Rabid Fun

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Instead Of Painting

Well, I finished pressure washing our house. Painting the walls comes next. Ginny and I plan to buy the paint tonight and begin painting this weekend.

Whoopee. Am I looking forward to that.

In the mean time, I spent Wednesday morning challenging my friend Wes to translate the Bible into modern English.

He balked.

He says the King James Version is all the translation anybody needs; I countered by asking why he reads the Bible in the original Greek himself if the 1611 translation is adequate.

What brought this discussion on is that Wes recently acquired a book which pulls his chain. He’s so thrilled that the University of Michigan Digital Library had reprinted the 1894 edition of Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener’s A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. I and Vol. II. A reproduction of the text can be found at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/scrivener/ntcrit1/Page_Index.html

It tickled Wes to show me Scrivener’s comparison of the Complutensian Polyglott with the Textus Receptus, the Greek text on which the King James Version of the Bible is based.

The Complutensian Polyglott was a six volume set first published in 1514. It contains columns filled with the most ancient Bible texts in Hebrew, Vulgate, Aramaic (Targum Onkelos), Septuagint versions.

Here’s a sample of what that Complutensian Polyglott looks like:

Nobody can get into Heaven unless they can read this page.

Just kidding.

In his exhaustive research Scrivner discovered only a comparative handful of variant readings from the same Bible you’ll find in the bedside drawer at any motel, the same Bible your Grandmother read, the same Bible gathering dust on your own coffee table.

In other words we don’t need to be Greek scholars to know everything we need to know concerning life and godliness. It’s all there right in front of us.

But I find it comforting to know that scientists exist who examine the process of Bible transmission in such detail.

The downside of this conversation with Wes results in my feeling guilty about how little of God’s Word I actually spend time reading.

I dabble at Scripture.

I know no Greek, Hebrew, Latin or any other related language but that’s no excuse. Even though some Bible scholars have actually died to make the Scripture available to me, I neglect study or even casual reading on most days.

PS: If anyone really wants to buy a copy of the Complutensian Polyglott it can be found at http://www.lulu.com/tigran . Better hurry and get yours today before they sell out.

Me, I think I’ll pass.

I have a house to paint.

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 @ 10:36 AM

Your comments are welcome: 0 comments

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pressure Washing With Jesus

An approaching cold front compels me to finish pressure washing the house as soon as possible. An abrupt drop from near 80 degrees into the 30s threatens to generate violent weather this evening.

The job of pressure washing the house in preparation for painting resembles the job of parachuting from an airplane, once you start, you’re committed for the whole trip down.

Wish I hadn’t started in the first place, but since I have, I need to see the job through to the bitter end.

I’m engaged in the mindless task of running the pressure nozzle back and forth, back and forth, blasting one board at a time, trying to cover each one evenly.

The high-pressure jet of water peels dirt, algae and old paint from the deck and walls; it will also peel skin.

Care to guess how I found that out?

So I need to pay attention to what I’m doing and the noise of the motor chugging along building pressure precludes all thought.

Like an automaton I sway back and forth, spraying and avoiding getting sprayed. No thought involved. No prayers uttered. No plans made.

Where is Jesus on days like this?

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee,” Isaiah said.

But my mind is not stayed on anything but layers of grime, spider webs, wasp nests, splashback and tangled hoses.

What part does the Lord God play in the rote?

One of the apocryphal gospels quotes Jesus as saying, “When thou hewest the firewood, I am there. When thou drawest water from the well, I am there. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.

In some religious homes, I’ve seen a wall plaque that says, “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation”.

Over the noise of the pressure washer motor, if I think at all, I think about naked ladies I’ve seen on the internet; but mostly my mind dwells on horrible mistakes I’ve made in the past, people I’ve offended, sins I’ve enjoyed but regret, opportunities I’ve flubbed, remorse I deserve.

And I despair.

Yet as I see cleansing water blast away grime, I cling to the phrase of Scripture where God says we are accepted in the Beloved. Welcomed by the Father because we are friends of His Son. And the worthiness of Jesus outweighs every stupid, petty, wicked thing I’ve ever done.

Yes, even that.

So I spray away roach eggs latched deep in crevices. And I knock wasp nests out from behind the light fixtures. And I get soaked in splashback and my glasses get fogged and my hair gets tangled …

And in the rote of this mindless day, I walk with God.


Monday night in the grocery store parking lot I got played for a patsy.


Ginny says I walk around with a bright neon sign above my head. A giant red arrow points to me flashing the message:


Every bum, wineo, homeless person, crazy, scam artist, and needy soul in Jacksonville zeros in on me when they see that flashing sign and hit me up for money.

But that’s ok.

I have plenty of money to give away; my wife works.

Ginny and I get accosted by poor people so often that I make a habit of carrying a couple of dollars, enough for a burger, fries and a coke, in a separate pocket away from our own spending money. That way I don’t have to fumble with my wallet when accosted but have a ready amount in reserve to give. (Greedy folks have been known to grab a person’s whole billfold or purse as the donor fumbled for loose change to give).

Mostly when I’m on the street, I just try to look belligerent so poor people will be intimidated and not ask me for anything — that’s what Jesus would do, isn’t it?

Anyhow, last night I successfully avoided two homeless guys who ensconce themselves at either end of the long bench the store has outside for customers. For ages these guys have systematically panhandled shoppers.

