Rabid Fun

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Winter Weary?

Yesterday I hung my winter clothes back in the closet.

Yes our eight or ten days of Winter here in north Florida proved grueling, (Remember that photo I took on Feb. 6th?) but Ginny and I survived.

Now cold weather appears to have passed; tv weather guy predicts mid 80s temperature by Saturday; so I packed away my parka and mukluks.

This morning I put on my swimming trunks and began cleaning the pool.

I haven’t cleaned the pool since November; King Algae reigns.

If the tiniest bit of algae remains in the water, it spreads green slime on walls and bottom. In a few weeks it turns our pristine pool into thick green soup.

I should have kept it down.

But I didn’t.

Some spiritual lesson here? Yes, for several weeks now, I’ve had algae of the soul. I need a good scouring—with the Christian equivalent of chlorine (whatever that is). My filter is clogged.

I’m reluctant to read the Scripture; just don’t have the energy for it. I neglect prayer. I’ve waste time looking at naked internet ladies again. I find even the thought of church attendance loathsome. I avoid witnessing to people I previously intended to talk with about their souls. I’m ignoring my diet. I regard the poor as a nuisance.

Spiritual algae—I wallow in it.

Maybe it’s just the doldrums of Winter. I’d like to think so…

But come right down to it, I’m me just being me.

Lord, have mercy on John Cowart… Green pastures, not green algae, please, Sir.

Here’s Jon’s take on the matter:

Different subject:

Tuesday night, Feb. 24th) President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress.

Concerning education, he said that learning is not just for kids.

Tonight,” he said, “I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training… this country needs and values the talents of every American ”.

In the light of that, Ginny and I have been discussing how to enhancing our own education. Certainly not by going back to a classroom; I hated school when I was there. Maybe something on-line. I’m considering advanced rescue training, Latin, computer stuff, or some subject altogether unfamiliar. We’ve even talked about square dancing. We’ll settle on something soon. But we do plan to do it.

Another thing the President encouraged was for Americans to express consumer confidence in the economy. So, this morning I bought two books I’ve been hesitating to buy for six weeks.

I didn’t vote for either of the two major candidates (see my November 2008 postings in the blog archive if you really care about political stuff more than I do), but once a President is elected, I’ll do what little things I can to support him and the nation.

I always pray that politicians know more about what’s going on than I think they do.

Hummm… Can you get a billion dollar federal grant for a scaled-down algae eradication project (i.e. Fight unemployment by hiring a pool boy).

Would that qualify as one of those Green Projects the President was pushing?

Last night Ginny and I stayed up way too late watching Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange in Titus, a DVD film version of Shakespeare’s first play, Titus Andronicus. We watched the play for hours, then stayed up even later talking about it. Vengeance, rape, murder, mutilation, manipulation, betrayal, and Roman Legionaries on motorcycles--Great fun!

Worth staying up late to watch; But I’m paying for it this morning.

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 @ 5:20 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time On My Mind

My poor beautiful wife!

Yesterday her job required that my poor Ginny attend an all day-loooong strategy meeting across town.

Management required meeting participants to turn off cell phones.

Time dragged.

She could well have taught the whole seminar, but she had to just sit through it and listen.

Ginny got so bored she just had to check the time; she turned her phone on to look at the digital display—It was not even 10 a.m. yet!

She endured.

While Ginny was at that interminable meeting, our friend Barbara White and I enjoyed breakfast at Dave’s Dinner where we discussed the nature of time.

Barbara takes some sort of class at her church.

Voluntarily taking it.

Beats me why.

Anyhow, she explained that the word past refers to things that have already happened; that the word future refers to things that have not happened yet; and that we live in the present, right-now moment.

She compared time to the thin line cursor on my computer screen moving from left to right. That spider-web-thin line is the present moment. As it moves, it constantly creates the past.

She quoted the Psalm that says our times are in God’s hand. And she said we tend to remember the wrong things from our times past. We easily forget things God told us to remember, but remember--and dwell on—things best forgotten. We forget the good God has done for us, and remember the bad times in our lives.

I ventured my deep understanding of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; that the faster we move, the closer we are to being in two different places at once. The quicker you move from here to there, the closer you get to being both here and there at the same time.

Therefore, God must be very fast indeed because He is omnipresent, in all places at all times.

I love and find great comfort in St. Paul’s observation about time, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face”.

What a delight and wonder to look forward to!

Once years ago my youngest son, Donald, while a physics student interning at Los Alamos Nuclear Labs, tried to explain Chaos Theory and String Theory to me; I vaguely recollect that those theories have something to do with time’s nature.

And, in his February 18th post, my e-friend Jon in Great Britain (and the 27 people who comment on his posting) all discuss Christian concepts of time exhaustively; you’ll find them at http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/

I didn’t contribute to that discussion.

Thinking makes my brain hurt.

Like Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy, all I need to know is suppertime.

At present, all this reminds me of one of those rejected New Yorker cartoons:

Also, all this thinking about time eases me into remembering with a deep hearthunger longing what I consider the single most beautiful passage in the whole Bible, the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season,

And a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born,

And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up;

A time to weep,

And a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,

And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,

And a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace,

And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get,

And a time to lose;

A time to keep,

And a time to cast away;

A time to rend,

And a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,

And a time to speak;

A time to love,

And a time to hate;

A time of war,

And a time of peace. ...

God hath made every thing beautiful in His time:…
And He hath placed yearning in the hearts of men…

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:13 AM

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mules Wearing Snowshoes, a fascinating (to me) but long posting

My Aunt Hazel, God rest her, collected family ephemera from way back.

She kept these papers in an old candy box.

Years ago, she showed me an 1880s receipt for the sale of alligator hides.

My great-great-great grandfather shot gators in the swamps of South Jacksonville and sold the skins to a local leather company. He earned $50 selling the hides for five cents each.

Looks like my ancestor single-handedly put the Florida alligator on the endangered species list.

I’d forgotten about my aunt’s ephemera collection until this week when I finished reading James Hammond’s book Florida’s Vanishing Trail.

In the midst of his comprehensive history of south Florida, focusing on the area around the Tamiami Trail ( the road which runs east/west across the Everglades between the gulf coast and Miami) Mr. Hammond told me a lot about alligators which, although I’m a Florida native, I never knew before.

Explorers in the 1700s report thousands of alligators and crocodiles filling every river and stream on Florida’s east coast. These hungry predators line the shores awaiting their abundant prey. The annual mullet run brings great swarms of fish literally swimming into their open jaws, and turning peaceful tributaries into ‘pots of boiling water’ rising 25 feet in the air,” Hammond said.

In 1898 at Roberts Lakes during the dry season 10,000 alligators gathered in the shallow water; when hide hunters began firing their rifles, “the shooting caused the alligators to stampede like cattle”.

Today in Jacksonville if a single alligator shows up on a golf course, or in a storm drain, or in somebody’s swimming pool, the incident makes tv’s 6 o’clock news.

Time has not only diminished Florida’s alligator population but our water resources as well.

The geology of South Florida forms the Everglades as a state-wide slow seepage of water moving south; the abundant marshgrass laced with hammocks above the swamp, give the area the name A River Of Grass.

Hammond says early visitors to this watercourse noted this about the River of Grass:

“Florida’s water supply - then seemingly endless - rises from a reported 2,000 first-magnitude springs, each capable of producing over one million gallons of water per day.

“Historical records by eyewitnesses of the era describe a sudden trembling ground, and a rushing sound like a mighty hurricane, followed by a phenomena that quickly starts spurting great fountains of water, rapidly covering all the available ground. Days of such a flow form a broad river and eventually a lake.

“Modern travelers no longer witness this magical process. Canal dredging, extensive cutting into natural aquifers for roads, drainage ditches, retention ponds, and thousands of miles of irrigation culverts crisscross the entire face of Florida.

