Rabid Fun

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

No Snake Today

Two hours ago I sat down to write about a beautiful snake I found while mowing the lawn yesterday

The computer had other ideas….

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 @ 6:05 AM

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Day Of Visitation

Support your local attorneys ;
Send your kid to medical school.

Know the difference between a doctor and God?
God does not think He’s a doctor.

Those are two of the jokes that rattled around our friend Barbara’s hospital room when my friend Wes and I visited her yesterday.

Yes, spreading light and joy, we visited the afflicted lady. She’d expected to be told the results of the cancer tests and we wanted to be with her for support when she heard the news. Unfortunately, the results were not in yet. So we sat around sharing jokes and talking about divine healing and Christian dieing.

From preliminary information, it looks iffy that Barbara will ever make it out of the hospital and she’s perfectly happy with that prospect and looks forward to seeing the Lord Christ face to face. She is not inclined to seek aggressive, and possibly debilitating, treatment.

Now Wes, Barbara and I –all of us believe in God’s ability to heal.

We also believe He is not obligated to do so.

Like in marriage, the relationship of the Christian to the Lord is in sickness and in health—neither one breaks that relationship.

Of course, we all prefer the in-health part. That’s natural. But no one stays on this earth forever and sometimes illness is one of the cards we’re dealt.

Besides, Jesus never cured anyone of old age.

In the midst of Barbara’s present bout with cancer, her biggest concern is that the only food she’s been able to eat for the past 14 days is Jello and broth. She says she’s more sick of Jello than she is of cancer.

Wes told about how the Lord healed his daughter, Sandy, as a dying infant, but let her die of cancer when she was 17 years old. His faith uplifted him in both situations.

I have no experience in divine healing, but I told about how Barbara and I became friends about 25 years ago—I wrote about this on October 23, 2007, Two Rain Storms in my blog archives. What’s odd about that is that our friendship began 25 years ago in this same hospital.

While Barbara, Wes and I talked, a pastor from Barbara’s church came in to visit also. When I told him, he was surprised to learn about some of Barbara’s books being broadcast by that radio station in Singapore, China; she’d forgotten to mention that to him before.

In the midst of our conversation about sickness, healing and the mercy of God, I recalled an incident from my recent Bible reading. I could not remember the name of the king and called him Hazaiahwhat’sit—but Wes, ever the Bible scholar, said the guy’s name was Azariah.

Here’s the odd thing the Scripture says about Azariah in Second Kings 15:

In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign.

Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.

And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house.

So, Azariah did what was right in the sight of the Lord… And the Lord smote the 16-year-old with chronic, life-long leprosy.

Let’s see, he was 16 when he got it, and he reigned for 52 years—that means he was sick for… Let’s see, 16 from 52 is??? And carry your six…or do you add it? Ginny would know. Anyhow, He was sick a long time.

And he was a good guy.

And though he were a king, he lived all his days in a pest house, not a palace.

And it was the Lord who smote him, not the devil.

And we are not told why the Lord afflicted this good young man with leprosy.

The Scripture teaches realistic life, not some magic fantasy.

Yes, God can kill or He can keep alive according to His own high purposes.

Barbara said our role is to trust Him whether we understand what’s going on or not.

She emphasizes that God is good even when it does not appear that way to us.

And so went our day of visitation—laughing at dumb doctor jokes, trusting, and worshiping the Lord God of Heaven.

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 @ 6:15 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Many Tee Shirts

Yesterday afternoon Ginny and I visited our friend Barbara White in the hospital; she does not appear to be doing well. Her doctors have scheduled more tests.

All morning long Ginny and I worked on tee shirts.

Over the past three decades Jacksonville artists often expressed their talent for design by creating tee shirts featuring various aspects of the city’s culture.

As part of my mania for collecting Jacksonville historical materials I have amassed dozens of such tee shirts.

They feature varied themes from boats at the Florida Yacht Club to the mighty air craft carriers Saratoga and Kennedy—200,000 Tons Of Diplomacy. Sports team shirts range from the long-defunct Jacksonville Bulls (football) to the Jacksonville Lizard Kings (hockey).

Organizations as diverse as HabiJax, building homes and the Cummer Museum Of Fine Art, business as diverse as Dave’s Dinner and LifeFlight Helicopter Rescue, events as diverse as scout hikes and Jacksonville Jazz Festivals—all in all, for over 30 years I’ve collected over 50 tee shirts representing the city in its varied aspects.

In preparing my whole collection of books, notes, clippings and historical artifacts for sale, yesterday we unpacked these tee shirts from their plastic containers, photographed them for the sale catalogue, fresh laundered them, ironed, refolded, and packed them away again—a massive amount of work.

These odd bits of ephemera depict my hometown as a city mighty as an army with banners…

Well, if not an army with banners, at least as a city where residents sport a bunch of colorful tee shirts.

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 @ 10:11 AM

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Vacation Weekend Happenings

Ginny and I spend much of our Memorial Day vacation planning for another vacation—Next Fall we celebrate our 41st Anniversary, so we planned for a trip, renting a cabin far our in the woods alone.

We had such fun anticipating as we discussed this site and that before choosing one and making our advanced reservations.

We did part of our planning over lunch at Georgies II BBQ where a young waitress joined us by telling about a trip she and her husband just returned from. They’ve been married seven years and have two children. We Old-Timers had fun giving her advice and she had fun telling us about available cabins in the state park where they went.

Different subject:

Friday when my internet came back up, I checked my e-mail and found one from that radio station in China (broadcasts at http://www.biblewitness.com/webradio/index.htm ).

Through a complicated process, they got four of my friend Barbara White’s Along The Way books; their e-mail tells me they plan to choose selections from her books to read over the air in their Women’s Segment to be broadcast all over the Far East.

I’m delighted.

I think Barbara’s writings enter the realm of spiritual classics.

Remember when Barbara brought me that flowered shopping bag full of hundreds of newspaper clippings? (See photos in my entry for August 20th, 2007, in blog archives).

At the time, I considered all that just rote donkey work. Turns out that the labor involved is worth it because now her message is reaching the far ends of the earth.

Which brings me to another topic:

When Ginny and I returned from breakfast yesterday, a message on our answering machine tells us that Barbara was admitted to the hospital Sunday morning

We called and find that her cancer has returned and she also has congestive heart failure.

Visitors from her church inundated her room at the moment.

Ginny and I plan to visit later.

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 @ 6:25 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Creeping Out Of Forced Seclusion

Last Monday our telephones and internet access went out.

That’s why I haven’t posted in a week.

Also, continuous rains are falling on Jacksonville. Anywhere from nine to 20 inches of rain has fallen in the area since last Sunday.

With outside communication cut off and with rain keeping me inside, all I’ve been able to do is work. And I’ve accomplished a bundle during this enforced seclusion; I’m cataloging my entire collection of Florida history books, artifacts, coffee mugs, tee shirts and ephemera—getting it all ready to sell.

I’ve collected Florida history materials for 35 years so a lot of this stuff has accumulated.

While I worked on local history things, I’ve also been reading the historical books of the Bible, the portion of Scripture I enjoy most. Yes, the names are hard to keep straight but the events resonate within my own life.

For instance, I’ve noticed one recurring phrase that gives me pause. “They feared the Lord, and served their own gods”….”These nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images”.

What a sorry state.

For a nation—or a man.

To fear the Lord, but to serve my own.

Such double commitment makes a man unstable in all his ways. I see this in myself and I see it all around me. Too wishy-washy to rebel outright shaking our fist in the face of God in utter defiance, we pay Him vague lip-service but serve our own gods.

Anyhow, this section of Scripture causes me to examine my own life more carefully.

So, other than being double-minded and cataloguing history books, what have I been doing?

Waiting for the TELEPHONE REPAIRMAN!!!!!

I’m being very Christian in writing that; I did not use any adjective at all.

If you have ever had dealings with the phone company, you can supply your own.

After spending 45 minutes on a borrowed cell phone just getting through their mechanical customer discouragement process before talking to a human being, I waited five days without service.

But I spare you my tale of frustration.

If you’ve ever dealt with the phone company, you could tell your own.

The repairman showed up yesterday and fixed some of our phone lines. Ginny and I decided we can live without the other line instead of going through their customer service process again. Motto: WE PUT THE CUSS IN CUSTOMER.

Once the Bell South Phone company, a forerunner of AT&T, threatened to remove all phone service from the city of Jacksonville.

Years ago, I wrote a history piece about Jacksonville’s Great Telephone War at http://www.cowart.info/Florida%20History/Great%20Telephone%20War/Telephone%20war.htm

In 1885, the phone company increased their initial charges by 900 per cent; when residents objected, the company began removing all phones and wires from the city.

My, how customer service has improved.

But, after all this week without phone or internet, and the interminable wait for a guy who did not show up when promised, I’m sick about thinking about the phone company.

I won’t write about the phone company any more.

In other news, there are also pirates in Somalia.

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 @ 6:02 AM

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Bee Rescue

Over the weekend I rescued a bee—sort of.

Our above ground swimming pool measures 18 feet across and four feet deep.

This honey bee struggled in the water far from the edge. Since bees stand scarcely ¼ inch tall, he was in far above his head. And since water clung to his body, he weighted too much to fly to safety.

Being a compassionate man, I moved to rescue the drowning insect. I cupped my hands under the water to scoop him out.

Dumb bug must have thought I was a bee-eating fish rising beneath him because he flailed away from my hands.

Do I look like a trout?

Again and again I scooped. Again and again, he evaded.

I felt tempted to let the bug drown.

The pool filter would get his body later.

But I preserved.

Finally, in a handful of water, I lifted the bee out of the depths and tossed him over the side to dry out and fly away.

Slight problem.

After a bit I peeked over the edge of the pool to see how my bee was drying out. He wasn’t.

A large spider stretched a web between the metal pool wall and a plant stalk; when I dropped the bee over the edge of the pool, I’d dropped him right into the spider web.

Mr. Spider, with due thankfulness I’m sure, was busy wrapping my bee up in a bundle for a feast.

And the last state of the bee was worse than the first.

I’m not much of a savior.

The situation reminded me of that Scripture which says that because of His resurrection, Jesus, “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him”.

Although we attempt to struggle away and evade His cupped, nail-scared hands, He persists in offering us salvation.

Yes, salvation is scary.

Yes, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

He’s big.

But Jesus is not a trout.

And He never drops us into some evil web.

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 @ 4:41 PM

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Good Day

Good, peaceful days prove more difficult for me to write about than bad days. The absence of conflict and aggravation does not generate dramatic prose.

Friday started with a visit to Dr. Downey. A nurse injured the radial nerve in his right hand; it’s numb and bothers him. And he told Ginny and me about his medical trip to Africa where each year he volunteers help in an orphanage.

I’m ok for the shape I’m in.

The doctor froze a few cancers on my arms and gave me some grease to rub on my hip for the always-with-me pain. It that stuff does not help, the next step is an MRI.

Afterwards Ginny and I carried library books up to Dave’s Diner where we munched fries and read our murder mysteries as we sat at a window booth watching light rain fall.

Back home, we continued to read in our backyard never speaking except to point out a flock of purple finch or some other bird at the big feeder.

True love enables you to sit in silence, reading, doing your own thing, making no demands, asking nothing—just being together.

Sometimes that state carries over into my devotions. When I’m just with the Lord, aware of His presence but not exactly praying nor worshiping nor singing nor even thinking much about it. Just relaxing together.

Good, the best, is not always dramatic.

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 @ 7:39 AM

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In The News

It pays to read your local newspaper.

You may see your own name. That’s what happened to me yesterday.

No, I did not get arrested or anything like that.

And I missed reading last Sunday’s Times-Union, so I don’t have a clipping. But there was an article mentioning me and a history piece I wrote a couple of years ago about cars; actually the piece comes from a section of my book on Jacksonville history, Crackers & Carpetbaggers at www.bluefishbooks.info .

I was really surprised to run across my own name in the paper. I knew nothing about it beforehand and just saw this article days later. Here’s the article:

The Motown of the South

John W. Cowart has compiled an excellent history of the automobile in Jacksonville on his Web page, www.cowart.info. Among his findings:

- The first motorcar in Florida was a Locomobile, owned by Jacksonville undertaker Charles A Clark. By the end of 1903, there were 40 cars in the city.

- There were nine auto accidents in the city in 1906. Three of those involved collisions with horses.

- The first car dealer in the city opened in 1903.

- The Southern Automobile Manufacturing Co. opened a plant on Bay Street in 1906, making cars that sold for $400 each.

- The city's first traffic jam was in 1910, when 50 cars lined up to board the ferry across the St. Johns River. The old Acosta was the first highway bridge over the river, opening in 1921.

- Jacksonville was home to a Ford plant, near the western edge of the Mathews Bridge. The plant, which opened in 1925, churned out 45,00 Model T's a year from '25-'28 before switching to the Model A.

Vote for your favorite classic American auto in our Coolest American Car contest on Jacksonville.com.

That’s it.

That’s my name in last Sunday’s newspaper.

Oddly enough, although I often write about my walk with Christ—that sounds too grandiose—Let’s just call it my stumble with Christ—although I write about matters of faith in my own life, yet most often strangers e-mail me questions about local history rather than about faith.

For instance, recently a reader asked me for information about an 1830s Indian attack near Jacksonville.

During the Seminole Wars there were many such attacks. Here is an engraving of Florida Indian attacks from an 1836 newspaper in the Library of Congress:

The reader who e-mailed me had little information; I had less.

But we batted five or six e-mails back and forth developing leads until I tracked down an old newspaper reprint of an 1836 letter telling what had happened:

"It is again my painful duty to inform you of a most shocking Indian massacre - I mean the murder of Mr. John Tippins and family.

“Mr. Tippins was bringing his wife and children out of Florida to see her parents, and when within a few miles of her father's house, was fallen in with about seven Indians, between 10 o'clock, A.M. and 12 o'clock

“Mr. Tippens was shot from his horse, the Indians then made an easy capture of his helpless family and vented their savage spleen by beating them on the heads with their tomahawks.

“Mrs. Tippins lived (senseless) about forty hours, but did not speak; her skull was smashed in many places by the tomahawk. She died in the arms of her father, Mr. David Mizell.

“Her children are not yet dead, although the skull of each is fractured in many places by the tomahawks.

“This melancholy occasion took place in this county last Monday not far from Ocean Pond”.

A nearby resident, Mrs. Elisha Green, discovered the bloody scene. She left an eyewitness account saying that Mr. Tippens “died on the spot where he fell, shot from his horse”.

His full name was John Joshua Underwood Tippens.

His wife, Nancy Tippens, was scalped, and left to bleed to death.

Their three children were “chopped in their heads with tomahawks and slung to the ground”.

The next morning, Mrs. Green found Nancy. Tippens and a three year old girl, Cornelia, still clinging to life.

Nancy Tippens died soon after she was discovered. But the three-year-old Cornelia survived; she lived till 1926 dieing at the age of 88.

Not having a coffin, Mrs. Green buried the dead man, his wife and the other two children in the body of their wagon.

The place where they are buried is now called South Prong Cemetery; it was the Green family burial ground.

Legend has it that a standing wagon wheel marked the grave.

That wagon wheel has long since disappeared.

So there you have it. That is the latest news from last Sunday’s newspaper—and from 173 years ago

But my Good News, my most important news, is that Jesus loves us, and died for our sin, and He rose again from the dead.

No better news than 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 @ 4:59 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Monday, May 11, 2009

Upstairs, Downstairs

Ginny and I spent much of Mother’s Day talking about parenting, buying chairs, and searching for a missing goldfish..

Parenting: We did something right but we don’t know what it was.

Our grown children fill us with pride, but we take little credit for the way they turned out. Each is a unique person with blessings, talents and quirks.

Fred, my eldest is steady, steadfast, brilliant, troubled and a gourmet chef.

Johnny is mature, spiritual, practical, and a ballroom dancer.

Jennifer, our butterfly, remains convinced that as a baby princess, Gypsies stole her from the palace and dumped her with this odd poor family to raise till she can assume her rightful place.

Donald grew up to become the thoroughly most Christian man I have ever met.

Eve, nicknamed Smiley in school, became a level-headed businesswoman who sets realistic goals and achieves them.

Patricia, a woman of mystery and deep dreams, follows her own star towards brightness.

Ginny and I agree that God knew ahead of time that we lacked the talents and temperament to be good parents, so He gave us such fine and easy material to work with.

Our children bless us.

Buying Chairs: The twin recliner loveseat in our tv room sprang a spring, One side would not open; the other would not close. The thing warped our backs.

To get the huge out of the room, I had to saw it into four pieces (we’d removed a window to get it inside years ago and I did now want to go through that again).

For a time, we brought in lawn chairs to sit on while watching watch tv.

Not a good solution.

But we could not afford new furniture. So we managed.

Yesterday we saw an estate sale advertised. The building, three stories and a basement, was a single-family home but in 1898 was divided into 28 tiny apartments and used as an old folks home. New owners closed the facility and were selling off all the furniture at bargain prices (easy chairs, two for $25).

We prowled the maze seeking the kind of replacement chairs we wanted.

I spotted one.

Up on the third floor, I looked out a side window. From that high vantage point I could see over the hedge into the back yard of the house next door.

“I see the chair I’m interested in,” I told Ginny.


“Out the window here”.

She joined me looking outside. On the other side of the hedge a young woman in her bikini vigorously polished a white aluminum lawn chair.

If the kids ever put me in an old folks home, I want a room with a view like that.

Ginny prodded me into other apartments where we chose a wall-hugger recliner and a swivel-rocker, and an end table—All out of third-floor apartments.

I stumbled downstairs to pay. Merely managing all those stairs aggravated my arthritis into flaring pain and left me quivering.

Obviously, with my cane and age (70) I could not carry these heavy chairs down by myself. The estate sale lady felt so concerned for me that she forced me to sit in the lobby till I stopped shaking. It’s been years since I climbed more than six or eight stairs and here I’d been going back and forth between the third floor and the basement. The lady recruited two helpers to bring our purchases downstairs for us.

Back 40 years ago, Ginny and I drove a tractor-trailer moving furniture all over the country. We know how to do it. So it pained me greatly to see these two helpers who obviously had never handled furniture before, cart the chairs down those steep stairs.

Suggestions surged into my mind. But I kept my mouth shut.

The Scripture came to me, “Judge not that ye be not judged”.

Since I’m too weak and shaky and can not carry these chairs down from the third floor my self—then I have no right to supervise those young and strong enough to do the job. They will learn their trade; I should stick to doing things I can do and let others do things their way.

Maybe the bikini girl’s needs help with her aluminum lawn chair.

That one looked light enough for me to lift.

By the way, Ginny and I snaked our new/used chairs into the back room by ourselves with no trouble at all. We may not have the youth and strength but we still have the knack.

Missing Goldfish: Back home, we discovered that one of our gold fish has gone AWOL.

We searched and search for it. We have no idea where it is. We removed everything out of the ten-gallon aquarium to see if the fish were hiding under some decoration.

It’s not.

We checked inside the filter--No missing fish there.

The aquarium cover would prevent any fish from jumping out. The two remaining fish swim contently (Do goldfish eat other goldfish?)

Unable to find our missing fish, we speculated:

“I know what happened to it,” I said. “”Jesus took it. He had 2,500 unexpected guests to feed so He only took one fish.”

(You know about the feeding fo the 5,000, but do you know what He would do if He had to feed ten thousand people? He simply double the receipt).

Ginny said my idea is nonsense. She said our one goldfish was a Christian goldfish and that it had been raptured and the other goldfish left behind.

We talk about theology a lot when there’s nothing good on tv.

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 @ 11:23 AM

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Family Matters

A few minutes ago my brother called to tell me his first wife has died after a lengthy illness.

They have been divorced for years and he has since re-married; nevertheless, the news upset him when Pam, one of his two daughters, e-mailed him about her mother’s death.

Coming right before Mother’s Day, their mother’s passing must be especially hard on the girls. And news of Charlotte’s death gave rise to mixed feeling in my brother.


Sometimes I think there’s no good way to handle life situations.

My brother also informed me about the possibility of a family reunion in a couple of weeks. My heart dropped. I really don’t know how to handle that.

St. Paul said that so much as in you is to live at peace with all men.

To me, that means stay the hell away from them. But I doubt if that’s what Paul had in mind.

On one level, I want to be a loving man.

I really do.

But I find that contact with our huge extended family dredges up bitterness in my own heart because of long past, and probably thoughtless, cruelties and anguish these people put me through around the time of my own mother’s death.

During Mama’s final days, Ginny, our children and me faced eviction because our landlord had sold the apartment building we lived in. We had to locate and move to a new house the day after her funeral or we would face living in our car.

I spoke with each person in the extended family about help finding a job or renting one of the houses some of them owned. Without exception they turned me down.

At the same time I learned that some creep in that family had raped one of my daughters months previously and Ginny and I knew nothing about it till just before Mama’s funeral.

What a can of worms.

In all this, I felt as though those people had left us for dead beside the road.

The afternoon of Mama's funeral while the others were at the reception, through the intervention of my friend Congressman Charles Bennett, I found a house for us to move to the following day. And I did pay for Mama's funeral expenses myself without anything being contributed by other family members.

Tough times.

Yet, I tried to maintain a loving Christian spirit through it all.

Not very successful at it I’m afraid.

I could not feel loving. But to avoid feeling resentful, the only way I felt I could cope was to withdraw into myself.

I still feel that way.

Those people cut us off, and as far as I’m concerned, Ginny and the kids are my family.

The other relatives, I regard as just people, the same as I regard the folks in line at the grocery store. I mean them no ill, I’d help one when asked, I treat them with courtesy, but there’s no need to associate wit them on any other level.

Oddly enough over the years some have asked me to help ‘em move, start cars, etc. and I’ve always done that but I maintain my internal distance. In fact, Ginny helped one get her kids into a camp once; but we see no need to initiate voluntarily contact.

Hey, I know, that’s not Christian love, but it’s the best I can manage.

So when David mentioned a family reunion, my blood froze. My chest tightened. My stomach churned.

I cringed as though threatened with a beating.

I don’t want to get hurt anymore.

I hope their party turns out well, that the day is sunny, that they feast and dance and laugh and remember good times.

But leave me out of it.

I just can’t cope.

I’m enjoying my life and I hope they enjoy theirs.

I wish them well.

I also wish I’d never answered the phone.

I’m not going back over this to edit. I don’t have the heart.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 11:37 PM

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Surprised and Honored

Ever hear of Cherokee Heights?

I live in this obscure backwater neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, cutoff from the rest of the city by an expressway on one side and CSX railroad tracks on the other.

Our neighborhood, Cherokee Heights, was not named after the mighty Indian tribe—not named directly after them, that is.

No, long ago there was a steamboat company plying paddlewheelers along the St. Johns River; the company christened their steamboats with Indian names.

Then later, streets and neighborhoods throughout Jacksonville were named after those long ago riverboats.

Thus, I live in a tiny backwater neighborhood of an almost unknown city in the most southern of the United States.

Our cul-de-sac street ends in a circle where lost people can turn around.

Few strangers wander into the area.

This is No-where-ville.

I’d think that my little bit of work done in this obscure corner of the earth would have no effect anywhere else. I feel that most of my work disappears without leaving a ripple.

But, sometimes, I get surprised.

Yesterday as I worked cataloguing a section of my Florida History book collection for a sale, I received a snail-mail letter from InterVarsity Press.

Back in 1990 IVP published a little paperback I wrote called People Whose Faith Got Them Into Trouble. Hardly any copies sold and the book soon went out of print, so rights reverted to me. My writing did not leave a ripple.

I didn’t give up.

I felt it was a good book.

Still think that.

So, in 2005, I revised and expanded that text and published it at www.bluefishbooks.info under the new title— Strangers On The Earth

Well the IVP letter yesterday carries a request from a church in Singapore to use my book as a script in a radio broadcast which could be heard throughout the great Far East.

That tickles me.

I’m honored.

Yes, the Gethsemane Bible Presbyterian Church of Singapore asked permission to read my book over the air in their 24/7 internet radio broadcasts at http://www.biblewitness.com/webradio/index.htm .

I feel greatly honored that folks in that far country feel my work is suitable to be broadcast to their wide-spread listening audience.

I echo the prayer from their information page, “We pray that the Gospel of Christ will be declared throughout the world, to all nations, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth”.

Of course when I tried to tune in and listen to one of their broadcasts myself, I could not figure out how to turn it on!

Next time I see my son Donald, I’ll ask him how to work a computer radio thingy…

Or, maybe I’ll just keep cataloguing books in silence here in my obscure backwater and let the rest of the world listen… A prophet is not without honor, except…

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 @ 6:22 AM

Your comments are welcome: 1 comments

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My Virusesissues

Say what you will about Pontius Pilate, but he never caught the flu virus.

He washed his hands.

Never mind.

The Centers For Disease Control has changed its mind.

What they are now calling—not taco flu, nor swine flu, nor H1N1—but Novel Influenza, they say this new flu is not as dangerous as previously thought.

In a May 5th directive entitled Update on School (K – 12) and Childcare Facilities: Interim CDC Guidance in Response to Human Infections with the Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/K12_dismissal.htm , the CDC says:

School closure is not advised for a suspected or confirmed case of novel influenza A (H1N1) and, in general, is not advised unless there is a magnitude of faculty or student absenteeism that interferes with the school’s ability to function.

Schools that were closed based on previous interim CDC guidance related to this outbreak may reopen.

That’s good.

I’m glad our health department proved so vigilant in protecting us from this potential threat. Good job, guys.

Be that as it may, I have picked up a virus anyhow.

At least my computer did.

My firewall tells me my computer is under attack from a Deep Throat Trojan Horse virus which is trying to take over my system.

How could I get this virus?

I wash my hands.

When my virus software alerted me to the attack, I shut down the system and called my son Donald, a computer network manager, for help. Yesterday, he, my friend Wes, and I enjoyed breakfast at Dave’s Diner, then they came to my house for conversation and computer repair.

It occurs to me that my computer could catch a virus in one of three ways:

Maybe it came into my machine through the remote server?

But Donald assures me that the firewall would have blocked it.

Maybe I caught it when browsing the internet looking for photos of naked ladies?

That can’t be, because Wes recently caught the same virus and I assure you that Wes is not the kind of Christian who would ever browse for photos of naked ladies on the internet.

Maybe I caught the virus from a plishing site. (is that the right word?) I mean a website set up to look like it’s from one source but is really something else malicious.

I think that may be the case because last week while looking for CDC information about swine flu, one link I opened generated a pop-up box warning that it was not a real CDC site but a plishing trap.

Wes said that he’d encountered that same thing. While googling swine flu, he also encountered a plishing site claiming to be a CDC page, and he has since found a virus in his computer.

Anyhow, Donald fixed stuff by going to that black and white screen in the bios that I am never, never, never ,ever never to touch.

Donald fixed it and I’m back on line now.

In spite of the Taco Flu virus scare and the Deep Throat Trojan Horse computer virus scare, we three guys had a great time smoking pipes and discussing the whole state of Christ’s church and the world.

Donald is praying about perhaps going to seminary and becoming a minister in his church.

I mentioned my own belief that “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them” and I said, We, the three of us sitting here, we are the church”.

Wes said, “We’re not a church—we’re a bull session”.

Donald said, “O Phooey. And here I was just about to take up a collection”.

He thinks like a preacher already.

I wash my hands of the matter.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:39 AM

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Fire History, Visit with Barbara White, & A Letter To The Kid In The Attic On Flu Epidemic

Sunday, May 3rd, marked the anniversary of the city of Jacksonville’s burning down in 1901. In connection with commemorating the Great Fire Of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Fire Museum revamped its website at http://www.jacksonvillefiremuseum.com/index.html

For sections of the new site, they used portions of my book Heroes All: A History Of Firefighting In Jacksonville available at www.bluefishbooks.info .

That’s nice.

Unfortunately, when crediting my book as a source, they did not provide a link enabling people to consider buying a copy.

After all my years of work on that book, I find that disheartening.

Oh well, God knows.

Monday my friend Barbara White, author of the Along The Way series of books, treated me to breakfast at Dave’s Diner and she related a recent dream:

Barbara, who is around 80 and walks with an aluminum walker, dreamed she was in a house where a murderer tried to break in and kill her. She locked the screen door. But he said ,”That’s no barrier” and cut the screen to unlock the door.

She slammed the wooden front door. But the killer said, “That’s no barrier either” and cut his way through.

She ran out the back door through the streets of her childhood hometown. Racing to escape the murderer.

She saw a man on an odd bicycle with a boat on a little trailer—but the bicycle was pushing the boat instead of pulling it. Two other people on regular bicycles followed him. She ran to them seeking help.

The man on the bicycle smiled, took out his cell phone and called the murderer to tell him where she was!

The other two cyclists looked on with approval.

Barbara woke in a panic, heart aflutter. She remembered the tension between her and her grown son. She began to recite the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

She realized her own frailty and vulnerability in danger, yet she realized that she is still alive in the midst of whatever dangers.

Besides that disturbing dream, Barbara and I talked about God’s act of creation; Barbara told me about St. Augustine’s idea that just as God made oak tree seeds and sunflower seeds to grow and mature and flourish and die in different given time frames, so also He ordered animals, men and worlds to grow, mature, flourish and die in specific different given time frames.

I’d never thought of things that way before.

Here’s a letter to the Kid In The Attic:

Hi Kid,

You are my ideal reader.

You are the person I write for.

I picture you in my mind’s eye when I enter things in my diary. In my imagination, some day 50 or a hundred years from now, long after I’m dead and gone, you will be prowling around in the attic on a rainy afternoon, and you’ll stumble across a dusty old box containing my diary. You’ll beat off the dust and roach crumbs and read to see what life was like in the old days (that’s my today).

I wish you joy, Kid In The Attic.

Mostly I write so you will see how being a Christian works for one lone individual—me. By tracing my daily entries, you may get an idea of Christian reality in the life of one guy—me. You’ll see the ups, downs, sins and warts, the discouragements and elations, the problems I solved and the ones that beat me.

So, mainly this is a spiritual map of one isolated soul…

But to give you historical perspective, I think it important to mention world events now and them so you can see the context in which I lived.

Now, I’m certainly no Samuel Pepys nor John Evelyn, who both chronicled the 1666 Great Plague of London.

Nor am I a Daniel Defoe, the novelist who wrote his fictional Journal Of The Plague Year in 1722 (that’s the same year he wrote Moll Flanders) but you probably know him best for Robinson Crusoe.

However, Swine flu is much in the news now and it behooves me to mention it now and then.

So, here goes.

Today, one Jacksonville school quarantined a coach and two students in a hotel, even though none of the three showed any sign of infection, because they’d recently been to a swim meet in Mexico .

Today also, the school board of an adjacent county closed down one school because one student may possibly have swine flu. The student is being tested and the results are not back yet. But they still shut down the whole school for at least two days and disinfected the bus that student rode on.

What’s odd about this is that in the entire United States only one person has died of this disease so far.

Isn’t that incredible?

Here’s something odder:

Across the country, more than 14,000 persons with AIDS died in 2006... These AIDS cases and deaths should not be happening in this country at this rate”.

That’s a quote from Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

She made this statement in a report to Congress last September. Her full speech is at the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/washington/testimony/2008/t20080916.htm .

Now, Kid, I hope in your generation, AIDS is a cured disease of the distant past. But it is real and deadly in my generation. I do not know of a single person who ever caught it who did not eventually die of it (unless they got hit by a bus or something first). But as far as I know from having read in the past issues of the CDC Weekly Mortality and Morbidity Report, anyone who gets it, will die of it. The CDC issues regular reports about pediatric AIDS.

Yet, no schools close.

No swim teams quarantined.

No school buses disinfected.

I’d like to think that the difference in responding to one disease with one death and responding to another virus with 14,000 dying is a difference in timing. After all, a virulent flue virus (remember Spanish Lady?) can kill in a matter of days, that generates a sense of urgency; on the other hand the AIDS virus may take years to kill.

I’d like to think that’s the difference, but I imagine that true difference is a matter of political lobbying and public relations tactics which downplay AIDS.

Of course that virus spreads through sex or blood contact.

Maybe it’s just that school kids today don’t get cuts and scrapes and bloody noses in fights or don’t take off the band aid to show off sores.

Get real.

Dr. Gerberding projected 56,300 new HIV infections to occur each year, “Worse than previously estimated,” she said.

She said it is a shame “For young Americans to grow up without the knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation necessary to protect themselves against HIV for their entire lifetimes. CDC is steadfast in its commitment to ending the epidemic; however, to achieve this goal, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our own backyards must be met with an even greater sense of commitment, purpose, and urgency by affected individuals, communities, and by the nation as a whole”.

Well, Kid In The Attic, that’s what’s going on in my world today.

I hope your generation has more common sense than mine.

Good luck.

John Cowart

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 @ 11:58 PM

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Cleaning Pipes

I spent the first day of May in the most pleasant way imaginable—cleaning pipes.

I do not collect pipes; but I have a lot of them.

But I’m afraid I neglect their care. When I’ve smoked one till it clogs up with all the gunk cigarette smokers inhale, I just switch to a different pipe. Eventually after a few months I run out of smooth-drawing pipes and stage a massive pipe cleaning day.

And Friday proved perfect for that project.

I gathered materials—pipes, pipe cleaners, rags, dental probes, lengths of wire, an oyster knife, and a fifth of Jack Daniels whiskey—and spread all this paraphernalia over several lawn chairs and tables outside.

As I worked in the shade of an awning, birds feasted at the feeders, lizards scrambled over the sundial, squirrels scampered in the bushes while a neighborhood cat slinked at the gate hoping to catch an unwary bird or squirrel.

Easy-listening played on the radio as I sipped ice tea and reamed out the pipe bowls with the oyster knife (the blade is shaped perfectly to reach the bottom of the bowl). Oh, by the way, I do not drink the whiskey, don’t have a taste for it, but about 15 years ago somebody gave me this fifth of Jack Daniels and I’ve used dots of it as a pipe cleaning solvent ever since.

The mindless task of cleaning pipes, listening to music, watching the birds, praying now and then, thinking little but keeping my hands busy---Well it was a time of peace and relaxation.

While the outside world did its thing, I did mine.

The first two confirmed cases of Swine Flu have shown up in Florida and the governor has declared a state of public health emergency. One of the thousands of students at the university in Gainesville shows signs of flu but since this is graduation weekend with hundreds of thousands of parents, students, alumnae, and visitors in town, university officials decided to go ahead with activities in spite of flu dangers.

Meanwhile, the tv news keeps saying--stay calm—be concerned—nothing to be alarmed about—you’re all going to die—and they cite the millions of people who died in the 1918 epidemic as a comparison.

They project 50,000,000 people to die in this epidemic.

They forget that the death rate is the same as it’s always been—one per person.

It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.

So, in this time of medical crisis, we need the mercy of God just as much we do during normal times…

Er, come to think of it, these are normal times.

Well, it is now that my pipes are all clean and all I have to do is fill my tobacco pouch and smoke them.

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 @ 9:07 PM

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