Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Our Saints, Our City, Our Soul"

"Our Saints, Our City, Our Soul"
By Don LeCocq, Kenner, LA

Out of the fire
And up from the flood
A great team is born
Made of guts, steel and blood

Their history a low one
No one can deny
Their new rise a slow one
But oh now so high

This team that I speak of
Is of black and gold
And travels the gridiron
So brave and so bold

Their symbol is royalty
We call Fleur de lis
And proud New Orleanians
Watch it with glee

Come Deuce and come Reggie
Come Drew and come Joe
Come Marques and Terrance
Now go beat the foe

The course is set plainly
There is clearly a goal
Go show all the world
A storm can't kill our soul

To the men in black jerseys
The tights and the cleats
Know that we love you
In wins and defeats

And to you, Sean Payton
The coach of our dreams
Thank you from all of us
Who give jumps, yells and screams

You have given us purpose
You have given us hope
You have given us will
And a reason to cope

To all of the Saints
Who reside in the Dome
Thanks for making our city
A proud place to call home

[Source: WWL-TV.COM]

The game today was a slight disappointment, but the overall season was a blessing on so many levels. At the same time, it left me at looking to next year for the team, the city, and even myself and where I will be.

I've thrown four small parties for two regular season games and two playoff games, and what I've been so thankful for weren't so much the wins but the ability to use the game as a springboard to discussion well beyond the scope of the gridiron and football. It provided me and countless others from New Orleans an avenue of discussion on the matter of the city of New Orleans. It provided the citizens of the city itself a sense of hope for a return to some normalcy. The team this year provided what was needed most: compassion.

Not for the team, as was evident in its 14-39 shellacking today against the Bears, but for the city and its residents. The city wasn't swept under the rug of national consciousness, and I pray that because of this loss today that the city will not erased from the forefront of concern in this country.

Now that the games are over for the city's team, it's time for the nation to accept the city for what it is and what it needs: compassion.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Eagerness for the Fulfillment of Hope

The daily reading from yesterday's Mass struck a definite chord in my heart. It spoke directly to my heart and the troubles I have been feeling lately, namely those of this conflicting love in my heart. A few of the verses from the reading, the ones most pertinent to my heart at this time are as follows:
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. When God made the promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, "he swore by himself," and said, "I will indeed bless you and multiply" you. And so, after patient waiting, he obtained the promise. – Hebrews 6:10-16

While the context to which the preceding passage moved me is much lesser in significance, it still epitomizes how I should tread this very narrow tight-rope of loving desire. I know the Lord is there and is watching over me, wanting only the best. I must trust His will. I know I must not move from the tight-rope before me, lest I fall from the Grace the Lord has put before me. I shouldn't allow jealously or malice enter into my thoughts. Those two are among my most worrisome temptations for me at this time.

For it is much easier to let one's heart become hard when it is in pain. It much easier for it to become jealous and callous to touch when wrenched in pain. But as C.S. Lewis said, "To love at all is to be vulnerable." And right now, my heart is vulnerable. It is vulnerable to all sorts of whims, but I know it is also at the same time the most secure it will ever be. I have put my worries into the Lord's hands.

I will be patient in my heart, for I know the Lord will not overlook my work and the love I have demonstrated for His name, namely that unconditional love. For it is when all strings have been removed from our love, do we actual see the joy that is truly in our lives.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Take This Cup Away from Me

Take This Cup Away from Me

Lord, take this cup away from me
For my heart isn’t strong enough
To hold this love within
Nor the pain that follows it.

Lord, take this cup away from me
Even though these feelings feel so right
And the love I feel for her
So true and complete.

Lord, take this cup away from me
Even though I asked for this pain
To work within her heart
Those faithful months ago.

Lord, take this cup away from me,
And let not my will but Yours be done.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Go with God

Amid even the darkest of days, there are rays of sunshine ready to pour in if one looks close enough. This week has been a bit topsy-turvy for me, mostly centered on work and friends. As a result, my sleep schedule has suffered a bit, but what the heck. Friends are more important than sleep!

So when I went "in" on a football game watching party (the BCS championship was this past Monday), I didn't realize what that signed me up for! But yet, that night was the defining night of the week for me. It was something that I needed, and it was completely at the right moment.

Since the game was a blow-out in Florida's favor, we quickly moved to what turned out to be a 5-hour game of Monopoly with every underhanded trade and deal in the book. It was a rather interesting game of attrition that I sadly failed, buckling under the pressure around two. Now the phrase "I'll make a deal with you if I can have all your properties for a dollar when you go out" is emblazoned in my subconsciousness...and for good reason!

So last night, for good reason, came in a distant second. It was game night, Round Two. We started with Daily Mass again (as always) and then made it out to Northgate for burgers. Even me, the teetotaler of sorts, enjoyed the beer (and the shot at the Dry Bean). And I'm not a beer guy, so for me it was a pleasant surprise. Then came the Risk game at my house. I hadn't played the game in years. Things have just felt right this week. As if they were how they were supposed to be. As though all the troubles rushing through my mind were quieted long enough to enjoy the joy before me.

That joy would be best described as C.S. Lewis described it in his book Surprised by Joy, as something of a longing or as in German "Sehnsucht," which itself means "longing." That something of the sort of nostalgia for something, as Lewis puts it, "something we do not know." This something is specifically Heaven and being reunited with our Heavenly Father.

Both events this week, presented within me this joy of the present with a longing anticipation on the future. Those nights were something of which could, if possible, lock within a small box, and carry with me for all times until one day, wherever we end up in this world, I can, as if it were a gem, put it up to the light of day and see within it all the glory present within even the smallest of moments.

So, as for the title of this blog post. It is actually the English translation of the Spanish phrase "Vaya con Dios." It is found, among other places, above the front door of my friends' house, all of whom are Catholic. It has stuck with me, and with my emotions this week, I scribbled the poem below in a scant period of time. The words, as whenever I do write, are inspired by nothing more than those around me, those so dear to me. All I can hope for is the peace of what is held now, and the promise of what is to come.

I hope the words inspire you.

Go with God

When love hurts
And all the troubles of life
Come forth and shake your spirits,
Go with God.

When life seems too complicated
And every fear borne within you
Is exposed to the light of day,
Go with God.

When your sins bear down
And every past wrong done
Is remembered within your heart,
Go with God.

When the days you dream of
And every dream and wish you had
Are dashed to the oblivion of darkness,
Go with God.

When you have reached your last day
And all that was to come to pass
Has passed to fulfillment,
Know that you are loved,
For you went with God.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Finding My Niche

Late evenings seem to be my specialty if I am neither dead tired nor deadly sick. Since I am neither, here I am to post another reflective rambling of sorts. It’s a blessing to have these respites ripe for reflection littered amid the quickly passing months of my collegiate career. These days in New Orleans have stirred in me a renewal of past promises to myself. It's amazing, again, to have the ability to stare into one's past and look at the immediate future in the same glimpse.

It has not been without reservations though. So many things have changed. There's a definite "Ain't There No More" syndrome going on (anyone from New Orleans should get the reference and anyone else reading this blog should at least attempt to look that up and understand where I'm coming from). Okay, so back from my sidebar. Things have changed immeasurably. Between my yearly cold I have right now and other trepidations, I've cancelled my trip to Waveland to see where my dad and stepmom's house once stood. I've buried that loss of a past reality well beneath the surface of my psyche for when I am ready to battle that drastic change another day. The bigger fish to fry is specifically where to categorize my place both here in Louisiana and in Texas.

I am neither completely a New Orleanian nor completely a Texan. All of my family is from Texas, but I have grown up entirely in Louisiana. I may not speak the same way many in New Orleans do or have the same family experiences as those here in the city (I’ve spent many holidays with family in Texas), but I am through and through a New Orleanian. The city is first in my heart. Why? It has been there for me, a crutch during a childhood that I cherish. Why should I leave it decrepit in its ailing old age?

All the while, I cannot find my place in it. It is not a frontier town in the sense of those of olden days, but the city is not a place for the faint of heart. There are huge tracts of houses left to be gutted. They are, without a doubt, an eyesore and, in a few months time, will be demolished to the ground. This surely will leave a hole in the housing stock for the rebuilding of the city. Yes, I said the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Why rebuild New Orleans? Why throw money into a so-called "slushy money pit?" Because the city matters. Period. No matter what the romantics might say (including myself) of the intrinsic charm of the city that once was and will be again, the city is a living and breathing asset to the United States of America. This is part of the reason the Federal government had thrown money back to the city for levees, for pumps, for the necessities of trying to keep a city safe from natural disaster.

New Orleans is home to the Port of New Orleans, the fifth largest port in the United States based on volume of cargo handled (84 million short tons), and when combined with the Port of South Louisiana in LaPlace some thirty miles west of New Orleans, the two make up the largest port complex in the world by tonnage (199 million short tons).[1] Both ports rely heavily on the Mississippi levees, Lake Pontchartrain floodwalls, and the spillway system cut between the two ports (the Bonne Carré Spillway located in St. Charles Parish, my home parish).

Additionally, the city is at the heart of a refining and chemical plants that process in the area. The state of Louisiana itself has 17 petroleum refineries with a combined crude oil distillation capacity of nearly 2.8 million barrels per calendar day, the second highest in the nation after Texas.[2] I could go on further of the agriculture significance of the area to the immediate southwest of the city. With our dependence on foreign oil, the city is of national importance and therefore national security. Why has it not been treated as such by the designs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? The reason is distraction with other matters or just general indifference by those in power both nationally and locally.

So in short, the city must and will be rebuilt, in spite of all the hurdles the locals must face (both from near and far). The question I've been asking myself is where do I see myself? Surely this involves more than New Orleans. It involves whether or not I want to go straight into business, continue with graduate work, or other things. I have been unable to find a "soft" landing back in New Orleans. Everything is wracked with uncertainty, with questions, and with instability. It's not much of a hope for someone wanting to get those college loans paid off in a timely manner. Really what, at the heart of the entire matter, I've been considering is this: where can I do the most good? Where and—more importantly—can I be the biggest impact and for the longest period of time?

The answer has not come to me, but I hope that in the next year I can achieve some conclusion, with God's help, of where I am to be and who will be at my side to achieve that greatest good.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Time to Say Good-Bye

The concept of time is an unnatural thing. We might say that we invented the concept of time or that we invented a somewhat contrived ritual of celebrating it (i.e., this New Years celebration that seems like all the world celebrates), but it is hardly a hard-and-fast human construct. How can it be so that in an instant we can recall an event that happened years ago, or in another instant we sit in the grasp time of and wonder when it will release us from its grip, that it will pass quicker? The most favorite of mine though is that of that special case when one wishes a moment to last an eternity. Again, what is an "eternity?" Surely we too do not have a part in contriving such a situation, of existence ad infinitum. Just as much as God is incomprehensible in the fullest, so it the term "eternity"—or for that matter—time itself. Time itself is a contrived thing.

So here we are celebrating the passing of the old and the welcoming the new. So too are we saying good-bye to the year that was and hello to what is before us—all the possibilities this world, both simultaneously wonderful and wretched, has to offer.

The year that has been was a realization of another world around me that I failed to grasp fully before. Yes, I've been in College Station for a few years, and yes, I have not made any serious life choices yet. All this withstanding, I have come to realize more of the world around me. 2005 brought tragedy. 2006 brought for me actualization. I do not know what 2007 has in store for me, but I pray it—that is the Lord in Year of Our Lord, 2007— give me only what I can handle. The Lord has a way of making things work out in the end. All it requires is a little faith and plenty of trust in the Lord.

Happy New Year!