Rabid Fun

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

This Couple Wanted My Bed

Yesterday Dr. Oz told me that my prostate cancer progresses as expected; the PSA readings continue to inch up.

We’ll see what happens.

After the doctor’s appointment Ginny and I ran some errands; and as we drove here and there, we talked about the progress of the disease and especially its effect on our sex life.

That got us laughing over remembered fun incidents from our distant past up to the present.

After she went in to work late, I continued thinking along those lines and I remembered a turning point in my life back in 1970 when I drove an 18-wheeler over the road as an independent truck driver.

The company I drove for played ping pong with me all across the nation. One day loading in Maimi or New York, the next unloading in Richmond and loading for Dallas, then from there to Chicago, to New Orleans, to Los Angeles, to Albuquerque, to Denver, to Boston… on and on wherever the white lines led.

I’d be away from home months at a time.

The company dispatcher and his wife, Bob and Judy, lived in Indianapolis, middle of the country. A compassionate couple, they invited any drivers passing through Indy to sleep over at their house, get a shower, relax, eat a home-cooked meal. Maybe grab a few beers.

They opened their home continually even though they only had one spare bedroom.

I got there early one Saturday and snagged the only spare bed. A bunch of other drivers just happened to be in town later that same evening. Six or eight men camped on the living room sofa or spread sleeping bags on the floor.

I had the only bed until…

Just before dawn Sunday morning, another driver shook me awake and explained his problem. Out drinking, he’d met this young lady in a bar. She was willing but insisted only in a bed — she was a girl with scruples.

“Be a good guy and let us have the bed,” the driver said.

Wanting to be a good guy, I got up and let the couple retire behind the closed door of the bedroom.

OK, What can you do early Sunday morning when a batch of sleeping truck drivers litter the living room floor?

I decided to shave and walk to a church I’d noticed down the block.

Just because I didn’t want to wake other people and I had nothing better to do.

Turned out that the church, which I’d never heard of before, had invited a guest speaker, a prominent local attorney, to deliver a talk that morning. He’d never been in that church before either.

He spoke about Christian Vulnerability using the Scripture where God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.

He pointed out that we tend to magnify biblical heroes, strong men like Sampson who killed a thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass, or David who brought down a giant with a sling stone, or Daniel who braved the lions, or Paul who fought wild beasts at Ephesus.

These were great men… yet God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.

When we act at our strongest, people say, “What a hero! How strong he is”>

When we make ourselves vulnerable for Christ’s sake, observers can only say, “Look what God has done with such a puny instrument!”

After the service as people strolled out the door, they shook the speaker’s hand and mouthed platitudes about enjoying his sermon.

But my own heart was strangely warmed.

I liked to think of myself as a strong man, a potential hero, but deep inside I knew I was faking it. My strength was a mask, a wall I’d built to keep anyone from knowing my weaknesses,. my fears, my shames, my emptiness..

Yes, I’d won karate tournaments and begun to study aikido. Yes, I drove a big rig alone all over the nations solving any problem alone on my own initiative in those days before the cell phone was invented, when there was no one to call for help. Yes, I’d done social work in the midst of burning cities and rioting looters.

But I knew that inside I am a weak man. Weak as a kitten in the rain, proud as a strutting movie hero. What a pathetic combination.

I stopped and drew the speaker aside. We went out for coffee and talked for hours about being vulnerable for Christ’s sake, about the sin of pride of heart, about pretending to be tougher than I really am, about building walls and wearing masks.

And about what it means to be a Christian man relying not on our own strength but on God’s.

In our conversation, I felt God touch my heart in such a way that I became willing to stop pretending, to be my real self, and to let God do whatever He chose to do with the sorry material He had to work with -- me.

The attorney’s name was Donald Duck — “A perfectly respectable name before about 1937,” he said.

He was a corporate attorney specializing in labor relations. I suspect he was as wealthy as Midas. He dressed in tailored suits and here I was a truck driver with no better clothes to wear than my company uniform.

Yet, In Christ, we became fast friends.

No matter when I called him, from wherever in the country, he instructed his secretaries to put through my calls.

Months after we met, when I happened to be in the city again passing through, Don Duck asked me to speak to an assembly of society people at a meeting in another attorney’s home.

Attorneys, physicians, bankers, architects, elected officials, labor leaders, corporate executives, glittering women in evening gowns — scare me to death!

The Lord said that if we follow Him, we may stand before kings, but He never said we’d stand before them as equals!

But I gave it a try — I put my trucker’s uniform in the dry cleaners to wear to the assembly.

I tried to memorize my talk.

As best I can remember, it went something like this:

Hello. My name is John.

I drive a truck.

My truck is 44 feet long and eight feet wide. My legal loaded weight is 76 tons. I drive between 300 and 600 miles every day. Load the truck all day. Drive all night. (If you’re with the Federal Trade Commission, I never said any of that).

To stay awake on the road I drink a lot of coffee.

A whole lot of coffee.

You know they say there’s a time and a place for everything, So here I am driving down the road after drinking cup after cup of coffee… The time has come and I’m looking for a place.

I see a sign says, “Rest Area — 40 miles”.

Forty miles is a long way when the time came ten miles back!

Then there appears another sign, “Rest Area — 25 Miles”.

Good. I can squeeze it in enough to make another 25 miles.

You know, the whole world is looking for rest. People are tired. They are weary. They see a Christian and hear us talk about living with purpose, life with meaning, peace of mind, the joy of the Lord, and they long for all that good stuff.

They see us as signboards saying Rest Area Ahead.

But on the road, as the white lines pass and pass, I see another big green sign beside the Interstate: “Rest Area — Next Right — No Facilities”!

Facilities is the one thing I want most at that moment.

What happens when people get close to you?

Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest”.

The world comes to see us. They’re weary. They’ve been anticipating, hoping for a Rest Area all their lives. When they get to me, when they get to you, do they find … No Facilities?

When I wear my company uniform, it’s a sign that people can expect a certain level of behavior and service. When I name myself as a Christian, people expect no less.

We either live for Christ, or we live for something less.

To the world, we are Rest Area — or we are No Facilities.

You know, the one thing I’m scared of most as a truck driver is … going home.

That’s right. I drive over the road in blizzards of snow, in thick fog and pouring rain and heavy traffic. I’ve seen hellacious wrecks. Once saw a man’s decapitate head laying in the road beside his car, his kids’ toys scattered all over the Interstate.

I never want to be part of such a wreck.

But the thing scariest to me is going home.

While I am still a great way off, far across the country, I began to imagine how Ginny, my wife, will receive me when I get home.

One driver I knew went home to Chicago for Christmas. He carried a trunk full of toys and presents for his wife and kids. He parked on the street and ran into the house.

It was empty.

They’d moved.

While he was gone his wife had met another man. She packed kids and all the furniture, turned off the gas and electricity and moved away. No body was home when the driver got there.

So as I drive home, I get to thinking about things like that. Has Ginny met a better man? Have her feelings for me changed? Can things be the same between us? Will she even be there when I get back?

For mile after mile after mile through the night I imagine it this way and that way… and it scares me. What will I find when I get home after being in a far country?

You know, whenever I get to thinking about God, I feel that same kind of scared.

Here I am in a far country, been away from Him a long time. Done things He would never approve of. Hardly given Him a thought. What would happen if I were to go Home?

What if He fusses at me? What if He turns His face away?… What if He rejects me? What if He says, “Cowart, you’ve had your chance. Too late now. Go away”?

What if… What if I go to God… and there’s nobody there?

An empty house. No heat. No lights. No water.

Nobody, nothing there at all?

Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. You know it. Kid takes his share of the cash, leaves home, travels to a far country, lives like a pig. Comes to himself and decides to go back to his Father.

The Bible says that “When he was yet a great way off” the Father saw him, ran to meet him, hugged him, gave him clean clothes, put a gold ring on his finger, killed the fatted calf, threw a party. Welcomed him Home…

“When he was a great way off”.

“A great way off”.

“Way off”.

When I get home, as soon as Ginny hears the air breaks on my truck, she jumps up and runs out in her night dress, throws herself into my arms, hugs me, squeezes me, presses herself against me, showers me with kisses, leads me inside and fries chops, my favorite meal. She kneels and pulls off my boots. She mixes gin and strawberry soda, my favorite drink…. And well, she does other things too, but you get the picture.

She welcomes me Home.

So, what’s the most important thing I have to say tonight?

If you’ve been in another country. Even if you’ve settled there. If you feel far off from God. If you feel the slightest inclination, the slightest drawing, to return Home...

But, if you fear that you have screwed up too bad, if you’ve done things, if things have been done to you… Even if you fear that you will come to God and nobody will be there…

Not to worry.

Fear not.

He sees you even when you are a great way off and He runs to greet you.

Jesus said, “He that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out”.

Come to Jesus.

You will find welcome.

You will find rest.

You will find Home.

On a side note: When our youngest son was born, we named him Donald, after Donald Duck.

Although Ginny & I have been married 39 years now, and although instead of gin and strawberry soda I’m now likely to drink decalf coffee, and although our ardor is tempered a bit with time and familiarity, Ginny and I are still just as glad to see eachother, same as back then.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:36 AM

Your comments are welcome: 10 comments

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Bible Drove My Computer Crazy!

Tuesday I resumed work editing the Diary of Samuel Ward (1577 – 1639).

Ward wrote his diary by candlelight with a goose quill pen.

Trouble is, that although Ward was a translator of the King James Bible which was first published in 1611, in 1628 when he preached a sermon that I’m editing, the rascal didn’t use his own translation!

Oh, no. He reverted to quoting from the Geneva Bible, an earlier translation first published in 1570 and favored by English Puritans.

I’m convinced that Ward did this solely to drive me nuts.

That’s because all my reference books use the variations and phrases found in the King James Version. Thus quotes like “our hearts burned within us” are rendered, “Our spirits burned within us”. Not a big difference unless I’m trying to pinpoint the specific location of this phrase.

