Rabid Fun

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sex Photo

Caution: this post contains explicit material which immature readers may find too intense-- or will not understand.

Wednesday I devoted myself to mechanical clerical stuff designed to help me catch my work up to where it was last November.

This involved restoring files and reviewing time management and work flow charts; and here I once thought that being a writer involved merely putting inspired ideas on paper.

Ha! Don’t I wish!

For me, once an inspired idea clicks, for it to go anywhere, I need practical tools, such as the time management and work flow charts. Otherwise, it stays nothing but a pipe dream.

So, while I did clerical stuff, I ran Blogger Play on my computer. Blogger Play is a real-time slideshow of photos which bloggers all over the world post on their sites. It fascinates me to see what other people are posting. Some photos just sell shoes or oven mitts, others are lovely. Clicking any photo traces it to its source.

Thus, when this photo flashed across my Blogger Play screen, it reminded me of Ginny and me. The photo comes from http://krazzypictures.blogspot.com/

It reminded me of us because I think this photo shows both the way we really are and the way we see ourselves after 40 years of marriage.

Looking at the photo I recalled an odd phone conversation I had with a young lady acquaintance about six or eight weeks ago. I can’t remember why she originally called me because I hardly know this girl, but as we talked she felt free to ask me some personal questions. I don’t know, but I think she used me as a sounding board related so some things going on in her own life.

Anyhow, she asked how many women I’ve ever had sex with.

What a curious question to ask a near stranger.

Maybe she felt free to ask because I am a stranger and because she felt safe.

I told her that I’ve only been with Ginny and my first wife.

“You’ve got to be kidding! How arcane,” she said. “That’s unheard of. You mean you’ve never had sex outside marriage”?

“That’s right,” I assured her.

“What about before you were married”?

No. I never did.

“That is so weird,” she said.

She asked, “What’s the matter? Don’t you like sex”?

That question broke me up laughing!

This poor child had no idea. Not a clue.

For us, sex is mostly joy. Age, health and agility may temper some of the ways we used to perform, but we are creative people and find no lack of fun, joy, laughter and geriatric passion in our bedroom.

Of course I like sex. But we keep it to ourselves.

Now, I can’t claim my own experience comes by virtue of being pure-hearted. Mostly it’s because women have never exactly thrown themselves at me. Lack of opportunity does not rack up credit points in virtue.

“You mean, you’ve ever even been tempted,” the young lady asked.

“Nonsense. Of course I’ve been tempted,” I said.

I recall once when an attractive Christian girl and I were on the verge of going to bed together. We discussed it over coffee in her apartment and mutually decided that such an action would be contrary to our individual characters.

Another time, within five minutes of lift off, the girl’s father interrupted us. I hate him—and I’m thankful for him.

I was faithful to my first wife as long as we were together.

And one reason I’ve remained faithful to Ginny is purely selfish—greater pleasure.

Just about anybody can plunk out Chopsticks on just about any old piano, but I’ve heard of a master concert pianist who ships his own Grand Piano from concert city to concert city. He keeps it tuned and polished and practices with no other. He could play some tune on any piano, but seeking the best, seeking perfection, he always plays his own Grand.

The young lady on the phone asked me if Ginny had ever been with any other man.

“Not that I know of,” I said. “Of course I haven’t locked her in a chastity belt for 40 years, but I’d be surprised if she had. She was a virgin when we married and I think that being a chaste person is part of her intrinsic character.”

“You two are so quaint,” the young lady said.

Way back when, Floyd, a crusty old truck driver, my mentor in driving 18-wheelers, told me, “The only pussy you’ll ever regret is the one you didn’t fuck”.

As a Christian I hate to admit that there’s a grain of truth in what he said, but there is.

I sometimes do regret that I did not take advantage of the few sexual opportunities I’ve had. On the other hand, I know of no marriage happier than ours, and I have no regret at all that I passed up on those other women.

Sometimes I think that the love Ginny and I have been given is what everybody else in the world is looking for.

So I look at this photo and think it represents the way we really are and the way we think of ourselves after 40 years of marriage…

Oh yes, by the way, it’s the shadow figures that are our reality.

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 @ 4:03 AM

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Since my last entry exciting things, peaceful but interesting to me, have happened.

Ginny and I enjoyed a happy weekend just hanging out. Talking, praying, working in our garden. When I say working in our garden, I mean that we sat outside and talked about things that we could do in the garden, but we didn’t actually do a thing but enjoy. Not a lick of work.

Last week I’d given her a cigar plant, a tall bush with bilateral fan-shaped leaves covered with small tubular red flowers. The guy I got the plant from said it would attract hummingbirds. And within three days of my replanting the bush in our garden, sure enough hummingbirds began to feed from it.

Also as we sat talking, an enormous red-shouldered hawk landed on a birdbath isolated in a corner of the yard and drank.

So from tiny birds to huge ones, we enjoyed their display.

We talked about coping with depression and I feel so silly for not recognizing how depression had gradually seeped into my mind. I’ve renewed some positive thinking techniques to combat that (No happy pills for me thanks). Already I see a marked improvement.

We talked about how life can change in a matter of seconds; a phone call, a winning lotto ticket, a traffic accident, a hard-drive crash. While Ginny and I resist change, we’re quite happy with the way things are, we also prepare for it—at least the ones we can see coming.

We prayed the ancient prayer, “In Thy light, may we see light; and in Thy straight path, may we not stumble”.

We reflected on how much our fortunes have changed in recent years. And we acknowledged that God is our ultimate source of provision. That renews our thankfulness.

One sad/funny thing happened at the grocery store:

The store offers discount cards; but you have to give the card to the cashier before she rings up your purchases or you don’t get the discount.

I did not know this.

So, we are in the checkout line.

I’m at the front of the cart unloading groceries onto the conveyer belt; Ginny is at the back of the cart making out a check to pay.

She suddenly realized that we had not given the cashier the discount card.

Ginny began to wave the card at me and shout, “Give it to her! Give it to her”!

I did not see the card in her hand.

I had no idea why she was shouting at me.

Being a dirty old man, immediately my mind flashed back to a scene from porno movie about a fraternity party.

This threw me into great mental confusion.

I began laughing.

Ginny puzzled over why I was laughing about a discount card.