They are regular fixtures and I know to avoid them.

But later, as Ginny and I loaded our week’s groceries in the back of the car, a pickup truck pulled up behind us and a young woman began her patter from the driver’s seat.

Husband beat me and stole my purse. Need to pick up my little girl. Have a place waiting at the shelter. Churches won’t help. Cops no good. Running on fumes. Need gas money.

I’ve heard such tales dozens of times before.

A systematic scam?

Or a genuine need?

As I listened to the woman’s tale of woe, Ginny finished loading our groceries. She later told me that she was praying that I’d give this woman exactly what was really needed. No more. No less.

I reviewed my options: Send her packing. Give her the few reserve bills I keep in a separate part of my wallet for just such appeals. Give her the money I’d brought along to buy supper out for our own dinner.

Suspecting this was just another scam, I nevertheless shelled out a few shekels. Feeling like a fool while I did it. What if this woman’s need was real?

We Christians can afford to be taken in by a scam; we can not afford to neglect God’s poor.

So I gave.

But I gave grudgingly.

Ginny said she’d prayed that I’d do just the right thing. She said, “If you’d given her nothing or if you’d have given her all we had, it would have been the right thing. We are guided in these matters”.

Yes, we are.

But I forget that.

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 @ 5:29 AM

Your comments are welcome: 0 comments

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quick Notes

I’m pressure washing the house in preparation for painting. Hardly time to sit down at my computer recently.

My daughter Eve managed to post some of her wedding photographs; they can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/24065865@N07/ The wedding and reception were held aboard a cruise ship but there’s not a single photo of the boat. That strikes me as so strange.

Friday during breakfast at Dave’s Diner, some young girls were flirting with a young man there. When he teased them about how they should be in high school, one girl informed him that they did not need to attend classes because, she said, “Me and her graduated last year”.

And all last week the Duval County School Board debated hotly about how to teach either evolution or creationism in local high schools. Er, maybe they should teach English?

Also, while Dr. Woody froze a number of skin cancers on my arms, he examined a suspicious place between my shoulders.

The good doctor determined that the bothersome area is not another cancer but a fungus caused by being around a cat!

Now, who do I know that owns a cat?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:51 AM

Your comments are welcome: 0 comments

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Dirty Old Man Stumbles On

I never swore a vow of poverty.

Might as well have, the way things worked out.

I’m poor in everything but love and books. That’s a pretty good deal. Bill Gates has his life and I have mine. And, in the last analysis, I would not trade places with the poor guy.

But… If I had more material, I’d definitely be a materialist.

But, since I don’t, I’m not.

What got me thinking along these lines Thursday is that I culled two more boxes of books from the shelves of my eleven bookcases, and it surprised me how stingy I feel about my books. I cling to them. I treasure them. I regret having to cull a single one.

With my mind-set, I’ll need to be buried in an oversized coffin lined with books.

As the bumper sticker says, The Man With The Most Toys When He Dies, Wins!

My friend Barbara treated me to lunch yesterday; she’d come over bringing a sweater she’d bought for Ginny. As we drove away from the house we saw the postman in the distance and chased him down to pick up an expected delivery of two more books — sample copies of my latest book, A Dirty Old Man Stumbles On: John Cowart’s 2007 Diary.

Yes, I culled two boxes of old books from my shelves, and added two new copies of a book I’d written myself.

Here’s a copy of the refurbished book cover:

Yes, 498 pages all about ME!

And I lead such a fascinating life.

Diary index entries include:

· Romance In Olden Days

· Pantyhose

· Miraculously Obvious

· Pleasures Fir Evermore

· Stacking Eggs

· The Ugliest Virgin

· Inspiration For Digging Ditches

· How Does God Show Love

· Knowing When To Quit

Which I don’t.

Anyhow, I’m happy that my book turned out so well. I’m really pleased with it. That’s one volume I don’t plan to cull. After all, it’s about me.

I hope book buyers find it as enthralling as I do and that it sells millions of copies. (it’s available at www.bluefishbooks.info — Hint. Hint).

But, back to materialism, Jesus once told a rich young ruler to sell all that he owned, give the money to the poor, and to follow Him.

Some Christians believe this is a specific instruction to one specific individual; others believe that it’s a blanket instruction to all dedicated Christians.

I think that people who have no commitment to Christ as all, and people who have a soul-deep commitment to Him above all else — both groups have an easier time getting along in life than us in-betweeners.

Those of us who vacillate — like say a guy who want to follow Christ but at the same time wants to hold on tooth and claw to his book collection — we are the ones whose lives and minds churn like beach sand in sea waves.

In their calls to commitment, preachers politely tell us we need to paint or get off the ladder (if you know what I mean).

Be for Christ or oppose Him outright.

It is the lukewarm that makes God want to puke.

So, I culled two full boxes of books from my eleven bookcases.

Won’t Jesus be just tickled pink with me today?

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 @ 6:33 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If I Have Kissed My Hand…

Wednesday I pruned bushes in our yard.

In the evening, Ginny and I watched the total eclipse of the moon; the tv weatherman says there will not be another lunar eclipse till the year 2010.

Here’s a photo I snapped from our backyard garden:

Seeing such beauty reminded me of two things: a private joke and a thought from Scripture.

