the things I choose to do all by myself. Can’t blame Adam or even George Bush. I choose certain things all by myself.

I will think of some thing I want to do.

I’ll know good and well that this thing is wrong.

I’ll chose to do it anyhow.

The only difference between me and the traditional picture of a dirty old man is that I have a different taste in temptations from his. And just as different people have different tastes in music, different ones of us have different tastes in temptations. Therefore I can’t condemn anybody else for what he does. It’s just a shade different from the things I do. We all have our favorites. We are all under sin.

And that’s not Adam; that’s me.

And the truly awful thing about this can of worms is that we live in it all the time and become acclimatized so much to sin at work in the world and in ourselves that we think it normal. Background noise. Just the way things are.

Who needs a Savior?

Jesus died for nothing. Didn’t He?

His coming to earth, being crucified, rising from death — all that was just a bit of unnecessary heroics on God’s part, wasn’t it?

Why should I be grateful?

I’m doing fine.

Just as I am.

I gotta be me.

That’s why readers will reach my site when they search for “dirty old man”.

I’m the Poster Boy

But I’ve got this really neat full-bent pipe with a silver stag on the bowl. That puts me a cut above your run-of-the-mill dirty old man.

Doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Lord, please 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 @ 6:44 AM

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Sunday, September 24, 2006


Wow! A whole weekend with not a thing in the world scheduled for us to do! Ginny and I felt a free as birds.


We have this free bird; I mean a bird which cost us nothing.


Remember back on August 12th (see blog archives) when my daughter rescued a peach-faced lovebird from bluejays attacking it in her backyard? She gave the battered bird to us.

Free. No Strings Attached.

Well, I spent about $60 that day on accouterments for the free bird.

I named the bird Fancy after Fancy Feast Cat Food. But Ginny noted the bird’s propensity for hanging upside down from the roof of its cage like a bat in a cave, so she said the bird’s name came from its being nothing but a fancy yellow-feathered bat.

A few weeks later, we paid another $20 for books about raising birds.

We wanted to treat our free bird right.

Turns out that the cage I had bought was far too small. So today we spent our free day shopping for a larger cage. Spend another $70 for cage, birdseed, mirrors, etc.

Some free bird!

It gets more and more expensive to keep this fancy yellow bat.

Like buying a Barbie doll for your kid, the doll itself costs little but when you buy the gowns, car, dream house, accessories, etc., you’ve spent a fortune!

(An Aside: In the dark of the night, barefoot in your own home, when you step on a Barbie spike-heel shoe on the floor, it hurts worse than a Lego block! Guess how I know that?)

Anyhow, we brought the larger cage home.

It dominates our living room. Takes up more space than my recliner!

Now came time to move Fancy to its new home.

Terrified that we were Colonel Sanders minions from KFC in disguise, Fancy squawked and fluttered and snapped and struggled to escape being transferred to the new environment. We forced the poor defenseless, helpless (except for biting with pliers-like beak) little creature into the larger cage … and suddenly the bird thought it was in Heaven.

Now it has room to fly.

Now it has a birdbath.

Now it can fight not one but three mirrors!

In the new cage Fancy chirped and explored and sang more than at any time since the bluejays ripped off its tail feathers.

Makes me wonder about those times when I resist the Lord Christ with all my might as He forces me into a new environment? Could there be any parallel?

While Ginny attached shiny danglies to the new cage and fiddled with her bird, I fell asleep in my chair, pipe in hand, book open in my lap, coffee cup at hand, feet propped up, snoring away — Free as a bird.

But wait; there’s more to this Free As A Bird thing.

When I roused from my nap, I woke thinking about how much money we’d spent on this free bird and I remembered that Scripture which says, “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”.

But that’s a different sort of free:

Earlier this year I published a book called Strangers On The Earth. One of the chapters is a brief profile of Madam Jeanne Marie Guyon, a wealthy French aristocrat who lived as a Christian in the court of King Louis XIV — reputed to be the most corrupt, lascivious, degraded royal court in French history.

She taught Bible studies, held prayer meetings and counseling sessions for the King’s courtesans and court playmates.

Madame Guyon became noted as a leading figure in a Christian movement called Quiteism. Essentially, she recognized that God is all; nothing else counts. She felt so identified with His will and His love that no lesser thing deserved her attention. A person in love thinks about the Beloved all the time, no matter what else is going on.

King Louis XIV demanded that Madame Guyon give her 12-year-old daughter in marriage to the Marquis of Chanvalon, an old rake to whom the king owed money; the girl's estates would pay off the King's debt.

Madame Guyon would not consent to the marriage.

The King caged her in the Bastille — reputed to be the worst prison on earth.

Madam Guyon believed that no second causes exist, that everything which comes into our lives comes directly from the hand of a loving God.

She endured years of torture and solitary confinement — yet she was free, free as a bird.

Here is a poem she wrote while caged in the Bastille:

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who place me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart's at liberty.
My prison walls can not control
The flight, the freedom of my soul.

Oh, it is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love:
And in thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.

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 @ 3:39 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Funniest Blog I Ever Wrote

Last night I wrote the funniest blog I’ve ever written.

It involved a friend Ginny and I care about.

Ginny and I practically rolled on the floor laughing when we read it over together.

Then we got to talking. Although my entry was the funniest thing I ever wrote, it might hurt our friend’s feelings.

I erased it.

That was painful.

Very painful.

I hated to do it.

It’s harder for me to live Christian than to write Christian.


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 @ 4:54 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Dead Elephant ... and vultures

"Class, I want each of you to write a sentence about a firemen," said the teacher.

Joey’s sentence said: "The Fireman climbed up the ladder and came down pregnant."

The teacher took him aside. "Do you even know what pregnant means?" she asked.

Sure," Joey said, “It means carrying a child."

That’s it.

That’s as far as I got in writing my history of Jacksonville’s Fire Department yesterday.

Then the project overwhelmed me. The joke was as far as I got.

Back in 1986 I began gathering materials for this history book. I wrote one version for the local Fire Museum, but that book is long out of print. Ever since, I’ve intended to expand and update my fire department history, but this and that interrupted the project and I put it on a back burner.

Not a wise move.

Now I face an enormous mass of notes, half-written chapters, files of photographs, and tangles of information — all of it accumulated; none of it organized.

OK. Ok, I know.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

But here I stand, knife and fork in hand, and no idea where to start.

The dead elephant lies before me and I can’t tell whether to bite its ear or its ass.

But, I’ve made promises. Some few people expect me to produce this book.

I should know better than to ever make a promise.

But I did.

As Scarlet said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

Meanwhile, I spent Thursday reading a murder mystery. Not a single fireman in 400 pages.

In the afternoon, my elderly friend Bubba, who lives on a meager Social Security check, came by to sit and talk.

Ours is a strange friendship. I’m a writer and my world revolves around books and reading and writing; Bubba can neither read nor write. But for some strange reason we hit it off and he stops by to talk fairly often. I find it difficult to carry on a conversation with a person who does not read, so I mostly listen and prompt him with questions. We both enjoy our talks.

I wrote a blog about Bubba and Dolly, his wife, in my February 7th post, and about Dolly’s death in my June 27th posting in the blog archives.

Bubba tells me that the life insurance company is still dragging its feet over paying for Dolly’s death; to this poor old man who can’t read, they cite fine print about this and that — section 18, clause 42, line 13, etc.

The mortuary duns him daily for the funeral expenses.

Not only that, but title mortgage companies hound him daily. These exploiters deface every telephone pole in Jacksonville’s poorer sections with signs luring the poor to sell their homes: “We Pay Cash For Houses”. These “businessmen” read Dolly’s obit and call Bubba continually saying that since his wife died he may want to sell his home and they have a great offer for him.

