Rabid Fun

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

Friday, August 31, 2007

I’ve Been Waiting For This Word

I didn’t know it, but I’ve been waiting for this.

Among the many projects of my son, Donald, initiated on his computer network is a free daily devotional thought e-mailed to readers each day.

Donald’s site is at http://www.rdex.net/devotions/

Time and time again, the brief Scripture and thoughts in these devotionals have been just what I needed to get through whatever I’m going through at that moment.

Sometimes the flowery expressions of these ol’timey Christians leave me cold and I just delete the e-mail file after a quick scan — but other times, their phrasing sparks wonder, and their thoughts really help me get through my own tough day.

For instance:

This morning I’m on pins and needles waiting for an important phone call. While twiddling my thumbs and impatiently resisting the urge to push ahead and call the guy myself, I read the following thought from Charles Spurgeon, who wrote this in the year 18Whatever:


"Wait on the Lord." — Psalm 27:14

It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God's warriors than standing still.

There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do?

Vex itself by despair?

Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption?

No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid.

In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God.

But wait in faith. Express your un-staggering confidence in Him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord.

Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it.

Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, "Now, Lord, not my will, but Thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until Thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if Thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon Thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for Thee in the full conviction that Thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower."

Donald’s site is at http://www.rdex.net/devotions/

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

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Working Along The Way

See the author’s photo with all those road signs in the background?

No, we did not make her stand out in traffic with her aluminum walker.

Yesterday as we worked on Barbara White’s Along The Way series (divided that huge file of pages into four books of 200+ pages each), my daughter-in-law, Helen, an accomplished graphic artist, engineered an author’s photo for the back cover of the books.

No famous newspaper columnists were harmed in this experiment. Barbara was actually standing in front of a flowering bush when Helen did the headshot.

Helen also designed a new logo for my book publishing endeavor:

That’s a single photo! Now I can insert this logo with one click of my mouse instead of the tedious, frustrating, hair-pulling process I’ve been going through to space this thing on the back cover of my books.

It pays to ask for expert help.

Just a single click now — WHEEE!


Enough giddiness. Here’s Barbara’s guest blog column for today:

We’re All Adopted

One day in a fit of adolescent anger, in rebellion against a stricture I was placing on his behavior, my son yelled that I had no right to tell him what to do because I wasn't even really his mother.

I surprised him. Without a moment's hesitation I put my hands on my hips, stared upward at him for eye contact (he's more than 6 feet tall) and said, "Oh, yes I am, and don't you forget it."

My son is adopted. He had picked what he thought might be a red herring of sufficient size to throw me off guard for a moment and let him drive home his version of how he should behave.

He may have been testing my feelings about him, too, consciously or unconsciously.

But fortunately I had already thought that through. I know that adoption made him really my son.

And he understood my answer, for he was grinning as he stalked off into his room.

Adoption is a legal matter. In the eyes of the law, the adopted person has all the status of a natural heir, a child of the body. It is a relationship bestowed by the new parent and certified by the courts.

Perhaps my son was wondering in his own mind and heart whether he was truly a son and heir, or whether if he rejected me, I would reject him. But adoption produces more than a legal offspring. It makes the one adopted a true child of the house and an heir in the full sense of those words.

When we become children of God, we do so through adoption. I wonder sometimes if we really feel like God's adopted children. Sometimes we may feel as unsure of our status as my own son did about his that day.

Jesus is God's Son, the only one born His Son; all the rest of us are His children by adoption.

But our adoption was paid for with more than the time, effort, and even money we pay when we adopt children. Our adoption fee was shed by Jesus on the cross.

Would you pay that much to adopt a child?

Jesus compared human and heavenly fathers. Earthly fathers would give their children good things out of what they had to give, he said. How much more would the heavenly father give to his.

When I stand and yell at God that I'm not really His child, it's out of fear that I might not be His child, that I might, somehow, have fallen out of the family.

But I know my son is my son.

And I know I am His child.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:13 AM

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stacking Eggs

The final stages in formatting a book resembles building a tower of playing cards.

Each section I add, each header or footer, each font change, any move I make can bring the whole thing down in shambles.

I remember how with the Ward Diary I discovered a fatal error just two days before I’d intended to publish that work; that discovery set me back weeks before I could correct it and finish the book.

I’ve arrived at another shaky point now with Barbara White’s manuscripts. Looks as though I have material for four books here… But formatting them is like stacking eggs.

Because I feel her work is so important and because I’m so nervous about the process of formatting it — I do so want to get it right — I’m going to knock off blog posting myself for a couple of days and post guest columns she wrote.

Here’s a sample:

The Hard Choice Between Good And Best

I had to leave a discussion before it was finished the other day — a situation that causes me to return over and over to an unsettled question.

In this case the topic was that portion of the Lord's Prayer in which we ask Him not to lead us into temptation, or not to put us to the test.

What does it mean, asking God not to lead us into temptation?

The suggestion was made that it meant asking God not to put before us really hard choices — not choices concerning things we can see are wrong, like adultery or stealing — but choices between Him and good things we hold really dear.

For example, one member of the group told of realizing right in the middle of a Little League soccer match that he did not know where the Lord was in the whole thing. He shared the strange feeling the thought had given him and said he hoped he would not have to choose between soccer, which he loves, and his Lord.

What could possibly be wrong with having that kind of fun, asked another member of the group. And we began to consider the importance in our lives of "having fun."

Football fans in the group stood solidly by their intention to watch the Super Bowl. They said they did not think that made them awful persons — a conclusion with which I agree, by the way.

What the hockey fan meant was not that hockey was "wrong," but that he hoped (prayed?) that God would not lead him to the point of having to choose between hockey and the Lord.

Having fun is not wrong — unless the Lord has asked us to leave that fun and serve Him in another way. It is not having fun that is wrong, but our pursuit of happiness (a national right!) when it takes us along any road that is not the one our Lord has chosen and marked out for us.

There is nothing wrong with such innocent pleasures for anyone before whom God has placed a specific choice. It may still be all right for every other Christian, but the Lord may say, "It is wrong for the you I want you to be, so choose."

The degree of difficulty in that "test" will depend on the degree of attachment sports has for you.

But what if the Lord puts a choice before you between serving Him or pleasing your mother and father? What if He puts the choice of helping a stranger or helping your children?

God wouldn't ask that, you might say indignantly.

But I believe He might and that is the kind of test I ask Him not to put before me, though I think that is exactly what He meant when He said we had to be willing to go instantly to the marriage feast when called.

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 @ 5:02 AM

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Me & God's Pigeons

Grateful readers ought to erect a statue of me in the park — or at least award me a kernel of corn.

About 5 a.m. this morning after another 20+ hour marathon at the computer, I finally finished scanning in that shopping bag full of Barbara White’s newspaper features. (See my August 20th posting).

The result adds up to 758 pages of text in Word.

Now, all I have to do is turn this raw material into a book (or books).

Since each feature in those 758 pages came from between 2 to six columns of news print and since because of wrinkles, fold, staples, tape, torn ages, uneven copy and bleeds of ink from pages behind — each column had to be scanned one at a time.

Thus, I’ve spent a lot of time recently hunched over the scanner.

This has been pure dogged clerical work; I keep thinking that I could be replaced by a trained pigeon.

Yes, long ago I saw a tv documentary about how some pharmaceutical company had trained pigeons to work in the production of the life-saving prescriptions we take.

Don’t you find that comforting?

They taught the pigeons to tap computer keys in a specific sequence to manufacture the pills. If the pigeon tapped the keys right, a kernel of corn dropped down a chute; if the pigeon goofed, no corn.

Saves the company from having to hire Chinese workers to manufacture the same drugs.

Pigeons work cheep (Lord, I’m clever!) — almost as cheap as I do.

But I don’t think my job is in danger.

Most American pigeons don’t want to do the work I do.

Speaking of pigeons, remember the collapse of that bridge In Minneapolis, Minnesota, that killed all those people on August first?

Well, a study just came out which blames the disaster on pigeons!

Yes, pigeons!

The weight of pigeons roosting under the bridge and their corrosive droppings made the bridge fall killing all those people… If the pigeons can be blamed, then the disaster was an Act of God and the insurance companies don’t have to pay.

It’s all God’s fault.

There’s a news story about the pigeons on the bridge at http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6869086,00.html .

I wonder who paid to have this study done?

No, that couldn’t be. Insurance companies are honest.

It had to really have been the pigeons’ fault.

The Bible says that God knows every sparrow that falls; it does not say a word about pigeons.

I’ll bet that Hell is just full of burning pigeon feathers.

Or maybe that’s insurance papers I smell burning.

Speaking of acts of God, I took Ginny out to see one this morning because last night we got into an argument.

You see, while we agree on major issues: politics, religion, Iraq, global warming, etc., other issues divide us.

I’ve heard that if you take care of the big issues, the little ones fall into line.


That’s nonsense.

I’ve never heard of a marriage in trouble over nuclear disarmament; it’s the little things that rub.

Our argument last night was over relish.

We ate hotdogs for supper. Hotdogs with mustard and relish.

I scrapped out the last smidgen of relish from the bottom of the jar to go on the last hotdog I had …

Then I went to toss out the empty jar.

That woman I married stopped me.

She said there was still relish in the bottom of the jar.

I said there wasn’t.

She said there was.

She said the bone-empty jar still contained enough relish scraps for a potato salad.