And although I am not a scholar, I do attempt to be accurate in citing references.

Ward also uses phrases from the original Greek, and knowing less Greek than most people, I have to chase these phrases down ad nauseam. Because I am no scholar, I need to be all the more careful in handling God’s Word and quoting from it.

Besides that, I’m an obsessive cuss.

Look at my work desk:

Open reference books, concordances, Greek/Hebrew lexicon, English dictionaries and grammar books, Several Bible translations, etc. litter the area around my computer.

I use these books to check and recheck things.

Of course, if I had to rescue one Bible study reference book from a fire, it would be a common ordinary English dictionary. Nothing helps me more in my devotions and studies than looking up ordinary words, words I think I already know the meaning of, in an ordinary dictionary.

The results surprise me.

The scene in the photo Ginny took earlier this evening shows the typical state of my desk.

Much of my life centers around books and the computer — a volatile mixture.

Here I worked, immersed in tracking down a Greek phrase this afternoon, when my computer went insane.

Anytime I’d move the cursor, five or six lines of text would be highlighted. Any time I clicked, right or left, those lines would be copied again and again. Then when I tried to move the mouse wheel to scroll up or down a page, the text would jump to 400 times its normal size, but nothing would scroll!

I tried undo.


I tried escape.

Nothing changed.

I saved and filed.

My desktop appeared. So I clicked on a different file to see if the insanity had spread. Ha! The file I clicked on was instantly copied six times on my desktop!

I shut down my computer and restarted it.

Same result. Only now it copied any highlighted file eight or ten times and would not un-highlight them.

Like rabbits they multiplied on my desktop.

“Bet I picked up some fatal virus the last time I browsed a porno site,” I thought.

“Be sure your sins will find you out”.

What is wrong with this machine?

I’ve never seen one do that before.

I tried this and that using all my computer skills for 45 minutes with increasing frustration then called my son Donald, a computer network administrator.

I described the problem.

He had me restart. He had me look for new desktop icons. He questioned me about each step I’d taken. He suspected that I’d dropped pipe ashes or tobacco flakes on my keyboard.


(He once gave me one of those miniature scuba diving tanks with compressed air to blow ashes our of my keyboard — The Surgeon General warns that tobacco flakes and pipe ashes in the keyboard may harm your computer).

Donald questioned if my mouse button was stuck?

Does the mouse wheel roll?

Are any keys stuck?

I looked intently.

“Well,” I said, “…. There is this one key… But it’s not exactly stuck”

“What’s wrong with it?”

Did you notice my open Bible under my elbow in the photograph?

As I piled books around my computer searching for the exact wording of a passage of Scripture, I piled my Bible on top of a concordance in such a way that the open cover of my Bible pressed down on the Control Key.

I had not noticed.

Any other key I touched anywhere was Control + Any key = Monitor Blinking Insanity.

Bill Gates recommends that you hardly ever do this.

This happened about 3 in the afternoon. I’d been working on this stuff since 3 a.m. I decided to knock off work and go swimming.

I moved my Bible, a dangerous book. But left all the other books piled where they were for tomorrow’s work.

Samuel Ward used a goose quill pen to write his diary.

Maybe I should too.

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 @ 2:53 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Diary Of A Peevish Man

A bout of depression has been creeping up inside me all this long weekend.

Nothing specific that I can pinpoint triggers it; I go through these periodically and it is only in the past few years that I have come to recognize the onset; but the symptoms are typical.

I get peevish.

My mantra becomes, “Failed Again”.

Nothing pleases me.

And I snap at Ginny over things which have nothing to do with her.

I feel discouraged and think “What’s The Use” about every undertaking.

Also certain masculine functions get disrupted. I berate myself constantly. I feel angry at God and the world in general. I’ll yell at the tv news announcers instead of letting their moronic pronouncements flow by. And I lack energy or enthusiasm for any project; every thing seems futile to me, and past accomplishments empty.

I’m such a fun guy to live with at such times.

All that’s a fine state for a Christian isn’t it?

However, symptoms are not sin.

And frustrations are not faith.

Jesus saves sickies but that does not always give us glitter.

I started not to post in my diary this morning because I’m in such a downer mood, but that would not be honest. These pages I hope reflect one minor Christian’s life and times accurately with as little glossing over as possible. And it would not help any future reader (that kid in the attic I’ve mentioned before) if I let bad times pass in silence.

We place our trust in Jesus because He is true, not only because it makes us feel good. If He were not true, then it would be nonsense to believe in Him even if such belief gave us an emotional lift.

Ginny and I spent most of the weekend doing major work in our garden. I refurbished the jungle path in the wayback and cleared out a corner of the yard that I have not worked on in three years.

You’d think such heavy physical work would be therapeutic for a depressed man.

Not for me.

I actually snapped at Ginny over the placement of a bucket of sand!

What would Dr. Phil make of that?

Of course, nothing tops off a pity-party (I understand that depression is displaced anger directed at myself instead of at outside stressors) be that as it may, but nothing tops it off like a shopping trip.

You know a shopping trip on a crowded holiday, 50% off sale, the kind of trip Jesus went on when —

"The devil, taking Him up into a high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, 'All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine!'”

I didn’t know they build WalMarts up on high mountains.

Probably gave it a fancy name like Mountaintop Mall.

Anyhow, Jesus told the devil something like, “This is my right side. This is my left side. This is my front side. And you know which side you can kiss”.

In the King James translation that’s rendered, “Get thee behind me, satan”.

And Jesus said, “For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve”.

Anyhow, Ginny and I visited two stores where gaudy goods and glory from all the kingdoms of the world spread in vast array before us. Treasures from China, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Germany — none of it in my size.

Ginny bought some curtains and cloth stuff; I hunted the stores for some cup hooks.

Cup hooks were the only reason I went to the store.

(I wanted them to hang some bird houses under the deck rail).

Ever tried to find some 89 cent cup hooks in a shopping mall?

Simple little cup hooks?

I could have ordered a new deck built by professional contractors easier than I could buy four cup hooks!

Mountaintop Mall indeed!

I’ll use rusty nails.

Dumb birds deserve no better.

They won’t know the difference.

Yes, I’m a bit peevish.

On a happier note: after reading my last post, Donald and Helen called to lend me a copy of a Greek Testament. I will be able to transcribe the passages I need this afternoon.

Then tomorrow, I get to go to Dr. Oz again, for him to probe my prostate cancer.

It that doesn’t lift my spirits, nothing will.

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 @ 5:29 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Early Morning Conversation At The Cowarts

Got up at my usual 3 a.m. this morning and began work editing the Ward Diary. I ran into several places where the manuscript I’m working with transliterates Koine Greek words and phrases into English letters.

I feel my edition would be more authentic were I to restore such words and phrases back into the Greek alphabet which Ward used.

Went to my book shelf where I keep — Agh! Make that kept — my Greek Testament and grammar books. They are not there!

I did it myself.

Months (years?) ago I gave those book to somebody, perhaps a ministerial student, or maybe to Wes, or even to Donald.

I need my Berry’s Interlinear!

I need it now!

I do not remember enough Koine Greek to restore the Ward text without authoritative backup.

Who did I give those books to?

Gray and yellow cover for the Interlinear and the two volume set of Alfred’s Septuagint, green cover with no book jacket for the Nestle’s .Testament. I think I had a copy of Textus Receptus too. And a Greek/English dictionary in a red cover… I see the books vividly in my mind, but I can’t remember who I gave them too.

Ginny woke up at 5:30 and staggered out in to the kitchen for coffee.

As she poured, I explained my dilemma to her.

“I know,” I said. “I’ll call Donald and Wes and see if either one of them has a copy of Berry’s".

As I reached for the phone to call, Ginny said, “John, you can’t call people at 5:45 on a Saturday morning about a book. You just can’t”.

“I suppose you're right. They may not be up yet. What am I going to do about those transliterations? Where do you think I can get hold of an Interlinear?”

“I like chocolate,” she said.

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 @ 6:20 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Friday, May 25, 2007

Almost Summer

Watch out world, Maggie is on the road now!

Thursday my daughter-in-law and I went to the State Tag Agency and transferred ownership of my old car to my granddaughter. This was her last day of classes and she can now spend the summer driving. I’m happy for her.

Lord, help her to never get hurt in this car and help her to never hurt anyone else with it.

In the afternoon, my friend Wes dropped by for a late lunch. He’d just come back from downstate visiting a relative he had not seen in ages. The lady gave him a box of pipes for me: one is broken, three are drugstore pipes, and three are superior quality briars. They all smoke cool and smooth. I’m delighted! Thanks Wes and Bobbie.

My eldest daughter and her ex went to court today where the judge told them to go to their separate rooms, leave each other alone, not bicker anymore, and play nice. Same thing I’ve said since they were little kids.

As the Scripture says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men”.

Helen is working on my Bluefish Books site and hopes to have it finished and ready to sell thousands of my books by next week — stay tuned to this station.

Ginny is taking today off work to add a day to our long Memorial Day weekend. We plan to lay around the pool and sip iced tea and read mysteries and talk, love, garden, snack and nap — and clean pipes — all weekend.

A good start to our own peaceful summer.

Doubt if I’ll blog anymore till next Tuesday.

Speaking of blogging:

Ten days ago today, back on May 15th, Darlene tagged me with an 8 Things Meme. In my response, I tagged several e-friends. The following people have already responded to my tag with posts about their own fascinating Eight Things.

Good for them!

Please drop by their sites, get acquainted, and leave them a comment. These did their homework assignment and turned it in on time. They deserve an A+ or at least a happy face sticker:

Amrita in India

Barbara’s Along The Way


Eric in Alaska

Jellyhead in Australia

Karen In England

Pete, Karen’s Dad

LeiselB at Dead Man’s Honda

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 @ 6:37 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Romance In Olden Days

Yesterday I resumed editing the diary of Samuel Ward, a translator of the 1611 King James Bible.

