Thursday, July 18, 2013


   I've been thinking about confidence lately. I have seen tiny jobs seem gigantic for want of confidence. I have experienced the pain of losing confidence and floundering where I should have been succeeding, or at least should have been just fine. Often when I feel underwater, I realize that what is missing is not resources, not help, not even strength, but confidence.
   We have a new dog, which gives me empathy for new parents- it's amazing how adding a life, even that of an old, mellow dog, tinges every new decision. The first night with our dog we fairly panicked, ordered an expensive baby gate, and worried that our cats would never forgive us or feel safe in their own homes. Soon, we took her up to my sisters' house and the difference in confidence was palpable. My sister exudes a calmness with dogs that comes from knowing she'll be able to handle whatever comes up. It reminded me to snap out of my un-confidence and relax.
   On a white water rafting trip with my youth group many years ago, I had two lovely high school girls in my car on the long ride home. They were marveling about our rafting guide, who was probably only a year or two older than they were at the time. They said "I could never be that confident" but I reminded them that one was a singer of solos, and the other accompanied her school choir on piano in concerts- I said "I bet if you put that girl in front of a crowd and asked her to sing, she'd freak out!"
   Confidence is about knowing you have what it takes to do what is needed. In ministry, my confidence came (and then came back) from knowing that God had chosen me to take this road, had moved me in new directions I never could have imagined, had gifted me specifically to do what other people could never do. I remind myself that God has anointed me for the work I'm doing (an image we don't talk about much in the Catholic Church). When I remember that, it feels better than thinking I have to invent some gift in the face of troubles- I just have to rely on what's been given me.
   Wisdom is earned, but confidence... confidence comes from taking steps, trusting, leaping and surviving.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Which Cat Am I (this week)?

I write a tiny (in size) column for our parish bulletin every week. Sometimes it connects with the readings of the week in a faith formation kind of way, sometimes it's meant to get people thinking about evangelization and sometimes it is meant to ready people for the future (in light of the Pastoral Planning process here). This past week, someone mentioned that she was going to cut out my column and put it on her refrigerator, which I took as the utmost compliment. She said it made her wonder which cat she was... so, for your fridge (I expect to see it next time I visit...) here's that column:

We have two young cats who are very different from each other. You can tell as soon as you meet them that they have different personalities (felinalities?). One of them is happy and content, pleased to lay around, chase a flashlight beam in the evenings, and fill his belly with food. He sits in the windowsills and placidly observes the world.
The other cat, though, has a heart for adventure- she wants to get out in the world and see it all! We are constantly on guard when coming in or going out the door as she will, Houdini-like, slip by in a bold escape attempt. Usually we stop her, but sometimes she's just too fast and wily. When she does get out, she looks around and then comes back to the door with a  pathetic mew to be let back in.
The cats remind me of my own relationship with God - a God who shows me the limits and boundaries for how I should live my life, who has expectations of me, who wants me to live within the plan God has set for me. I can relate to how God might feel, watching my determination to live life according to my own rules, even though God’s intentions for me are (as my parents used to say) for my own good.
I see now that there's a freedom to living within God's intention for us - we don't have to be tempted by the "outside world" and can be content, happy, and free when we stay in God's house.