Rabid Fun

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wondering What I Lost

First, I want to thank those readers who have been buying my books; this is shaping up to be my best quarter for sales ever. I appreciate your vote of confidence. And there’s still plenty of time to order from www.bluefishbooks.info for delivery before Christmas. The recent upsurge in sales makes me feel good.

What makes me feel bad is that I’ve lost something but I don’t know what.

Back on November 2nd, I began a push to finish writing my history of the Jacksonville Fire Department before Ginny and I left on our Anniversary trip.

I got up to 1963.

On the up side, while we were gone, several permission letters came in allowing me to quote or use photos from a tv station, other fire histories and websites. That’s a relief. Since my research relies totally on what other people have already written about, I do try to avoid outright plagiarism by asking their permission and giving them footnote credit. Although I admit that trying for spiritual and intellectual honesty is a royal pain in the ass, I try to play fair… most of the time. (If you steal material from a lot of different people, it’s research not plagiarism).

So, I got up to 1963…

Then, what with Anniversary and Thanksgiving, doctors’ appointments and life in general, I backburnered work on my history book and just got back to work on it again this week.

Something’s missing.

I spent yesterday searching for gaps in materials that I’m sure I had but I can’t find them now.

The fire history generated over 1,200 pages of notes which I’m reducing down into a 300-page book.

But when we got back from our Anniversary trip, I found there had been a power outage. I figure this wiped out some of my files, but I can’t tell which ones.

I know some things are missing but I can’t tell exactly what.

Yes, my mind is going, going… gone.

And this is frustrating.

My offsite backup copies and my search programs are no help at all until I can remember the names or contents of the various files. It’s all here in the computer somewhere…. If I could remember what it is that’s missing.

But I’m not sure what is missing, there’s just this vague sense that I’ve misplaced something and that it was important. But I can’t pinpoint what it is.

This whole situation reflects my spiritual life as well as my writing life.

I often feel as though Something (could it be God?) is missing from my life and I can’t pinpoint where I missed Him.

Isn’t this a sad thing for a Christian to admit? Aren’t we supposed to be confident and sure of our relationship with the Lord?

And for some people, that really does seem to be the case.

Good for them…. But that’s beyond my own experience.

A friend of mine says that I am a Puddleglum Christian, that I live my whole life in the Dark Night Of The Soul. (Puddleglum was the delightfully gloomy Marshwiggle in C.S. Lewis’ book The Silver Chair.)

I say, where else is there to live?

By nature I am a morose, morbid, plodding, trudging kind of Christian (and I wonder why everyone else isn’t too).

I’d never make it as the happy, smiling Christian Poster Boy.

Heck, I have a hard enough time selling my books much less my religion.

But, on one level this does not bother me greatly. I mean, I know it’s there, but it does not cause me great anxiety.

We walk by faith not by sight.

I figure that if the Lord wants me to recover the missing research notes for my fire history book, then He will bring it to my mind. If the stuff I think is missing is frivolous bizarre incidents of no lasting interest to anyone but me, then there is no great lose. I mean, if I, the writer of the book, can’t identify what’s missing, then who else is likely to notice or care?

I’m confident that the Lord will bring what is essential to light. After all, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save the lost”.

The same thing is true of my morose faith. I feel confident that the Lord will supply what is missing if He thinks I really need it.

After all, salvation is about something more than my personal comfort level.

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 @ 4:05 AM

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Various Holiday Weekend Happenings

The day before Thanksgiving a guy I’ve never met took a close look at Ginny’s breasts.

Last month she went in for her annual mammogram which revealed two worrisome anomalies. They called her back in for a second x-ray and a sonogram to look at the spots closer. Wednesday the radiologist examined her thoroughly and decided that both suspicious areas were benign.

Can’t top that as something to be thankful for!

We had decided not to mention the situation before till we knew exactly what we might be facing, so the radiologist’s news provided us with a great relief.

I find that I am not naturally a thankful person.

When good things happen to me, I tend to feel that they are my due. When bad things happen, I tend to feel that God has it in for me.

Neither stance lends itself to a thankful heart.

I fit in with that group of people of whom the Scripture says, “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful…”

Not a good position to be in.

A thankful heart requires conscious awareness and effort; we don’t just drift into it. Thankful hearts begin with an awareness of good’s Source.

The Apostle James said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth…”

Until that mind set becomes a part of us, and I loose sight of it all the time, we remain ungrateful slobs blundering through life feeling as though we deserved nothing but good and feeling slighted any time our will is thwarted in any little thing.

Thursday the whole family gathered at Donald and Helen’s home for the feast.

What a riot!