Between May 25, 1595, and July 1, 1632, Dr. Ward kept a diary in which he records his sins and reminds himself of God’s blessings. Existing fragments of the diary contain his accounts of academic struggles and squabbles at Cambridge University and various aspects of church politics.

As I worked on the manuscript, I observed two interesting things: one, an oddity of antique grammar; the other, a romantic tragedy.

I noticed that Ward often said things like, I heard Dr. Fudd his sermon about the plague lately visited upon us.

At first I thought that a period should be inserted after the word Fudd and that the words His sermon should begin a new sentence.

But that construction made less and less sense.

Finally, I realized that I’m dealing with a possessive. The diary should read, I heard Dr. Fudd’s sermon about the plague visited upon us.

Whereas we would say, I kicked Joe’s dog, Ward would have said, I kicked Joe his dog showing that the dog belonged to Joe. The apostrophe S is a contraction of his.

Which reminds me of a joke:

“What did you learn in school today,” the mother asked her Second Grader.

“Teacher showed us how to make babies,” the child said.

Irate, the mother demanded, “Just what did that teacher tell you about how to make babies”!

“It’s easy. When you have a baby, all you have to do is change the Y to I and add ES”.

So much for grammar.

Ward’s diary also reveals that the course of true love never has run smooth.

Ward once contemplated courting a young lady. He wanted to propose but worried, tormenting himself, that she might reject his advances. He never does give her name but refers to her only as The Party. As an intensively introspective man addicted to listing the pros and cons of everything, Ward made the following entry in his diary on January 6, 1621:


Jan. 6, 1621. 1. It will be a great disgrace, so to be entertained, and yet to have a former purpose, to reject. 2. A want of discretion or love, or both, in not signifying before our coming that the Party she could not condescend to thee mayre (marry). 3. The noise of our entertainment will make men brute abroad successful proceedings when all is to the contrary, and augment my disgrace. 4. It is a great private check not to be respected in my first love.

Considerations to support in case all go backward: 1. The Party worldly-minded. 2. May have no child. 3. May be not forward in religion. 4. Never betrayed any Τεχμεριου (sign) of entering affection, but rather, at the last meeting, the contrary. 5. I am improvided of many necessaries which will be expected, house, household stuff, etc. 6. She …(lacunae in manuscript).

Other considerations of an higher nature: 1. Romans 8, Diligentibus Deum, omnia cooperantur in bonum, etiam •frustratis votorum. (To those who love God all things work together for good even when disappointed in their vows) 2. Consider whether God do call thee to that state, considering how thou failest, notwithstanding thy orderly proceedings. 3. This disaffecting in The Party is from a special providence of God, and therefore (I have) great reason to rest content therewith. 4. It is God that hath command of hearts and affections.

Observations: 1. My impotency to brook the least thing that distastes me. Alas my great weakness. 2. My dejected mind upon any cross accident. 3. How necessary it is in humility to acknowledge my great imbecillity and weakness in bearing any adverse accident. Also my great imprudence and indiscretion in managing even little affaires. 4. How necessary to have perpetual dependence upon God, both for prudence to manage the least affaire, and patience to bear the least misfortune.

Yes, the young lady missed a real catch there.

And Ward consoled himself with more academic studies.

Maybe instead of treating this material as a religious and historical document, I should revise the diary into a Harlequin Romance.

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 @ 3:44 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Feel Useless

Tuesday, I did nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

But, I didn’t do a lick of work.

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

Yet I did nothing useful all day long.

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

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

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

Not necessarily.

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




Ever afterwards, history regarded David as a giant killer.

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

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

I feel useless.

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

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

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

This process enriches the soil.

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

In useless times, invisible stuff is going on.

Good stuff.

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

Not useless.


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

Nothing wrong with that.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:09 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If It’s All The Same To You, Lord, I’d Rather Have A Dream

All around me, both in the blog world and in the real world, people are moving to new places. Their lives are changing.

They move and change for lots of reasons. New jobs. Redeployment. Divorce. School graduation. Financial problems. New ministries. Budget cutbacks. Aging. Medical problems. — all these things force people to move and undergo changes.

A change is being forced upon me too.

I realized that yesterday in the three different grocery stores I shopped at.

Three grocery stores in one day?

Yes. Long story, not worth telling, but I went to three different grocery stores yesterday.

And in one of them I realized that I’m due for a major change in lifestyle.

You see, I plan and a prepare for things — Boy Scout training sticks.

In Scouts I learned to plan a camp menu for cooking, taking into account the planned activities of a trip. To this day, 50 years later, I continue to do that.

Ginny and I shop for two weeks groceries at a time. Since I do most of the cooking during the week, I also do most of the shopping. Makes sense.

I use a form for menu planning.

First I get our wall calendar down and mark anticipated activities on my menu plan. Will we be going to the library Tuesday and need quick finger food we can eat with our new books propped on the table as we read in happy companionship as we ignore eachother? Do we have a blood test that requires fasting beforehand? Do we expect visitors?

That sort of thing.

Then I list some favorite meals that fit into the calendar of activities. Then I write on the shopping list the ingredients I’d need for that particular meal.

By doing this, I only have to go to a grocery store, which I hate to do, once every two weeks.

But yesterday something changed.

I found that I can no longer see the products on the shelves.

My sight has faded till I can no longer read the prices.

Labels blur before my eyes.

My shopping days are over.

Upsetting, but no real surprise there. I’ve known for a long time that I have age related macular degeneration and that a day would come when my sight would fade. It’s part of getting old and needs to be coped with.

But what has that to do with moving?

As I blundered around the supermarket aisles, I got to thinking about Joseph in the Bible … actually, there are two different Josephs mentioned in the Bible.

There is Joseph the Patriarch, you know, the one with the coat of many colors; and there was Joseph the husband of the Virgin Mary.

The two Josephs lived hundreds of years apart but both faced a similar problem.

God wanted them each to move to a new place.

God wanted them each to go live in Egypt for a time.

Joseph the Patriarch got knocked on the head, stripped naked, thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, and transported to Egypt.

It was his brothers who did him dirt.

Relatives often motivate life changes.

The other Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, God warned in a dream to pack up and move to Egypt. In the middle of the night, God sent him a dream.

In the case of each Joseph, God was saving lives, changing not only the individual man’s life but the entire course of history.

Of course, Joe did not know that.

He only knew that disagreeable change was in the air.

Moving from one place to another. Changing locations. Changing habits. Suffering loss. Winning Lotto. Being mugged. Redeployed. Promoted. Fired. — any change, good or bad, brings stress.

We want to be among the movers and the shakers of this world, not the moved and the shook.

We want control.

We resist change, especially change we perceive as bad — like getting knocked on the head by relatives, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, transported to a strange land.

God, on the other hand, constantly moves us to new experience.

He discourages stagnation.

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things pass away. Behold, all things are become new.

I fight that.

I cling.

I’m scared of change.

I don’t want to be changed.

I live in my comfort zone; God lives in His.

Why doesn’t He leave me alone?

He’s bad to me. He seems cruel. If He really loved me, He wouldn’t bother me, He’d let well enough alone. My life would flow smooth.

I’d travel on with no change, no interference, no disruptions — straight into Hell.

When Joseph the Patriarch finally rose to become Pharaoh’s CEO in Egypt, in the last chapters of Genesis, he told his brothers, the guys who did him in, “Be not angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life… God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God…

“Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people”.

The Lord introduces change into our lives both to save us as individuals and to use us to save much people besides — that is not necessarily a pleasant experience for the usee. But we can trust that He know what He’s doing.

After all, He’s been God for a long time.

Can you believe that all this long mediation was sparked by my not being able to read a can of beans?

On a more serious note: Ginny is one of the patients who takes Avandia. Yesterday’s news says that new studies show the prescription medicine increases a person’s risk of dying of a heart attack by 64%.

She already had an appointment with a cardiologist scheduled in a couple of weeks because of something her primary care physician noticed in a recent exam. He said she's in no danger, it's just something he thought merited a closer look. Just in case.

We’ll see what happens.

If some change is necessary, we’ll deal with it as it happens…

And as far as any changes in our future… If it’s all the same to You, Lord, I’d rather have a dream.

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

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tea And Roses; A Root Man And A Stabbing

First important world news — 35 minutes ago, Reuters News Service broadcast that in London flames are engulfing the Cutty Sark

The ship looks to be a total loss.

The 137-year-old clipper ship, built by Scott & Linton in Dumbarton, was launched in 1869 on Scotland's River Clyde to make the run to China for the lucrative tea trade. It consistently set speed records as the fastest ship of its day. After the Suez Canal opened and steamers took over the oriental trade, in the 1920s the Cutty Sark became a training ship; and in 1938, it became a nautical exhibit for London tourists.

Recently the Cutty Sark was undergoing restoration and preservation.

The fire apparently is gutting the wooden ship.

I find this news saddening and important because one of the first model ships I build as an adult was a Cutty Sark model given me by my middle son, Johnny, who presented it to me one Christmas along with a half-pint bottle of Scotch liquor named after the ship.

For three years I worked on the model (I even invented some special tools for knotting the intricate rigging) and when it was finally finished, in my eyes at least, I’d created a museum-quality model of the famous tea clipper.

I felt so proud of this model ship that when my daughter Jennifer got married, I presented that model to her and her groom as a wedding present as a special heirloom to be treasured.

They had this cat.

They said the vile beast attacked the model ship’s rigging and destroyed it. The monster dragged the ship from a high shelf and ripped sail and rigging and hull to pieces. The kids trashed the wreck.

I’ve always wondered if the ship didn’t suffer damage in one of the couple’s squabbles … but they said the cat did it.

I wonder if it was a cat or some other terrorist that set this morning’s fire.

Oh well, this world was not made to last forever.

Nevertheless, I feel loss.


Why is it that it’s easier to write about aggravating things than happy events?

