Rabid Fun

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

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Making Of A Slimy Christian

As Ginny and I drove back from our vacation Monday, I fell ill.

In fact it briefly crossed my mind to ask her to drive me to straight to the hospital emergency room; but being the ornery cuss that I am, I invoked the medical insurance policy of the poor which I’ve lived with most of my life — the name of that policy is “Get Well Or Die”.

So I toughed it out on my own and eventually got well.

Must not have been anything serious; I got well.

I got well but I imagine she’s sick of nursing a grouch.

I do not make a good patient.

I still feel a bit lethargic but now I’m functioning more or less.

Of course, feeling poorly makes me think we need another vacation, but that is not to be. Not for a couple of months yet.

Before we left for the Gulf Coast, I cleaned our swimming pool, brushed the sides, changed the filter, added chemicals. The water looked pristine.

Five days later, I walked outside to find the pool slimy green with algae.

What happened?

Apparently, in cleaning, I’d missed some little something, some tiny green spot that should have been killed off, and it spread infecting the whole pool.

Seeing the slime and realizing what had happened, reminded me of a puzzling aspect of the Bible’s historical books that I’ve been reading while on vacation — the whole concept of Devoted.

In Hebrew usage to devote means to utterly destroy, to annihilate.

The concept is not uncommon in the books of Joshua and Judges; I ran across this term again in First Samuel where the prophet said to King Saul,

“Hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts… Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling babe, ox and sheep and camel and ass”.

No loot was to be taken. Cloth and wooden items were to be burned. Pottery smashed. Metal objects belonging to the enemy was to be twisted, crushed and left on the site of the city. Nothing, not one thing, was to be saved over for use by the Israelites.

The term for this type of warfare was “devote to God”.

Saul disobeyed.

Perhaps, he fancied himself more merciful than God. Perhaps the waste of good stuff appalled him. Maybe he was greedy for gain. Whatever, he kept the enemy king alive as well as the best of the livestock.

“But everything that was vile and refuse, that they utterly destroyed”.

They destroyed useless trash but kept the good stuff.

When the prophet met King Saul on his return from the battle, he said, “What meaneth this bleating of sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

Saul claimed that he was not to blame but the people saved the spoils of war.

He also claimed that the livestock had been saved to sacrifice to the Lord.

The prophet said, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…”

The story goes on to tell how that incident resulted in Saul’s losing the kingdom

When I pick some little something to offer God, the choice, great or small, is mine; when I obey, the choice of what and when and where is His.

My choice often picks trash, something that costs me nothing just as Amalek’s sheep and oxen cost Saul nothing. In asking my obedience, God zeros in on something which if left alone will corrupt me and cause me greater pain — yet something I cling to.

Like slick green algae on a pool side, I cling.

When I chose, my choice enhances my reputation. When God chooses, the choice advances His kingdom.

So, like Saul (one of the biblical characters I most identify with) I obey part-way.

I make a move in the direction of obedience. A gesture toward the Lord.

But I hold back my own version of a few sheep and ox, and maybe I keep an enemy king (or a few photos of naked internate ladies, or a few cherished prejudices, or a coal of bitterness) alive for ransom and future use.

Like algae in my pool, like the pagan nations the Israelites were supposed to utterly destroy on numerous occasions, the tiny bit I hold back grows and spreads and infects and corrupts.

This results in my being a slimy Christian.



Unsightly and unhealthy.

And yet I like to think of myself as a devoted man, totally at the disposal of Jesus Christ.

You know, the one who said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”.

And it’s not a matter of His asking some difficult thing of me. He said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.

His yoke is easy and His burden light.

Yet I balk at obedience.

I have a better idea.

But I still want to appear to other people as righteous.

What hypocrisy!

Samuel said, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry”.

So, where does that leave me?

I’ve heard becoming a Christian described as saying one big Yes followed by a lot of little yeses.

Saint Paul describes this in those painful chapters in Romans (7 & 8, chapters I puzzle over often). He said, “The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”.

Yes, Christ died for our sin, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.

That’s the joy and the glory.

I still must fight the algae.

That’s daily life.

As Paul said, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that love us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life… nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:43 AM

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Great Fun On The Gulf Coast

Oysters pop open in a fire.

Steam builds up inside the shells as the flesh cooks so they are easier to open and eat. The prehistoric peoples of Florida harvested tons of easy to gather shellfish as a staple of their diet. Once they ate the sea creature, they cast the shells aside; years and years of this practice built up massive shell mounds called kitchen middens.

