Rabid Fun

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

E-Mail Traffic From and About Strangers

Checking my e-mail this morning revealed 56 messages in my inbox.

A reader in London asked about an 1833 engraving in My August 13, 2006 Blog. As is often the case when someone asks me a question, she knew more about the subject than I do.

A message from my son Johnny told me about the USS New York, a recently launched US warship especially designed to fight terrorists. Twenty-Four tons of steel from the World Trade Center attack was melted down and recast to construct this ship:

Two other messages related to my book Strangers On The Earth:

A message from a reader in Russia said:

“John I appreciate your wholesome and good humor in Christ Jesus for my confession, which brings me into harmony with you, is the first answer of the Westminster system's "What is the chief end of man?" TO GLORIFY GOD AND TO ENJOY HIM FOREVER.

“Frankly, I feel that I bug some of my closest friends due to my great joy in Him! I am a strong advocate of knowing and loving Him with you and do continually remind myself, my wife and our cat to rejoice in Him…

“Yet that which has brought us together is the life of Jeanne Guyon. I knew her not until your work came into view yet what I did know of her helped me many a day gone by as I would sit and recite "a little bird am I shut from the fields of air" on through the beautiful acknowledgement that our Sovereign God, who brings donkeys to rebuke their owners, does rule and govern for Jeanne's little bird was "well pleased because it pleases Him."

A copy of the chapter about Madam Guyon can be found at http://www.cowart.info/John's%20Books/Guyon/Guyon.htm

A reader in Germany responded to the last chapter in Strangers, “The Worse People On Earth”, my profile of five missionaries killed in Equator

This reader said:

“Mr. Cowart,

“First of all let me tell you that "Aucas" are despective name to Huaoranis which is the real name of them. Aucas means "savages" and that was a nickname given by the Quichuas of the Rainforest because of the constant attacks they where victim from the Huaoranis.

“As you posted the Huaoranis did live in a stone era because their culture, due to various circumstances, did develop in such a way that they were not courious or interested on producing more or making more for consuming. Their life was based on survivence and the warfare situation like was based on external situation due to the harrassment of foreign tribes.

“Considering the Huaoranis did not developed such a high conception of thinking or self recognition then it is not fair to judge them with the same parameters as you or me shoud be judge so your article lacks of that base for telling whom is good and whom is bad......

“God and Bad is just an appreciation otherwise how can you explain that the Huaoranis did kill the 5 missionaries in the 50ths intentionally and you still remember but the US army during the ocupation of Irak did kill thousends and thousends of possible terrorists but also innocent people???? Is that god or bad???….”

This reader goes on to say the missionaries worked in collusion with oil companies to steal land from the Acuas.

He says, “After having the chance to read and get the truth I do realize the way people manage the information according their convinience so it is the case of your article and the acctions of the ILV (Summer Linguistics Institute) ….

“I am very sorry to disbelief your article but it is filled with lies and based just on the arguments that benefit only the missionaries and the ILV (Summer Linguistics Institute) and keep the "Aucas" as an ignorant, stupid and brutal bunch of people in the middle of the forest”.

A copy of my Strangers chapter on the five martyred missionaries can be found at http://www.cowart.info/AucasTheWorstPeopleOnEarth.htm

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 @ 9:58 AM

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Primary Voting Day & Good Excuses

Ginny and I go to the polls today to vote for a candidate among the scads of people running for President, and to vote about a change in local taxes.

It’s a duty and we do it.

Enough said.

Now, on to important issues:

Our bathroom plumbing remains broken. To be fair, yesterday the plumber did run a snake through the sluggish tub drain and it does drain better than it did before. ... But that was a side issue from the reason I called in a professional in the first place.

We called the plumber to come out because the pipes are old, leaky and rusted and need to be fixed. For only $60 he told me that our pipes are old, leaky and rusted and need to be fixed.

He fiddled with the faucets and left them leaking worse than before he arrived.

I will have to get in there and do the job myself.

I resent having to do this because it’s such a mind-consuming task.

I’m in the middle of proof reading the diary manuscript, a task which requires some focus; I still haven’t finished that fire history book, and here I have to think about plumbing and paint and tile work.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”

Yeah. Sure.

And while I do that, I’m supposed to let water run down the inside of the walls?

I’ve tried to avoid getting tied up in material things but I’m being forced into home repair projects now which I intended to get to this Spring after I finished the fire history book. The projects are worthwhile and will improve our quality of life, but I can’t do plumbing and edit copy at the same time.

And, I used to have some minor-grade spiritual life which I’ve lost while preparing the area for carpenters (who proved unreliable and did not show up when they promised), and while re-hanging the sagging gate and while stringing up that birdfeeder for Ginny, and while repairing the ruptured steel pool wall.

Thus, I feel torn.

And pushed.

And pulled.

And pressured.

And I faintly hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Come; for all things are now ready”.

He said that’s what happened when a certain man gave a great feast and invited many people to it. But they all began to make excuse:

One said, “I have bought a piece of ground and must needs go see it”.

Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and I want to prove them”.

Another said, “I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come”.

Every one of them had a perfectly good excuse.

But Jesus said, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper”.

He said, “Likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”.

Responding to His invitation is more important than repairing faucets, or building walls or editing copy or writing history or even voting for a new president.

Yet all these lesser things command my attention at this moment.

Somehow, the trick is following Jesus in the midst of all these mundane things.

I haven’t learned that trick yet.

I’m working on it.

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 @ 5:38 AM

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Friday, January 25, 2008


Years and years ago I taught a Bible class at a church where a number of society people worshiped.

