Is God Real or Pretend?

I know what I believe: a very emphatic, loud, resounding YES MA’AM!  I mean, if you read this post , you’ll understand that it’s by His very Grace that I’m alive. In addition, I believe He is a loving God, who through the Christian principles and teachings I’ve chosen to follow from The Bible, compels us to be compassionate, tolerant, non-judgmental and forgiving. And also that, as Glennon Doyle Melton, of Momastery  puts it…“God is forever tries.” In other words, no matter how many times we sin, or how bad the sins are…if you ask Him to come into your life and forgive you….He does. No questions asked.

At the same time, I respect what you believe. Even though your answer to this question may be vastly different from mine. That’s perfectly fine with me, because differences are what make our world a unique place to live. I’ve never been one to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don’t plan on starting now, on the 42nd anniversary of my birth (yes, today is my birthday). The various religions of the world and their individual teachings and guidelines have always fascinated me. I’ve even sought classes on the History of Religions, only to enroll and find out it was not going to supply me with the knowledge I was seeking, so I dropped out. Oh well. I suppose as an eternal student of life, I’ll just have to keep looking. But anyway, enough about that.

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The reason for my post today is simple. I was asked by TLC Book Tours to review a book entitled “Is God Real or Pretend”, by Jennifer Horsman.

Is God Real or Pretend? is the story of young Franklin’s engaging and enlightening journey to answer this age-old question. Franklin’s grandmother, Dr. Wendy Knowles, a professor of astronomy, first provides Franklin with the basic scientific means of determining what is real and what is not and how science distinguishes questions it can answer and those it cannot. Franklin’s mission of discovery continues as he meets a kindly professor of Greek mythology who offers a historical-cultural prospective on the question. Here Franklin meets the Greek Gods and their timeless myths.

Once armed with these new ideas, Franklin meets with representatives of the world’s five major religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. These knowledgeable teachers from the great religions charm and delight as they shine positive lights on their religion. Franklin asks probing questions, while learning to appreciate and admire the diversity and beauty of these religious beliefs and traditions. Ultimately, Franklin’s dynamic school report on the immensity and magnificence of the universe becomes the backdrop for thinking critically about religion and questions about God.

This book is designed for anyone and everyone, young and old, religious or not, who wants to know more about these five great religions. It’s the most unforgettable and exciting journey, one every thoughtful child (and the curious adults in their life) will enjoy.

REVIEW

Being the mother of The Beans –Sugar, Butter, and Sweet Pea– and having just concluded a glorious holiday season during which they were all three baptized in a beautiful ceremony, our family lit the last candle of Advent–the Christ Candle — at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and then witnessing them open the gifts Santa brought them on Christmas Day…..my biggest issue with this book is that on page 2 it clearly states “SANTA CLAUS IS NOT REAL.”  WTF? Seriously. For a book that is geared towards a young audience, that’s just…well…wrong in my honest opinion. And to think, I almost read it to my youngest two children, who still whole-heartedly believe in the magic of Santa. Talk about dodging a bullet inevitably designed to break a tiny heart! Now, I realize not everyone allows their children to believe this myth based on the assumption that it’s ‘lying’ to them. And hey…to each his own. But I, for one, plan to allow mine to enjoy the magic for as long as they choose to. They grow up fast enough. Besides, I’ve witnessed Christmas miracles in my life that could only be explained by belief in both God and Santa Claus. So there.

All that being said, the book does an effective job of explaining the 5 major religions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It talks about each one separately, outlines the major rules or principles its followers abide by and explains the differences between the faiths. At the same time, the author manages to highlight how the various religions are similar in their teachings on an elemental level, which I very much enjoyed. In addition, the book addresses the existence of God from a scientific perspective, discusses the history of Greek Gods, or polytheistic belief, and talks about Agnostics, or those who are unsure whether God exists at all. The language is easy to understand, and it flows well, which is definitely a plus for a book about religion. All in all, an interesting read full of useful information.

In the end, Franklin, the curious child at the center of this story, says  “I learned that religions all have different ideas of God, but that God still remains mysterious,” and, “All religions try to help people be better.”  Both valuable points, I believe. However, ultimately he decides he likes “the scientific way of knowing best.” For me, this is not the conclusion I would prefer my children to settle upon, but that’s likely because I feel the presence of God in my life, have a strong faith and want my daughters to grow up with the same. Because often, at the end of a particularly challenging period in one’s life….hope, belief and faith may just be all you have to cling to.