Ginny and I explored one of these middens while on our vacation near Chiefland, Florida.

Here’s a photo of me looking at an eroded spot in a mound which covers acres of ground:

Here’s a photo of one restaurant where we enjoyed some fine sea food ourselves in Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast:

A sign announces that, “Cedar Key is a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem”. These crab traps stacked along the sidewalk show that the Gulf waters provide employment for the fishermen when they’re not drinking:

The Gulf waters claim many boats. Here is a derelict buried in estuary mud:

But not all Florida waters are muddy. At Fanning Spring the water is so clear that the rocks on bottom that Ginny is looking at lie 18 feet below the surface:

At Fanning Spring, we also explored a cypress swamp bordering the Suwannee River. Cypress knees grow up from the roots of the trees:

God created cypress knees to fulfill some biological purpose for the tree but I can’t remember what it is. Usually, water covers the base of cypress but because of the long drought here in Florida, the swamp was dry enough to explore.

Such a swamp forms form a habitant for mosquitoes, ticks, cottonmouth moccasins, raccoon, possum, bobcats and deer; and, quite possibly unicorns, centaurs and fairies:

I took several photos of this beautiful dryad looking over her forest grove:

Beautiful as the enchanted grove is, you still need to be careful walking in a Cypress swamp watching birds and looking at air-plants high in the branches. No telling what you may run into. Snakes are not the only thing to watch out for.

Other dangers lurk.

Cypress knees per se can cause serious damage to the unwary. Those things hurt when you walk into one of just the right height:

But we did not spend all of our time traipsing through swamps. I continued waking up at 4 a.m. and reading through the Bible’s historical books; I’m up to the book of Second Kings now, and as I read I learned more about God and man and me.

Great fun.

Besides that a local tv station (which we do not get in Jacksonville) aired 17 James Bond movies back to back to back. We left the tv going day and night so that at any time we could see James bond doing James Bond stuff.

Great fun.

To top off our trip we bought bargains at a huge flea market in Chiefland. On weekends, scores of vendors bring in stuff to sell and stock booths with items ranging from birdhouses to beer mugs to books to boats to airplane parts to sewing patterns, tires, watermelons, jewelry and .farm tractors.

Naturally I bought a bagful of books (just like I need another book) including a copy of Margery Kempe’s autobiography This English lady lived in the 1300s and kept a diary of her pilgrimage to Jerusalem; she just may have been the first female blogger.

I also bought some neat metal statues and a souvenir coffee mug from Vermont with moose on it.


Yes. No reason. The mug just caught my fancy.

When I buy treasures at a flea market, Ginny always says, “One man’s trash is another man’s trash”. (P.S. — I bought the covered candy dish — Ginny)

The woman has no taste. Look who she married.

Here’s a photo of some treasures Ginny and I bought:

When I asked the old farmer how much the statue of Venus cost, he said, “Five dollars”.

But I said, “Don’t you think five is a bit too much? After all her arms are broken off and missing”.

Catching my joke, the old man got to laughing and said, “Well, ok. Since her arms is broke off, you can have it for three”.

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 @ 2:32 AM

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Friday, June 22, 2007

On Again, Off Again

Two weeks ago, just before my computer burned out, someone paid me a lavish compliment — I’ve never known quite how to handle compliments.

Of course, being vain, deep in my heart I agree heartily with their compliment and my own mind thinks it should be even more lavish.

So I could respond by saying, “Yes, I really am great! A whole lot greater than you think. And it’s about time you realized how handsome, (smart, strong, beautiful, whatever) I am”.

That’s churlish.

On the other hand, I feel that the compliment is undo, that what the giver is commenting about is of little account. And I fear that I’ll be found out and exposed as a fraud.

So I could reply to a compliment on how nice I look in the blue shirt by discounting it by saying, “Oh, this old rag. I’ve had it for ages. Bought if for a dollar in the thrift store”.

What I’m telling the compliment giver in such a case is, “If you had any taste at all, you’d know that this is a cheap shirt. You lack judgment. If you were not an uneducated clod, you’d know better than to appreciate something like this”.

As I’ve pondered on why I feel uncomfortable receiving compliments, I came to realize that I do not want to put the giver down, nor do I want to appear conceited in my own eyes either; therefore, honesty is the best policy.

Isn’t that an astounding revelation?

The best thing to say when someone pays a compliment is “Thank you. That makes me feel good. You just gave me a lift”.