I defended my evaluation of the relish jar.

A heated discussion developed.

I slouched off to the tv room to watch football; she slammed things around in the kitchen.

Irreconcilable differences.

For a time.

It’s all ok now because I’m so thoughtful. Sort of.

As a gesture of conciliation, at 5 a.m. this morning I woke her up to go out in the yard with me to see the eclipse of the moon. Wasn’t that a thoughtful husbandly act?

Shouldn’t viewing a beautiful act of God together strength our relationship?

Not being a nature lover, Ginny proved un-conciliatorized.

She did not relish getting up an hour earlier than usual.

But she got to laughing at my enthusiasm.

It’s all ok between us now.

But, know this: If our marriage ever does break up, it will be all her fault — Hey, I’m not the one who married an idiot.

Back to the statue of me and the pigeons:

When I was a kid there was a funny popular song about a sailor who thought a stature should be erected of himself because of his heroism in World War II.

I only remember the refrain about the pigeons in the park and his statue:

They build nests on Lincoln,
And they build nests on Lee,
Oh, what will they do on me?
On me. Oh, what will they do on me?

That song keeps running through my head this morning.

And I have this strange craving for a kernel of corn!

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:04 AM

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Monday, August 27, 2007


Last week my elastic broke.

Like every other well-dressed writer here in Florida in the midst of a drought and 98+ degree weather, my work uniform consists of a cotton tee shirt and a pair of swim trunks. I usually work barefoot too.

Being of robust physique, I place a certain amount of strain on my swim trunks and last week the elastic waistband broke. Any time I got up from my desk to even walk across the room, I had to keep one hand in my pocket to keep my trunks from dropping to my ankles.

I have other swim trunks but this pair is my favorite; I’m reluctant to give them up.

In my many, many years as the father of six children I have learned a few things.

So while Ginny shopped for other things in the Wal-Mart, I wandered into the new-born and infants section looking for diaper pins.

Couldn’t find any.

I ask two sales ladies. One had never even heard of diaper pins (too young); the other had heard of them but could not recall having seen any for years. The three of us searched high and low and eventually found a card of four diaper pins on a side aisle spike.

Diaper pins are extra-large safety pins used to hold cloth diapers (apparently those are no longer stocked either) onto a baby; Disposal paper diapers used tape.

I don’t think there was any such thing as disposal diapers when our kids were little, only cotton cloth squares to be folded into triangles and pinned at the points. Bet I could still do it. These diapers needed to be washed and Ginny and I still remember how to do that too.(We did not own a washing machine in those days and diapers had to be done by hand — something you don’t forget).

The big selling point of diaper pins is that they sport a large head with a snap so that the pin will not spring open and prick the baby.


Once home, I gathered a pleat in my swim trunks and pined it securely in front right where a belt buckle would be.

Looked a bit odd but since I work alone 95% of the time, who’s to notice or care?

Worked fine.


I saw a bug earlier this morning — an unusual occurrence, unheard of here in Florida (according to the Chamber of Commerce).

I squatted down to swat it with a shoe — and my diaper pin sprang open.

I noticed immediately.

Those things hurt!

A pin in the bellybutton provokes a response (I wonder if that’s why babies used to cry so much?).

As the rare, strange, unusual, unheard of roach escaped, a Scripture verse sprang into my mind. It relates to the conversion of the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

He’d been persecuting Christians when a bright light knocked him off his horse and a voice from Heaven spoke to Paul.

Paul said, “Who art thou, Lord”?

The shining Speaker identified Himself as Jesus and said, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”.

Now it’s easy for me to think that Jesus was warning Paul about getting along with other Christians.

But, Bible scholars say that’s not what the verse means.

Apparently, Jesus was referring to pricks of conscience, those little thoughts that nudge us toward God even when we don’t want to think about Him, those ideas that come seemingly out of no where that make us uncomfortable with what we are and what we do.

Pricks of conscience. That sudden bitter-sweet yearning for Home, that hunger that can not feed on this land’s bread, that longing for Something more, that yearning for Someone we will only recognize when we see Him.

The still, small voice of God. The voice we recognize, but don’t want to.

These pricks are hard to escape, to avoid, to rationalize, to ignore.

When God tells you something, you know it. Down deep, He is hard to ignore — but that’s possible if we really set our minds to it. God is a gentleman; He doesn’t rape anybody. If we insist, He will let us go our own way (wherever that leads).

It is hard to kick against the pricks — but it is possible.

So, when I felt the prick of the open diaper pin this morning, maybe, just maybe, it was a prick from God telling me to loose weight.

Nah! That can’t be right. God loves me just as I am, doesn’t He? Perhaps I should study the Scripture to be sure if that is what He’s telling me.

Trouble is, as my friend Barbara said in one of her newspaper columns: God loves us just as we are, and too much to let us stay that way.

Here’s an odd aside:

Back 30 years ago or so, the elastic in my undershorts broke and I could not find a safety pin to hold them up. I rummaged in Ginny’s jewelry box and came up with this huge costume jewelry broach given her by her mother. It glittered with sparkling red, green, yellow and blue stones.

No one will ever see I thought, and pined the front of my drooping underwear together. I was a bachelor once and I remembered how guys repair clothing.

As I padded down the hall in my briefs from shaving in the bathroom to our bedroom to dress, I encountered the kids in the hall.

“What’s that you’re wearing, Daddy,” they chorused.

“Hush! Go back to your rooms,” I said. “Those are the family jewels”.

Thirty plus years have passed and the rascals still tease me about that.

I’ll never live it down.

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 @ 4:19 AM

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jesus Made Me Lose My Santa Suit.

I used to own a Santa Claus suit — red velvet, white fur trim, wide shiny black belt, high black boots, snowy beard, tasseled red cap.

During the season I’d wear it to amuse the kids — (and on one memorable occasion to amuse Ginny, but we won’t go there).

Anyhow, years ago this guy asked to borrow my Santa suit for some charity thing.

I loaned it to him.

He never returned it.

And I never asked for it back.

I can’t.

Jesus said not to.

“Give to every man that asketh of thee,” He said, “And of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again”.

I wish He hadn’t said that.

It would have been nice if He’d have stuck to talking about the flowers of the field and the birds of the air… But Jesus tends to meddle in real life.

According to Him, I’m to give, to loan things without ever asking for them back.

This situation has percolated in my mind recently because a couple of weeks ago this neighbor borrowed something from me for the weekend with the promise that he’d return them on Monday.

When I loaned the tools I casually mentioned that I’d need them back to do my own yard. I felt reluctant to let him take off my tools in the first place, and I worried that he’d dull the blades, and I hinted that I really wanted them back on Monday…

And he said he’d return them Monday…

But that was Mondays and Mondays and Mondays ago.

He still hasn’t returned them.

Sorry bastard!

Why in the world would Jesus let him get away with it?

If Christian bill collectors followed Jesus’ instruction, they’d loose their jobs.

If you don’t ask for it back, you’ll never get it back and come Christmas, you’ll be naked beneath the tree (but that’s another story and I said we won’t go there).

Why did Jesus tell us to let things go without asking for them back?

I wonder if He did it to emphasize that the borrower is responsible for keeping his own promise. When we say we will do something, we are to do it.

Jesus practiced what He preached. Why, when He borrowed a tomb from Joseph of Arimathaea, He returned it just as He said He would. He returned it in good order. Hardly used. He even folded up the grave clothes.

On the other hand, I wonder if this teaching of Christ’s about not asking for things back lets me know how much of a hold possessions have on me. I loaned that guy my Santa suit over 20 years ago and it still galls me that he didn’t return it.

Is that red suit so important that I harbor 20 years’ worth of resentment?

Do I own those missing tools, or do they own me?

My Bible contains 1,341 pages. Not one single word in those pages tells me what somebody else ought to do.

Not one single word!

It never says “They shalt not steal” it only says, “John Cowart, thou shalt not steal”.

I think it should tell them what to do. In fact, if I were to write the Bible, it would be a lot different. But I didn’t, so it’s not.

The Scripture never tells how somebody else ought to treat me, only how I am to treat them.

And I treat them nice!

Yes indeed, over the years I have loaned people clothes, and tools and money and boo….

Oh. Damn!

Out of the corner of my eye I see in my bookcase that copy of Archbishop Fenelon’s book on Christian Perfection that I borrowed from Mr. Darby over four years ago…

I said I’d return it to him in a week….

Let’s forget that I ever wrote this posting. OK?

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 @ 6:46 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Friday, August 24, 2007

Remembering Blind Sam

My buddy Sam read the Bible with his fingers.

Sam had been born blind and had never seen anything at all. Yet back in the 1970s he learned Braille, graduated from college, got married, and became the pastor of a small rural church near Jacksonville.

Sam became interested in a method of evangelism I used in a rescue mission where I volunteered and in street preaching. It involved drawing stick-figure paintings to illustrate Bible stories.

Sam asked me to teach him to draw pictures.

A man born blind drawing pictures!


But with God all things are possible.

After much prayer, we had an idea.

I got a long, wide wooden board out of a dumpster, painted it white, and tacked small white nails in a pattern of a picture illustrating a Bible verse along this board. The nail heads protruded about a quarter of an inch.

Thick lengths of different colored knitting yarn were fastened at anchor points at the bottom of the board.