Think I’ll tuck this book away from the eyes of The Beans until they begin asking questions. For now, they love Jesus with all their hearts, and believe God is very real….which is fine by me!

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

Jennifer Horsman is the author of many popular books for both young readers and adults. In addition to a B.A. from UC Irvine in Social Ecology (don’t ask; no one knows what it means), she has spent a lifetime reading about religion, philosophy, history and science.

You can find her books at www.JenniferHorsman.com, or by clicking on her picture below.

Author-JHorsman-photo-taken-by-Ken-Mooty-199x300

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I’m officially 20 days late….

….announcing that I’m a PUBLISHED AUTHOR folks.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

What? You thought I was late? As in preggo? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.NO. That ship has officially  docked sunk. Unless God suddenly decides he needs another earthly being to bear offspring. And then I will still be on my knees praying he doesn’t like petite women, brunettes, moms who blog and swear, women who wear cowboy boots or females named Nancy. You get the point.

Anyway, what I’m actually talking about is my contribution to the ridiculously funny collection of stories, titled Parenting Gag Reel: Hilarious Writes and Wrongs, Take 26  published by Life Well Blogged. The book was released on Amazon.com on April 2nd, which was the official day I became a contributing author to an E-book, hence the 20 days late reference. In case you’ve lost your calendar wits…today is April 22nd 🙂 But…the fantastic duo of Abbey Fatica and  Monica Merrill-Mylet took it one step further…and the book is now available in PAPERBACK at CreateSpace  (hint, hint…I can autograph those puppies for ya!)  So, go there now and buy one. I’m begging. Pretty please…with some homemade, iron-skillet baked, cornbread on top? We’ll work out the logistics of cornbread delivery & autographing later. Promise.  

Oh, and the BEST part is.…a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Parenting Gag Reel will benefit Autism Speaks, an amazing charity helping children and families dealing with autism everyday. And if there is one thing y’all know about me…I am all about helping others. It is one of my callings in life, I believe. Besides making people laugh, and feel better about their own parenting skills by injecting humor into the obvious, epic failures in my repertoire.

Last but not least….One of the other contributors, the wonderful Kristi from  www.findingninee.com reached out to the rest of us contributors with a very personal plea in hopes for the successful sale of the book. I would like to pass that along now:

It’s so exciting to see people talking about this hilarious book, isn’t it?  Abbey has been kind enough to offer to donate a portion of the proceeds of each book sold to a fundraiser that we’re doing for my son’s Preschool Autism Class.  Other parents and I have been searching for ways to help my son and his classmates.  Through our research, we’ve learned that iPads significantly help children on the autism spectrum learn how to learn and even communicate.  

We’re holding a multi-family garage sale at the end of April and all proceeds will go toward the purchase of an iPad (or, if we get enough, 2 iPads as there are 2 PAC classrooms).  With Abbey’s help, and yours, maybe we’ll be able to get a little closer to our goal.  In order to get credit for the sale, people will have to purchase the book through the following link or through my site: 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C4ZVBOI/?tag=findnine-20.

Thank you so much!

So my desire for you to buy the book because I’m a contributor, and there’s a really funny story about Sweet Pea peeing in public in there, actually pales in comparison to my wish that you buy it to help Kristi’s precious son. At this point, I’m just honored to have been chosen as a contributing author!
BTW…I’m featured in Chapter….well, I guess you’ll
just have to buy it I guess, won’t you? 
Once you do, please share the news with friends via FB and Twitter, read/rate reviews —4 or 5 stars are preferred, but don’t lie–
and leave one of your own about what you thought on Amazon!
Oh…and FYI–glowing reviews help boost sales if you were wondering..lol.
BUY ME! BUY ME!

BUY ME! BUY ME!

***Or, you could always hop over to my Facebook page“Like” it (if you haven’t already) and leave a comment THERE with the name of the Bean who is featured in the essay published in the book. You see, I have 5 copies of the Ebook to GIVE AWAY, and I’d love for you to enter the contest. Winner will be chosen at random, and notified via email, after the contest closes on April 30th***

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Meeting my Monkee Mama :-)

I met my Monkee Mama, Glennon Melton

I met my Monkee Mama, Glennon Melton

Friday, April 12, 2013. The Book Passage; Corte Madera, California.

A day I will never forget, and the journey  to get there all started over a year ago when I stumbled upon… a blog.  And not just ANY BLOG….THE blog.

Momastery.com  

Several new friendships have sprung out of this blog as well. One in particular, which likely should have happened long ago, considering our children were in school together for several years, and still remain good friends. Nonetheless, it took me moving across the city, and sharing this blog with Stacey via Facebook, a year later, which ignited a friendship I have a feeling is part of a much larger picture being revealed to us bit by bit.  As the saying goes, “everything happens for a reason” –when it happens. Or something like that, right? Anyway, it was Stacey who was my partner in crime on the pilgrimage to meet the Divine Monkee Mama, Glennon.

Thanks to Stacey’s sweet hubby, who let us pilfer points from his Southwest Rapid Rewards account, we were able to fly up there for the super special book signing, thus saving us hours in the car and insuring that we arrived 7 hours early...lol.  By now, I’m sure most of you are aware, I had already received a copy of the book, read it twice, let Spongebob throw up on it, and posted a review here.  So the anticipation-anxiety-excitement of this meet n’ greet   Monkee Love Fest, for me, may have been equal to that a devout Catholic would feel going to meet The Pope. Or perhaps like Julia Roberts felt while waiting in the hotel bar, all dressed up in that gorgeous red dress, anticipating the arrival of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Probably more like the Pope thing though, to be honest.

As I said, we arrived a teensy bit early, so there was plenty of time for a bit of fumbling and bumbling to ensue. First of all, we rented a Prius to make the trek from Oakland to Corte Madera. I drive one on a daily basis, so naturally, I opted to let Stacey take the wheel and enjoy the thrill while I navigated. After I showed her how to turn it on, and assured her the engine was…in fact…running, since the dang things are so quiet, off we drove…into the sunshine…following the prompts provided via iMaps, compliments of Apple. The first glitch came as we were leaving the airport in search of Hegenberger Road, which was supposed to lead us to the actual road we needed to take in order to get onto the freeway. We eventually stumbled upon it, but not because of the great directions coming from my iPhone, or the signs at the airport, which pointed in the direction of a dirt lot that appeared to be under construction. Suffice to say….We. Just. Found. It.

Off, off, and away we drove….chattering all the way! Across a bridge….

not the Golden Gate

not the Golden Gate

Yeah…this is the only photo I managed to snap from the car, because it was hard to follow directions on my phone AND take pictures at the same time. Or I may have been talking too much. It happens. Admittedly though, I mostly suck at photo documentation of things because I’m just too busy living in the moment to actually worry about capturing it on film. Unless prompted. Therefore, you can thank Stacey for this photo.

After about 40 minutes, we pulled up to the most inviting, pleasant looking shopping enclave I’ve ever seen. And lo and behold….The Book Passage was the hub of it! There was also a yoga studio, a frame shop, a quaint little restaurant, a bakery, a nail salon, and a bunch of other small stores sprinkled about. Of course, we made a beeline for the mecca of our pilgrimage, and as soon as we walked in, were greeted with this:

We.Made.It.

We.Made.It.

I may or may not have shouted ‘Hallelujah’ upon walking in and seeing this 🙂

After milling around in a bit of a trance, perhaps caused by hunger, but more likely from the sheer anticipation of what would happen in a few hours…we sat down and had some lunch. At the cafe….in the bookstore. Then, upon further examination, we figured out that our hotel was within walking distance. Unbeknownst to me…I’d booked our accommodations right next door to the very place we would meet our Monkee Mama, Glennon, 5 hours later. Sometimes, I do live a bit of a charmed life….totally by accident though.

As we checked into the hotel, I noticed the front desk attendant’s name was Tom Collins, which took me back to my bartending days, and made me giggle. In case you don’t know your booze…that is the name of a drink. Not a very good one, in my opinion, but still. We were super excited when he offered us an upgraded room at a mere $10 more than the quoted price of the room I booked, and we happily accepted. It would soon become clear WHY….it was only $10 more. While very charming, the hotel is currently undergoing a MAJOR renovation, and the center of their construction universe seemed to be directly above our room. The noise convinced me they must be building a sister hotel in China, and had decided to tunnel from that one to begin the process of connecting the two. All I can say is that Mister-Named-After-A-Sour-Drink, is lucky I had previously made up my mind that nothing was going to tarnish this overnight getaway to meet my blogging/writer/girl-crush idol. Or else my sassy Southern tongue would have pulled him into a come to Jesus meetin’ and that room would have been comped before he knew what hit him!

