Rabid Fun

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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Love’s Lament

Sunday, police arrested our youngest daughter and placed her in jail.

I do not know details, but apparently while driving, she hit another car then fled the scene of that minor accident only to be involved in a more serious accident a few miles down the road.

According to the on-line police report, no one was injured in either traffic incident.

She was driving without insurance and with a suspended drivers license.

Monday she goes before a judge for her initial hearing.

When she called me collect from jail she was concerned about loosing the job she just started last week. Her car rolled over three times in the second accident and is now a total unrepairable wreck.

Someone will need to feed her cats while she’s in jail for however long. When other family members went over to her house to see about the cats, they found empty aerosol containers indicating to us that inhalants may be involved in what’s going on in her life.

Last night, as we brooded long over this latest episode, Ginny quoted a sad Scripture to me; when Jesus stood on a hill overlooking the city, He said,:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killeth the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen doth gather her chicks under her wings — but ye would not!

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 @ 4:49 AM

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

One Thousand And One. One Thousand And Two. One Thousand And…

Ginny and I sat in our car in the Gorgi’s BBQ parking lot waiting for the torrential rain to slacken enough for us to make a run for the door.

“Want to share the umbrella?” she asked.

“No. It won’t rain on me. I’m a Christian,” I said.

“How do you figure that”?

“The Bible says God sends His rain on the just and the unjust; we in-betweeners get to stay dry,” I said.

She nudged me out into the rain with her furled umbrella.

The woman has no sense of biblical exegesis.

We scooted between raindrops into the restaurant. On Saturdays Gorgi’s offers a senior special about two dollars less than the regular price so we, and a good many other families, often take advantage of this Decrepit Discount For The Elderly.

The manager, a slender, gray-haired gentleman, much younger than I am, maybe in his mid-50s, greeted us at the door. We’ve been going in there for years and have a nodding acquaintance with him, though I don’t remember his name.

We found a table and ordered our BBQ, baked sweet potato and collard greens.

Mid-way through our lunch, a waitress behind the cash register called out, “Anybody in here know CPR?”.

Eight or ten young people stopped eating and rushed to the front.

The manager had dropped to the floor behind the counter.

He sprawled there not breathing.

Ginny and I took CPR classes years ago, but we neglected to take refresher courses, so when we say younger, more up-to-date people aiding, we helped by staying out of the way.

In a snap, all these strangers who happened to be eating in the restaurant formed teams to administer aid. One began chest compressions; another breathing; another established rhythm and counted cadence.

“One Thousand And One. One Thousand And Two. One Thousand And three…”

Knowledgeable CPR bystanders chanted with her as they organized a second team to relieve the first when they got tired.

People who did not know CPR helped too.

While the team of strangers worked to keep the manager alive, several people called Jacksonville Fire Rescue. One old lady customer removed the Please Wait To Be Seated sign back out of the entrance way. One man rushed to the front door to prop it open so ambulance attendants would have easy access. A fat lady in a flowered print dress rushed to the end of the parking lot to wave rescue vehicles into the correct one of Gorgi’s several driveways.

“One Thousand And One. One Thousand And Two…”

Sirens in the distance.

The first fire truck to arrive roared into the drive. A young fireman ran inside, quickly evaluated the situation and called to his buddies, “Cardiac Red”!

They grabbed the appropriate medical kit off the truck and poured into the restaurant. Everyone stood aside to give them working room. An ambulance arrived. Restaurant patrons helped maneuver the gurney around the L-shaped entranceway.

Another fire truck arrived bringing more equipment into Georgie’s.

The medics gave shots, inserted a plastic breathing tube, and attached defibrillator leads.



They shocked his heart several times. The CPR teams had backed out of the way to give the professionals room to work.

The medics loaded the manager onto the gurney while continuing to work on him. Mid-way out of the restaurant, they shocked him again.

They loaded him into the ambulance and sped off with lights and sirens.

That’s a good sign.

As the two fire engines packed up equipment, a guy with a clip board recorded information and let the head waitress know where the patient was being transported. She had already called the manager’s family and the restaurant owner.

A few waitress cried in the kitchen door. The cashier’s hands trembled. Customers drifted back to their seats to finish their cold meals.

These people had nothing in common other than they happened to be eating in the same restaurant — But they had acted as a well-drilled team; you’d have thought they had rehearsed this.

One man had been stricken.

Without question or hesitation, more than twenty strangers jumped to his aid.

Every once in a while I’m proud to be part of the human race.

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 @ 7:02 AM

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Here, Kitty. Here, Kitty, Kitty.

Friday my middle daughter Eve ( I have three daughters and three sons) took me out to breakfast and we talked for about six hours.

Much of our conversation centered around finalizing her wedding plans. She and Mark intend to be married by the captain on a cruise ship, hold a reception while the ship is docked here in Jacksonville, sail away into the sunset, and live happily after.

They are giddy in love.

I wish them joy.

Eve trained in London and is now head librarian at a local branch library. With her training in research techniques, she has access to computer data banks unavailable to ordinary mortals. Thus she tracked down a glob of information on the two 16th Century Samuel Wards.

Her research uncovered two interesting bits of information:

First, she arranged interlibrary loans of some material for me to confirm or correct the research I’d already done. I’ve done as thorough a job as possible, but I did work from secondary sources; I hardly ever have original 16th Century manuscripts laying around the house.

Second, Eve and I discovered that a lot of people in past generations have confused the two men even more than I did. There’s a lot of mixed up material out there which combines the two different Samuel Wards.

Back in 1577, why didn’t they fingerprint these guys so we can identify which is which? Or at least sew tags in their underwear so we can tell them apart?

Two phrases of Scripture come to my mind in all this mini-disaster over the Ward Diary.

When I first realized my mistake, my inclination was to shred the manuscript, scream, beat my breast, and throw fuzzy kittens against the wall. The phrase that came to mind at that moment of shock was “Be Still And Know That I Am God”.

As I pondered what to do about my mistake, in my mind the phrase arose, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety”.

Eve advises me to mark the places in the manuscript that I know are incorrect, then to shelve the thing till the Inter Library Loan materials arrive, to hold off making any decision until I see what information those sources contain.

I’ve also consulted Ginny, Helen, Barbara and I’ll be talking with Donald and Wes next week about various aspects of the project. And I also pay attention to e-mails and blog comments about my work.

I stand on the shoulders of many people in order to be “self-employed”.

The reason I’m so upset about this setback is not that I made a mistake, I’ve made plenty of those, but that I felt so confident — I really thought the Ward Diary could be finished and listed in my on-line book catalog by this weekend.

In fact, confident is not the proper word, I felt so SMUG! I even joked about the final editing in my blog last Wednesday, engaged in arrogant showing off to produce a mooooving post.

Maybe the Scripture I should meditate on more is the one that says, “Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction”.

While this setback disturbs me, I realize that it is not world-shattering. My mini-plight hardly compares with the real plight of those 22 Korean Christians being killed one by one by Moslems in Afghanistan.

But, the old adage is true: In The Whole History Of The World Nobody’s Toothache Ever Hurt Worst Than Mine!

We all feel our problems are vital, urgent, demanding immediate remedy.

In seeking God’s guidance, I wish He’d give me a Yellow Brick Road to skip along to reach the Emerald City, but that’s seldom the way He leads.

Yes there sometimes are green pastures and still waters, but that’s a respite, a goal, seldom an everyday circumstance. In fact, the words of an old hymn come to mind:

By the light of burning martyrs,
Jesus’ bleeding feet I track;
Toiling up new Calvaries ever,
With the Cross that turns not back.

So, my dilemma over what to do about the Ward Diary proves to be a minor aggravation of less than Nine-Eleven proportions. However…

What’s that Eve?

Did she just say there’s more than one Drama Queen in this family?

Maybe so, but I think I’m handling this crisis very well.

Anybody got a fuzzy kitten I can borrow?