The Bastards!

And on top of that, some relatives in Bubba’s huge extended family seem to me to be lined up to spend a piece of Bubba’s insurance money whenever it finally does come through.

And since he has more room in his house now, already a niece and a nephew have moved in with him — rent free, of course.

It’s not that any one person deliberately determined to do this old man dirt; but they oppress him with thoughtless evils in their normal, everyday way of doing business.

Shudder for the souls of the thoughtlessly wicked.

The Scripture says, “Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoil them”.

I listened to Bubba’s woes as we sipped iced tea in our rockers — two old farts bitching. I urged him to get a library card so he can check out free VCR and DVD movies; I’ll go with him to fill out the paperwork.

Then our conversation moved on to higher realms as we shared chili and barbecue recipes.

Some things are more important that writing history — at least, that’s my excuse for not really working today.

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 @ 4:57 AM

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

On The Remembrance Of Important Things - Like Underwear

The other day I wanted to use a quote from the diary of John Evelyn, a contemporary of Samuel Pepys. I’d read Evelyn’s diary about 15 years ago and I recalled that on Christmas Day in the year 1657, he told about an incident I wanted to use.

I walked over to the right bookcase. I reached out and chose the right volume (I have several editions of Evelyn’s diaries). I looked at my index. And there was the quote I wanted.

Oh, about the index: I always read with a pencil in hand and write my own keyword index of ideas (not specific words like a printed index, but ideas) in the back cover of any book so I can later find things that strike me.

Here’s the inside back cover of a book from my shelves:

Such penciled notes help me remember where I read what.

Anyhow, I felt very clever at being able to immediately lay my hands on a 400-year-old quote that I haven’t thought of for at least 15 years.

On the other hand…

Saturday night my wife asked me to transfer a load of clothes — almost all our underwear — from the washer to the dryer.

I forgot.

I remembered it this morning, four days later.

What is the dynamic at work here?

One obscure Christian teaching is that the Spirit of God will help us remember anything we really need to remember.

This belief is based on something Jesus said to His disciples at the Last Supper:

“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you”.

Of course most Bible scholars say that this promises refers only to the people present at the Last Supper, and that even then it only applies to their memory of the words of Jesus.

Others of us believe that indeed the Spirit of God will help us remember what is truly important even today.

I got to thinking about these things because of a blog post by my e-friend Jellyhead in Australia. On September 19th. She wrote a lovely post about visiting her elderly grandmother whose memory is fading. (Her blog can be found at http://jellyheadrambles.blogspot.com/ )

As I grow older myself, the thought nags me that my mind and memory may also fail. That I’ll forget pots on the burner, appointments, feeding the fish, One-Way streets, paying bills, faces I love, people who care about me, locking the back door, laundry in the machine — a host of other important things.

All of us at any age exercise a selective memory; we hold onto certain striking things and forget others. For instance, we all remember just what we were doing on Nine Eleven when the World Trade Center was destroyed; but can you remember what you were doing on, say, Nine Nine, two days before?

No matter our age, we still forget or block out certain things.

“Did you do your homework?”

“No, Mama, I forgot”.

But even for those of us approaching senility, I believe that, while some things may indeed flake off and be lost, those things are, in the long-run, trivial things.

I believe that the Spirit of God enables us to remember the feeling of loving and of being loved. Yes, even when we grow old, afraid, frustrated, forgetful, and cantankerous (My kids say I’m already there) I believe that deep down, love is always remembered.

Faith and Hope may, or may not, abide, but love never fails.

But what about those clothes in the dryer?

Why did I forget those for days on end?

Could it be that the Spirit is not overly concerned about reminding me about underwear?


Three Quick Book Notes:

· This morning UPS delivered sample copies of that never-before-published Confederate soldier’s diary I’ve been editing. It turned out BEAUTIFUL!!! I’m delighted. This thing was a bear to work on but the result really pleases me.

· This afternoon, my book A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad was featured, along with fine works by other authors, on the Lulu Blooker Prize site. The Blooker is a literary prize for blooks, i.e. books based on blogs. No, my book did not win a prize; the listing just means it is being considered by the judges. The Blooker Prize site can be found at http://lulublookerprize.typepad.com/

· Having cleared my desk for the moment, Thursday, I’ll finally be able to resume work on my history of the Jacksonville Fire Department… Maybe, God willing, I’ll finish that book before Christmas. This excites me because it means I will have accomplished everything in the writing work schedule I mapped out for the year last January.


A Word To The Wise: For jock itch and chaffing between your legs, I don’t know what you should use — but rubbing alcohol ain’t it !!!

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 @ 5:33 AM

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Flower Fadeth

Last night our Night Blooming Cereus opened.

About 35 years ago my mother gave us this ugly plant. The tropical cactus resembles a dead bush most of the year, but when it blooms, the flower is called The Queen Of The Night.

Rightly so.

Each blossom measures from four to ten inches across. They begin to open after dark. The buds open fast enough for you to see the movement. Fully open the flower spreads a haunting aroma which permeates the whole neighborhood. Then the flower fades to a limp dangle before the sun rises.

The beauty lasts but an instant, a single night.

Here is the progression:

The bud curves up:

It starts to open:

In the night it spreads fully:

Then the flower fades to a limp dangle as soon as light touches it:

The beauty of that flower is lost forever.

Reminds me of an erection.

Also reminds me of the Scripture which says, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever”.

Usually on the night our Queen of the Night blooms, Ginny and I sit on the back deck in the moonlight watching the flowers open and fade as we think and touch and talk quietly. But last night was too rainy ,so we just darted out now and then to take photos in the dark.

My friend Wes came over for breakfast. We broke out a dictionary and had a great time talking about words and pronunciation. We chewed over words like poignant, harassment, and paradigm — a fascinating conversation.

We also talked about how our love and enthusiasm for Christ has dimmed over the years since we first became believers.

Wes just returned from a trip out to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On his way back, he stopped off in the town where he’d been to school 25 years ago.

He found his school closed and a new one opened in those buildings.

He went to the student hangout he’d enjoyed so much.

Found it boarded up.

He drove out to the lonely beach where he and his friend used to go to talk amid blowing sea oats and soaring gulls.

He found strip malls, casinos, burger stands, tourist traps, and ticky-tacky condos — instant development and decay.

He said it all makes him weary.

You can’t go home again.

Yes, the flower fadeth.

But the Word of God stands forever.

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

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Long, Long Post About Religious Violence

This morning, I intended to write a light fluffy post about my hometown fire department. Instead, I came up with this — which is long, and neither light nor fluffy:

A long line of men shackled by their left wrists to a heavy iron chain trudged up the mountain. Guards armed with crossbows and blunderbusses prodded the line along. One of the prisoners stumbled. Sick, he dragged on the chain delaying the forced march.

A sergeant examined the sick man, found him unfit, and ordered a soldier to release him from the line.

The soldier didn’t trouble to look for a key to the shackles.

He drew his sword and hacked the sick man’s hand off.

Free of the hindrance, the line moved on to the mine leaving the sick man to bleed out beside the path.

I vividly recall this incidence from William Prescott’s monumental book The Conquest of Peru. The men in chains were Inca Indians, heathen sun worshipers; the guards were Spanish conquistadors, Christians under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro.

Although frequently in history books, and more recently in the news, for their violence, Mohammedans have not cornered the market on evil, inhumane treatment of people whose beliefs differ from theirs.