One lady in the Bible class had five maids come into her home each week to do the heavy cleaning for her.

She once told me that on the day before the five maids came in, she would scurry through her home picking up and cleaning up ahead of time so those maids would not think she and her family were slobs.

I used to think that was funny; now, I know how she felt.

Next week carpenters Mark and Ian are scheduled to come to my house to repair various damages I’ve allowed to build up for a dozen years.

I have this urge to rush outside and clean up ahead of time so they won’t think I’m a useless slob.

Too late.

They’ve already been here and made their estimates.

There’s some kind of spiritual lesson here, but I’m not sure what it is.

Besides, although I am getting over this cold, the pre-cleanup job looks overwhelming to me. I haven’t finished reading my Stephen King book nor even touched those proof pages.

Yesterday, for the first time in a week, I felt strong enough to shave and take a shower… but when I turned off the hot water faucet, I broke it!

Another job for the repairmen.

Sufficient to the day…

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:24 AM

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Still Enjoying Ill Health

"Still enjoying ill health," was a phrase my mother used about a hypochondriac aunt; it also describes me recently.
Yesterday I lay abed all day reading a copy of Stephen King's most recent book, Duma Key. Ginny picked up a copy for me the other night when she went out for supper.
I've only managed to read the first 200 pages so far, so I still can't say what the book is about.
But, Chapter Six, the one where the hero reads poetry to an old woman with Alzheimer's, is one of the most touching and beautiful passages I've ever read.
God willing, I'll spend today warming my bed and reading more.

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 @ 4:15 AM

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Remember Job's Wife

Tuesday afternoon the cynical advice of Job’s wife made perfect sense to me.

Remember her?

She’s the one who, when life turned sour, told her husband to curse God and die.

Maybe this wretched cold influenced my thinking. Maybe it’s just a swing in my normal morbid mind-set. Maybe that package in the mail upset me inordinately.


But this was one of those times when I’m ready to renounce God as a fraud and sulk in a corner nursing my wounds.

Every few months I get in one of these moods. The heavens turn to brass. Prayer seems a waste of time and changes nothing. The Scriptures read like gobbledygook and myth. God is gone, if He were ever there in the first place. I hurt and Christ offers neither remedy nor hope.

How’s that for a glowing Christian testimony?

Am I the only Christian to go through periods like this?

At such times, Job’s wife makes perfect sense.

Curse God and die. Why bother trying. Why keep pissing against the wind. What’s the use. Why keep trying in the light of so much failure?

Nothing I do matters. My efforts are useless. I’ll just fail again. The game’s not worth the candle.

Somebody up there’s got it in for me.

All of the above says how I honestly feel this morning.

Days of gray drizzle contribute to my funk. Sleep depravation drains me. Frustration about my inability to do the house repairs myself adds to my guilt. This cold saps my energy. Flat book sales discourage me. Money may not stretch, but checks sure will bounce.

And there’s nothing good on tv!

But the kicker, the last straw, came when the mailman delivered that package yesterday. It contained 500+ proof pages of a book I worked on while on hiatus from my Fire Department History. Yes, between chapters in the fire history, I formatted my own diary thinking to publish it. And the printer just mailed me the proofs.

The front cover looks distorted. The back cover text blurred. Headers and footers mutilated the title and copyright pages in the front of the book. And in the back of the book, the index didn’t index.

All this I saw without actually reading a single page!

And I’d worked so hard on this thing.

I really believed I had it perfect.

I treated this manuscript exactly as I’d done others.

What went wrong this time?

Despair gripped me.

That package broke my spirit.

That’s when I remembered the advice of Job’s wife.

Pooor John.

Maybe he needs a hug — or a kick in the ass.

But, after wallowing in self-pity for an enjoyable length of time while I mulled over the words of Job’s wife, I remembered the words of Satan in the Book of Job (which scholars say is the first book of the Bible to be written) and I found some comfort.

Yes, oddly enough, Satan’s observation comforted me.

Satan questioned, “Does Job fear God for naught”?

Satan taunted God charging that only because things went well for Job at first, that was the only reason Job had faith in God.

Satan observed that it’s easy to worship God when life is bright and sunny. Like in that Rev. Fun cartoon:

So, God allowed Satan to wipe Job out. Everything from his kids to his cattle, the evil one destroyed. Job’s property reduced to ashes. His proof pages messed up. His computer screen said, “Fatal Error”. His body wracked with murrains (I’m sure that’s the biblical name for this same kind of cold I have). Job’s friends belittled him and his wife said, “Why don’t you curse God and die”.

In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

In fact, out of all the mess, Job’s faith grew stronger even though he saw no answer to his troubles, no answers to his questions.

Yet while all this was hitting the fan, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God”.

As to his afflictions, Job declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

Now, I realize that my troubles add up to nothing compared to Job’s. I know that I’m undergoing a temporary funk, a funk that a good nap may well cure. I also know that this trough looks familiar; I’ve wallowed in this same ditch before — those are my scratch marks on the wall from last time I was down here.

I know that I’m a big cry baby moaning over troubles that don’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things — but I don’t live in the larger scheme of things, I live in my tiny circle and things hurt here at the moment. —

Why, I even cut the inside of my mouth on a sharp potato chip last night!

Job never did that.

So I feel I’ve earned the right to cry and bitch and moan.

But, while I do not have Job’s faith…

I do have his example.

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 @ 9:24 AM

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blessed To Give/ Hard To Receive

Yes, Ginny gave me her vicious cold.