Helen roasted a turkey and baked a tasty corn casserole. Ginny mixed her famous dressing (the pigs ate every smidgen leaving me none to bring home). Patricia, our token vegetarian, ate plenty of imitation straw made of soy meal. Jennifer boiled huge pink shrimp on a bed of greens. Eve boiled bananas and shredded coconuts in whiskey as a topping for pound cake. I baked an apple pie but only two people tried a slice and I had to bring it home and eat the rest myself while watching football.

After the feast we gathered in the backyard to write our Christmas gift wish lists. This family Thanksgiving tradition admits no limit. Anything you might possibly ever want can go on your list, and when each person reads their list aloud around the family circle, unmerciful teasing ensues.

We laughed till we choked and all the red faces were not from a holiday fire’s glow.

Of course I urged everyone to buy nothing but copies of my books as Christmas gifts — What could be more suitable than a copy of Gravedigger’s Christmas? — but they listed silly things like Peace On Earth, a moose head lamp, donations to charity, and other impractical stuff like that. No body in my own family wants to buy my books!

I’m stuffing stockings with lumps of coal this year.

See if I don’t!

Ginny and I seldom exchange gifts — all we want is eachother — but if we do, it’s something simple. For instance, for our anniversary last week, I gave her some cotton boles I picked and a large snail shell I found on the lake. She arranged these with a pine cone she found to make us a 39th Anniversary Tree:

But we try to ensure that each person gets at least one thing on their list. We spend money we can’t afford buying things that no one on earth needs — just for the pure fun of it.

Therefore, on Friday, Ginny and I joined at least four or five other shoppers in the stores for the After-Thanksgiving Sales.

Any reputable psychiatrist would certify us both for such behavior.

Now for years and years we often have shopped at Big Lots. So Friday we went there again. But….

But, when I went to get a shopping cart, I found them locked. Each cart now has a meter and you have to pay a quarter to use one in Big Lots.

Fat chance. This is not an airport.

Ginny and I walked a dozen steps to two other stores in the strip mall and spent $60.47 on trinkets we intended to buy at Big Lots. In trying to gouge customers out of an extra quarter for a previously-free shopping cart to shop in their store, they screwed themselves out of our $60.47.

As far as I’m concerned, from now on the cheapskates at Big Lots can enjoy their empty shopping carts and cash registers.

Have you ever noticed that for a Christian, I can be a bitter little person?

Saturday we received a queer birthday letter (not our birthday) requesting a response but we have no idea how to respond. We’re puzzling over this one.

Saturday night, Ginny and I braved the cold 60 degree weather to attend the 23rd Annual Jacksonville Christmas Boat Parade — the link is to some photos I took of the celebration.

What a blast!

Police estimate that over 200,000 people watched more than 70 boats decorated with Christmas lights parade between two downtown bridges.

Only in Florida will you see a woman watching the Christmas Parade on the river with a mink coat on her shoulders and flip flops ion her feet.

Be sure to check out my photo link, the boats do not show up well in the thumbnails but look ok when you click on the full-sized shot.

Following the parade, fireworks erupted from both bridges and from two barges anchored mid-channel in the St Johns. Reflections from the water and from downtown office building windows triple the lightshow in the sky.

To conclude the program, fireworks cascade from the bridge decks into the St Johns. Because of the crowd and our location all my photos have only one bridge, the Acosta, in the background:

Of course, Jacksonville firefighters supervised the display and our fireboats patrolled the river … which reminds me that I need to get to work again tomorrow writing that history of the Jacksonville Fire Department….

No way am I going to finish that book before Christmas.

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 @ 12:06 PM

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Real Florida Thanksgiving

My friend Wes, author of Jesus Christ, Morons & Blood Clotting, done gave me this here E-Male pitcher.

Us Redneck Crackers down here in Florida surly do know how to do up Thanksgiving right nice and purely good.

Y’all have a good un too.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:54 AM

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Photo From Another World

Thanks to my son Donald’s repairing the access software, I can now get into my website.

Therefore, even though I know that looking at somebody else’s vacation pictures bores folks, nevertheless, here is a link (http://www.cowart.info/SeminoleLakeVacation2007.htm ) to photos Ginny and I took on our Anniversary trip to Seminole State Park, Ga.

Speaking of photographs:

Girls mature faster than boys.

That’s what I’ve been told.

Having never actually matured myself, I have to rely on hearsay evidence.

Ginny returned to her office yesterday; I resumed nosing around my 1,200 pages of notes on that book on Jacksonville’s firefighting history that I’m writing.

My research led me up an odd alley.