Lone ago when we were courting, at times I’d take Ginny’s dainty hand in mine, lift it to my lips, then kiss the back of my own hand.

And I’d say, “What in the world to those French guys get out of this”?

She would giggle like a girl.

She still does when I do that.

I suppose you’d have to be us to understand.

This lunar eclipse also reminded me of the words of the Patriarch Job when he told God that he had never kissed his hand to the moon. (Job 31:26-27)

“If I beheld… the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge,” Job said.

He’s saying that the beauty and majesty of nature, of God’s creation, can entice us to worship the created thing more than the Creator. The kissing of the hand to the moon appears to be an ancient act of homage or worship.

I’m not sure if the ancient pagan worshipers kissed the back of their hands or if they sort of blew the moon a kiss, but they acknowledged the created thing, while neglecting the Creator of all things.

Job mentions kissing the hand to the moon in the middle of a laundry list of evil things:

“If my step hath turned out of the way… If I have withheld the poor from their desire… If I have seen any perish for want of clothing… If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless…If I have made gold my hope… (If I kissed my hand to the moon)… If I covered my transgressions…”

Those were evil iniquities Job said were worthy of being punished by the Judge.

I don’t know of anyone in modern times who kisses his hand to the moon (there may be some but I’ve never run across any) but the other sins on Job’s list beset us even today.

If we don’t hold God in highest esteem, then we hold something less than God in highest esteem.

My grandmother believed that sleeping in moonlight caused mental illness. She made sure the curtains were drawn tight on moonlit nights; she said that crazy people were called lunatics because of what the moon did to them.

Made sense to her.

Sometimes I wonder if we all haven’t been sleeping in the moonlight.

Saint Paul said, “When they knew god, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations… (They) changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image… (They) changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen”.

Paul sees this corruption as a deliberate act; I’m not so sure about that.

I wonder if we see beauty in nature then slip into regarding the visible more than the Invisible. It’s an easy transferring to make. As when Job speaks of making gold our hope, we can so enjoy the blessing that we loose sight of the One who gives that blessing.

And we loose sight of ourselves.

The Psalmist David said, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who had set thy glory above the heavens… When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars , which thou hast ordained: What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?… O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”


A Historic Note For The Kid In The Attic:

In the Pacific Ocean during Wednesday night’s lunar eclipse, the USS Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser, fired a three-stage SM-3 missile shooting down a rogue US satellite in space.

The satellite, known as USA-193, was built by Lockheed Martin Corp. and failed shortly after launch in December 2006. In addition to its high-tech payload, it contains about 1,000 pounds of frozen hydrazine, a hazardous propellant stored in a metal tank.

Some experts have compared the task of hitting the satellite to hitting a bullet with a bullet about 150 miles above Earth.

The satellite, the size of a small bus, was speeding through space at 18,000 mph, about twice as fast as the test missiles previously targeted. "It's moving at roughly 300 miles a minute, and so you need to know where it's going to hit. And if you're off by just a minute on that, that's 300 miles off," said Ivan Oelrich, vice president for strategic security programs at the Federation of American Scientists.

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, dismissed suggestions that the operation had been designed to test the nation’s missile defense systems or antisatellite capabilities or that the effort had been to destroy secret intelligence equipment.

“This is about reducing the risk to human life on Earth, nothing more,” Mr. Whitman said.

Yeah. Sure.

A standard military tactic since year one is “Always take the high ground”. That way your enemy has to attack uphill while you drop rocks on his head.

AP Photo: US Navy Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), used to shoot down the falling satellite, is launched as part of a test, 6 Nov 2007

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 @ 5:06 AM

Your comments are welcome: 0 comments

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

By Its Cover

Monday Ginny and I carried 200 books in four boxes to Chamblain’s Book Mine, a prominent Jacksonville used book store, to trade in for credit.

This is part of our clean-the-house-and-reduce-clutter campaign. After all, having eleven bookcases in this tiny home crowds us a bit; and when we paint the bedroom, we’re going to have to move all those boxes of books under the bed somewhere.

Chamblain’s contains a massive collection of used books. It spreads floor-to-ceiling through three buildings in a labyrinth of aisles.

Here’s a 2006 photo I snapped of Ginny browsing there for books:

For years the store sported a sign in the window:


Every book lover understands that happy sign perfectly.

Years ago, I was Chamblain’s first customer. Mr. Chamblain bought the store from its Shelby Street location and moved it, under his own name, to Hershel Street. Late one night as I drove by I noticed him inside unpacking and getting ready for the grand opening of the store. He had the front door propped open as he unloaded boxes of books so I walked in and bought a five volume set of Samuel Pepys’ Diary — Mr. Chamblain’s first sale after he bought the business. That was over 25 years ago and although the location has moved again, I’ve been coveting items in his collection ever since. Our children still shop at Chamblain’s often.

Culling my own library pains me. I must abandon my mind-set as an archivist and keep only those books I actually read or use for research. I mean, honestly, will I ever read that 1901 biography of President William McKinley even though it was published just weeks after his assassination?

No. It had to go.

But nothing points out my grasping materialism more than having to cull a book from my collection. I always think of some reason to hold tight to every volume.

Yesterday, customers thronged the bookstore. When we arrived, we felt lucky to find a parking space far from the door.

