The sun is out, and the sky is the kind of blue you see on postcards. I lean back in my lawn chair that’s been carefully positioned along the parade route and soak in the warmth, the smell of a barbeque pit, the sound of kids laughing next to me and someone playing a trumpet not far away, and I think to myself, “This – this is my New Orleans. This is my Mardi Gras. This is home.”
For many visitors to our fair NOLA, Carnival season is a time to escape and become someone else, someone reckless and daring who revels in overindulgence. A trip to New Orleans affords rich food, abundant alcohol, and ample opportunity to partake in some of the less savory activities around. For this local girl, though, Mardi Gras time is a moment to thaw from winter and enjoy the beauty and life around me. I don’t want to wax poetic here, but there’s just something so inviting about joining the rest of this “big” little city in dancing to the beat of the local high school drum lines and celebrating New Orleans and all that she is.
I’m not naïve. There are real problems in NOLA – deep-rooted, far-reaching, systemic problems here. Being a small city doesn’t make us immune to urban issues that other larger areas face: poverty, corruption, dysfunctional school systems, racism, and violence, just to name a few. None of this is put on hold during the Carnival season. The mayor doesn’t wave a magic wand over the city and immediately erase all of the struggles New Orleanians face. What you see, though, is a city who has fought to overcome so much take a few weeks to celebrate just that: all that we are and all we’ve overcome.
We’ve been working through the first chapter of James recently in my small-group Bible study, and last night we spent some time on verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Every good gift. EVERY GOOD GIFT. That means the beautiful weather, the sweet fellowship with my neighbors as we sit and wait for a parade, the sense of community and culture and history – all of it comes from God.
So what does this mean for the Christ-loving New Orleans resident? For this native, it means that if I’m going to be a part of my city and make an impact on my “Jerusalem,” I need to be out IN my city, IN my community, working to understand my context. It means that I look around at a place riddled with problems and identify the ways that God’s grace and love are visible. It means I take a few moments to appreciate the gifted musicians and artists who surround me and share their talents with me during Mardi Gras. It means I spend some time chatting with my neighbors while the parade passes, in hopes that I can build relationships with them and talk with them about heart matters – about the gospel. It means that I praise God for planting me in a wonderful city that He loves even more than I can fathom, and I thank Him for letting me love this place too.
This is the second post in our Mardi Gras Madness series. Make sure to check in next week, as we look at evangelism as it relates to the Carnival season in New Orleans.