Ginny and I spent Sunday pittering about in our garden. We planted several rose bushes the kids had given her for Mothers’ Day.

Those two preceding lines of print represent one of the happiest days I can recall recently.

Contentment and quiet joy don’t lend themselves to journal postings even though days like that are the most important in a lifetime of days.

I’m just naturally given to bitching, I suppose.

Sunday afternoon, my elderly friend Bubba stopped by. He parked his bicycle and came back into the garden to sip tea with us. “Mr. John, I’ve got a lot on my mind,” he said.

I tend to think of our neighborhood as a quiet, typical blue-collar area. One neighbor is a building contractor. Another an engineer. Several office workers live nearby. Two Navy guys, one active, the other retired. One openly homosexual couple and two others I imagine are. Racially mixed homes among the 53 houses in our circle. A smattering of little kids. A gaggle of teenagers who rock the block with their car stereos. A security guard. A couple of elderly shut-ins … just typical, normal folks.

Saturday night one of Bubba’s sons drove his girlfriend’s car over to Bubba’s house. The young man had been stabbed five times by said girlfriend and was bleeding heavily.

So, home to Daddy.

Bubba urged him to go to the emergency room but the young man refused because he has some outstanding police warrants and was afraid the hospital would call the cops about his wounds.

Bubba said the wounds were deep in his son’s chest and arms. They needed stitches, too deep for the old man to bandage.

The boy got mad at him for not being able to tend the wounds and lay rubber speeding away to God only knows where.

Later, Bubba said the cops came to a house near his.

A neighbor lady had called for them to come arrest a root man.

“A root man?,” I asked, “What’s a root man”.

“You know, a voodoo man. He give out roots and spells. He been putting on a black hat, black overcoat, and black boots and walking up and down in front of her house putting a hex spell on her”.

Apparently, the reason provoking the spell involved cats, of course.

Her cats came into his yard

So he put on his black overcoat (in 85 degree weather) and black rig and walks back and forth in front of the cat owner’s house muttering curses and scattering crushed egg shells as he walks.

The responding police officers refused to arrest the root man.

His only legal offense would be littering the street with crushed egg shells and that does not rank high among Jacksonville crime statistics on a Saturday night.

The lady grew abusive at the police officers for not taking away the root man, so abusive that they threatened to arrest her.

But if they’d arrested her, who would take care of her 60 cats?

Is that right?

Yes, I think Bubba said she owns 60 cats… or maybe it was 16.

I’m not sure.

The lady who takes care of the 60 cats is a different lady from the lady on the same street who cares for the 16 — I don’t hear all that well and Bubba’s conversation is sometimes hard for me to follow.

Like I said, Ginny and I live in a quiet, calm, typical Jacksonville neighborhood where we laugh and pray and love and worship and tend our own garden, mind our own business, and enjoy happy, warm Sunday afternoons sipping tea.


Here’s the most recent AP Photo of what’s left of the Cutty Sark this morning; officials say that with enough time and money, salvage may be possible:

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 @ 6:06 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Girl

Saturday, Ginny and I packed the car with garden tools and headed to our youngest daughter’s new home to clean the yard for her.

This is the first whole house Patricia has ever lived in by herself; she’s been an apartment dweller until now. She fell in love with this new place and I helped her move in earlier in the week.

Now, the joys of home ownership have burst in her heart. She’s thinking about bird feeders and fountains and flowers and park benches for her yard.

Her very own yard!

She envisions hosting family cook outs and chatting over the fence with neighbors and a cat curled on the hearth.

But first…

The place doesn’t even have a hearth, but that’s a minor detail.

It’s been a long time since anyone who cared lived in that house. Discarded lumber, broken cinderblocks, tall weeds, a tumbled down fence, an outside faucet missing a handle, a shed that needs tearing down — that sort of thing needs to be faced first.

Ginny and I devoted our day to the weeds and door locks and carting trash out to the curb while Butterfly Patricia flitted here and there unpacking pictures, arranging potted plants, placing knickknacks in discovered niches — nesting.

It was such a joy to watch her.

Few things make a dad happier than to see a grown child coming into his or her own.

Sometimes the duty of a father is to make his kids happy; it’s equally his duty to sometimes make them unhappy.

Saturday was one of those happy times and I relished it.

I can’t remember seeing Patty so joyous since she was a tiny little girl on a Christmas morning.

What a delightful day — though I spent a significant portion of it shoveling up dog shit from the previous owner’s pit bull.

That’s the sort of things dad’s do.

One of my best day’s ever -- and I have a whole lot of happy days under my belt.

After coming through a very bad patch, my little girl is happy.

She's getting settled.

Thanks be to God.


Earlier this morning I posted a comment on Sweet & Sour Jane’s Blog at http://www.emaleejayne.com/ . Later, it occurred to me that I hardly ever mention movies in my own postings, they just don’t play a very big roll in my life. But I thought my comment to Jane might make a stand-alone blog posting of my own, so here it is:

There was a made for tv movie called Griffin & Phoenix staring Peter Faulk that touched me.. He and the female star, whose name I forgot, meet in a doctor’s office where they learn they each have cancer. The two strangers decide to make the most of the life they have left.

Such a bittersweet love story. Such fun. So sad.

The movie aired once years ago then disappeared without a ripple.

I thought it was the best movie ever, but apparently not everyone has my taste in stories.

I seldom comment but I enjoy reading about you and Slizzy in your posts often.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:50 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Friday, May 18, 2007

One Way



This is not a religious tract.

You see, when I awaken about 3 o’clock each morning, I stumble bleary-eyed out of the bedroom, click on the table lamp, drink a glass of juice, perk a pot of coffee, then sit down at my computer to begin my day’s work of writing great literature and potentially best-selling books.

Lately, I’ve had trouble seeing my work.

No surprise there.

That early in the morning, as I said, I’m bleary-eyed.

Besides that, I have age related macular degeneration and my sight gradually fades.

Besides that, I’m dim.

Just plain not bright.

Three or four weeks ago when I clicked on that table lamp, the room did not brighten as much as it used too. Oh well, I figured, Just one of the vicissitudes of life and growing older.

Then, about two weeks ago, I clicked on the lamp, and things grew dimmer still. Maybe I should see the eye doctor (can’t spell ophthalmologist), I thought.

Thursday morning when Beauty got up a tad early (she usually sleeps till 6 a.m. — it’s daylight by then), she came out and found me hunched over my books squinting at ancient print.

“Why are you working like that? Why is it so dark in here?” she asked.

She soon explained that the table lamp has this three-way bulb — 50 watts, 100 watts, and 150 watts.

You see where this is going?

Apparently, four weeks ago, one element, the 150 one, burned out; thus making the lamp a two-way lamp.

I didn’t notice. Oh, I knew things were not as bright as they used to be, but I paid scant attention.

Then two weeks ago, another filament, the 100 watt one, burned out, making the lamp only one-way.

Again, I didn’t really notice.

It just didn’t register with me that my light was fading.

Had been for a long time.

Beauty changed the light bulb in my one way lamp and brightened my world again. In lots of ways, she always does that.

Thing is, this loss of light had happened so gradually and over such a long period of time, that it never dawned on me that the light I had was growing dimmer and dimmer and dimmer.

There may be a spiritual lesson here… but I don’t see what it is.


Remember I’ve said earlier this week that the Evil Wizard of the host server for my on-line book catalog is forcing me to move to a new format?

“A Mandatory Migration,” the Evil Wizard called it.

“Nothing to it. I’ll help you. I have this magic template,” he cackled.

Notice, that I’m the guy so high-tech that I can’t master a three-way table lamp.

Now, imagine me trying to move ten book listings from one format to another beneath the malevolent curse of the Evil Wizard’s mandatory migrating template.

I called in professional help, my friend and daughter-in-law, Helen — who is a graphic artist and web designer. She got everything moved and designed a new look for my Bluefish Books site.

It looks neat.

Whereas before, my site background was green because that’s the way it came and I didn’t know how to change it, she actually made the site — get this — BLUE!

Who would have thought of that? My Bluefish Books site is now blue on a blue background with a blue banner.

What a clever girl!

Here’s her latest photo:

So, yesterday afternoon, once Helen got it all set up and running, with links and graphics and everything, I went into the matrix to tweak the sidebar.

With the single touch of a button I, John Cowart, King Of The Geriatric Geeks, erased my own entire site.


I did.

I said that too.

Helen, who must love my son dearly not to murder his father with an ax, says she will repair the damage I did today. She’s on speaking terms with that wizard thingy.

I solemnly promised her that I would never ever, ever, ever to touch the matrix codes again never , ever again —

At least not until I’ve mastered a three-way light bulb first.

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 @ 2:00 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Inspiration For Digging Ditches

Wednesday I continued to edit the diary of Samuel Ward (1577-1639). He was one of the translators of the King James Bible which was published in 1611.…

Who’s interested in such stuff?

I don’t know why I bother.

I often feel as though I’d do just as well playing golf, or collecting odd beer bottles, or digging ditches as I do writing.

For over 25 years I have felt this way, discouraged and down, but I’ve kept on writing and making just enough sales to subsist and give me hope of better days.

Often I’ve thought that my family would have been better off if I’d taken a job as a counterman at a fast food place and devoted the same amount of time and energy to that job as I have to writing books.

At my age maybe even now I could get a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart perched on a stool at the door and saying, “Young Lady, turn around and go back home and put on some decent clothes. You can’t come in here dressed like that”.

Well, maybe being a Wal-Mart greeter is not my calling.

I’m too old to dig ditches; but I’d make a great geriatric bag boy at the grocery store…

Yesterday also, I received a royalty check for my first quarter book sales… Pathetic. Makes no business sense to keep on doing what I do.

A few years ago I sold foreign translation rights in a Third World Country to my book on prayer; that publisher paid me ten dollars ($10) for what represented a couple of year’s work in my life.