As she recovers more and more, I get sicker and sicker.

After ten days of living in ghastly misery, she felt well enough to return to work today; I feel so miserable myself that I intend to lay abed and wallow in misery, too sick to read and hardly able to watch vcr reruns of the Monk detective mystery stories.

It’s a good thing that we both have not felt ill at the same time. We’d have been in real trouble if that happened.

On the up side of things, this morning I walked outside and snapped this photo of the swimming pool. Yes, this shows the same pool as the photos Ginny took on Friday (1/18):

Isn't it beautiful!

I feel proud to have accomplished that miracle at a cost of only a few day’s work and about $45, whereas, before I began my amateur innovations, a $3,000 expense loomed before us.

Had I not been able to patch the broken steel wall, we’d have had to remove the pool altogether and then where would I pray on summer nights when I float on an air mattress looking up at the stars?

Anyhow, I’m proud that my improvisations — using diamond wire, duct tape, an old dog blanket and plastic garbage bags — appear to have worked so well to repair this pool. This gift of improvisation is the same I once used to build parade floats from scrap materials and to teach Bible lessons using odd bits of things I found in the trash.

But many skilled workmen do not improvise; they do things right.

Ginny and I talked at length about this Sunday morning over breakfast. A donor who does not want to be named has offered to bring in skilled carpenters to make some crucial home repairs for us. Rotten boards in the eaves to be replaced, door re-hung, lightening fixtures updated, etc.

This donor is investing big bucks taking care of us — and it makes us very uncomfortable.

I spoke on the phone with him, urging him to tone things down a little and let me do some of the things I feel capable of doing, but he said it’s more economical to have professionals do the job quick and right. He has a spending cap for the project and this is the kindness he wants to do us out of the goodness of his heart.

Being on the receiving end of charity pushes us out of our comfort zone.

As Ginny and I looked over our checkbook, we see that our own charitable giving has declined over recent years. That troubles us.

We like to be givers.

It feels good to be a giver.

Speaking to a delegation from Ephesus, St. Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. (Oddly enough, this quotation does not come from any of the four Gospels).

Yet, the entire foundation of the Christian faith rests not on giving to God but on receiving from Him.

In the final analysis every person on earth, no matter how materially wealthy, is on the receiving end of God’s charity. What have we that we have not received?

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to then gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”.

Receiving Christ is the first step in the Christian life.

We find that enormously hard to do.

Receiving the gift of God pushes us out of our comfort zone.

It gets worse:

The Scripture says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him”.

That’s even harder because I want to be a giver, Big Daddy blessing lesser folks with my bounty.

Spiritually I resemble a toddler whose spent the last 20 minutes trying unsuccessfully to zip up a jacket and still refusing help, slapping away hands, and insisting, “I can do it myself, Mother”!

And here the Lord God, a jealous God, does not put up with my nonsense. He knows just how big I am, how vain, how proud, how pathetic playing King Of The Hill on a dung heap.

But, it is so hard to receive from God or anybody else.

Being on the receiving end of some donor’s charity make me realize how weak I am.

That’s good for me.

Painful, but good for me.

His strength is made perfect in weakness.

So, while Ginny and I appreciate the donor’s charity and the skill of the construction workers who will actually do jobs I can’t do, we are having to learn how to manage and expand our personal comfort levels to be able to receive.

It’s a deep spiritual lesson we don’t really want to learn.

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 @ 9:40 AM

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Man With A Knive: A Non-Event

Once, when asked where he’d been, a famous Bible perdonality replied that he’d been roaming to and fro over the surface of the earth, from going up and down therein.

Friday, that could have been my answer to the same question.

With Ginny down sick with her vicious cold, I ran several errands she normal takes care of; that meant I got to drive her new car for the fifth or sixth time since we bought it back in August.


I got to drive her new car!

I drove to the bank, the gas station, the hardware store, the post office, the credit union, the grocery store — and to WalMart.

In WalMart I bought wooden matches for my pipe, swimming pool chemicals, odds and ends, and flowers to take home to Ginny to lighten her suffering with that cold. I would have bought a loaf of bread too, but after walking three blocks in that monstrous huge store without being able to find bread, I gave up.

When I went out into the parking lot to put things in the car and move on to my next stop, a man with a knife in his hand came up to me.

About a four inch blade.

Although cars filled the lot, no people were within a hundred yards of us when he came out from behind a car parked about three spaces away.

He carried the knife in his right hand and some small something in his left. And he was talking with animation, gesturing and babbling some patter.

Alarmed the moment I saw his knife, I determined in my heart to kill him if he made the slightest aggressive move. I focused on his shoulders as he talked and gestured to me; an opponent may fool you with his eyes, but no one can move hands or feet without his shoulders broadcasting that move first.

It’s been years since I studied aikido, but when that guy approached me, I immediately assessed his posture and dropped back into a stance which appears relaxed but is a strong position for launching killing blows.

I am not a violent man but I made up my mind that if this man needed killing, I’d do it….Probably I overestimated my ability; the last time anyone attacked me, he knocked me down from behind, stole my wallet and ran away all in one fluid motion.

Hurt my pride more than anything else.

But this time, I’d got my tail feathers all atwitter over a non-event (as usual). The guy in the WalMart parking lot was just a gregarious good ‘ol boy who was driving his wife’s car when a tail light went out and he’d stopped in WalMart to buy a replacement bulb but when he went to put it in the socket broke and he was using his knife to pry tiny pieces apart to fix it. And he wanted to explain his frustrations to somebody.

And I happened to be there.