Such a statement neither puffs me up nor puts them down. It’s honest.

So, to reply to the persons who complimented me, “Thank you. Your kind words give me a lift”.

In other news:

Last night Ginny and I got to meet Nancy, Mark’s mother. (Mark and our daughter Eve are engaged to marry on a cruise ship in a few months).

The captain will marry them and the happy couple will sail away into the sunset — IF, Mark goes ahead and gets in his passport application. If not, Eve, who already has her passport, may have to toss him her bouquet on the dock while she sails away alone.

They’ll work it out.

Or not.

Nancy is an adjunct professor of psychology at a university up north but her heart-love is raising and training show horses. Mark developed a website for her at horse business at http://www.harmonyacresparadehorses.com/ .There are photos of Nancy and her horses there.

The five of us enjoyed great food and conversation at a Chinese restaurant. This trip to Jacksonville is the first time Nancy has been in the South. I wish Ginny and I could expose her more to the real Florida but we’ll have to leave that to the kids.

I’m too much of an enthusiast to make a good guide.

In other news, yesterday’s mail brought news that 71 copies of my book Strangers On The Earth have recently sold in the Philippians.


Seventy-One copies sold in the Philippians.!

Wow. I’ll bet Stephen King cant say that. (So, he may have sold a few more than 71 copies of his books. But I’d bet he and I get the same sense of satisfaction when a book takes off).

Anyhow, I’m happy over the news about Strangers.

Many thanks to those or you who have bought my books. I appreciate you.

Another thing that makes me happy is that today Ginny and I leave for a lone weekend mini-vacation.

Yes, yes. I know. I’ve been back on line for two days after a two week forced absence and here I am taking off again till June 26th or 27th. After that, God willing, I plan to stay at my desk working with this glow-in-the-dark computer.

We are going downstate with no set agenda except to be together and love — maybe visit state parks and lounge around a fresh water spring beach reading.

While my machine has been broke down, I felt I should read the Bible more. I just could not face New Testament Gospels or Epistles just now (I always feel they give me a beating) and I did not feel up to the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms.

So, I naturally gravitated to the historical books (no surprise there, what with me being a history buff).

I began reading the books of I & II Samuel and I & II Kings, and I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly.

Reading these books is a bit like watching a mad slasher movie interspersed with bits of profound theology.

You know, “And he borrowed a sword and hacked him to pieces before the Lord”

Good stuff like that.

As exciting as James Bond.

Inspirational too.

I recommend it.

Ginny says I have odd taste in summer beach-reading material.

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 @ 6:50 AM

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

My New Blue Computer

Thanks be to God, I’m almost back online!

On June 6th, the innards of my computer melted; last night my son Donald and his lovely wife Helen came over with the latest in new hardware to repair my system.

It appears than in all this trouble, I have not lost a single file!

Thanks be to God!

One thing bothers me.

Are computers supposed to glow in the dark?

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 @ 2:45 AM

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lost In Space

Hi, This is John tryping on a borrowede laptop with tiny tiny keys athat I can't t
On June 15th my own computer overheated (too much cat hair in the fan) and medlted some capacitors inside the power source box -- same sort of problem they re having on the space station.
The power source box resembles a medtal, plastic and wire octopuss which distributesd electricity to various other boxes inside a computger. Donald disemboweled my comput4er, discovered the problem and ordered new parts from Jakarda, Litghuania, or whereever it is these are assembled by elves. Must be a dock strike there because the new partws still have not arrived.
Someday I will be back online agained.
Untill the power source is rfestored, I'm ded= in the waterd and lost in spaced.
I can not tell how many filee maqy have been lost in the mishaqp (daqmn cat) but even with my backup files, I will have trouble restoring the Ward Diary. I was withine a week of finishing that but may have lost it all. ... Apparently6 the Kingodm of God can muddle along without my input when necessary.
In my last post I wrote about wanting to produce a significant book-- May have found it. It's not something I wrote myself but it doesn't need to be. (more when I can type or aq reaql dkeyboaqrd)
Ginny and IU plan to go on a mini-vacation next week. Going camping in a staqte park. I'll try to post again, God willing, on Juned 26th. Donald says he should have my own system up and running again by then.
Love, John

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 @ 5:19 AM

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

computer issues

i'm writing on behalf of dad 2... we are in the middle of acquiring new hardware for his computer, so he'll be back soon. in the mean time we think we've found the problem...

daughter iv

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 @ 10:34 PM

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Friday, June 08, 2007

On Writing A Significant Book

This illuminated manuscript from Medieval times shows evil King Manasseh and other literary critics sawing the Prophet Isaiah in half. They did not care for the book he wrote. They used a wooden saw with blunt teeth. He was alive, up to a point, while they did it.