On Christmas Day, 1657, as John Evelyn and his wife worshiped in Exeter Chapel, a Church of England church in London, his diary records that the church was surrounded by non-conformist soldiers (Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Puritans). The soldiers interrupted the service and took the names of all in attendance. They allowed the service to continue but when each worshiper went forward to receive communion, a soldier pressed a musket to the back of his head “as if they would shoot us at the altar… I got home late the next day; blessed be God,” Evelyn wrote.

Yet, when the Anglican church returned to power, they persecuted the Puritans so intensely that many boarded the ship Mayflower and fled to the unsettled American colonies to escape religious persecution.

Yet, on June 1, 1660, in Massachusetts, those same Puritans who had sought religious freedom hung Mary Dyer on Boston Common for being a Quaker. Among the evidence presented against Mrs. Dyer was that she had given birth to a deformed baby; it had four horns, thus proving her wickedness. But they hung her not because of the baby but because she was of a different religion.

No one faith corners the market on violence against those of a different faith.

The pattern seems to be that when a group is weak, they are persecuted; but when they become strong, they persecute others.

The Egyptian Pharaoh persecuted the Jews ordering midwives to strangle all newborn Jewish males. The Jews entered the Promised Land conducting a campaign of genocide against the heathen already there. In New Testament times the Jews stoned Stephen to death, beheaded James, and hounded Paul the length of the Roman Empire.

In turn Christians persecuted Jews. The Spanish Inquisition. Auschwitz. Bergen-Belsen. After World War II, Jewish patriots assassinated British officials and carved out a new homeland ousting Palestinians.

In the 1500s, astronomer Johannes Kepler in Austria tells how Lutherans hung scores of Catholics from the same tree.

In China, Buddhists pitch-forked medical missionary Eleanor Chesnut to death then went on to slaughter hundreds of Christians in the Boxer Rebellion. And Tibetan monks murdered Dr. Petrus Rijnhart.

(My book Strangers On The Earth tells their stories along with the stories of several other Christians killed for their faith).

And suicide bombers are nothing new, remember the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II who crashed their planes into American ships.?

And in ancient times when the Shinto’s of Japan and the Buddhists of China went to war, captains of returning Japanese ships nailed naked Chinese or Korean women spread-eagled to the prows of the sailing ships as living figureheads.

The Hindus of India killed their share of Christians and their long-term war with Moslem Pakistan threatens to turn nuclear.

Mormons were persecuted and in thru persecuted others; one of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (I forget which one) is based on this phenomenon. American Indians staked out preachers on ant hills; and our ancestors in turn deliberately gave blankets and clothing from people who died of small pox to Indians in biological warfare.

Advocates of no religion at all claim that religion generates violence, war and untold human misery.

They have a point.

From whence come cross burnings, abortion clinic bombings, exploitation of immigrants, snide remarks and haughty looks, gay bashing, job discrimination?

“From whence come wars and fightings among you?” the same James who was beheaded asks, “Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

From my own lusts.

From my own internal frustrations.

It’s easy to say that the people who committed all the historic atrocities I mention were not REAL Christians. It’s easy for me to say that they were not Christians like I am.

But they were.

At least a lot of them were.

I want to distance myself from such creeps. But I can’t. Not really.

How could a Christian, a follower of the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, resort to violence?

To see, all I have to do is look at my own heart, look at my own intolerance, my own narrow-mindedness. My own fear.

I think the root cause of religious violence is a low view of God.

A view that believes that God Almighty is too weak and namby-pamby to defend Himself. Therefore the true believer feels compelled to step in and do the job.

That’s because such a person is not a true believer in anything —. He dares not hear a dissenting opinion because he fears truth.

A person who is comfortable with God feels no need to discomfort others even when he feels they are wrong. God is perfectly capable of correcting wrongs in His own good time – in His Time. He is not without strength. He is not dependent on me for anything.

Another dynamic works when I feel violent — my own lusts which war within my members.

If I recall correctly, the most violent thing I have ever done was grab one of my teenagers and try to shake some sense into her.

I was wrong.

I apologized to her later, but I am heartily ashamed that I resorted to such violence even when provoked by a typical teenager’s behavior.

I’m probably the only parent in history to do this.

Mea Culpa.

I am a dad.

She survived and I survived but I was 100% wrong.

And, what’s worse, I knew it at the time. But I shook her anyhow.

On a deep level, that violence had little to do with her inane behavior; it had everything to do with my frustration and lack of trust in God to guide her.

She forgave me and we are best of friends now in spite of my pig-headedness then.

So, the question is: Am I, a man who calls himself Christian, capable of religious violence?

I certainly hope not.

There have been a few times in the past when irate people have threatened my life because of my being a Christian. In each case, the danger passed not because of anything at all which I did, but through outside circumstances intervening. I reacted calmly and with reason to make peace with the street thugs, mental patients, mob, or whoever. I did not resort to any violence myself.

But maybe these folks just didn’t push the right button to get me going.

I wonder.

I know of only one Scripture (Matthew 5:29ff) where Jesus advocated violence:

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee… If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is more profitable for thee that one of they members should perish…”

I am permitted the violence of self-discipline when needed.

And that violence only!

None other!

Can’t say I’ve exercised that discipline, or any other, much. Still got both eyes and hands. When it comes to my own members, I’m not easily offended.

But, Lord, what about them? Those other guys? What about all those violent, mean, nasty, bad dudes? What should I do about them?

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven…”

Those are hard words, Lord.

Hard words.

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

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Blessed Be The Tie That Binds

One of our rain trees leans toward the power lines.

Not good. Every hurricane season we loose power for a week or two; no sense jeopardizing our electricity with extra branches which might fall on the lines.

As Ginny and I dabbled in our garden Saturday, she asked me to straighten the rain tree. So I drove in a metal stake and tied the tree back.

When Ginny ties a plant back, she prefers to cut the legs off old pantyhose.


Not me. What better to tie back a plant than with a real tie?

Back when I worked in an office I wore a necktie to work each day. I prided myself on never wearing the same tie twice (no reason, just a vanity), so I amassed hundreds of the things.

Now that I work from home, I no longer wear a different tie each day.

I know that when anyone pictures me as a writer in my study, they envision me in a smoking jacket with satin collar and trim — like Alistair Cooke hosting Master Piece Theatre.

That’s not entirely accurate.

In fact I usually write wearing debonair swim trunks and an Etcher tee-shirt like the one in the photograph.

When gardening, I use my old neckties to tie back plants.

Here’s a photo of me (in writer’s garb) selecting an appropriate tie for the rain tree:

When she was in high school, my youngest daughter, Patricia, took a dozen or so of my brighter neckties, ripped out the stitching to remove the liners, and sewed the ties together lengthwise to make a skirt. Because all the wide points were down, Patricia’s skirt flared and swirled when she danced and she gleaned all sorts of accolades whenever she wore it.

Once my three sons and I got together in a late-night bull session and among the things we discussed was which son would get what heirloom when I die. Fred gets the engraved sword with the eagle-head pommel. Donald gets the Civil War sword and my great-grandfather’s shotgun. Johnny gets the other shotgun and my bowie knife…

Then, I mentioned the problem of what to do with my massive necktie collection.

The strangest expression fell on the faces of my three sons. They looked at the floor. They looked at one another’s faces. They looked at me. They burst out laughing.

One of them, I think it was Fred, said, “Dad, when you die we’re going to wind those ties around your body to wrap you up like a mummy and bury them all with you”.

Nice fellows, my sons, but alas, not a one of them has inherited my exquisite taste in gentleman’s apparel.


As we gardened Saturday, Ginny wore shorts and a tee-shirt. Since it was just the two of us, she did not wear a bra.

As the day grew hotter and hotter, she worked up a sweat, I teased her suggesting that she remove the tee-shirt and work topless.

