Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Throw Me Something, Mister!

It’s Carnival Season in Louisiana. The French tradition of Mardi Gras is upon us. Children are out of school for three days, businesses close to accommodate throngs of parade goers, and noisy revelers dance in the street.

My cousin, a snowbird from Indiana, is visiting. I encouraged her to come this week, so we could “pass a good time”. Sunday we hit the parade route to see the Children’s Parade. A first time Carnival goer, it was fun to see the foolishness afresh from her perspective.

Hours prior to the floats arrival, police stand in groups of two or three encouraging the swell of people to stand behind protective barricades. Their cruisers block the intersections, flashing a constant blue strobe adding to the organized chaos.

A couple ride past on bikes, down the empty pavement lined with partiers. They stop to visit with the police. The woman wears jeans and a t-shirt while the man sports a black full body cycler’s suit, rainbow wig, and black face. Behind his ten-speed, he drags a child’s wagon with some serious stereo equipment pumping '80's tunes. Children wear hats that light up and dogs trot past in tutus. A vendor pushes a cart selling glow in the dark wands and feather boas. A vibration and cheer snakes down the street. “It’s coming! The parade’s started!”

Two hours of floats filled with Boy Scouts and family kewes, alongside organizations devoted to excess. Interspersed with dance teams are convertibles caring Little Mr. or Miss Whatever pageant winner. I haven’t been to a parade in years.

Lundi GrasMonday, rain mixed with cold breezes licked the area. We took our revelry inside to the local civic center for the Costume Promenade. I wanted to give my cousin a close-up view of the sequined gowns, satin, beaded tuxes and huge feathered headdresses. I’d never been to one of these events, a veritable who’s who of people in the community. From our perch in the balcony, we spent an hour and a half watching the royalty dance down the runway while an announcer gave important info on where people graduated from high school. Slipping out early, we detoured down a hall and walked into the staging area, getting a glimpse of how the royals sweat. Up close, we oohed and ogled the participant’s over-the-top evening attire and won the title “feather groupies”.

Fat Tuesday—this afternoon, we dined early at a cafĂ© on the parade route and poised ourselves to stand in the cold to watch the Krewe of Krewe Parade. “Throw me something, Mister.” Seasoned now, my cousin hooted and waved, securing two more gallon Ziploc bags of beads to pack in her suitcase.

Tomorrow’s the beginning of Lent, a time in the church community of reflection and self-denial. I think I’ll give up parades. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Enlarging Our Vision

Along with my family and writing, prison ministry is my passion. In January I was elected President of the Board for The Open Door Women’s Prison and Re-Entry Ministry. I am honored, as I serve alongside some amazing women. Masters in their faith, I have grown to realize the meaning of the church. From differing denominations and faith backgrounds we come together in holy service. Christ’s hands and feet on the ground, working with the least of these who made choices that landed them in jail. 

The scope of what’s about to happen within the Re-Entry mission field is exciting, but frustrating as well. Within days of accepting my present position, the Board was told the building where we've had our offices since 2006 is being sold. We have to the end of February to relocate. Meeting on a weekly basis for the past month, the volunteers who serve The Open Door have worked enthusiastically as we see God’s vision unfold in dynamic ways. Enlarging our vision to meet God’s has been the challenge. 

At church yesterday and repeated again in my morning Upper Room devotional was the theme to show God's awesome grace and love to everyone we come into contact: the surly checker at the grocery store, the man who cut me off in traffic, those who have hurt me. Sometimes, I have to be reminded the point of my existence and my passion. I must go, now, one of TOD's Re-entered Citizens is waiting for the Spirit of Christ to drive up with skin on.