Wednesday my friend Barbara came over for breakfast at Dave’s Diner and conversation. She lives in a retirement community where last week one couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

At the banquette someone told a joke that Barbara is too much of a lady to post on her blog… So naturally I’ll tell it here:

This old man and old woman decided to get married and talked over the logistical arrangements.
“Will you move into my place or do I move in with you” he asked.
“I’ll move in with you because your place is bigger,” she said.
“What about our children?”
“We can spent Thanksgiving with yours and Christmas with mine,” she said.
“How do you feel about sex?” he asked.
“I like it infrequently,” she said.
He pondered that answer for a moment then asked, “Is that one word, or two”?

Barbara and I talked catching up for about four hours.

“Discontent,” she said characterizes her life at the moment. She spend much of her time driving her grown daughter back and forth to chemotherapy and radiation treatments for small cell lung cancer.

She said that the word discontent had come to mind as she prayed driving over to meet me. “Once you’ve actually put a name to a sin,” she said, “It’s harder to ignore it”.

The Bible uses words like mumbling, muttering or grumbling to describe our feelings of discontent.

“It’s like my telling God that I don’t think He’s treating me as I deserve,” I said. “To which He says, ‘That’s ok, John. I can fix that in a jiffy”.

Barbara was religion editor at the newspaper where I worked as a mail clerk; we’ve been friends for over 20 years. Her Along The Way column was one of the newspaper’s most popular features attracting thousands of readers each week.

We talked a bit about the Greek phrases in the Ward Diary that Wes has been helping me decipher.

As we sipped coffee, I expressed some of my own discontent, primarily about the poor sales of my books. I do so want to write important things, books that will be widely read. Significant books. Books that will honor Christ and give people hope.

“John, it’s ok to be insignificant,” Barbara said. “There’s nothing wrong with being insignificant. In the eyes of the world, most of God’s dearest saints are insignificant people. That’s not what counts”.

We returned to my house to sit in the garden and continue talking. A huge pine snake, a good five or six feel long, crept out of the bromeliad bed and I tried to catch it to show Barbara, but the beautiful creature eluded me.

Our conversation turned to our Christian witness and conversion.

Barbara brought up several points she’d heard and thought about recently concerning Isaiah’s vision of God:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple… and the house was filled with smoke,” the Prophet said.

This is Revelation. God reveals Himself to each person in a different way.

I have never had a vision; God drew my attention to Himself through the life of a missionary I met at work in a library and by my reading the Bible.

Few people see visions. Most of us are touched by God through contact with Christians, a line of poetry, a verse of Scripture, a strain of music, a death, a crisis of despair, a passing thought. Brother Lawrence became aware of God when he saw a leafless tree in winter and remembered how it would turn green and flourish in Spring.

But God reveals Himself to each person in a way suitable and tailor made to that person.

The Prophet said, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips… For I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,”

Revelation births recognition.

We catch a glimpse of who God is… and we begin to see who and what I am.

This is not nice.

Our dis-ease comes, not necessarily from remembering things we have done, but from recognizing what we are. Our individualized revelation of God condemns us as we recognize that He is pure beauty and we have hardly given Him a thought, running our own lives as though I personally am the one high and lifted up.

This recognition can lead to repentance or rejection.

God is a gentleman.

He does not rape anybody.

He gives each of us a chance, but, if we chose not to give Him another thought, He respects our choice.

That’s a glory… and a horror.

As Isaiah grew aghast at what he discovered about himself, immediately God sent one of the seraphim, a kind of super-angel, in the vision to the altar to bring a burning coal.

“He laid it upon my mouth and said, ‘Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged’”.

The Prophet found Redemption linked to Revelation, Recognition and Repentance. Immediate redemption. Specific redemption.

The burning coal, which even an angel had to handle with tongs, was not placed on his feet but on his mouth, the place Isaiah saw as his point of need.

Then guess what?

“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”

As the Prophet responded, he began to hear God’s voice.

I suspect that the reason I’m dense to God’s voice is my sluggish response.

The world says, “God? What God? I don’t hear any God?’

The world is being honest. It does not hear. There’s a reason for that.

As he overheard the voice of God — and notice that God was not specifically speaking to Isaiah but asking the general question, “Whom shall I send…” —

Hearing this, like an eager student in a class, Isaiah jumped up and down waving his hands and yelled, “Here am I, send me!”

God did not shove the man into being something he did not want to be; but on beholding the glory of the Lord, Isaiah felt old things melt away and flake off. He became God’s man. He followed the Lord… and incidentally, as a by-product of that, ended up writing one of the most significant books in human history.

After Barbara went home, I noticed algae beginning to form along the fringe of our swimming pool; so I spent the afternoon changing the filter, vacuuming the bottom, adding chlorine…and thinking.


What did that illuminated manuscript I started out with show?

Am I really willing to live and write a significant book, or do I just want to pipedream and fanaticize about being a rich and famous writer?

Among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeologists found a copy of Isaiah’s book which is virtually word for word the same text you can read in your own Bible; his account of his vision of God can be found in the sixth chapter.

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 @ 4:14 AM

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mostly About Ginny

When Ginny undressed at the cardiologist’s office for her exam Tuesday, some vile rascal stole her bra.

I tried to convince her that it was either the EKG technician or Dr. Stray himself that took the garment but in a fit of giggles, she fished it out of my pocket.

That’s the trouble of being married to the same woman for close to 39 years, she knows me all too well.

Her heart murmur turned out to be nothing significant — “May not develop into anything for a number of years,” Dr. Stray said. Nevertheless, the waiting time, hospital parking, and tension about the exam depleted us both.

However, the day spent around the hospital gave us a chance to talk and remember happy days.

At breakfast, we reflected that it was probably 40 years ago this month that we first met.

I have to use the word probably because neither one of us can remember first meeting the other. We came to know eachother gradually and are still getting acquainted. For us, it was definitely not a case of love at first sight.

We were each part of a young people’s group at a church serving the poor during the riots of the late 1960s. I think Ginny was a member of that church; I wasn’t.

After a day of doing soup kitchen sort of service, one evening eight or ten of the group went out for burgers. Happenstance seated this quite girl next to me. I began drawing stick figures on my paper place mat. Without a word, she took a pencil out of her purse and began adding to my doodles.

Here’s a photo, taken in 1967 or ‘68, of that brazen young woman who drew stickmen on my placemat:

We’d both been active in the group for months without having previously noticed eachother. Once we finally became aware of the other’s presence, things took off.

My first marriage had failed. So when I met Ginny I was definitely seriously damaged goods, an emotional basket case. That this young lady could see anything worthwhile in me at all amazed me. I still can’t understand what she sees in me; that’s a continuing source of wonder.

Ginny sewed her own wedding dress:

I took a job as an over-the-road truck driver. During months of good weather Ginny traveled with me and we toured the nation living three feet apart 24 hours a day. We learned how to maintain private spaces in the midst of togetherness.

We learned to say, “I love you forever, but I can’t stand you right this minute”.

We visited museums, attended rodeos, joined street dances, visited national parks, read poetry in barren warehouse parking lots and worked and worked and worked.

Once a government inspector hassled me about a minor detail in some shipping manifests. I tried to placate the man but he grew more and more abusive until… Ginny came out of the truck brandishing a broom and chased the tyrant to his car threatening to jam it in an unpleasant place. He fled in terror.

“Good Heavens! I’ve married Boadicea! A real harpy!,” I thought. Never have I seen such pure wrath. Where is that quiet, gentle girl I married?

Ginny has a keen sense of right… and she is a mite protective of me.

Here’s a photo of her with a puffball in Montana back around 1970:

During the foul weather of winter months, Ginny stayed in an apartment here in Jacksonville while I continued working on the road.

This led to problems.

One vile winter I ended up with a shipment in Colorado Springs. Stuck over a snowy freezing weekend, I wandered aimlessly downtown. A young woman accosted me asking if I wanted a “date”, the popular euphemism among prostitutes back then.

I felt really flattered.

“Thank you, but no, Mam,” I said reluctantly.

“Are your sure?” she said with an alluring smile.

I was not at all sure. This woman incredibly appealed to me; seldom in my whole life have I felt desire surge so strong, such a pull of temptation.

My Christian faith did not save me.

My love for Ginny did not save me.

My virtue did not save me.

What saved me from taking that lady back to my motel room was the fact that some of her friends happened by and she went off with them leaving me alone and frustrated in the falling snow.

Later that evening I called Ginny (boy did we have long distance phone bills back then!) and we talked over what had almost happened. She revealed that the previous week she had experienced the same kind of temptation when she met a young sailor in the park across from the library. She said that apart from the timely arrival of her bus, she might have been more receptive to his advances.

It’s interesting that though two thousand miles apart, we had each been tempted at almost the same time and in the same manner with the same result.

As we talked on the phone we realized that neither of us had the strength to remain faithful while we were physically separated. We agreed that I should either quit the road or that we should agree to having outside affairs.

We chose to be together.

At enormous financial loss, I sold my truck and returned to Jacksonville. Leaving the trucking business left us with tremendous debt. We lost the house we were buying. I had no job. We had a new baby. We had no prospects. No hope. No future.

But, we were together… and joyous.

In our devotions then, a Scripture from the Prophet Jeremiah impressed us and we have been aware of that verse ever since:

“’I know the plans I have for you,’ saith the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future’”.

I entered college again working odd jobs at night. Took me eight years to get my degree only to find a liberal arts degree from a non accredited college was virtually worthless as far as earning a living is concerned.

But college seemed like a good idea at the time.

During those years, Ginny defined her role as wife and mother by giving me her unwavering support in my endeavors. Besides raising our four children and one of my sons from my previous marriage, she took in dozens of neighborhood kids to feed as an act or pure charity.

Her charities are boundless. I recall her bringing home people she found crying at the bus stop to feed, comfort and consol. Once on a vicious cold winter night, I saw her strip blankets from her own bed to take to a poor family without heat.

I’m not very good at earning cash. Even as I worked at various jobs, we lived in HUD housing and received food stamps to survive ourselves. Yet Ginny continued to serve the poorer-than-us by collecting clothing for rescue missions and serving food in soup kitchens, etc.

Ginny felt we have a gift of helps. Not that we had much to share with the poor, but she would see someone with a need, then see someone else who had the needed item, and she’d bring the two together whose paths may not otherwise have crossed.

The gift of helps is an odd gift.

Once when we had no food for the kids breakfast, she and I woke in the small hours of the morning to collect beer cans from a baseball park to sell to a recycle center to buy breakfast for about eight children who came to our house to eat on their way to school.

While in college I’d worked nights at a job with the local mosquito control board; I stayed at this job for ten years growing mosquitoes for test purposes. A budget cutback caused 18 of us to be fired.

Not much of a demand for a man who knows how to grow mosquitoes. I could not find another job anywhere.

On speculation, I wrote a magazine article about coping with unemployment — but we were so broke, I could not buy postage to mail the manuscript to a publisher.

When Ginny was a little girl, she collected stamps.

Because she believed in what I was doing, Ginny went through the pages of her stamp album and removed mint stamps that were over 20 years old. She used those old stamps from her collection to mail out my first attempts at writing.

A few of my magazine articles began to sell here and there now and then on a hit or miss basis. No steady income at all. I was ready to give up even trying to write.

Ginny encouraged me to continue.

But I was making so few sales that we were dying on the vine. I decided to give up writing and get a real job. As I showered for a job interview, Ginny knocked on the bathroom door and came in.

“John, there’s a man on the front porch. He says he’s a newspaper reporter. He wants to interview us for an article”.

Months before I’d written a magazine article about finding a mattress in the middle of the main street bridge. This woman in Ohio read the article. She liked it and called her son, who was a newspaper reporter here in Jacksonville.

That was him on the porch.

He’d tried to call but we had no telephone so he just showed up on our doorstep.

During the interview, he decided to recommend me for a job at the newspaper where he worked. After talking with the editor several times, he reluctantly hired me — not as a writer but as a mail clerk. I worked at the paper ten years as our children grew up.

While our older kids were in college they brought home dozens of foreign students to stay at our house. Students from Israel and Arabia at the same time, students from Haiti and Nigeria and Romania and France and I can’t remember where all else stayed at our home every vacation. Ginny fed and washed clothes and mothered them all.

By now our youngest was a teen and Ginny decided to go back to college herself (A different college from the ones our kids had attended).

I’m especially proud that she enrolled in a learn-to-swim class because she had always been deathly afraid of the water. But she conquered her fear and passed that class.

She earned her degree in banking and finance with a minor in accounting.

But, instead of entering the banking field, she felt called to work for a non-profit charity where she is on a team feeding thousands of hungry children, providing scholarships, sending kids to camp, and supporting poor families.

