Rabid Fun

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

On Writing Right & Doing Nothing

Spent Thursday tracking down information on some long-ago fire chiefs.

Elusive rascals.

The thing is, I feel I should include mini-biographies of all former fire chiefs in my history of firefighting in Jacksonville, or none of them

Accurate information on these important people in city government is hard to come by. In fact, one yellowed turn-of-the-Century newspaper clipping tells more about the fire chief’s mule than it tells about him.

Notice to all Important People: any historian can write a book about your organization, church, industry or company with no mention of you in its pages. A tombstone leaves little room for recording our feats. In fact, I imagine that in the far future some scholar’s doctorial thesis on Influential Jacksonville Writers And Literary Giants could be written without even mentioning my name. Startling, isn’t it?

Anyhow, I’m going for a few lines about each fire chief and searching for old photos of each guy.

My friend Barbara White called about a problem with proof pages in the forth of her Along The Way books; I’d duplicated a column/chapter. Removing it would throw the pagination all out of whack, so I went into the master file, deleted the repetition and replaced it with photos and text to fill in the blank space. That tactic saved the pagination so the final copy will have the same as the printer’s proofs.

Barbara plans to come over Monday. God willing, we’ll make the final corrections and publish the four-volume series on-line through Bluefish Books Monday evening. It’s been a tedious and difficult process but well worth doing.

Here is a sample column from Barbara’s fourth book, Rejoicing Along The Way:

Waiting For Directions

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing anything — even something "good."

A visiting minister, leading a teaching mission here recently, asked a series of questions that opened up the whole new area for consideration to me.

Why, he asked, when a promotion comes along — and it involves a move to another city, away from the roots you are putting down, from the body you are becoming part of — do you always take it?

Why is it always called God blessing you with prosperity?

Might it not be Satan trying to bring you down instead?

Even "good" things are not good unless God is the one directing them.

When Satan tempted Jesus after His 40 days in the wilderness, he suggested that He turn stone into bread.

Now that is not a bad thing — making bread.

The hungry world needs bread.

And later Jesus would do just that, make bread and feed the hungry.

But He did it when God told Him to, not when Satan did.

Man shall not live by bread alone, Jesus said, quoting Scripture, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Think about that.

No matter how good something seems to us, unless God tells us to, we are not to do it. That's the way Jesus did it.

Doing nothing is hard.

We are so conditioned to doing something, anything.

We try to do good works.

We may know good works are not the basis of our salvation, but we think of them as our response to God's gift of salvation through grace by faith.

And they are, aren't they?

I mean, we're supposed to be feeding the poor, aren't we?

Yes, but first we are to surrender our wills to Him. Then, we are to wait upon the Lord, literally I think.

Learning to hear Him when He speaks follows surrender.

His Spirit speaks to us through circumstances, opening some doors, closing others; through other Christians when they confirm our conviction; through the Scriptures, when we are steeped in them, not when we dip occasionally into them; and through prayer, continual prayer that brings inner peace about the action.

So there may be times when we are to do nothing, but be His.

Then when He speaks, we are to respond.

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 @ 6:02 AM

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Full And Silent Moon

Wednesday I continued work writing my history of the Jacksonville Fire Department. Most of the day I spent matching grainy old sepia photographs to thumbnail biographies of former fire chiefs.

This feature of the book helps with chronological accuracy but I’m being careful not to get bogged down in internal departmental politics. These of course need to be mentioned, but the emphasis I want spotlights heroism and selfless acts of firefighters over the past 150+ years.

Even though I’m writing a secular history, it contains a natural inspirational element, wholesome examples, little departmental politics and few scandals, odd incidents, acts of bravery, human interest — And even a few firefighter jokes. For example:

The teacher asked students to use the word ladder in a compound sentence.

To impress his teacher Johnny wrote: “The fireman climbed up the ladder into the burning building and when he climbed down he was pregnant”.

“Johnny,” she said. “You don’t even know the meaning of that word. Do you”?

“Sure I do,” he said. “It means carrying a child”.

Should be an interesting history book.

Recently I’ve been dealing with so many religious books, and the special tension that writing about the Lord brings, that it feels good to write straight history again. I don’t feel as though I’m walking on eggs as much, no souls hang in the balance, it’s just happy history.

But the thought occurs to me that anything a Christian writes is “Christian writing”. We do not have to strain to include testimony, we are testimony.

St. Paul said, “In whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him”.

In the light of that statement, a bus schedule written by a Christian, written in the name of Christ, weighs as much in eternity as a theology textbook. The love with which a work, any work, is done weighs more than the work itself.

Late last night after watching the forth episode of The War on tv, Ginny and I walked out into our back garden to watch the full moon rise above distant trees. Without talking we stood silent in the moonlight holding and kissing eachother.

Highpoint of my day.

Highpoint of my life.

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 @ 6:13 AM

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Letter Sealed With Silver Duct Tape

Tuesday I spent accomplishing nothing toward getting my history of the fire department written.

I spent much of the day watching on-line movies which I had no business watching, then most of the evening watching the second part of the Ken Burns movie The War, a history of World War II, which everybody should be watching.