It never occurred to him that approaching a stranger in a parking lot with an open knife in hand might not be a smart move on his part.

I’m glad I’m the person he approached or he might have ended up in real trouble.

I sympathized with his frustration over his broken taillight. Then I drove on to my own next errand stop at the Post Office.

Now, in all my driving around, I had not consciously given God a thought… but as I pulled out of the Post Office parking lot, I realized with surprise that all the time I’ve been driving here and there, I’d also been praying about this and that, for one person or another.

It’s been so long since I’ve driven anywhere, I’d forgotten that I do that — pray while doing mindless, repetitious tasks. Such are my most precious prayer times.

And I had forgotten that.

While doing ordinary chores, while going about daily duties, these are the best times to meet and love the Lord Jesus.

I fear that Hollywood movies have conditioned us to expect spectacular showmanship from God.

Yes, parting the Red Sea was spectacular, but He only did that once. Throughout the Bible He met people who were fishing, working in an office, plowing a field, driving their wife’s new car, or whatever.

God does not do PRODUCTION NUMBERS — or at least not very often.

He was not in the whirlwind nor in the earthquake, but in the still small voice.

When Moses pronounced the first and great commandment, He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”.

He then tells us the times to think of Him:

“When thou sitteth in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up.”

This thrills me!

I think it is great that God meets us in the ordinary, even when we drive on the highway… But today, I’m going to have to get used to that “when thou liest down” part of the commandment.

Ginny’s cold is better (I think it was the flowers that brought her out of it).

But that contagious woman I’m married to has infected me.

Today I hack and cough and drip and sniffle.

It’s my turn to lie in bed and be pampered.

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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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Breakfast With Wes

(Wrote this in my diary while my computer was down earlier this month)

As soon as I got into my friend Wes’ truck to go to breakfast Monday (1/7/08), I spotted a new (to me) edition of the Greek New Testament on his dashboard.

Before we drove a block, we immediately sprang into a discussion of the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Westcott & Hort editions of the Greek text. Westcott & Hort followed the variant readings of Codex Vaticanus, thought to be the work of the Church Father Origin about the year 300 —

And we all know what that means.

(Actually, I have no idea either, but scholars like Wes see it as very important).

And Wes told me about John William Burgon, a conservative English translator whose office was bombed, apparently by liberal scholars, because of his work on the 1881 English Revised Version.

I’d never heard of Burgon before.

Once we got into the restaurant, we gave our order to Nicole, the young lady who served our table. And having ordered breakfast, our conversation focused on the Greek word Monogennes as an example of variant renderings.

Because Wes cares so passionately about the minutia of accurate Bible translation, he’s easy to bait. Being a fuzzy-thinker, I play devil’s advocate in our discussions.

Wes feels adamantly that the proper rendering for the Greek word Monogennes is “Only Begotten” as in the phrase, For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…” The Westcott and Hort crew render Monogennes by the English word “unique”.

Thus, we have “Only Begotten Son of God” on the one hand, and “The Unique Son of God” on the other.

I took the stance that unique means unique, i.e. one of a kind without peer or duplication anywhere in the universe. Wes advocated that there is a significant difference between “Only Begotten” and “unique”.

I fail to distinguish much difference because, for one thing, I know no Greek, and for another, I pay little attention to detail.

Wes began an impassioned Socratic questioning to bring me into the realization of the importance of Monogennes.

I insisted that unique means unique, stands alone, like none other.

We were having a great time.

And Nicole listened to snippets of our conversation each time she passed our table. As a waitress at this corner diner, she must handle a lot of walk-in crazies.

When she brought our food, I warned her, “When you read your Greek New Testament, be sure to read the Textus Receptus instead of Westcott & Hort”.

“Sure, Mr. Cowart,” she said. “I’ll do that”.

That was so funny… Well, maybe you’d have to have been there.

We had such great fun!

I’m the grasshopper to Wes’ rock.

Yet, when we talk it’s like whetting two knife blades against one another to sharpen both.

While Wes’ scholarship is great — he carries a Greek Lexicon around in his truck, he’s an accomplished organist, he teaches a class for physicians at a local hospital and a class for alcoholics at a street-mission sort of place — while his scholarship is great, yet his charities are greater.

He has a great knowledge of the Scriptures, but it is not academic in that he attempts to live it out as best he can. In the years I’ve known him, I’ve seen him, with great compassion of heart, comfort, council and aid illiterate street bums.

Me, I amble through life in happy ignorance of Greek, Hebrew, English and common sense.

While I appreciate scholarship on one level, I feel leery of it too.

Scholars are just too detailed.

I mean, when some guy goes to autopsy my body, he can make that Y incision and pull out my liver, heart and lungs. He can analyze my blood and learn all about my DNA and chromosomes and triglysorides. He can finger my pancreas and saw open my cranium and weigh my brain in a pan. He will know every physical detail — but he will know nothing about me.

His intense scrutiny may reveal my innards, but can not discover who I am.

The autopsy will not show whether I preferred John Milton or Ogdon Nash in poetry. It can’t tell whether I was loving or cruel. The sound of my laugh remains unknown, as does what things made me laugh. Who I loved, what I dreamed. The tunes I whistle. The authors I read. The thoughts I think. The beauty I saw. The sins I sin. The people I care about. The prayers I pray — none of that will be revealed.

The guy or gal who performs my autopsy will not know me.

I think that same idea carries over into Bible knowledge, that knowing Jesus is much more important than knowing about Jesus.

And that’s a more important difference than the one between “Only Begotten” and “Unique”.

The problem with trying to autopsy Jesus is that He ain’t dead.

Doubting Thomas wanted to know how many centimeters deep the spear thrust went into Jesus’ side. But when confronted with the living Lord, Thomas fell on his knees saying, “My Lord and my God”.

Thomas’ questions on knowing about Jesus became irrelevant when it came to knowing Jesus.

It’s like when I Google some subject and get 1,330,612 responses. I may look at six or eight sites, then the sheer volume of information overwhelms me and I throw my hands up. All my questions may be answered somewhere on the net, but the glut of answers makes me forget what I was searching for in the first place.

Now, while I admire biblical scholarship and I’m glad that scientists exist who study such matters and minutia, I’m convinced that the dumbest, most ignorant, illiterate uneducated man living can walk with God in joy.

There are not many beautiful people or rich people or smart people in this world, yet the love of God extends to every living soul. And we can all understand love even when we can’t read Greek or even follow the instructions on microwave popcorn.

I’m convinced that right this minute, every person knows everything they need to know about salvation, life and godliness. But we reject the knowledge that lies within our own heart and fob off the Almighty God with weak evasions.

Light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

We don’t know Christ because we don’t want to know Christ.

No other reason prevents our worship and our salvation.

At Judgment Day we will stand without excuse, naked and shamed.

But, I’m getting off my subject — back to my friend Wes…

Wes manages to well carry that balance between knowing about and knowing.

I’m so thankful that scholars like him exist.

Other than that, some morning I might find myself reading Wescott & Hort without realizing my mistake.

Besides, knowing the Scripture enables Wes to tell great jokes.

For instance, when I asked him what he thought of the debates between the eight or ten presidential candidates on television Saturday night, he referred me to the passage about government in Daniel 4:17 (in the King James Version only)!

I looked it up.

In that passage, the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar observed:

The matter is by decree of the watchers,
And the demand by the word of the holy ones:
To the intent that the living may know that
Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men,
And giveth it to whomsoever He will,
And setteth up over it the basest of men.

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

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mark And Ian To The Rescue

Thursday I spent another day lounging around the pool.

See me lounge:

To insert the big silver patch in the foreground of the photo, I pried up part of the deck to insert it between the pool liner and the steel wall with the big rusted hole.

This endeavor proved I am not a carpenter.

However, I’m skillful in the use of duct tape, diamond wire, plastic garbage bags and an old dog blanket. By crafting these elements into a single effective patch, I repaired the pool wall. I estimate my patch will extend the pool’s life for another year or two.

Yes, I’m a slob.

Yes, I neglect basis home repairs.

Yes, I tend other people’s vineyards more than my own.

But I’m not entirely responsible for the condition of this swimming pool. I’ve seen a survey map of property showing this pool in place in 1967. So plain old age is a factor in its condition.

Having fixed the pool damage I mentioned yesterday, now all I have to do is rake out the leaves, clean away the algae, revamp the filtration system, replace hoses, fill the pool, add the chemicals — and wait for the year’s first hard freeze.

So, with the pool crisis averted, in a few more days I can return to writing that history of the fire department. One problem with being a writer is that life fills up with projects which are not writing. I’m sure that when his pool wall rusts through, Stephen King spends his time the same way I do.

Here is a photo of the writer at work, it’s me contemplating my next home repair project:

After I’ve finished cleaning the pool, that is.

(Wouldn't that picture make a great cover photo for the next book in my Dirty Old Man series?)

I plan to remove some spongy wood from the side of the house, reset a door, climb on the roof to re-attach some boards and stop up that place where the squirrels get in our attic and…

Slight problem:

As fixing the pool deck boards proves, I can plan one thing in my mind, but I forget that when it comes to actually doing the repair, I never learned how to drive a nail straight. This pool project also demonstrates that I’m getting old. I do not have strength or stamina to do the job any more. This simple project of pool repair exhausted me and left my hands and legs quivering and trembling and shaking at the end of the day.

That’s bad news.

I really wanted to do the other repairs my self. I’d scheduled time for them in the Spring… But, I forgot my physical limitations.

I’m not as strong as I think I am.

This realization makes me feel old and useless.

Used to be I was young and useless, but now I feel this double whammy.

However, God is faithful.

His strength is made perfect in weakness. Here when I reached the limit of my physical resources, a donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) appeared at the house this evening offering to pay for at least some of the needed repairs and bringing two young men to do the repairs for us.

Mark and Ian come highly recommended as skillful home repair carpenters. They are young, strong, handsome and pure-hearted. They spent the after noon scaling ladders and measuring and testing woodwork and poking here and there. In a few days, they’ll give us a cost estimate and we’ll go from there.

See, I planed to do the job my self.

But now that I’m not able to — as I’ve always said — it will take two good men to replace me.

Ginny attempted to go into work today but fell sick again and came home after only four hours in the office. She’d also overestimated her strength and returned to work before she was fully recovered from that cold. She’s still sick as a dog so I put her back to bed and called our daughter Jennifer to bring over some ice cream.

Jennifer and her friend Terry brought in Chinese carry-out for our supper. They joined us for devotions after supper. This was the first time Terry had been exposed to our normal after supper devotional practice, so we played a game of High-Low as part of our prayer time. In this game, each person around the table in turn tells the high point of their week and the low point of their week. The others rejoice or bemoan each person’s tale of highs and lows. It is a fun, non-threatening way to enjoy praying with people you don’t know very well.

Poor Ginny, she said the highpoint of her week is finally being able to drink warm chicken soup!

The four of us sat around afterwards talking about art and birds in general, hawks, owls and woodpeckers in particular. We spent hours in such warm, fun, general conversation

Finally, as the hours whiled away, I used my extraordinary tact as a gracious Christian host and said, “I love you people good, but go the hell home. I’m tired and want to go to bed”.

They caught my subtitle hint and left.

Another typically exciting day at the Cowarts.

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 @ 7:07 AM

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Up Against A Steel Wall

While up in the bleak frozen north today people shovel snow, here in sunny Florida we frolic in our swimming pools.

That’s what our Chamber of Commerce would have you believe.

They lie.

Yesterday I was in our above-ground pool all day in the midst of a cold drizzling gray all-day, 40 degree rain.

Why was I in the pool on such a miserable day?

Last week, while planting flowers beneath the pool deck, Ginny discovered an aneurysm the size of a soccer ball bulging from the side of the steel pool wall. A place under there had rusted through the 15+ year old pool siding and water pressure ballooned the plastic lining through the resulting hole.

If that balloon ruptures, 7,500 gallons of heavily chlorinated water would tsunami over our deck, flower beds and yard.

Immediately I turned off the pool pump and filter system to keep vibrations to a minimum. Before I could drain the pool into the flower beds, I had to let the chlorine leech out of the water. So of course, green slime algae rampaged through the water in a matter of days.

If — if I can patch the rusted out steel wall, we keep the pool; if my amateur hydraulic engineering fails, we have to remove the pool altogether because it would cost too much to replace it.

Either way it goes, the project requires huge investments of time and energy from me. I dare not let the pool remain as is because the next warm day it would breed mosquitoes.

So… the final stages of writing my history of firefighting in Jacksonville remain halted while I dabble in green slime.

My prayer life hangs fire while I tangle with hoses.

My spiritual reservoir stands as empty as though some aneurysm has ruptured inside me.

And poor Ginny suffers from a terrible cold, too miserable to go to work or to eat much other than the chicken soup I fix her.

This is not a good time for us.

Between nursing her and sloshing around in filthy water while I hope my idea of inserting a baffle between the plastic liner and the steel wall works, I’m drained.

And the Heavens are silent.

Faithful but silent.

I think that this week, while I struggle with this green pool in Florida, my Lord is skiing on the pristine snowy slopes of Aspen.

And, I strongly suspect He’s laughing!

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 @ 3:26 AM

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coming Soon In Russian

While my computer has been down, real life goes on. Here is a posting from my diary last week:

Sometimes, while we go about the ordinary, wonderful things happen.

Saturday (1/5/08), Ginny and I ate a long leisurely breakfast at Dave’s Dinner where one of the guys expressed disappointment that he had not been able to travel to Dollywood for his Christmas vacation.

Then we dropped a few bags of clothes, sheets and shoes off at a mission for the door.

We sat in the park awhile smoking and talking about this and that.

We went Christmas shopping — yes, Christmas shopping! That woman I married wanted to send a special widget to her brother, Eric, as a gift, but she was not able to find it before Christmas. Instead of sending him something else just a good, she’s obsessed with giving him this particular thing. So the Love Of My Life dragged me into another three stores shopping for this thing.

I lost my Christmas spirit weeks ago, but here I am still shopping for a Christmas gift. Guys, that’s the sort of thing that happens to you when you fall in love.

When we got home. Our daughter Eve came over to borrow a penny.

Yes, one penny.

She and Mark are getting married next month and she wanted Something Borrowed to carry with her down the aisle. This fixation goes with the old poem for brides:

Something old.
Something new
Something borrowed.
Something blue.
Something something, something (I forgot the line)
And a penny in your shoe

We discussed wedding plans that become ever more complicated by the minute. But, on the up side, as Father of The Bride, I have the legal right to tease her unmercifully about how I intend to tell embarrassing stories about her in front of all her wedding guests.

After all, what else is a Daddy for?

As you can see, we were enjoying a perfectly ordinary Saturday. Mostly hanging out, filling bird feeders, watching football (Jaguars 31, Steelers 28), watching the political debate from New Hampshire. Ginny baked a raisin pie. Ordinary stuff of life. No particularly religious thoughts. No urge to witness. No agonizing in prayer.

Then I checked my e-mail and see this message:

За то лепечущими устами и на чужом языке будут говорить к этому народу.”

That’s Isaiah 28:11 in Russian.

It means, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people”.

That’s part of a message which came from a stranger, a Christian pastor in the Ukraine. K.K. and his wife asked permission to translate a chapter from one of my books into the Russian language.

The chapter they want is the profile of Madam Guyon from my collective biography, Strangers On The Earth.

This came as such a surprise to me. I really feel wonderful, honored and flattered.

Recently I’ve been feeling jealous over how my friend Barbara’s Along The Way books are selling so much better than the books I write. I find that discouraging. I feel envious, second-rate, useless.

Jesus said that when someone else sins against us seventy times seven — a rare occurrence even with the most aggravating person — we are to forgive them. When I sin against my self seventy times seven — yes, I dredge up the same sins, resentments and envies again and again even from things that happened years ago — then I must seek forgiveness myself.

So in this present case, I must confess my sin of envy and I find it also helps to pray earnestly for the continued and expanding success of Barbara’s books beyond my own.

I don’t like to do that. It is painful for a writer not to be read. So I tend to nurse my sin. To justify my feelings of envy. To grow moody and peevish and depressed. I feel despair and feel as though I’m just typing on air.

Then, just when I get to feeling down and as though I’m pretty much useless to God and man, here out of the blue comes a privilege like this chance to have a bit of my work rendered in Russian. I get to speak with stammering lips to a people far away…

You know, that’s sort of scary.