I lugged our boxes of books to the desk to be evaluated for trade-in credit. Over 20 customers had placed their own boxes and bags of books at the desk ahead of me.

While Ginny browsed deep in the stacks, I watched Scott, the young man who processed these incoming books to see whether or not to buy them for the store.

He worked like a fury!

More and more customers with armloads of books came in and stacked their treasures around him. I timed him as he evaluated each book and decided whether to accept or reject it.

As close as I could tell, he processed at least 40 books per minute!

I do not know the exact criteria he used, but he looked at condition, cover, wear, subject matter, author, re-sale value, and a host of other factors, then decided about each book. He rejected outright more books than he accepted.

At a rate of 40+ books per minute!

He’s done this for years and his experience makes him efficient.

Yet, it saddens me to compare that man’s speed in evaluating books with the fact that for my own books sometimes I have spent days tracing just the right fact, just the right word to include in the books I write…

I did include one book I’d written in the stack and I watched Scott reject it at a glance — justly so, it was not suitable for his shelves.

But that saddened me nonetheless.

A funny incident:

One book I culled from my own shelves was a copy of The Bible And The New York Times by Fleming Rutledge.

Scott accepted that one.

But, just as he did, Ginny appeared beside me from out of the stacks excited because she’d found a copy of a book she was sure I wanted, it was a copy of The Bible And The New York Times by Fleming Rutledge!

She was buying the same book I was trading in!

Scott got a good laugh at our confusion and gave me back my copy of Rutledge. We didn’t have to buy that same book again.

Oh well, as the Scripture says, “Of the making of many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh”.

How true.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 1:25 PM

Your comments are welcome: 0 comments

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Being Down While Up

Violent self-hatred characterizes my days recently.

Being up on a ladder triggered this bout of feeling down.

Yes, I’ve spent the past few days on top of a ten-foot ladder — until my fat ass broke the ladder and I had to spend hours repairing the damn thing so I could climb it again. Not only that, but over the weekend we got to make three trips to the hardware store because nothing in this damn house fits.

But, didn’t we have a repairman in for two days last week?

Yes. And he did everything we asked.

But I saw a minor adjustment that needed to be made and I’d watched him do such tasks in less than 30 minutes, so naturally I tried to do the same thing he did.

And I did — for ten hours Saturday till I broke my ladder and it got too dark to see how to work any longer, then I spent another four hours on top of the ladder Sunday afternoon and I still was not able to make the repairs.

I’ll have to try again today.

What a damn, incompetent, useless piece of shit I am.

What an utter klutz!

Any damn fool ought to be able to fix a simple light fixture but I’m too useless and stupid to even unscrew one blub.

I feel so mad at me, so disgusted, so angry at myself.

No, this is not a case of simple humorous self-depreciation in my writing that I use as a self-defense tactic, not my country-bumpkin, dumb blond act which masks pride. This is a real visceral loathing at my own incompetence.

Really, I expected so much more of me.

And not only is this related to my immediate circumstance, but as I fumble atop that ladder, my mind dredges up thousands of stupid, foolish, inane actions, words and mistakes from my whole life and gives me an instant replay of remorse.

And this is just the first week of home repairs.

Weeks and weeks and weeks of this crap stretches interminably into my future.

And the hell of it is that when all this home repair stuff is done, we’ll live in exactly the same box with roof and floors and walls that we’ve lived in all along.

The only Scripture that I hang onto at the moment is a phrase from the epistles that we are “Accepted in the Beloved”. That it is the mercy of Christ that makes me acceptable to God not my own well-rounded personality and virtue.

I’ve noticed both from reading biographies and from personal observation that often when elderly Christians get close to the finish line something minor happens that kicks the props out from under them, that torpedos their beliefs, that reduces the person to despair and tempts them to sourness. This event strips away everything leaving only a bare-bones faith — if that.

Jesus leaves us nothing, absolutely nothing, but Himself.

It’s kind of a final exam before graduation.

If my recent experiences are this kind of test, then I’m failing miserably.

Being on top of a ten-foot ladder does not lift me ten feet closer to Heaven.

Quite the opposite in fact, I’m never more down than when I’m up there.

Seeing that I was so down while I was atop that ladder, to cheer me up Ginny bought me a dozen jelly donuts on one of her trips to the hardware store.

I don’t know what preachers might make of it, but I felt closer to God eating a jelly donut than I did while up on top of a ten-foot ladder.

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

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Friday, February 15, 2008

Watching Ben Work

I love work.

I can sit and watch someone work for hours.

That’s exactly how I spent yesterday — watching Ben work.

Yes, Ginny and I moved directly from the joy and stress of Mark & Eve’s wedding last Saturday to the joy and stress of home renovations this week.

For years I have neglected the simplest jobs of home maintenance so that the cumulative result became dire.

Yes, I’m guilty.

Squirrels found their way through holes in the wall and rotten wood fringed our deck. By putting off doing minor chores, I’d let things degenerate into a huge chore — a chore I estimated would take me three weeks to do, if I could do it at all.

Well, yesterday a Jacksonville Beach contractor, Mr. Ben Spiker, came to our house to do the job. His phone number is 708-7566. In one long day he accomplished more than I could have done in three weeks. And he did it professionally with skill and precision.