What man with any business sense at all would agree to a deal like that? Makes no sense.

I really don’t know why I bother.

But bother I do.

And here (besides plain old vanity) is one of the reasons:

Yesterday I received one of those e-mail devotions by Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century preacher in London, from my son’s free devotional site at http://www.rdex.net/ .

Spurgeon mentions a Bible verse I’d never noticed before.

It talks about digging ditches.

Three kings attacked the land of Moab. Their armies got bogged down in a desert with no water in sight. Men and horses were perishing for lack of water. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, sent for the Prophet Elisha and a musician.

And as the music played, this message came from the Lord:

“Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord”.

The army dug dry ditches in the dusty desert.

No wind came.

No cloud formed.

No rain showered down.

Yet the next morning, those ditches were filled with drinking water. The armies of three kings were saved. They went on to defeat Moab.

Spurgeon said, “Here was a case of human helplessness — not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits' end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found. Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing — they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held”.

So, here I am writing stuff hardly anyone reads. Writing books no body buys. Typing on air. Digging ditches in the desert without a cloud in sight.

Futile effort?

On some shallow level I do try to honor the name of Christ in my work; but honestly I can’t remember the last time anyone said they’d been drawn to Christ because of my witness. Wasted energy? The game not worth the candle?

Spurgeon said we must by varied agencies, efforts and prayers make ourselves ready to be blessed. We must dig ditches in the desert to hold the cool water God will send.

His job is to supply the life-giving water; my job is to dig the ditches in the desert for Him to fill.

In his own day Spurgeon was called the Prince of Preachers. He said, “In a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him”.

I’m reminded of an old hymn in which God says:

I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
I will pour floods upon the dry ground.
Open your heart to the gift I am bringing,
While ye are seeking me, I will be found.

Meanwhile, here’s John Cowart.

Digging another ditch.

Roll up your pant’s legs!

Must gonna be a flood — Someday.

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 @ 3:30 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Moving Experience

Tuesday I helped one of my daughters move to a new home.

Took three trips with Nissan and trailer but we got her moved.

Last time I helped one of the kids move, I swore it would be the last time. I’m getting too old to lift sofas, and tables and boxes of books (Heavens! But our family accumulates books!) Heavy books!

Going up and down the few stairs in the new house just about killed me. When I was younger I could move furniture all day, load the truck, drive 500 miles that night, and unload it all the next day.

No more. I’m finding my limitations. Again, I’m swearing that this was my last move. Think so?

New home.

New life.

Same old problems.

Just down the street from her new home a morning glory vine climbs a telephone pole and bursts into beauty high above the heads of anyone passing by. I think God creates some beauties just for His own pleasure and that we glimpse them now and then only by chance. I wish I’d had my camera along to photograph the flowers, but I didn’t.

One striking fact about Bible history is how often God had people move. Everything from the Exodus to Paul’s missionary journeys. All the time, God is shuffling people around. He does not seem to want us to get too comfortable entrenched in one spot. And often He uses persecution of one sort or another to prod us into moving.

I think that’s a bad thing.

Apparently, He doesn’t.

We want to stay with the familiar; God presses us on toward the new.

Johan didn’t want to go anywhere; God did one whale of a job in moving him.

The parting of the Red Sea makes for great movie footage, but I think the most astounding move in Scripture was when King Herod decided to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. One night an angel told Joseph to take Mary and the young child and move to Egypt. Note: the angel did not tell this to Mary. So Joseph had to wake her and say, “Honey, pack everything. We’re moving to Egypt. Pack the diaper bag, the port-a-crib, the bottle warmer, the blankie, the nappies, the car seat, the stuffed bear, all that gold, frankincense, and myrrh those guys left along with all the other baby gifts — I’m quiting my job and we’re moving to Egypt. Tonight.”

They got up and moved that same night.

And she did not brain him.

Now that’s what I call a miracle!

All over north Florida, even as I write, hundreds of families are being forced to move abruptly in mandatory evacuations ahead of the wild fires that have been burning for three weeks now. Wind picks up flaming debris and floats it miles ahead of the main fire to settle in new fuel sources setting them aflame too.

People’s homes are one of those fuel sources.

New fires break out daily — 287 of them, last I heard. The main fire has consumed over 300 square miles and no sign of rain is in the forecast.

Within minutes of flaming debris falling from the sky, people must flee with everything they value. Cars and cows and cats and children and wedding pictures and blankets and bottles of water — all else they’ve worked all their lives to accumulate may well be consumed by the flames.

We need to enjoy our possessions, but hold them lightly.

Last week the server host for my online book catalog announced a forced move of computer sites beginning this week.

I don’t want to move my site!!!

I don’t want to move anything!!!

I don’t ever want to move again — but then God sends this whale…

OK, Lord, if You insist.

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 @ 6:17 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Darlene Asked For 8 Things About Me

Yesterday my e-friend Darlene Schacht tagged me for a meme; I’m to tell eight things about myself, then tag eight other hapless folks and pester them into doing the same thing.

Normally I’d ignore such a project.

But since it’s Darlene who asked, I can’t resist. Darlene is a Canadian lady author and editor. She was one of the first people to ever comment on my blog. She became responsible for most of the computer search engines locating my site when she promoted a photograph of me entitled “Pool Boy Wearing Black Socks”. My site has drawn more hits from that search string than any other.

Thanks Darlene.

Darlene is a deeply devoted Christian who founded an electronic magazine for Christian Women. Her magazine is called Christian Online Women (COW for short) or something like that. Lots and lots of women read her magazine and share their faith through it…

Oops. I was a little off with that name. It’s called Christian Women Online (CWO) for short).

Sorry. My mistake.

What can you expect from a pool boy wearing black socks?

Be sure to check out Darlene’s Blog and magazine — which is not COW but CWO

Here are the rules Darlene listed: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

(1.) My ambition as a youth was to become an archaeologist. I spent the happiest days of my youth excavating an Indian burial mound with a local archaeological society.

(2.) One of the happiest days of my life, I spent with my mother-in-law in a corn field. She took me along to excavate a 16th Century site in Maryland where the English settlers had abandoned a house abruptly (perhaps because of Indian attack or an epidemic which killed the whole family immediately). We uncovered silver shoe buckles, a mortar and pestle, intact kitchenware, etc. under the supervision of a state archaeologist. Wow!

(3.) Reading Dracula as a boy inspired me to begin keeping a daily journal and I’ve kept one off and on for over 30 years. Three years ago my son Donald encouraged me to keep my journal on line as a blog. I published my 2005 journal under the title A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad (available at www.bluefishbooks.info ). The cover photo shows me in my pool boy outfit with black socks.

(4.) Recently a young lady asked me about my sex life. She expressed amazement that a 67-year-old man would only have had sex with two women, my first wife and my present one, in his entire life. (Not virtue, lack of opportunity) She said that was really bizarre. And here I thought I was more or less normal.

(5.) I am a Christian believing that the whole world, especially me, was in such bad shape that God Himself came down to rescue us. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught the ignorant. We nailed him to a cross to torture Him to death for our sins. But as Lord of Life, He conquered death and rose from the tomb. He will come again in glory and judge the earth. In the meantime, He’d kinda like for us to behave ourselves.

(6.) Whenever I mention looking at naked ladies on the internet, my blog readers fuss at me. But my besetting sin, the one that bothers me the most, is stealing. Anytime I go anywhere I look for things to steal. I don’t often actually take things but it’s always a temptation for me, one I struggle with practically every day.

(7.) My parents thought reading was a waste of time. “Johnny, get your nose out of that book and do something useful” is a phrase I heard a million times as I was growing up.

Both parents are dead now.

I’ve been a free-lance writer for over 30 years now and portions of my works has been translated into as many as eleven foreign languages circulating all over the globe. I’ve published ten books (www.bluefishbooks.info) and I’m now working on three others….

Considering my career financially, I realize that my parents were right all along.

(8.) My proudest accomplishment in life was to build a model sailing ship inside a beer bottle. I use a photo of my working on that ship as the avatar for my blog postings:

(9) In 1971, NASA gave me a pin and a letter of commendation for my contribution to the space program. All I did was to stay awake driving for 72 hours without sleep. One of my kids took the pin to school for show & tell and lost it! The letter is in a box somewhere.

And, speaking of the space program, my father was a molder and crafted some parts for the lunar lander, that little golf-cart thing astronauts drove around on the moon and left up there. Some castings my daddy made are still on the surface of the moon. .

(10) Ten?

Yes, ten!

I said that I’m a writer and I get carried away. This has to be the last thing:

I tell the best, most cultured, refined, elegant jokes of anyone in the whole world.

Want to hear one?

Oh… :(

No one else does either.

So, here are the eight… no, ten …(Ok, they’re nine; I’m a writer, not a counter) people I’m tagging:

Amrita in India

Barbara’s Along The Way

Battle Rock


Eric in Alaska

Jellyhead in Australia

Karen In England

LeiselB at Dead Man’s Honda Pete, Karen’s Dad


Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:04 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mothers' Day Madness

Sunday, more than a dozen children and friends gathered at Donald & Helen’s home to celebrate a Mother’s Day Feast with kabobs, salads and pot luck stuff.

Ginny was not the only mother present at the affair but she raked in a barrel full of loot from adoring children haunted by guilt.

She wore her Just A Wild And Crazy Mom tee shirt and placed her roses in a matching vase:

I cut out paper dolls to present an object lesson about faith. To define faith, I looked the word up in Google to find that definitions include:

Faith is a 1981 record album by British alternative rock band The Cure.

Faith was also a 1995 album released by Bad Boy Records.

And Faith is a fictional character played by Eliza Dushku on the tv series Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

One Bible writer defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

That sounds like double-talk to me.

When I was a kid, some teacher said that if you believe something hard enough, then it will happen.

What nonsense.

I decided to believe God would give me a pony. I strained to believe this, to have faith.

No pony.

Teacher said that God did not answer because I did not have enough faith.


