June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Evans’ book asks ‘Does God Ever Speak through Cats?’

Being a cat lover and the owner of two feisty felines, Magic and Mystery, and also believing “God works in mysterious ways,” I was intrigued when a review booklist offered “Does God Ever Speak through Cats?” by David Evans. If I think about my two, since they spend a lot of time meditating, I would say the message might be to seek out the sun, be patient as you pray (or prey, in this case) at mouse holes and live in the moment, a somewhat Buddhist-inspired outlook.

That’s skimming the surface, because even at rest it looks like they’re thinking much deeper thoughts, more profound than wondering if there will be tuna for dinner. They may be on a journey stranger than we can possibly imagine, and they condescend to allow us along for the ride.

Evans, a former TV writer (think Emmy award-winning comedy staff writer for the old “Monkees” show) and Presbyterian preacher’s kid who became hostile to organized religion and Christianity in general, writes about two journeys that became one: his renewed relationship with God and his acquaintance with a stray cat.

The author initially described himself as a cat hater, but when he and his wife, Sally, moved into a “little Spanish house on Dorothy Street on the West Side of Los Angeles,” he got caught up in his wife’s campaign to win over the shy gray tiger living in the backyard. When the cat finally allowed the couple to pet her, Evans’ final resistance crumbled when she began to purr. They named her Mehitabel, after one of Evans’ favorite books, “Archie and Mehitabel,” and eventually she won the run of the house.

Not long before the move to Dorothy Street, Evans experienced what he described as a religious conversion. At his wife’s urging, he attended an Easter service with her: “As I was sitting in the pew some words came into my mind and my whole being. I didn’t actually ‘hear’ the words with my ears; I experienced them. The words were these: ‘You belong here. Work it out.’ ”

Evans began to puzzle his way through “questions of curiosity … What is God? Who is Jesus? … Is the Bible really true? …What am I supposed to do now?” As he read the Bible, he “realized my whole relationship with Mehitabel was like a kind of parable. I had an enemy: cats. But, (by a fluke, really), instead of continuing to hate that enemy I reached out in love toward it, and I received tremendous joy and blessings as a result. Blessings I couldn’t even have imagined were possible.”

He expounded on the “Mehitabel as a parable” aspect throughout “Does God Ever Speak through Cats?”, writing with humor, love and warmth.

Using examples from both Old and New Testaments, he talks about turning his life over to God, his initial reaction of fear and how faith helps people overcome that fear.

Evans also explores the gift of laughter and humor and how it can nourish Christian life.

The book, divided into two parts, has a more serious tone in the second half, as Evans continues his odyssey in faith and learning to use his talents and gifts in ministry to others. It circles back to Mehitabel and other cats that entered and changed the Evanses’ lives, acting as small, furry instruments of God, and faith is the underlying theme.

“God moves in our lives,” Evans wrote, “and it’s never the way we expect him to. He will always surprise us.”