Sam learned the sequence of weaving each strip of yarn among the nail heads to draw a Bible picture. His skill at this amazed onlookers and several watchers turned to Christ on hearing the blind man’s message.

With God, all things are possible.

Here is an old photo (taken about 1972?) of people paying attention to Sam’s preaching on a street corner while drawing with yarn:

The Bible verse Sam is illustrating is Romans 6:23 — “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord”.

Speaking of sin:

Once a bunch of us guys were standing around talking, as Christian guys are wont to do, about temptation — especially as it relates to ogling sexy women.

One of the guys teased Sam saying it must not be a problem for him since he, in spite of being married, had never actually seen a woman.

“It’s worse for me than for you guys,” he said. “When a woman walks by, you can see if she’s a dog or not. To me, every time I hear any woman’s step or voice, in my mind I see her as a raving beauty wearing a filmy silk negligee. Every woman!”

“How do you know about filmy silk negligees?” a guy asked.

“Reading the Bible is not the only thing I can do with my fingers,” Sam said.


As I scanned Barbara White’s columns into my computer Thursday, for some reason I got to thinking about Sam….

After I wrote the above journal posting, my friend Wes came over to take me to breakfast. We talked about plans and friends and family… When he asked about my youngest daughter and we talked about things that happened years ago, a crying jag struck me and I could not stop crying for the longest time.

Utter damn wimp! Or maybe my sleep deprivation led to my crying jag. Or maybe something else was at work.

I’m ok now. Maybe I’m just cracking up.

I know the Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He is my Lord, but I’m experiencing darn little peace at the moment.

That phrase “Help of the helpless” does mean something —not sure what right now.

Victory in Jesus - I can do all thing through Christ which strengthens me - we shall overcome — and all that jazz.

Isn’t that how faith is supposed to work?

But as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

So I weep a little.

Big deal.

I’ll survive.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:47 AM

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

I’m Not Commendably Decent At This Hour

It’s almost 4 a.m. and I’ve been at work for three hours now — yes, a disturbing dream woke me up a bit earlier than usual.

In my dream Ginny got into a shouting match with a waitress in a crowded restaurant. Considering that in our 40 years of marriage, I’ve never heard Ginny shout at anybody for anything, you can see why I found this dream disturbing.

Once awake I continued scanning Barbara White’s 15-years-worth of newspaper columns. I’m about a third of the way through now (my blog for Monday, August 20th describes the project).

I’m tired so here is a sample column from Barbara:

Commendably Decent

Now I know how the company that makes Kleenex feels when somebody calls some other tissue by that name.

I have just learned that Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary says the word Christian can be used to describe someone as "commendably decent or generous."

The person doesn't even have to believe in Jesus Christ.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. has fiercely protected the use of the name Kleenex.

Obviously, Christ's followers haven't done the same about the word Christian.

We have allowed what it means to follow Christ to be so watered down that being commendably decent is enough to earn that precious title.

Jesus, who died on the cross, was not just commendably decent.

He was a great deal more than that. I believe His followers are to be more than that, too.

He was tenderly loving to sinners. He was passionately confronting to hypocrites. He abandoned His own interests in obedience to the Father — to the point of death.

I'm afraid people don't see that when they look at us. That's why Christianity has become something so wan as to qualify for the description of merely decent.

The problem is most of us really don't "die." :

We surrender to God here and there in little ways — in decency and generosity. But we do not "die" in the big ways — in surrender of our wills to His will or in giving our lives for others.

We just don't.

So I suppose we have earned that new definition.

Sadly, many of us appear to be satisfied with that definition. It asks no more than we can easily give.

These Christians ask very little of anyone else, of course. They settle for this least common denominator and call it love and acceptance.

On the other hand, some of us ask a lot more — only we ask it of others. And we don't ask, we demand. Then we condemn those who don't meet our demands.

Jesus could speak pretty harshly when He chose. But mostly only the Pharisees received the brunt of His harshness. And it was their insistence that other people follow their dictates that brought out Jesus' strongest words of condemnation.

Some people have embraced a weak imitation of Christianity because of the teachings of certain Christians.

Some have turned their backs on Jesus because of the actions of others.

What a quandary.

Do I have a solution? I think I do.

As a follower of Jesus Christ I believe I must be tremendously tough and enormously loving and tender.

I must demand a great deal of myself in the areas where God has spoken to me. My God will deal with me according to His wisdom, power and goodness — if I am willing to let Him do it.

He will show me what is needed to make me like Jesus — much more than commendably decent.

And I must allow others to be dealt with the same way — by God. I should tell them what I believe to be God'’s truth, but I must leave the Spirit room to work.

Jesus said that when He is lifted up He will draw all men to Him.

So Christians need to lift Jesus up. That means we need to become so filled with Him that He is all people see when they look at us.

I'm afraid we have been too busy lifting up our own versions of who He is and not the Lord Himself. I'm afraid we will lose sight of who He is ourselves if we do that long enough.

Barbara’s own blog, Along The Way, can be found at http://alongthewaybybw.blogspot.com/

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 @ 4:04 AM

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm A Loving Man!

I am sympathetic, loving, generous, and kind — and I’ll kick the kneecaps off anybody that says otherwise!

Case in point:

As Ginny and I ate supper last night, a guy from down the street knocked on our front door. At the sound of the knock, I said, “Damn! Somebody at the door. Tell ‘em to go the hell away”.

Ginny let him in anyhow and as my supper got cold, he told me that his niece had died.

“She was young, just 32,” he said. “She died in her sleep. When her husband went into wake her up, she wouldn’t wake up. She looked the picture of health but her heart gave out. And my brother drowned last week; he was out fishing up in Georgia and fell out of the boat. Couldn’t swim and went under. Death is sweeping my family”.

As he talked, all I could think about was my supper getting cold.

I must be a super hypocrite because Ginny says I treated this guy with sympathy and understanding.

It may have appeared that way, but my heart was not in it.

I never met his niece or his brother, I barely know the guy himself. His troubles, his family’s troubles mean nothing to me. No more than earthquake victims in Peru or trapped miners in Utah, or Category 5 Hurricane Dean victims in Mexico.

Oh sure, I’ll say a perfunctory prayer for such people, but I don’t get all worked up over their plight.

This should bother me more than it does.

Yet, in times past, I’ve prayed for Christ to give me a loving heart.

He must have put that prayer on the spike to be gotten around to later.

Maybe I should amend my prayer to ask for a conveniently loving heart, one that won’t let my supper get cold.

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 @ 7:34 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Remember Pantyhose

With so many women on the Internet (Jellyhead, Heather, Moogie, etc.) all talking about shoes this week, it’s only natural that my thoughts should turn to pantyhose.

Now, I hardly ever wear pantyhose myself — they bind — but years ago, I used to buy some every few weeks.

I bought them to use as a visual aid when I taught Bible lessons at a rescue mission. Actually, the pantyhose themselves, I gave to Ginny; but the pantyhose containers came in handy to illustrate one of my Bible lessons.

Haven’t seen them around for years but back in the 70s, there used to be a brand of pantyhose called, I think, Leggs. As a marketing ploy, that company packaged their pantyhose in large, hollow, white plastic eggs which measured about four inches in length.

It was the plastic eggs I used to teach about the new birth Christ offers.

People are like eggs.

We all look the same on the outside. Hard to tell much difference when you look at us, but some eggs have life inside, others don’t.

I displayed two identical eggs which I’d prepared beforehand to the men and women at the mission.

The eggs look the same, feel the same, weigh the same — and every one of them is potentially alive.

If an egg does not have life within it, it goes rotten.

I’d recruit a volunteer from the audience and crack open one egg on his head (my Bible lessons were serious affairs). That egg proved full of black dripping goooo. (That got folks attention).

If there is life within, (I’d crack open the second egg to reveal a cute fuzzy yellow chick)…

Jesus said, that He came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. Paul said that without Christ living within us, we are dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus said, He stands at the door and knocks; He promises to come into us if we open that door…

Eggs eventually crack open.

So do people.

Life within — or putrefaction.

And that life comes from the outside; the egg does get life by itself. It must come from a higher source, a living source.

You can’t tell whether an egg is living or putrefying by looking at the shell… You know, a lot of people look at Christians and say there’s no difference between us and a nonbeliever.

They’re right.

On the surface, there isn’t.

We both, godly and ungodly alike, wash our cars, watch the ball game, change the baby, wait for payday… No external difference.

The world finds this disappointing. They expect more of people who claim to walk with God. They think we should glow in the dark or something. They point with glee when some tv preachers runs off with the money, or the choir leader — or both… The world expects Christians to be different, to be a cut above, to fly higher…

Well, no egg can fly.


But there will come a day, a day when all eggs crack open, when our rottenness or our living beauty will be revealed.

The difference between people and eggs is that eggs have no choice as to whether they are rotting inside or growing up to fly.

Eggs have no choice.

We do.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:38 AM

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Shuffling Paper

For years and years and years, I have prayed that the Lord would let me publish a significant book.

I wanted to publish a book which would advance His kingdom, win souls, bring joy to the hearts of men, uplift humanity, rescue fair damsels in distress, strengthen the faint-hearted, comfort the feeble-minded, contribute the annals of great literature, outsell Harry Potter and Stephen King combined, make a difference in this weary world, and…

Well, you get the idea.

I think I have found just such a significant book.

Trouble is, it’s not one I wrote.