Aside from her work, she continues to do all sorts of silent charitable things unknown even by her husband. Occasionally I’ll notice some strange entry in our check book and when I ask her about it she’ll say, “Just a little something for the Lord’s work; don’t worry about it”.

Here’s a photo of her making out checks in her sewing room:

Primarily because of her thrift and good management we now own our own home with a pool and lovely garden, and Bill Gates himself did not enjoy a better supper last night than I did. Ginny’s financial acumen enabled me to stop outside jobs and devote my full time attention to writing books. And, with the help of our grown children, we are in the beginning slow stages of establishing our own publishing enterprise.

Ginny is not vocal about her devotion to Christ. Yet once at an office party, her boss approached me and said, “Virginia just quietly goes about her work. She hardly ever says anything. But nobody, even strangers, can be in that office for five minutes without knowing they’re in the presence of a Christian”.

I could write more and more about her. She fascinates me.

Ginny is the best thing that ever happened to me.

She’s lots more fun than an adding machine!

So, Tuesday morning Dr. Stray said there’s nothing wrong with her heart.

I could have told him that.

Can you believe that she will turn 60 next month?

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 @ 6:57 AM

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Religious Tomfoolery and Holy Bitterness

Yesterday, my friend Wes almost choked on his waffle laughing during our breakfast at Dave’s Diner.

We’d been talking about how, over time, organizations move away from the original vision of their founder. This is true of both secular and religious organizations.

Wes complained that I have a cynical outlook on organized religion (as though he doesn’t). So I remarked that perhaps I should write a commentary on the Bible.

That’s when Wes choked.

He got to laughing so hard at the idea of my writing a biblical commentary that the waitress ran over to see if he was ok.

The thought of that frail little girl trying to do a Heimlich on a 300+ pound man send me into spasms of laughter too.

When he recovered from his mirth attack, I began worrying the idea of writing a commentary or theology book..

“The main problem is,” I said, “That all the good titles have been taken already”.

This set us to laughing again as we imagined titles for my magnum opus, which would be either a Bible Commentary or a book of systematic theology.

Back in medieval times, Thomas Aquinas snagged the title Summa Theologica for his set of books (which run five thick volumes in the concise edition). My Latin is a bit rusty but I think his title means All There Is To Know About Theology: The Study Of God.

Wes suggested I could call my commentary Some Theology – Sort Of.

There are already books of comprehensive theology on the market; perhaps a good title for my book would be Incomprehensible Theology.

In the early 1500s, John Calvin wrote his theology down in his massive tomes, Institutes Of The Christian Religion. With weight training I might be able to lift his book.

Since that title is taken, Wes suggested my book could be called Christianity For The Institutionalized.

This set us off laughing again.

Customers at other tables stared.

Dave’s is a tolerant place; they have not put us out yet.

We came back to my house to smoke our pipes and talk. I have resumed work editing the diary of Samuel Ward, a translator of the King James Bible. Wes helped me translate some Greek phrases from the Ward Dairy. Wes is fluent in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and he has a smattering of Arabic also. He’s a registered member of some sort of International Society of Really Really Smart People.

I’d been trying to solve the linguistic problems in the Ward diary myself in spite of the fact that I hardly recognize the Greek alphabet.

Immediately Wes identified my problem: Samuel Ward sometimes used koine Greek in his quotes; other times, he used classical Greek.

I should have noticed that.


(I had only the vaguest idea that there was a difference).

Ward, a royal chaplain and one of the translators of the King James Bible, sprinkled Greek phrases throughout his diary because, to him, these phrases made things clearer. He even made jokes in Greek and expected his readers to laugh at the punch line.

For instance, he speaks of some Christians as “speaking fire, but living water”.

And he frets over preachers who feed their people, “ηδυσματι και ουκ εδεσμασι”..

In English letters that’s “hêdusmati kai ouk edesmasi”

See the pun?

It means they feed the people, “sprigs of garden mint instead of steaks of roasted meat”.

Isn’t that a hoot?

If Samuel Ward had been with us at Dave’s for breakfast, the three of us would definitely been evicted for rowdiness.

As Wes and I worked on Greek phrases, we realized that we were engaging in petty sin.

Wes, scheduled to work a late shift today, remarked that when coworkers asked him how he’d spent his time off, he’d say, “Oh, I spent the morning translating some Greek phrases for my friend John”.

“That will really impress them,” he said, “I’ll get to feel so big. Smarter than I really am”.

