“Lessons Learned from my Cat Laverne” by Rev. Gary Gray takes a typical experience shared by so many— caring for a pet— and uses it to simply teach deep truths about our relationships with God and with others. Gary and his wife Patty’s love for their cat Laverne certainly shines through this book, and along with it comes the lessons they received from her about unconditional love, peaceful trust and joy even in suffering.
Gary is an ordained deacon in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, connecting the church to the world in counseling ministry and in music ministry. I first met Gary in 2013 when I was appointed as pastor of Skycrest United Methodist Church, where Gary was the minister of music.
In this book, we see Gary’s gift for relating life to Scripture as he shares with us the spiritual lessons he learned from a very special pet.
Gary and Patty didn’t so much choose their cat Laverne, as Laverne chose them. Laverne crawled up into Patty’s arms in the animal shelter one day and didn’t want to be let go. This unique way of resting on a person’s shoulder turned out to be one of Laverne’s many unique, loving traits. Captivated by Laverne’s sweet nature, they adopted her that day, not knowing Laverne had lymphoma.
The Grays sought treatment for Laverne’s condition; but as options diminished, keeping Laverne comfortable at home became their goal. It was during this time that Gary began to reflect on the life lessons found in Scripture that this cat modeled so well.
Each of the ten chapters in this short book offers a lesson, some reflection on Gary’s experiences with Laverne and some teaching and application of biblical principles. The lessons they learned include: “Hang on to those you love, let them know how much you care;” “Refresh with flowing waters;” “Express appreciation for kindness;” and “Suffer with grace.” Any of these chapters separately could be used as a short devotional. The book as a whole can be read quickly for some inspiration, or savored more slowly in order to focus on the Scripture and teaching in each chapter.
Those who know me, including Gary, know that I’m not a cat-lover. But as I read “Lessons Learned from my Cat Laverne,” I found myself appreciating the uniqueness of this sweet animal and the lessons she taught us all.
Well-written, funny, and touching, this book led me to reflect on the lessons God has for all of us if we will take the time to look around.
About the Book’s Author
Gary Gray is an ordained deacon in full connection with the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a licensed mental-health counselor and certified employee-assistance professional. Prior to his career in mental health, Gary directed music for the United Methodist Church and is still active in music ministry. He was led to work as a hospice counselor prior to developing a private practice.
Gary holds a bachelor of music education degree from Stetson University, Deland, Florida; a master's of music in theory and composition from Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas; and a master of arts in counselor education from University of South Florida