The book I think will do all this and more is written by someone else — but I am playing a small part in its production.

I’d like to backtrack a bit to tell about my part:

In my work preparing the 16th Century diary of Samuel Ward, a translator of the King James Bible, for publication, I noticed an odd word — ENDITOR.

In those ancient days, that word referred to the last guy to prepare a manuscript for the printer, the guy who made the manuscript consistent, the guy who ended the book — the person we call today an editor.

That’s the role I’ve been playing recently.

Instead of writing my own copy, I’ve been doing routine clerical stuff to prepare a manuscript for a series of books by my friend Barbara White, who’s work has been awarded by numerous journalistic, religious and civic organizations.

For over 15 years at the Florida Times-Union, Barbara wrote a personal account of her spiritual journey. Thousands of readers followed her column, Along The Way.

"I write about trying to live the Christian life and failing and trying again," she said.

She says she’s nothing special, yet the walls of the hall leading into the editorial board room at the newspaper displayed scads of bronze plaques, scrolls, citations and journalistic awards she won for her writing skill.

Although Barbara is a Christian, she told me that one of her biggest thrills came when a Jewish congregation recognized her writing by planting a tree with a commemorative plaque honoring her work in Israel.

Barbara evaluates her own writings as work that she once did — then stuck in a shopping bag in the back of a closet.

When she retired from the newspaper, the publisher gave her all her by-line files from the newspaper archives, and granted her full permission and copyrights to turn her columns into a book. He appreciated the cumulative value of her work.

Yes, Barbara is a neat lady.

Unfortunately, her idea of book preparation is somewhat less than neat.

Here is a photo of the flowered shopping bag full of newspaper clippings she brought for me to turn into a book:

Although Barbara sometimes wears her Phi Beta Kappa Key, proof that she’s a brain, I somehow doubt that she’s ever read the Writer’s Digest guidelines for manuscript submission.

My first task involved simply unfolding all these hundreds of crinkled clippings.

That alone took days.

Next came sorting. I moved a folding table into our foyer to make a bigger work surface:

Then each clipping had to be smoothed out and pressed under volumes of my Encyclopedia Britannica. The work overflowed onto the floor and every chair in the house.

For hours Ginny and I discussed the best way to present this material. Our son and his wife, and our daughters helped us collect and arrange and type and sort — it became a family project.

Why go to all this trouble?

Because we feel that Barbara’s work may well be destined to become a spiritual classic.

The humility, power and scope of her life and writing provide a living illustration of what it’s really like to be a Christian.

"I write about trying to live the Christian life and failing and trying again," she said.

I read each article she wrote and culled dated material. I focused on saving pieces which feed my own soul, pieces I feel readers can most identify with, and ones which will most provide help in everyone’s daily struggles, problems, and joys.

This first reading proved a powerful impact on my own spiritual life.

Yes, preparing this manuscript is a pain in the ass, but it’s worth the trouble.

Then came the hard part — scanning copy.

Barbara’s articles run between two and five columns of newsprint across; my scanner will only pick up a single column at a time. Because of wrinkles, ink bleeds, crinkles, years of being folded, etc., many articles needed to be retyped from scratch.

My daughter Patricia undertook much of that tedious work.

Once an article scanned, it needed to be formatted:

Nothing to it —

All I had to do was: Preview the copy, adjust the marquee, scan in one column at a time, close the scanner program, convert the article into Word, go into Page Set Up command and standardize the margins, save, go back into Page Set Up and change the paper feed size, use the Find/Replace function to remover optional hyphens (these are caused by ink dots and unrecognizable characters, etc — as many as 230 per article); save, remove three to five Section Breaks per article, save, remove bizarre symbols which the scanner thought fun to insert for no apparent reason, save, change the font type and size for Headings and Text Body, Spell Check, save, write a title, insert graphics, save, highlight, copy, transfer to a book format and paste, change indentation, save, re-do the document set up, insert headers and footers, and save. Check the rendering against the hard copy and save. Then red-mark and file the hard copy.

Then move on to the next article.

That’s all there is to it.

Why bother?

Because I feel this may well be the most significant project I’ve ever worked on, the very book I’ve prayed for years to produce.

It’s worth the trouble.

Barbara said, "I write about trying to live the Christian life and failing and trying again" .

To expand my limited work surface I brought in some old wooden onion crates and spread out the scanner operation. I commandeered an asbestoses trivet from Ginny’s kitchen to gently flatten each article against the scanner’s glass screen.

In the midst of all that work, I’ve been inserting graphics and playing with book cover designs.

But, more importantly, as I work on these routine tasks, I am becoming more and more aware of the love of God for me.

As I repeat these rote mundane tasks — Ginny says it’s like Peter and John repairing their fish nets — I’m catching glimpses of the majesty of Christ.

As I shuffle paper, I feel drawn to worship by the magnetic beauty of Jesus.

And I feel thankful.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:34 AM

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Golden Years

Ah, yes!
Ginny and I are sailing into our Golden Years.
Sometimes we feel as though we're in one boat; sometimes, in the other:

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 @ 6:03 AM

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Shoe Story

In response to Jellyhead’s challenge, all the e-women I know are posting photos of their shoes recently.

I do not have any photo of my shoes.

I’ve never taken one.

Can’t imagine why anyone sane would.

However, I do have a shoe story; it’s recorded in my 1999 daily journal. Here’s a copy:

John Burns His Own Stupid Foot

Thursday, April 1, 1999 — Spent the day cleaning up the yard extra good for Easter.

I was up on a ladder trimming vines with the electric hedge trimmer and smoking my pipe at the same time. To reach a difficult place, I started to put my pipe away and stretched down to tap it out on the heel of my left boot, a habitual practice.

A ladder is not the best place to do this.

I missed my own heel.

As I knocked my pipe out, the dottle, the lump of red hot charcoal left in the bottom of the bowl as a residue of burning tobacco, fell into the top of my boot. It was still as hot as a charcoal briquette. Intense pain.

Of course, I was wearing high top boots instead of my usual canvas slip-ons as a safety measure because I planned to be running the lawnmower; so it took me a while to cut off the power trimmer, climb down from the ladder, unlace the boot, pull it off and crush out the burning coal.

My sock had caught fire!

Horrible pain.

It burned a hole the size of a quarter in the side of my ankle, burned it right down to raw flesh. I think I could see the surface of my ankle bone in there. I nearly fainted. I believe I went into shock. Intense pain

Thank God that Ginny caught a ride home from work and I did not have to walk to meet her this afternoon.

The comment of my sympathetic, compassionate wife as she bandaged my wound this evening:… “Oh well, John, the Surgeon General has warned you that smoking can be hazardous to your health”.

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, August 17, 2007

John's Guest:

Here’s a guest post written by my friend, the award-winning columnist Barbara White:

When God Can Not Be Felt

A friend asked me how she could believe in God when she could not feel. His presence.

It's hard, but what are the options?

Either God is or He isn't.

He isn't real only when I can feel Him. If He is real any time, then He is real all the time and my feelings have nothing to do with it.

God says, His name announces, I AM.

I have only two responses: to believe or not to believe.

Feelings are wonderful, but not a reliable gauge of truth.

I paid a visit to my grandson last Sunday afternoon. The living room was full of people of all ages when I arrived. Russell was one of the small people.

He spotted me as I came through the front door and dropped what he was playing with to rush toward me.

"That's my grandmother," he announced to anyone who might be listening as he raced to fling himself into my waiting arms.

I can't really describe the way I felt when I was holding him — better than wonderful. I would love to have that feeling every day.

I would love to be able to run to God and throw myself into His arms, too. I would love to feel safe, held gently and securely in His arms, my head against His breast.

I know that's quite anthropomorphic — describing God as if He had arms and legs and so forth, just like me.

God is spirit and yet, sometimes, I do feel as if I am held in His arms. Maybe that's because I know God through Jesus, and He has arms for holding.

Sometimes I don't feel a thing — or worse, I feel as if I have never been held, as if those former times were just a figment of my imagination.

That is when I must come back to the original question. My original question, that is, not my friend's.

Do I believe God is?

Since I do believe that, I may say I do not feel Him, but I will not say I do not believe in Him. I may say my feelings are a mess, but God is still God. While my heart aches with loneliness or throbs with dullness and fatigue, I will know that God is still God. When everything seems questionable, I will stand on the fact that God is still God.

Russell is my grandson on days when I don't see him or hold him in my arms.

God is my God on days when I don't feel Him, either.

It's that easy — and that hard.

Barbara’s own blog, Along The Way, can be found at http://alongthewaybybw.blogspot.com/

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 @ 5:02 AM

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Waiting Room Amusements

To capture an alligator, straddle it’s back, reach under it’s lower jaw, and pull up — “So’s you bend it’s hed way back”.

“Them gators’has got powerful jaws for snapping shut, but a gator ain’t got that strength for to open it’s mouth up wide,” said the young man, tall, rail thin, tough and flexible as a steel cable.

How to subdue a gator, how to know when one may attack (they grunt), how to avoid the whipping tail and the “gator death roll” are some of the things I learned from a young man in the waiting room while my eldest daughter was undergoing a procedure to reduce the pain from nerve damage in her arm.

If I recall correctly, this was the third or fourth time in the past couple of years I’ve waited outside the surgery while doctors have tried this. She faces still more operations in the future.

Few places on earth provide fewer amusements than a surgical waiting room.