But with all the people around I could not explain until we finally got out into the parking lot and were putting our groceries in the car. My explanation tickled her and we stood there laughing like fools about the discount card and the porno film.

“Only you would think like that,” she said.

That’s one trouble with pornography, flashbacks occur at inappropriate times and places. As the Scripture ought to say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they are nothing at all like John Cowart”.

Ginny and I continue training for our Civilian Emergency Response Team. In teaching us how to deal with bombs and other explosive devices, our instructor said, “Stay away from it. Keep other people away from it. Or be a canary”.

The canary remark refers to the old coal-miner’s practice of lowering a caged canary into the mine to test for poison gas—The sensitive canary died first.

When one class member asked how close to the bomb is it safe to get, the lieutenant said, “If you can see it, it can see you”.

That’s something to remember.

Yesterday I had brunch with my friend Barbara White. I had not seen her for about six weeks; she’s tied up ferrying her grown daughter back and forth for chemotherapy treatments.

Usually after a breakfast at Dave’s Diner, we come back and sit in my garden to talk, but since the day was so hot we just stayed at Dave’s for a couple of hours.

Nothing deep in our conversation. Mostly we talked about movies…

But when we began to talk about prayer, Barbara observed, “God has never once answered any prayer of mine that began with the word Why”.

That’s something to think about.

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 @ 5:41 AM

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

If I Had A Basket...

Woke at 3:30 this morning and began cleaning out a desk drawer stuffed with old papers. I wanted a quiet project so I would not wake Ginny that early.

As I sorted old papers I came across a copy of the Burns Depression Checklist. Dr. David D. Burns is a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine; he pioneered in the field of cognitive therapy.

I tossed the checklist in the trashcan.

Then I thought better of it and pulled it out again.

I answered the test questions.

My score shocked me. I scored off the chart in severe depression.

If you’d have asked me if I were depressed, I’d have answered, “No. I’m fine”. But as I reviewed specifics, I realized that the only thing that keeps me from being an emotional basket case is that I don’t have a basket.

Later in the morning, when Ginny and I ate breakfast at Dave’s Diner, I told her my findings. She attributed my depression to the recent crash of my hard drive causing the loss of tons of work. “I could tell that really threw you for a loop,” she said.

But as we talked, I realized that the current bout of depression goes back long before my hard drive fiasco.

Like a boat with a slow leak, I’ve been gradually sinking. Nothing so dramatic as hitting an iceberg like the Titanic, just a slow, almost imperceptible settling lower and lower in the water.

For the next in my Dirty Old Man series of books I think I’ll use the title A Dirty Old Man Sinks Lower.

Ginny says that I’ve struggled with depression for the 40 years we’ve been married and that she knew she was getting damaged goods even before she married me. She compared my depression with her diabetes. “You can’t cure it,” she said, “But you can manage it”.

Even with all that, she says I’m a fun guy to be around.


Looking back over my past journal entries, I see the current bout with depression may have started as long ago as last September or October. But it’s grown so gradually that I did not realize it was returning.

I keep this journal to show what the Christian life is like for one lone guy—Me. I don’t presume to show what the Christian life is supposed to be, but how it works out for me. And my postings are evangelistic only in the sense that I want to show someone who is thinking of becoming a Christian what they may be getting into.

Mostly, I write for myself and for the kid in the attic who may come across my old journals 50 years from now.

So, I’m beginning to realize that recently I’ve been struggling with symptoms of depression without addressing the causes. My conversation with Mark, my son-in-law, the other night and the Burns test this morning have been an eye-opener for me.

Yes, Mark is a young whippersnapper, but he’s a wise young whippersnapper.

While I’ve been aware of a vague sense of something’s not right, now that I see I’m depressed, I can take steps to fight it. The thing just snuck up on me; I’m so low in the water that I see fish swim before my eyes and I wonder what they are doing up here in the air.

Like the old country/western song says, “ I’ve Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me”.

But the first sep toward solving a problem is knowing there is a problem.

Only the sick seek the Physician.

This brings me to the question of how a man as sinful (see numerous former postings) and depressed and messed up as I am dare claim to be a Christian?

Doesn’t Jesus save and satisfy?

Doesn’t He generate instant purity?

Doesn’t He solve all your problems?

Not necessarily.

I draw comfort from an odd source in the Scripture: the first few verses of the very first book, Genesis...

“And darkness was upon the face of the deep… And God said, ‘Let there be light”… And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day”.

Ok, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Everyone knows that.

But half of those 24 hours are hours of dark.

Yet the whole shebang goes by one name—Day.

And we all say that—Only 24 hours in a day.

So, I think God looks at me and sees my darkness, my sins and my sin, and my depression, and my goofs, and my failings, and all my darkness. Yet He also sees His Son in me—Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And He calls the whole shebang by one name—Christian.

Because of His love, I dare to call myself by the Name.

No, I don’t have a basket.

And, Thanks Be To God, I don’t need one.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:53 PM

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Serf In Training

Yesterday I wrote about Jonathan Dickinson’s 1696 horrific trek along the beach of East Florida. Ginny gave me a reproduction of his Journal which was published in 1699.

Then, last night our daughter Eve and her husband, Mark, came over and gave me a compressed gas Space Pen from NASA’s Kennedy Space Flight Center—which now sits on a stretch of beach which Dickinson’s party passed in privation after their shipwreck.

Mark and Eve toured the NASA facility over the 4th Of July weekend.

So, from 1696 shipwrecks to modern-day moon shots, I’m well supplied with related souvenirs.

I think that’s so cool.

Mark proved himself to be an astute listener last night. In only a few minutes of conversation, he isolated and identified a writing problem I have struggled with for a month without being able to even state my own problem. I've percolated it again and again but I've just been too close to it to see what's been wrong. He offered several practical suggestions and I’m indebted to him.

He also said that my seemingly insolvable problems may be the result of God’s gently nudging me in a different direction.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Speaking of a different direction: This morning I published two brief items, one on an incident in Jacksonville history, the other a biographical sketch of Christian mystic Madam Jeanne Guyon, in KNOL , Google’s new on-line encyclopedia which was just launched today.

No. I’m authority enough on anything to be contributing encyclopedia articles anywhere, but no one else had touched on these subjects in KNOL yet, so I exercised my vanity just for the fun of it.

Ginny and I have begun CERT training classes; CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Teams. The idea being that in a massive catastrophe (such as a hurricane, nuclear attack or major industrial accident) police, firemen, and other first responders may be overwhelmed and not be able to get into isolated neighborhoods.

Therefore, Jacksonville’s Emergency Management authority, is training civilians to put out fires, rescue victims from collapsed buildings, render emergency medical aid, and things of that sort.

One funny thing; Ginny and I are both soft-spoken people, so when we told Mark and Eve about our training to be “CERTS”, Mark, who is involved in role-playing games set in Medieval times, thought we’d said “SERFS”.

“You’re training to be serfs!???” he exclaimed.

We got a good laugh over that.

I think Mark’s training to become King.

He’d make a good one.

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 @ 9:21 AM

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seven Months Naked On The Beach

Tuesday Ginny felt well enough to return to work; I could have resumed work also, but instead I spent the day reading a book she gave me for my birthday—a reproduction of Jonathan Dickinson’s 1696 Journal.

Wow! What a great book!

Dickenson (or Dickinson, he spelled it both ways) was a 17th Century Quaker merchant who sailed from Jamaica bound for Philadelphia. He kept a daily record of his adventures. His Journal was published in 1699 and went through numerous printings.

On September 23, 1696, a hurricane drove Dickinson’s barkentine, Reformation, aground near what is now Jupiter, Florida. Waves battered the ship to pieces. Dickinson, his wife and their six-month-old son along with about 25 other people survived the shipwreck.

But on shore, hostile Indians captured them and stripped them naked. The Indians stole all their clothes so that the cloth would not get bloody when they killed the shipwrecked people.

For seven months, the party, under hourly threat of death, was passed from one band of Indians to the next as the naked survivors struggled to walk along the beach 230 miles north to the Spanish colony of St. Augustine.

In his Journal, Dickinson recorded their faith and privations in broiling Florida sun, amid clouds of mosquitoes so thick the naked people buried themselves under beach sand to sleep and through the inch-thick ice of a winter Nor’Easter. Sharp shells shredded their bare feet and sawgrass sliced their legs as they trudged through deep mud of marsh and tangles of mangrove roots with Indians prodding them at spearpoint whenever they stumbled.

Though the Indians refused them food or water, clubbed them, or held knives to their throats, the Quakers refused to lift a hand against the savages; instead they relied on God to move the hearts of the savages—and He did.

Dickenson’s Journal records numerous incidents of the party being saved from savages intent on killing them.

“The hearts of all men are in the hands of God,” he wrote, “And He can turn them as He pleases. When these man-eaters’ fury was at height, their knives in one hand, and the poor shipwrecked people’s heads in the other; their knees upon the others’ shoulders, and their looks dismal; on a sudden, the savages were struck dumb, and their countenances changed that they looked like another people…”

Although shortly before, the Indians had killed, cooked, and eaten a party of shipwrecked Dutchmen, this time, for no apparent reason—except God’s hand—the savages abandoned the intended massacre of Dickenson’s group.

Twice in my own life I have seen the hearts of mobs intend on harming me turned aside from their purpose by the hand of God without my lifting a finger; That’s an awesome thing to have happen. Made me feel a bit eerie.

Five of the Dickenson party died of exposure on the trek north, but not a one fell to the “canibals”.

On another level, Dickinson’s Journal records details he observed about how the Florida Indians build houses, danced, brewed beer, smoked tobacco, treated the sick and weak among them (not good), and obtained food (few of them practiced agriculture).

Dickinson’s Journal is the best extant record of Florida Indian life during the late 1600s.

After being relieved of their sufferings by the Spanish governor of St. Augustine, the Dickenson party continued north to Charleston, South Carolina, by canoe. They crossed the mouth of St. Johns River between present-day Mayport and Fort George Island, just a few miles from our home. Ginny and I visited ruins on Fort George Island back on July 6th (Our Fourth in my blog archives). Sawgrass marshes the Dickenson party crossed show up in some of the photos we snapped.

But at the time of our visit I didn’t associate Fort George Island with the Dickinson Journal.

Shows how much I know about local history..

Anyhow, Tuesday I read this wonderful book in one sitting, too fascinated to put it down.

Ginny certainly knows what it takes to spark my fires.

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 @ 5:32 AM

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Monday, July 21, 2008

A Quick Note

Ginny & I missed our own birthday party Saturday.

Our eldest daughter hosted a party for us, Helen and Donald because we all four have July birthdays. It was also Jennifer’s own housewarming party to show off her new home.

I had prepared one of my little illustrated devotional talks which I usually give on such occasions—when I have a captive audience.

But, Alas…

But just as we got ready to walk out the door to leave, Ginny suddenly got sick and we missed the party. I felt inclined to call rescue for her but she decided to tough it out on her own.

She’s feeling better at the moment but she still had to stay home from work this morning. She’d had a doctor’s appointment Friday morning and Dr. Woody took her off some prescriptions and started her on new ones. Whether or not stopping and starting the medicines may relate to her getting sick, or whether she just caught some bug—We have no idea.

Many family and friends have called in or popped by to check on her. They brought in food, especially chicken soup, and presents from the party.

Long ago Ginny and I talked over and agreed about procedures to follow in case of sudden illness for one or the other so such a thing would not catch us by surprise.

Anyhow, this illness of hers proved to be more of a nuisance than anything else.

Love is not always candy and flowers, although these certainly have their place; sometimes love means holding her hair out of her face while she vomits.

I’ve discovered that as a nurse, my compassion and concern, my pity and patience, for the afflicted one lasts for about the first 30 minutes of the illness.

After that it’s all grudging duty.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:12 PM

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Medical Options

Friday I accompanied Ginny to Dr. Woody’s office where he gave her a number of options about treating her diabetes. The current treatment she’s been on is not proving as effective as we’d hoped.

So Dr. Woody presented her with several new options to think over before choosing one. We’ll go see him again in three months, so she has plenty of time to decide which path among the several available she wants to take.

Used to be a doctor would hand you a pill and say, “Swallow this; it’s good for you”. Now the rage in Jacksonville medicine is to let the patient chose which of several treatments is best. I imagine that’s so that if you get sicker, the doctor can say, “Well, you can’t blame me. You’re the one who picked the treatment. It’s all your own fault”.

Back on March 30, 2007, (see my archives) I recorded how I made my own decision among six or eight options for treating my prostate cancer.

Ginny faces that same sort of decision with her diabetes.

Here’s one funny incident related to medical options:

Once, quite a while back, Ginny and I talked with Dr. Woody about my erection problem. He outlined for us five or six treatment options then he said, “You two can choose whatever works best for you. I’m flexible about this”.

I replied, “That’s the whole problem. I’m flexible too”.

The three of us broke up. We laughed so long and so hard that a nurse rushed into the treatment room to see what was wrong. She charged in all set to do battle to protect her doctor. That set the three of us to laughing even harder.

My but we have fun at the doctor’s.

Yesterday was not that much fun.

Ginny faces some serious decision making.

When we left Dr. Woody’s, we shopped for a birthday present for our daughter-in-law, then we went to lunch at Chick-Fil-A, a fast food place, where we lingered talking about options for about two hours.

During the afternoon, Ginny wanted some alone time to mull things over.

I made one suggestion, then left her alone to think.

Whatever she decides, I’ll back her up 100%.

Later in the day, I showed my support for her decision-making process.

Did I encourage her to read the Bible, fast and pray and seek God’s will?

Not exactly.

For her comfort, what I did was put in a DVD movie, Men In Black, a 1934 movie in which the Three Stooges play the part of doctors, for her to watch and enjoy.

That was the most Christian thing I could 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 @ 7:07 AM

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Why The Big Spoon?

Thursday morning I researched sources for a precise word and for an obscure Bible passage, but I couldn’t find either one.

I need to learn more about dictionaries and God’s word. Frustrated at research, I gave up and read a murder mystery. Heavy rain outside made for happy, drowsy, cozy reading inside.

Then a thought nagged me.

I feel I need to clarify two things I wrote yesterday.

First, I wrote of myself as a representative of Christ. Representative is not quite the right word; it creates a mental image of someone important, like an ambassador in tux with a red sash across his chest presiding at a state dinner in the embassy.

That’s not me.

A better term might be salesman’s sample.

I am a salesman’s sample of Christ’s. Something a salesman might pull out of his case to show potential customers the manufacturing process.

It’s not the finished product but gives customers a general idea of how the product is made..

Take what can be done with old tires for example.

The salesman wants to promote a finished product such as surgical gloves or garden mulch or road paving material or a cutting mat for your kitchen. So he begins by pulling out a handful of shredded rubber which was once a castoff tire and he explains the manufacturing process as he tells how “Green” his product is because it recycles old tires and turns them into something useful.

That’s what I was trying to convey when I said I represent Christ; I don’t represent Christ; I represent what He can do with an old tire off the junk heap.

He specializes in that sort of thing.

That’s what He does with people.

He displays samples to show what He is able to do with the lousiest material.

It’s the sick who need a Physician, not the healthy.

In one speech, Moses told the people, “Thou art an holy people…The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself above all people upon the face of the earth”.

That’s something to brag about… Or is it.

Then Moses told them why they’d been chosen.

He said God chose you not because you’re great but because you are the lowest, sorriest, most stiff-necked, piss-poor, no good, sorry, no-account, complaining, aggravating , annoying, hard-hearted people He could find.

He chose you not because you are worthy “But because the Lord loved you”.

He chose you to show what He could make of such cast-off material.

The above is not an exact quote of the words from Deuteronomy 7, but you get the gist of what Moses said.

That idea comes again and again in Scripture: that God chooses people not because they are superior but because they are pathetic.

In his very long speech, about ten chapters long, Moses went on to say, “The LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible…The LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward… He is thy praise, and He is thy God”.

The whole thing is not about us, but about God.

Of course Moses was speaking to Jews fresh out of Egypt; but years later, Saint Paul said much the same things to the Christians at Ephesus.

He said that God saves us not because we’re great guys, but because He scrapes the bottom of the barrel.

Paul characterized the saved as the lowest, sorriest, most stiff-necked, piss-poor, no good, sorry, no-account, complaining, aggravating , annoying, hard-hearted people God could find.

Paul says we were putrefying dead and breeding maggots, children of disobedience, living in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, children of wrath.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, hath quickened us together with Christ and raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…”

Salesman’s samples.

God shows off the raw material and what He’s doing with it, how He’s recycling us and creating beauty out of ashes.

To scrape the bottom of the barrel for His raw material, God used a tool.

Think of it as the Big Spoon.

Had He not been going for the very bottom, He would not have needed the Big Spoon.

Christ died on that Big Spoon.

It’s called a cross.

The second thing I’d like to clarify from what I wrote about yesterday concerns old cast-off spare tires.

The old tire collection I’m helping with is a public service for my neighbors; I assure you that no old tires clutter my own backyard garden. I keep my own yard clean and trimmed.

The only spare tire at our house is the one around my waist.

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 @ 7:04 AM

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Din Of Iniquity

No. That is not a misspelling.

Although yesterday Jacksonville police raided a whorehouse not far from here (see news report at http://www.news4jax.com/news/16903466/detail.html ) I’m not writing about that den.

The word din I’m using means “a continual noise, a welter of discord, a noise which annoys with insistent repletion”.

It’s something you hear.

And yesterday I heard plenty.

It started with our Neighborhood Watch’s tire drive.

The streets in our neighborhood from a giant horseshoe. Fifty-seven houses line this horseshoe. For various reasons nine of those houses sit empty at the moment. That leaves 48 occupied houses.

Many of us have accumulated old tires in our backyards because you have to go through such a rigmarole to get rid of them.

So, as a public service, our Watch group plans to collect old tires around the neighborhood and arrange for the city to haul them away.

To notify folks about this project I printed up a flyer and yesterday I delivered it, going from house to house all around the horseshoe.

As I walked, a number of people stopped to talk with me.

I heard and saw a lot.

No one stipulated that what they were telling me was told in confidence, but by it’s very nature, I feel I should not repeat specifics, but speak in generalities.

Mostly I heard the din of iniquity.

Tale after tale of sin in the world, in our little horseshoe, and its dreadful, awful repercussions—the widespread, indirect, unforeseen effects of our actions.

No, I heard no tale of murder or bank robbery or child molesting; the iniquity I heard about were the common, everyday evils that form the whitenoise in the background of our lives.

I encountered homes stricken by cancer, stroke, heart disease, alcoholism, or drug addiction. I came across cases of agoraphobia, people terrified of leaving their houses. I encountered squalor and poverty and unemployment. I encountered an old woman terrified of dying. I heard tales of couples breaking up—one guy left his wife to shack up with her grown daughter from a previous marriage. Tales of backbiting and bitterness; of elderly grandparents being saddled with raising bastard kids; of rebellious teens stealing their parents blind; of bickering and squabbling, of bipolar disorders and insurance policies being canceled, of car wrecks and gas prices and …

I encountered human misery.

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

We live in a fallen world that is still falling; we haven’t hit bottom yet.

Somehow, we have the idea that wickedness originates from some super villain. We think of wicked being like the Joker, Batman’s nemesis, or of Blowfeld (that’s not spelled right), the archfiend enemy of James bond. We think of Hitler or Attila as being wicked and full of iniquity.

But the big guys have no corner on sin.

The truth of the matter is that sin is in the world, in my city, in my own little horseshoe, in me.

Christ came to save us not only from sins but from sin, the underlying condition of the world.

I know that.

I know that the Gospel message is that the love of God is shown towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I know that in my own life, He has blessed me with a quiet life of love with my books and my wife, that He gave us a home in this horseshoe as an island in the tar pit.

I know that I represent Him here where I live even though I am in no way a worthy representative. My own overall sin and sins disqualifies me from that honor; yet, here I am.

But yesterday’s walk house to house in the neighborhood listening to strangers who confided in me just because I’d listen, this walk confronted me with the fact that I do little to alleviate the daily misery that seethes around me.

People might think I’m a religious fanatic.

So I say little and watch them suffer.

Instead of proclaiming the love of God and the delivering power of the Lord Christ here in the horseshoe, I plant trees, give history talks, and collect old tires.

My friend Wes, who is much more evangelistic than I am, says , “John, we’ve got to cure you of this social activism; all you’re doing is trying to make the world as nice a place as possible for people to go to Hell from”.

He says that most human misery comes as a natural consequence of our rebellion against God.

He’s probably right..

But as for me, I hear the din of iniquity all around me, and I turn the TV up louder to drown out the sound.

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 @ 7:21 AM

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where The Worm Never Dies

The day after my mother’s funeral, Ginny, our four children, and I had to move from the house we’d rented for nine years.

Our landlord sold the house and our deadline to move fell the day after the funeral.

We did not have a place to move to.

Oh, we’d searched for a new house, but deal after deal fell through. We actually packed for two contingencies: one, if we found a different house to rent; the other, if we had to live in our car.

Yes, things were that bad for us.

We really faced having to abandon all our household goods and live in the car.

How we got a house to rent for the next ten years through the help of U.S. Congressman Charles Bennett is another story, but the things I’m thinking about this morning are regret, remorse and forgiveness.

These topics cropped up in conversation yesterday when my friend Wes took me out for breakfast.

We each talked about things in our lives which we regret. To regret is to mourn the loss of something precious to you. Although Wes is much younger than I, we are both men who have suffered loss.

Our losses make us the men we are today.

We concluded that following Christ has proved costly for us, and that to this day we regret some of the things we gave up thinking that God wanted us to—Whether He did or not is another matter, but it seemed so at the time; although now I suspect that we, or at least I, gave up stuff in misdirected zeal that had little to do with devotion to Christ.

Wes teases me for being overly pious saying I have higher standards for myself than God does.

When I speak of stuff we gave up, I’m referring to good wholesome things which we chose to bypass in favor of some perceived future good.

I think you’d call that being pious snots.

However, the losses we regret give us an appreciation for the skills and talents of other people. For instance, when I was younger I aspired to become an archaeologist, a passion I deliberately set aside, I regret loosing that vision but having once had it makes me appreciate what people in that field of studies are doing today.

When Jesus spoke of taking up a cross daily and following Him, I wonder if on a shallow level, our regrets are our daily crosses.

Maybe it’s just me, but in my own mind I confuse and mingle regret (mourning the loss of something precious to you) with remorse (a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs).

Not only do I regret loosing something, but I also wallow in self recrimination feeling that it’s my own damn fault for having lost it.

Double whammy there.

Gnawing Distress and I are old friends.

I always wonder what I should have done different.

Jesus spoke sorrowfully of a place of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched”.

At my age I no longer have enough teeth left to gnash, so I’m home free in that regard, but the worm part I know all too well.

With my conversation with Wes fresh in my mind, last night as Ginny and I entered a restaurant after a library trip, across the parking lot, I saw a woman I thought I knew.

On second glance I realized it was not her.

But I cringed and my heart had dropped anyhow.

Which brings me back to the events around Mama’s death and funeral.

My father was an only child. He only had one cousin.

Mama had slews of brothers and sisters and a huge extended family who all remained close often visiting and eating together and holding crowded family reunions.

All these people gathered at Mama’s house before and after the funeral.

As they caught up on family news, they boasted about what good jobs they had, and their new cars, and prosperity, and influence with companies where they worked, and rental properties they owned, and that sort of thing.

Being desperate to find a place for my family to move to, I buttonholed each one individually asking for help finding a job with their companies.

Every single one refused me.

I spoke about renting one of their houses—I had the cash—and was told that they would not rent to me because “HUD people are too dirty”.

After the funeral party broke up, everybody went to their own homes and I went to see my friend Congressman Bennett who, in twenty minutes, used his influence to locate a home for my family. We moved in the next day and lived there for the next ten years.

For years and years and years after Mama’s funeral, not a single person from Mama’s extended family visited, or phoned or even mailed us a Christmas card.

I felt that during a time of trouble all these people had left us to die beside the road.

Not one person from that close extended family contacted us in any way.

I wrestled with a certain amount of bitterness.

Actually a lot of bitterness.

Back when Mama was alive and any one of these people were in trouble, they often called on me to change a tire in the middle of the night, or mow their grass or bring in groceries or lend them money or help move furniture or visit the jail.

I always went and did what I could for them.


I imagined they were afraid I might ask for money or something although I never even once had before.

Well, Ginny and I fended for ourselves. We established our home and raised our children and lived our lives with no help or even a word from the extended family.

Then, a few years ago, one of them called wanting to reestablish contact.

How was I to react?

After years of silence, he wanted whatever-the-hell-he-wanted.


Family ties?

He expected to be welcomed with open arms.

I treated him with cold courtesy.

That was the best I could do.

I am not a warm person in any circumstance, but I treated him with the same courtesy I’d treat any other stranger.

In my prayers I had forgiven these people for deserting us and leaving us to die beside the road. I wish them every one well but I do not wish to get involved with them socially. If one of them called on me, I would help to the best of my ability. But, I would remain stand-offish and regard them with deep suspicion, expecting to be hurt again.

I don’t intend to let that happen.

I’ve wondered about forgiveness. When I forgive someone, does that mean I still have to associate with the bastard?

Does forgiving someone mean you have to feel warm fuzzys toward them?

I do pray for them occasionally; “Lord, bless them and keep them—Keep them far away from me”!

I know. I know.

“Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me”.

Easier to say than do.

So in the years since Mama died, I’ve not tried to establish any contact with relatives. I’m not sure I could handle it.

I did go to the funeral of one of them—but only because I needed to talk with a rapist I knew would be there.

I wanted to talk with him about forgiveness.

It was my duty.

So I did it.

But, the worm never dies.

So, what am I to do with my thoughts about regret, remorse and forgiveness?

When Jesus took me on, He got a whole can of worms in the bargain.

Don’t know for sure, but I imagine He gets that mix with everybody.

One word of comfort comes to my mind, the words of the Apostle John, who was known as the apostle of love:

“If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things… And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His son Jesus Christ, and love one another ”.

Yes. That’s the ticket…

If our heart condemn us…

Worms are for fishing.

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 @ 5:41 AM

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Old Things

An ox shoe.

A Civil War sword.

A penny minted in 1848.

A World War I artillery shell.

A 10,000-year-old spear point.

A shotgun used to repel looters after the 1901 fire.

Last night, at a MED Neighborhood Crime Watch meeting, I gave a talk on the history of Jacksonville. I let the small group handle a bunch of rusty old artifacts which I’ve accumulated over they years. Some of the stuff came down to me from my parents through both branches of the family; other artifacts I’ve dug up in my studies of Jacksonville history over the years.

I enjoyed giving my talk and the small audience laughed in all the right places.

Speaking of old things, this month I turn 69 years old.

This month also Ginny has a birthday; she’s 60 years old—Plus shipping and handling.

And this month both our son Donald and his wife Helen also celebrate birthdays; so we’ll have a collective birthday party for all concerned next weekend.

I think we’re all getting older, enjoying life now, looking forward to more of it, satisfied to die—like kids at the airport playing games, running around, having fun, playing tag, having a blast while waiting for their flight to leave.

Whenever I give my history lecture, I always close with the story of Mrs. A.B. Anthony who lived in Jacksonville during the 1888 yellow fever epidemic which killed one out of every ten residents.

I do not know the name of the richest man in Jacksonville in 1888.

I can’t remember the name of the mayor.

I can’t remember the name of the governor.

I’d be hard put to name the president of the country in 1888.

But I remember Mrs. Anthony.

She owned a cow. During the epidemic, while people died all around her and the city threw bodies into mass grave pits, every morning she’d go out and milk her cow. She take the bucket of milk and a tin dipper and go from house to house giving sick people a drink of milk.

While wars abound and politicians politic and actors act, it is little act6s of kindness that really count in the long run.

While hatred may make headlines, love makes history.

As the Apostle John said in his old age, “Little children, love one another; for love is of God”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:13 AM

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Tears At Breakfast

Ginny and I went out for breakfast Sunday at the Country Kitchen Restaurant.

At one point during our meal, I glanced up to find her looking at me intently.

Immediately I assumed something was wrong.

I asked her what was wrong with me.

Have I dribbled egg down the front of my shirt?

Did I miss a spot shaving?

Is there something in my hair?

Ginny said, “Nothing is wrong. It’s just that sometimes I enjoy looking at you”.

Her answer stunned me.

I started crying.

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 @ 5:46 AM

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Loafing With Jesus

I heard a joke when I was in the Boy Scouts 55 years ago.

It must have stuck with me because yesterday reminded me of it.

Seems this kid owned a dog with a long tail. The kid wanted to shorten the dog’s tail but he didn’t want to hurt his dog too much.

So .he cut the dogs tail off—an inch at a time!

Today, I am that dog!

Back on June 24th I tried to post a scanned photo of my To-Do list to show how busy I’d been working and what a good boy I am.

Then, I could not figure out how to post a picture with my new computer—but I can now:

My current To-Do list runs even longer than the scanned one, and feels more complex, and contains no blacked out entries.

I spent yesterday getting nothing done. Every task I approached stymied me. Each time I started work something cropped up.

Being a project oriented guy, this drove me nuts. When approaching any task, I feel compelled to get it over and done with. I hate working in fits and starts, bits and pieces. An inch at a time.

When work overwhelms me and I don’t know where to start, it paralyzes me.

Yesterday I got virtually no work done so I feel guilty.

This feeling is a satanic trap.

I feel I should get a lot accomplished because I’m me.

I treasure such high expectations of me that when me fails to meet them me disappoints me and guilt ensues. I feel crummy because I’m me and I expect so much of me because I’m secretly great. And I could show it if I could get done all the stuff I want to get done.

Does that make any sense?

Yesterday as I berated my self for not being Superman, the devil whispered in my ear, “Work for the night cometh wherein no man can work”.

I thought that was a Bible verse, but it’s not. I believe it’s an old Puritan motto. But it condemned me nevertheless. I want to get stuff done! None of this inch-at-a-time crap for me. I want it done and over with.

But as I fumed in frustration, a real Bible verse came to my mind:

King Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor”.

And here I’ve been pushing and straining so I can scratch another chore off my list.

That’s a hard way to live.

Then came to my mind the words of Jesus, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy , and my burden is light”.

Well, that’s fine for Him to say. But I’ve got things to do. Important things. And I’m not getting them done. Work is piling up on me.

Looks like if I’m doing God’s work, then I could expect a little help down here.

Am I doing God’s work?

Apparently not.

I’m tacking my own projects and plans onto His coattails like a KICK ME sign.

He doesn’t play my game.

That’s why I get so frustrated.

So, just what is God’s work?

When some folks asked Jesus that very same question, He said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”.


That’s something different from what I had in mind.

All this stuff is too deep for me. So I shut down my computer and read a murder mystery all yesterday afternoon.


Jesus said it’s ok.


One thing did get accomplished late yesterday afternoon. A young lady from our neighborhood crime watch came over and crafted some flyers advertising a local history speech I’m scheduled to give next week. I have not mastered this new computer’s different way of doing things so I doubt if I could have produced the flyers without her help. Thanks, Twila.

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 @ 5:44 AM

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

They Used To Call Them Lucifers

Since I began smoking 50+ years ago I have used large wooden kitchen matches to light my pipe…. Although I do recall once, when I was out of matches in the small hours of the morning, I got down on my hands and knees to light my pipe from the pilot light of a gas water heater.

I own a windproof Nimrod lighter which my son Johnny gave me about 35 yeas ago; I carry it in my pocket at all times in case I want to light up outside on a windy day. But, to me, all lighters make my pipe tobacco taste like lighter fluid, so I prefer wooden matches.

Some wooden matches strike anywhere; others only strike on the side of the box. Problem with the strike anywhere matches is that they strike anywhere. I’ve even had them catch fire in my pocket. The neat thing about strike anywhere matches is that, to show off, I used to snap that white match head with my thumbnail, or on the enamel of my front teeth, or even on the zipper of my pants.

How macho is that?

When I find them, I buy matches in quantity because not all stores carry them anymore. Periodically, I decorate tin Altoids boxes to carry my matches in; usually the decoration has to do with some writing project I’m working on.

Because I’ve been working on a history of the local fire department, my current matchbox features a striker on the bottom, a Currier & Ives fireman on the outside cover, and a young lady in (well, mostly in) a red negligee on the inside cover.

Yesterday, I opened a new case of matches to fill my tin matchbox.

The case label has changed.

No longer am I lighting my pipe with a match.

No, the new label informs me that I am using a Diamond Ignition System.

What nonsense!

What’s wrong with calling a match a match?

For some reason the names of things are no longer the names of things. When I worked as a janitor, I was called a janitor; now the guy doing that same job is called a maintenance engineer.

The word Hero no longer means “ a man distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength… A champion: someone who fights for a cause... a person of great strength and courage celebrated for bold exploits”.

Now tv reporters use the word “Hero” to refer to the a guy who phones for an ambulance at an accident scene.

Words are watered down to become essentially meaningless.

For instance the noun God. A specific name for a specific person has been diluted to mean almost any vague, hazy, fuzzy mist which seems more or less nice.

I’ve even heard preachers speak of “the Christ Event”!

They seem to be talking about a situation when a borderline supernatural entity initiated its transgression adjustment mode.

That supposedly clarifies what the old English Bible means when it says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”.

Oh well, I’ve been sitting at this computer for a while now. Time to take a break and use a Diamond Ignition System on my pipe.

Maybe that term is not so bad. In 1827 when chemist John Walker first produced usable wooden matches, they called them lucifers.

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 @ 5:55 AM

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Little Things

Ginny spliced a couple of vacation days onto the Fourth of July holiday to give us an extra long weekend together. So naturally yesterday she spent the day working in one room and I in another.

We’d take breaks to drink coffee together, otherwise we might as well have been on different planets—True Companionship.

We each concentrated on little things.

She repaired a zipper, rolled coins from her change jar, sorted a boxful of brochures from historical sites we’ve visited over the past couple of years—Little things like that, things she’s meant to do for ages.

I also concentrated on little things.

Little things which can infuriate me!

For instance, the automatic em dash function on this new computer. The stupid thing changes what I feel to be the correct formatting of the em dash into one that looks unprofessional and wrong and cheap and amateurish and tacky!

Tacky! Tacky! Tacky!

Now, not everyone knows the difference between en dashes and em dashes; but when you look at a page where they are misused, you get this vague feeling that “something doesn’t look right”.

The fact the this new software “improves” my writing style by automatically changing the way I use an em dash right into a wrong use of this punctuation—and will not let me change it back—drives me nuts.

And I can’t find my AP Style Manual to check.

I spent a couple of hours obsessing over this problem yesterday.

A pox on all their houses!

Ginny says to ignore this little thing and get on with my work.

She says she hopes this is the biggest computer problem I ever face.

No sympathy from that quarter.

But I think small things are important.

I believe it was John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, who said that while we may avoid “big sins” like murder and such, but that “little sins, respectable sins” usher us into Hell by the backdoor.

In the Bible, the Prophet Zechariah asks, “Who hath despised the day of small things”?

And remember that poem, about the kingdom being lost “For want of a horseshoe nail”?

Anyhow, Ginny and I each worked on separate small things all day Monday.

In the afternoon as we floated on air mattresses in the pool, we noticed another little thing:

No less than eight birdhouses surround our large backyard.

Not a bird lives in a single one.

And we paid good money for those cute little houses.

Stupid birds.

But, Saturday, after finishing up yard chores, I hung my gardening hat on a nail where we hang pool towels to dry…

Under the watchful eye of the lizard on the downspout, guess what a couple of wrens did…

See the rascal?

In my hat!

Here’s an enlarged photo:

Reminds me of the imortal words of Dr. Seuss:

My teeth are gold.
My hat is old.
I have a bird I like to hold.
And now my story is all told.

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 @ 4:58 AM

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Another Thing About Our Fourth Of July

This is almost a non-event.


A few weeks ago Ginny found a computer thing laying on the grocery story parking lot. I think it’s called a zip drive, about the size and shape of a disposal cigarette lighter; it plugs into a computer USB port and holds scads of files.

Ginny brought it home and Donald hooked it up to a computer to see if he could identify the owner and we could return it.

Turns out the thing contained many military files. Obviously it had been lost by someone stationed at a local base.

Donald discovered the name of the officer – lets give him a good biblical name… say, Zechariah – and we looked for that name in a local phone book. Called the number. Got a recording saying no incoming calls were accepted.

We tried several ways to get in touch with this officer but no luck.

I tried contacting the base locator office, the chaplain, and the base computer security lab – no luck with any of them.

Then a new phone book came out. We had an address.

My daughter Eve drove me by there and the house looked abandoned so I left a note in the door.

Sunday when we returned from our outing at the Kingsley Plantation, there was a message on our phone answering machine. Zechariah responding to my note on his door.

He’d been out of town and was on his way to the base to hunt for the very files we held. He said these files were vital to his teaching a class for pilots tomorrow.

Since I had not been able to locate the disc thing’s owner, I’d been tempted to overwrite his files and replace them with some of my own but because I know what pain it is to loose computer files as I did and have been bitching about for six weeks, I held on to this officer’s files without disturbing them.

He drove immediately to our house to pick up his computer drive. He was very thankful to have them back because he needed them for his pilots’ class.

Those files may make a big difference in somebody’s effectiveness in our military.

Ginny, Donald, Helen, Eve and I all feel good about the tiny bit we did to support our troops – and we all feel that it was cool for all this to work out on the Fourth Of July weekend.

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 @ 7:15 AM

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Our Fourth

Well, forget about my name change. Somebody else beat me to it. They will get the Eight Billion Dollars.

Did you know that there is now a law firm named Dog, Dog, Dog and Dog?

Ginny & I enjoyed a quite happy Forth of July in our own backyard. Mostly we just talked.

When I calmly observed that life is unfair and spoke about reality as I perceive it, she called me down about my perceptions.

She said, “John, you hold a Black Belt in sniveling”.

Nevertheless, I took her on an outing Sunday.

We drove to Fort George Island to visit the ruins of the Kingsley Plantation, which date to the 1790s. Here are a few of the photos we took:

When we returned home we found a dozen of our Nightblooming Ceres flowers had begun to open. Since these flowers only blooms one single night and wilt away at sunrise, a bunch of us gathered in the dark on our back deck to watch the flowers open.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:36 AM

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Just Call Me Leo

I can’t do it today because today is the Forth Of July, but as soon as the courts open Monday morning, I intend to file and have my name legally changed.

For the past couple of days I’ve been treading water waiting to hear from Donald to find out whether or not he can restore my old computer hard drive.

What I do next depends on what he says.

I’m sorting out where my life, as far as work is concerned, should go from here.

I’ve decided to be rich.

That’s how I came up with this name change idea.

It will be hard to fit my new name in full on a book jacket, should I continue to write. A few inconveniences always come with fortune.

But with all my wealth, I’ll manage.

So, come Monday morning, I’ll be sitting on the courthouse steps waiting for the doors to open.

I’ll file to have my name legally changed to – get this -- Leona Helmsley’s Favorite Dog.

Oh, if you haven’t been following the news, in her will the late hotel heiress Leona Helmsley left Eight Billion Dollars to dogs.

As soon as my name change goes through, I’ll petition the courts for my money.

But I won’t get swell headed; after Monday, you may call me Leo for short..

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:23 AM

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Jesus Does What?

Last night, as Ginny and I drove home from the grocery store, I prayed about a temptation I’m struggling with.

Yes, that one.

I’ve alternately wallowed in or relished this thing for years and years and years.

As I prayed, the watermelon we’d bought bumped around in the back of the car as we crossed the railroad tracks to our house. I know how that watermelon feels – Headed home but getting jostled and bumped on the way. And likely to bust wide open.

I wondered why Jesus doesn’t deliver me from temptation? He’s the Savior, why doesn’t He swoop down in a burst of light and a mighty “Shazam!” and save me from all the things that bug me?

But He doesn’t.

Or at least He hasn’t so far.

I have a bone to pick with Him – That’s what they call prayer.

Anyhow, my questions reminded me of Neal, an Australian guy I haven’t thought about in years.

Back in the 1970s I ran across Neal as I was doing some sort of volunteer social thing for the Salvation Army; I forget just why I was there, soup kitchen work or something of the sort. Not important.

But at the time I felt more religious zeal than I do now and I was – can you believe it – interested in street preaching.

What a hoot.

I am the shyest, most retiring, most timid, guy you’d ever want to meet.

I can speak to the public in a tightly controlled environment (I memorize every word I’m going to say beforehand) but to speak to strangers !!! It would take an act of God for me to venture something like that.

That’s where Neal came in.

It just so happened what while I was at Army Headquarters this guy from Australia shows up to train Salvation Army staff members in an unusual technique for street preaching. Neal represented an Australian evangelistic group called Open Air Campaigners .

I have no association with the Salvation Army beyond occasionally washing dishes at their mission, but an officer invited me to sit in on the training session.

Neal’s gimmick was to set up an artist’s easel in a park and begin to paint pictures that illustrated Bible stories; as folks gathered around to watch him paint, he would tell the story.

I only saw him do this once because he was only staying in Jacksonville for a day or two. But the concept of what he did clicked with me and eventually I tacked together an easel of my own and used stick-figure drawings as a crutch to talk to people who watched me paint. Did that as a hobby for several years…

That’s another story.

Oh, I should also say that I have no association with Open Air Campaigners either; Neal was the only one of these folks I ever met.

What made me think of Neal as I prayed about my temptations was what he told me about how he was delivered from being a roaring drunk to becoming a Christian.

He and some drinking buddies in Australia, I forget which city, saw this guy painting a picture in a park. They realized the guy was a do-gooder of some kind and decided to heckle the preacher.

Neal told his buddies, “Watch this. When that guy says that ‘Jesus saves’, then I’m going to yell, ‘Saves From What’. And when he says, ‘He’ll save you from the bottle’, I’m going to yell, ‘He can’t save me from this one, cause it’s empty’. And I’ll turn it up to drain the last drop, then throw the bottle at his head. That’ll teach him!”.

Sure enough , in the midst of the preacher’s message, he shouted the magic phrase, “Halleluiah, Jesus Saves”.

Neal yelled, “Saves From What”?

And the preacher yelled back, “He’ll save you from whatever’s got you licked”.

Neal’s bottle never got thrown.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:39 PM

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