Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Tour: Why God Matters

Well, I messed up. I was supposed to do this book review last week, but life got in the way. I lost a friend. And worse than that, my friend left behind a beautiful wife, (also a friend of mine), and four wonderful children. Loss is hard. Trying to understand loss and death and why things happen is difficult, if not incomprehensible. Like my previous post about the dead cat, we all must realize that bad things happen, yes, even to good people. Life is hard.

That is why (I apologize now for the shoddy segue) books like Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life are so beautiful. This is a very short and easy book to read. Some may argue that it is in fact, too simple. But I think that faith is simple. Really, all it takes is to give everything to Him. That's pretty simple. But we humans seem to make things very complicated. I am definitely someone who has done this.

Sitting in Mass this morning, I had the honor to listen to a homily from a Deacon who works with the LA Diocese Missions. He has travelled the world, bringing his family to East Africa a couple decades ago, and most recently, visiting Haiti, where a diet staple is literally, a mud cake.

He reminded us that everything we have is a gift. And it can be taken away at any time. So, instead of fretting, we should enjoy our lives. And thank Him for what we have, as little as it is, as small as it is, as short in time as it may be. To not dwell in what should have been, but to be thankful for what we have, or had. And to go on living and giving to others.

These reminders are reflected in Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steve Lumbert's book. The fact that the author was born into the faith but her father was not, gives this book depth that makes it identifiable to many. I love hearing conversion stories, but as a cradle Catholic myself, I have to live with the fact that my faith lies in the mundane; I've never had a major 'ah ha' moment as a Catholic Christian; I've just always had to rely on the little bits and blurps of life and the small signs that God is present. God is in the mustard seed, not in the fireworks at the 4th of July, but as a narcisstic human, I'd like some fireworks now and then. It's nice to have a simple book bring me off my high horse and remind me that faith takes work, patience, and prayer.

As a practicing Catholic, I enjoy reading books from other Catholics' perspectives on how to incorporate faith into daily life. That is another reason why this book works; Catholicism, for all its beatiful pagentry and traditions, leaves many outside of the faith thinking that Catholicism is shrouded in mystery and hard to understand. But, we are ordinary people too, as this book exemplifies.

I would love to attend a bible study, I would love to attend a daily Mass. But the circumstance of my life make it not so. I would love to pull out my Bible and read a scripture or two each night, but I haven't quite acheived this, either. I should really read the daily Mass, or the Magnificat, but I'll be honest, I'm not too great at those either. This book is a quick read, especially if done a chapter a day for some reflection. This was a nice way to spend some time reflecting on my faith, remembering why I think there is a God, and realizing that I must continue to live in the Christian spirit.

It's nice to rely on some one else's rudder once and a while and see if you too, can steer yourself on the right path. I recommend this book to anyone needing a little nudge now and then, a reminder of what we espouse as Christians, whether Catholic or not.

As one of the speakers said to my beautiful friend during the funeral of her beloved husband and father to her children. He leaned on the podium and spoke into the microphone: "Look around you," he said to her as he pointed to the enormous crowd of friends that had gathered to pay their respects and show their support to the family. "You will be okay."

And, that is how faith works. To give it all up and realize that even in the darkest moment, He is with you and supporting you. It's in the faces of those around you. We are all loved.

Have a wonderful Sunday.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Newsflash: Cats Do Not Have Nine Lives!

** disclaimer: this story is sad. Even if you don't like cats.****

I had an AWESOME day the other day. The stars aligned and both family and work life totally rocked.

The fact that my colleague who was editing an article of mine told me "Don't look at my edits today, you're having a great day" (you know who you are) as I left for work, the 2 year old had crazy scary dreams that night and ended up kicking me in my bed for three hours, and the fact that both the dog and the 4 year old missed their respective toilets in the morning, wasn't enough of a sign of impending doom. I was still in a fantastic mood as I scrubbed carpets and matresses with the carpet shampooer wearing my fancy, have-to-be-around-adults-clothes.

On my way to work, going 50 (allowable on this road, trust me) with a slew of cars behind me, a kitty makes like a bullet train and runs right in front of my car. Cat - 0, Suburban - 1.

The only other time I've hit a living creature with the car was in Michigan when one of my uncles was trying to teach me how to drive. I whacked a pheasant. He was mad mostly because I decimated the creature so much so, that there was nothing to save. (aka, roasted pheasant). I come from hunting stock, that's really not as crazy as it sounds.

I hit cat. I know by the sound that there is no way that cat survived. I slow down, however and start to go to the side of the road. This is when I see a car pull over next to the flat cat through my rearview mirror.

I'll be honest. I'm starting to panic now, mostly by the litigious state of our state. People here in So Cal cut you no slack - I am a pariah in the neighborhood for the simple fact that I have large dogs (instead of little yappy ones) and five kids, instead of say, the popular 1.7. We are a large, loud, sometimes messy group. I'm thinking to myself 'this man is totally going to chew me out.' I'm also thinking if I leave now, he'll probably write down my license plate number and will either a) report me to the police b) find out my address somehow and stalk me c) resort to a voodoo doll, and as we can see from the first couple of paragraphs, I do not need any help in the bad vibe department.

What do I do whenever I'm in a panic and don't want to talk to mean strangers? I call hubby. Who is at work dealing with far bigger issues than a dead cat. I'm sure he was more exasperated than he sounded over the phone.

"What do I do?" I whisper. (I'm already whispering, thinking the mean guy can somehow hear me 50 yards away while I'm sitting in a metal box.)

"Well, there's nothing you can do,.."

"(high pitched whine from me) OMGOSH! He's picking up the cat and he's driving over here! Now what do I do???"

Exasperation finally flows through the phone: "I don't know! Act sad! I gotta go,..."

So, I compose myself as the man pulls up next to me on the side of the road and gets out. I roll down my window. He leans in.

"There was nothing you could have done."

Wha? "I'm so sorry,.."

"Really, it's okay."

I'm calming down since obviously this person isn't going to flog me for catslaughter on the way to work.

"Is it,.. dead?"


Then I remember seeing through my rearview mirror that the man got out of his car and picked up the cat. Now I'm starting to worry about my own person safety since in my book, that is not normal behavior.

Uhm,.. did you take the cat?!?"

"No, I just picked it up and moved it to the side of the road."

This is when I notice the man is wearing scrubs with cartoon cats all over them.

"OMGOSH, do you work at a vet clinic?" I ask. At this point I'm feeling a little delirious - this is getting a bit weird.

"No, I work at the local hospital. But my wife and I have run a cat rescue out of house for decades. Well, thanks for stopping" he says as he walks back to his car and drives off.

At this point, I'm wondering what this all means. How bizarre is it, really, that I kill a cat and the witness is a cat rescuer wearing kitties on his shirt?

I'm thinking maybe God (who knows I take everything very personally) is saying "Look, stuff happens. You can't be held responsible for everything. And in case you don't believe me, I'll send this cat rescuer to tell you it wasn't your fault. And if you're still too blond and polish to understand that, I'll include a visual - cat scrubs - so you really get the point. Have a nice day."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.