Now, with a few hours still left to kill, we decided to go check out Mill Valley…an adorable little town about 10 minutes or so away. Stacey was familiar with it, and The Man suggested I visit there while in the area, so it was a done deal. I pulled on some jeans and a tee, shoved my feet into my cowboy boots, topped off the look with a Bama hat and some gypsy jewels, and we set out on the adventure. And holy crap…that place is like my nirvana! Sort of a treehouse kind of community, oozing with culture, smelling like nature and emanating a hippie vibe. We wandered around a bit, and I snapped this photo (my 3rd one of the trip):

flowershopinMV

very unique

I realize it doesn’t look like much, but it’s an outdoor floral shop housed above a running stream. I’ve never seen anywhere else like it, so once I win the lottery and move to Mill Valley, I’m going to buy it. Just wait and see.

Immediately after we left here, we wandered into a wine store and perused the racks for a bottle of pinot noir we decided we would split in celebration, following the signing that evening. As we were chatting, both of us admitted to choosing wine by the aesthetics of the label, since neither has enough knowledge about the stuff to be a wine snob. If the label is pretty, and it’s affordable…that usually works. I also became mesmerized by the positively gorgeous and unique bottles of tequila on display in the store, and it dawned on me I couldn’t buy one to bring home, and the irony was not lost on me. (more on that later) We chose a bottle of pinot from the Mary Elke winery, because it had the word “Barter” on the label, and I personally think the world would be way easier if we ditched currency and returned to the barter system. Too bad the wine shop owner didn’t agree, and made us pay for it. Oh well…a girl can dream, I suppose.

The center of Mill Valley is a coffee shop and bookstore that serves wine (is this becoming a theme?), so we decided to rest our feet, take in the scenery and enjoy a glass of vino while listening to a local musician play a dulcimer in the adjacent courtyard. It turned out to be the only glass either of us had the entire trip. Yes…that’s right, we never opened the bottle we bought. We didn’t need to, as we were buzzed enough from the Monkee energy at the signing. I am happy to say that Mary Elke is waiting patiently at Stacey’s house for another GNO–and hopefully, Audra will join us! But seriously…how appropriately feminine (and Southern) is the name of that vintage? I can’t wait!

Alright, I’m gonna cut right to the chase here….fast forwarding through the threat of traffic getting back to the Monkee Mecca, and just say we made it in time to plant our fannies in a couple of chairs not so close that we could hit Glennon with spitballs, but not so far away as to require binoculars. Perfect placement, in other words 🙂 The energy in the room was infectious. Several mamas came with their precious littles, which made me miss mine. Okay. That’s a lie. They were in capable hands, and I needed a vacay. But I did THINK about them.

Glennon came onto the stage, and I swear she was glowing. It’s possible it could have been the lighting, but I sincerely doubt it. She just radiates positive light. She talked for a bit, then read an essay titled “Officer Superhero” from her book, which of course made everyone roar with laughter and shake their heads with a ‘been there, done that’ nod. Me, times 3, in fact. After that, she took questions, and then it was time to line up for AUTOGRAPHS.

And this, my friends, is where it gets interesting….

 

As I mentioned previously, I was wearing a Bama hat. It’s part of my Warrior armor. As if this surprises any of you? You are also aware that I’m a talker…so my Southern accent was on full display, like a badge of honor, as I happily chatted up the lady in front of us. At some point, and I’m not sure what the prompt was…one of the ladies in line behind us, says to me “Is that an Alabama hat?”, despite the fact that it was Crimson and CLEARLY said Alabama on it. I politely answered, “Yes”, and she asked if I was from there, and had I attended UA. Again, I uttered a pride-filled “Yes.”  Then she said, “I’m from Mobile, and I went to Auburn.”  For a moment, there was a silent exchange of looks-up and down-from both of us to the other, and of course the unspoken thought, no doubt, running through both our minds of “Well, damn. Now I can’t be your friend.” Once that moment passed, and we explained to the women we were there with, Stacey and Kris, respectively, about the bitter rivalry between the two universities, it was clear we would in fact be friends. After all, there we were, standing in line amongst about 100 other women, waiting to meet the author of a blog and book, that claims “LOVE WINS” as it’s primary mantra. A devout Bama fan and a diehard Auburn fan, randomly found each other amongst the Monkees. Again, the irony of this situation was not lost on me. I only wish she’d been wearing some blue and orange AU garb to make the perfect photo! We laughed about how hilarious it is that neither university has a battle cry that even remotely matches their mascot –an elephant named Al who screams “Roll Tide Roll”, and a Tiger named Aubie who cries “War Eagle”WHAT. THE. EFF.?? We swapped some great stories, the time passed quickly, and we of course solidified the encounter by becoming FB friends. Thanks Bre…I look forward to football season this year….lol 🙂

Alright, so we finally made it to the front of the line….hearts racing…and Stacey steps up to the table to greet Glennon. Not sure what the exchange was, but Glennon offered each of us a Twizzler as she came around to hug us, and pose for this photo:

Yes...those are Twizzlers.

Yes…those are Twizzlers.

So then it was my turn, and Glennon sat back down as I stepped up to have my books….yes, I had 2…signed. She immediately commented on the fact that I had ‘an original’ copy, and before I could even explain why (because I’d done the review) she said “NANCY!” and my day year was made. My blogging mentor knew my freaking name! Yep…stick a fork in me people, because I’m done! I could have drawn my last breath right there, and landed on the floor with a thud and a smile on my face. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it could have. She thanked me for writing such a beautiful review, and continuing to show up for her and the Monkees. Then she came around to hug me, and a very magical thing happened. She whispered in my ear a phrase I will never forget, that let me know, beyond a shadow of doubt that not only did she know my name….she also knew my story. Because listening is one of her gifts and talents. You see, I, just like so many other people, have written emails to her, over the course of the last year….pouring out my thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, etc….during times of struggle, just to get the heavies off my heart and out there into the universe. Never in a million years did I expect a response. But this is the cherished, whispered answer I got:

Evidence to the contrary…All is well.

 

And with that, I’m going to wrap this up. Because honestly, after that moment, I really just floated on a cloud for the remainder of the evening and the next day. Although, it wasn’t completely uneventful. We visited a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I spotted a landmark (The Watermelon Slice?) I was certain had to be a hunger induced mirage while on the shuttle from Prius return to  terminal, where I ran barefoot through the Oakland Airport because, of course….we almost missed our flight. Never a dull moment!

Here’s to the next Monkee pilgrimage!

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And the winner is……

If you’ve followed all the magical madness happening here at A Calibama State of Mind, chances are you’ve read my last blog post. You know, the one where I reviewed the much-anticipated book, “Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed” by Glennon Doyle Melton. If you didn’t read it, I urge you to, and if you did….and followed the instructions to qualify for the giveaway….then you’ll want to pay close attention to THIS POST because there is an important announcement at the end 🙂

I had exactly 7 entries.

And in the spirit of one of the Momastery mantras…LOVE WINS….I decided the only fair way to choose the winner would be by placing all the names in a container and having Sugar Bean draw a random one from the bunch. Just so happened, we had the MOST PERFECT of containers for the drawing:

Sugar Bean's Valentine Box from preschool

Sugar Bean’s Valentine Box from preschool

Of course there is a story behind it. With me…there is always a story. Y’all know that. When Sugar Bean was in preschool, she needed something to put her Valentines in, and only having one child then, I had lots of time for crafty stuff, like making Valentine boxes. This started off as a plain, brown cardboard heart box from Pearl Arts & Crafts, I believe. You know, a random item that served a seasonal purpose. Lots of heart stickers, puffy paint (I wrote her name on the other side), about a pint of sparkle Modge Podge and a few pieces of hemp string later….it became what is now one of her most prized possessions. She has used it for her Valentine’s every year. Seriously. That makes it 10 years old, because she was 3 when I carefully put it together. And because she has taken such amazing care of it….it’s in pristine condition. 

So, what better place to choose the winner of this book, I ask you…than straight from a treasured heart?

Here we go…..

The names are in!!

The names are in!!

After this, she shook the box a lot, to make sure and mix them up. I took a photo of that, but it just looked like she was having a seizure, so I left it out of the post. LOL.

Next, she reached in and chose a name, modeling as she went along, like one of the girls on The Price Is Right. What a ham!!

Choosing a winner

Choosing a winner

So without further adieu…..the lucky winner is:

CONGRATS!!!!

CONGRATS!!!!

 

TAWNI SMITH

You are now the lucky owner of a copy of a book that I guarantee you will not be able to put down, and will read over and over!! I will contact you shortly, via email, so I can pass along your shipping information to TLC Book Tours, and you can receive your copy ASAP. Congrats, and thanks for participating!!!

 

 What an honor it was to be part of this book tour. I can’t thank those who made it possible nearly enough. Seriously. 

 

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