Even though I was a tiny boy during World War II, the Burns film triggered vivid memories. I remembered the fear that the Japs or Germans would bomb our house; we were supposed to hide under the bed when bombs fell. Even though I was only four or five years old, my part in the war effort was flattening tin cans with a hatchet on a stump in the backyard for the scrap metal drive.

I remember War Bond posters which asked Have You Killed A Jap Today?.

I remember news reels showing Jap soldiers tossing babies in the air and catching them on the points of bayonets.

I remember the excitement when the father of a kid down the block came home from the war on leave. He mounted a display of things he’d taken from dead Japs and Germans: a real Luger pistol, a helmet with an iron spike on top, a white flag with a vicious red dot, a Jap sword, a pair of chopsticks, and other exotic items.

I remember being so happy when Daddy got his notice to report for duty because I was sure my Dad would bring me home neat battle souvenirs like that other kid had… and I remember my mother beating me bloody when I said I was happy about Daddy going off to war.

I remember the widespread joy when news of the Atomic Bomb came, one American bomb that would kill whole cities full of Japs. Strangers hugged. People danced in the streets. The man at the corner store gave me a free coke and a punchborad ticket which won a quarter to celebrate. There was such an air of relief: those damn Japs would not be able to kill us any more. We would not have to hide under the bed when they came in the night bombing.

And I remember my puzzlement when some person at school said some people were questioning the use of the Atomic Bomb. Where the Hell were they during The War? Don’t they realize what Japs and Germans do to captured people? Didn’t they see the films of American survivors of the Baatan Death March? Or what prisoners looked like when American soldiers liberated German concentration camps to open the Jew cages? Without the Atomic Bomb, it would have been us in those cages.

The prevailing feeling was that we did not drop nearly enough A-Bombs.

And I remember the appalling sense of creeping apathy which permeated the country during my early school years as politicians pissed away every advantage American soldiers had gained for our country.

Enough of that.

Yesterday’s mail brought an envelope sealed with duct tape. An unsigned card. No return address. The card contained a one-hundred dollar bill. The card said, “Thanks. God bless”.

Ginny and I puzzled over who could have sent it and why. We can think of nothing we’ve done in recent months that would warrant anyone thanking us for anything.

We are grateful for this surprise gift and we can certainly use it, but it is a happy mystery.

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 @ 6:08 AM

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Cat Sniffed

Our son and his wife allow these cats to live inside their house.

Three starving cats, each weighing something less than 90 pounds.

Donald and Helen like cats. Helen even makes tee shirts with pictures of their cats on the chest.

The cats view Donald, Helen and all humanity with the distain for which cats are noted even though yesterday Donald was actually wearing one of those Ninja Kitty tee shirts.

Yes,Sunday, Donald and Helen invited Ginny and me over for a delicious lunch of Barbecued ribs. When we arrived Ginny, who is also a cat lover tried to pet one of the fuzzy varmints. Naturally, it moved just inches out of her reach.

However, the newest cat in the household discovered me as I lounged on this chaise lounge. This cat began sniffing my feet. It progressed up my left leg sniffing the whole length of my body with its nose a quarter of an inch away from my flesh. It climbed the back of that chair thing and sniffed my arms, shoulders, hair. Then it proceeded down the right side of me, sniffing every inch all the way back down to my feet.

This sniffing inspection process took close to 20 minutes.

Cat lovers in the room said they’d never seen any cat ever do that before.

I have no idea why this cat sound me so fascinating.

Now, I will say nothing against the beloved cats that inhabit Donald and Helen’s home. Their home, their cats. But when I returned to my home, I stripped off all my clothes and stuffed them in the washer with soap and bleach. And I showered thoroughly myself.

Can you blame me?

I’ve been cat sniffed.

Now cat lovers claim that cats are clean, loving, exotic pets, creatures of grace and beauty…

Maybe so.

I won’t deny that.

But I remember someone saying about a glamorous Hollywood actress, a noted beauty, a sex-kitten of international fame, a glamor girl whose image appeared on pinup calendars, movie posters and magazine covers. They said of her, “Yes, you can spend a memorable night in her bed, but in the morning you’ll wake up with sequined fleas”.

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 @ 6:32 AM

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Am I Troubled?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside…

Oh really?

If the Lord does all those good things, then why do troubles beset me?

Why do aggravations aggravate? Why parking tickets? Why my macular degeneration, trembling hands and prostrate cancer? Why Microsoft Word? Why doesn’t my scanner scan? Why loud neighborhood teens with boom box radios? Why insomnia? Why inadequate health insurance?

Ok. I’ll admit that my troubles are petty affairs, ripples in a world filled with troubles. Mine don’t stack up to the troubles suffered by most of humanity.

But my troubles are mine.

My toothache hurts more than any other toothache in the history of the world. No one can tell me otherwise!

So, if the Lord is indeed my shepherd, why do I have to undergo so many troubles?

Shouldn’t a child of God live a smooth, peaceful, prosperous life beside those still waters, lying on my back in a green pasture gazing up at fluffy white clouds like fairy castles in the air…

What’s that?

Damn! You’re right. That’s a pasture patty I was laying on! And that’s a fire ant mound I pillowed my head on!

What kind of Shepherd is this who would lead me into a place like this?

I want to complain to the management.

I want to know why, if Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd, why I have to endure so many troubles in this world.