What God does or does not do, hardly depends on whether I believe Him or not. He is not dependent on man but he always does what He says He will do.

Jesus Christ is reliable.

I count 15 times in the New Testament where Jesus told someone, “Your faith has made you whole”. In virtually every instance, Jesus had said something first to which the person responded.

One blogger I read recently (sorry, I can’t remember who you are but I remember what you said)…

This blogger said, “Faith is not believing something you know is impossible, but believing Someone you know is trustworthy”.

That was the main point of my devotional talk to my family for Mother’s Day — that faith is straining to believing something you know good and well is nonsense, but believing a Person you know is trustworthy.

And Jesus Christ is trustworthy.

No one more so.

This morning I’m back to work editing another 16th Century diary (apparently I’m a masochist). This time I’m editing for modern readers the diary of Samuel Ward, one of the translators of the King James Bible.

This ancient diary has got to sell better than the last three I edited… Doesn’t it?

I’ve heard that Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is to keep doing what you’ve been doing and to expect different results”.

Say, did Einstein keep a diary he'd want edited?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 11:57 AM

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hallelujah! It’s A Honda!

Saturday Ginny and I (along with about 25 other people) attended a new car owner’s clinic at Duval Honda where we bought our new car.

Three things struck me about this meeting:

(1). Other car buyers seem much smarter than I am. As the new customers asked questions, they constantly quoted Consumer Reports, Car Facts, and a bunch of other information sources they’d checked before buying their cars.

I observed that car dealerships are competing for a much better informed clientele than in previous generations.

Me, I checked the spare tire and jack (once bought a car without realizing they were missing) and decided that blue is a pretty color for our new car.

(2). The people working for the dealership really BELIEVE in their product. I’ve been in revivalist meetings where the speakers displayed less fervor than these salesmen, customer service reps, and parts guys.

To me, it’s a bit scary to see people care so much about a brand of machine. After all one brand of car is pretty much the same as the next, isn’t it? These Honda folks would burn me at the stake if I’d voiced that opinion in their meeting.

And here I thought Gator or Bulldog fans were fanatics.

(3). A minor defect in our new car bugs me inordinately. For that kind of money, I expected it to be perfect.

Ginny points out that considering the clunkers we’ve driven over the years -- cars I spent more time under than in -- the defect is not worth mentioning.

She says the defect is not in her new car, but in her old husband.

As my granddad used to say, “There’s some folks would complain if you was to hang them with a brand new rope”.

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 @ 10:47 AM

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Down & Discouraged

External events and internal weariness accumulated to make me down and discouraged recently.

The bridge construction project called for more energy than I thought it would and the end result looks shoddy.

Sales of my books this quarter make me wonder if the game is worth the candle.

This morning someone who called asking my advice said I was stupid and lacked judgment when I gave it.

Financial worries plague.

More hassles have developed at Ginny’s work.

A web hosting site I depend on is changing format. They announced yesterday that “mandatory migration” begins next week. That’s a forced transfer to another wizard host/site/thing. “Mandatory Migration” — I visualize the Trail Of Tears, or the Bataan Death March.

Is this a good time to cash in my chips and admit that I’ve been a damn fool for even trying to “get above my raisin”? (as Mama used to say).

Our health insurance company informed us today that they will not pay for some medical tests I'm scheduled to take next week.

Someone it talking about subpoenaing my telephone records to support a law suit which I think is foolish if not frivolous. (And no, I’m not involved in any legal way).

Ginny and I have to go back to the car dealership today (still don’t have an extra key to the thing).

Forgot to take my B-12 pill yesterday and my hands started shaking again.

And besides all those external things I’ve reached that point again (where I normally dwell) of feeling that my life has been a waste of time, pissing against the wind.

What does the Scripture say in such a case?

“When my spirit is overwhelmed within me, then the Lord will bear me up”.

This is certainly a time for me to walk by faith and not by sight because I don’t see a damn thing good ahead in any of these matters.

And people who know nothing about it say that Christians take the easy way out, that religion is the opiate of the people, that we avoid reality. — poor bastards don’t have a clue.

Oh well, somebody or the other said, “The joy of the Lord shall be my strength” maybe that’s why I don’t have any strength or joy at the moment.

“Father, if it be possible, let this cup…”

Oh, the graphic I chose to illustrate the start of this post is Honore Daumier’s 1856 oil on canvas painting titled Hauler of a Boat.

I’m the guy inside the boat.

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 @ 6:45 AM

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Bridge Construction

Bridge construction ties up traffic all over Jacksonville this week, but not at my house.

Lanes of the Matthews Bridge are closed while workers repair the steel grate in the center span; The Dame’s Point Bridge is being painted, closing lanes. Massive traffic jams result from these two projects. But traffic over the bridge at my house will flow smoothly after today.

Yes, while I’ve been taking a week off between books, I’ve been refurbishing the bridge over Sheba’s hole on the jungle path.

Sheba was our black lab who lived with us for 17 years.

She dug a huge hole to lie in way back in a far corner of the garden and to keep from disturbing her refuge, I built a rustic arched bridge over the hole.

Sheba been dead about four years now.

The wood timbers of the arch bridge decayed so much that last year I had to rope off Sheba’s bridge and put up a MEN WORKING sign to steer people off the bridge onto a side path.

To fill in Sheba’s hole would betray her memory. So this week, I tore down the old rotten arched bridge and replaced it with a simple raised wooden boardwalk.

The new construction is not as elegant (in my eyes) as the old bridge, but it opens that section of the path again.

I’m not the only family member to be rebuilding things. Donald The Geek is rendering stuff to make comic books featuring scantily clad anorexics and drooling space aliens. He has also restored the E-Mail Devotional portion of his website so that the free mini-messages by Charles Haddon Spurgeon are available again.

Spurgeon (1834-1892) was widely called the Prince Of Preachers by Christians of all sorts. His works are still widely read and his books outsell anything I’ve ever written.

Each morning when I read a snippet of his devotional, I find that he often thinks and says things I wish I’d thought and was able to say.

Here’s this morning’s sample:

"The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
— John 1:14

Christ is divine to me, if He be human to all the world beside.

He has done that for me which none but a God could do.

He has subdued my stubborn will, melted a heart of adamant, opened gates of brass, and snapped bars of iron. He hath turned for me my mourning into laughter, and my desolation into joy; He hath led my captivity captive, and made my heart rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Let others think as they will of Him, to me He must be the only begotten of the Father: blessed be His name.

And He is _full of grace_. Ah! Had He not been, I should never have been saved. He drew me when I struggled to escape from His grace; and when at last I came all trembling like a condemned culprit to His mercy-seat He said, 'Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee: be of good cheer.'

And He is _full of truth_. True have His promises been, not one has failed. I bear witness that never servant had such a master as I have; never brother such a kinsman as He has been to me; never spouse such a husband as Christ has been to my soul; never sinner a better Savior; never mourner a better comforter than Christ hath been to my spirit. I want none beside Him.

In life He is my life, and in death He shall be the death of death; in poverty Christ is my riches; in sickness He makes my bed; in darkness He is my star, and in brightness He is my sun…

Jesus is to me all grace and no wrath.

All truth and no falsehood.

And of truth and grace He is _full_, infinitely full.

And all that without a single space alien eating the Barbie baby doll.

If you’re interested in receiving Spurgeon’s free daily devotions (with no charge, no tracking cookies, no ads, no nothing) Check out Donald’s site at http://www.rdex.net/devotions/ to subscribe.

In other news:

I fielded three crisis calls during the night while I was trying to watch a horror movie I’d heard about but never seen before.

One call was about money.

The other two, more thorny.

Apparently, my daughter Jennifer encountered Pat, her ex, for the first time since they broke up in hurt, accusations, and turmoil.

A chance encounter?

Result of stalking?

Who knows?

But both called me to tell their side of it.

In my duel rolls as father and friend, I’ve heard different accounts of their real-life horror/drama (to me) story again and again for years.

Jennifer responded to the encounter exactly as her counselors had advised in such a case; Pat assured me that no stalking was involved, just a chance meeting outside Jennifer’s apartment.

As each justified their own actions, I was trying to watch a tape of The Blair Witch Project, but to listen to the drama of each phone call, I turned the sound off and tried to followed the storyline of the movie by closed captioning.

Who says I have no sympathy and a father and a friend?

Crude, rustic bridges of scrap wood, I can build; building bridges between hurt people in pain, that’s a job only Christ can do.

He alone is Prince of Peace.

Oh, that movie really looses something when there’s no sound.

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 @ 6:41 AM

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Higher Mathematics

So, Ginny and I were standing in this grocery store parking lot discussing bottles of soda pop when one of us ( You can guess which one) asked, “How many ounces in a liter”?

The other one said, “33.8. Why”?

“I’m trying to figure out whether to buy the big bottle or the small bottle. The small bottle is 16 ounces but I’m wondering if there’s more in the big bottle”.

“What does the label say”?

“It doesn’t say how many ounces; it just gives that metric crap and I can’t figure it out. Now they want us to learn kilometers, and millipedes, and liters, and grams and all that foreign stuff. Why should we learn their stupid system? Why can’t they learn real measurements. They sure learned how to count American money fast enough! Why should I have to …”

“You’re beginning to rant. What is it you’re trying to figure out”.?

“Well, if there are 33 ounces in one liter, then there are 66 ounces in two but I don’t want that much. So I’m trying to figure out how much is half of a two liter bottle”.

“You want to know how to figure out what’s half of a two liter bottle”?


“Half of two liters is — one liter”.

“Oh….Oh, I never was any good at that metric stuff”.

There’s a reason I remembered this conversation from about three years ago — I’ll come back to it in a bit.

But first I want to show a few photos of Sail Jacksonville, the Tall Ship exhibit Ginny and I visited during our long weekend.

I’d planned to post a section in my blog Photo Gallery but I could not get into the site. I thought it was because I may have forgotten the password but it seems that I’ve forgotten the User Name too.