I admitted that it would be possible for me to edit the Ward diary without using a single phrase of Greek. I’m handling the text this way because I also want to feel big,
To impress readers,
To come across as an intellectual,
To feel superior, |

How petty and how pathetic.

Even faith, even witnessing, even sincere religion can provide a corrupt man with an occasion for sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

In one place Samuel Ward cautioned his readers against ιεραπίκρα, Hierapicra, holy bitterness.

He observes that in some of us religion works like a clock with a broken main spring. That on the face of things, the dial shows the time, but it’s stuck. Twice a day, it reads the correct time, but it never moves on.

Ward says this state produces “holy bitterness”, a devotion more to religious trivia than to God. An inclination to controversy over tantalizing theological minutiae.

For instance, such folks may feel great concern about how the world began (and those wicked evolutionists) or great interest in the Last Days (Battle of Armageddon) — Things we can do nothing about — but little interest in expressing a living faith here and now in the present day.

Involvement in such theological controversies tends to sour people and make us bitter, dower, harsh, stern, foreboding and forbidding.

What a sad state.

But that’s what the world sees.

The joy of the Lord turned rancid.

But, who am I to judge another’s servant.

I do not enjoy the company of Christians who are inclined to holy bitterness but it is far better for me to tend my own soul than to evaluate another person’s.

I may judge what I see as that guy’s religion when all I am really seeing is the state of his ulcer or his liver or his migraine or his marriage.

Before I write off that gaunt old woman’s lack of joy as the product of defective faith… If I’d been caring for an invalid child hand and foot for 35 years, maybe I would not be a religious butterfly either.

Yes, Samuel Ward, who was known 500 years ago as a Puritan, a people not known for their flightiness, has a lot to say to John Cowart to day.

He should be editing me, not me him.

And he would not need a word of Greek to do it.

After Wes left, an old lady down the street asked me to fix a flat tire for her... Laughing, thinking, praying, working, studying God's Word, fixing a flat tire for an invalid -- it's all part of the same thing.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:51 AM

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Unglued on Glue Day

Last week I dropped a favorite pipe on the sidewalk and broke off the stem.

Then there was the statue of the coal miner made out of genuine black coal, a souvenir of West Virginia, which one of the kids was handling (when I’d said not to) and broke.

And the two broken lamps, and the plastic dinosaur skeleton which I use as a pipe rack, and a garden light and a saucer and a cup with a broken handle. And on and on.

For weeks I’ve let all these broken things pile up on my workbench intending to fix them someday.

So Sunday afternoon, I cleared a work area and began gluing things back together. I make such a mess of things when I open a tube of glue that I get the stuff all over myself, on my clothes, in my hair, on my glasses.

I find it wise just to designate a Glue Day and get all my repair projects done at once. Sunday was Glue Day and I got to thinking…

About three or four weeks ago, a young lady whose life is going terribly wrong in a number of areas told me, “Everything’s broken, John. Everything’s broken”.

I had to agree with her.

Everything is broken. Look at the news. Look at your job. Look at traffic. Look at marriages all around. Look at politics. Look at law enforcement. Look at fraud in sports. Look at tv. Look at business. Look at education. Look at healthcare. …

Everything is broken.

We live in a fallen world that is still falling.

I wonder why hasn’t the whole world just come unglued?

What… … I can’t think of what to say…

Lost my train of thought.

Why did I start this journal entry?

Not a clue.

Hebrews 1:3 says that while He was nailed to the cross, Jesus was the “Upholding all things by the world of His power” in other words, He keeps us all from becoming unglued…

I don’t know where I’m going with this blog post. Too damn early to be profound…

I give up...

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 @ 5:06 AM

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Great Rainy Day

Saturday, Tropical Storm Barry dropped about four inches of rain breaking a 16-month-long drought here in Jacksonville.

It rained all day.

The frogs in the ditch behind our house sing praises.

The grass in our lawn lift up blades in thanksgiving.

The trees of the forest and herbs of the field join in thanking their Creator for hearing their prayer and breaking the drought.

With all this rain on the earth, soon our garden will break forth with thousands and thousands of … mosquitoes — and maybe a few flowers too.

Ginny and I didn’t even bother to dress. We lay long abed reading, talking, napping, loving, snuggling, praying, planning, relaxing, listening, hearing rain on the roof till late after noon.

We went out to Kosta’s for a giant salad then browsed in an antique store, then came home to lounge on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of Dr. Who (Donald & Helen loaned us the whole first season on dvd; we’d never seen the program before).

A great day.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:09 AM

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