And when I ask this question, a couple of things occur to me; these aren’t answers by any means but hints as to why God allows His children (me in particular) to suffer.

My first thought is that some troubles are impersonal and generic; they come about simply because we live in a fallen world that is still falling and hasn’t hit bottom yet. The hurricane forming off our Florida coast this morning has no personal grudge against me. Tree limbs will fall on my roof as well as my neighbors. Churches and bars will both flood. Godly couples have deformed babies just as the ungodly do. War kills sinner and righteous indiscriminately. Forest fires roast bunnies as well as rattlesnakes.

Man that is born of woman is few of days and full of troubles.

That’s just the nature of the world.

Sheep in the pasture mean pasture patties on the ground.

Nothing unusual about it.

Some troubles I generate myself. Right now I’m frustrated about trying to scan in 77 old sepia photographs for my fire history book. I curse and hit the edge of my desk and call the scanner nasty names… Nobody is forcing me to scan in these photos. Nobody compels me to write this book. I’m encountering scanner troubles because of my own choice; the grainy photos go with the territory. My current troubles come with the job…. Although it might help for me to read the instruction manual.

When I chose a course of action, then I have also chosen the troubles that go with that course of action.

Other troubles come because evil exists, because an evil one exists. It lurked in the parking garage yesterday just waiting for the meter to click so it could slap that $15 ticket on Ginny’s windshield. And the retirement seminar (which she found of little help) ran overtime just long enough for the evil one to strike.

That may not be the best example of evil at work in the world, but it’s the example fresh in my mind this morning.

Of course, everyone knows that sin spawns trouble. Here in Jacksonville our murder rate climbs daily. Groups of people stand on street corners when a car drives by and opens fire spraying the group and nearby houses with bullets. We’ve had several cases of children killed in their own beds or while reading library books when stray bullets came through the walls of their homes.

Unintended victims of the local drug trade.

Sin spawns trouble, anguish, sorrow, grief. More sin.

That’s what happens to other people. Deep in my heart, I’m convinced that my own sins are petty habits which are nobody else’s business. They are my pets. Never cause any trouble at all.

My sins are housebroken.



In fact, my sins are hardly sins at all, let’s just call them minor character flaws. Actually, I’d only call them little peccadilloes if I could spell that word.

I'm not a dirty old man, just a vigorous senior mature gentleman with certain youthful interests.


Deep in my heart, I hardly think I need a Savior at all because I’m such a nice guy; but I let Christ save me because that’s what nice guys do. Only sinners and hypocrites actually need a Savior dying on a cross, my own peccadilloes don’t call for such drastic rescue measures as that…

Am I the only Christian to think like that?

I mean for God to come to earth, die on a cross, and rise from death because of me: what I am, what I’ve done, what I’m still doing. Really, I ask you!. He need not have gone to all that bother; my sins are not that serious, I’m not as bad as all that — Am I?

Humm. Wrong question there.

I think there is another reason the Good Shepherd lets troubles trouble me.

He once said that He has other sheep which are not of this fold.

He expects us 99 comfortable ones to reach out to those other sheep, to testify concerning Him. And they won’t believe us unless we are undergoing the same sort of troubles they are.

Maybe I just suspicious, but when some guy with razor-cut hair wearing a Rolex, smiling with even teeth, shooting his cuffs, with a Lexus or BMW parked outside — when such a guy begins to tell me about Jeeezsus, I write him off.

Sure he can jabber about the peace of God and the still waters and the green pastures. Why not, he probably got laid last night too.

No wonder, he’s so pleased about his relationship to God.

I write him off because he does not live in my world. He hasn’t a clue about my angst and anguish and inner turmoil.

Whoa! I’m being judgmental here. That polished preacher may very well be listened to by people who would never pay attention to a word I say. He has his own Lord. Who am I to judge another’s servant?

But here’s another guy — a guy who’s been hit by life’s truck, who is wounded and bleeding and dirty and hurt…

When that guy glows with the love of Jesus, when he extols this Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God slain from before the foundations of the world, who gave His life for the sheep — Well, just maybe he has something there.

I’m inclined to listen to him because he’s suffered the same sort of thing I have.

Maybe the Good Shepherd lets us be troubled so we can be His voice to a suffering world, so that other lost sheep can recognize the ring of truth in what we say about Him.

Sometimes I suspect that we suffer trouble because we have the privilege of being Christ’s spokesmen.

We are ambassadors for Christ and our troubles are our credentials.

What an incredible blessing!

What an honor.

My sheep hear my voice, He said.

“A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers,” He 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 @ 7:58 AM

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Raising A Fatted Calf

They had a fatted calf to slaughter at the feast when the Prodigal Son returned only because the father and brother and other people in the story kept on working the farm and going about their business while the lay-about partied in that far country.

Sunday, Ginny and I visited a new city park I’d not been to before and as we drove we discussed the decision of our youngest daughter to abandon our family and move to south Florida with some friend. We suspect drug dependency has a lot to do with her choice.

The main topic of our conversation rehashed what we might have done differently when she was a child or teenager. Her behavior pattern has gone on and escalated for almost 15 years now. I tend to blame myself for failing her in some fundamental area as I grieve at what I see as her path to self destruction.

Ginny says that’s nonsense; we did the best we could with what we had at the time; there’s little we should feel guilty about.

Patricia appears to be extremely smart. She displays many talents and demonstrated great creativity. Ginny and I reminisced about the steamer trunk Patricia transformed into a work of art, about the birdcage she decorated with a statue of Venus and vampire teeth, about the skirt she sewed out of my old neck ties. The child has a knack for creating beautiful things.

Yet, either drugs or demons or mental problems or just pure rebellion destroy her, make her miserable, and cause her to cast aside college, friends and family.

She will turn 28 years old later this month.

Ginny reminds me that I am not the savior of the world, Christ is.

I want to jump in and fix things, straighten it all out, make it better.

This time I can’t.

It appears that I have a dad’s most painful duty — letting go. Watching from the sidelines as one of my children circles the drain.

By her own choice.

Wonder if God The Father ever watches me feeling that same way?

Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11) emphasizing the joy of welcome when the Prodigal came to himself among the pig husks in that far country and returned home. But the subtext of the story reveals how the Prodigal’s action damaged the older brother, the father, the whole household.

I wish Jesus had elaborated.

Our daughter Eve, the librarian/poet, announced a change to a job following her heart. I’m proud of her. She’s had three job offers but is taking a lower place in the system because her heart lies in children’s work instead of administration. Good for her!

Our daughter-in-law Helen faces surgery soon; she goes in for a consult today and has posted a sonogram of her insides on her blog. Ginny attends a seminar on retirement this morning. Donald continues to render and stand as the backbone of our family. Jennifer continues to be Jennifer, our butterfly, and provide comic relief.

Yesterday I resumed work on my book about the history of firefighting in Jacksonville. And Barbara White came over to correct proofs of the second book in her Along The Way series; she’s proofing the text in the waiting room during her daughter’s chemotherapy treatments.

We are all wounded but moving ahead; we’re raising a blue-ribbon fatted calf to barbeque — with, or without, our Prodigal.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:24 AM

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

One Christian’s Days of Ups and Downs

↑ — Up. Friday Barbara White came over with the first set of proof pages for her Along The Way series of books and we made the corrections in that first volume.

↓ — Down. My youngest daughter called about 10:30 Friday night saying she’s given up job hunting and plans to abandon all her furniture and move in with some guy (one she conspicuously avoids naming) downstate. She intended to leave Saturday morning.

↑ — Up. Fifteen minutes after Barbara and I finished the last correction in her first set of proof pages, the postman delivered the second set from the printer. At this rate, I expect to publish her series in my online book catalog, Bluefish Books, within the three weeks.

↓ — Two of my other children called saying how worried they are about Patricia and how frustrated they feel that after all the help we’ve given her that she’s tossing it all away; the whole family is in mourning.

↑ — Ginny and I enjoyed our usual Friday Night Date to get reacquainted after the week’s turmoil. We strolled around the Five Points shopping center admiring the colorful uniforms all the young gothics were wearing to appear individual and unique.

↓ — Because of home owners insurance and car insurance falling due at the same time, we find our bank account is at its lowest in over three years.

↑ — Back at Christmas two of my daughters found a piece of art in a dumpster, they thought I’d like it, and pulled it out of the trash for my Christmas present. Friday, Helen, my daughter-in-law, tracked down the artist and found the piece is valued at at least $,1,500. She’s undertaken to sell it for me.

↓ — In phone conversations with various family members I’ve reevaluated our stance with Patricia and her drug/lifestyle problems. In the past year we paid college tuition for her; but she dropped out. We gave her a used but running car; she wrecked it. We helped her move and furnish a house and even did yard work for her, she intends to abandon it all. We have prayed for her and counseled with her. At sacrifice to ourselves, we got her new eyeglasses, drove her to job interviews, included her in family activities, bought groceries, and even took her cats to the vet. We now feel we have exhausted all the financial, physical, spiritual and emotional resources we have to invest. We feel we have given her every chance within our power to get her life straight so she can live the way she’d really like too rather than be driven and herded by circumstance. We feel we’ve failed and berate ourselves and feel guilty wondering what we could have done differently to help her: too much? Too little. We tried to give her a stable base to build on herself and feel our efforts have been futile. We love her very much and hate what has happened to her and what she has let happen, but our consensus is that we have to let go. Whether she sinks or swims now, we can’t be pulled under any deeper. And we feel terrible about the whole damn thing.

Now for three ups in a row ↑↑↑.

↑ — Yesterday at breakfast at Dave’s Diner, by chance Ginny and I ran into our daughter Eve and a gaggle of sisters and girls who had gotten together for breakfast and to shop for a bridal veil. Six giggling girls on an all-day shopping expedition for one flimsy piece of cloth! I told the girls that I’d make her a veil — take a mesh onion sack, cut off the end, soak it in bleach and… They hooted me down. Giddy girls.

↑ — In early morning research, I stumbled across a handle which will enable me to finish writing my book on the history of the Jacksonville Fire Department. That makes me very happy! I look forward to resuming that work next week.

↑ — Ginny and I spend Saturday doing virtually nothing. We sat in our garden reading murder mysteries, floated on air mattresses in the pool chatting about nothing in particular, watched some 1950s video movies, ate leftovers — a relaxed, peaceful day.

↑ or ↓ ? not sure which ?—. Patricia called mid-morning saying she’s delaying her move downstate till next weekend. I don’t know what to think or how to pray.

↑ — The joy of the Lord is our strength. The last line of an old hymn runs through my mind. Can’t remember all the words (and too lazy to look them up this morning) but they reflect my reality at this moment:

By the light of burning martyrs,
Jesus’ bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Cavalries ever,
with the Cross that turns not back…
While behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above His own.

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 @ 6:34 AM

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Just Normal Daily Life

I spent Thursday eating breakfast and lunch — That’s about it for me.

My friend Wes took me out to breakfast at Mimi’s Café in St. John’s Town Center, a fancy yuppie place where breakfast cost three times as much as at Dave’s Diner but the ambiance is certainly nicer.

I could get used to that life style.

I feel that I’ve found my level.


Wes just returned from South Dakota. He was out there negotiating arrangements to support a young man, a soon-to-graduate high school student, through medical school.

Then my daughter Jennifer took me to lunch at Sonny’s BBQ. She’s heavily involved in arranging to send a young man to a welding school.

The willingness of Jennifer and Wes to make a long-term commitment to helping these disadvantaged kids who neither one have any real connection with the principals impresses me. Both Wes and Jennifer appear to regard what they are doing for these young men as just a normal outgrowth of Christian service.

Christians do end up in some of the oddest financial situations.

Personally, I ain’t sending nothing to nobody nowhere.

Ginny and I suffer from charity overload at the moment.

I’m still unraveling in tension release from my push at work last week. Just to get away from in front of the computer screen, I intend to finish out the next few days in pleasure reading and in yard work.

God willing, I intend to resume my work writing that book on Jacksonville’s fire fighting history next week. I backburnered that book months ago, and it’s hard to pick up where I left off. I doubt if I will finish that one before Christmas. But once that book is complete, I will have accomplished my writing goals for the year.

Big deal.

Might as well have spent the past year fishing.

The biggest heart ache at the moment is that there’s been no word from or about our youngest daughter for several weeks. She was supposed to appear in court last week but we have no way of knowing if she did or skipped out. She does not return repeated phone calls and messages. No one in the family knows if she’s crashed somewhere on drugs, or in jail, or got a job, or left town, or what.

Several of us have driven by her house but there’s no answer when we knock.

She’s troubled but we’ve all exhausted our resources and have no idea how to really help her.

Not knowing what is going on is difficult.

Ginny and I try to leave her in God’s hands and to trust, but still we worry.

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 @ 6:16 AM

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Correcting A Gross Misrepresentation

Yesterday Barbara White called me distressed because of something I wrote about her.

I want to set the record straight here.

I’m formatting four books Barbara wrote, the Along The Way series for Bluefish Books. These books collect newspaper columns she wrote about her pilgrimage following Christ in daily life. I feel these essays may be enormously helpful to other people interested in Christian living on a practical level.

The thing which distressed Barbara was a blurb I wrote for the back cover of each book in an “About The Author” section. (I posted a photo of one such cover in my September 1st .blog).

I wrote that she “lives in a retirement community where she continues part of her Christian service in prayer and by spoon feeding paralyzed stroke victims in a near by nursing home”.

Barbara called me because she felt the statement misrepresented her.

She said she does not feed the stroke victims.

“I merely visit. Sporadically,” she said.

She said my statement was not true; therefore, she wanted me to change my statement on the book cover — a major undertaking.

I came up with an easier solution.

Instead of changing the four book covers, I suggested that she take a packet of peanut butter crackers over to the nursing home tonight and give one to each paralyzed person. That would make my statement about her feeding the sick true and it would be a whole lot easier than changing the blurb wording on four covers..

Christian humility and truthfulness can be a pain for the rest of us.

My suggestion appalled Barbara.

She does not want credit for acts of charity she did not do.

Now, why would I think she actually fed the patients?

Because of her overall character.

Her character which we’ve observed in the 20+ years Ginny and I have known her.

For instance, I know that she worked as a volunteer with a hospice program and that she also volunteered in a clothing center for the poor in Springfield, a slum, high-crime section of Jacksonville.

So naturally, when I read Barbara’s May 4th blog posting “Dinner With Friends” about her visits to the nursing home, I misunderstood and I mistakenly assumed that she fed the patients there herself.

She doesn’t.

She does not spoon feed the stroke victims.

She found it distressing that I thought she did.

Why would I think that?

I know from personal observation that over the years she has taken in five troubled kids to raise in her home to save them from unstable environments.

So I naturally assumed she also fed sick patients in the nursing home.

I know that back when we were poor, she took me and Ginny grocery shopping to feed our kids, so naturally I assumed that today she fed the stroke victims as well.

I’ve seen the correspondence documenting that Barbara has long supported a missionary family in a remote section of Africa, so it was not much of a reach for me to think she ministered to old people close at hand.

I know first-hand (because I’ve driven the van) that she has donated vanloads of clothing and household good to city rescue missions right here in Jacksonville — so naturally I assumed that her sporadic visits to the nursing home, going over there on her own aluminum walker, included hands-on service, and I was under the impression that she actually spoon-fed the people with her own hand.

I was wrong.

Barbara insisted that I correct that misrepresentation

That’s what I’m doing with this blog post.

Barbara White just visits the folks in the nursing home.

She does not feed them..

What she does is — hidden in her purse, she sneaks a spoon into the nursing home unit; and when the attendants are not looking, Barbara whips out her spoon, she grabs the bowl of applesauce off the patient’s bedside tray — and she eats it all herself!

And while she does, she cackles, “… And your little dog too!”

She’s that kind of Christian.

I’m glad I could post this correction.

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 @ 2:10 AM

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Art and Life on A Happy Weekend

For some reason I have more trouble writing about happy days than aggravating ones. I suppose that’s because happy times leave an aura of contentment, a state difficult to describe.

The same is true of people.

People you really like are harder to describe than ones who are a pain.

That holds true even in fiction. Villains come out easier than heroes. An evil person leaps to life on a page; a saint comes across as unbelievable. I think that’s because as a writer, I can easily imagine characters worse than I am. But, for the life of me, I can’t imagine a person better than I am.

This is not vanity; it’s physics.

Water can’t rise higher than its source.

Familiarity enters into it too.

When I say the name Ginny I’ve said it all. In that one name, 40 years of love, trials, joys, pleasures, frustrations, memories are all summed up. The name Ginny conjures up a thousand thousand conversations, glimpses, tears, laughs, thoughts.

If I were to have to describe her, I’d describe the girl I courted 40 years ago because in my mind’s eye that’s how I still see her. She will forever be 22-years-old sitting on a curb waiting for me to get out of class — and her present-day white hair does not exist unless I especially look directly at her sitting across the table from me with the sunset behind her giving her hair a blaze of silver glow.

Then I see a new beauty.

Apart from that, her white hair does not exist.

Odd, that.

Anyhow, Ginny and I spent a delightful weekend together. Saturday morning we met our son Donald and his wife Helen for breakfast at Dave’s Diner. Then the four of us visited the Riverside Art Festival to compare Helen’s fine graphics with the stuff on display. We urged her to enter an exhibit next year.

While the others looked at art, I looked at women in the crowd.

It appears that this year’s art show attracted the world’s largest assembly of ugly women wearing extremely low-cut blouses.

A strange dichotomy.

The four of us shopped at the Presbyterian Church jumble sale across the street where Donald, the ratfink, bought a stuffed piranha, a vicious carnivore fish from the Amazon, that I was eyeing and intending to buy.

The Presbyterians only had one single piranha for sale.

Now Donald owns a stuffed piranha — and I don’t.

There is no justice in the universe.

I hope his cat eats it.

Speaking of Donald and Helen, a couple of times recently I’ve spoken of how helpful the free e-mail devotions Donald sends out have been to me.

Now, over the weekend, he has published a 2008 Pin Up Girl Calendar and posted a link on his blog.

Yep, deep devotions one day, pin-up girls the next.

That apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?

The calendar girls are not real human women but imaginary computer graphic creations called Animes.

No human females are actually shaped like that —

Or, if there are, none of them were at the art show.

I would have noticed.

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 @ 5:42 AM

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Friday, September 07, 2007

More Important Than Important

Tears streaming down her face, an ancient woman from down the street knocked at my door yesterday interrupting my work.

Actually, she didn’t knock; so feeble she could not make it up the single door step, she just stood there crying.

Fortunately my computer desk is right at our front window so I’d seen her totter up the driveway and went to the door to see what was the matter.

Even with my help, she could not make it inside because she was shaking and quivering so. She tried to explain why she had walked to my house but her voice cracked and she cried so hard that I could not understand her.

My first thought when she appeared was “Damn! Oh Damn! I’m right in the middle of something important here. I don’t need this!”

The importance of my work preparing Barbara White’s Along The Way columns for publication presses me to work on this project night and day recently. I’ve been skipping meals, working late, putting in 15-16-18-20 hour days.

Ginny and I talk about little else than The Project. I think about little else. Notes and clippings and file folders have littered our living room for weeks now. We pray about The Project. We’ve involved our whole family in helping.

I hardly ever post blog entries, grudging the time taken from The Project. My own writing has come to a screeching halt because I feel preparing Barbara’s books is more important than my own.

I feel that her work borders on the fringes of becoming a Christian classic.

So, when this old woman appeared at my door, my first thought was one of resentment.

I’m too busy serving God to be bothered with some senile old bitty.


It much more important to follow Jesus than to write about following Jesus.

Setting aside my first thoughts, I calmed the old lady down enough to find out what had upset her.

She wanted a cardboard box.

She felt ashamed to admit it but one of her children is in jail and had asked her to mail a pair of eyeglasses from home and the old lady could not find a cardboard to put the glasses in.

She said she knew I had boxes because she’s seen the postman deliver proof pages of my books in small cardboard boxes.

That’s why she staggered to my door.

She needed a box one of my books had come in.

Well, I’ve prayed to be able to serve Christ with my writing.

Here’s my chance.

The old woman found it so embarrassing to have to tell me her daughter was in prison, she was so ashamed of admitting that to me, she was so weakened by the walk to my house, she was so upset and worried about her daughter that her blood sugar had spiked and she was near collapse.

I left my precious writing and found a box, tape, bubble-wrap, etc. and I packaged the eyeglasses securely. The old lady’s hands shook so bad that she could not address the package; I had to do that for her.

As I fixed up the box to mail to the prison, I calmed the old woman by asking her questions about her “baby” who is over 50! But still her mother babies her.

The old lady told me about how she married in 1943 but was not able to have children till after an operation in 1951. Then she gave birth — Pop. Pop. Pop. — to six children in less than ten years.

As she talked, she became clearer and clearer. He hands stopped trembling so bad. Her tears stopped and she told me all about that wonderful year 1945 when her husband mustadred out of the service and came home.

Happy beautiful memories unveiled and relived.

So, in all this, I lost a couple of hours work. So it threw my work schedule off. So I won’t finish the goal I’d set for today. So I’ll have to put in a few hours extra this weekend. So what?

But my times are in His hands.

It does no good for me to write about the love of Jesus if I don’t try to live it out.

What’s important to me is not necessarily important to God.

Some things are more important than important.

But, it strikes me funny to think that while the last book I wrote may or may not serve the Lord Christ -- the box that it came in will.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:51 AM

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Still Click'n

Still putting in marathon days and nights formatting Barbara White’s Along The Way series. (My August 20th blog post explained what I’m doing with this manuscript)

Last night in juggling these 800+ pages of copy, I realized that somewhere along the way in the past couple of days, I’d keyed Control C, which copied text but leaves it in place, instead of Control X, which would erase the text here but save it to paste there.

So when I pasted it there, I ended up with 42 pages duplicated in two separate places miles apart in the scrambled manuscript!

I had to track down each page separately.

When I discovered my mistake, I said, “O dear.”

I don’t know who these other two guys are, but I’m the one in this picture shown editing reams of Barbara’s text:

But I’m still at it — sent another 200 pages to the printer for proofs yesterday.

I may take a lick’n but I keep on click’n!

Last night, I found Donald’s devotional site ( at http://www.rdex.net/devotions/ ) very helpful in my frustration over not understanding computer, or my life, or God, or the world in general.

Here’s the thought from Charles Spurgeon:

"Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?"

--Job 38:16

Some things in nature must remain a mystery to the most intelligent and enterprising investigators. Human knowledge has bounds beyond which it cannot pass. Universal knowledge is for God alone.

If this be so in the things which are seen and temporal, I may rest assured that it is even more so in matters spiritual and eternal.

Why, then, have I been torturing my brain with speculations as to destiny and will, fixed fate, and human responsibility?

These deep and dark truths I am no more able to comprehend than to find out the depth which coucheth beneath, from which old ocean draws her watery stores.

Why am I so curious to know the reason of my Lord's providences, the motive of His actions, the design of His visitations?

Shall I ever be able to clasp the sun in my fist, and hold the universe in my palm?

Yet these are as a drop of a bucket compared with the Lord my God.

Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love.

What I cannot gain by intellect I can possess by affection, and let that suffice me. I cannot penetrate the heart of the sea, but I can enjoy the healthful breezes which sweep over its bosom, and I can sail over its blue waves with propitious winds.

If I could enter the springs of the sea, the feat would serve no useful purpose either to myself or to others, it would not save the sinking bark, or give back the drowned mariner to his weeping wife and children.

Neither would my solving deep mysteries avail me a single whit, for the least love to God, and the simplest act of obedience to Him, are better than the profoundest knowledge.

My Lord, I leave the infinite to Thee, and pray Thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.

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 @ 4:27 AM

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Knowing When To Quit

First, an important NEWS FLASH:

Last night the tv news anchor said, “Early this morning police arrested 28-year-old ———— ——— for the stabbing death of his 11-year-old twin brother”.

That’s what she said.

I didn’t know pregnancies lasted that long.

Now, back to our regular programming:


I never know when to quit.

At breakfast this morning, Ginny pointed that out by reminding me about my younger days back in the 1960s when I was a member of a local archaeological society excavating Indian burial mounds and other sites.

We worked in loose affiliation with the Florida State Museum in Tallahassee, but we were at best enthusiastic amateurs engaged in salvage work ahead of housing developments.

We worked against the time the bulldozers would arrive and plow a site under.

Each day we would excavate till it got too dark to see.

And always, the lingering feeling that I was on the verge of a major discovery haunted me.

One more trowel of earth, one more stroke of the brush, one more shovel of dirt might uncover an effigy pot, a Spanish doubloon, a copper amulet, a perfectly flaked arrowhead — some great treasure.

If I dug just a little more. If I searched a little harder. If I dove deeper in the spring I would find something that would change my life forever.

I’d hate to quit.

I always wanted more.

Am I the only person to be so demon-hounded, driven, and obsessed by wanting more?

Apparently not.

St. Paul advised his young friend Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing our. And having food and raiment, let us therewith be content”.

In the 1920s a newspaper reporter asked a billionaire robber baron — I forget which one, Morgan? DuPonte? Doesn’t matter — asked the wealthy man, “How much money is enough?”.

The billionaire replied, “Just a little bit more than you have”.

How much of anything is enough?

As a kid I loved the banana splits concocted at the corner soda fountain. The soda jerk scooped generous dollops of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla icecream into a long narrow dish with a banana split lengthways on either side. He topped this with strawberry preserves, pineapple goo and chocolate syrup. Then came a ladle of walnuts saturated in maple syrup. Then he mounded whipped cream on top. Then added three cherries with red juice flowing over the mountains of whipped cream.

I ate one.

It was good.

So good, in fact that I ordered another one.

Not a good choice.

I should have known when to quit.

I’ve never known when to quit. When to say enough. When to stop.

After a particularly satisfying enjoyment of sex, even though we’re totally satiated, I’ll want to try again. Ginny says I’m a glutton for punishment and that I've watched too many James Bond movies.

But I'll have this firm resolve to try again.

Alas, my resolve is the only thing that's firm.

And pushing on and forcing performance never works. It turns a satisfying experience into laborious frustrating work and nullifies the satisfaction we’d enjoyed moments before.

It’s that second banana split all over again.

My e-friend Eric, a police dispatcher in Alaska, writes about a Suicide, Self Mutilation and Compassion Fatigue seminar he attended. It was a class for professionals involved in helping people through crisis situations. I think the class was designed to help Helpers stay sane themselves.

Many helping people feel driven to do a little more, to never give up — and then to berate themselves and second-guess when they are forced to say, “Enough”.

A mantra Eric realized in that seminar was:

All I can do is all I can do.

He says he found that powerful statement liberating.

What brought all this up for me?

Well, before breakfast with Ginny, I’d started this Google image search.

I wanted public domain images of highways signs to use as separators between essays in Barbara’s four Along The Way books.

I googled Road Signs (33,800,000 sites) and Traffic Signs (only 23,100,000 sites). Mostly I looked at drivers’ license handbooks and manuals from various countries.

I kept searching.

I kept clicking.

I feared missing something important.

I did.

I missed breakfast.

I wanted more. If I click on the next ten images. If I check out one more site. If I look one more place…

I made us very, very late for breakfast.

Ginny — who is the most content, serene person I have ever met — said I should learn a computer prayer and trust God to tell me when to quit.

She said I should pray, “Dear Lord, please tell me when to stop clicking”.

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 @ 5:36 AM

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

My Life In Camelot

Ginny took Friday off work because we both had doctors’ appointments.

We spent five hours in that waiting room!

Thus, Mr. Spurgeon’s observation on waiting from yesterday’s devotional e-mail certainly proved appropriate for my day.

Incidentally, I didn’t include a link to my son’s blog; it’s Donald’s blog at http://www.rdex.net/blog/ . He’s just posted the oddest thing about prayer. His worldview leaves me in wonder.

As soon as we got home from Dr. Woody’s office (Nothing much new on our medical front: my prostate cancer is still growing along fine; Ginny’s diabetes is still thriving. Same old thing.) … As soon as we got home from the doctor’s office, Barbara called with news.

Last night she finished the last of the four paintings she wants to use as front covers for the books in her Along The Way series. Here’s a photo her art teacher took of her at work on one of them:

That’s her famous chartreuse hat she’s wearing as she paints.

Late Thursday night I sent the first 200 pages off to the printer for galley proofs.

It occurred to me as I worked that my sole qualification for this work is that I’m willing to do it!

Besides, I get to add the title, Enditor, to my name in print (That’s a wonderful 16th Century joke from the Ward Diary that nobody on earth appreciates but me).

Barbara brought her paintings over to show Ginny and me. I scanned them into the computer and e-mailed them to Helen for a professional opinion. I don’t care for one of the paintings but as a graphic designer, Helen has a developed eye for such things and overruled me. Here is a photo of the back cover Helen designed for the first of Barbara’s books:

This World War I memorial fountain and statue of Winged Victory is a famous Jacksonville landmark; it’s in a riverfront park just a few blocks from our home. The plaque says it’s a statue of “Youth rising above the turmoil of war” — it’s also a great spot to fish for mullet.

Barbara treated Ginny and me to a late lunch, driving miles across town to her favorite restaurant only to find it closed, then back across town to a great seafood place.

Gave us all plenty of time to catch up on conversation.

This day helps me realize how privileged I am to be part of such a wonderful family. I’m honored that all these talented people invest so much time, money and energy into my pet project of writing and publishing all these different books.

This morning Dr. Woody and I talked more about books than medicine. He questioned me about the business end of our venture and seemed amazed that Ginny and I are so dedicated to such an unprofitable venture.

I rather doubt that any of our work will ever prove commercially viable; Richard Murdock can rest easy with his crown.

Yet, I’m part of this wonderful team of people who believe in what we are doing and work together, each person a vital part of the whole unit.

We feel that in some measure we are honoring and worshiping the Lord Christ in what we do and how we work — in the awful jokes, the tears, and the teasing, the laughs, the planning and plotting, even in my fretting..

Once Jesus said “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.

That’s why we do it.

That’s what we are.

It’s all Him.

But, it seems there’s a bottleneck in this smooth operation — Remember Lucy & Ethel in the candy factory?

If you’re too young to remember that , get a video of the old tv series I Love Lucy; you’ll love it!

So, now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have another 600+ eggs to add to the pyramid.

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 @ 2:20 AM

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