So I’ll never be able to get into my photo site again.


Anyhow, last weekend Jacksonville hosted a display of sailing schooners along with speed boats, tug boats, fire boats, shrimp boats, yachts, police boats, motorboats, set skis and a bunch of other sea going craft.

Here is a boat I planed to buy for Ginny. I even had her name painted on the bow:

But alas, my latest book did not sell well enough last week to keep up the payments. I’ll have to let the boat go back to the dealer.

On his deathbed, when my father charged me with taking care of my mother, he compared her to an old-time sailing ship from the days before they invented navigation. She blunders all over the ocean getting becalmed, blasting away with cannon, always alert for shoals, rocks and reefs, seeing pirates in every stranger — but eventually she gets to the right port, he said.

Sailors from all over the world navigated their way to Jacksonville for the nautical event this weekend. Some readers may recognize the flag:

Notice how hazy the air over the St. Johns River is in my photographs. That is not sea fog but smoke from the forest fires about 70 miles away in Georgia. Those fires have burned out of control for over three weeks now. The tv news no longer talks about how many acres of forest have burned; now they talk about how many square miles (148 so far).

We’ve had no appreciable rain in 16 months and working in my yard makes it seems as though the plants are growing in talcum powder. Just can’t get enough water on them.

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and declare his works with rejoicing.
They that go down to the sea in ships,
that do business in great waters;
these see the works of the Lord,
and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,
which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven,
they go down again to the depths:
Their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro,
and stagger like a drunken man,
and are at their wit's end.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm,
so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet;
so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Apparently there is a difference between nautical miles and real miles and between miles per hour, like in a car, and knots, which measures the speed of a boat or ship or watercraft or yacht (according to sailors the names used of a sea going vessel are not interchangeable).

The names of the people on a boat are also different and describe their job on the boat….


For instance, on the waterfront I saw this young lady from one of the boats. She sported a taut — Well, let’s just say her bowsprits projected far ahead of her stern sheets— and she was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with the words: CREW MISTRESS.

I did not know that was an official shipboard job.

And apparently it’s not.

I even saw guys wearing that same tee shirt.

Never can tell about sailors, I thought.

But, it turned out that these folks wore the shirts to identify themselves as crewmembers serving aboard a schooner named MISTRESS.

Here’s a photo of their boat:

Pretty boat.

But I think they need to come up with a new tee shirt design.

Some guys might get the wrong idea.

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

Here I’d like to write a smooth transition from the boat show back to Higher Mathematics, but I can’t think of how to do that. So here’s an abrupt change back to where I started from:

Last night’s devotions got me to thinking about math. After supper as Ginny and I prayed together, she read that Bible passage in Mark’s Gospel about the time Jesus feed 4,000 people.

I’d never noticed it before, but the story starts with Jesus saying, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat”.


If He had compassion on His hungry followers, why did He wait three days before feeding them?

Looks like God does miracle stuff on His own schedule.

But Mark says the apostles found seven loves of bread and a few small fishes. Jesus blessed the food and gave out 4,000 servings. After the meal, the apostles picked up seven baskets of leftovers.

Now compare that incident to the same sort of miracle just two chapters earlier in Mark. There, when Jesus saw the hungry multitude and felt compassion, He “began to teach them”.

Again, no immediate food for the hungry.

He began to teach them first.

Then, the Apostles came up with five loaves of bread (slices of pieta bread?) and two fish.

This time there were 5,000 people present.

This time they took up 12 baskets of leftovers.

To me these two incidents indicate the divine origin of the Gospels. If I were writing a fiction account, I’d build up to bigger and bigger dramatic effects. Start small, build readers’ expectations, then top the small with an even bigger miracle. But Mark tells things as they actually happened: first 5,000 people then 4,000 people — a thousand fewer people just two chapters later.

Either that’s true or it’s not well-organized writing, and I suspect Mark is a good writer. His book has stayed a best seller for a long time.

So, let me see if I’ve got the math straight:

5,000 people + two fish + 5 loaves of bread = 12 baskets of leftovers.

4,000 people + a few small fish + 7 loaves of bread = 7 baskets of leftovers.

Is that right?

Oh, I left out 1 compassionate Jesus — He’s the common denominator for everything.

He’s the one who counts.

Do you know what He would have done if ten thousand people had shown up?

He’d simply double the recipe.

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 @ 6:20 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Friday, May 04, 2007

Seeking A Settled Heart: The 16th Century Diary Of Puritan Richard Rogers

Yester-night (that’s Puritan talk I’ve absorbed while working on this manuscript) Ginny could hardly rouse me for supper and I went straight back to sleep afterwards.

Yes, as soon as I shut my computer down yester-day (more Puritan talk) I fell asleep in my chair and slept for twelve hours straight.

Why did I so unwind and collapse?

Because I finally put the finishing touches on my edition of the book I’ve been working on for months.

Yes, my burst of enthusiasm means that Seek A Settled Mind: The 16th Century Diary Of Puritan Richard Rogers is now published!

Thanks be to God!

Yestermorning (see how it works?) Helen, a graphic artist, designed the cover for me. She came over and worked with me to include this book in my on-line book catalog for Bluefish Books. More samples of her work can be seen at http://www.elemental.name/

Here’s a photo of the book cover she designed for the Rogers Diary:

Notice that classy red border in the cover background? Here's the secret of graphic art: That's really my old red tee shirt draped over the torn ancient page on the computer scanner glass. Who says I'm not high-tech?

Richard Rogers, a Puritan minister in the time of the first Queen Elizabeth, lived between 1550 and 1618; his extant diary covers from February 28, 1587 to August 26, 1590. This present text (yes, I did check out copyright compliance and permissions) is based on materials transcribed by Dr. Marshall Mason Knappen. in 1933.

When I first encountered the Diary Of Richard Rogers, the man’s search for God moved me to seek the Lord myself with more intensity and less pretense. The diary of this good and godly man inspired me in my own spiritual walk. That’s what spiritual diaries are supposed to do.

Yet, as I read for my own inspiration, the antique language interrupted my flow of thought and obscured the meaning. Therefore, to make this spiritual classic available to other readers who also seek a settled heart, I edited the text with a goal in mind — ease of reading for modern people.

Throughout his diary, Rogers speaks of being “settled” or “unsettled”. He constantly seeks to have a settled heart, by that he means a heart focused on God, a mind relishing the majesty of the Almighty and enjoying the thought of His presence.

To Rogers, focus on the Beauty of the Creator rather than on the drab affairs of life and lesser things leads to peace of mind.

Yet he was not abstract. He sponsored a boarding school in his home, raised funds to buy armor for the English soldiers fighting off the invasion of the Spanish Armada, comforted suicidal people, survived church politics, and lived under the daily threat of arrest.

He lived fully in this world while focusing his mind on the glories of the next.

He speaks to my condition.

I smiled at his frustration as he tried to he tried to write books while constantly being interrupted by “strange visitations” (visits by uninvited callers) and as he drew up a list of pros and cons about the possibility of a second marriage, and as he fumed about price increases.

He lived in a real world while seeking a settled heart on the things of God.

This may not be a book readers would want to take to the beach this soommer (that’s Puritan talk for Summer); it’s not for relaxing. But it is a book for pondering as we also seek a settled heart amid busy lives.

Rogers diary resonates with the ideas of the Prophet Isaiah when he said,

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on Thee;
Because he trusteth in Thee.
Trust ye in the Lord forever.

Please check the display at John’s On-Line Book Catalog at Bluefish Books for this and others of my books to see if you might like to buy one.

One other thing: Remember that new car Ginny and I bought Monday? Well, I’ve been so busy finishing the Rogers Diary that I have not even sat in the car except for the ride home from the dealer.

But I’ll get to ride in it to-day (more old Puritan talk). Ginny’s driving me to the doctor’s for him to do another prostate exam and take another look at my prostate cancer.

Now, if that doesn’t focus my mind, nothing will!

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 @ 6:06 AM

Your comments are welcome: 9 comments

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Diamond Is For … Ten Years

After spreading light, peace, joy and good will in my blog post yesterday, I have little to say today — Mostly because yesterday I did not one thing but sit at my desk and edit copy for that 16th Century Puritan Diary.

So, I got to wondering about the past.

I know that on May 3rd in 1901, the Great Fire burned Jacksonville down, but I wasn’t there. I’ve just heard about it and wrote about it in my fire department history book..

So I got to wondering what I was doing myself ten years ago today.

I pulled some of my old journals down out of the closet and found that ten years ago this week, I was buying a diamond.

Here’s my journal entry for...

Thursday, May 1, 1997:

Enjoyed lunch with my friend Barbara at Lucky Dragon.

Afterwards, a lady in Avondale told us about a jewelers, Nicholaas Alexander Ltd. This is a showroom for custom-made diamonds and gold trinkets. Carol, the young woman there, spent about 30 minutes telling us about how to go about ordering a necklace for my daughter Eve, who wants a diamond as a graduation present.

I was not about to make such an important decision without consulting Ginny so as soon as she got off work, we visited the showroom. Even though it was after closing time, Carol spent about 45 minutes going over the order with Ginny and me -- all this for a $200 diamond when the cheapest other diamond I saw there cost $1,300!

Friday, May 2, 1997:

Spent the day pittering around the house cleaning up for Donald and Pandora's visit -- need not have bothered. They brought in loads of laundry from college and spread it all over the living room.

As soon as Gin got off work, we rushed to Nicholaas Alexander Ltd. to pick up Eve's diamond -- a ten point, round cut stone. Again Carol spent about 45 minutes after closing time to educate us about fine jewelry.

She brought out charts and showed us the four Cs of diamonds: Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut.

She had hand-picked Eve's diamond from those available and set it in a white gold mounting herself.

