Mardi Gras parades are rolling in our city. Judging by the televised portions, not many people are lining the streets to grab for beads, but it’s an emotional thing for the city. Front page of Sunday’s Times-Picayunes addresses the two ways Mardi Gras is viewed. The outside world sees decadence and debauchery, beads and breasts, Bourbon Street and booze. To most locals, Mardi Gras is about kids catching throws, masking with friends, bands marching down St. Charles Avenue.
I had not thought of that distinction, but it explains something. I recall a phone call I received one Mardi Gras Tuesday (redundant, I know) at the First Baptist Church of Kenner. A church supply salesman was calling for one of our ministers. I told him it was a holiday, the offices were closed, and Jim was not in. Long pause, then, “What holiday is it?” Mardi Gras. Another pause, then, “And you close the church of the Lord Jesus Christ for such an ungodly display of wickedness as that?” I said, calmly, I hope, “Sir, the entire city shuts down. No stores are open, the streets are jammed. For most of us, it’s a great time to stay home with the family. Some of our people go to the parades and witness.” And I wondered why I felt it necessary to justify this to him. Incidentally, the man still wanted to argue that we were wrong in closing the office, that we should take a stronger stand against the wickedness.
I told the gentleman that most of the parades are as tame and harmless as your high school homecoming parade such as we used to have in Double Springs, Alabama. It’s in the French Quarter where people show out, I explained, then felt bad because a) I had argued with him at all, and b) I’m in the weird position of defending Mardi Gras.
Home prices are zooming in this post-Katrina era. In most areas of metro New Orleans, something like 20 percent since the hurricane. This is the result, of course, of 200,000 homes being unliveable and the ones that are being highly sought after. Paper says some people are buying the damaged homes in Lakeview at one-half the previous value because they have finally found a way to afford to buy a home in New Orleans. Go figure.
In the days after the hurricane and flooding, FEMA contracted with several large companies to put the blue plastic “tarp” on damaged roofs. I got one and was grateful. It was actually thin plastic, designed to protect the house from another rain or two until the roof could be repaired or replaced. The paper says a small company in Alabama got one of the contracts and did the work for about $1,000 per home, which was one-third what the other companies charged. The sub-title of the article reads, “Big boys get lion’s share of work though little guy beats their prices.”
Paper says people are building in flood plains in other cities throughout the country, places like St. Louis which took a great deal of flooding some years back. Since then, an amazing 14,000 acres around the city have been developed, land that was flooded in 1993, and will certainly be in trouble next time the Mississippi overflows. The point being that the kind of flooding New Orleans experienced in 2005 may become commonplace. We certainly hope not. Would not wish this on our worst enemy. Much less good friends like the Missourans.
Congressional leaders Hastert and Pelosi are on their way down here to see for themselves. Paper says Senator Hilary Clinton is urging her colleagues to “go see for yourself.” Reminds me of the biblical invitation, found again and again: “Come and see.”
I called my mom on the family farm in Alabama yesterday. Pastor Mickey Crane was there. He’s been the family padre over 25 years and mom thinks he’s one of her sons. He’s a great and godly man in a hundred ways, plays guitar and sings, and always has a smile. “Hey, Brother Joe,” he said, “I’m trying to work out an arrangement.” What kind of arrangement? “I’m trying to get Dick Cheney to take my mother-in-law hunting.”
I’m preaching at 6 pm today at Doyline Baptist Church up close to Shreveport. They’re having an associational missions rally and several of us will be sharing what we know and what God has put upon our hearts about this region. Monday morning, I’m meeting with a group from the First Baptist Church of Natchitoches. They’ve been coming down to our area and will be helping us minister to some of our churches. Tuesday, Freddie Arnold and I meet with the directors of missions from around the state in Pineville, showing our DVD and telling them how to get involved.
Life goes on.