While trying to confirm a fact about a Jacksonville fire that burned over 60 years ago, I followed a research trail that caused me to stumbled across — my own High School Yearbook!

HER photo was in it.

No, not Ginny; I did not meet her for another 20 years. I found a photo of HER, the girl I anguished over in high school with a desperate, heart-rending, teen-aged crush..

Seeing her yearbook photo sparked a host of bitter-sweet memories.

This was the girl I adored from afar.

The object of my yearning..

The girl of my waking fantasies and sleeping dreams.

But, alas, a romance between us was never to be.

An insurmountable obstacle kept her far distant, out of reach above me.

You see, she was a whole year older than I.

She was 17 and I was only 16. I was a lowly junior while she was actually a Senior. In the 1950s, I was convinced that an older, mature woman would be offended to be approached by some inferior punk kid.

Daily, I ate my heart out.

A scheduling fluke landed this lovely creature and me in the same art class for two years. — Our art teacher was Memphis Wood, who later became famous in national art circles as “Jacksonville’s First Lady Of Art”.

For two years, I languished knowing that the girl sat and created lovely art at the table behind me. I found every excuse to turn around and look at her.

That’s all I could do.


I was much too shy to even speak to her, much less approach her.

Then, one day she boldly approached me.

Sort of.

Since I made fair grades in science, she invited me to her house to talk with her little brother about his science project.

I was going to her house!

Oh, how I fretted over what to wear and what to say and how to act. It was terrible. I so wanted to make a good impression on her.

I went.

Rode the bus over.

She met me at the door (Oh she looked so beautiful!) and introduced me to her parents and brother.

We went into the bedroom — the kid brother and I — and talked about astronomy for an hour. I knew next to nothing about astronomy and wondered why she had asked me to talk with her brother about stars???

That really puzzled me.

She had disappeared into the kitchen and I did not see her again till she walked me to the door to see me out. She seemed a bit funny. Disappointed. I could not understand. I had done exactly what she had asked. I talked with the brother about astronomy. I’d even brought library books about stars with me to talk with him. But she did not seem satisfied with my behavior. It was like she expected something more of me and I did not know what.

I longed with all my heart to think of something to say to her. Anything at all. I froze. My mind went blank. I mumbled something or another to say good bye.

I rode a cold, lonely bus home kicking myself all the way.

You may find this hard to believe, but I was dense as a kid.

I continued to see and adore her in art class every day.

But I don’t recall that we ever actually spoke again.

I felt too shy.

The barrier of age seemed too high.

She graduated.

I remained a high school kid for another year.

I never saw her again.

I imagine she went to college, married, had kids, probably has grandchildren by now. I hope she has enjoyed a happy life. I wonder if she would even remember my name if she ran across it somewhere?

I had hardly thought of her for years until my fire research led me to her yearbook photo…. One other thing I recalled on seeing her photo:

Back in the 1950s, our schools had a dress code. I don’t think it was written down anywhere but everyone just knew how to dress for school. No one wore jeans. Boys wore dress pants and an ironed shirt with a collar; girls wore dresses, blouses or sweaters and full skirts.

Once in art class — we perched on these high stools at work tables — Once in art class maybe — I’m not sure about this. I may be wrong — I may possibly have seen — probably not, but maybe — as she got on her stool with a flip of her skirt, I may possibly have caught a brief glimpse of her thigh.

It was probably just a tan slip or pink crinoline or whatever girls wore underneath in those days. I may not really have seen what I thought I saw, but I think I may have actually glimpsed a flash of her thigh — Above the knee!

That haunting glimpse of her fed my fantasy life for months and months …

Come to think of it, now that I’m 50 years older, it still 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 @ 4:38 AM

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Monday, November 19, 2007

We’re Back And Still Happily Married

To celebrate our 39th Anniversary, Ginny and I traveled about 200 miles to Seminole State Park in southwestern Georgia. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

A few duties involving a neighbor’s heart attack threw our timing off for starting our trip; I helped in a very minor way, but he’s recovering nicely anyhow.

Once we did get underway, we stuck to back roads enjoying the rural countryside and the small towns we passed through.

One abrupt physical limitation surprised me. I expected to cruise all the way in one marathon driving stretch but my arthritis pain, which is always in the background, kicked in so bad that that I could not drive even 50 miles without stopping. When we were young and driving the truck cross country, I used to drive 500 miles a night without giving it a thought.

I thought I still could.

I can’t.

What a shock.

I have scads of photos to post but my Contribute software keeps giving me an Access Denied message, so those will have to wait till our son, Donald, doctors up the web server so it will let me in.