Here’s a bizarre story from an Associated Press newspaper clipping for the kid in the attic:

Scuba diver dies after lightning hits his air tank off Florida coast

By The Associated Press

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Lightning struck a diver's air tank as he surfaced off Florida's Atlantic coast, killing him, authorities said.
The 36-year-old man was diving with three others Sunday off a boat near Deerfield Beach, about 40 miles north of Miami. He had surfaced about 30 feet from the boat when lightning struck his tank, said Deerfield Beach Fire Chief Gary Fernaays.
The other divers struggled to get the man back into the boat and radioed for help, Fernaays said. The victim, identified as Stephen Wilson, of Deerfield Beach, was rushed to the beach, where a rescue crew gave him CPR. He was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center.
A severe-thunderstorm warning had been in effect Sunday for Broward County.
The Broward County Medical Examiner's Office planned an autopsy to determine if Wilson drowned or was electrocuted.

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 @ 7:14 AM

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Double Trouble With Samuel Ward

Samuel Ward was a Puritan.

Samuel Ward was a Puritan.

Samuel Ward was a preacher.

Samuel Ward was a preacher.

Samuel Ward was an author.

Samuel Ward was an author.

Samuel Ward was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

Samuel Ward was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

Samuel Ward lived during the later part of the 16th Century and the early years of the 17th Century.

Samuel Ward lived during the later part of the 16th Century and the early years of the 17th Century.

The first time I ever heard of Samuel Ward was last December. ...

The first time I ever heard of Samuel Ward was yesterday.

Yes, as I proofread my sample copy of A Zealous Heart: The Diary of Samuel Ward — you know, the book I wrote about editing on Wednesday — the same book I have written about in 31 blog postings since last December — the same book I struggled with over all those Greek quotations…

Yeah, that book.

As I used my magnifying glass to check out a footnote reference I read this phrase: “by his namesake of Ipswich”.

Samuel Ward lived between 1577 and 1639 — Samuel Ward lived between 1572 and 1643.

You got it!

There were two contemporary Puritan preachers — each named Samuel Ward!

And I did not realize that until yesterday.

Since last December I have worked preparing the diary of one of them, the one from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, (Yeah, him) and writing a biography of the man (men) to accompany the 16th Century text of his diary.

In ignorance I combined the two men and incidents from their lives into one fictional Samuel Ward. I did not realize I was dealing with material from two separate lives.

Oh, there was one subtle hint when there in 1621, when Samuel Ward was in trouble with both the Royalists and with the Roundheads and I wondered why each of the opposing parties had it in for him. Well, turns out one Samuel Ward favored the Royalists; the other favored the Roundheads.

I just missed that hint, and blithely went on my way combining quotes and character traits and incidents from the lives of the two men and presenting them as one person.

What to do? What to do?

I mean, I’d scheduled this book to go to press this coming weekend. I sank seven months of long days and eye-strain nights into preparing it. The book cover is resized and ready. The promo material written. PDF files converted.

Change a comma here and there and the book is read to sell.

Right? Right?

Wrong! Wrong!

Discovering there were two Wards, stunned me.

All that time, all that research, all that anguish over Greek phrases, all that eye-strain, all that work — all for nothing. Wasted. Pissing against the wind.

Then came the insidious thought: Who’ll know the difference? How many people in the world will realize that I’ve combined two men into one. I mean, there is not Samuel Ward fan club out there. His is not a household name. Hardly anyone will know the difference if I let it slide. Publish the book and move on. Why not?


How can I claim to be a Christian wanting to be (at times) 100% at the disposal of Jesus Christ if I knowingly publish a book which I know is factually wrong?


If I publish this amalgamation then I’d be the laughingstock of the whole world, of everyone who knows the truth about Samuel Ward (all six or eight of them). Everything I write from here on would be suspect for these people; they’d know I’m a buffoon faking it.


Do I write for my own amusement? For readers? As a humble witness to my Savior?

The real question for me is not about Samuel Ward, but about Jesus Christ.

Is Christ just prominent in my life or is He preeminent?

In my upset, I questioned why God would let me bark up the wrong tree for months only to reveal that I goofed at the last minute? Why would He let me waste all that time? Why let me make such a mistake and persist in it for months.

Well, my times are in His hands.

My time is His to waste.

My friend Barbara said, “John, I believe that God will let us make a mistake and keep on making it, but He will also turn it to good to honor His name”.

So, where do I go from here?

I have not fully decided yet.

There seems to be two options: I can trash the whole project and move on from here; or I can go back, do more research and try to unravel the correct information and present the book as it should be.

As I glanced over the so-closed-to-finished pages last night, I see that over 80 pages and many impressive graphics would need to be culled out altogether. But this incorrect stuff is interwoven in the correct.

To straightened this book out would be like trying to unscramble breakfast eggs.

I don’t know if I can face that.

And Bambi is only a click away.

If it ain’t one temptation, it’s another!

I do know that I’m not going to carry Samuel Ward’s portrait on my match case any more! Sorry, low-down, two-faced, ruffle-wearing, Puritan-preaching, 16th Century, SOB!

Anybody got a chocolate donut?

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 @ 5:56 AM

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Most Effective Spiritual Phrase We Can Ever Use

Bad night last night. I was in bed less than three hours when a disturbing dream woke me. Today, I feel ragged, listless and frazzled.

Such weariness leaves me open to a horde of temptations. Often when I feel physically weakest, I feel spiritually weakest also. I’d planned to proofread the Ward Diary today, but being tired out of my gourd makes me blurry and keenly aware that one click of my mouse will let me see what Bambi is not wearing today.

Realizing this a few minutes ago caused me to remember the most powerful expression of Christian spirituality we can ever use.

This simple phrase can save us from a world of trouble, anguish, aggravation, and temptation. It can remove us from the scene of danger and keep us from globs of dirt and clinging mud.

It works when the folks at the office begin to spout racist slurs and our silence can be taken for agreement. It’s effective when gossip begins to tickle our ears.

When the guys propose another round but you know you’ve reached your limit, all you have to do is utter this phrase.

When the jokes move from the adult risqué to the obscene, when illicit desires pull, when we are tempted to lie, when we feel that urge toward hypocrisy, when someone suggests we do something we know is evil, when someone bullies and needles to draw us into an argument, when the dealer suggests another hand, when peers pressure us toward what makes us feel uncomfortable, when the salesman urges us to overspend, when they pass the box of chocolate donuts — then this phrase allows us to escape without putting other people down or being judgmental about their words or actions.

In any of these situations, the stalwart Christian need only speak these deeply spiritual words for all to hear — and a way of escape immediately opens.

Here’s the secret:

When we find ourselves facing just about any temptation all we have to do is say, “Excuse me; I’m going to the bathroom”.

Then walk away and go into the bathroom.

St. Paul advised his junior friend Timothy, “Flee youthful lusts”.

Not fight.


The most successful ship’s captain is the one who sails fartherest from the rocks.

Jesus said, “Resist not evil”. Who are we to fight the devil? We are to flee. To move off site. To go someplace else away from the danger of temptation.

Once, In one of his times of temptation, powerful 19th Century London preacher Charles said, “The wings of a dove may be of more use to me to-day than the jaws of a lion”.

There are no new temptations. Every one we face is the common lot of man, but God is faithful and will always provide a way to escape so we can bear it.

And I find the easiest way to escape is to say, “Excuse me; I’m going to the bathroom now”.

There’s no arguing with that statement.

So, now that I’ve sat long at my computer this morning, and as I feel weary and drained, and as I begin thinking that Bambi is only one click away from this blog … Excuse me; I’m going to the bathroom now.

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 @ 2:48 AM

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Editing Samuel Ward's Dairy

Over the weekend, the postman delivered my draft copy of A Zealous Heart: The Diary Of Samuel Ward, A Translator Of The 1611 King James Bible.

I wish he hadn’t done that.

For weeks now, I’ve dreaded the arrival of the mail.