She said, “I do not expose myself in view of any passerby”.

I assured her that the vine hedge which surrounds out backyard insures privacy.

“I will not take off my top in either the front yard or the back yard,” she said.

“Nobody has asked you to take off your top in the front yard,” I said.

“A lot you know,” she replied.


Sunday we skipped church and drove around downtown to view some architectural features in slum neighborhoods.

Afterwards, we strolled along the Southbank Riverwalk viewing the city skyline.

Since the day was so hot, we decided to ride a water taxi over to the northbank to Donna Maria’s Mexican restaurant for lunch.

As we waited for the water taxi, we sat on a sea wall between two levels of dock; there is about an eight-foot difference between the two levels.

When we saw the water taxi round the point, I encouraged Ginny for us to drop down over the wall onto the lower level to meet the boat, but she refused.

“It’s only a few feet down,” I said. “Jackie Chan makes jumps like that all the time”.

“Jackie Chan has better insurance than we do,” she said.

We walked around the seawall.

We enjoyed a long leisurely lunch on a terrace overlooking the river, then, instead of taking a water taxi back to the other bank, we strolled over the Main Street Bridge then sat a long while talking in the park by Friendship Fountain.

38-years married and still deeply in love.

What a blessing!

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 @ 4:18 AM

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Saturday, September 16, 2006


Friday I mowed the grass, what’s left of it after drought and chinch bugs.

The UPS man delivered two sample copies of my Christmas book and I gloated over it for a while; it looks good.

Ginny’s boss evaluated her work as exemplary — that’s next to the highest rating on the scale.

My doctor called saying he wants me to see a specialist because my lab work came back with a high PSA reading. I get to have a more thorough prostate exam. O Goody, goody! Just what I always wanted!

Those are the things happening in my material world. Fortunately in my thought world, things prove a bit more interesting as I continue to kick around the concept of proof. For instance, I have a problem with teleology, i.e. the argument of design in nature as a proof of God’s existence. I wonder if some defenders of this concept don’t stretch the point a bit too far.

Every week or so someone sends me an e-mail photo of a cloud formation which supposedly shows giant hands in the clouds blessing America.

I’m skeptical about such things.

Those clouds, from another angle, could just as well look like bunnies. But I always suspect that the photos have been doctored, enhanced, faked by some overzealous fan of God’s.

Aren’t there real wonders enough in creation?

One of the deepest experiences of worship I ever had came while dissecting a cat in a biology class. Seeing how the cat was put together inspired in me a pure wonder at God’s design. He’s really pretty smart, you know.

Joy wells up with in me on seeing the intricacies of a spider web in my garden or the flight patterns of birds in my backyard or the color spectrum in a dew drop or the power of an ant — tiny nudges to worship all.

Yes, a design calls for a Designer.

A plan reveals a Planner.

Love originates with a Lover.

Good comes from God.

I grasp these ideas.

It’s just that I think they don’t go far enough. Creation reveals a much bigger thing, a wonder beyond my imagination.

I picture the universe as a giant airplane flying to a lavish vacation resort. The arch terrorist used his box-cutter tongue to slash Eve, the first stewardess; he seized the controls, and crashed the whole thing into the ground.

In spite of his villainy, stunned survivors stagger around the crash site.

And you and I blunder around the wreckage as the children of those earlier survivors.

We descendents of the original survivors have never actually flown in the plane but we try to make sense of the debris around us, and we use what we can as we survive from day to day. This has been going on for years now.

Tangles of wire and cable litter the area. Scraps of aluminum cut our bare feet.

We find what is obviously a seat. We can tell what that is. We use it.

We find a shoe, but there’s a foot still in it. We discard it.

We find a fold-down tray; we can make use of that.

We find a black box; no telling what that thing is for…

But every once in a while, we spot a piece of the wing.

And we realize that we were made to fly…

That we were headed Home …

Before the crash.

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 @ 6:58 AM

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Such Things Ought Not To Be!

Remember the 17-year-old girl I requested prayer for on Wednesday?

A few minutes ago her relative who requested prayer e-mailed me this photo of the tumor doctors removed from her abdomen:

The young lady, Sandra, is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

The removal of this tumor revealed another large one wedged in behind her kidneys. These malignancies have metastasized into her lymph nodes also.

I have never even met Sandra but her condition outrages me.

When I see a thing like this tumor, my immediate reaction is This Is Wrong!

Why do I feel that way?

Because I have some idea of what is right.

We all have this sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Where does that come from?

It comes from knowing that there is some kind of order to the universe and that some things fit into that order and others do not.

If we did not recognize an order to the creation, then we would not recognize when something is out of order; we’d just consider that tumor, (or oil spill or war, or rape, or murder or betrayal or molestation or cheating) as the way things normally are.

But we do know that it is wrong for a lovely 17-year-old girl to have such a malignancy growing in her. We do know that certain things are just plain wrong.

If we did not know that something is catastrophically wrong, then we would never try to make it right.

We’d let sick people suffer. We’d let starving people starve. We’d let terrorists terrorize… but we don’t let such things go on without opposing them.

We recognize that there is a pattern to creation; that that pattern is good; and that something has screwed it up big time.

So we try to the best of our ability to set things right again.

Today I’d started to write about proof and the existence or non-existence of God but receiving that photograph set me off on a different tract … or maybe it didn’t.

Could it be that we feel certain things are wrong because they are wrong? We see a pattern in creation; that means a Creator has a hand in it.

I’ve had sophomores ask me, “Can you prove that God exists”.

“No, I can’t,” I say. “Can you prove that He does not exist”?

Inevitably, they launch into a litany about war, deformed babies, retarded children — things which have virtually nothing to do with God but which prove that evil exists.

That’s no surprise to anyone.

We know that evil exists because something within us tells us that the pattern has been broken, that things were not meant to be this way, that there is an anomaly, a twist, a perversion — we know that something is wrong when we reasonably expect it to be right.

Why in the world would we expect anything to be right unless we harbored some idea that God not only exists but that He is good?

I’m pissed about that tumor right now and I don’t know if I’m making any sense writing in the heat of the moment like this.

I’ll worry the idea of proof around again some more tomorrow. — God willing, of course.

Oh, about the other lady we prayed for Wednesday: I called and she won’t get her test results till next week. She said they did remove some polyps from her esophagus and they are doing a biopsy on places from her colon … Er, which makes me wonder just how long the probe those doctors used 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 @ 1:14 AM

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Bear In The Woods: about the word Proof

As Jack and Jill hiked up the hill
They found a baby bear.
They lifted it from off the path’
And tossed it in the air.

The bear cub grunted, squealed and mewed.
Such fun, that little ball of fur,
As Jill tossed Jack the little cub
And he tossed it back to her.

Jill thought the little bear so cute,
She clutched it to her heart.
What Jack and Jill were doing,
Do you think that it was smart?

Yes, I composed the above poem myself. If you know of a job opening for a Poet Laureate, I am available.

The muse inspire this poem because of the proofreading I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks; as I worked, I got to wondering about the meaning of the word proof especially as it might relate to the existence or non-existence of God.

As usual when confronted with such a knotty problem, I turned to the best Bible study tool anyone can ever own, a dictionary.

The word proof, my Webster’s 9th Collegiate tells me carries a variety of meanings. For instance, when we read the phrase 90 proof on a whiskey bottle it means that the actual alcoholic content in the bottle is half that number, i.e. only 45%.

I didn’t know that.

I did know that proof also means a copy of a text made for correcting mistakes. Boy, do I know that! I’m bleary-eyed from proofing two book manuscripts back to back.

But I didn’t know that there are proof coins as well, a set of test coins struck in cheaper metal so the mint can see what the finished product will look like in gold or silver.

Then there are legal, mathematical and philosophical uses for the word proof.

Which brings us back to the baby bear of my poem.

Is it smart to tease a baby bear you find in the woods?

Proof is “the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth…the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement… something that induces certainty”.

That’s what the dictionary says but I’m stymied because I’ve never heard the word cogency before. Back a few pages : “Cogency: the quality or state of being cogent”.

Well, that’s no help at all!

Back a few more listings: “Cogent: appealing forcefully to the mind or reason, convincing, having power to compel or constrain”.

Oh, I get it.

A powerful force that convinces… say like meeting Mama Bear in the woods.

What Mama Bear?

Did my poem even mention Mama Bear?

Did Jack or Jill see any evidence of a Mama Bear?

No. All they saw was baby bear.

Baby bear is a result; Mama Bear is the cause of that result. (Let’s leave Papa Bear out of the picture for now).

Whenever we see a result, the cause of that result is not far behind. But that cause itself is the result of a previous cause (Mama Bear’s own parents).

When you follow that trail backward far enough, you come to the First Cause of all results.

What could that be?

Here's a quote from an essay in my Gravedigger's Christmas collection:

The Greek philosopher Socrates used a mule, to reason about the existence of God.

It didn't work.

His enemies executed him anyhow — Made him drink poison hemlock.

When Socrates was on trial for his life in Athens, he pointed to a mule plodding past the Theater of Dionysus where the trial was held. He observed that mules never have baby mules. All mules are sterile. Mules are the offspring of female horses mated with male donkeys.

Therefore, the philosopher argued, every time you see a mule, that proves the existence of at least one horse and one donkey. And since all life only springs from life, then those animals must have parents too.

Then the parents must have parents and so on an on till you come to an original source of life -- God.

When you see any effect, you know it must have a cause, and the First Cause of all effects is God, Socrates reasoned.

"Who in the world would believe in sons of gods if they did not believe in gods," Socrates asked? "That would be just as odd as believing in sons of horses or asses, but not in the horses or asses themselves!"

His enemies responded to his reasoning with a sophisticated argument of their own.

"Here, drink this. It won't hurt a bit," they said.

Theologians say that Socrates' mule illustrates an ontological argument for God's existence.

But, while some folks say that the First Cause is God; others say the first cause is the universe per se.

Either way, it’s not smart to tease Baby Bear.

This is getting long and I’m getting tired, haven’t proved anything, so — unless I’m inclined to blog about raking leaves in my yard (my chore for today) — tomorrow I’ll kick this line of thought around some more.

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 @ 10:05 AM

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Victory for Sin, Overeating & Sloth

Woke up at one o’clock Tuesday morning and since I couldn’t get back to sleep and didn’t feel like praying, I resumed proofreading the Civil War diary.

In the quite hours of the morning I struggled with words and punctuation — What in the world did he mean saying “to-night when a Muta has assumed full sway of the universe” — I have no idea in the world what a Muta is. I checked to see if it were a reference to a Greek or ancient Egyptian goddess because Whatley uses many classical allusions, but I came up empty.


I just have to make sure I accurately convey his words, not that they make sense.

About noon I finally finished proofreading and began making corrections for the PDF download.

That done at last, I celebrated my victory over this difficult project in a truly Christian fashion — I browsed naked ladies on the internet, over-ate with two tv dinners and a bowl of chocolate ice cream, started reading a new murder mystery, and took a nap.

Funny that I would chose to celebrate a minor triumph by giving in to any and all elements of my carnal nature. Am I the only Christian that does that sort of thing?

Even weirder is the fact that while I was doing all that, I also continued kicking around ideas about the word proof as it relates to the existence (or non-existence) of God. Back last week I said I wanted to think about those things a bit before writing about them; so, amateur theology bounced around in my head along with the bikini girls and chocolate ice cream.

Oh well, “unto the pure, all things are pure”; everybody else thinks like I do.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to blog about proof and God, but this morning I’m going to clean the pool.

Oh, I expect sample copies of the Civil War diary from the printer in a few days; I hope it turns out as well as I think. I think the book will really be beautiful.

Two people called asking for prayer:

One, a 17-year old girl with a malignant tumor the size of a watermelon; the other a lady undergoing exploratory surgery for possible colon cancer….

Sometimes I get so involved with my own little world of history and writing alone at my desk that I forget there is a real world of hurting, scared people out there.

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, September 12, 2006

The Previously Unpublished Civil War Diary of John Thomas Whatley, C.S.A.

Little Susie came home from school saying, "Mama, guess what? In school we learned how to make babies today."

The mother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool.

"That's interesting," she said, "How do you make babies?"

"It's simple," replied Susie, "You just change the Y to an I and add ES”.

Oh the joys of grammar!

You guessed it — I’m spending the day proofreading again.

Oh the thrills and excitement!

Spelling. Punctuation. Subject/verb agreement. All the reasons I became a writer!

Surges of creativity sweep through my veins as I edit the text of Rebel Yell: The Civil War Diary Of John Thomas Whatley, CSA, — a book I hope to have published online by the end of this week.

How did a nice guy like me get entangled in such a project? After all, Whatley’s diary sat around in a box unpublished for 150 years, how did I happen to get involved?

The introduction I wrote for the diary explains:

Tracing A Promise:
An editorial

In 1952 Mrs. Florence Pagnini O’Flynn, of Jacksonville, Florida, bought a box of books. In this box she discovered a small ledger, the kind farmers once used to keep running accounts of their expenses.

The ledger had a worn, faded brown cover. The stationer who printed the pages ruled lines, marked columns, and stamped consecutive page numbers at the top of each leaf. The pages measured five inches wide by eight inches tall.

Confederate soldier John Thomas Whatley of Coweta County, Georgia, used this farmer’s ledger as his diary from March 2, 1862, till November 27, 1864.

Whatley recorded his daily experiences in the first pages of the diary; he used the back pages to jot down lines of poetry and historical facts he wished to remember.

In neat Spencerian script Whatley’s diary opens with his accounts while preparing for the defense of Savannah, Georgia; most of the diary’s pages record events there. The text ends with his serving near Petersburg, Virginia. Apparently, much of this time he served with General William J. Hardee’s cavalry.

The Yankees killed Whatley at Bentonville, North Carolina, on April 14, 1865 — the same day President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Attorney John Merrett, who transcribed the text, said, “The diary opens with an extremely poetic, quite well written, series of entries detailing the life of a garrison recruit. Later entries however, have a deeply sobered tone. With his naiveté worn away by disease and battlefield experiences, Whatley describes the feelings of a veteran in somber hues rather than in the greens and golds of his early entries. The process implicit in the change in tone is no less fascinating than the facts and words by which it is conveyed… Whatley describes the common experience of soldiers with uncommon depth.”

This diary captivated Mrs. O’Flynn.

For years she kept it locked in a safe deposit box to protect it. She launched a campaign to recruit help in publishing the diary. She enlisted many, many volunteers to help her in this task. She contacted officials of the National Park Service, various historical societies, genealogical groups, and a whisky distiller as she sought aid in publishing the diary.

Included in the names I find in the Whatley file folder are attorney John Merrett, historian Smith Scott, genealogist Walter Stovall, novelist Eugenia Price, and historian and Congressman Charles Bennett. All these people contributed time, talent and energy to Mrs. O’Flynn’s project. They exercised great patience and deserve great thanks.

However, volunteers involved in the project labored under an odd constraint: as Mrs. O’Flynn grew older, she came to believe that the ghost of John Whatley issued her specific instructions about the publication of his diary. Mrs. O’Flynn was adamant about following the envisioned instructions, but in 1987, her health failed and she abandoned the project — almost.

By then she was in her 70s and well-known as a political activist. She appealed to Congressman Charles Bennett again for help publishing.

Congressman Bennett authored a number of books on the history of Florida. I had written a few newspaper and magazine articles on Jacksonville history which he had read. One Sunday afternoon he called me and asked if I’d talk with Mrs. O”Flynn about the diary.

I found the old lady in poor health yet full of determination to publish the diary exactly, precisely, without exception, as the ghost she saw dictated.

While John Whatley was a fine writer, his ghost seemed to know little about the constraints of publishing.

I could not put my life and work on indefinite hold to get enmeshed in Mrs. O’Flynn’s project according to her rigorous specifications.

She did not take readily to editorial suggestions. Once when she was sick and bed-ridden, as my wife and daughter tended her, she got so angry that she threw a bowl of hot soup in my face when I suggested a way to treat the text.

Yet, the sheer force of Mrs. O’Flynn’s personality extracted a promise from me. I promised her that if it were ever in my power to see John Whatley’s diary into print, that I would do it.

She let me examine the original autograph and gave me a Xerox copy of a diary transcript along with a file folder full of bits and pieces of research various people had done over the years.

I stuck all these papers away in a file drawer for years; I encountered them again recently in an office cleanup and I remembered my promise to Florence.

This present book fulfills that promise to the best of my ability.

I have no idea what happened to the original autograph of the diary upon Mrs. O”Flynn’s death several years ago.

Notes I added to this text are clearly marked. I’ve inserted appropriate drawings and photographs from the Library of Congress’ on-line collection in places related to events Whatley mentions.

Since Whatley confined each day’s entry to a single page, I have broken the text into reasonable paragraphs; but I have retained his abbreviations, spellings, capitalization, and other punctuation.

And — except for keeping Mrs. O’Flynn’s title, Rebel Yell — I pay no attention whatsoever to the instructions and directions she claimed John Whatley’s ghost had given her.

If Florence Pagnini O’Flynn is out there somewhere reading this — here’s the book I promised. … and, it’s ok about the soup.

— John W. Cowart
Jacksonville, Fla.
September, 2006

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 @ 2:05 AM

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Monday, September 11, 2006

A Productive Sunday

Well, yesterday my son Donald made it to Europe OK.

Turns out he went to Switzerland not Sweden.

Hard to keep those places straight in my mind, both begin with the same letters, Sw....

Switzerland is where they yodel, host numbered bank accounts, and make chocolate.

In Sweden they can’t yodel worth a darn, but they gave the world Anita Ekberg.

Here’s a picture of her:

You’ll find photos of Switzerland on my son’s blog at http://www.rdex.net/blog/

My e-friend Pete in Chelmsford, England, studies for a ministry. Sunday he preached an assessed sermon (sort of a practice message, I think). In his blog he asks readers for suggestions and improvements. You’ll find his blog at http://www.3cephas.blogspot.com/ Check it out and click on the Matthew 7 link in the title. I think he’s right on target and shows promise for a fine ministry. Let him know what you think in his comment section.

Me, I watched tv football all day Sunday.

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 @ 6:27 AM

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

More Proofs, Sun, Fun & Jewelry Girls

For the past two weeks I worked diligently correcting proof pages of my Christmas book, Gravedigger’s Christmas.

I’m sick of proofreading!

No sooner had I uploaded the finished copy Friday than the postman delivered the proof pages of the Civil War diary. So, next week’s work is cut out for me already. This incident got me to thinking about the word proof in its varied meanings; I intend to write something about how to prove that God does not exist (or maybe He does) one day next week. I’m kicking various ideas around.

Saturday, Ginny and I (and several thousand other people) browsed in the broiling sun at the 35th Annual Riverside Art Festival where 150 artists, craftsmen, musicians, writers, and dog trainers displayed their skills.

Every time I tried to snap a picture of a crown scene, everybody moved!

Honest, there were a lot of people there — including this Meter Man; I think his teeth are so cool.:

Ginny preferred to admire seascapes:

I found by far the most interesting booths in the show were the jewelry displays. Being a keen observer -- and a card-carrying dirty old man -- I noticed that girls in low-cut blouses lean far over the counter to examine the jewelry. Years ago I paid good money to see strippers who displayed less flesh than the girls at the art show did for free.

Were I not a stalwart pure-hearted Christian, I could really become an aficionado of fine jewelry. But since I am, I only visited eight or ten jewelry displays. … Er, at least I suppose there was jewelry in those cases.

Of course, not a single one of the young lovelies bending over the jewelry counters even spoke to me. However, I did spend some time sitting on a park bench talking with an 84-year-old lady from Oklahoma who was just passing through town on her way to her brother’s funeral. Really, I did not say much to her but I did listen and let her unload.

Normally I avoid crowds because I'm subject to panic attacks, but perhaps the Lord inclined my heart to attend this festival, which I usually wouldn’t think of going to, in order to consol this old lady a tiny bit. Not all our plans are our own. I’m fairly sure He did not send me here to ogle the jewelry girls.

Here’s a photo of three beautiful women. Guess which one I’m married to:

Hey, you don’t think I’m crazy enough to take photos of the jewelry girls do you?

People of every age and description enjoyed the art show. Here’s a young man with his parrot who attracted much attention:

That may be one of the dogs from the frisbee show in the background.

Long before we’d seen it all, the heat wilted us and we quit browsing to seek iced tea. It seems appropriate that the last booth we visited contained a shadowbox wall hanging entitled Sun Worshippers.

This evening after supper, Ginny and I prayed for our children and the various trials, troubles and things they are involved in this coming week. As we washed our dishes, Ginny remarked, “You know, they give you an epidural when you’re giving birth, but it only lasts for a few minutes; they ought to invent an epidural that will last you for 30 years”.

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 @ 9:48 PM

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Proof Of The Writing ...

Going over the proof pages of Gravedigger’s Christmas & Other Tales, I discovered 146 mistakes in only 230 pages.

I’ve got to learn to type someday!

Most of the mistakes fall in the category of misplaced comas (or is it commas?) and simple typos. But occasionally I made a dilly.

For instance, although I have been over this text many many times, in the proof pages I found a sentence beginning, “This morning as Ginny and I walked to the bus stop yesterday…”

Walking from this morning into yesterday is a pretty good trick.

Some words I consistently misspell or mistype.

It often comes out as Is or if. Almost every time I type the word from the letters read form. So becomes os even when I’m not writing about bones. Our and Out get mixed up all the time. Or becomes of. … Yet, words like Tertullian, Suetonius, Alexamenos, Thibiuca, and Dionysis get typed without error!

That means I pay attention to big things but let little things slip — and those little things change the meaning of everything.

Could there be some spiritual lesson for me here?

But the grueling task of proofreading the Christmas book nears completion. All that’s left is to re-check pagination and table of contents. Then the book will be ready for publication (at www.bluefishbooks.info Hint. Hint.).

God willing, I’ll have it online Friday afternoon — unless I walk into yesterday again.

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 @ 1:10 AM

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Frozen In Florida

As I drove to the doctor’s office yesterday the temperature sign above the bank read 92 degrees, but once I got into the office I was frozen.

Not all of me, you understand, just bits and pieces of me here and there.

The doctor applied cryosurgery to a number of actinic keratosis places on my arms, legs and face. That is he squirted me with liquid nitrogen to freeze various precancer growths which I’m sprouting like a field of mushrooms after a three-day rain.

Apparently as a typical Florida boy 50 years ago, I ran around for all summer every summer without a shirt, and sunlight damaged my skin but it’s not showing up until now.

The medical community calls such damage to the skin “actinic keratosis” which sounds so much better than “dirt warts”. They say it’s caused by sunlight, not by never washing behind your ears.

My doctor says actinic keratosis is a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma, which is a precursor to subclinical lesions, which are precursors to a metastasizing spread to the internal organs, which is a precursor to dying.

However, he squirted many of them with Raid or whatever was in that canister and zapped them all. Except for a few that he’ll have to cut off and biopsy at a future visit.

In essence, my health situation remains in the nuisance stage at the moment. There is no immediate danger of my dying. I’ll probably live for hours yet.

A bigger nuisance for me involves my progress proofreading the Christmas book. I read over each chapter in this manuscript dozens of times before I sent it off to the printer. Yet, in the proof pages I find typos on practically every page!

How can this be?

Perhaps if I learned to type… Yes, although I’ve earned my living as a freelance writer for 25 years, I’ve never learned to type. Amazing. Shameful but amazing.

25 years of writing without learning to type!

God must look after drunks, fools and writers.

Another odd nuisance is that the proof pages for the Civil War diary have not arrived yet. The post office tracking number shows the pages have been in Philadelphia since September 2nd and have not moved from there.

The only thing I can figure is that some clerk in the Philadelphia Post Office is reading the whole book before he sends it on.

I hope he enjoys it.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to proof the Christmas book, even though the temperature is 92 degrees outside.

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 @ 6:53 AM

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lost Treasure

At the library the other night I checked out the book Sunken Treasure On Florida Reefs by Robert Weller.

If I were not a Christian, I could easily get annoyed with this guy!

He and his buddies found my treasure.

On July 31, 1715, a hurricane wrecked a fleet of twelve Spanish galleons on the east coast of Florida. Seven thousand crewmen and passengers died in the shipwrecks.

These ships carried 14 million gold coins, tons of gold bars, thousands of chests full of silver, caskets brim full of emeralds, gold chains, fine porcelain, jade Aztec statues, and all sorts of other goodies.

Were there any justice in the universe, all this would be mine.

But it isn’t.

None of it is because of the hornets.

You see, back in the 1950s when I was a Boy Scout, I won many swimming and diving competitions. Those days were precursors to my present-day shape like a beached whale. Nevertheless, I swam like a fish and a former Navy frogman trained me in underwater techniques. I knew my way around under the surface.

Even in those long-gone days of my youth I expressed an interest in Jacksonville history and local archaeology. I’d helped excavate an Indian burial mound with a local society and written a report of the excavation for Florida State University. And I dove with a group conducting an archaeological survey of the Ichnetucknee River.

I thought I was hot stuff.

Met this guy, an insurance agent. I’d never heard the term “wheeler dealer” but that describes him. He wanted a diver to go treasure hunting at a shipwreck site near Sebastian Inlet. He looked to recruit a diver who would work “for the experience”.

Can you spell sucker?


There were other adults involved in the enterprise but I remember nothing about them. I recall that we made several practice runs to archaeological sites I knew about in the Jacksonville area. We recovered a human skull with a Spanish colonial period bullet rattling around inside it, a knife blade, and a few other artifacts.

The older guys made one trip down to Sebastian and returned with several cannon balls proving they had located the Spanish shipwreck under less than ten feet of water. Visions of gold occupied everyone’s thoughts.

But, to finance a dive on the 1715 treasure wrecks of Sebastian, we needed cash money.

The grownups came up with this scheme to film an educational movie for tv, a whole series of movies about these two kids who rode their bikes to Florida historical sites and discovered things.

I was to write the script and to act as cameraman – all without pay, of course.

The grownups came up with these two kids, Buffy and Biffy, ten-year-olds, white shorts, pith helmets, shinny bikes.

The group traveled out to Fort George Island to film these kids exploring slave cabins, shell middens, and a couple of mysterious stone tombs which legend attributes to pirates, patriots, or plantation damsels.

I filmed Biffy and Buffy at the slave cabins, with a whale vertebra, at the mound… then we went to the stone tombs deep in jungle undergrowth.

I set up the camera tripod. The kids approached the tombs — and began screaming.

They had blundered into a huge nest of ground wasps, hornets, yellow jackets — stinging bugs.

I shouted for them to freeze. Wasps attack movement. But the kids danced and swatted and screamed — and each of them got stung over 20 times. The wasps swarmed around me, I froze and did not get stung once.

We loaded the kids up for a drive to the hospital (stopping at a corner store to buy meat tenderized to rub on the stings — told you I was a Scout and knew about such things).

The two kids’ mothers put their foots down (how else would you say that?)—No more ventures into the wild woods for their precious little darlings. Intimidated grownups drifted away to play golf or whatever insurance agents do. Without a ripple the film project turned belly up. So did the treasure hunt in Sebastian Inlet.

I never got to dive on my treasure wrecks.

About ten years later Kip Wagner’s dog found a Spanish well which wreck survivors had dug on the beach. Wagner swam straight out to the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de la Regla.

He recruited divers and his group recovered, “a flowered gold chain 11 feet six inches long…and silver coins that could not be counted, they could only be weighed… over a ton of silver, and 3,000 ounces of gold coins”. They also recovered diamond and emerald rings, a gold cross, silver plates, cannon, silver candlesticks, clay tobacco pipes and …

And all sorts of stuff I would have found ten years earlier if those dumb kids had not kicked that wasp nest.

So I never dove on the wreck; never recovered the Spanish treasure.

Perhaps God had other plans for my life.

Come to think of it, if I had brought up the treasure, I would never have finished high school, never gone to college, never joined the army, never moved up north, never met Ginny, never sired my children, never lived this life, never written this blog.

So I suppose I have discovered a treasure after all, one sweeter than honey, more to be desired than gold…


Nevertheless…. I don’t know how to end this sentence.

Oh yeah, Robert Weller, the guy who wrote the book that dredged up all my petty grievances all these years later, he found a lot of treasure in the same area.

But, somehow, I don’t want to read any more about his findings.

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 @ 3:56 AM

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Can't Pick A Favorite

Last week Funky Bug, an accomplished photographer in her own right, introduced me and her many blog readers to the photography of Jerry Uelsmann.

I found the samples of his work which she supplied so intriguing that I visited several of his sites at http://www.uelsmann.net/ or even better at http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/uelsmann/ .

I intended to click in and out of the sites — but when I found myself exposed to his world, I stayed wondering at his photographs for over an hour.

“This one is my favorite,” I said.

“No, here’s an even better one,” I said.

Mr. Uelsmann produced so many great pictures that I must have said, “This is my favorite” a dozen times.

Over the weekend I’ve narrowed my choices down to six or eight or ten favorites. Here are three samples of those. But visit his sites and choose one (or a dozen) for yourself.

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 @ 5:09 AM

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Seeing Ourselves Through New Eyes

Yesterday’s cookout proved a great success.

For one thing, for the first time in ages I did not present a devotional talk and demonstration. Amazingly, no one appeared to miss my lecture at all.

The family met Eve’s friend Mark for the first time. I hope he did not find us too crazy. He appears to be an accomplished young man with many varied talents. He speaks enthusiastically about his work helping folks who were exposed to radiation. And he designed a website for his parents’ Arabian horse farm (You’ve probably seen their equestrian units on tv Thanksgiving Day Parades). The site Mark designed can be found at http://www.harmonyacresparadehorses.com/ .

Mark hails from Michigan; he is a newcomer to Jacksonville. Ginny and I were amused and amazed as he told us what he considers the best features of the city, features we would have never even thought of in describing our home town. He certainly enlightened us with his insights as to how new comers see our provincial little world.

Another newcomer also attended the cookout with Jennifer and Pat. The young man ran away from his family at church Sunday morning and turned up at their house seeking temporary asylum from the pressures of just turning 16. God! What a painful age.

His birthday was yesterday so our friends and family put together an impromptu birthday party for him. Shocked and amazed the young man. I knew he collected coins so I pulled out an old $2 bill as a gift. I don’t think he’d ever seen one before. Eve baked a cake for the party. Ginny gave him an odd electric fan with flashing colored lights on the blades. We gave him an autographed copy of one of my books (Didn’t thrill him as much as the fan). Everyone signed a card for him. And our friend Randy, who is an expert at origami, folded him a paper dragon with flapping wings.

After the short appearance at our party, Jennifer and Pat drove him back to his parents.

On a personal level, Randy (we’ve been friends since the early 1970s) remarked that he thought of me as a Christian mystic. This shocked me. I can’t imagine how he came up with such an idea. At best I see myself as a mystified Christian. Ginny and I got a good laugh out of his remark.

When Donald and Helen, God bless them, came inside the house for more potato chips, I asked one simple question about the computer and those intrepid souls spent the whole party laboring over some mistake I’d made. I bitch and complain about their “fooling” with my computer all the time, but I’d never be able to anything without their help. I need to show more appreciation and not ask them stuff so often. I don’t want them to dread coming over because I do enjoy their company for non-geek things also.

Now, Ginny & I have the rest of the long holiday weekend to ourselves.

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 @ 7:29 AM

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Whine Of The Day

Since this is a holiday and no one is likely to read today’s journal posting anyhow, I intend to whine a bit.

Yesterday for the first time in my life I paid a young man at the garage to check the air pressure in the car tires. I just could not see well enough to read the tire gauge and my arthritis hurt too much to get down on ground level to do the job.

I have what my grandmother would have called Galloping Corruption She only recognized two diseases, Galloping Corruption and Creeping Corruption; those two terms covered the spectrum of human illnesses.

Bits of bad news filtered down to us this weekend.

So I feel entitled to whine.

Life is not treating me as I deserve.

Perhaps I should be thankful for that.

God’s mercy keeps any of us from getting what we deserve.

Nevertheless, various petty aggravations make me whine.

First, medical tests show that Ginny’s diabetes is less under control than we thought it was. This dictates certain life style changes and stronger medicines which contain potentially worrying side effects. This news puts Ginny down and out of sorts from her usual cheerful, bubbly self.

In proof reading (Again!) the Christmas book, I uncover typos on virtually every page. How could I have missed these? (Well, learning to type would help.)

News arrived that the professional committee at the local library decided that two of my books they were considering buying are not good enough to make the grade to include in their collection of local authors. This from a library system that spends millions each year buying books! That puts me in my place, doesn’t it.

On the other hand, they did choose to buy copies of my friend Wes’ book about his great-grandfather. Good for Wes! Quite a feather in his cap.

I intended to mow the lawn yesterday in preparation for a family cookout Sunday — Eve is bringing her boy friend to meet the family for the first time and I wanted to make a good impression on him… But Rex is hosting a cookout too and had the lawnmower tied up so our yard remains raggedy.

There’s an election next week so our phone rings continually as automated voice messages from politicians talk to our answering machine. I keep a list of the politicians who have machines call disturbing my home and I vote for any candidate who has NOT insulted us this way. Actually, there was one man I intended to vote for but I crossed his name off the sample ballot when he had a machine call my home. I will not stand for this degrading practice; I will now vote for his opponent.

How is a Christian supposed to handle the normal aggravating vicissitudes of life, all these petty annoyances which gall me like a stone in my shoe? No one small thing warrants getting upset about, but taken collectively they stultify.

First, Ginny and I talk over all these petty grievances and admit they have us down. Just airing things out helps, even when we can do little to remedy any specific situation at the moment.

We talk over what we can change and what we have to live with. What’s our fault and what’s just the way life is.

Then we try to focus on immediate duties. No matter how down and discouraged we feel, the fish still need to be fed, the birdcage liner has to be changed. Eve’s young man still needs to be impressed. The typos still demand corrections.

As the poem says, “Life goes on; I forget just why”.

And somewhere buried in all this crap is sustaining faith in Christ, our belief that He is in control and that He knows what He’s doing.

That was easier for me to believe last week when things were going well than it is this week. But truth is truth whether it is easy to believe or not.

And when faith fails, I can always fall back on good, solid, satisfying whining.

Say... maybe after the election I could buy one of those politician’s automated phone machine and start a new service:

John Cowart’s Dial-A-Whine.

Sounds like a winner to me.

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 @ 8:04 AM

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Insatiable Groping Woman!

Yesterday in our bedroom as Ginny and I dressed for a doctor’s appointment I thought she was doing something intriguing.

Looks like after 38 years of marriage I’d have known better.

All she was doing was pointing out a hole in my underwear.


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 @ 4:10 AM

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Proof Pages

My own work shames me.

Yesterday afternoon as I napped, the UPS man delivered the proof copy of my Christmas book. I was scared to cut the package open. I feared the knife blade might cut too deep and scar my precious book.

The phone rang just as I cut through the first layer of tape. I left the package on the kitchen table and ran to answer. I felt relief at the reprieve. I suppose a mother giving birth feels this same sort of fear — that this hitherto unseen thing, while you hope it’s ok, is going to be horribly deformed when it comes out and you see the thing in the harsh light of day.

Phone call over with, I returned to finish opening the package. At first glance the books looks ok. Actually, the book cover, one of the first I’ve ever designed my self, looked more than ok. But what about the insides? Does some horrible defect lurk between the covers?

I check headers and footers (the bane of my existence) and they are where they’re supposed to be. I check pagination against the table of contents — like counting the number of fingers and toes and other appendages. Thank God, they do correspond. Then, I check each graphic…

Ut Oh, I see pixels showing in some of the clip art; I enlarged it too much.

Will anyone else notice?

Can some doctor fix that or is my book doomed to live with pixels showing for it’s entire shelf life?

I feel sick to my stomach. I feel ashamed. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to read the words inside. I thought they were good when I wrote them but now I cringe at how banal they seem.

An old Shoe cartoon springs to mind:

Here I envisioned a wonderful book, an illuminated manuscript on fine velum, a book that would enrich people’s lives, entertain readers, honor God and uplift humanity.

And all I get is ink on paper.

Mediocre ideas. Stumbling words. Redundancies. Hatch eyed phrases. Pasted-together, warmed-over chapters that weren’t all that good in the first place. Redundancies. Just a plain old sit-on-the-shelf book like thousands of others.

It makes me ashamed of myself.

It doesn’t measure up.


Once, I wanted everyone to buy it; now, I want no one to even see it.

I did the best I could but it’s not good enough because I did the best I could.

Does that make sense to you, it does to me.

O God, I am heartily sorry for these, my misdoings… I’ll never do it again…

But, who am I kidding?

I will do it again..

I know I will.

I’m a writer and this is what writers do.

Actually, I’m looking at the proof copy again. It’s got the cutest little spine. Perfectly straight. My name’s on it. And, come to think of it, the pixels are kind of cute too, they give it character, individuality.

Well, I’ll be!

After a while, the damn thing grows on you.

Here’s a link to the first chapter; and here’s a link to the last one.

Give me till the middle of next week to go over this proof copy for corrections and if I don’t screw up too bad, then Gravediggers Christmas & Other Tales will be available in my online book catalog 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 @ 5:47 AM

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