Each day we were gone Ginny and I went for long walks. We strolled around the verge of a placid lake, hiked to a beaver pond, balanced our way across rickety boardwalks above the swamp, and viewed wildlife and autumn foliage.

We hoped to see some of the rattlesnakes, gators and gopher tortoises for which the park is famous…

No snakes.

No gators.

And only one tortoise. This substantial beast, Georgia’s state reptile, stood on a mound outside its burrow by a paved road until I got the camera out. Then it scuttered underground. Four times on different days I tried to sneak up to snap it’s picture. The creature always moved underground before I could photograph it… To be outrun by a tortoise says something about my speed.


While standing on a bridge above a swamp, I got this photo of a giant snapping turtle swimming underwater about 30 yards away. You can’t grasp the size from my cropped photo but this turtle’s shell is bigger around than a car tire:

I’m so proud of getting this long-distance photo of the monster:

Of course, we did not spend all our anniversary time tramping through the woods. The immaculate cabin we stayed in featured comfortable rockers on a porch overlooking an arm of the massive lake. So we watched birds from the comfort of our rockers. We saw a family of unfamiliar ducks and a pair of Canadian Geese feeding right at our door. And we watched red-winged black birds flit from reed to reed, and an osprey divebomb fish from a nearby pine.

We rocked and talked for hours and hours on end. We never run out of things to talk about, although sometimes we do spend hours on end without speaking. We’re comfortable being silent together.

One of the nicest features of our vacation was having time for uninterrupted reading.

I read a book on archeology in Denmark, one on ghost towns of Georgia, a book about travels in London, and two murder mysteries.

Besides those books, in the New Testament I read Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Hardly understood a word in any of the three letters. That doesn’t bother me greatly. Paul’s letters hardly ever make sense to me. If St. Peter said St. Paul’s letters contain “Some things hard to be understood” then my lack of understanding does not overly upset me.

I’ve reached an age when taking a nap with an open Bible on my lap appears venerable to onlookers, even though I’m dreaming about bikini girls and a team of ostriches pulling art.

Another exciting feature of our time together is that Ginny and I began reading The Imitation Of Christ by Thomas A’ Kempis. Our readings spark discussions about our focus on worshiping Christ and how unimportant most mundane things are in reality.

Of course, I believe there are no mundane things. All creation declares the glory of the Lord. Worship can be sparked by things as varied as seeing paramedics resuscitate a neighbor with a heart attack, or feeling my frustration over a camera-shy escaping tortoise, or hearing wind whisper through pine needles, or watching a fog bank creep across the lake, or laying quietly with my Bride holding hands and stroking her silver hair, or seeing a monster snapping turtle lurk beneath a bridge, or touching cotton boles in acres of white fields, or listening to workmen talk over lunch in a small town diner, or trying to read a map while traveling over unfamiliar roads, or comforting a young couple of strangers in a roadside grill who out-of-the-blue told us about their relationship dilemma, or even realizing my new-found physical limitations and dependency …

Christ is all in all.

God is all around us. In Him we live and move and have our very being.

The call to worship our Lord is in all things, in all places, at all times.

There is no limit to worship for a loving heart.

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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Friday, November 02, 2007

The Glory Of The Lord Shone Round About Them

The cassia tree that overhangs our front door has just begun blooming. A recent visitor saw the blossoms in the sunlight and said, “That’s glorious”!

That casual remark got me to thinking about the word glory.

Naturally the first things I thought of were Christmas angels and shepherds:

“And the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid”.

Why would they be afraid?

When my girls were little they played the part of angels in many a Christmas pageant — bare feet, white gowns, cardboard wings, tinsel halos — I carried many a limp sleepy angel home draped over my shoulders after a Christmas Eve midnight service.

Why would shepherds be afraid — sore afraid — at seeing an angel?

Yet the first thing the angel said was, “Fear not!”

It went on to say, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy”.

Maybe the scene is just too familiar from too many Christmas pageants, but good tidings and great joy certainly seem like nothing to be afraid of.

And yet, glimpsing glory generated fear.

I’ve heard the word all my life but I’m not sure exactly what glory means, so I checked my dictionary and here’s what I found.

Glory— marked by great beauty and splendor; illustrious, magnificent, delightful, wonderful, splendid. worshipful, brilliant, resplendence, rejoicing proudly.

I begin to see reasons for fear of the Lord — religious artist represent glory by applying gold leaf halos or radiating light.

I think of a deer caught in the brilliant brightness of headlights coming around a sudden curve, the animal too petrified by fear to move out of the path of the speeding truck. I think of a criminal climbing over the prison wall caught in the glare of the tower. searchlight freezing at the expected bullets to follow.