It was a joy to watch him work.

You know the kind of joy you get when you see someone who really knows what he’s doing, doing it. It’s almost like watching a dance — only with hammers and saws and drills and routers.

Here’s a photo I took of Ben Spiker headed up the ladder with another jigsaw puzzle piece of new wood on our roof:

Someone pleased with his work recommended Mr. Spiker for work at my daughter Jennifer’s house and she was so pleased with his work that she recommended him to me for the things I needed done.

I’m glad she did.

While I watched Ben work, my daughter Eve came over. She’s fresh off the boat from her honeymoon in the Bahamas. Mark and she must be starting marriage out right because Eve was headed for dinner with her friend Trish while Mark planed an evening of war games with his buddies.

“Let their be spaces in your togetherness…”

Eve brought over a folder of wedding photos to show me.

It pleases me so to see her so happy.

If Donald, John, Helen or Jennifer (the finks!) ever e-mail me the cruise /wedding photos they promised, I’ll post a link but maybe they haven’t recovered from the wedding festivities yet.

Between shipboard wedding and home repairs, I haven’t had much of a spiritual life this week. Haven’t thought of Jesus at all.

I mentioned my low spiritual state to my friend Wes Tuesday over breakfast at Dave’s Diner.

Wes told me not to worry about it.

“Folks who are religious all the time are apt to lie about other things too,” 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 @ 4:56 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Monday, February 11, 2008

After The Ball Is Over

Just suffering from post-wedding let-down today.

I had such big plans to entertain out-of-town wedding guests.

None of my plans worked out.

Just as well; my concept of beauty, fun, and joy doesn’t always dovetail with other people’s. I have to be careful not to bully through my plans without listening to the plans and preferences of others.

As my daughter Jennifer reminded me Friday, I am not the center of the universe.

(She is. Just ask her.)

While I relish the beauty of the marsh, other folks slap sand gnats.

Not everyone sees things through my eyes.

For instance, when I was a teenager, I uncovered a human skeleton on Fort George Island.

What a thrill.

I intended to show the spot to out-of-town wedding guests during a tour of the 1830s Kingsley Plantation after the wedding. What cooler thing could we possibly do after a lavish ball?

Then Ginny and I planned a banquet at a luxurious seafood restaurant. We kicked around ideas for a visit to the equestrian center, tubing on the Ichetucknee River, strolls on the beach, maybe let them toss a shrimp net, and, of course, I wanted to show off our own garden.

Instead, most guests ended up shooting pool, playing video games, drinking beer and eating pizza.

Six or eight of them disappeared off the radar altogether without our having a chance to even say good-bye to them.

I feel both relieved and disappointed.

Although surrounded by people I care about but seldom see, I hardly had an in depth conversation with any of them this weekend. There are a lot of people in our extended family that I do not really know at all. I’d sort of hoped this occasion would remedy that.

But, alas, airline schedules, motel reservations, personal plans, a cell phone lost (or stolen) aboard the ship, transportation snafus, missed phone calls, misunderstandings, happy confusion, etc. intervened.

In other words, everything ran normally for a logistical operation of this magnitude.

Ginny took two extra vacation days off work so we could spend time with out-of-towners. And I prettied up home, garden, and plumbing — but no one made it into our home for a visit.

Guess I’ll have to eat all those cookies, chips, danish pastries and shack treats we brought in all by myself.

I also underestimated the energy level of guests.

The cruise ship experience exposed us all to a strange new environment, happy but unfamiliar, and by the time we reached the parking lot afterwards, I think we all suffered from exhaustion.

From the post-wedding parking lot on, my plans were supposed to kick in.

They didn’t.

So instead of showing visitors the beauty of “Real Florida” over the weekend, Ginny and I found ourselves with unexpected, unscheduled free time. We dabbled in our garden, lingered over lunch, and lounged browsing through the Sunday newspapers.

Nice to recharge our batteries.

Since she has Monday off, and none of the anticipated visitors are around, we’re talking about driving out to Fort George by ourselves this afternoon. It’s part of the Timucuan Preserve.

It’s one of the most beautiful spots in Florida.

Maybe we’ll see a painting bunting, or notice a the corner of a pirate chest exposed by the tide, see a whale jump, find Indian pottery in the shell midden, catch a blacksnake, kick up a Civil War coin, or maybe even find another skeleton….

My kind of entertainment.

I’m looking forward 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 @ 5:39 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Need More Be 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 @ 4:47 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Saturday, February 09, 2008

On Eve's Wedding Eve

The photo, taken Friday night by my wife, Ginny, shows my sister-in-law, May, taking a photo of my middle daughter Eve and Mark, her groom for tomorrow.

Yes, my diary entry for Friday reads like one of those interminable genealogies in the Old Testament. But you can’t tell the players without a scorecard so here goes:

On the eve of Eve and Mark’s wedding the far-flung family gathered for a pre-wedding get-together party. We’d all agreed beforehand to tell embarrassing stories about Eve but she arrived late to the party and we never got around to seeing the blushing bride really blush.

We’ll humiliate her at some later date to be announced.

What else is a loving family for?

My middle son Johnny missed his flight from Washington, D.C., and came in later; Fred, my oldest son, stayed in Maryland. Johnny, who competes in ballroom dancing contests, will dance with his sister, Eve, at her wedding Saturday.

Ginny’s brother, Eric, and his wife, Dot, flew in from California. They spent the day Friday swimming with sharks and dolphins at Marineland before coming to the party. Eric is an attorney with degrees in engineering and marketing; Dot works as an executive for a skin care company — That’s skin care not skin flicks.

My little brother, David, and his wife, May, and her sister Carol, drove up from south Florida for the wedding.

David actually brought a shotgun.

It’s not needed (Mark appears happy to go through with the wedding) but, being a protective uncle, David brought his shotgun just in case.

Actually David and May brought the shotgun because of a recent break in at their house and he wanted to remove it from the place while they were away from home for the wedding.

May worked at the hospital all night Thursday but she’s a party animal and wouldn’t miss Eve’s wedding. Her sister, Carol, recently moved here from Arizona. It snowed a foot there the day she left and today’s temperature here was 77 degrees, perfect weather for swimming in a shark tank.

Our daughter Patricia and her boyfriend Chris drove up from Gainesville. She’s excited about her new job in a lab there. And Chris, besides being a computer person, is active in dog rescue. In fact a mutual love for dogs brought them together. They slipped away from t he party for a while to check on a dog they’d recently placed.

Our son Donald and his wife Helen shot pool using billiard balls with embedded led lights inside so they light up flashing when they roll. Donald is a computer network administrator who is saving the Everglades. Helen is a graphic artist and yesterday a poster she designed for me was featured on Amrita’s Yesu Garden Blog in India.. Donald and Helen volunteered to drive out-of-towners all over creation for wedding related activities.

Our daughter Jennifer hosted this party but she had to drive to the airport late to pick up Johnny (see above). Her idea of wedding preparation was to have her dog groomed today. Can’t have a wedding with an un-groomed dog.

Mark’s mother, Nancy, and his brother Mike flew down from Michigan (where not many people were swimming with sharks or without today) to celebrate with Mark. If you watched the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade on tv, you saw Nancy on one of her show horses from Harmony Farms.

For fun, Mike enjoys fencing. Modestly, he describes his skill level as only a third of the way between beginner and Olympic; he’s obviously much closer to Olympic than beginner.

Also attending the party were Eve and Mark (That’s them in the photo at the head of this post). Our daughter, Eve, is a Head Librarian and the groom, Mark, is an attorney aspiring to become a judge someday. They met via an internet dating service and tomorrow they marry.

Be careful where you click.

The captain of a docked cruise ship will marry Mark and Eve Saturday. After the reception all of us guests go ashore to watch the happy couple sail away into the sunset for their honeymoon amid sunny Caribbean isles.

My wife, her name is Ginny, walked around the party showing off a silver service pin she’s been awarded at work this morning — and a gold one too. That’s two distinguished service awards in one day. The place would fall apart without her!

Speaking of falling apart — I attended the party too.

Ginny and I begat some of the people listed above.

I told you this entry would read like an Old Testament genealogy.

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

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Friday, February 08, 2008

For They Shall Be Called...

Jesus is smarter than I am.

Of course what with Him being the Son of God and all, you’d expect Him to have an edge when it comes to spiritual things.

But I’m talking about common sense.

He has that too.

Case in point: Once when He was teaching spiritual things to a huge crowd, “there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people insomuch that they trode one upon another”.

Representatives of the Pharisees there began to urge Him vehemently and to provoke Him; they were, “laying in wait for Him, seeking to catch something out of His mouth that they might accuse Him”.

Even with all that going on, in the midst of that mob scene, Jesus was trying to tell folks about the Holy Ghost,. This is the place where Jesus taught that God knows every sparrow that falls (Reminds me that I need to clean the bird cage before any wedding guests show up) and that God numbers the very hairs on your head (Do I need to cut my hair before the ceremony or am I OK?).

So there was Jesus teaching spiritual things...

But one guy in the crowd interrupts saying, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me”.

Jesus was smarter than I am.

He refused to get involved.

“Man,” He said, “Who made me a judge or divider over you”?

Yes, Jesus refused to get enmeshed in a squabble over how to divvy up an inheritance.

He knew a can of worms when He saw one.

Not me.

I jump right in and try to mediate.

Yesterday, I tried to be a peacemaker in not one, but four disputes among family and neighbors. No I did not seek these occasions out, but when people presented me with their problems, I offered sympathetic advice.

Jesus would have known better.

One dispute involved living arrangements. The lady saw me working in my front yard and came over bitching and moaning. Her first words to me were, “It’s a mess. It’s a mess. It’s a real mess!”.

It was.

Another dispute boiled into my front yard as one neighbor complained that another left a borrowed lawnmower out in the rain and got water in the gas tank.

I, you understand, am personally involved in none of this.

I’m just cleaning my yard in preparation for my daughter’s wedding tomorrow.

But no sooner had I finished mowing my own grass, than the phone rang: a. dispute over dividing an inheritance.

A bunch of phone calls followed. People were practically stepping on eachother.

All I wanted to do was rake leaves.

Not being as smart as Jesus, I tried to make peace between the warring factions as they talk of police involvement, court hearings, lawyers, and subpoenas.

I have nothing to do with any of this — but guess who ended up talking with a cop last night and guess who everyone is upset with.

Then here comes a guy claiming one of my daughters owes his company money and he wanted me to give him her address and phone number.

He really got upset when I refused.

I do not give any caller such information about any of my daughters. He claimed he was from a credit collection agency but all he is to me is a voice on the phone. If he doesn’t even know she no longer even lives in Jacksonville, then he’s no friend of hers.

When I refused to divulge any information, he became more demanding.

That made me a bit snippy.

“Look,” I said. “I do not own your company a penny. There’s no reason to call me. Ever. My daughter is a grown woman almost 30 years old and she handles her own affairs. And, No. I will not take your name and number for her to call you back. And I will not tell her you called. I am not a messenger service”.

Wet lawnmower guy.

Disputed inheritance people.

Living arrangements lady

Bill collector.

Ain’t nobody loves me this morning.

Seems everyone I talked to is upset with me.

But I’d only tried to make peace because on some level I care about all five of these people who contacted me (except for the bill collector phone guy who can go to Hell as far as I’m concerned).

I’ve managed to offend everybody.

Oh well, as the Scripture says, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God — Among other things.

Bye now. I’m going to clean the bird cage.

Ginny’s bird appreciates me.

Even though he bites.

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 @ 6:47 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Water/Wine Served Daily

Just in case some confused wedding guest wanders down the jungle path in our back garden, I spent Wednesday chopping vines to clear the way.

We grow lavish tangles of wydellia, wisteria, smilax, kudzu and wild scuppernong grape vines in the back quarter of our yard.

I chopped and trimmed and pruned and weed whacked in mad abandon. This activity in no way actually related to our daughter’s wedding, but it proved a great way for me to work off energy before the event.

I highly recommend weed whacking to all fathers of the bride to be.

Eve and Mark, Helen and Donald, Jennifer and Julie, Helen’s sister, Ginny and I — all met at a Chinese restaurant to celebrate Chinese New Year, Year of the Rat in their calendar. We laughed ourselves silly telling juvenile jokes about a generic groom, and teasing the engaged couple.

For years our kids have urged Ginny and me to write a book about the secret of a happy marriage; we might if we knew the secret. But we don’t have a clue as to why we thrive in romance after 40 years of marriage. It’s just the grace of God and nothing we do.

But for some strange reason, we seem to have been given what everybody else in the world wants to have.

The chief end of all human endeavor is to be happy at home.

And for us, Home is where Jesus dwells.

Anyhow, getting back to my vine chopping — as I worked I realized that in my diary entry yesterday I mentioned the first miracle Jesus performed; it was at a wedding.

He turned water into wine.

John’s Gospel is the only one that mentions this.

John says, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him”.

The Greek work for miracle is semelon (I looked it up) That Greek word can also be translated by the English word, sign.

“This beginning of signs did Jesus… and manifested forth His glory”.

What sign was it that manifested His glory?

He mixed an instant beverage.

He did the same thing He always does, but He did it faster on this occasion.

God always acts consistent with Himself.

And for this wedding He turned six jugs of water into wine. John says each jug contained two or three firkins of water.

No, I have no idea what a furkin is either.

Every jug of wine in the history of the world started life as water.

Rainwater falls on the earth, vine roots absorb it and transport it to be stored in the grape. Something that grows naturally on the skin of the grape (I forget whether it is an enzyme, fungus or mold) causes the juice inside the grape to ferment and eventually become wine.

God changes water into wine every day.

At that wedding, Jesus did the same thing He always does in an abbreviated time span. I’ve read somewhere (sounds like C.S. Lewis) that every miracle or sign mentioned in the Gospels are natural, everyday acts of God writ large.

Jesus didn’t perform some cheap parlor trick at the wedding, He gave this sign to manifest to observers Who He is.

From my truck driving days I think of a shipping manifest which shows the exact contents of the truck. With His signs throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows His exact contents — that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Now here’s where things get interesting:

The ruler of the feast didn’t see the sign.

The bridegroom didn’t see the sign.

John mentions a governor of the feast (I’m not sure is he’s the same as the ruler of the feast) but whoever he was, he didn’t see the sign.

I’m not even sure if the Virgin Mary, who was at the wedding, saw the sign, John does not say one way or the other. The Bride’s reaction isn’t mentioned either.

But the Gospel specifically says, “The servants which drew the water knew”.

Important people missed the whole thing.

But the ones who served stood in a position to see the sign, to witness the miracle.

They still do.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:30 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

BTW Countdown

People used to date events according to A.D., a Latin abbreviation meaning year of our Lord, and B.C., meaning Before Christ.

Uncomfortable with the religious elements of that dating system, some non-Christian folks chose to record dates as C.E., meaning Common Era, and B.C.E., meaning Before the Common Era.

We Cowarts now date our lives according to BTW or ATW — Before The Wedding or After The Wedding.

Yes, Eve and Mark’s wedding aboard that cruise ship has become the watershed event on our horizon around which all life revolves. Donald and Helen’s van broke down and they debate whether to get a new one BTW or ATW. Plumbing repairs at our house hinged on having the work done BTW or ATW.

Ginny and I gambled, betting on the skill of the plumber to effect repairs BTW.

We won.

Pat Claydon of Pat’s Plumbing Company, Jacksonville, came out Monday morning and fixed our A.D. 1952 bathroom fixtures in a jiffy.

