Today In Former Years

This section of my website traces a day, or related set of days, from my diary over a span of years. Each change to a different year is marked by a yellow highlight. -- jwc

Excerpts From John Cowart’s Journals:

February 6, 1982 to 2002


John W. Cowart

Feb. 6, 1982

        8 hours at Times-Union. Long talk with military reporter Joe Caldwell about past hurts, slights & resentments. I gave him a copy of my Peace Of Mind article (Compare that to what I did yesterday!)

        Joe told me about seeing the execution of a millionaire who’d murdered his wife in North Carolina.

        The gas chamber was divided diagonally by a glass wall & the man hooded & strapped to a chair & cyanide pills rolled down a trough into a pan of acid beneath the seat. Fifteen minutes to die amid struggles. A doctor monitored heart from the spectators side of the glass wall.

        As Joe left the building to call in his report, they were venting the chamber from a stack high above the prison. Pigeons roosting on the lip of the chimney fell in fluttering clumps to the ground when the gas hit them.

        Our car broke down so I had to take a bus home. I had no sooner entered the house than David ??? (don’t know his last name) knocked on the door. He is a retarded man who used to live in the neighborhood & wash dishes at Harvey’s Bar. He’s the one who had the epileptic seizure on our porch the night Johnny graduated from high school. David has a severe speech impediment & it’s a drag to talk with him; I’m not sure what he’s talking about ½ the time.

        I was an ungracious host. We fed David supper but we didn’t really welcome him. Jesus said “the least (convenient) of these my brethren”. I was anxious for David to be gone so I could watch the movie “Superman” on t-v. I could not see Jesus in this poor fellow; I’d rather see Superman. I often swap contact with the Living God for a cartoon comic-book character.

        David left right after eating & I was glad to see him go.

Sunday, February 6, 1983

        8 hours on Times-Union city desk, A shipyard worker called about finding a body in the river. Cops said, “No foul play suspected”. Turns out the body had a sandbag tied around his neck!

        ELEPHANTS!!! Gin & I saw elephants on the Main Street Bridge! We went to a church supper at the Independent Life Building & left late, so late hardly anyone else was on the streets. As we started around on Bay Street we saw the flashing blue lights of a cop car. “An accident,” I said; “A Camel,” Ginny said. She was right. The circus was leaving town tonight & they marched elephants & camels & lamas & ponies & horses from the fairgrounds down Bay Street and over the Main Street Bridge. It was very foggy & the fog glowed orange in the streetlights & we saw the elephants  on the bridge silhouetted against the foggy lights. We followed them to the southside railroad siding and saw the whole parade.

        Once we got home I really looked at my wife. For this special supper Ginny had shaved her legs and polished her finger and toenails. She did her hair and wore her silver ear rings and silver cross & her royal blue dress with black high-heels. Black lace slip, bra & panties – She’s incredibly beautiful!… We should see elephants more often!


Donald to Happening #44

Donald got piano from church

Pat won an Invention Convention certificate for her animal sock holders

Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl and the record sold 850 million copies in eight days -- a world's record.

Tuesday, February 4, 1992::

Gin & I picked up Food Stamps -- with no hassle at all for a change -- this morning after breakfast at Moore's.

After working all night I should have gone to bed then but I was so enjoying her company that I drove out to Winn-Dixie with her for grocery shopping.

This evening, Patticia told me she needed to talk with me. Poor little thing, she's having problems with math and music at school as well as with some of the student and teacher clods there. Kids tease her and hit her in the gym locker room; the music teacher shines a spotlight on her whenever she makes a mistake playing the recorder and the kids point and laugh.

 Heretofore, Patricia loved music and looked forward to learning to play the piano, but this teacher has spoiled it for her (I've seen this sort of thing happen over and over in our "educational" system in that the schools ruin a kid's love of reading, science or whatever.)

Pat & I had talked about some of this stuff during our outing Saturday and I'd asked her to think of ways we might relieve some of the pressure; she came up with three suggestions tonight:

1. she'd like to be taught by us at home. 2. She wants a math tutor. 3. She wants to talk with a psychologist.

I responded:

              1. The home school is out for now, at least till Ginny finishes college, then we'll see.

              2. I will send a note to school Thursday to enroll her in a math tutoring session.

              3. I will call church tomorrow to make an appointment for her to talk with a counselor.

In addition, I advised her that some things in life simply must be endured. The next eight weeks of the music elective fall into that category. I do not know how to help her with that; but the next scheduled elective for her is Latin and I will work with her on that subject.

I am getting her a book on memory tricks to help her with the math and science formulas. (Why the hell don't they teach that in schools? along with speed reading, research techniques and stuff the kids can use to learn on their own??? Education comes in spite of schools!)

I arranged for her to take tomorrow (which promises to bring super rain storms and a cold front anyhow) off from school. This will give her a touch of immediate relief.

I told her a little about needing the sheer discipline of some studies in order to go beyond them to the things you really want to learn.

I'm agreed to write an affirmation for her to say three times daily to build her confidence and self esteem.

I held her in my arms on my lap and prayed aloud at length for her as she wept her heart out over the -- to her -- insurmountable problems. 

I promised her that as long as I'm alive, I'll be there for her -- whether I can help or not, I'll at least always be available for her to tell her problems to.

God! but the world system of sin and degradation makes me sick. How well I remember my own school days in hell. I pains me to see her pain -- and to be reminded of my own. God only knows if any of these steps can help her; enduring is the answer to most of it.

 Wednesday, February 5, 1992:

Worked long and hard on the prayer book last night. Not much else to record. Gin & I have a love day scheduled for tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that.

Tonight, I bought two used chairs from RPH.

Thursday, February 6, 1992:

Cold, wet and miserable outside but what a wonderful day we've had together inside!…

Today, Jennifer escorted Eve's art class to the Jacksonville Art Museum to see the Andrew Wyeth exhibit. Eve came home full of enthusiasm, describing in detail many of the paintings.

Pat came home early because she needs a note to stay late for the math tutoring sessions and we didn't know that.

Mike meet Jennifer at our house to go get their taxes figured and I ended up taking all to supper at Woody's Bar-B-Que.

When we got home, we found Ginny had skipped her late classes, the poor Love, so I cooked a sausage supper just for her.

Then I came to work not having slept for 24 hours... About 2 a.m. Donald called me to ask advice about two girls he knows at college who have involved him in their romantic intrigues with his roommate. He has called me several times about such matters and about studies. It pleases me to think that he values my advice even when he disagrees with it (I told him that Melody's lovelife was none of Stephany's business and that he must concentrate on his own studies not on their soap opera).

 I said to point them to Christ as the only permanent solution to some of their problems and that if he does that, they will either be converted or drop Donald as a friend, either of which actions will solve his own involvement in the sophomore melodrama. God, save us all from neurotic women!

Saturday, February  6, 1993:

Gin attended a financial aid seminar at college and brought Eve and Donald back home.

I spent the day preparing gadgets for Bible teaching.

Barbara White came over for supper because she was going crazy with problems over her children's antics.

At Circle of Love (a rescue mission), I taught Mark Three. I used a magnet and 500 paper clips to show how Jesus taught many people but zeroed in on one guy.

Then I used a hunting knife and a jar full of rice to show how Jesus placed the one guy into a community of people to uplift them all (one steel paperclip jumps out of the pile of plastic ones when the magnet approaches; a knife stuck in a narrow-necked jar of rice grains compacts them in the neck and will lift the whole jar.)

Home to study for Sunday's lesson at Good Shepherd.

Today, Ginny gave me a cartoon poster she'd ordered for me from some company: a man and woman sit in easy chairs reading a newspaper. The woman says, "Look. It says here that John Cowart has made the Ten Most Influential People List."

The man says, "Again?"

Sunday, February  6, 1994:

Hung around the house.

This wedding announcement appeared in today's newspaper; from the two names, Hardeee and Horneee, I'd say they have a good foundation for a happy union;

Friday, February 6, 1998:

At church I took down the Esther Sunday School display photos.

Today I got word that Lewis had been found dead under a house on James Street.

Lewis was the most disreputable bum I’ve ever seen even in all the time I volunteered about the missions. For months he’d come around church while I was working there as night janitor and I’d feed him – much to the dismay of some people who adopted the attitude toward bums of “If you don’t feed them, they’ll go away”.

While these good folks have a point -- Lewis and his ilk can be rather intimidating for the old ladies on their way into church --  I felt obligated to feed him, pray for him, talk with him and slip him a dollar or two now and then.

Lewis scrounged for food in the Burger King dumpster, smoked butts off the pavement, never changed clothes, and lived in the crawlspace underneath a house on Forbes Street – the homeowners never knew he lived under there because he’d sneak under late at night and leave again before daylight. He begged or stole money for his drugs and wine.

Once a few months ago, after a long absence, he appeared at the church door one evening asking for me. He was clean shaven, dressed in clean clothes, washed and shining and happy. He told me he’d been saved. He’d been drunk and got hit by a car. Laying in the street he looked up to see this beautiful girl leaning over him, the driver of the car that hit him. She held his hand and told him about Jesus. He accepted Christ at her witness and had turned his life around. I felt happy for his salvation but at the same time jealous; here I’d witnessed to him for ages without making a dent and this Baptist girl out of nowhere wins him on first contact. Ain’t fair.

Anyhow, the change in Lewis was evident for a few weeks. Then the craving for drugs and the toughness of changing lifestyles reasserted themselves. Poor bastard reverted to drink, drugs, dirt, lost his job, lost his apartment and again was living on the street and sleeping underneath somebody’s house.

Last week he was apparently hit by another car. He was injured but mobile and ran away from the scene of the accident. He crawled up under a house (I think it was a different one from the one where he usually slept) and died there. Decomposition set in. The smell alerted the homeowner who found his body.

I believe his conversion was genuine and that the poor bastard has found grace, peace and mercy in the arms of Jesus in spite of his sorry end.

5:45 – Gin to Healing Hands ministry.

Saturday, February 6, 1999:

What a wonderful day Gin & I had of regaining distance and space while maintaining intimacy.

About 8 a.m., we took our breakfast coffee out on the back deck and , sat right there talking till about 4 p.m.

We talked about birds, sex, plans for the yard, politics, church, children, hiking, jobs, people, friendship, plants, cars, credit, computers, Y2K, Lotto, bikes, days off, books, movies.... And I can't remember what all else.

In a way I suppose it was just a continuation of the same fascinating conversation we have been enjoying for the past 30 years.

The most activity we engaged in was to look in the bird book to determine if an orange bird was a tangier or a Baltimore Oreo (we identified it as a tangier, the first we have ever seen). O, yes, I did cut a door in the balloon box and made a new bed for Sheba.

During all this time we did not so much as touch eachother, yet we were as intimate as last night.

When we finally went back in the house, we picked up our books and read without needing to speak all evening.

Sunday, February 6, 2000:

Today's lesson (for the adult Bible class at Good Shepherd)  covered the first speech of Eliphaz and Job's reply. I spent too long in review because several people had not been in class last week and I wanted everyone to be together in our study.

To illustrate the phrase "and the hair on my body stood on end" when Eliphaz saw the spook (Job 4:15), I had everyone blow up a white balloon and draw a ghost face on it with permanent markers. I carried in several wool sweaters or scarves and had each person rub a balloon on one. As we slowly read the passage, we moved the balloon closer and closer to our own hair -- and our hair stood on end as the static electricity acted. My own hair raised in thick strands which followed the balloon as I shook it back and forth over my head. People almost rolled on the floor laughing.

I may not teach them much Scripture but I do entertain them.

I have also found that after a hardy laugh, a deadly serious point hits with much more impact because of the vivid contrast. So the point I emphasized this morning was the awful wickedness of sin. I showed how a complete service for eight of Royal Dalton china is spoiled if you break the handle off a single tea cup, how a Lladro statue looses all value if you chip only a tiny finger off the porcelain hand; how a single wrong act done to me 55 years ago still colors my own view of life, people and God even after all this time; and how evil things I did when my children were little still cling to them even now that they are grown. Sin is serious.

Unfortunately, I spent so much time in reviewing and setting up these preliminaries that lesson time was over before I got to the main points I'd planned to make.

This made me feel very defeated.

Back home, Ginny and I watched a little tv … but we were so tired that our loving was more or less lackluster today.

Watched a bit of the ProBowl, last football game of the season.


Thursday, February 1, 2001:

Gin still down with the flu. I nursed her and read all day.

Friday, February 2, 2001:

More of the same.... except now I am coming down with it too.

Saturday, February 3, 2001:

Now both of us are sick as dogs. It has rained all week. Barbara White brought in lunch for us and dropped it at the door.

Jennifer and Pat came over to visit bringing Rebeca. They drove Gin, who was temporarily in better shape than I was, around to Winn Dixie for a quick grocery trip to buy a few essentials.

Sunday, February 4, 2001:

Ginny feels better but I am miserable. We were able to walk around the block once today.

Monday, February 5, 2001:

Gin went back to work, not because she feels that great but because she is out of sick leave. I remained in bed reading and trying to blow my nose. Our coughing keeps us awake.

Tuesday, February 6, 2001:

Gin worked again today. Barbara called me about lunch but I felt too sick to try it. The weather has cleared and I sat outside in the sun shine for a half hour.

When Ginny came home … we lounged nested together under a blanket on the sofa for an hour or two dozing off over some adventure show and the 10 o'clock news. We were tempted to settled in to sleep there for the night not wanting to break our intimacy but we knew that if we did, we'd not hear the bedroom alarm. So we took books to bed but hardly read at all before sleep overtook us... The best evening we've had in ages. Thank You, Lord.

Wednesday, February 7, 2001:

After a breakfast treat at Derby House and my morning walk, I began studying, working and thinking about the will of God book in earnest.

First and foremost in my thinking is the fact that I must live it before I can write it. He deserves no less. Words without living action count for little. Therefore, instead of thinking about what I may write, I concentrated on my own walk with Christ, attempting to think about God's majesty and perfections --  not so I can write about them, but so I can myself admire and adore Him... This is harder than it sounds. For a man of my inclinations as a teacher I always have trouble with Bible study because I approach the Scripture from the angle of how can I wow others with my astute knowledge and deep insights and clever teaching methods; not what does this say to John Cowart and how does it effect me and the way I live.

I struggle with this dilemma every time I teach or write. There is always the desire to enhance my own reputation and stature instead of bringing honor to Christ.

In the light of that perverted twist, for me, teaching and writing can be heinous sin of the worst sort -- putting myself forward as a representative of Christ, and instead, representing myself. The UPS driver ain't the package. The mailman didn't write the love letter he delivers. The check he puts in the box costs him nothing, it's not drawn on his bank account. His name is not even on it.

So in speaking for God, although we can't help getting our fingerprints on the letter, we must remember that the message is from Him and our faithful delivery of it must only convey what He intends.

Lord, help me to be transparent, invisible, a channel for Your Spirit. Help me adore You for Yourself even if I never teach or write for anyone else...

Anyhow, today I spent a lot of time staring out the window, reviewing discs, and considering God...

I thought of an old Shoe Cartoon:

Shoe, a bird who edits a newspaper, sits looking out the window when another bird comes up and asks what he's doing. "I'm writing," Shoe said.

"Then you should be pounding the keyboard," says the critic.

Shoe replies, "Typists pound keyboards; writers stare out windows".

Wednesday,  February 6,  2002

This day got away from me in a hurry. I rode the bus down with Ginny to Five Points and ate breakfast at Derby House. So far, so good.

Then I walked to Park & King to pick up my  prescription from the Drug Store. A snotty clerk told me that the prescription was not ready and that it was my fault because the doctor had refused to refill it. I walked home to call my doctor and got his nurse, who told me that the prescription can not be refilled any more unless I come in and see the doctor every single month!!!

I got mad.

The young lady eventually agreed that something was wrong and that I could see the doctor as soon as I could get to the office today. I left the house immediately and walked back to the bus stop and rode to Five Points again then walked over to his building – where I found the office full of people.

I had to pay $15 and wait for over an hour. The doctor checked me and my records, found that there was no reason I had to see him! He apologized for the mix-up and gave me a new prescription and six sample 50 mg pills. I walked from his office to the drug store again and had to wait another hour before it was filled. Then I walked home again arriving at almost 3 p.m. from my morning walk.

Now, during this whole experience, I stayed mightily  pissed off. Here the incompetence and slovenliness of clerks at both the doctor’s office and the drug store had caused me to waste a whole day of my life over what should have been accomplished with a single phone call. I walked miles more than I should have had to. I waited in a crowed room. The doctor touched me -- Having anyone ever touch me is an experience I find loathsome.

So I felt frustrated all day… yet during all this I kept trying to remind myself that my times are in God’s hands and that just because I plan to spend my day in a certain way, does not mean that’s the way He wants me to spend that day.

Am I indeed at His disposal?

Am I so full of pride that I can not stand to see my important time poured out in the sand?

Is God’s purpose for my day to teach me humility and patience more that for me to produce great writing?

Am I really a Christian or just a pretence?

This is God’s day I am living. I say that I am His and at His disposal – then why do I get so vexed and peeved when my intentions and plans get derailed by circumstance.

Living the will of God is more important than writing a book about it.

The pharmacist, clerk, nurse, doctor, bus driver – when they woke up this morning all of these people had plans which did not include an encounter with John Cowart. Was I as much a pain in the ass to them as they were to me – or are we all being meshed together to be God’s workmanship this day? Does our rubbing against each other polish us? At least it gives us the opportunity to be polished, to get rough edges grounded off, to blend, to live to shine for the glory of God – and that’s more important than “getting things done” as I had intended this morning.

I’m still pissed, but the day got my attention and the frustration turned my thoughts toward the possibility of virtue – which I, of course, resisted.

When I picked up Ginny from the bus stop, I’d expended so much energy getting my prescription that I was too exhausted to fuck tonight anyhow! DAMN!

When we got home, Scott and Dennis came over with bags of goodies for the mission. Our foyer and living room are full of stuff for other people. While the guys were on hand, I asked them to help me move those pool steps from Warren’s house. With much unnecessary fuss and bother and with much supervision from Warren, we moved the steps (a job Gin & I could easily have done by ourselves).

After supper Gin & I watched West Wing on TV till 11 p.m. As we got ready for bed we heard a commotion outside: Fire engines, a rescue truck and three police cars were in front of our house. I quickly dressed and went to see …  (Neighbors in a domestic dispute ) Finally, all the barking dogs bedded down for the night…. And I stayed awake and alert for hours till finally falling asleep in my chair.


Thursday, February 6, 2003

After breakfast at Derby House and a two-hour morning walk, I spent the rest of the day downloading and working on an organization management flow software… I’m using it to plan my proposed web site hoping to have some material ready for Donald who is coming up Sunday with Patricia. If the software proves helpful with that, I want to use it on the will of God book.

TV news continues to rattle sabers over the possibility of war with Iraq.

Broadcasters skirt what I feel is treason by reporting U.S. troop deployment, unit numbers, locations and even the names of family members left in the States. Enemy spies just have to watch tv to gather information that in former times they would have had to work for.

Makes me hope they hit the tv stations first.

Today gas prices jumped 20 cents a gallon up from the price I’d paid Monday when I filled our car. Gin & I talked it over and we expect grocery prices to take a similar escalation soon, especially the day the Moslems strike back. Therefore, we made plans to buy extra hurricane supplies tomorrow. Actually, we’d intended to go to the store tonight but Donald called right as we were getting ready to leave.

He says his job is in jeopardy from corporate changes. Daily he walks on eggs. Layoff notices have already been given to some employees. Management talks all the time about more layoffs in April… or July… or in September. Or maybe in two or three years. With things so tenuous Donald and the others are afraid to plan anything or buy anything or spend anything because their income may be cut off any moment.

Besides that, management told his department to focus on preparing computer backup systems so that when his section does close, then the people in California can take over easily and continue the research without interruption.

“Screw ‘em” was my first reaction.

And Donald’s.

However as we talked, a more Christian attitude emerged for two reasons:

First, nothing but perception has really changed. Everyone’s future is tenuous. We like to plan this and that as though it were really going to happen… then BAM! Our friends Bill and Beverly were dressing for work, hurrying because they were running late, expecting to rush downtown and work in the office all day then come home for… BAM. Bill suffered a stroke between one button on his shirt and the next.

Patricia left class intending to drive home, eat lunch, feed her cats, go into work and do her college homework on the job and … BAM. A girl turning left ran into the side of her car breaking her ribs, puncturing hr lung, leaving her in the hospital for ten days. No more college courses. No more job. No way to pay her rent…

None of us are immune from an abrupt, unforeseen change of plans.

We just act as though we are.

God’s plans are not ours… but His are always good.

Damn hard to see that but we believe it.

The second reason Donald (and Ginny) continues to do the best possible job for his company here and now is that we work for Christ not for the company. He is our Big Boss and Christians work to please Him regardless of what the powers of this word, lower echelon middle-management at best, do to keep us unfocused and off balance.

Hey, Payday is coming. And are we going to party!

Returning to the subject of war with Iraq:

While I am 100% American Hawk,  I fear we may be the Goliath to their David; I’m concerned that we do them injustice on several levels. For instance, we enforce a NO-FLY ZONE right through the middle of their country. What other nation would stand for foreign air planes shooting down air traffic in a strip down the middle of their land? What other nations have foreign inspectors inside trying to locate weapons stores?

We demand that they prove they have no weapons of mass destruction or we will attack them; how could they do that impossible task?

Say someone accused you of hiding a diamond in your house; how could you prove there is no diamond? They could search and search but they would still say at the end of each search, “Where did you hide it”?

Another thing, if Saddam really has biological weapons and means to kill millions of people, why haven’t we killed him long ago? If my neighbor has a knife and I’m convinced that he means to stab me or Ginny, then is it reasonable for me to wait till he cuts us before I whack him with a bat? 

If our government and military really believe that Saddam has been developing anthrax and super small pox and botulism for years… then why didn’t we whack him ten years ago. I wonder if our nation really believes he has the weapons or if we have trumped up an excuse and the anticipated war is actually about oil.

Even though it’s immoral, the slogan “Kill the arabs, take the oil” is an honest, human reason for going to war; it bothers me that our government appears to want to justify war on some other basis.

Me thinks they protest too much….

Wars and rumors or wars – but the end is not yet.      


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