There’s no way to get comfortable in such a spot.

For a while I talked about art, and her days as an art student in New York City, and her cute cat tee shirt business, with my daughter-in-law, Helen, (caution: revealing bath photo on that link) who drove me over there and waited with me. She also helped me with several computer problems.

But reading her Harry Potter book absorbed her.

The young man who fell to talking to me was bored out of his skull, so he began telling me how he had worked on this farm up in Georgia where the owner raised alligators “fer meat, heds ‘n hides”.

To move one that doesn’t want to be moved, once you pull the gator’s head up and back, a partner circles it’s snout with duct tape or a wire loop and places a strip of tape over the creature’s eyes. You secure the legs then, if you need to kill it, use a boom stick (I’m not sure if that’s a shotgun shell on a pole or an icepick-like spear) to sever the gator’s spinal cord.

“You don’t wants to break the skull ‘cause that messes up the hed then you cain’t sell ‘em,” he said.

You cut the gator’s throat and hoist him up on a fleshhook to drain the blood.

“You hose ‘em down the hide to clean ‘em, then lift ‘em up on a cart and take ‘em over to the women. They’uns cut the hed clean off, skin ‘em out and butcher up the meat for the freezer… I learnt all that stuff,” he said.

He told me all about feeding gators, capturing ones that get loose, and about the time his boss (on purpose? inadvertently?) locked him in a pen with 50 or 60 hungry gators.

After that, “I quits that place. My Mama didn’t raise no fool”. He came down to Jacksonville to earn his living doing yard work; he’s enrolled in a trade school to learn welding. “They’s good money in that”.

I learned a lot from our waiting room conversation. I never knowed any of that stuff ‘bout gators afore. I kept looking this kid in the eye and thinking, Here is a man for whom Christ died, just like me. This guy is immensely valuable. Important! Precious!

I wish this young man every success in his welding school; I wish him joy in his new life without gators.

With all our talking, I only got to read a few pages of the book I’d taken into the waiting room to amuse myself.

I carried a reprint of the Sermons of Samuel Ward of Ipswich, first printed in 1636. This is not the same Samuel Ward who wrote the diary I’ve been editing; this is the other guy, the wrong guy, but I’m tracking him down too just for the fun of it.

Hey, what else is there to do in a waiting room but wait, watch the fish circle the aquarium, wait, talk to folks there, wait, amuse yourself as best you can, and wait?

I just realized something — Were I able to pronounce the words as Samuel Ward of Ipswich did 400 years ago, I’d bet the young man from Georgia would understand those sermons better than I do!

The vocabulary, speech cadences, colloquial expressions, idioms, and contractions of deep-woods Crackers and the people of Southern Appalachia have strong roots in Elizabethan English. Ward’s sermons would strike a cord with them.

But, if your tastes run toward neither gator raising nor 400-year-old sermons, but you’re inclined in a more modern bend, I follow the blog of a Church of England reader named Pete. His daughter, Karen, was one of the first people ever to comment on my blog and I got to know him through her. His last post links to a sermon he delivered last Sunday.

I think he has something important to say and he says it well.

Wonder if they have gators in England?

Oh yes, my daughter came through her surgery fine — until next time.

Then you’ll find me in the waiting room again.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:43 AM

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

While Stars Fall

Over this past long weekend, I proved that it’s possible to freeze in Florida’s August weather when the day’s heat index reached 105 degrees.

Yes, again mid-August this year, 4 a.m. found me floating on my back in our pool watching stars fall in the annual Perseid meteor shower.

Again I proved that only insane people lay in a pool for hours on the off chance of seeing a tiny flash of light. Again I proved that star gazing from the pool in August results in my getting cooler than the mammaries of a sorceress!

Year after year I do this.

Looks like I’d know better by now.

While I saw few shooting stars, one sight excited me.

I’d already come in the house at dawn when Ginny called me urgently to the kitchen window. She pointed out an enormous Barred Owl on our deck drinking water from the bowl we leave out for the raccoons. This Barred Owl stood about 18 inches high (as measured against the fountain). It looked majestic in dignity — more impressive than any shooting star.

Seeing that owl was the highpoint of our weekend.

Which says something about our lively social life.

Speaking of coolness, the tiff between Ginny and me, which has been the biggest problem in my life, apparently healed. For a month or so, we’ve lived in the same house while eight inches and a thousand miles apart.

I don’t know what caused this distancing or how we got over it, but I’m glad we did. These marital problems seem to come up on their own every now and then, and we weather them by treating eachother with courtesy and moving on as best we can. But I really hate times when there’s coolness between us.

Three quick family notes:

Our youngest daughter worked briefly at a company that silkscreens tee-shirts. About a week ago, she lost her job, a traumatic experience for her, a really bad thing.

Yesterday, three robbers held up that company.

A shootout with the owner erupted.

The owner was shot in the stomach; returning fire, he killed one of the bandits.

Patricia said that had she still been working there, she would have been alone in the office at the time of the robbery.

Perhaps, the Lord allowed something bad happen to her, loosing her job, to keep her from something worse.

A link to the news story in this morning’s newspaper can be found at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/081307/met_190972593.shtml

Last week I wrote about the happy visit of Mike and Miss. Bug; among the things we talked about was my joy in keeping this on-line journal and as a result, Mike has started his own blog!

Mike is a firefighter who has won many awards and commendations from the mayor for conspicuous bravery for saving people in danger at the risk of his own life. He is trained in scuba and helicopter rescue, and every sort of First Aid — I even once saw him deliver baby kittens from a cantankerous clawing mother cat.

He’s one of the men I most admire.

Please stop by his blog and leave him an encouraging comment saying you visited. Mike’s blog is called Starting Anew and can be found at http://cellblock36c.blogspot.com/

In one of his first postings, Mike says some very nice things about me and my books, but other than that he shows good judgment.

Speaking of books, this past weekend, I added two new titles to my Bluefish Books on-line book catalog. Yes, the Diary Of Samuel Ward, A Translator Of The King James Bible is finally unscrambled and published.

I’m exhausted and never want to hear of Samuel Ward again ever.

Alas, that is not to be.

My research in unscrambling this manuscript revealed that the article in the on-line Wikipedia Encyclopedia also combines the two different Samuel Wards. To save other readers from the same kind of confusion I fell into, later this week, I’ve asked Donald to help me log into Wikipedia as an editor and write two new encyclopedia listings for the two Samuel Wards — so, I’m not done with the rascals quite yet.

Oh, the other book I’ve been working on, but haven’t felt comfortable talking about, is a published edition of A Dirty Old Man Gets Worse: John Cowart’s 2006 Diary. It’s a companion book to A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad.

I’ve been hung up on old diaries for years, they seem to be my niche in the writing world — when I’m not freezing in the pool watching stars fall.

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 @ 5:05 AM

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

John Cowart, King Of The Geriatric Geeks!

Last night, I lay back in my recliner eating a grilled cheese sandwich with pickle and flipping the tv remote back and forth between a concert by violinist Andre Rieu and a pre-season Jaguars football game.

Who says I ain’t got no couth nor culture?

Anyhow as I watched fiddling and football, I experienced a revelation.

Back on August 2nd I wrote about how God reveals the obvious; back on July 13th, I wrote about problems with printer proof pages (Not the Ward Diary this time, another manuscript I've been working on at the same time).

Well, my work with those pages hit a big time glitch; I cannot progress without this step. I thought I’d have to place the whole project in the appropriate receptacle:

To get around this glitch, I needed to convert a 504-page document into a different format.

For weeks I couldn’t do it.

That heathen manuscript just would not convert. No mater what I did, it just would not convert. I’d get error messages or a blank screen whichever technique I used. I struggled with this stupid thing, trying this and that and the other for days and days and days.

I called Donald and Helen, both expert computer geeks who usually solve my computer problems in a jiffy, but they were no help at all this time.

I finagled that manuscript.

I manipulated.

I cajoled.

I cursed.

I prayed…

And, last night as I cried at the concert and yelled at the quarterback, I saw the light. In the middle of a car commercial, I envisioned my own computer screen. There on that easy-to-ignore toolbar at the top of the screen, on the far right-hand side is the word Help.

I left concert and quarterback, came out to my computer desk, clicked on that word, and read the pop-up instructions.

Guess what?

Those instructions gave three ways to convert a file; I knew about one and two. I’d tried them again and again with variations. But method number three never occurred to me.

It worked.

My file is converted.

In seconds!

Smooth as peaches through a goose, my file converted!

My point?

When struggling long and hard with a knotty problem which defies solution, ask God to reveal the obvious and see what happens.

And, don’t forget to be thankful when it does.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:52 AM

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Gift To A Stranger

I suppose it’s ok to tell you this because of the way it turned out..

If it had worked out differently, I wouldn’t mention it.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men,” Jesus said. “When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth”.

Heck, my right hand never even knows what my right hand is doing. So I suppose I’m ok with that part.

Jesus said that when we give to the poor or do a good deed, we should keep it secret. I think He said that so if people find out, we won’t be embarrassed over how few good things we do or how little we give. Or how little we pray or fast. So Jesus said not to boast about such things — to keep them secret.

That’s why I never get to write about doing anything good in this blog; besides that, if I never get to tell about doing good stuff, readers will assume that I do a whole lot more good than I say — which is bull.

But, since this time it was a bust, I suppose it’s ok to tell about this.

The other day I visited a relative and, because I feel uncomfortable smoking in someone else’s house, I walked out in the backyard to smoke my pipe.

There was a guy out there spray painting some fence parts. White paint fumes rose in the air around him.

The robust old guy, almost as old as I am, looked as thought he’d lost weight recently. He wore paint-spattered jeans, boots, and a work shirt.

He commented on how much he liked the aroma of my tobacco. He looked a bit wistful as he watched my pleasure in smoking. He said he’d always wished that he had a pipe to smoke. We chatted on that level for maybe five minutes.

I never caught his name.

I continued waling around puffing my pipe and admiring flowers; he went on with his spray painting.

The next morning, it occurred to me that I have many pipes in my collection. Pipes I dearly love. But, who needs that many pipes?

I decided to send one to the old guy so I began to put together a packet of goodies for him.

I agonized over which pipes to send. Each one I’d choose, suddenly became immensely valuable to me. I’d find some good reason to keep each one. I did not want to give up any of my pipes.

But eventually, I decided on three. Not three of my very best, but three that draw well, look masculine, and have a good feel to them. Actually, one of them is a drug store pipe, but it is well-carved. The other two are top quality. One, the French one, has a sterling silver band.

I cleaned these used pipes thoroughly, using alcohol to disinfect and to cut tar build-up. I chose my best tobacco pouch, the one I use my self. (I believe we should always give the poor our best). I filled the pouch with my own tobacco, not the cheap stuff from my sandlugs can.

I crafted a metal matchcase for the guy. The same kind of case I carry in my own pocket; his had a new striker, a picture of pirate ships on the front and a modest bikini girl inside the cover. I dug under the cupboard to find the good-quality wooden matches, not the cheap ones I use my self.

I fixed up a cleaning kit with pipe cleaners, wire, etc.

The stranger would have every thing he needs for a satisfying smoke.

I arranged for one of my daughters to come over and deliver the packet of goodies to the stranger.

I regretted parting with my pipes and I felt that I’d spent way too much time on this project which had just captured my fancy. But there was also a sense of satisfaction at having done a good deed…

Word came back to me — The guy is undergoing chemo-therapy for lung cancer.

Yes, I’d sent a packet of smoking materials to a lung cancer patient.

Oh, Crap! How was I to know?

Oh well, it’s as the Bible says, “Even the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”.

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 @ 5:39 AM

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A Happy, Happy Visit

Who is in that unfamiliar green truck pulling into my drive?

I filed the copy of the Ward Diary I’ve been working on, put on my shoes, and walked to the door to see. I expected some lost stranger looking for directions; that happens a lot on this dead end street.

A beautiful young woman hopped down from the passenger’s seat and ran to meet me. The last time I saw this lady, she was a babe in arms.

Now she’s a bright eight.

Oh, yes, her dad tagged along too.

It was Mike, whom I have not seen in ages; he is my great friend and my eldest daughter’s ex-husband. He is now happily married and he and his wife gave the world their charming daughter, “Call-Me-Bug”.

What a great and happy surprise!

With joy, my mind jumped from the 16th century to the 21nd.

You see, Miss. Bug aspires to become a writer. She hounded her dad into bringing her to see a real live writer in his cage.

I think she will make a great writer in the future. I look forward to her first book.

Here’s an aside: The other day in a restaurant I heard someone comment that J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, is richer than the Queen of England.

Her friend replied, “That’s because she writes better than the Queen of England”!

Anyhow, Miss. Bug followed every word as Mike and I caught up on family history and told each other how much we love our work. Mike is a firefighter. He recently returned from out west where he trained in how to care for Americans injured in a nuclear attack or radiation accident.

He has read an early edition of my book on the history of the Jacksonville Fire Department (a book I’m revising and updating as soon as I clear my desk). Mike is thinking of writing his own book with a strong emphasis on the camaraderie that exists among firefighters.

Miss. Bug, who is eight, tells me she wants to become a writer and study French and other foreign languages. She listened intently as I described my own life and work as a writer. I think she caught a glimpse of how important it is to work at something you love.

This concept permeated our conversation because as divergent as firefighting and writing are as occupations, Mike and I share the same love of what we do and we communicate perfectly on that level.

King Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God”.

Mike and I are typical examples of this important Bible truth.

Eat. Drink. Find joy in your work. It doesn’t get any better that that!

Like a 50-pound sponge, Miss. Bug, absorbed our chatter as she feed Ginny’s love bird. I hope she learned something valuable. I think she found the visit and talk of writing’s joys educational.

If nothing else, she watched in fascination as I struck a match, fired up my pipe and puffed smoke; that’s something she’d never seen before.

Miss. Bug crinkled her nose at me.

She attached computer wires and cables for me (which I could not see to do) and hooked up my digital camera. Her Dad put new batteries in the camera for me.

I snapped a couple of pictures (Sorry, I don’t know how to do that red-eye thingy).

Miss. Bug is now on the Internet.

Maybe she’ll use one of these pictures on her book jacket someday.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:17 AM

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Past & Preface

Yesterday I found comfort when I read a section of the Bible I’ve never read before.

This strikes me as odd because I’ve read the Bible cover to cover several times in the past.

Oddly enough, the first time I ever read the Bible through was before I ever became a Christian — I read it looking for loopholes so I could avoid the claim of Christ on my life.

Couldn’t find any.

In the past I have taught adult Bible classes in various church and rescue mission settings which necessitated my reading individual books of the Bible again and again to ensure that I understood what I was teaching.

Not only that, but I try to order my life and dealings with people on the Scriptures in daily living. I take the words of Scripture seriously. So seriously in fact that when Scripture makes me uncomfortable, I try to wiggle out of it.

I believe the Bible (and I’ll not quibble about the verb to use next in this sentence) — is, contains, conveys — the Word of God. I find no reason not to in either my general education or in my life experience.

So over the years I’ve read the Bible a lot.

But in all these years, I have never before read the section I read yesterday.

I refer to a section of text that is not actually Scripture, but the translators’ page dedicating their 1611 work to King James and their Preface To Readers in which they explain the techniques, policies, sources, methods, and reasons behind their translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek.

This preface material became so out of date that most modern printings of the King James Bible omit it and start with the first chapter of actual Scripture, the Book of Genesis.

But my work in editing the diary of Samuel Ward, one of the translators of the 1611 King James Bible — that same diary I screwed up so badly, that same diary I’ve been entangled with since last December, that same diary that’s driven me nuts with frustration and made me beat myself on the head in exasperation —

My work on the Ward diary led me into actually reading that fine-print preface to the translation yesterday.

I’d never bothered to read it before.

It surprised me.

The thing that surprised me most in the Translators’ Preface was their extreme gentleness.

Off on a tangent:

In the1600s, English Protestants lived in anxiety, constant suspicion, and threat of terrorism. The reign of Bloody Mary and the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada remained fresh in their minds.

Shortly after King James ascended to the throne, he attended the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605, . Right before the ceremony terrorists packed kegs of gunpowder into a cellar room under the chamber plotting to ignite the explosives to blow up the king, the royal family, and all member of Parliament.

A justice of the peace uncovered the plot before the gunpowder went off and the terrorists, led by Guy Fawkes, were discovered to be fanatical Roman Catholics

Immediately England tightened air port security, installed surveillance cameras, wiretapped e-mail and phone calls, and barred liquid and gels from being… No, excuse me, wrong terrorist plot. But you get the idea.

Englishmen felt antsy about Roman Catholics.

During much of her reign, the Virgin Queen manipulated religious factions in her realm by threatening to marry a Catholic — or not. Her appointed bishops threatened to defrock all Puritans who refuse to wear the mandated ecclesiastical gowns — a burr of contention often mentioned in Ward’s diary.

Another source of tension between the Puritans and the established church involved which Bible to use. The queen and bishops favored the Bishops’ Bible which she had translated in 1569.

The Puritans, Reformers, Presbyterians, and Separatists favored the Geneva Bible published in 1560. It was the first Bible to contain verse numbers so readers could easily locate specific Scriptures. However it also contained Calvinist marginal notes which established church officials felt inflammatory.

Feelings ran high on the matter.

On March 24, 1603, King James ascended to the throne. The very next year, he convened the Hampton Court Conference to iron out differences between religious factions in his new kingdom. One result of that conference was the commissioning of a new translation of the Bible, the Authorized Version or King James Bible.

Working in six committees, 47 scholars from the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and from Westminster Abby undertook the translation.

Each scholar worked independently, without pay, then each committee reviewed, revised, harmonized, and standardized their work.

Samuel Ward served on the translation committee of the Second Cambridge Company which was comprised of the finest biblical and linguistic scholars of the day.

In January, 1609, the General Committee Of Review met at Stationer’s Hall, London, to review the complete work of the six companies. Publisher Robert Barker issued the first printing of the King James Bible as a folio edition in 1611. Each page was printed on a cotton-fiber sheet of paper measuring 16 ½ by 10 ½ inches. A bound copy cost 12 shillings.

Back on track:

The translators wrote a Preface which reflected the fears and tensions of their times. Since this Preface is not actually a part of Scripture, it is seldom found in today’s printed editions of the Bible.

I’d never read it before yesterday.

Yet it was in that preface that a sentence struck a cord in my heart as I’ve berated myself over my many mistakes in my work on the Ward diary.

When I realize how badly I’d screwed up big time and how months of my work were invalid, I took it hard. (My posting for July 27th explains).

I have felt like such a fool, buffoon, idiot. This careless goof has colored my life since I discovered it. I like to think of myself as a careful researcher. I pride myself on accuracy, honest, and integrity.

My error hurt my pride.

I’m so great that I expected much better of me. (A friend once quipped, “Cowart, you’re an idiot. Good thing God’s standards aren’t nearly as high as yours”).

Anyhow, my error combined with all the other crap that’s been going on in my life. Thus I’ve wallowed in failure recently. I’ve felt ashamed of myself and my work. It’s been a bad time for me.

So, what did the translators’ preface have to say yesterday that makes me feel so much better?

“Things are to take their denomination of the greater part; and a naturall man could say, ‘Verùm ubi multa nitent in carmine, non ego paucis offendor maculis, &c’. A man may be counted a vertuous man, though hee have made many slips in his life, (else, there were none vertuous, for in many things we offend all) also a comely man and lovely, though hee have some warts upon his hand, yea, not onely freakles upon his face, but also skarres”.

Warts, freckles, and scars there may well be without destroying the overall person.

“…Though he may have made many slips in his life”.

In other words, there is forgiveness with the Lord Jesus.

And, after all, that’s pretty much what much of the Bible is about anyhow.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:16 AM

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two Stones

Trying to unscramble eggs.

That describes my progress in straightening out the mistakes I made with the diary of Samuel Ward. I keep compounding the mistakes.

Consequently, I feel lower than whale shit.

Of course, slow of progress in my work is only one factor: I’ve also been reading over some of my own diary entries for the past year; Ginny and I are momentarily at odds; financial worries; a deep sense of shame and failure, etc. etc..

All that’s also depressing.

My feelings conflict with my beliefs

I feel useless and worthless, like my whole life has been a waste of time; I believe that on some level, I’m fulfilling God’s purpose in my life.

Opposite things: feelings and beliefs.

My feelings devalue me; my belief lifts me up.

I chose which one to go with.

When I feel as though I have a reverse Midas Touch (everything I touch turns to crap) I choose to say “Blessed be His name. The joy of the Lord is my strength”.

Reading back entries in my diaries I see a happy-go-lucky, light-hearted, flippant, confident person of faith; examining my feelings (what I think of as the real me) I see a bitter, sour, frustrated grouch.

This dichotomy is not a matter of hypocrisy, at least not much; but both aspects exist side by side within me at the same time and both are a pain in the ass.

I really am both men.

For years two small rocks have rested on my computer keyboard above those functions keys (which I have no idea what they do).

The rocks remind me of a story I read about a Jewish rabbi, I’ve forgotten which one, who lived in those ancient times when a slingshot was a real weapon of war.

He told his students that each man ought to carry in his pouch two stones: one engraved with the words “For my sake was the universe created”; the other, with the words “I am but dust and ashes”.

A student asked, “Rabbi, which one should a man use in his sling”?

He replied, “Use the one you need most at the moment”.

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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Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Bear, A Bridge, & God’s Purpose In The Universe

Since my journal entry today kicks around the three interrelated subjects in the title, I’ll tackle the easiest topic first:

What is God’s plan and purpose in the universe?

I don’t have a clue.

Now that that’s settled, let’s move on to the bear.

This morning I climbed up on our roof to blow off fallen branches and leaves to clear the rain gutters. As I worked, I thought about how the purpose of God relates to two recent items in the news.

Here’s a clipping from the local newspaper:

Bear in road leaves three riders seriously injured

Three people were seriously injured when they were thrown from their motorcycles in a collision with a black bear.

The three were among a group of six motorcyclists traveling Interstate 95 in St. Johns County about 9 p.m. Saturday.

When the riders were south of Florida 207, the bear ran into the left lane of the interstate and motorcyclist Kristina Hall, 43, of Middleburg was unable to avoid hitting it. Hall was thrown from her 2006 Harley-Davidson.

Rider Harriet Ward, 65, of Orange Park, hit Hall's motorcycle with her 2004 Honda and was thrown from her bike, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A second motorcyclist, Russell Lemmon, 38, of Jacksonville, also struck the bear and was thrown from his 1984 Honda.

All three were taken to Flagler Hospital with serious injuries, according to the Highway Patrol.

A later report added:

"All I saw was a black blob in front me, just before I hit it," Harriet Ward, 64, said Monday from her room at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine.

The Orange Park woman said she was the second in the group of six motorcyclists to hit the bear. ..

Ward faces surgery today to repair fractures to both ankles, she said. She also is being treated for a dislocated arm.

The retiree estimates she will be wheelchair bound as she recovers but knows it could have been worse.

The wreck closed the northbound lanes for an hour, according to the FHP.

A second crash, between a St. Johns County Sheriff's Office vehicle and another vehicle, followed. Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Kelshaw said the wreck was minor and occurred as the deputy responded to the accident call involving the bear.

Here’s my dilemma:

Hundreds of motorcyclists travel Interstate 95 every day, thousands of heavy trucks roar up and down that same stretch of road just south of Jacksonville every day, hundreds of thousands of cars commute along that stretch of road every day — so why did these three cyclists hit a black bear and get injured?

They were in a party of six. Why were three taken and three left safe?

Are such happenings random chance without meaning? Is it a matter of luck for the cyclists who missed hitting the bear? Or do such tragedies fit into some divine plan?

Or was last Saturday simply a bad day for bears? (Yes, the bear died on the road).

Questions about random meaningless chance and God’s deliberate plan have been discussed by generations of the world’s smartest theologians, philosophers, and sophomores.

And here I am up on the housetop cleaning rain gutters with a leaf blower and pondering those same questions. The thought struck me that Jesus said something about two men on the housetop and one was taken and the other left, didn’t He?

When I checked my Bible latter, I found that He said nothing of the sort; the thing about the guy on the roof came earlier in the passage of Scripture I miss-remembered. As Matthew records it, what He did say was:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come”.

These verses appear to apply to both the Second Advent and to death. When Luke records the same words, he refers to “eagles”, meaning vultures, gathering around a dead body.

So Jesus knew that some are taken, but some survive.

In these passages, He does not spell out which person is which or why.

Why? Is it all horrible senseless chance or does God have purpose in the things which happen to us?

On the tv Thursday evening I watched a news reporter standing in the debris of a collapsed bridge struggle with such questions.

During rush hour traffic Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a bridge carrying traffic along Interstate 35 over the Mississippi River collapsed into the river.

A school bus carrying children, a paraplegic’s van, many commuters crossing the bridge survived by inches. Even now no one know how many cars, trucks, buses, vans plunged into the river or were crushed by debris. Over a hundred injured people were hospitalized. Twenty people have been reported missing. Only five bodies have been recovered so far but more are expected.

As best I can remember of how the reporter posed the question (and I think he may have been quoting someone else) he said,

“There must be some reason, some purpose for why this happened. Either God governs the universe according to a divine plan, or the collapse of the bridge is a meaningless phenomenon and the universe is without divine purpose”.

We don’t hear that sort of question very often on the evening news.

I suspect we all think about such things now and then, but a tragedy brings them to the surface.

We all ask why.

We seek meaning.

We look for hope.

We flirt with despair.

We demand explanations.

And we blame.

Already I hear rumblings wanting to place blame on the highway department, the bridge inspectors, the construction companies, heavy trucks — God. Some folks even blame the victims of a tragedy for what happens to them!

Ever heard anyone say, “Well, he deserved it”?

Do the innocent and good get called to Heaven early by the Trade Center crash, the terrorist bomb, AIDS, the car accident, cancer, crib death, bridge collapse, bear in the road — while the wicked and bad get zapped in the exact same event? Is that God’s design?

In a tv interview one man who crossed the bridge safely seconds before it fell said, “I guess God was looking over me today”.


Was He not looking out for the people who fell 60 feet in a tangle of jagged concrete rebar, snapped cables, and twisted girders into the muddy water?

Were these victims less loved of God than survivors?

Jesus kept up with the news of the day.

Once as He taught, bystanders informed Him that Roman soldiers had killed some Galilean insurgents; the men wanted His reaction to the news.

“Suppose ye,” He said, “That these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay! But, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

“Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men, that dwelt in Jerusalem?

“I tell you Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.

In another place, rabble rousers (actually they were His own disciples) pointed out to Jesus a man born blind; they wanted someone to blame:

“Master,” they said, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind”?

Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”.

There’s a whole chapter of the Bible devoted to this incident.

Is this why the bear crossed the road?

Is this why the bridge collapsed hurting all those people?

That the works of God should be made manifest???

Is that my conclusion?

Not exactly.

When the tornado struck and the building they were in collapsed killing Job’s children, he questioned God; yet at the same time, he said of the Lord, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

That makes sense to me even when nothing else does.

I said starting out that I do not have a clue about why or how God’s plan and purpose works, but I do have a solid confidence about such things.

When my own life has hit unexpected things in my road, When things I expected to support me collapsed under my feet, When things that should go right, go wrong. When people I thought reliable, aren’t. When faith hits the fan and doubts splatter around me...

Even then, I believe God is good.

I trust Him.

I’m neither smart nor profound. I have no answers. But I trust that Jesus is 100% reliable; He’s never shown Himself otherwise to anybody.

So, as to the deep, troubling questions of random chance or divine reason, I have no answer… However, I half remember a quote from someone somewhere that sums it up for me:

Five minutes after he gets there, the dumbest man in Heaven will know more about God than the smartest man on earth — and, lost in wonder, he just won’t care.

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 @ 1:50 AM

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Was It Something I Said?

While I stood at the kitchen sink washing breakfast dishes Thursday morning I think I heard familiar words coming from the radio playing across the room.

If I heard correctly, a section from my blog was being read on the air.

How odd.

The radio station does a segment called Heroes & Zeros contrasting acts of conspicuous bravery and goodness with acts of slime and stupidity.

One of the good things told about on Thursday morning was the wonderful response of staff, customers, and rescue personnel to the heart attack suffered by the manager of Gorgi’s BBQ. I’m pretty sure the radio announcer actually read some quotes from my Blog posting for July 29th , “One Thousand And One…”.

Of course, having the water running and my own hearing loss made me miss the beginning of the segment, so I can’t be positive, but it appears they were actually reading portions of that Blog entry.

Hearing my own words quoted over the radio behind me felt so strange.

Flattering too.

That’s a real ego builder.

But, when there’s an ego builder, an ego deflater is sure to follow:

It being the start of the month, yesterday I checked the Webalizer software to look at my site statistics.

According to that, readership dropped from an average of 715 readers a day in June to 460 readers per day in July.

Since I started posting my journal entries on-line, readership has grown every month until now. The site drew 21,479 visits in June, but dropped down to 14,281 in July.

Now, I appreciate each one of you who bothers to read my blog, your interest builds me up and your comments encourage me. You always give me a lift.

Thank you.

But, I can’t help but wonder about this abrupt drop in readership.

Have I chased than many people off?

Have I offended so many readers that they left in droves?

Was it something I said?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:52 AM

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Miraculously Obvious

Toying with a statement my friend Wes made Wednesday, I came up with a ridiculous mental picture from the Bible.

Picture this:

Jesus intends to feed 5,000 hungry people. He places five loaves of bread and two small fish in a piñata and suspends it above the crowd

He swings His staff.

With a mighty whack, He breaks the piñata open,

Fish and bread sandwiches fly everywhere.

With a mighty shout 5,000 men scramble in a pile, each intent on grabbing his fair share.

Interesting mental picture, but that’s not exactly how the Scripture describes the event.

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the few events described in all four Gospels. Each Gospel shows slight variations like you’d get if four photographers were shooting the same scene from different stand points.

Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “Make them sit down by fifties in a company”.

Mark elaborates saying, “He commanded the disciples to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks by hundreds, and by fifties”.

Even though Jesus intended to perform a miracle, He first stated the obvious — sit down in groups for orderly distribution of the miraculous bread.

That’s the point Wes made.

“God reveals the obvious,” he said.

I keep expecting God to say, “Shazam!” and reveal some deep secret hidden from ages of men before me.

He’s never done that for me.

Now there are deep secret revelations in Scripture; for instance, Paul uses the phrase, “Great is the mystery of godliness”.

So, why would Wes say, God reveals the obvious?

A few weeks ago, Wes packed his brand new pick-up truck for an out of town trip. He started the engine but remembered something he’d left in the house. He ran inside to get it and when he came out the door, he saw his beautiful new truck rolling down the drive, and across two lanes of traffic.

Wes ran after his run-away truck.

It rolled into the grass and bumped a fire hydrant on the other side of the street.

No damage to the hydrant but the collision scratched a groove in the side of the sparkling new truck.

As Wes opened the driver’s door, he said, “It was like a big light bulb flashing on in my brain, like a voice speaking to me from Heaven; it said, ‘When you park on a hill, set the brake”.

That’s when Wes realized, “God reveals the obvious”.

As I pondered this blanket statement, I started to see that it appears true across the board.

For instance, when God said, “Thou shalt not steal”, that bit of revelation appears to be obvious even to a little kid; Who wants to meet Farmer McGregor with his shotgun as you crawl under his garden gate?

But say you ignore the obvious, say you ignore God’s revelation that says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” What’s so obvious about that?

King Solomon observed, “Men do not despise a thief if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry.” When such a thief is caught, he’s to restore what he stole and the penalties are not too severe. His crime is understandable.

“But, whoso committeth adultery with a woman,” Solomon said, “Lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul”.

Solomon then rehearses the obvious: dishonor, reproach, a jealous husband (or wife) who’s borrowed Farmer McGregor’s shotgun, vengeance, exposure to disease, irreparable damage to one’s own and to someone else’s home.

A moment’s thought tells us all this. No revelation from Heaven is needed. It’s all obvious. Yet God felt it necessary to say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”.

Yes, God does indeed reveal the obvious.


Because we ignore it.

Actions have consequences.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but when my actions produce consequences, I’ll think, I knew better than that! I’ll realize that I should not have done that, or that I should have done this. And I knew it at the time!

In fact, I wonder if a good definition of the word sin might be, to ignore the obvious.

When I think about them, even the three most significant miracles in Scripture seem obvious. I’m thinking of the resurrection of Jesus from death and His ascension back into Heaven, and His incarnation from Heaven to earth in the first place.

Christ’s death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin is an obvious outworking of the innate love¸ character and nature of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.

If indeed Christ is God come in the flesh to rescue us, then it’s obvious that the Almighty God, the Prince of Life, the creator of life, would not stay dead after we tortured Him to death. The Scripture says that even while nailed hand and foot to the cross, even then He was, at the same time, upholding all things by the word of His power.

Obviously a puny hole in the ground could not contain Him who said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again”.

The Scripture goes so far as to say Jesus is “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.

And after resurrection, What?

Luke, one of those four photographers snapping photos of the same event, wrote about “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day in which He was taken up”.

Luke mentions the apostles, “Whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. … And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”

It’s obvious from the familiar Christmas story — Virgin, babe, manger, shepherds, wise men, oxen lowing, Angels saying, Glory To God In The Highest — that in the least something important had happened.

And thou shalt call His name, Emmanuel — meaning God With Us.

Here we see the One called “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” come into the world on a rescue mission.

“I am come to seek and to save the lost,” He said.

At the first Christmas, the Creator had imposed physical limits on Himself, he squeezed Godhead into an infant. The infinite God who holds all the universe, small as a nutshell, in the palm of His hand, reduced Himself into a finite, confined, physical time and location.

Mission accomplished, He returned Home, no longer under those self-imposed restrictions. He is at all times and in all places present; in Him we live and breath and have our very being.

Could I be over simplifying things?

Could I be wrong?


Not having been dead yet, I don’t know any more about it than a moose.

But, I see no reason to doubt that what Jesus said is true is in fact true.

That’s not saying what He said is comfortable for me, but it rings true.

Sin. Christmas. Crucifixion. Resurrection. Ascension. Return. — It blends together. It rings true. It makes sense. It works in daily living. It holds water.

It’s obvious.

God reveals the obvious…

Just the same, I wish Jesus had done that piñata thing I visualized starting out.

That would have been so cool!

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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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Here’s an update:

I called one of the girls at Gorgi’s BBQ about the manager’s heart attack on Saturday. She tells me that he remains hospitalized breathing via a ventilator. He is ok although the outcome for him remains iffy.

The judge released my youngest daughter from jail Monday and set a trial date for her in a couple of months. She said she’s going out of town to relax and reevaluate things for a day or two.

93 e-mail messages clog my inboxes, most of it forwarded cutesies.

The Samuel Ward Diary still hangs fire. I have not had the heart to open it, much less work on it, since last week’s discovery.

Sleep deprivation guides my life at the moment; I blunder about in a stupor. Disturbing dreams wake me each night after just a few minutes sleep — not nightmares, just upsetting dreams.

For instance, years ago I had a nodding acquaintance with James Robertson Ward, a noted writer and historian who wrote Old Hickory’s Town, the definitive history of Jacksonville. His monumental series on the route of the King’s Road was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Well, on the night of Monday, July 23rd, (this was three days before I realized my fatal error I’d made preparing the Samuel Ward Diary) — That night I dreamed I was working on some book at my computer when I heard a knock at the front door. When I opened it, there stood James Ward saying that his house had caught fire and burned down. He announced that he was moving in to live with us. In the driveway behind him stood a tractor-trailer truck overflowing with scorched and soggy books, salvaged from his extensive library. The workers with him began unloading all those books into our living room!

That woke me up.

You don’t have to be Jungian to see a connection between my working on that 16th Century diary of Samuel Ward, and my dream about eminent historian James Robertson Ward moving permanently into our living room.

See what I mean about disturbing dreams and sleep depravation?

I can’t think straight. I have no spirit for work. Today I whiled time away playing a game of on-line strip poker with three virtual ladies.

I lost my shirt… Actually I lost a whole lot more than my shirt and the fully-clothed virtual ladies around the table laughed me to scorn.

It’s sad when you’re laughed to scorn by colored pixels.

Does all this sadness mean that joy has fled my life?

Doesn’t the Scripture say, the Joy of the Lord shall be your strength.

Not that anyone has ever called me giddy, but today I’m not happy, happy, happy.

Yet there does remain a slow undercurrent of gladness.

Gladness mixed with bone-deep weariness — the kind of gladness you feel when you’ve stood at the bus stop for 45 minutes and finally see your bus coming into view three blocks away — That kind of gladness.

For today, it’ll do.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:35 AM

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