Mr. Claydon arrived when he said he would. He had all the tools needed. And he knew what he was doing. He quickly got us up and running. The first plumber we called claimed he’d have to smash out tile walls, order parts which would take three weeks to arrive, and that the work would close our bathroom for three days while he repaired things.

Pat fixed everything in about two hours — without breaking a single tile.

We are very pleased. Wish we’d called on Pat first. His number is 786-2121.

I’ve also worried that getting our yard in order stood as another urgent BTW project. I’m proud of our garden and wanted to show it off at its best to wedding guests. That meant a major Spring cleanup BTW.

Not needed.

After innumerable phone calls involving airline schedules, sleeping accommodations, clothing questions, restaurant reservations, and transportation issues, I realized that if I do not chop down the vines on our jungle path, the wedding will not be spoiled. The Bride will not dissolve in tears if I have not leveled the flagstones. Visitors will not turn aghast if the cassia tree is not pruned.

All that garden work can come ATW.

A third project weighed heavily on my mind — proofreading the 500 pages of my diary, the third book in my Dirty Old Man Goes Bad series.

Sneaking odd minutes during Super Bowl commercials and rising extra early in the mornings, working late at night, and neglecting virtually all else…

I got it done!

Thanks be to God.

I added the manuscript to my on-line book catalog yesterday afternoon.

Here’s a photo of the new book’s cover:

Just now, seeing all those old neckties draped over my arm (I use them as plant tiebacks) reminds me that I’ll need to wear a tie to give away the Bride at the wedding. And I realize that I have not actually buttoned the collar button on any shirt in maybe two years (the clothes I’m wearing in the cover photo are normal work attire for a writer).

Can I still button a shirt collar button?

I doubt it.

I’m much fatter now than in my suit-to-the-office wearing days.

I know!

I know what I’ll do!

I remember how to tie an old fashioned Windsor Knot in a necktie; I’ll tie one so large that it will cover the fat gap at my neckline without my having to actually button the collar.

Problem solved.

Who pays any attention to the Bride’s father at a wedding anyhow?

Between pool repair, plumbing, and proofreading and wedding preparations, I’ve neglected prayer — and I’ve become petulant.

Lot of Ps in that sentence; here’s another one:

Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding.

Had He not done that, He’d have gotten lost in the shuffle.

He has gotten lost in my personal shuffle this week too.

Not to worry.

In ancient days in Greece, if a king’s retinue met a bridal procession in the streets, the king had to give way. This was her day and even kings stood aside.

Jesus understands that sort of thing. He’s a gentleman.

I’ll think about my own spiritual deterioration ATW.

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 @ 6:41 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Sunday, February 03, 2008


I have married a resolute woman.

Mind you, resolute was not the first word that came to mind when I wrote that sentence. Pig-headed headed my list of choices. Then I toned it down to stubborn; but that sounds too critical. So I tried persevering. Then I resolved to use resolute to describe my beautiful, charming (but pig-headed) wife.

Remember how she took me Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving? She’d determined that she wanted to buy a certain trinket as a present for her brother Eric, and his wife..

The stores had sold out of said trinket.

But Ginny wanted that present. None other would do. And, once she sets her mind to a goal… Remember how the Terminator robot in that movie locked into his mission and would not be deterred even if a bus hit him?

My diary posting for Saturday, January 5th, 2008, (see blog archives in the sidebar) records how two weeks after Christmas Ginny was still shopping for that specific trinket. Yes, two weeks after Christmas!

Well, guess what we did yesterday?

Again, we went Christmas shopping for Eric and Dot’s present.

She got it!

She got it!

She finally got it!

Determined. Resolute. Preserving. Stubborn. Steadfast. Pig-headed — whatever term you care to use, Ginny got it.


The words of an old hymn come to my mind:

I am resolved to follow Jesus.
I am resolved to follow Jesus.
I am resolved to follow Jesus.
No turning back. No turning back.

Sometimes that kind of resolved is what it takes.

Once some people who followed Jesus for a while, gave up. John’s Gospel says, they “went back and walked no more with Him.

“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, ‘Will ye also go away?’

“Then Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’”.


Be resolute. Whatever the difficulties, whatever the obstacles, whatever the discouragement.

I must be resolute.

That’s the way to go.

In the evening, Ginny and I enjoyed a long talk about the state of our marriage. While we stay more or less on target, we plan some course adjustments to make living together a bit easier. While a Terminator-like inexorable resolution is good overall, some flexibility helps a marriage flow smoother.

And speaking of a smooth marriage, another plumber comes to our house tomorrow.

With our daughter Eve’s wedding next Saturday and with wedding guests coming in from all over the country — from South Florida on the Gulf Coast to Michigan on the Canadian border, from California on the Pacific to Maryland on the Atlantic, about 50 friends, family and well-wishers plan to attend — it might be nice to have our single bathroom in working order.

Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas to Eric and Dot.

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 @ 7:05 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Friday, February 01, 2008

My First Commercial Ad

My granddaughter’s high school is having a thing.

They are printing a program for this thing.

They’re selling ads in the program.

I bought an ad.

Here it is:


I thought about advertising the books in my Dirty Old Man Goes Bad series, but considering this is a high school event, I thought that might not be a good idea.

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 @ 4:18 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments