In an unprecedented event, I am writing two blogs here, today! What??? Let me explain. Some months ago (long enough that I’m sure that they are convinced that I completely forgot about them) I received an email invitation to review a devotional book. I know…it surprised me, too. But they had stumbled across my devotional blog, and offered me a pdf copy of the book if I would post a review and send them the link for it after I was done. At which point I said, “Free book? Are you kidding? Sure!!” Well, I have finally finished the book. It’s not that it was long…it just took me a while to find the time to read it, as I had to read it totally from my computer (I tried installing it on my Sony Reader, but the format just didn’t work right). So here it is.
The book is called Why God Matters: How To Recognize Him In Daily Life, by Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steve Lumbert. Karina is Steve’s daughter. It is published by Tribute Books.
(I just found the emails that were exchanged with them, and they were from December. Oh, dear…)
Anyway, about the book. Why God Matters is a delightful little book. (I hope they are not offended by my use of the word “delightful,” but it’s a good thing.) It contains 14 short chapters and an epilogue. The chapters alternate between Karina and Steve. I found this to be unique and refreshing. The chapters are not really related to each other, as each one contains a story from the life of the author who wrote that chapter; a story which illustrates how God became more real to them in their lives. They are also brief enough that this book could very easily be used as a daily devotional book.
Now. Let me say this. The first thing I noticed about the book is that the authors are Catholic. I am not Catholic. That concerned me right at first, but my concern quickly evaporated as I read the book. The stories, while at times containing details about the Catholic Church with which I am unfamiliar, gave such honest portrayals from the authors lives that any differences between us based on religious convictions became minuscule. I grew to love these two people as I read their accounts.
Right off the bat, the book insists that a person’s life must change. Discipleship is a life-long process, they declare, that does not and cannot happen instantaneously. It is an “ongoing developmental journey.” I agree 100%.
“Western cultures have often developed a rather compartmentalized approach to religion: religious practice is often simply ‘what we do on Sunday,’ while the rest of the week–and the rest of our lives–often remains untouched and unaffected by our Sunday faith.” I also agree with this statement. I have often spoken in my blog about the difficulty I have with trying to compartmentalize our lives. They make a very important statement that says that the everyday life of the Christian can be the most effective form of evangelism.
In the introduction, Karina says that she went to church to love God. What a refreshing perspective that is! I wonder how many different answers we would get if we asked a group of people, “Why do you go to church?” I wonder if any of them would give that response? “May you breath in Christ’s breath,” she later says. I also love that statement.
Through the rest of the chapters, there are a number of great statements that I wholeheartedly agree with. There are, from time to times, things that I don’t agree with, but that’s going to happen even when I read John Piper and John MacArthur, two of my favorite Christian authors. I’m never going to agree 100% with anybody! Karina speaks of learning charity from her grandparents. She writes about the senselessness of “being a martyr” over things that don’t matter and learning to let things go. She speaks of sending a flower to someone in the hospital then, years later, receiving an unexpected bouquet when she was feeling down. Sometimes we need a sign that God is thinking of us. She writes about being inspired, by a woman who comes to Mass barefooted, to go visit her dying grandmother. Sometimes painful memories cloud our judgment. And then, in my favorite chapter of hers, she speaks of breaking down spiritual growth into small steps. We can’t gain growth all at once. The “Life Lesson” (there is one after every chapter) for that chapter says, “Sometimes, great faith is not achieved at once, but in small steps over time.” I would go even farther to say that great faith is NEVER achieved at once! One of the steps listed as a suggestion is this: “Before you begin a project, take a deep breath, still yourself, and say, ‘God in this, as in all things, lead me to thy will.’” Very good advice! She writes in another chapter about not wanting a “personal” relationship with God. That made me raise my eyebrows! But as she explained, I understood. We have quirks in our “personal relationships” that we really would not want to experience in our relationship with God. To make a long story short, she says that the relationship we have with God is “more than personal.”
A side note: Also in this chapter, Karina writes this: “Can you imagine sitting with the Holy Spirit over a couple of Cokes and bemoaning the cancellation of Firefly, or swapping jokes?” May I say at this point that Karina gained an eternal friend with that statement!! If you don’t understand, I can’t explain it.
Finally, Karina writes of a painful, desperate fear that her son will not come to faith. He has decided he doesn’t believe. But in the end, she has faith that he will find his way, just as his father and grandfather did.
Okay…now to Steve’s portion of the book. In his first chapter, he says this: “It’s not enough to observe our faith. God must be an active part of our lives. When we practice our faith and persevere in prayer, he will respond and fill our hearts.” How very true. We also need the faith of others to support us in our own faith. In another chapter, he writes about spending a day in jail as a young person, accused of something he did not do. But, because of reputation, he was not believed. Even the most “harmless” sin can lead down a dark path. He speaks of how God hears “even the most meager prayers.” There are times when we cannot control what is happening. Those are the most important times to call on God. Steve writes of a very close and dangerous situation with a routine traffic stop. There are things that happen in our lives that are routinely chalked up to “luck.” Psalm 91:9-12 is quoted: Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place– the Most High, who is my refuge–no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. He firmly believes that a guardian angel protected him. I believe so, too. Then he speaks of being told over and over that he should be a deacon and finally giving in and applying. “Sometimes, God asks us to do amazing things—things we don’t feel we can do.” But God knows us better than we do, and he knows how he has equipped us. He writes of a humorous story in which too much incense was used for a Mass, resulting in a cloud of smoke that choked him up. He uses this to speak of balance in our lives and how we must take our ministries into our family lives and our work lives, once again, stressing the importance of the fact that we CANNOT compartmentalize our lives! We must also resist the temptation to pile on too much work…just as the incense was piled too high. Finally, he writes of a patient friend, waiting for him at an airport as his flight experienced multiple delays. He compares this to God, who will wait patiently as we find our way to him.
In the epilogue, Steve and Karina speak of how the have learned more about each other as they have written this book, and then encourage others to share stories such as these with their families. Indeed, I believe that this is how families grow in faith, by sharing stories with each other from their lives.
As I said earlier, this was a “delightful” book. But it truly goes deeper than that. It is enlightening. In Why God Matters, we get some true life stories that illustrate how God draws us closer to him; how he works in our lives; and how he uses us in ministry.
I would recommend this book to all believers, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as any who might be on the fence. It is real. It is honest. Steve and Karina, thank you for sharing your lives with me.