“Only 27 such springs remain”.

For five years author James Hammond spearheaded a research project for State of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources; this project was designed “to assemble all relevant data on the Army Forts of Southwest Florida during the Second and Third Seminole Wars through books, journal accounts, State files and records, and historical archives. A survey project to assemble all periods maps from 1835 – 1858 including civilian and military with landmarks, compass and transit recordings with a view of verifying locations, trail junctions and site recorded locations into an accurate map with GPS coordinates to identify ten (8 Army Forts and two (2) army camps in and around modern-day Collier County…to place this information on the Florida Master Site File”.

The project captured Hammond’s interest so much that he exceeded those perimeters into a comprehensive 170-year history of the entire area including information about the unique flora and fauna.

Great reading!

It’s got everything.

Hammond begins by telling about the three Seminole Indian wars from 1817 to 1858. He includes eye-witness accounts from U,.S. soldiers, army records, pioneer memories, and contemporary interviews with Seminole chiefs.

In 1842, one soldier wrote:

“Every leaf seemed to bear some poisonous insect as dangerous as the serpents under foot, and still more dangerous than all the rest, the cunning redskins had slowly retreated before the United States Army; for this war had been going on for years, and they had penetrated the jungles deep, and here and there cleared the hammocks of timber and built themselves comfortable homes from the bark of the cypress tree; and they defended those homes with that fury that only men driven to desperation can do. Concealing themselves under the dense foliage, covered with Spanish moss, they were indiscernible until they revealed their position by a rifle shot. This, of course, was often too late for some poor comrade who was pushing his way determinedly through the tangle, and with death lurking on every hand.

“The night was made hideous by the howl of wolves, the scream of the panther, the bull-like bellow of the alligator and dismal cry of the loon, interspersed here and there by the sweet notes of the whippoorwill, or the song of the American nightingale, that most beautiful of all songsters, the mocking bird.”

In 1850 a band of U.S. soldiers “stumbled into the camp of Chief Hollata Micco, better known as Billy Bowlegs. It was unoccupied at the time so the men took it upon themselves to destroy the gardens and fruit trees just to see, in the words of one soldier ‘how old Billy will cut up’. They slowly removed some of the fruits and journeyed a short distance away before setting up camp for the night”.

Bowlegs cut up by attacking at the start of the Third Seminole War.

The Army’s scorched earth policy of capturing the women and children, burning villages and crops, taking all the livestock including cattle and hogs to the nearest depot, and if it was not practical, destroy them. The policy to “shoot warriors on sight” began to take its toll and led up to one of the last battles of the 3rd War…. (On November 28, 1857)

The Indians, indeed, soon found that in open fight they were wholly unable to cope with the whites. They adopted the true policy of scattering themselves in small detachments, striking a sudden blow upon some exposed point, and then taking refuge in the almost inaccessible swamps”.

One army veteran said, “Of all my experience of hardships in three wars, that which I experienced in Florida was the worst”.

As the Third Seminole War wound down, white pioneer families, hunters, trappers, preachers, and farmers, entered the area.

In 1900, planter Walter Langford brought in a special hybridized grapefruit strain. Seedless, tasty and fast growing, Langford’s grapefruit changed the face of South Florida.

To get his crop north to market, Langford lay down 14 miles of rail line between his grove and the town of Everglade. Soon 17,000 wooden crates of grapefruit moved over those rails each season.

“In 1911, land in Southwest Florida was considered swamp overflow lands. The average price going for an acre of land was between 12 and 30 cents”, Hammond says.

In 1915 state legislators along with business men from the east and west coast of Florida formulated a plan to put a highway through the Everglades from Miami to the west coast of Florida. It would be called the Tamiami Trail.

Hammond says, “When the Tamiami Trail was completed in 1928 not enough culverts were placed at the bridge built over the river, and the Turner River Road, Birdon Road, and Wagon Wheel roads built later, reduced the river’s flow and according to one report ‘resulted in several undesirable hydrological and biological consequences affecting about 18,000 acres of wetlands.’

“The report, completed in 1981, went on to state that construction of Turner Road and Turner canal severed the Turner River from its upper drainage basin. Surface water, which normally contributed to the River’s natural stages and discharges, bypassed the River, making much of the natural stream virtually unusable.

“River waters became shallow and stagnant. The stream bed began filling with detritus, promoting the growth of emergent thickets of giant cutgrass. By cutting off much of the Turner River’s water sources, the channel’s depth was decreased. Shallow waters experienced higher temperatures, less dissolved oxygen, and different successional processes in and along the River. All of these consequences also influenced the River’s aquatic fauna’”.

Yes but, transportation availability also opened more agricultural vistas.

For instance, swamp logging operations increased.

In 1926, lumberjacks cut down single bald cypress tree so large it took ten railroad to carry that one tree’s lumber to a sawmill.

Hammond’s book includes photographs of this logging operation as well as photos from all phases of south Florida history and detailed maps contemporary with each era.

One logger, Captain Jaudon, sometimes called the father of the Tamiami Trail, discovered that sugar cane flourished in the rich, drained soil of the Everglades. He intended to distill rum and export sugar to the north. By 1935, his plan included planting 75,000 acres under sugar cane cultivation.

The thick mud and marl of the fields bogged down the mules pulling harvest wagons so Jaudon’s workers outfitted the mules with modified snowshoes to keep them from getting stuck.

Tomato plants also flourished in the drained marl. During the 1930s over 1,200 workers earned $1.25 a day while working in area tomato fields. They were paid in company-issued money called “babitt or Jigaloo,” which was good only for purchases at the company store

Over the years different people entertained different ideas about how South Florida land should be—developed, protected, exploited, preserved—these different ideas generate different tensions which Florida’s Vanishing Trail examines.

Why, in 1902, virtual war broke out between game wardens and plume-hunters who killed birds in Everglades rookeries to sell the feathers to northern milliners to decorate ladies’ hats.

That year, one ounce of gold sold for less than one ounce of feathers!.

I could wish that Hammond told more about the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane in which over 1,800 people drown in the town of Belle Glade, but maybe my geography is hazy and that area lies outside his criteria for this book.

“On December 6, 1947, President Harry S. Truman speaking to the whole nation by radio, dedicated with great fanfare, Everglades National Park from Everglades City, to the people of the United States,” Hammond says.

Everglades National Park was the first Park in the United States established to protect biological resources instead of the usual geological ones.

Hammond says, “Collier County is surrounded by the Picayune Strand State Forest, the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Big Cypress National Preserve, and, along the entire southern border, the Everglades National Park”.

Florida’s Vanishing Trail tells about the largest complex of Indian burial mounds ever found in Florida, about pioneer homesteads, outlaw hide-outs, 1800s fortifications, and many other historical and archaeological sites…


Hammond also says that, “Almost no historic structures or sites on the National Register of Historical Places today can be visited by the general public in 5 of the largest State and Federal Parks in South Florida. This encompasses a vast 21,000 square-mile area that can best be described as ‘historically threadbare’. It should also be noted that there is no historical district (an area to incorporate any past place or communities) between Miami on the east coast and Naples on the west coast….

“It is also interesting to note that no development company has ever found any archaeological sites where they were required to look for one by Florida law in Collier County, where eventually a historical marker was placed.

“Most historians familiar with the process of developers hiring “out of town” consultants to do their archaeological surveys before beginning any development see the process as a fast food operation. Opinions are strong in the belief that instead of being paid to find any historical sites some are actually being ‘paid to not find them”.’

Hammond says that in December, 1988, the Tamiami Trail was approved by the State of Florida as a designated “Florida Scenic Highway.” In June, 2000, a 50- mile stretch of the Tamiami Trail was designated on the Federal level as a “National Scenic Byway.”

Yet, he says, “Certain vested interests” without the knowledge of all the people and groups involved, came before the M.P.O. (Metropolitan Planning Organization) Board in early 2005 and requested the State and National designations be removed.

“In May of 2005 the M.P.O. Board voted to remove the Scenic Highway designation. When the State and Federal Authorities received the request to remove the designations they were astonished …. The battle to keep the designation intact was still going strong when on September 14, 2007 the M.P.O. reiterated its position at a public meeting, and proceeded with the motion to “dedesignate” the stretch of highway on the Tamiami Trail. It was not without protest on the part of a large group of organizations.

Yes, James Hammond’s book describes many types of conflict—plume-poachers vs wardens, Indians vs soldiers, loggers vs farmers, developers vs conservationists, mules vs mud—and yet the swamp remains.

But sometimes it looks like the gators—of one kind or another—are winning.

James Hammond’s Florida’s Vanishing Trail is available at http://stores.lulu.com/jameshammond7

You may not have guessed it, but this book really captured my interest.

Florida history interests me.

But, for tomorrow’s posting, I’ll write my critique of Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:05 PM

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Monday, February 23, 2009

More Medical Information

During my doctor’s appointment last Friday, other than that pin holding my leg on, Dr. Woody said I’m in fine shape—almost:

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 @ 8:52 AM

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Big Belly, Poor People

While downtown Saturday, Ginny and I spotted a new garbage can.

We’d never seen one like it before.

We didn’t have a camera with us, so we drove downtown again Sunday just to snap a photo of this garbage can in Hemming Park. The marquee in the background is the entrance to Jacksonville’s City Hall.

Yes, it is a Big Belly solar powered garbage can which compacts the trash put in it. According to the manufacture’s website each of these solar garbage cans weighs 300 pounds and costs $3,750.00

Now in all fairness, I do not know if the manufacturer put this fine product in Jacksonville’s premier park as a promotional gimmick, or whether our wise city government paid for it with tax money.

Wouldn’t surprise me either way.

Being a cynic, I imagine taxpayers bought this much-needed device to replace the park’s static garbage cans with plastic liners which cost about $5 for a box of 25.

Jacksonville can afford Big Belly. After all, I understand that last week President Barack Obama introduced a $750 billion economic incentive plan to help financially strapped cities.

But, the all above rant is just background, not the actual subject I want to think and write about.

I’ll get to that now:

On tv, in personal conversation, and in overhearing strangers talking—I hear a tone which disturbs me.

It scares me.

This tone rings harsh, mean-spirited, critical—but also somehow right.

I mean, it is sounds justified, like righteous indignation, but it’s doesn’t ring deep-true. Yet, what is being said probably is superficially true—but it’s not the only thing that’s true.

All over I’m hearing people voice bitter resentment toward poor people, toward sick or injured people, toward unemployed people, but especially toward people losing their homes.

I hear the term “personal responsibility” thrown out as though it were a curse word.

Ginny and I have never been late with a mortgage payment in the 15 years we’ve lived in our home. Many of our friends and neighbors say the same. Yet all over the country thousands of other home buyers face foreclosure. TV news says 10% of the homes in America are in default.

The federal government is instituting a program to help these people pay for their homes.

Last week President Obama signed a $75 billion dollar homeowner relief program.

"The plan I'm announcing focuses on rescuing families who played by the rules and acted responsibly," Obama said, announcing the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, or HASP. He explained this would be done by "refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it, by modifying loans for families stuck in subprime mortgages they can't afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune, and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments."

A noble effort?

Yet all around I hear a lot of resentment about helping people whose own poor judgment and lack of responsibility put them in this fix.

I agree, the poor people ought to be like me. My poor judgment and lack of responsibility never got me in… Well, I’d be lying to say that.

I’ve screwed up so much and so often that the president ought to declare me a one-man federal disaster area. Heck, if President Obama knew me, he’d send in a helicopter.

But my point is I’m disturbed by the antagonism and resentment and bitterness I hear directed toward people who need taxpayer money to avoid being homeless. Or indeed against any person who can not afford the price of a ticket—like that woman with the eight embryonic implants. I’ve heard good people say, “Let the little bastards die; she should never have had ‘em in the first place”.

Part of me is inclined to agree; her actions were not very bright.

Problem is God’s a realist.

He deals with us on the basis of what is, not what should be.

Now I’m sure that if a hungry kid stood in front of a guy who expresses harsh criticism of the poor, that same guy would buy the kid a burger. We can all slough off starving children at a distance, but when we hear the kid next door hungry, we react differently.

That’s natural.

But I’m not thinking of individual charity here, but of tax dollars.

And, I’ve been reading Leviticus where God says:

If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.


Relieve him … that he may live with thee.

What kind of bailout program is that?

It’s as though God made some of us self-reliant so we can help people who aren’t. He made some of us responsible so we can rescue the irresponsible.

Yes, they were stupid to skate out on thin ice, but once they’re in the ice water, my duty is not to stand by the fire saying, “What you should have done…” but to risk my own life trying to pull the stupid SOB’s frozen ass out

Yes, that carload of teenagers acted irresponsibly when joy-riding they smacked into a telephone pole. Dumb of them. Stupid. No accepting of personal responsibility. But even at the risk of getting burnt, my responsibility is to jerk as many as I can of them out of the fire.

Warn beforehand, rescue afterwards.

It’s like God saying that even the dumb should be saved whatever the cost.

The apostle John wrote about this same idea:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Now the government is going to take tax money from you and me.

That’s a given.

That’s a shame, but that’s a given.

Remember the old saying about death and taxes being the only sure things.

And the government is going to spend that tax money on something.

Wise or wobbly, that tax money is going to get spent on something.

Which something?

Helping someone who waxed poor and fallen in decay and facing foreclosure…

Or on solar garbage cans and their ilk?

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 @ 4:13 PM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Important Medical Information

Friday, Dr. Woody entered the exam room laughing with my x-ray in his hand.

“I’ve found the trouble,” he said, “Your right leg is being held onto your body by a safety pin”.

Oh, Crap!

What happened is… 60 years ago my mother told me to always wear clean underwear in case I was ever in an accident and had to be taken to the hospital.

I do wear clean underwear… but I wear it a long time. In fact some underwear in my dresser hangs in tatters. So what? Who in the world is ever going to see my underwear?.

However, I keep one newish pair which I never wear except when I go for a doctor’s appointment. I wash that pair immediately after each doctor’s visit to keep it whiteish, To mark this pair in the washer and separate it from all my others, I keep a safety pin in the waistband.

For my x-ray, I had to dress in this frontless/backless hospital gown thing. Ladies were present so I kept my underpants on.

I heard the doctor and the x-ray technician out in the hall laughing like crazy.

My safety pin showed up brilliantly on the film.

Ever notice? The Lord Jesus may save us from our sin, but He does little to protect our dignity.

At Dr. Woody’s office I encountered three physicians, the x-ray technician, and six or eight nurses.

And I learned one important bit of medical information:

One of the sweet young lovelies who worked on me wore this smock, material printed with cartoon characters.

Her smock gapes open a tiny bit at the neck.

She wears a fetching black lace bra.

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

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Friday, February 20, 2009

No Blog Posting Today

I wrote today’s extremely clever and creative blog posting as a Word Document.

I was about to paste it into this space when I realized that what I had to say was neither uplifting, helpful, kind, nor even particularly funny.

I chose not to post it.

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.


Sometimes being a Christian cramps my style.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:49 AM

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Soon-To-Be Billionaire

By this time next week I intend to be a billionaire.

Yesterday in Denver, Colorado, President Obama signed a $737 billion economic stimulus bill giving cash to deserving, but broke, companies.

I qualify.

You see, in today’s economy my books have not been selling all that well.

But, I have an economic restructuring plan.

I’ll equip each of my books with little rubber wheels and attach a windshield wiper to the cover.

I’ll re-name my company Bluefishbooks Motors.

Then I’ll apply for a government bailout loan—as an auto company.

Hey, it worked for Chrysler, GM and Ford Motor Companies, why not for me?

Congress gave billions to failing car companies. So I’m sure they’ll subsidize my carbooks.

As a dollar-a-year CEO (not my idea, I assure you) of Bluefishbooks, I think I’ll give me a bonus. Oh. Oh. Oh, I can’t use the word bonus.

The government bailout people say the billions can’t be used for bonuses; I’ll have to do like the other CEOs do and give myself an Retention Incentive package.

We do that to keep our Best People, us, employed.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:58 AM

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Wristwatch And Blood Sacrifices

Having survived Florida’s six or eight days of winter, Ginny and I contemplate Spring gardening. This past weekend we did not actually do any gardening, but we sat out in the yard and planed what we may do.

And we drove to the nursery/hardware store to buy chlorine for the pool, gas for the lawnmower, birdseed, etc.

On our way, we attempted to return a watch.

A few weeks after Christmas, as we walked to Dave’s Diner, we’d found a wristwatch near the entrance of a closed store, an area where they load and unload goods. Put it in my pocket intending to locate the owner and return it. Every time I’d go by that business, the place would be closed or I would not have the watch with me.

Forgot about it.

In my effort to read through the Bible this year, I’ve often fallen asleep over Leviticus—all those laws and arcane descriptions work better than sleeping pills. But Monday this passage perked me up:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, … Or have found that which was lost… then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that … lost thing which he found,… and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock…, for a trespass offering .. and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.

I remembered that watch I’d found.

So Ginny and I made a special side trip to the place we found it and sought the manager who made several phone calls to customers and employees trying to locate the owner.

No body had lost the watch.

Apparently it’s mine to keep.

But this non-incident got me to thinking about law and sacrifice.

Most of the Levitical laws relate to decent things decent people do. Common sense things like returning lost property and respecting boundaries, the sort of thing you’d want people to do to you.

Other laws, I frankly wonder about—do I really need God Almighty to tell me not to eat a buzzard?

That’s one law (about the only one).I have faithfully kept

But then I come to the rules involving sacrifice. I see a certain beauty there. as Leviticus describes an intricate dance of movement around the blazing altar in the Tabernacle. The killing of animals. The pouring of blood. The burning of meat.

Sacrifices included burnt offerings and sin offerings and peace offerings and heave offerings and drink offerings and wave offerings and meal offerings and thanksgiving offerings.

Joyous, but serious, business.

I see a difference in attitude between myself and those ancient worshipers. When I offer something to the Lord, usually money, I want to see a concrete result. I like to think my gift is going to a specific purpose such as fixing the church air conditioner, buying a new van, feeding starving children, finding a cure for breast cancer—I look for a tangible benefit for my offering.

In contrast, the worshipers in Leviticus looked for the intangible. They brought something extremely valuable to them such as the best bull in the herd or the best lamb in their flock and saw it cut apart and utterly burned on the altar. Every bit gone up in smoke. A sweet savor unto the Lord.

They offered their most valuable because they valued God as magnificent, glorious, exalted, beautiful, precious, invisible, intangible, worthy.

And those ancient worshipers approached the Lord knowing that blood had been shed.

In many churches today Christian worshipers chant, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast”.

My friend Wes constructed a huge (ping-pong table sized) model of the Tabernacle which he uses in teaching Bible lessons. He said the sacrificial system was didactical in that it taught worshipers about the holiness of God and their own place before Him.

The Law acted as a tutor to bring us to Christ.

No one keeps the whole law.

I suspect that most folks act like I do: I try to be a nice guy, I try to be a nice guy—and I try not to get caught when I’m not.

Holiness requires more.

God never said, “Be ye nice”.

He said, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy”.

Leviticus even provides sacrifices for people who sinned but didn’t realize it at the time. Our sins differ according to our individual tastes; but just as embezzlers, robbers, rapists, and horse thieves are collectively labeled criminals, so collectively we all fall under the heading of sinners.

But here is the wonder:

“The love of God is commended toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

Not with the blood of bulls and goats and lambs, but the Lamb of God offered up Himself for us and because He is “the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world” and because He rose from the tomb, the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all mankind, for all sin, for all time, and for all eternity.

Makes sense to me.

St. Paul told the Ephesians, “By grace are ye saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast”.

And when someone asked Jesus about working for God, He said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent”.

But, you know what? I find it easier to return a wristwatch I don’t really need, than to trust the Lord Christ. For me action is easier than belief. When I take action, I feel I’m in control; on the other hand, when I trust Christ, I must voluntarily relinquish control to Him.

You know what that means?

While in action, I have never eaten a buzzard; in belief, often I have to eat crow.

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 @ 5:00 AM

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Romantic Love, Hard Times, A Nice Dinner, A Night Drive, & Angry Shouting

The old man (he’s about my age) who runs the news stand approached our table as Ginny and I ate breakfast at Dave’s Diner. He said, “You two always look so happy. Every time I see you you’re always holding hands and acting lovey-dovey. What’s she do, hit you if you’re not nice to her?”

He’d noticed that we treat eachother with courtesy and that we often talk absorbed with our heads together “like honeymooners or something”.

Nicole, one of the waitresses at Dave’s, gave us a cute Valentine card. She didn’t feel the printed message was appropriate for us so she had erased it and amended the saying. She called us “lovebirds”. She often calls us that.


We are unconscious of our behavior; we just do what’s normal to us.

Being in love is normal.

But later on, after a trip to the library, as we sat on a cement wall in the park in the drizzling rain talking and smoking, we asked eachother, “How did we ever make it this far”?

As we drove downtown, Ginny played a Kingston Trio DVD and we sang “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley” along with the trio—music from our youth. So in the park, we talked about the ‘60s music and culture—which mostly went over our heads in those days because we were busy making a living, falling in love, witnessing for Christ, starting our family, deciding what to do with the rest of our lives. Mostly in the ‘60s (and since) we lived oblivious to the world swirling around us.

But as we talked about the early days of our marriage back when we were poor, and especially about raising our children. We questioned how we ever managed.

Ginny said we had two things going for us: the grace of God and ignorance.

We survived because the Lord let us survive and because we didn’t know any better.

We were too naïve to give up.

Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t.

When our children were small, one month I earned a total of $7 cash money; the next month things improved, I earned $32.

Bad times.

In those days I worked all sorts of jobs—delivering fuel oil, mowing lawns, flipping burgers, digging graves, cleaning toilets, mopping floors, killing bugs, writing magazine articles, tending dying patients—but however hard I worked, I never earned enough.

For months we lived without electricity or running water. Late at night I’d sneak down to Panama Park with empty plastic milk jugs and draw water from a stand pipe there. We heated our home with wood but having no car at the time I’d scrounge branches and boards along the highway and carry them home on my back. But we kept our children clean and warm and safe and dry and fed (Although on several occasions I stole food—that was a matter of vanity and pride because I did know people who would have given us food had I begged, but I was too vain to ask).

Thank God, we made it—ER, can you thank God for being able to steal food?—Anyhow, I did it and we made it.

But life was tough. It pressed Ginny and me together because all we had was eachother and that made all worthwhile.

We lived in HUD housing and drew food stamps but those were never enough. I recall once Ginny and I got up at 3 a.m. and collected beer cans along the road and at a baseball field to turn in to the recycling plant to get cash to buy the kids breakfast when they got up that same morning.

Back in the 1730s, Susannah Wesley, mother of the founder of the Methodist denomination, lived in grinding poverty with her houseful of children. She praised the Lord Christ for helping her make it.

This dedicated Christian lady once said, “I never did want for bread. But then, I had so much care to get it before it was eaten, and to pay for it after, it has often made it very unpleasant to me. And I think to have bread on such terms is the next degree of wretchedness to having none at all.”

I understand where she was coming from.

Jesus brings us through—but not without pain and damage.

For instance, I vividly remember having an abscessed tooth and not having money to go to a dentist so I boiled a pair of pliers and pulled out my own tooth myself.

My loving Lord enabled me, but I’m not likely to ever forget that.

I remember once having no money but one single quarter. I tried to use it to make a phone call to an editor who owed me money for a magazine article I wrote—and the pay phone swallowed my quarter and would not give it back.

Bad times.

Once a preacher rebuked us saying, “You two have a siege mentality” and Ginny told him, “That’s because we live under siege”.

We developed an “us against them” attitude. The two of us hung together finding joy in our friendship, fellowship and love.

But by the grace of God we got the kids (our own four, my teenaged son from my former marriage, and several neighborhood kids who practically lived at our house because their own families were in worse shape than ours) we got the kids grown, graduated from high school, then—with many student loans—the ones who wanted to got through college. Then Ginny went back to college and completed her own education.

Our grown children now prosper with good jobs, professional careers, families, and taxes of their own. They tell me they led a happy childhood with may fond memories.


We flourished in those bad times because of God’s grace—and because of our own ignorance. Ginny and I didn’t have sense enough to give up. We didn’t know any better than to keep on going, to try this and try that and endure.

Those hard times bonded us. It was us against the world. All we had was eachother and we clung tight. We learned how to value eachother, to comfort, to love. Damn right we still hold hands, I’m scared to let go.

Ginny is the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.

The highpoint of my life was finding her sitting on a curb waiting for me and I realized that this beautiful woman actually wanted to be with me.

Were anyone to ever write the story of my life, it would be a love story.

Talk about the grace of God!

That’s what we did yesterday sitting on the concrete wall ignoring the drizzle of rain—we talked about the grace of God.

In the evening Ginny and I were invited to dinner far out in the wilds of Southside with two young couples, Mike & Laurel and their daughter Anna; Jason & Colette, and their two children (whose names I never heard or have forgotten already). It felt refreshing to be around thriving young families.

Laurel cooked delicious casseroles and Anna baked an almond pound cake served with chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas for desert.

It felt strange to listen in on the conversations and concerns of the young. The guys talked about guns, work, boats, motorcycles, investments and far-off pension plans (“In only 22 years I can retire”). The young ladies talked about magnet schools, commutes, politics, French, and philology. The kids played Trivia Pursuit and showed off Webkin animals.

These three kids appear incredibly bright. Even the 18-month-old baby shines with intelligence and motor dexterity. She has better balance than I do—My arthritis pained me fierce and I shook and wobbled something awful; but nothing wrong with me that the resurrection won’t fix.

Anyhow, I marveled at how the baby figured out how to unscrew the lid from her bottle—she figured out how to do it by watching her mother, but she just lacked the strength to get it off her self Very focused.

And Anna, who is in the fourth grade, showed me an essay she wrote which is better plotted than I can do; it’s about a scavenger hunt. And she told me about using Power Point software on her computer to prepare illustrated talks at school… Power Point! I can barely cut and paste.

Jason and Colette (we were meeting them for the first time) had read my book A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad and had nice things to say which gave me a lift. Jason remarked, “I liked the jokes; she was interested in that religious stuff”.

That pleased me. Proves that book does what I want it to do.

Time to drive home.

The plot thickens:

It was a dark and stormy night…

Ginny avoids driving on Interstate 95; I avoid driving at night. She is almost deaf, I have trouble seeing at night. It was raining and glare reflected from headlights on wet, unfamiliar roads.

Lost in the dark wilds of Southside, a section of town we seldom visit.

“Turn right,” I said.

She must not have heard me and drove straight through that first intersection.

“Go west,” I said.

“It’s east,” she said.

“Now, go straight,” I said.

“What’s that road sign,” she said.

“Turn left at the…”

See where this is going?

We circled some closed, dark office building with an unmarked batch of streets lacing the area and we started blaming eachother for our confusion.

I may have said something about being married to this left-handed, wrong-headed woman. She may have vigorously offered to let me drive my own damn self.

Louder and louder, we discussed our directions.






We grew angry and yelled at eachother.

Did this argument signal the disintegration of our 40-year love affair?

No. It merely proved that we were tired human beings, both trying to get to the same place, home, each of us with our own abilities and disabilities. Each of us with our own idea of how to get to where we wanted to go.

Finally, although I was right and she was wrong (the management may disagree with the foregoing statement) … well, let’s leave it there.

Anyhow, by the grace of God and through ignorance, we finally stumbled by chance across a recognizable road—far from where we thought we were—and eventually we wound our way home in fuming silence.

In spite of what the ‘60s Beatles song said and what many Christians say today, love is not the answer.

Sometimes shutting your mouth and letting her drive is the answer.

Are Ginny and I still in love despite the tension, anger and shouting of that dark and rainy drive?

Yes, we’re still in love—but I wouldn’t push it right this very moment.

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 @ 6:12 AM

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Day Of Love & Romance

Ginny & I have managed to live in love and harmony (mostly) for 40+ years without paying any attention to Valentine’s Day; however, for those who observe the day, here are a few love notes I garnered from the hundreds by cartoonist Jon Birch at http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/ :

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 @ 3:47 AM

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Friday, February 13, 2009

A Touching E-Mail

Someone mentioned that yesterday was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday… Er, birthday…birthday… O CRAP! I forgot my middle son’s birthday; it was last month. I'd forgotten so I sent him this e-mail:

Hi Johnny,

I forgot your birthday.

Didn't even send you an e-card.

Didn't remember till now, almost a month later.

It's not that I don't think of you; it's just that I don't think--Period!

I'm sorry.

Love, Dad

I felt so proud and humbled when he sent me this reply:

Dad, I love you and think of you often. Yet I never seem to remember to send anyone I know a birthday card. It's not something I'm overly good at. Knowing that folks are there and doing well just seems more important to me than a card or the like. Recently I'm thinking of valentine's day. A complete fabrication that should be ignored. But Lord help the man who does.

In some ways I think it a good thing. After all, how often are we busy saying something else to the important folks in our lives? Did you remember to pick up the milk is no where near as important as I love you. Then I can ask if you picked up the milk.

So it's a day to remind me to say the words which I guess I've never been very good at. Having emotions and showing them to me seem far distant things from each other. Maybe one day when I grow up I'll see things differently. Or maybe I'm just your basic antisocial slug.

Anyway, I love you Dad. You've been one of the greatest inspirations in my life. Your a great man, a great writer and in my world one of the best people I've ever known. I'm so proud to be your son. Thank you for 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 @ 5:35 AM

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Catch A Sparrow---A Thought Train

To catch a sparrow sprinkle salt on its tail.

My grandmother told me that when I was about six years old.

I believed her.

I grabbed a saltshaker from the family table and stalked sparrows in the front yard. Again and again I tried to sneak up on a sparrow. Again and again the birds flitted away. Again and again I failed. Again and again I tired again.

I grew more and more frustrated.

I questioned:

What’s wrong with me?

What am I doing wrong?

Why doesn’t this work?

Dumb birds!

Eventually—it seems like hours later-- it dawned on my precocious young mind that I’d been acting on faulty information. I’d been made a fool of. I felt gullible. Childish. Betrayed. Stupid.

Any wonder that I matured into a suspicious adult, distrusting authority figures?

Point is: For the past couple of days, memory of my childish exploit with the sparrows replays over and over in my mind. It’s like a snatch of a tune that I can’t get out of my head.

I don’t know why.

I puzzle over the incident wondering if there is some deep spiritual lesson I should get from why I’d remember this childhood embarrassment.

But, if there is any meaning, I can’t figure it out.

Why do I keep thinking about this?

Is God, or my subconscious, trying to tell me something?

I looked up the word Sparrow in the Bible:

“I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top”.—Psalm 102:7

Well, don’t we all know how that feels? But it tells me nothing about why I keep remembering the sparrows and the salt—a thing that happened 65 years ago.

Early this morning Ginny drove me to the doctor’s office for a test. They canceled it. I have to go again tomorrow. Joy, O joy. They are making me come back. I suspect those young nurses have a thing for me. Good thing my wife’s along when I go there.

Another Psalm says, “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. – Psalm 84:3.

That’s nice.

A pretty picture of little birds nesting safe in the cornice of the temple.

But why do I keep remembering my own childhood sparrow hunt?

This afternoon (Tuesday), my daughter’s former husband, Mike—a young man I greatly admire—came over to help me with a project. He’s a fireman who has won citations for bravery in risking his own life to rescue people in danger. He recently completed a state-level course qualifying him to train other firefighters in Live Fire exercises.

I’m proud of him.

When I called and said I’m in a jam and asked for his help, Mike’s very first words were, “Anything. Where? When? How much?”.

He treated me to lunch at Dave’s Diner (his first time there). As we talked and enjoyed our patty melts, I noticed a burn on his right arm.

Expecting a tale of some heroic rescue, I asked him about the burn.

Alas, he’d burned himself trying to cook hamburgers in the rain on the outdoor grill in his own backyard—the hot grill lid closed on his arm as he tried to flip burgers.

Not all wounds are heroic.

Back to this sparrow thing:

Jesus once said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows”.—Luke 12:6

Is that why I keep remembering my childhood sparrow chase?

Does this train of thought lead anywhere?

Is the message that we are not forgotten, that we are valuable even when the world sells us out cheap?

That’s a fine thought but it doesn’t explain why I keep remembering the salt shaker and sparrows—I just can’t shake thinking about that.

After Mike left, overwhelming weariness tired me out. I’m feeling a lot of that recently. I napped in my new chair and woke thinking of the evil king the Prophet Daniel saw in a vision (yes the same Daniel God rescued from the lions’ den).

Daniel said of the evil king in the vision, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High…”

“Wear out the saints” is the phrase I caught.

It was all I could do to struggle awake before Ginny got home from work.

I’m so weary. Long-term, bone-deep weary.

During our prayer time after dinner, Beauty read the passage from Luke’s Gospel where as Jesus went up to Jerusalem, He passed through the city of Jericho and a blind man stopped Him by yelling to receive his sight.

Jesus restored the man’s sight, and Luke says the man, “followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God”.

I’d never noticed it before, but Ginny said, “What had that man been healed to see? He followed Jesus into Jerusalem to see Him crucified”.

That sounds so strange: healed just in time to see Him crucified.

That merits some thinking on.

Lots of things deserve serious thought.....

I wonder if I used garlic salt???

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 @ 2:12 AM

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rejection Collection

Writers Read

When I’m not writing, I’m reading.

I read a lot. I feel this sharpens my mind, keeps me up to breast on what other writers think, and increases my level of suave, distinguished sophistication.

This week, as I begin a new writing project, I want to avoid the temptation to talk instead of write. If I talk about the subject, instead of write about it, then talking relives creative pressure and I never get around to writing. So I won’t talk about my next book, instead I’ll talk about someone else’s—I’ll write a book review in keeping with my level of suave, distinguished sophistication.

It’s never been filmed to appear on Masterpiece Theatre, but my most recent reading has been The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, And Never Will See, In The New Yorker, edited by cartoonist Matthew Diffee (c.2006. Simon & Schuster, Spotlight Entertainment. N.Y. 262 pages).

Anyone visiting our home recently will see why I identify with this panel:

Yes, the cartoons in Diffee’s book have all been rejected by New Yorker editors as unsuitable to appear in that swank publication.

Diffee explains that each issue of New Yorker has room for only 20 cartoons, yet 50 regular established cartoonists submit ten cartoons every week—that’s 500 right there, besides slush pile entries submitted by hopefuls hoping to break into the magazine.

Thus over a thousand cartoons get reviewed each week and only 20 make it into print. Most are rejected.

The Rejection Collection…er, collects these rejections.

Those of us with suave, sophisticated taste, may wonder why such fine cartoons might have been rejected.

Diffee said, “Some of these cartoons are too racy, rude, or rowdy; some are too politically incorrect, too weird: a few are probably too dumb; but mostly, I think, they’re just too many”.

Well, maybe it’s not too hard to understand why some cartoons were rejected; for instance, some degrade blacks, homosexuals, women, married couples, Arabs, dogs, smokers, cats, and Mexicans.

Not all at the same time, you understand, but one cartoon panel at a time.

The book even contains a few rare cartoons which prove tasteless even to my refined taste.

I’ll have to browse the pages again and again to mark the ones which offend me.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:08 AM

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Day, Bitter And Cold

Temperatures here in Jacksonville yoyo between 81 degrees last week and 18 degrees Friday morning.

Here is a photo I snapped of one of the fountains in our garden:

Poor cherub can hardly toot his horn because of the ice.

Don’t let the Chamber of Commerce know I posted this photo. The Chamber lures unsuspecting yankee tourists here with lying tales of warm Florida winters.

Notice if you will, that my middle daughter Eve and her husband Mark sailed for the Bahamas on a cruise ship yesterday. They’re off to where it’s warm. They’re getting out while the getting’s good. What is it they say that deserts a freezing ship?

Not only was yesterday cold, it also proved bitter for me.

I suffered a great disappointment that leaves me discouraged.

Same thing happened twice before: once back in the mid 1980s; and once back in 1996. Both those occasions embittered me. I wallowed in despair and self-pity.

But by now, I’d have thought my skin had thickened too much to be wounded the same way again. I was confident that the same thing would never happen again. And even if it did, I believed that I’d matured enough as a Christian that I’d be immune to such bitterness if the same thing ever did happen again.

It did.


And I find I’m not immune to wounds and bitterness at all.

Oh well, I’ll live.

A verse of Scripture comes to my mind:

Writing to folks he described as “wearied and faint in your minds”, the Bible writer says, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood”.

Now, isn’t that comforting!

However, on the up side, Friday I published my 2008 diary with Bluefish Books under the title of A Dirty Old Man Sinks Lower. It is the fourth book in my Dirty Old Man Goes Bad series.

As always, I feel uneasy about publishing such a diary for people to read over my shoulder. I always feel ashamed of my writing whenever I publish anything. I fear that readers will spot my mistakes, see me for what I am, and denounce me as a Christian fraud—and as a lousy writer.

Being transparent is traumatic.

So I hesitate and feel reluctant to promote any of my own books.

However, as my newspaper columnist friend the late Poke McHenry once told me:

He that tooteth not his own horn,
The same getteth not tooted.

Yes, but like our fountain cherub, I freeze up.

Which reminds me again, please do not let the Chamber of Commerce know that I’m the one who posted that photo of a frozen fountain in Florida on the internet.

Were the Chamber to know the photo’s source, they’d dispatch the Chamber Hit Squad to dispatch me.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:56 AM

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Thursday, February 05, 2009


My new chair proved a snare.

Yesterday, after breakfast at Dave’s Diner with my friend Barbara, she drove me home where I intended to work on those manuscript proof pages.

But first I decided to sit in my new chair to smoke one pipe.

That was about 10 a.m. ….Zonk!... I woke up at 3 p.m.

That the way I get so much accomplished—I starts slow, then I tapers off.

I like my new chair.

Barbara and I had talked about grief; her daughter died of cancer three months ago. And we talked about truth and why Jesus came into this world.

Barbara referred to the Scripture telling about the trial before Pilate when Jesus said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice”.

And Pilate said, “What is truth”.

He left without waiting for an answer.

The night before this, Jesus had told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me”.

At the same time, speaking of His crucifixion and His return to life again, He told them, “Ye shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned into joy…but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you”.

Grief. Trouble. Truth. Joy.

Jesus was the ultimate realist.

While Barbara told me about grief, truth and joy… I told her about archaeology.

When I was a young man, I aspired to become an archaeologist. Got sidetracked. But my interest in the subject still holds, and each day I follow news of archaeological activities throughout the world.

A big news this week is the underwater discovery of the HMS Victory in the English Channel. The ship sank in 1744 and almost a thousand sailors died. The warship’s cargo included over 4 tons of gold coins. A Florida-based company has discovered the wreck and is negotiating with the British government about how to divide the treasure.

In New Zealand this week as they study Polynesian migration patterns, archaeologists are using a device called a fluxgate gradiometer to read what lies underground in aboriginal burial sites without disturbing the soil.

But here’s the one discovery that really sparked my attention: According to Xinhua News Agency correspondents reporting from Xinjiang in western China, “Archaeologists and local officials in charge of protecting cultural heritage have recovered ruins believed to be the worship sites of an early Chinese Christian group called Jingjiao”.

The ruins and a stele, an inscribed tablet, there indicate that the Christian religion was well established in China as early as the year 400.

And at that time, Christianity was known by the name Jingjiao (景教), it means the Luminous Religion.

That information really struck me—The Luminous Faith.

I checked my dictionary—the word Luminous refers to things: Reflecting light evenly and efficiently without glitter…radiant in character or reputation…a glow of light from within…gleaming… bright… an inner beauty… attractive excellence.

Would anyone ever describe my faith life as luminous?


Although I am a Christian, by nature I am also a sullen man, bitter, morose, somber, petty, resentful, holding grudges, remembering slights, complaining…

Once last year Ginny teased me saying I hold a Black Belt in whining.

And once—while I happened to be wearing my Incredible Hulk tee shirt with Dr. David Banner turned green and throwing an army tank by its cannon barrel—I got peeved at something; and Ginny observed that, by contrast, when I get upset, I transform into The Incredible Sulk.

After 40 years of marriage, my beautiful bride knows me all too well.

Oh to be a luminous Christian. To have unconverted people who cross my path daily see an attractive excellence, an inner beauty, a radiant character, which would draw them to Christ.

He is the bright and morning star, the express image of God’s person.

The Apostle John described the resurrected living Christ saying, “His eyes were as a flame of fire and His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a fire…His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength”.

And somehow those ancient Christians in China reflected Him so that their pagan neighbors spoke of them as the people of the Luminous Faith.

Not glitz and glitter and hype, but reflected light.

Luminosity is reflected. No self-contained light, only reflected glory. His brightness reflected in His people because of their association with the Light of the World.

As Paul said, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

During our prayer time together last night, Ginny read a Psalm that says, ““Let all those that seek Thee be joyful and glad in Thee: and let all such as delight in Thy salvation say always, the Lord be praised”.

Luminous Faith—this subject deserves a lot of thought… This morning I think I’ll put on my Incredible Hulk tee shirt and snuggle down in my new chair to smoke a pipe and think about it before I begin proofing those manuscript pages…


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 @ 10:14 AM

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And They Shall Be Given New Robes

Can you guess what this photo shows?

You’re right!

That is a photo of my best bathrobe held up to the light. The starry constellations are holes burned into the chest by ashes from my pipe.

It’s a perfectly good robe; even the elbows provide ventilation:

Besides that, I have a whole drawer full of matching underwear.

But I have this wife.

And on Super Bowl Sunday the thrift store sale offered cloth things at 75% off, so Ginny decided we needed new robes to wear while watching the game. So we bought two new ones. Here is a photo my daughter Jennifer took of my new robe:

My friend Wes was over and Jennifer told him, “Dad looks very distinguished, like that guy on Masterpiece Theatre, you know, Alice Cooper.”

Wes just about choked. “You mean Alistair Cooke,” he said.

“Yeah, that’s what I said,” she said.

Well, it’s easy to confuse the two men. And I really do look almost as distinguished as Alice Cooper.

Sunday Ginny also bought herself a new robe, a dainty thing originally from Victoria’s Secret. Fetching. I’ll not post a photo of her in that one on the internet.

When Gin and I got home with our new robes, I folded my old one up carefully to go to the Lord’s Store, a mission we have supported for years. She pulled it out of the bag. “You can’t send that thing to the poor,” she said, “The poor deserve better stuff than you wear”.

Maybe she has a point.

Once I got in all sorts of embarrassment and trouble by giving cast-off clothing to the poor; I wrote about that adventure in an article entitled “My Great Brassier Hunt”. If you’re interested you can read it at http://www.cowart.info/Journal%20extracts/brassierhunt/My%20brassier%20hunt.htm

During the Apostle John’s vision of Heaven in Revelation, he saw a crowd of people around the throne of God and John said, “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season”.

One great Christian mystic, I think it was Leo Tolstoy, advanced the idea that the only clothes anyone will have in Heaven, is clothing we have given to the poor down here on earth.

I hope he’s wrong about that—if he’s right, then I’ll spend all eternity wandering the golden streets wearing that cutesy tee shirt with the fuzzy kittens on the chest that one of the girls gave me one Christmas. Saints will stare and wonder how such a wimp got past the gate.

After Jennifer left, Wes and I talked about how the English Bible has been transmitted to us. Well, he talked; I listened. Here’s a photo of Wes, I took this afternoon:

I asked him what his sweatshirt says and he said, “ïëN ìïõ åéíáé Åëëçýêá” (or something like that).

“No. No, what does it say in English”?

“It says, ‘It’s All Greek To Me’”.

That’s his idea of humor.

Wes, a master printer, tells me that the printers of the 1611 King James Bible worked in teams of three to hand-set the sheets in foundry type from the job case matching the notch lines, then the brayer wound ink the frisket with lampblack and linseed oil, and the next man would pull the devil’s tail to print each sheet. A cutter would check the orthography and thus make a printed Bible. On a good day they could print 500 sheets.

But once some madcap printer apprentice pulled a fast one on his boss. In Psalm 119 where the text says something like, “The princes of the earth have persecuted me” he fiddled with a line to make it read “The printers of the earth have persecuted me”.

I told Wes that I had never heard about any of this stuff before.

“Well, how did you think the Bible came to us?” he asked.

I said, “I thought that every night God came down and put Bibles in hotel room dressers. If you steal one, He comes down again the next night and magically put a new Bible in the drawer”.

I live on the cutting edge of biblical higher criticism.

I have long urged Wes to translate the New Testament into modern English for people who have the same level of biblical knowledge as I do.

He has my advice under consideration.

We also talked about my own writing. Long years ago I promised someone that I’d write a book about finding the will of God. I haven’t done it. The subject is far too deep for me. And I’m not qualified. It would take a far better Christian to write such a book.

Knowing and doing the will of the Lord puzzles me. I have enough trouble just simply believing that God tolerates me, much less loves me and has any plan for my life.

While we were at breakfast this morning, before we even ordered coffee, the our friend the waitress came to the table. Her first words were, “The boss put me on time out in the ally because I had a fight with One-Eyed Annie”.

How’s that for an opening conversation gambit?

She said, “He treats me like a child. He’s trying to make me look incompetent”.

I comforted her saying, “There’s nothing he could do that would make you look more incompetent than you already are”.

That’s me spreading light and joy.

In these hard economic times she supports three other adults, all unemployed, in her home. Wes and I talked with her about her options, about belief, and about God’s faithful provision.

Later, Wes and I drove to a thrift store for him to look at some books on music composition (he’s an accomplished organist among other things). While he browsed text books, I spotted a leather chair and ottoman that had just been put on display. Dreamy comfortable!

I called Ginny at work about it and we decided to buy that chair. But I lacked enough cash so I talked it over with the cashier who knocked $10 off the price. And we loaded it in Wes’s pickup truck. And Jennifer, who’d come over to take Fancy, Ginny’s lovebird, to the vet, helped us unload it into the living room. Jennifer said that my old chair was more worn than my old robe).

While Wes and Jennifer chatted, I gave my new chair a test drive:

Wes said that the circumstances of finding my new chair and of my getting a warm new robe—it’s originally from Bloomingdale’s—provides at least a hint of how much God loves and cares for me.

“John,” he said, “You were concerned about learning the will of God for your life—now you know. He must want you to become a full-time couch potato”.

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 @ 4:40 PM

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Monday, February 02, 2009

My Super Bowl Ad

Curses! Foiled again!

Every year I try but once again this year nobody saw my Super Bowl ad selling my books.

NBC broadcasting sold every single one of the 69 Super Bowl ad spots. According to the Washington Post newspaper, the TV company charged $3 million dollars for each 30 second spot generating an income of $206 million in advertising revenue. The Post estimates that 98 million people watched the game.

Not one of these people saw my ad.

Here’s why:

My February Social Security check has not come in yet so I was a trifle short of having the $3 million needed to buy a regular ad.

I worked around that.

To understand how I did, here’s a little background first.

One source I’ve read said that Tiffany and Co. produces the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy as well the Super Bowl champion rings. The silver trophy weighs about 250 troy ounces. It’s valued at $100,000.

Usually I fall asleep by the end of the game so I’d never actually seen this trophy. In fact, I don’t even remember ever having seen a picture of it.

My mistake—I made an assumption.

You see, about 55 year ago, when I was a Boy Scout, I won a big silver loving cup; it looked a lot like this:

Now my parents had not attended the awards banquet, so I had to walk home lugging this huge silver cup. When I walked in the house with it, my shocked mother accused me of stealing it. She could not believe I had won such a trophy till I showed her my name which a jeweler had engraved on the cup’s base.

By then I’d taken off my Scout uniform and dressed in civilian clothes. But now, she wanted a photograph and forced me to put my uniform shirt back on and pose for a picture with the bitter cup.

I hope I have never done such a joy-killing thing to my own children but, God help me and them, I imagine that I have.

Anyhow, in my mind a valuable Super Bowl trophy must look like that old one I once won—a big silver loving cup.

So, here was my Super Bowl ploy—

I slipped $3 (that’s three dollars, not three million) to a stagehand working the game. He agreed to paste a sticker with my Bluefish Books logo under the bottom of the Vince Lombardy Super Bowl Trophy.

That way, when the winning quarterback drank campaign out of the cup at the end of the game, as he upended the cup—it must hold at least two magnums of campaign—as he chugalugged campaign in front of rolling TV cameras, all 98 million viewers would see my Bluefish Books logo on the bottom of the cup.

Here’s that beautiful logo:

Alas, it turns out that the real Super Bowl trophy is not a cup at all—it’s just a tinfoil football on a pole. The thing looks like this:

Nobody could drink campaign out that thing.

Not even with a straw.

Besides, all either team’s quarterbacks drank during the game was Gatorade out of a plastic squeeze bottle.

That’s why nobody saw my Super Bowl ad, my Bluefish Books logo glued underneath the bottom. of that trophy.

Somebody at NBC owes me my $3 back!

However, on the up side, yesterday’s Times-Union carried an announcement about my friend Barbara White’s Bluefish books on the newspaper’s bookpage which—it being Super Bowl Sunday—was read by at least 9 or 8 people (not 98 million).

Here’s a copy of that notice:

Former T-U Staffer Publishes New Series

Florida Times-Union religion editor Barbara White wrote a weekly column for 15 years. It described her personal spiritual journey, and readers drew inspiration and encouragement from her popular "Along the Way" column. Editors at Jacksonville's Bluefish Books collected the best of these columns in a four-book series called "Along the Way" ($16.95). It is available at www.bluefishbooks.info. White, who worked at the paper for more than 25 years, retired in 1994.

So, Barbara’s books got a media mention on Super Bowl Sunday.

My books didn’t.

Curses! Foiled again!

All I can say, like the Arizona Cardinals, is, “Just you wait’ll next year!”

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 @ 5:05 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I Spread Light and Joy Wherever I Go

I’ve been down with a terrible cold—but I’m feeling much better now—Ginny, my bride of 40 years, has reservations about that.

Saturday as we dressed to go out for breakfast at Dave’s Diner, Ginny dolled herself up. She fixed her hair, put on her favorite weekend blouse (the one with beach umbrellas on it), and she freshened her lipstick.

When she sipped her coffee as we waited for our breakfast order, I noticed she’d dotted the rim of her coffee cup with lipstick.

Gave me an idea.

I switched coffee cups with her.

Then I beckoned our friend the waitress over to our table.

“There’s lipstick on my cup,” I said pointing it out to her.

That distressed her.

So I lifted the cup to my lips and licked the rim. “Oh,” I said, “That’s alright; it tastes delicious”.

Our friend the waitress and Ginny ganged up on me.

Some women have no sense of humor.

Later into our meal, Ginny dribbled a bit of egg on her blouse.

Ever the caring husband, I pointed this out.

She wet her napkin in her water glass and dabbed the front of her blouse. “Did that get it?” she asked.

“Still a bit left,” I said.

She wet her napkin again and scrubbed the spot again. “How’s that?” she asked.

“You need more water,” I said.

Again she dipped and dabbed. “That take care of it?”

“No,” I said, “You need more water”.

“John, That’s impossible. There’s nothing there”.

“No, but I think you’re about ready for the wet tee shirt contest”.

I thought that was funny as anything.

She just sighed.

My cold is over. I’m feeling great. I’m on a roll.

Ginny must be feeling better too. Before we left the restaurant, she showed me how to count to six on the fingers of one hand.

I couldn’t get the knack of it; she thought that was hilarious. I guess that must be an insider joke among accountants.

We drove downtown to the main library where I encountered one circulation clerk who apparently can not read or write, and another one who has not mastered the intricate skill of passing a bar code in front of the little red light on the scanner—Sometimes I think that in this country the wrong people are loosing their jobs.

Anyhow, when we returned home and Ginny backed the car into our drive, as she got out of the car, she almost stepped on a snake.

She yelled for me and I ran around the car to rescue her, but I saw it was a red rat snake (easily mistaken for a ratter) only about three feet long. Poor creature had sought to sun itself on the warm concrete of our drive.

I picked it up and moved it into the bromeliad bed in our back yard where it would be safe.

Besides rescuing her from serpents, as a Christian husband of 40 years standing, I feel it my duty to spread light and joy into my wife’s dull, drab existence.

Thus, while we have been sick with these awful colds, Ginny found that her hearing aids irritated her ears so she hasn’t worn them. This has made for some interesting conversations between us over past ten days. So, this afternoon when she was cleaning her ear pieces, I picked one up, held it like a microphone, and shouted, “Can You Hear Me Now… Good!”

“You’re definitely feeling better,” she said. “I think I liked you better when you were sick”.

A Christian spreading light and joy everywhere, that’s me.

Oh, by the way, Super Bowl commercials Sunday cost three million dollars a minute. They estimate that 98 million people world-wide will watch the game. All of you be sure to watch my Bluefish Books ad at the end of the game.

I feel sure my commercial will sell scads and scads of my books.

I’m feeling confident.

I’m feeling great, spreading light and joy wherever I go.

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 @ 4:37 AM

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