Saturday, April 5, 2008

Life in Louisiana

I'm visiting my wonderful sister, Jennifer, and her family this weekend while Darin attends a conference at New Orleans Seminary. They live just south of Baton Rouge, LA, so it will be right on the way for him to pick me up as we head home for Frankston tonight.

Last night, Jen and I went to her church for a Ladies Craft Night. Each woman brings whatever she may be working on--scrapbook, cross-stitch, etc.--and they laugh and talk as they do their thing. I'm not a "scrapper" (I learned that term last night), nor am I a great cross-stitcher, so I brought my little Mac and worked on the Sunday School lesson I'm writing for BaptistWay. I'm sure I looked like a nerd to those crafty ladies, but they accepted me anyway!

I listened as they swapped stories about people they knew or experiences they had, both usually sparked by a photo of the event or person, and realized how similar the human experience really is, yet how vastly different the culture of those experiences can be.

One lady just got back from her doctor, hoping they'd discover the reason she's put on so much weight lately. They tested her blood, ran stress tests, and examined her thyroid among other things. The conclusion? In her words, "I'm just fat!" Sounds like it could happen anywhere, doesn't it? A woman concerned with her appearance. That's certainly universal.

Another lady told of her two teenage sisters borrowing their mother's new car to go out one Saturday afternoon. Somehow, the sisters ended up allowing two of their guy friends to drive the car while they took another ride altogether. The sisters were hauled home by the police when the guys wrecked Mom's new car and Dad got to the scene before they knew anything about it. Sounds like it could happen anywhere, doesn't it? People trying to get away with something, assuming they won't be caught.

So far, I might as well have been sitting around with people from Frankston or anywhere else in the country, for that matter.

But, then something turned the corner for me. One woman proceeded to begin a story with this statement: "Last weekend, when we were at the Smith's crawfish boil ..." I have no idea what came after that, because it captured my attention so vividly. "What did she just say?" I thought. "Crawfish boil? You can't have those here, we're no where near the coast... Oh, yeah, I'm in southeast Louisiana, of course they can have those here."

On the way back to her house, I told Jen how that last comment caught me off guard. She lived in Texas for a long time, too, so she knows that the equivalent to a Louisiana crawfish boil is a Texas BBQ. (Although now that we live near Lake Palestine, I've actually heard of crawfish boils a little more frequently.) She said, having lived near Baton Rouge these nearly 7 years, that to hear the words "BBQ" come from my mouth almost sounded strange!

I realized yet again, that the human experience, however similar, is placed within the context of the culture where it is lived. I think God must love variety. Consider the seasons, or the vast assortment of natural phenomena. Just as no two people on earth are exactly the same in their physical and emotional makeup, no two places on earth are, either. Therefore, the people who come from those places will be uniquely different in their life experiences, especially as they go off visiting or move and bring those snippets of life with them.

It's funny. God delights in freshness, newness, change and variety, yet we usually seek what is known and familiar, who or what is like ourselves or experience. A few of us, whether by choice or necessity will branch out to new places, or visit with new people, but we tend to roam in familiar circles, nonetheless. I'm sure God knew we'd be that way. That's why he said, "While you are going into all the world, preach the gospel." Like a mother bird pushing her baby out of the nest to fly, God pushes us forward, out of our comfort zones to tell new people about him and minister in new ways. That's what this writing thing is for me, a new way of ministering than I've ever done before. It's stretching me, challenging me, creating a new dependence on God, whether I'm in Texas or Louisiana!

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