What’s going on here?

A phrase in my devotions tonight points out that at the creation of the world, God saw light.

And He said it was good.

It was good because He created it.

And, whenever there is any light in us, He also sees that and pronounces it good too.

Even when I myself can see no light at all, when everything is murky at best, even then God sees the spark of light He Himself put within us.

And, He says that’s good.

Yes, even ordinary days conceal wonders.

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 @ 5:34 AM

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Joking With Ginny

Yesterday at the barbecue restaurant they served an Old Folks Special at a discount price. To balance the meal and make it healthy, you may also order veggies — Fired okra, fried potatoes, fried onion rings, fried mushrooms, fried squash.

Ginny and I ordered the pork plate special and while we waited for our meal, I told her this great joke:

A woman was getting married for the fifth time and told her friend about her wedding plans.

“What happened to your first husband?” the friend asked.

“He ate poison mushrooms and died”.

“What happened to your second husband”?

“Ate poison mushrooms and died”.

“The third husband”?

“Same thing. Ate poison mushrooms and died”.

“What about your last husband”?

“Oh, he died of a broken neck”.

“That’s terrible,” said the friend. “How did that happen”?

“He wouldn’t eat the mushrooms”.

I roared laughing at my joke and Ginny smiled her usual tolerant smile.

When our food arrived, I noticed that the waitress had brought us thin slices of barbecue beef instead of the thin slices of barbecue pork that we’d ordered. Ginny looked at her plate and said that it looked alright to her.

So I asked, “Don’t you know how to tell the difference between beef and pork”?

“They look and taste the same to me,” she said. “How can you tell the difference”?

“One says MOO,” I said.

And I laughed my head off because of that look on her face. “After 40 years of marriage, you still love my jokes, don’t you,” I said.

“I married you for better and for worse. — And worse and worst and worst,” Ginny said. “How’d you like to order some mushrooms”?

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 @ 5:49 AM

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Donald Fixed My Shot Computer!

Me Computer, She No Work.

Since December 15th, or thereabouts, my computer has been shot.

It looked like this:

Saturday morning my geek son Donald came over.

He used his great skill and extraordinary understanding of computer wires, software and hardware and he has fixed my machine!

Thanks, Donald.

After his working on it, now my machine looks like this:

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 10:50 AM

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

She can't take any more captain...

Computers are finicky things and John's has met its maker. Or at least is sitting in the other room with it's guts hanging out on his son's desk.

He's doing well, but incommunicado until Saturday. :)

Daughter #4

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:10 AM

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Strange Dream

Friday I continued computer housekeeping as I formatted DOMSO, my journals from last year. In the afternoon I took a 30 minute nap during which I dreamed this strange dream:

A wide cement balustrade from the 1920s lines the St. Johns River along a walkway at Memorial Park. I strolled briskly along this walkway whistling happily when I encountered a yacht unloading a group of children at a luxury hotel.

Shepherding this group of kids was Ernie, a karate instructor I knew 45 years ago (He favored the Crane Stance). He greeted me enthusiastically and asked why I was wearing training weights on my arms.

I had not realized that I wore the weights. I was on my way to meet a young woman, (possibly Ginny in her 20s or perhaps some other dream girl). I realized that not only had I come with weights on my arms but I’d left my pipe and tobacco, my billfold, my keys, my pocket knife — in fact, I carried nothing in my pockets. I was hardly dressed to meet the girl — but I just didn’t care. I knew it would not matter.

I removed the arm weights and gave them to Ernie who moved the children inside the resort saying that he would see me later. I realized that I had a band-aid over a cut on my hand so I pulled it off and looked around till I found a proper trashcan where I could throw it away.

I started to wait for Ernie to come back but realized that he had not been definite when he said, “See you later”.

And I was anxious to meet Dreamgirl so I continued walking along the riverfront. I put my hands in my pockets and whistled and abruptly realized that I am happy.

I’m really, really happy, I thought.

This realization that I am happy surprised me so much that it startled me awake.

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

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Cold & Fire

Colder than the mammaries of a sorceress!

Yesterday the radio weather report said the temperature here in Jacksonville dropped to 21 degrees. Burrrrr.

That’s not the Florida I know and love.

I need to warm up.

I need to warm up physically, motivationally and spiritually; I’m cold in all three areas. Fortunately, warming up is possible.

Physically, I need to warm up — but not catch fire like I did the other night when my daughter Eve was visiting.

As she and I talked about that flock of chickens, I accidentally dropped ashes from my pipe and set my bathrobe on fire. I didn’t notice till my skin started burning. I beat out the sparks but they kept flaring up again.

I’d like to say this is a rare occurrence but it isn’t. Many times I’ve inadvertently set myself on fire by going to sleep with a flaming match in my hand. So, although I prefer wooden strike-anywhere kitchen matches, for Christmas both Jennifer and Donald gave me pipe lighters that will go out immediately when the button is released.

That way, I won’t doze off with a burning match in my hand.

I also got a new gift sweater so I can stay warm without burning.

Of course, to stay warm and safe, instead of robe and slippers, I ought to lounge around the house in a HAZMAT suit.

Motivationally, I’m sluggish about getting back to work writing my book on the history of the Jacksonville Fire Department. I’d hoped to finish the first draft before the holidays. But, since I didn’t, I’ve lost a lot of steam about the project. Instead of writing, I spent yesterday on computer housekeeping chores.

That’s the way I ease into working.

Like another old man said, “I starts slow, then I tapers off”.

Same story for me spiritually.

In 2008 I intended to read the Bible cover to cover; I have one of those little charts that outlines a reading program which covers the Scripture in one year.

But… because of my fading sight, I decided I wanted to read a large-print Bible. So I hunted one up from my book shelves. Then I wondered which translation I wanted to read; I have dozens on my shelves. Then I wondered if I wanted to use some written prayers to help me focus…

By the time I pondered all this stuff, the first four days of the year have passed without my reading a single word of Scripture and I see that I’m 17 chapters behind the little chart!


I’m never going to catch up.

And when I can’t catch up, I tend to give up.

Oh well, Jesus said there’d come a day when “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”.

While I don’t exactly give Jesus a cold shoulder, neither am I on fire for the Lord.

Neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm.

That’s bad.

Jesus once told one group of people, “I know thy works, that thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot. I would that thou wert cold or hot”. He said their lukewarm state made Him want to puke.

So, He’s not real keen on those of us who are lukewarm.

Does that mean there’s no hope for me and people like me?

Not at all.

He also said, “I am come to send fire on the earth”.

And after He rose from the dead and met two men on the road to Emmaus, a village about three score furlongs from Jerusalem, the guys said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures”?

There need not be some spectacular Burning Bush spiritual experience — walking with Jesus in day to day life warms us up.

And, even when there’s only a tiny spark within us, there’s fantastic hope ahead for us.

The ancient Prophet Isaiah said of Jesus, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench”.

Ginny and I once saw a bumper sticker painted with bright flames which declared the driver ahead of us was an Arsonist For Jesus — On Fire For The Lord.

Good for him.

But if I had to paste a bumper sticker on our car …

I don’t think they make one showing smoldering straw.

Yes, there is hope for us all because in that same place where Jesus said the lukewarm Laodiceans made Him sick to His stomach, He also issued one of the most famous invitations found in Scripture:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me".

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

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Chicken With My Name On It

Somewhere out in the world there’s a chicken with my name on it.

I just learned of this fowl creature last night after a hectic few days.

Back on December 15th our telephone lines went out, then last Thursday afternoon my internet connection died and it’s been a hassle getting it restored.

I attempted all the remedies I knew how to do before calling my guru son Donald. He and Helen came over Saturday and geekified my system without luck. He called the DSL company rep in India who sent out a repairman Sunday morning.

Early Sunday Donald and Helen unexpectedly appeared at our door bringing all sorts of yummies to cook for our breakfast. Helen even brought her own frying pan and all the ingredients for a lavish out-of-the-blue feast. She chased everyone out of the kitchen and filled the air with the aroma of frying sausage and bacon and grits and eggs and coffee and raisin toast.

After that repairman left, Donald and Helen stayed over chatting for a couple hours. They, with Ginny and I, discussed a question which had arisen when I was at lunch with my friend Barbara on Friday. The question involves the relationship between body, spirit, free will, and chemicals.

I’ve kicked the question around for three days and discussed it with these spiritual advisors whose opinions I respect, then I spent two or three hours trying to write a blog posting about this subject …

But it proved too complex for me and I just had to give up.

Sometimes I need to leave deep questions in the hands of people smarter and more spiritual than I am.

Sunday night, my internet connection died again.

Again I called in a company repairman who wanted to charge me $85 for service that used to be free. When I pointed out that we pay a monthly service fee for such repairs, he relented somewhat and did half the work I requested.

Don’t you just love the phone company?

Anyhow, my daughter Eve came over this evening and let me know about the chicken.

As a special late Christmas gift to Ginny and me, Eve donated a gift in our name to a charity called Heifer International. Her donation goes to buy a flock of chickens which is given to an impoverished family in an undeveloped country. The receiving family pledges to give the offspring of their flock to establish another flock for another poor family in their country.

I know little about Heifer International but Eve and Mark checked out various reports concerning them. The reports reveal how donated money is spent, how much for overhead and administration, how much is spent in fund raising, and how much actually goes to the charity’s stated objectives. Eve says this organization checks out.

She says that depending on the amount she was able to give, she and Mark could have bought a water buffalo, a cow, a sheep, a llama, or what-have-you.

Eve and Mark bought a flock of ten to thirty chickens in the name of Ginny and me.

Eve suggests that next Christmas we encourage our family so that instead of giving eachother gifts (like my tin Gort robot) that we each make a surprise donation to some charity. Then we alternate years between gift exchange among ourselves and giving to a charity.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Weather reports project that today will be the coldest day here that Jacksonville has seen in decades. Temperatures will drop into the 20s as an artic front moves South.

As a result all day today hundreds of birds swarm around the fountain in our backyard. Most of these are species I have never seen before. I suspect they are fleeing ahead of the artic front.

I hope the chicken with my name on it is someplace warm enough.

I can’t get over the fact that some chicken somewhere is named for me. It’s so cool to think that somewhere out there in the world there’s a chicken with my name on it.

In my mind’s eye I have this vision of my chicken…. I’ll bet it was given to this white-haired old man in Appalachia, the poorest region of the United States. I see him as living in a shanty farmstead deep in the Blue Ridge mountains of Kentucky.

I see him hobbling around on his cane scattering chicken feed to the flock. I envision this poor old guy, who only owns one suit of clothes (you never see him in anything else), as treasuring his chicken and using it to increase his meager livelihood.

Yes, In my mind’s eye I can even see him cradling one of the chickens with my name on it in the fold of his arm right now. I’m proud to help.

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 @ 3:31 AM

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