It happened that her boss happened by to see why there was still someone in the store after closing hours. I told him about Carol's service to us and what an asset she is to his business:

Why just tell the employee that you're pleased when you can tell the boss in her presence and thus not only make her feel good but improve her standing in the eyes of the boss?

If Elizabeth Taylor had gone in this store to buy a diamond tiara to wear to the Oscars, she would not be treated a bit better than Ginny and I were!

I have told several other people about how pleased we are also -- especially since the first jewelry store we checked out, Underwood’s, treated us like tramps off the street and actually had a guard stand over me while I looked at the display cases and the sales lady acted like I was something she blew out of her nose.

Guess where I plan to buy my next diamond?

Gin and I will celebrate out 30th anniversary in November … Humm.

Saturday, May 3, 1997:

Eve graduated from college this morning!

I am very pleased with her accomplishment. Gin and I treated her and 12 others, family and friends, to lunch at Blue Boys. Donald & Pandora, Jennifer and Pat, Marcy and her mother and sister, several other young people I don't know and a host of well-wishers, including Eve's friend Chris, who drove down from Maryland just for her Graduation.

Only Patricia was not there though she was invited.

I gave out the hats Aunt Hazel made for everybody in imitation of MY HAT and the kids hooted over them!

Eve added a lace veil to hers..

Afterwards Gin & I collapsed at home and I prepared to teach the Adult Bible Class Sunday School lesson for tomorrow by cutting out flannel-graph figures related to Gideon and Judges.

Sunday, May 4, 1997:

Didn't use the flannel-graph lesson I'd prepared.

Instead, this morning about 5 a.m. I awoke thinking of a Cub Scout trick involving taking a sheet of notebook paper and cutting a hole in it big enough for a man to walk through.

Since the lesson was about faith, I used this demonstration (I had everybody cut one out for themselves and step through it) to show that faith is not believing an impossible thing, but believing a trustworthy Person.

Over the ten years since those diary entries, Eve went on to earn a scholarship to study in London then returned to the U.S. to earn her Master’s degree. She is now a head librarian and engaged to marry an attorney.

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 @ 5:26 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Telephone Sins

Tuesday I fell into black vile sin, a sin I’d like to blame on the telephone.

No. Not that kind of sin.

Just what kind of guy do you think I am?

Well, you’re right, but that was not my trouble this time. I did not call a phone sex line. I never have…

Although once many years ago, a young lady did call me to tell me about how she…

Well, never mind.

That was her business.

My present black vile sin, although it involved the telephone, was something else altogether.

To start with, I did not sleep well.

That’s no excuse, but it is a mitigating circumstance. It’s no excuse because I hardly ever sleep well so that can not be blamed on this day’s sin.

I got up at 4 a.m., posted my daily journal entry, and got ready to go off with someone. But my ride forgot to pick me up.

That put me out of sorts.

Another person called telling me a promise made was to be put off a few more days.

That made me grumpier.

I began work editing the 16th Century Diary of Richard Rogers; I began to find I’d made more mistakes that I thought I had. Serious mistakes that effect the meaning of the text. The temptation arose to ignore the textual problems. I started thinking that hardly anyone on earth cares about this book enough to notice my mistakes.

That embittered me more.

As I worked, Rogers' words began to speak to me.

I realized that this man who struggled to live a Christian life almost 500 years ago dealt with the same sort of problems I’m dealing with today.

For instance, on December 22, 1587, he wrote in his diary, “I began, by little and little, to feel the vehemency of my zeal and of my heavenly affection to slack… I could not easily recover my self and so went unfit many hours… I was sometimes dumpish and too heavy”.

That could be my own whole blog post today.

Then the telephone rang six or eight times back to back to back.

And with each call I grew more and more bitter and resentful and snappish.

Aggravations with the new car. Auto insurance. Missed appointments. Broken promises. Two people who had asked my advice called to announce that they were ignoring it. A call making me realize that a few weeks ago I gave away something I’ll need tomorrow. Missing keys. More time off work…

As the calls mounted, I achieved a spiritual plateau of divine tranquility and inner peace — more commonly described as “I don’t give a damn anymore”.

Now, the phone calls did not cause me to sin.

Please understand that.

The black bitterness, anger and resentment rose out of my own soul.

Looks as though after a man has been a Christian for almost 50 years, he’d outgrow being snared by petty bits of nastiness. But apparently this particular dirty old man has grown worse.

Rogers would know how I feel.

On August 18, 1587, Rogers said, “We may observe by experience that even the most zealous people do somewhat, in time, decline and wax remiss in caring for the matters of God. No prayer may be more meet and right for a good Christian than this — that God would keep us in our old age from the corruptions of time and of the world”.

So much for growing in grace as I grow in age.

All my life I’ve been a sour old man in training.

And you know what the worst part is?

I expected so much better of myself.

But today I snapped and snarled and complained and whined and murmured and muttered under my breath because deep down I believe the universe ought to be run solely to my liking.

Things ought to go the way I want!

Deep down, I think I should be God.

And when things happen which point out that I’m not God, then I grow inordinately frustrated and peevish and temper-tamtrum-prone.

And I sulk.

How pitiful.

As Rogers said 500 years before me, “I mislike my self”.

And I like to picture myself as one of the world’s good guys!

Isn’t that ludicrous?

Again, Rodgers could have written my journal entry today when he said, “I could not bestow much tyme at my study, yet I continue to rise in mornings about 5, and spend time either in my study room, or thinking about my heart and the bettering of my life by writing in this dairy”.

Yet this man so grounded in his own reality of frustration could also say, “This is myne heart’s desire that I may make godliness, I mean one part or the other of it, to be my delight through my whole life”.

Like me, Rogers ponders how and why a Christian man falls so easily into bitterness, resentment and sin.

Perhaps God is schooling me, testing me so I’ll realize what I’m really made of. And naturally I can expected to be tested more as I get older; the hardest, most comprehensive tests always come near the end of the course.

I suspect that God grants my requests for material things then takes the joy out of those very things so that I will not get hung up on the material. He has something better in mind.

I also suspect that God allows me to fall so often so that I will realize that it is only His hand that ever holds me up; it is never my own strength.

God is capable of dropping me as easily as He might drop a brick.

And unless He holds me up in the hollow of His hand every moment of my life…

You see, this brick named John Cowart thinks it has wings of its own.

Butterfly wings.

Watch me fly!


Like the Puritan preacher of so long ago, I need to reflect on and pray the words of Psalm 51, a psalm which King David wrote in his old age:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness;
that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me with thy free Spirit

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

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 @ 4:13 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It Pays To Read The Fine Print!

Monday, I read fine print all day.

Reading fine print played an important role in three fun areas of life for Ginny and me — in April’s Webalizer stats for my website, in a 16th Century Puritan diary, and in our spending a fortune to buy a new car.

By reading the fine print in the Webalizer counter software, I see that as of yesterday this website has attracted 18,810 readers from 111 different countries ranging from India to Iceland to Iraq during the month of April.


Doesn’t anybody read the newspaper any more?

Thank you all for visiting my site.

I’m honored by your attention.

I pray you find the stuff you read here is worthwhile and makes your life easier.

Yesterday, I started correcting the proof pages of the diary of Richard Rogers, a Puritan minister during the reign of Queen Elizabeth — the original one. You know, the one with the hair.

Talk about fine print!

Here’s a photocopy of a page from one of Rogers’ sermons:

Actually the printer’s proof copy of the book turned out beautiful!

And much, much easier to read.

I’m so pleased with the look and feel of this book.

It needs fewer corrections than any of my previous books. After 30 years as a writer I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it.

God willing, I hope to have this work published on line by the end of this week — unless those massive forest fires in Georgia burn this far south. Already the fire covers 128 square miles to the north of us and a fine drift of ash powders Jacksonville while smoky haze obscures the skyline. In our 16-Month drought, even the Florida sand feels like talcum powder, my garden plants droop, and the whole area is a tender box.

The third area where fine print defined my day — Beauty and I finally bought that new car I’ve been writing about since April 17th.

My diary entries around that time tell how we prayed for God’s guidance in this project.

A lady in Australia helped us in buying this car. Val, a retired down-under librarian, gave me some advice in the comment section for my blog posts for April 21st and 22nd, and we followed her advice.

Glad we did!.

Through our credit union we contacted Matt, an auto advisor. His help proved invaluable in locating the car that met all the criteria Ginny and I had agreed on at a price we can almost afford — assuming of course that someone will buy one or two of our children first.

We went to Duval Honda where the sales team of Justine, Bill, Irma and Eric acted disgustingly youthful and enthusiastic about cars. These people act as though they really love cars; they act as though they’d stand around talking about cars even if they were not selling them. And they treated us like royalty. You’d think we were the most important customers ever to walk onto their lot.

And patient!

You can’t believe how patient these people were with Beauty and me who are definitely not car people. I mean, it goes; it stops, it hauls things — that’s about the extent of our car knowledge. But these young folks spent hours explaining everything to us. Eric and Justine even took off the spare tire and showed me how to change it.

Then came the fine print.

Remember that photocopy of Richard Rogers’ 16th Century sermon I showed you above? Actually that’s not a sermon — it’s an automobile contract from the year 1615.

Must be.

It looks just like one of the 20 or 30 pieces of paper Beauty and I signed at the Honda dealership yesterday. The only difference was that the print on yesterday’s papers was smaller.

Now, we owe more on this car than we do on our house mortgage.

And look what I found on someone’s desk at the dealership:

No, that’s not a real million dollar bill.

I can tell.

The paper feels stiffer than the ones I carry in my wallet.

I asked if that money was the monthly payment some previous buyer had left on the desk — but it wasn’t.

I asked if I could handle it.

It was mine to keep.

And when I looked at the verso — I found even more fine print to read:

Can’t read the fine print around the edges?

Here’s a transcript:

The Million Dollar Question: Will you go to Heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adultery-at-heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life…”

How about that?

I think this odd little tract proves that it always pays to read the fine print.

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 @ 2:42 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments