CHURCH CORNER: Keeping tabs on humans and our foibles must be like herding cats

By Dan Oliva

What do you remember about Super Bowl XXXIV, played On Jan. 30, 2000? Anything come to mind? Do you remember Faith Hill singing the national anthem? Phil Collins and Enrique Iglesias rocking the halftime show? You might actually remember “The Tackle,” when the Rams stopped the Titans on the 1-yard line as time expired – depending on who you were cheering for.

Here’s what I remember from that game: “Anybody can herd cattle. Holding together 10,000 half-wild shorthairs – well, that’s another thing altogether.”

Does that ring a bell? One of the greatest Super Bowl commercials of all time (at least in my opinion): EDS’ “Herding Cats” commercial. The cowboy cat herders talk to the camera about the joys and struggles of their job. We see them hauling cats from tree branches, guiding them across rivers, laying injured kitties across their saddles and sharing the lint roller around the campfire. And near the end, as the music builds to a crescendo, we hear: “You see the movies, you hear the stories…I’m living the dream.”

During the past several months, life has brought that commercial to my mind in all kinds of ways. When our foster son turned 2 this summer, he single-handedly transformed into a herd of cats. I still don’t know how he does it – he’s just one little boy – but there are days when I feel like those cat wranglers look.

Last month, I helped out in our other son’s kindergarten class. For an hour. One hour. I cut out coupons, I helped kids draw pictures, I worked with them on their spelling. It almost did me in. The saddest part: half the class was at home with the flu. It still wore me out – and it brought that commercial to mind again. All of these students, full of energy and excitement – where’s a lint roller when you need it? And that was just one hour.

Herding cats – trying to control the chaos, attempting to keep things in order and moving in the right direction. Often it is not as easy as it looks. You would think that churches excel at cat herding, right? Churches seem to be about order (especially Presbyterian churches), rules and structure. But you are forgetting something – churches are made up of people just like you and me.

This weekend, several churches in town are joining together for “Faith in Action Sunday” – instead of worshiping in our sanctuaries, we are going out into the community and worshiping through serving others. How can I describe what it has been like to get that many churches to communicate and get on the same page? What phrase best fits the process of getting a bunch of Christians – a bunch of pastors! – to work together on something new and innovative? How about…herding cats? Yep, that about sums it up.

But we are putting our faith into action and it’s going to be a great day. And most encouraging to me is knowing that God must often look at his people running in circles, or wandering away and back again, or getting themselves into all kinds of messes – but instead of giving up on us, he, like the cat wranglers, patiently and gently brings the herd safely home.