Friday, June 29, 2007

Mile Marker One: New Orleans

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

I'd always loved that song, especially after reading several novels in high school set in New Orleans. Those books stirred in me a desire for a city I'd never visited. I longed to stroll through the garden district under the weight of the humid air and the perfume of the flower rich gardens, to hear the menagerie of music pouring from the doors of the bars in the French Quarter, and to see the mighty Mississippi.

Twenty years after that seed of desire was planted, I found myself, part of a group of fourteen people I really didn't know, heading for the city I've always wanted to see. Only now that city, almost two years after Katrina, needed me. This unlikely band in which God placed me included Glen. In the late eighties, Glen made his way into New Orleans to share the gospel with people of poverty-stricken Central City about the same time some shady novels about vampires and witches (books I pray my kids never pick up) placed New Orleans in my heart. Urban Impact and Castlerock Community Church ( had grown out of the vision God place before Glen. It was this ministry that would host our week in NO.

I hate being away from Emily and the kids. In our twelve and half years of marriage, I can count the times I headed off somewhere without her on one hand. Stepping outside my comfort zone, I followed His nudging and went.

NO is not the town out of those novels, or Deja Vu. But, then again, it is. If some therapist asked NO to lay down on the couch, an hour later the words "manic-depressive" would be written in huge letter across their notes. NO is a city of extremes. As you drive through the streets of Central City, you become worn yourself. The homes and yards are rundown and dilapidated. And it was this way long before Katrina. Then, two blocks over, huge oaks line St. Charles Avenue, and behind the large oaks, even larger homes. In seconds, the overwhelming poverty you'd just witnessed is washed away with the subtly ornate homes and the beauty of their yards. The beauty and the size of the homes continue to swell until you come up on Loyola and it's beautiful campus. The wealth of the area is not gaudy, but it is clearly evident.
Story after story continues to praise the work of the church in NO. It is the church feeding the poor, providing housing for the homeless, but most importantly bringing hope to NO through sharing and living the gospel. God is at work in New Orleans. Then, a couple miles down from the Urban Imapct ministry house, is Bourbon Street. I couldn't but enjoy the music pouring out of the doors of the bars. In fact I longed to stop and listen, but strip clubs, half naked women, the smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and vomit assaulted most of folks in the group and we walked faster, hearing even less music than before. There at the intersection of Bourbon and Canal, a group of kids, all black (if your white, you're in the minority in NO) playing horns. Their music inspiring many of the locals to dance and sway. Overwhelmed my group pressed on, wanting only to return to the ministry house and cleanse their senses of the sin they'd wandered through.

Generational Poverty. Vast Wealth. The gospel-driven church. Total depravity. New Orleans knows extremes. The only thing caught in the middle are the people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If a girl can do it . . .

Like most men, I enjoy a new toy. Watching Emily create and organize her blog fascinated me. What features can I add?! What are the bells and whistles?! I highly doubt I will compete with her diligence to post daily. Finding the time probably won't be the issue, but to jot down enough semi-coherent, or even mildly intelligent, thoughts that would hold a person's interest will be the challenge.

One thing is certain, this will be a long ride, so sit back, get comfortable, maybe even roll down the window and let the wind blow your hair around. We're going on a road trip.

Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches-
Feed me with the food allotted for me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the Lord?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9 (NKJV)