Now, I have to proofread the pages to change errors, typos, formatting, graphics, and a host of other glaring glitches.

The Editor asks, “How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb”?

The Writer says, “I ain’t changing nothing”!

But, in the name of accuracy, changes must be made.

So this evening I gathered my editing paraphernalia so I can start bright and early.

Here’s some of the stuff I use:

Before I even open the proof pages, on the book cover I see a gap between the A and the Z of Zealous. This does not portend smooth work ahead.

My tattered Bible lies to the left with my glasses and magnifying glass to correlate tiny footnotes. My pipe, tobacco and match case (for large wooden matches) lie to the right; for months I’ve carried a picture of Samuel Ward on my match case to focus my mind on the work every time I light my pipe.

Of course my Associated Press Style Manual, my concrete mixer paper weight, my sharp red pencils, and my coffee mug (My son Donald had this made special for me; it features my Bluefish Books logo) — all comprise essential equipment.

The ink pot and quill just round out the tasteful still life arrangement.

Yes, it’s padding but don’t knock it.

I snapped 15 digital photos to get this one to come out.

After I proofread, I’ll refer the manuscript to my Department Of Redundancy Department to check that I have not said the same thing twice or more than once; that gives the book readabilityness and makes it easier for readers to follow.

I’ll sent the cover art over to Helen, my daughter-in-law who can bandage those places where the cover bleeds pixels all over my red pencils.

While I’ve been waiting for the mailman to deliver this proof copy of the Ward Diary, I worked on another manuscript, a larger one which refuses to be convert to a pdf file without inserting eight blank pages between pages 484 and 485. And the index…

Well, I’ll skip writing about the index — unless you’d like to read a bubble by bubble description of the Titanic’s sinking.

Oh well, once the Lord Jesus wrote in the sand.

That was when an irate mob brought Him a woman “taken in adultery, in the very act”.

They wanted to throw rocks at her head till she died.

Jesus stooped down, wrote something in the sand, then stood back up and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.

For some reason the crowd melted away.

He said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more”.

The very next thing Jesus said was — “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.

Writing words in sand — at least that’s one area in which I follow Him — I often feel as though I’m doing that very same thing.

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

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Pleasures For Evermore!

Saturday Ginny picked up her copy of the 7th Harry Potter book, a copy which she had reserved back in February.

According to tv news, 7,000,000 copies of this book sold within the first 24 hours of its release; at one local mall, over a thousand people stood in line for hours in the rain waiting to buy this book.

After picking up the book, Ginny and I went to Moon River Pizza for lunch. She opened her book to page one, began reading — lost to this world.

Two guys came into Moon River; each carried a copy of Harry Potter. They sat at a table, opened to page one, and fell under that same spell.

Never before have I seen three individuals enthralled reading copies of the same book at the same time in a public place. Once I saw two passengers on the bus each reading copies of Lord of the Rings, but three readers? Never before.

Ginny has hardly spoken a word to me all weekend. She’s engrossed in her book. A daughter came over to borrow money; Ginny did not speak to her. Our neighbor Rick came by to kill time; Ginny read ten feet away from him and never even glanced up from her pages.

All this reading delights me.

Seeing Ginny derive such pleasure from the book pleases me so.

Seeing someone you love get great pleasure from something generates the greatest sort of pleasure for the observer. Blog postings from all over the world reveal how pleased mothers are at seeing their babes enjoy some toy or activity. Seeing my grown children interact and enjoy eachother’s company delights me.

A great lover finds the sexual pleasure he gives his beloved magnifies his own pleasure; he thrills at the expression on her face as waves of pleasure wash over her in orgasm.

Grandparents delight in seeing the grandkids frolic with the new puppy.

Cooks derive great pleasure at watching the family smack their lips with pleasure as they dig in to some special dish it took hours to prepare.

You don’t even have to enjoy a thing yourself to enjoy someone else’s pleasure over it. When Donald was in college studying physics, he’d come home bubbling over with joy as he told me about refraction; I know nothing about refractive lasers, but I got such a kick out of seeing his pleasure in learning.

The ideal motivation for telling others about Christ is to so enjoy Him yourself that you bubble over with pleasure and share the pleasure you’ve found; not to do so would be churlish.

Giving pleasure, seeing someone else’s pleasure, sharing pleasure — All these generate even more pleasure.

God Himself is a hedonist.

The Scripture proclaims, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore”.

“The Lord taketh pleasure in his people; He will beautify the meek with salvation”

So, I’ve felt in good company all this weekend as I’ve so enjoyed Ginny’s pleasure as she relished reading her book. I take pleasure in seeing her pleasure.

And as I did, I reflected on how much the Lord God of Hosts enjoys seeing his creation enjoy frolics and joys and pleasures and quite reading and water slides and volley ball games and chocolate donuts and prayer and snuggling under the blanket and corn on the cob and fireworks and canoeing and bird watching and work well done and Christmas and moonlight swims and … and… the list goes on forever more.

And it gets even better:

As it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”!

The Lord means us no pain.

He gave us laws to keep us from injuring ourselves.

Hurt was someone else’s idea. Oh yes, there is someone out there who rubs his hands together and chuckles when we hurt ourselves, when we hurt others, when we spread pain, dread, anguish, worry, sadness, evil...

However the looser is loosing; his scorched-earth retreat has set limits, it can not last much longer.

Darkness fades.

Dawn approaches.

Hope remains.

In the mean time, Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:41 AM

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Viking Treasure

Knowing my interest in archaeology, Ginny rushed home from work Friday excited to show me newspaper articles announcing the discover of a Viking treasure buried in a field near Harrogate in Yorkshire, England.

The treasure had been buried for over a thousand years.

David and Andrew Whelan located a silver pot filled with ancient coins which date to the year 927. A.D.

The father/son team asked a farmer’s permission to explore his field with metal detectors. They’d searched this same field before finding only buttons.

This time, the pair recovered over 600 coins and dozens of other objects. A gold arm band, silver ingots and fragments of silver were found in and around the silver pot. Some ancient artist carved the sides of the silver vessel with vines and leaves along with six hunting scenes showing lions, stags and a horse.

David Whelan said, “We went to a field that we'd got permission on to detect. We were there about 10 minutes, and I got this signal. I dug down and got a stronger signal, so I kept going. And I started getting lead out, bits of lead. And I kept going, pulling lead out. Big signal, and then this round thing fell into the hole. And I thought, "Oh, it's a bulk-up from an old lead system."

“So I put my glasses on, lifted it out. Put my glasses on, and I could see it was a bowl with all bits of silver in the top, and the coins stuck in the top, and a lovely bowl. So I went over and brought Andrew back. Told him we'd found a hoard”.

British Museum officials value that hoard at $1,500,000. The Viking treasure went on display at the museum yesterday.

Wow! That’s the stuff dreams are made of!

A treasure buried in a field!

Once, near the Port of Jacksonville, using a metal detector, I found a single coin from Bahrain.

It was about ten years old.

Probably dropped by some foreign sailor.

Not a Viking.


Reading about this treasure in a field, I couldn’t help but think I’ve read something like that somewhere before.

Oh, Yes. It was one of the stories Jesus told.

“The Kingdom of Heaven,” He said, “Is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field”.

The verse reference is Matthew 13:44.

I’ve heard preachers apply that verse to say that salvation is so valuable we should sell out everything in order to gain it.

That’s perfectly valid idea. Jim Elliot, a missionary martyred by the Auca Indians, said, “He is no fool who gives up what he can not hope to keep in order to gain that which he can never lose”.

Give up everything for Jesus?

Many people think that’s what it takes.

Personally, I have never given up anything for Jesus; for me, it’s been all gain.

When I look at what Jesus said —

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field”. —

I also look at the Bible verses around that saying.

You know, the ones about the pearl, the net, the leaven, etc.

I see that just six verses before the one about the buried treasure, Jesus said, “The field is the world” (v.38) That’s in a story about sowing seed.

In that same story (v.37), Jesus said, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man”.

So then, if the field is the world.

And if the one walking in the field, the one who gave up everything, is Jesus, then …

What did Jesus give up every thing for? Why did God become man? Why leave the glory of Heaven, the company of angels, the splendor of eternity to be born in a stable and die on a cross?

If the field is the world…

And if the one who gave up all is Jesus…

Then what is the treasure?

You are.

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 @ 5:43 AM

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Back To Square — ^&#!@

At 4:15 yesterday afternoon (after I’d begun work at 4:30 in the morning) I discovered why my work has gone so well all week.

In less than ten days I have edited and formatted 410 pages of a 582-page manuscript.

Granted, those work days extended for 16 to 20 hours each. But nevertheless, I covered a lot of text and formatted a whole bunch of graphics.

This labor represents a personal best for me, a Herculean accomplishment.

My work progressed smoothly — because I’ve been doing it all wrong!

I neglected to set a formatting/spacing command in the Page Setup menu, a command which effects the entire 582-page document.

As soon as I noticed my omission, I realized that I knew better.

I knew better!

I knew better!

But, I forgot.

To fix this mistake, I must return to page one and begin again.

I should pay more attention to detail — but I’m not the only one who should.

In her office Thursday, Ginny discovered a misplaced comma. That’s right, a single simple comma.

A coworker issued a check to a vendor for $26,000 dollars. It was ready to be mailed when Ginny noticed that missing comma. The check should have been for only $2,600 dollars.

Oh well, it’s government money. Who cares?

But Ginny caught the office mistake before any damage was done; I bulled ahead 410 pages into my manuscript before I noticed my fatal formatting error.

After I stopped throwing things and hitting my thighs with my fist, I calmed down and remembered that my times are in God’s hands.

I suspect the Lord Jesus is more interested in formatting me than He is in the formatting of my manuscript.

If I were walking in His will while I worked on the project in the first place, then I’ll be walking in His will while I do it all over again.

I’m resigned to doing whatever it takes to do the job right.

I really am.

I feel at peace.

But somehow I doubt I’ll be writing a blog post about the sin of profanity any time soon.

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 @ 4:53 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Thursday, July 19, 2007


You can tell when I’m working hard because I don’t take time to keep up my journal postings.

Time and space constraints have pushed me into 18-hour days recently as I’ve tried to reduce a 583 page manuscript to under 400 pages. Don’t think I’m going to make that goal.

I quit editing last night at page 299 and I still have miles to go.

The printer’s protocols dictate that if a book has more than 400 pages, it has to be bound as a hard back. That would bump the price up significantly and I want to avoid that. I want to make my books as inexpensive as possible.

I’m toying with a marketing idea which would give poor people better access to my work. We’ll see what happens.

For pleasure, I’ve been reading Nobel Prize winning author Albert Camus. He struggles with the question of how a loving God could allow an innocent child to suffer with a horrible disease.

Camus does not appear satisfied with his own ideas, which essentially lead to hopeless despair.

Poor bastard.

My favorite Camus quote:

“It is forbidden to spit on cats during plague time”.

See. The man's not all wrong.

Jesus is Lord of even the busiest days. His love hovers over my shoulder even while I’ve got my nose buried in the project thinking nothing, seeing nothing but the words right before my eyes on the computer screen.

Speaking of eyes:

Yesterday I grabbed a jar of applesauce out of the frig to go on my breakfast toast; when I went to spread it, I discovered that I’d pulled out a jar of sauerkraut!

This is not recommended.

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 @ 5:15 AM

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Defeat Following Triumph

For our wedding anniversary a couple of years ago, I gave Ginny a paper shredder.

Isn’t that romantic?

Actually, it was her idea.

I would have preferred to get her a flaming red lacy negligee, but she wanted to have a paper shredder. So that’s what I bought her.

That’s the kind of romantic guy I am.

I mention this because last night I walked in her office to find her digging through shredded giblets for scraps and piecing them together on top of her desk.

She’d inadvertently shredded an important credit card. It had stuck to the back of a sheet she actually meant to shred.

So, she was trying to fit the pieces back together so she can order a new card from the maker.

What a picture of life!

We all end up shredding things we don’t really mean to; and we can’t piece them back together; our only recourse is to do without, or apply to the Maker for a new life.

But, that’s not what I meant to write about this morning.

I meant to write about a personal defeat.

Once again I have given in to a temptation (does it matter which one?). Yeah, I suppose it does. Almost immediately after sending the Ward Diary off to the printer for proof pages, I began to browse the internet for photos of bikini girls again.

Yeah, that’s also the kind of guy I am.

Why does strong temptation follow right on the heels of spiritual triumph?

In Scripture, we see this dynamic played out again and again:

Smoke had not gone up from Cane’s altar before he whacked his own brother in the head with a rock.

The Israelites saw God flatten the walls of Jericho, then immediately afterwards, sin defeated them in the battle for Ai.

Elijah saw the fire fall from heaven, he defeated 400 of Baal’s witchdoctors, then immediately afterwards, we see him cowering depressed in a cave because a woman threatened to kill him.

Jonah saw God revive the whole city of Nineveh, but immediately afterwards, here’s Jonah depressed, suicidal, and mad at God because a caterpillar ate his gourd vine.

Within 24 hours of partaking of the Lord’s Supper and having Christ wash his feet, Peter denied Jesus with curses.

And John Cowart moves immediately from preserving an important spiritual document to browsing for bikini photos.

Strong temptation often follows spiritual triumph.

Why does this sort of thing happen?

Part of it is the simple human joy of giving ourselves a treat for an accomplishment. Like the lady who steps on the scales, realizes that she’s lost 30 pounds and celebrates by eating a whole tub of chocolate chip ice cream to reward herself..

Of course, another easy answer says that religious people are hypocrites, that all this faith stuff is a false front, a facade erected to fool onlookers.

There is an element of truth in this accusation. I know that I want people to think me better than I really am. I want to make a good impression so I glaze over my faults, defects and sins. I even wear aftershave to disguise my natural smell.

That’s the kind of guy I am.

But I think the answer to the problem of spiritual triumph and defeat lies even deeper in the very nature of what it means to be a Christian.

Saint Paul struggled with his own temptations with what he calls “the old man”. He speaks of a “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members”.

I have no idea which particular temptation provoked Paul to say this; I’m pretty sure he did not have internet access to look at bikini girls.

But temptations are tailor-made to fit the individual. Mine are not yours, nor yours mine. Our struggles may be similar but the details differ. I suspect that’s a reason we are told not to judge others.

The Scripture says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”.

In another place, Paul says that God has grafted us Gentiles Christians onto the root of His Jews. “Thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted (contrary to nature) into a good olive tree…”

I may be wrong about this, but extrapolating from that idea, I wonder if the new nature which Christ imparts to me as an individual, has been grafted onto my natural nature, my old man, my carnal nature.

In other words, I wonder if my roots are still faulty.

And, I wonder how, or even if, God can use such a mixed up man as I am.

One chapter in my book Strangers On The Earth profiles 19th Century minister Charles Spurgeon, the most popular preacher of his day.

On October 19, 1856, so many people gathered to hear him preach that his church rented a London music hall to accommodate the crowds. Twelve thousand people jammed inside and thousands more stood in the streets to hear his message.

Spurgeon felt this attention marked him as a preacher favored by God.

The service began.

A multitude of voices joined in the opening hymn. A deacon led in prayer. Another hymn. Spurgeon mounted the pulpit and surveyed the thousands of expectant faces before him. He read his text and began his opening remarks.

Then it happened.

Somewhere in the crowd a voice screamed a single word — FIRE!

Other people began shouting “FIRE!” also. Panic spread as everyone stampeded toward the exits. Men and women shoved and clawed each other to escape.

Those outside heard the commotion and pressed toward the doors to see what was going on inside. Those inside knocked each other down struggling to get out.

People trampled those knocked to the floor. They fought for an inch of space and pulled back those ahead. Mothers dropped their babies. Men smashed windows with chair legs and clambered through.

There was no fire.

Someone had just shouted that to break up the meeting.

Seven people were trampled to death; twenty-eight were hospitalized; scores of others suffered broken bones or were crushed trying to get out of the hall.

Charles Spurgeon was devastated by the tragedy.

He preached to bring men to life in Christ, and he had thought that his extreme popularity was a mark of God's approval. But now, for a time, he felt his popularity had brought death and destruction.

He looked for meaning in what had happened. He said, “If the Christian did not sometimes suffer heaviness, he would begin to grow too proud, and think too much of himself, and become too great in his own esteem.”…

The Saturday Night Review newspaper said, “This hiring of public amusement places for Sunday preaching is a novelty and a painful one. The deplorable accident, in which seven people lost their lives and scores were maimed, mutilated or otherwise cruelly injured, Mr. Spurgeon only considers as an additional intervention of Providence in his favor.”

Detractors demanded Spurgeon give up preaching lest he “preach another crowd into a frenzy of terror — kill and smash a dozen or two more.”

After a time of soul searching, Spurgeon resumed his ministry and gained a reputation in his generation similar to that of Billy Graham in ours. They called Spurgeon, “The Prince of Preachers”.

Concerning the theme of triumph and temptation, Spurgeon once said:

Many professors give way to (temptation) as though it were useless to attempt resistance; but let the believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned. If we cannot control our tempers, what has grace done for us? Some one told Mr. Jay that grace was often grafted on a crab-stump. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘But the fruit will not be crabs.’ We must not make natural infirmity an excuse for sin, but we must fly to the cross and pray the Lord to crucify our tempers, and renew us in gentleness and meekness after His own image.

I find these words echo across the years for my encouragement and comfort.

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 @ 10:01 AM

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Scruffy (replayed)

While researching something else in my diary, I ran across this entry from 18 months ago; I think it worth repeating:

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

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

Scruffy lived in the crawlspace under someone’s house.

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

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

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

This behavior got Scruffy barred from the church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A month or two passed.

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

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

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

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

He stumbled out into the night looking for another fix.

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

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

The church I where I janitored paid for his burial.

So, do I think Scruffy went to Heaven?

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

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

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

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

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

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

His name is Lewis.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:38 AM

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Congratulations To The New Mother

Saturday my wife birthed a brand new infant.

I am not the father.

It happened like this:

While I mowed grass, Ginny weeded our cactus garden. As she weeded, she spotted a teeny, tiny white thing she thought was a pebble. When she picked it up to examine it more closely, the little egg suddenly popped open in her hand and a baby lizard jumped out.

This so startled Ginny that she gave a little squeak and the new lizard jumped from her hand and darted off into the cactus bed.

I hard her cry and rushed over to see what was wrong.

I never actually saw the baby myself.

Ginny says he looks just like his father — whoever that may be.

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 @ 7:30 AM

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Friday, July 13, 2007

8 ¾

Yesterday I enjoyed breakfast with my daughter Eve.

Afterwards she said she needed a particular kind of hat for a presentation at her library on Saturday, so we went hat shopping.

Her program Saturday will feature a talk by the County Coroner, who will talk about how to determine if a dead body died of blunt force trauma — and a troop of hula dancers.

What a blend.

Ginny and I plan to attend the event and I plan to write about it afterwards.

Last night, we enjoyed a fine dinner with our daughter-in-law’s parents. We talked about books and birds and their recent trip to Germany. (Blair had just had a cancer removed from his scalp and the fresh wound was sore — .He laughed when I told him he needs a new barber).

Between that breakfast and that dinner, I finished editing A Zealous Heart: the Diary of Samuel Ward, a translator of the 1611 King James Bible!

That book is almost done.

Thanks be to God!

I started this job back in December and by now I’m thoroughly sick of Ward and his diary and his Jacobean English; yet being so close to the end of the project elates me.

Yesterday Ginny compared me to a woman who’s eight and three-fourths months pregnant.

Carrying this project around with me 24 hours a day for months exasperates me and I’m tired of it and want it to go away; yet at the same time, the expectation of seeing a shinny new book appear thrills me.

For months I’ve obsessed over tiny details of dates and times and spellings.

For instance, yesterday I woke at 3:15 a.m. realizing that somewhere in the text I had spelled the word undue as undo!


My book will never top the Times best seller list with that kind of error.

Why didn’t the spell checker catch my mistake?

Why wouldn’t WORD’s fine/replace feature locate either spelling?

I browsed through 140 pages of text to find my mistake and correct it.

Got the rascal.

Changed it manually…

Got to wondering if that date was 1625 or should it be 1639???

Samuel Ward, a Puritan, said, “Be not overly righteous”.

He said, “There be some … over-nice men in this sense also, who have not learned that God will have them merciful to themselves”.

I uploaded the Ward text to the printing company for my proof copy to correct about 1 a.m. this morning. I’ll get the test copy in a week or ten days.

Lord, prosper Thou the work of my hands.

All I have to do is wait.

Maybe it will have the right number of fingers and toes and dates and headers and pagination and footers and section breaks and …

I should not engage in undo worry.

Can’t wait to start my next book.

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

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Treasured Photographs

Ginny’s family snaps photographs.

Lots of photographs.

At a gathering earlier this year, a group of shutterbugs on one side of the room took photos of a similar group on the other side of the room:

This addiction to photography spans generations.

Back in June, 2001, Ginny’s younger brother (she has a sister and five brothers) her younger brother Danny, a computer whiz, undertook the massive project of scanning in and captioning hundreds of these old family photographs.

This young couple, Ginny’s parents, lived in happy marriage for 65 years:

Ginny’s parents lived in the same house for over 50 years, taking photos the whole time.

Trunks of old photographs gather dust in the attic. Albums of photographs line the bookshelves. Cardboard boxes of photographs stack up in closets.

Can you see Ginny in this next one?

She’s the cute baby:

For six years Danny gathered these old photographs, sorted them, identified the subjects, and scanned them into his computer.

Yesterday, Tuesday, a packaged arrived in our mailbox. It contained a computer disc filled with the results of Danny’s labor — scores and scores and scores of old family photographs.

What a treasure!

Seeing such a record of family history helps me understand why those tedious-to-read long lists of genealogy and begats were so important to the biblical writers.

There are happy things to remember about our forbearers:

And sad things too; here’s Ginny’s Dad during World War II:

Notice his cigarette! This is the same guy who did not want me smoking within 30 yards of the house!

My own family does not have such a photo archive. In fact, once when my mother was pissed at me, she tore up every photo she had of me and ripped me out of any group photo she owned… I forget why she was so unhappy with me that particular time.

The disc Danny prepared chronicles his family from practically the time photography was invented, from baby Roy :

To the two newest babies born:

Somebody needs to buy these kids a camera!

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 @ 5:17 AM

Your comments are welcome: 6 comments

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Site Search Sidebar, Cat Hair, and Christian Apologetics

Helen, my daughter-in-law, works as a free-lance graphic artist and yesterday one of her clients flew her up north for a consultation; that left my son, Donald, batching it for a few days and he joined my friend Wes and me for breakfast and a three-hour gab fest on Christian Apologetics.

Great fun!

Before I recount the highpoints of our conversation, I’d like to point out three interesting bits of computer stuff:

First: This morning Donald added a search box to the sidebar of my blog. That way, if you want to read something I wrote about in the past, all you have to do it type in a key word and hit the search button on the sidebar to get a list of postings.

That’s so cool…

Or it would be if I could remember what it is I wrote about in the past.

I can’t always.

Second: Sunday Wes posted his first ever blog entry. Yes, under my evil influence, he has started his own blog. He calls his blog I think, I Believe and you can find him at http://ithinksoibelieve.blogspot.com/ .

Third: Helen (the DIL who flew out of town) has fallen onto hard times and has been reduced to peddling cat tee-shirts. Although she is an accomplished graphic artist and web designer, she has taken to drawing pictures of her cats, CC and Perl — both named after computer programs — and selling them to make a living.

How sad.

But, if you are ever in the market to buy a tee shirt covered with cat hair, please visit her site at http://www.cafepress.com/ccandperl . To see other examples of her work, please check out her graphic art site at http://www.elemental.name/

Anyhow, with Helen being out of town, yesterday Donald joined Wes and me for one of our bi-weekly talks on family, life and theology — with a smattering of jokes unsuitable for mentioning on a G-rated blog. Like the one Wes told about the three rednecks finding the Dr. Pepper bottle on the beach. All three of us, being rednecks ourselves, enjoyed that one.

By Christian apologetics I simply mean reasons why we believe the things we believe. We are always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

Donald broached this subject by mentioning a recent sermon he’d heard refuting skepticism; he felt the preacher’s arguments were weaker than they could have been.

Donald said feels that much of our unbelief stems from a desire to be in control, that when we realize that we are not in control of most things going on around us, then we clutch at mastery and can not relax in God’s hand.

I said that I’ve encountered people who get mad at God over some pain they’ve experienced, say the death of a loved one. They imagine God as being one sort of being and when He lets them down, they feel disappointed and renounce Him. They say He does not exist.

I think they are right.

I think they have a perfectly valid point.

The creature they imagined does not exist.

Imaginary creatures don’t.

Wes said that my teleological and ontological (good words to try on that search sidebar) thoughts about God constitute an argument leading to the “highly probable” rather than a solid reason for belief. He said that we need to examine how we can “know” anything.

Wes said the most solid reason for believing in Christ is that God has chosen to reveal Himself and that by examining the Bible and applying Greenleaf’s laws of evidence, we can arrive at a confidant conviction.

(I hate to admit it, but I’ve forgotten what Greenleaf’s laws of evidence are; I think Greenleaf was a Harvard Law professor).

After kicking this ball around the field for a while, the three of us arrived at an interesting conclusion — that reasons and arguments matter little in witnessing to Christ before the skeptics of this world, that our living is more important than our talking.

While some people come to Christ on hearing a sermon or reading a book or sensing guilt, most of us become Christians because we’ve met someone who had something we didn’t have.

We crossed the path of some person who reflected God’s presence in their lives.

That dim reflection of the divine attracts (or repels) us. We want that undefined something for ourselves. And when we question the person whose life attracted us and they tell us that it is Christ in them the hope of glory, that’s when we begin to search for reasons why there has to be some other answer.

It’s that control thing again.

And that’s the point where knowing reasonable reasons for our faith come into play.

Our main duty is to walk so close to the Lord Jesus that something of Him rubs off on us. So that they see Him more than they see us. He attracts people, we don’t.

Like that old song says, “Oh Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine, till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me”.

Wes, Donald and I also agreed that we are altogether unconscious and unaware of having anything in us that the world sees as drawing them to Jesus. It’s there but we just don’t know about it. We can take no credit at all.

Here’s a case in point:

I vaguely remembered this incident and used that search box thingy on my sidebar to look up this diary entry. It’s from my diary on May 20, 1999:

As Gin & I walked home from the bus stop, a lady we have never spoken to but seen around in the neighborhood rushed out of her house waving her arms and yelling for us to wait and yelling back toward her house for “Lloyd”.

I thought there had been some kind of medical emergency and she needed help.

Not exactly...

Lucille, who lives on the corner, has watched Ginny and me as we walk to the bus stop, grocery store, church, etc. We hardly notice but it is often our custom to stroll along holding hands; and we almost always kiss hello and goodbye at the bus stop.

Therefore this lady, Lucille, has decided that we are the most loving people she has ever seen and she wanted to photograph us!

I felt so stupid and embarrassed standing in her yard against a background of flowering bushes while her husband, Lloyd (who was just as embarrassed as I was) had to find their camera, focus and snap pictures of me and Ginny.

Oh well, I supposed there are worse reasons to be photographed.

When I told the couple that any love we enjoy is just a reflection of the love that Jesus shows towards people, Lucille nudged Lloyd in the ribs and said, "See there. I tolt you it was something like that"!

Then our conversation veered into favorite quoted from that noted skeptic Mark Twain; my own favorite was, “Yes, the meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t keep it for long”.

So as steel sharpens steel, our minds whet each other.

Three guys sitting around, coffee cups clutched in our hands, Wes and me smoking our pipes and Donald puffing his cigar, joking and talking about things that matter to us, gossiping about absent friends, discussing personal problems, venting frustrations, and knowing that Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.

If church were more like that, I’d like to go more 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 @ 6:25 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Multi-Birthday Celebration — With Manatees!

Oh but I wish I’d taken my camera!

Four members of the Cowart clan have birthdays in July: Ginny, Donald, Helen and me. Since none of our birthdays fell on yesterday’s date, the kids chose that day for a collective observance.

Ginny and I do not pay any attention to our own birthdays and such but the custom is thoroughly entrenched in our children and they insist.

Our friend Barbara hosted the party for us all in a lounge at the retirement community where she lives. This beautiful facility sits on the shore of Turtle Lake, a large millpond, site of a water-powered saw mill back in the 1800s. A few bricks from that old mill remain along with a remnant of the dam and a replica of the waterwheel.

Barbara provided all sorts of civilized delicacies for our enjoyment including a chicken salad laced with white grapes and macadamia nuts, and an olive, pimento and cream cheese dip that I gorged on.

Our daughter Eve baked a strawberry cheese cake as well as a special birthday cake which she decorated so that one slice contained no icing because she knows I like my cake plain.

As usual, some of us exchanged cards and presents, and some didn’t. We all do whatever feels right on such occasions.

I received a shark jaws tee shirt (an ancient family jokes calls me, Gnaws, for when I lost my teeth) and a Hooter’s Calendar with a giant foldout suitable for a wall poster or it can be folded small to use as a bookmark in my Bible. (Plenty of laughs over that one).

Donald and Helen have wanted a water feature for the backyard in their new home, so we gave her a garden fountain — and him, a water pistol.

Afterwards, Barbara took her aluminum walker and led us on a tour:

We walked out on the dam; on the high side, we watched three species of large turtles sunning on a log and numerous water birds including an anhinga which we could see clearly underwater as it captured small fish. An old man in a wheelchair pointed out a four-foot alligator in the spillway on the low side of the dam.

The others abandoned the tour because of the heat but Jennifer and I walked out on a dock where we saw, right below our feet, a pod of huge manatees feeding on a raft of floating vegetation. The two adults, their backs scared by propeller slashes from power boats, weighted about 500 pounds (they were almost the size of our car) and the baby, un-scared as yet, looked to be the size of a coffee table.

Manatees have no natural enemy and no fear of man. Because they swim just below the surface, most are killed by boat propellers. A speed boat approached the dock and I warned them away from the grazing manatees.

Barbara led us over to a museum stocked by paintings, pottery and statues donated by former residents. Lovely things. Then she led us to a boutique, again stocked by residents’ contributions, where Ginny bought a red silk robe which looks lovely on her.

Then we visited the art center and I discovered that Barbara, who was an award-winning newspaper columnist before she retired, also has a talent for painting; three of her pictures hang in the art gallery.

I spotted one of her unfinished landscapes which immediately struck a cord for me as being just the thing to use as the cover for a collection of her columns which I’m gathering into a book. The connection between her painting and her book had not crossed her mind but to me the link was obvious.

Worn out, we all went our separate ways, older, wiser, happier.

I just wish I’d taken my camera for the manatees, the anhinga, the alligator… And, oh yes, the family.

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 @ 6:01 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Weddings And Worship

Last night Ginny and I watched a wedding on tv.

Thousands of couples chose yesterday, July 7th, 2007, as an auspicious day to exchange marriage vows; they considered 7/7/07 a lucky day.

In Nevada, couples could even have dozens of Elvis impersonators arrive at the service in a hot air balloon to escort the bride down the aisle and sing Love Me Tender to her.

More power to ‘em!

I wish them all joy.

Funny thing is that last week while I worked in the crawlspace repairing plumbing pipe, for some reason I got to thinking about worship and that train of thought naturally lead me to thinking about marriage.

No there is nothing romantic about broken pipes. Here I was lying on my belly in an inch or two of filthy water and mud in a dark, spider-infested crawlspace trying to twist around to saw off a rusty leaking pipe and, between hardy curses as I scraped my knuckles, thinking about worship.

Since we came back from vacation I’ve been reading a biography of Margery Kempe, a lady who lived between the years 1373 and 1438. I bought the book at a flea market while we were on vacation. She wrote the first female autobiography in the English language.

A stanch adherent to the Medieval church, Margery Kempe was noted for her extreme displays of behavior as she worshiped. Besides that, she comes across as a thoroughly obnoxious and aggravating busybody.

During church services, she often fell prostrate on the ground, rolling about, weeping and screaming. She felt the Holy Spirit had given her a gift which she called a Holy Shriek.

A holy shriek resounded much louder than an ordinary shriek, much to the consternation of other folks who tried to pray in the church.

Margery felt this noise to be an essential part of her worship.

Many of her contemporaries considered burning her as a demon-possessed witch, an idea which as I view it 500 years later finds some merit.

If you’ve ever watched the British tv series Keeping Up Appearances, think of Hyacinth with a strong religious bias.

If anyone is interested, they can find the text of Margery Kempe’s book at: http://www.holycross.edu/departments/visarts/projects/kempe/text/main.htm )

So, prostrate under the air conditioner and making certain grunts and noises which can in no way be construed as holy, I thought of Margery and her style of worship (which in no way represents my own).

The lady dressed in white and said she wanted to look like a saint; I dressed in an old swimsuit and looked like Bruce Willis at the tail end of a Die Hard movie.

But my face-down wallowing on the floor posture was the same as Margery’s.

A posture of private worship.

In long ago times, before lovers started writing their own wedding vows, an ancient traditional wedding service included these words:

"With this Ring I thee wed, with my Body I thee worship, and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow; In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Amen."

What in the world did that mean?

“With my body, I thee worship”.

The word worship is rooted in the word worth. In relationship to God, it means we acknowledge Him as worthy. We recognize His value. We regard Him as supreme. We relish His beauty and perfection.

Or, we don’t.

That is why the Scripture so condemns idol worship as a disgusting abomination; some people attribute to some thing the worth and value of God Himself.

But how does that phrase, “With my body, I thee worship”, (for the most part dropped from modern wedding ceremonies) fit into the Christian concept of worship?

I think that when I say to Ginny, “I worship you”, I’m saying that of all the beautiful, talented, charming, attractive women I see and have ever seen (and there are scores of such women in the world), I have chosen you as worthy of all my body can give. For me, you are the tops among a hundred thousand thousand contenders for the crown.

That doesn’t mean that others aren’t out there. They are. It does not mean that I’m oblivious to their existence or that I never notice them. I’m not blind. But it does means that forsaking all others I cleave to you. With my body, I thee worship.

In Saint John’s vision of Heaven, he saw then thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of people worshiping Christ saying, “Worthy is the Lamb which was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing…”

Who is He to receive all these things from?

From me.

From you.

Who else?

There is, of course, a flip side to this.

While we worship God, He judges us.

The word judge and the word worship, in practically, carry the same meaning — to ascribe value to, to determine the worth of, to appreciate, to treasure, to hold worthy.

Both words mean to give one’s honest opinion of someone or something.

Today and everyday we give our opinion of God.

On that great and terrible day of the Lord, He gives His opinion of us.

“This is my body, broken for you,” He once said.

“With my body, I Thee worship”.

Does anybody else see the connection?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:43 AM

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Horror Story

Friday I intended to resume work on the Ward Diary, the manuscript I’d intended to have finished editing back before we went on vacation. Instead, I crawled around in a crawlspace under the air conditioner repairing that leaky pipe all day.

That was a job for a guy skinner than I am.

A lot skinner!

Long, long ago our house had two bedrooms. Back in the dark ages, some former owner ripped out all interior walls and converted the house to three bedrooms. That meant that he constructed walls around the air conditioner drainage pipes so that they became inaccessible.

Bless him.

Over the years, these pipes became brittle. Now, they are leaking — or at least they were until yesterday.

I did finally get them fixed.

To do this, John Cowart, human contortionist, wiggled into the crawlspace beneath the machinery and sawed out a spaghetti bowl of old pipes, being careful not to move the brittle corroded sections for fear of breaking off something under the cement slab which the house sits on.

This is what writers do.

I’m sure Stephen King spends many of his days doing the same sort of thing. He must repair his own plumbing too; that’s why so many of his books involve people stuck in dark tunnels or caves or dilapidated houses.

While I found my plumbing experience horrible, I did not find it inspirational. I do not see writing horror fiction in my future.

In fact, I don’t see writing anything in my future.

All I see are ancient, corroded, dripping pipes with fittings so out of date that they don’t make them anymore.

That’s horror story enough for me.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:24 AM

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Friday, July 06, 2007

On Reestablishing Trust

“When you are young, you make your reputation; as you age, your reputation makes you”.

I forget who said that, but those words stuck with me yesterday as I had a three-hour long talk with my youngest daughter about drugs.

She assured me that she has done no drugs of any kind since our family helped her move back to Jacksonville.

I’m inclined to believe her. But then, I always have been. As the Scripture says, “Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth…”

Or, I may be a sucker when it comes to my children. I’ve tried to live an honest life before them and I’m inclined to assume honesty on their parts whenever they tell me anything.

She assures me that the ampoules her sisters found when they were cleaning her house Sunday when they went over to care for her during her sickness with those parasitic worms were old ones she’d found stuffed between sofa cushions as she unpacked from the move. She said that she’d put them on the kitchen counter to be thrown out in the trash, that she’d not bought any drug of any kind since before Christmas. She said that her physical symptoms we’ve remarked on are the result of the parasitic worm infection, not drug use. She said that as she’s been applying for different jobs that she’s always passed any test for drug use.

She feels hurt that the rest of us have suspected her.

But, all we really have to go on is history. When you’re young, you make your reputation, as you age, your reputation makes you. Once trust has been undermined, it takes a long time to reestablish it.

Forty years ago, I broke trust with my two older sons. They still regard me with distrust. Rightly so. They act guarded around me when I see them because they do not trust me not to hurt them again.

I can move on from the situation, but then, I’m not the one who was hurt.

I’m the one who did the hurting and I seriously doubt if I will ever live that down.

Who knows what fine things Benedict Arnold did in later life?

Perhaps the only way to amend things we have done in the past is to live a transparent life in the present, to accept the scrutiny of those around us knowing that we are suspect.

I imagine that one reason Christ converts wicked people is to demonstrate before men and angels and skeptical families that He is Lord, that He can save to the uttermost, that no case is hopeless in His hands.

And, if the world see us stumble and fall, what of it?

“The steps of a good person ARE ordered by the Lord, and if he stumble and fall, it is not fatal for the Lord shall lift him up”.

I urged my daughter to be absolutely honest with me in all things as I am with her. Her whole family has proved how willing we all are to help and we all want to be sure we are giving her real help, not contributing to her past addiction.

Because we love her, we are inclined to believe in her.

Then, having given my DAD LECTURE # 834, I displayed a measure of trust in that I let her take off a manuscript copy, the only manuscript copy, of some documents which are extremely important to me.

Then I said it was a shame she was sick last weekend because I’d wanted to take her fishing.

“Fishing?” she questioned. “Why would you want to take me fishing when I was so sick”.

“Well,” I explained, “I could supply the rod and reel, and you could have supplied the worms”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:46 AM

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Leaky Pipe

Water floods our hall floor.

I spend much of my 4th of July either in a hardware store or in a dark, tight crawlspace trying to repair a leaky pipe.

It still leaks.

I’ll spend much of my 5th of July in that same crawlspace.

Didn’t my forefathers fight the Revolution to free me from having to do things like this?

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 @ 5:56 AM

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Impatience, The Big Map, & Sheep Transport

It has come to my attention that God has been very slow about granting me the virtue of patience.

This divine sluggishness frustrates me.

I think He really ought to get a move on.

Not that I’m criticizing God, you understand, but if I were in His shoes, a lot of things would be different around here.

For instance, I did not get around to seeing my daughter yesterday. I’d planned to go see her and convey wise counsel about her drug situation (What I call conveying wise counsel is what my wife and kids call nagging).

However circumstances —some of which I had no control over and some of which I did — intervened.

Another daughter pointed out that no one has asked for my help or input. Another pointed out that this “crisis” is not a crisis but the latest episode in a series that has dragged on for years.

Drug problems do not lend themselves to a quick fix.

Me, I always go for the quick fix. I get impatient with people and problems and want them to go away so that my own life can resume a smooth course.

The Lord has other ideas.

He is never rushed about anything.

God Almighty is not given to panic.

He knows what He’s doing. My role is to trust and obey.

But I am an impatient man. For the past couple of weeks my tiny store of patience has been sorely tried. When things do not go the way I think they should, I want to manipulate and finagle and circumvent so that they do.

In analysis, even my prayers for others — no matter how I word them to sound nice — turn out to really mean: “Lord, make them do as I wish!”, “Make things turn out as I want”, “Force people to see things the way I see them”.

Is it any wonder that the God of the whole universe pays so little attention to my “intercessory prayers”?

Even when I pray for patience for myself, what I really mean is that I’m frustrated and want things to change to my liking.

Being impatient makes me feel uncomfortable.

I don’t want to be uncomfortable, I don’t want to be patient; I want the situation to change so I do not need to feel impatient.

I do not want to fit into God’s plans for people I care about. I want God and man and the universe to fit into my plan of how things should go.

Every thing should be ordered to my personal comfort and convenience.

Don’t you think so?


You mean that ain’t the way things are supposed to work?

Mulling over this this morning, I began to envision God’s will as a giant rolled-up map of the United States.

This map would cover a football field; it’s huge. It shows every major highway, every river, every city, every cow path, all the back roads, every mountain, every swamp, every bike and bridle trail, every contour line. Broad roads, red roads, blue roads, broken-dotted roads. Roads that peter out. Roads that go somewhere.

This huge, broad map lies in a tight roll in the end-zone of the football stadium.

I’m part of the ground crew unrolling the map.

As it slowly unrolls I can only see the tiny section unrolled before my eyes. Other people lined up on either side of me see the tiny section in front of their own eyes.

The Lord knows the whole map; He drew the thing in the first place.

But each one of us follows the roads and paths we see in front of our faces.

I do not see the grand overview of what God is doing in history or in the lives of the people I pray for, my readers, my acquaintances, my friends, my family, my children, my wife.

For me to superimpose my view, my will, my plans, on these people is ridiculous.

No wonder I feel frustrated and impatient when I try.

Why does God frustrate me so?

Yesterday my friend Barbara mentioned those stained-glass windows we’ve all seen of Christ as the Good Shepherd; He stands with a limp lamb draped over His shoulders…

NOTE: when I was a kid back in the 1940s, one of my aunts had a fox-fur that she wore like that. Fascinated me. It was made of a real fox. It still had the ears and eyes and paws and bushy tail. Cool. This aunt smoked her cigarettes in a long amber holder too. Cool!

Anyhow, Barbara referred to the Scripture about how the Good Shepherd would leave the ninety and nine sheep in the fold and go out after the one lost sheep. She said that when the Shepherd caught the stray, He’d break one of it’s legs so the dumb varmint would not keep wandering off again. That’s why He had to carry it on His shoulder.

Now, I doubt if any real shepherd would break the leg of one of his own sheep; that just does not seem kosher to me. (Although God doesn’t seem to be given to half-way measures; He’s serious about love).

And I doubt if a real shepherd would ever drape a sheep over his shoulders — those things aren’t housebroken, you know.

Neither are babies riding on daddy’s shoulders says the voice of remembered experience!

But, apart from realism, the Good Shepherd with said sheep does make a picturesque stained-glass window. I’m not knocking that.

However, I do wonder if when I wander off into dumb and dangerous situations, and Christ has to track me down, I do wonder if He does not have to hobble me, to restrain me from what I want to do, to frustrate me in my plans.

I wonder if what He’s doing is not only saving me but also teaching me patience.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 1:53 PM

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Bombed Out

Sunday anti-terrorism officers ordered the evacuation of Jacksonville’s downtown core because a gentleman from Morocco threatened to blow up the city with a car bomb.

He parked his car, with loud Arabic music blaring from it, in the area between City Hall and the Jacksonville Landing, a popular local strip mall on the river. Then he paraded in the streets near the main library shouting Arabic slogans and saying his car bomb would destroy the city.

This came on the heels of two massive car bombs filled with gasoline, explosives and nails had been defused in London on Friday; and a car exploded when rammed by two Asian men into the terminal at the Glasgow airport on Saturday.

There proved to be no bomb in the car here in Jacksonville, but the threat closed the city core and the Main Street Bridge while police arrested Yossef Bouchlarhem, age 34, then searched his car and home for explosives.

Full news coverage of the incident can be found at the Times-Union website at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/070207/met_181501414.shtml

Except for hearing snippets of radio news, Ginny and I were hardly aware of the excitement downtown as we peacefully dabbled in our garden and finished our pool cleaning project.

My main concern as we worked and relaxed was how to handle the impatience which has overshadowed my life and thoughts this past week. I’ve been thinking about my impatience and planning to write about it in my journal today…

That has to wait.

Last night a major emotional bomb exploded in our family.

Our youngest daughter has been sick with a parasitic infection. One sister took her to the hospital emergency room for treatment; another bought her prescriptions. We have all called and visited to see she had everything she needed. We have all tried to be supportive emotionally, financially, and physically…

Last night her sister and my daughter-in-law went over to do her dishes, clean house, cook her dinner, and nurse her.

Like that time back around Christmas, they again found more evidence of her drug use.

She asked them to leave her house.

A flurry of phone calls among family members followed.

Believing her when she said she was drug-free, we have exhausted ourselves and our resources trying to help her. We helped her move from Gainesville, gave her places to stay while she searched for a house to rent, bought her groceries and gas, gave her job tips, cut her grass, opened our homes, did what ever we could to help.

We want to help her get established without being enablers to drug use.

We truly love her. We value her. We see great potential in her beauty, charm, character and intelligence. It makes us sick to see her undervalue herself, to see her wasted.

It pains us to see her circling the drain.

We grieve.

None of us knows what to do next.

At our wits end.

Later this morning I plan to go over to her house. I’m at a loss. I have no idea what I’ll say. I’m walking on eggs here. How to help without enabling?

Drugs contributed to her dropping out of college, to job losses, to family tensions, to financial hardship…

Yet I can’t tell if the drug use is a cause or a symptom of her pain.

We all want to at least see her through the physical part of this parasite thing (at the hospital she ran a 103 degree fever) but the drug use… That’s another matter and I don’t know how to deal with it.

Ginny and I (and the others) went through years of horror and depression and anguish when she was a teenager involved in drugs. I don’t think we can face that sort of thing again now that she’s an adult.

The whole situation scares me.

Like the guy who brought his possessed son to Jesus, I can only say, “Lord, I believe; Help Thou my unbelief”.

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 @ 6:10 AM

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