Sudden light is scary.

No wonder that almost every time men, even holy men, encounter God in the Scripture, it terrifies them.

Peter screamed, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man”.

Isaiah trembled saying, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips”!

At the Burning Bush, Moses “Hid his face; for he was afraid”.

Hebrews declares, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Loving God”.

The brilliant light of incredible splendor and beauty and wonder overwhelms us. The sheer majesty of God strikes us with awe. His vast hugeness renders us insignificant as we realize that He could crush worlds like bugs and hardly notice.

Seldom in my life have I encountered such realizations of God — once when I was a child, once when I saw a red fox on a trail in the forest, once when I saw a girl in a yellow dress silhouetted in a sunny doorway at the Library of Congress, once while dissecting a pig in a biology lab, once in a Christmas Eve church service, once last summer laying on an air mattress in our pool watching stars at night. Occasionally these moments have come in relation to my studying Scripture with a pencil in my hand and a pipe in my teeth.

I’m not at all sure we can deliberately trigger such moments of awareness of God. For me, they have come unbidden and unexpected; however, the Scripture does assure us, “While ye are seeking Me, I will be found” and “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”. However, the Wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound of it and see leaves move, but we can not tell where Wind came from nor where it is going.

Now while earthshaking to me, my own spiritual experiences would hardly jiggle the needle on anybody else’s Richter Scale, but each one left me with an acute sense of unworthiness, an intense sense of wonder, and a near overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I become conscious of being loved through no merit or credit of my own.

These moments remain precious in my memory.

I am neither mystic nor visionary. I see no visions and hear no echoing voice from the bottom of a barrel. My own thought encounters with God are just that — thoughts.

But they are thoughts of His beauty and love.

How is it that having a somewhat high regard for God, I can be so flippant when speaking or writing about religious matters? I sometimes speak without signs of respect and use visual images that make things clearer to me but upset other people.

And I often laugh when I pray.

Is this any way to associate with the High And Lofty One Who Inhabits Eternity.


I think it is.

“I call you not servants,” Jesus said. “But, I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…”.

Friends laugh and joke and talk and tease and feel comfortable together.

Jesus offers everybody a relationship with God. For each person it is different. Some people find Him through music. Some in a crowd of people clapping and lifting hands. Others find Him through tragedy. Others through prosperity. He tailors the relationship to the unique person; He is, after all, infinite.

Once when he was a tiny boy memorizing Bible verses, I asked my oldest son what the word infinite means.

Freddy pondered for a moment and said, “That means God has all the jelly you’ve got bread for”.

This infinite, majestic, glorious, beautiful, happy God made friendship available to us at a terrible price.

In my blog post yesterday I used the image of Jesus on the cross — the Almighty God, King of the universe, Who holds all creation small as a peanut in His hand — Jesus nailed down hand and foot, pinned down and splayed out like a frog on a dissection tray. A living, bleeding man writhing in deliberate agony because He loves us.

With death came postmortem lividity as His face turned ashen and His feet purple as blood settled to the lowest points.

And, even at this low point, Jesus, God Almighty come in the flesh, held together the universe by the word of His power. While He hung there naked between Heaven and Earth, He gave breath to the mockers and strength to the guys who hammered in the nails.

Gore and glory.

Crucified. Dead. Buried.

The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, Creator and Sustainer of all living things bounced back. The Lord of Life returned to life, Scared with nail prints and spear thrust, yet vibrantly alive and glowing.

“I have not called you servants, but friends”.

Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

Well, I’ve rambled a long way from the glorious flowers of our cassia tree. My thinking has hardly touched on the meanings of glory.

I want to think about this a lot more.

But this is as far as I’ve gotten today.

It’s something for me to cherish.

Something to relish.


Stepping Away For A While

For the next few weeks several things call for my attention:

Although we still have no firm plans, Ginny and I will be celebrating our 39th anniversary.

All Summer I have neglected house and yard and I really need to do some time consuming work on home repairs.

In fooling around with other things I have fallen far behind in writing my history of the Jacksonville Fire Department; I want to bear down and finish that book before Christmas.

Ginny and I need to look at some minor physical things ahead of us too.

Therefore, I plan to stop blogging for a while to pay attention to these other matters; I hope, God willing, to resume blog posting again about the 19th or 20th of November.

For I have delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,
How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
And that He was buried,
And that He rose again the third day
According to the Scriptures…
— I Corinthians 15:3

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 @ 2:34 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Thursday, November 01, 2007

HARD SELL: A Blatant Appeal For Money

Please buy one of my books.

Thank you.


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 @ 2:54 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments