Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav Evacuation Day 1

Today I loaded up the element with my wife and kids and my thermos...and that's all I need...and my mac laptop [and that's all i need...and some groceries and some changes of clothes and that's all I need...and a few choice cigars and that's all I need...and um my ipod and my digital camera (because I don't have an Iphone yet) and well that's all we had room for.

We pulled into the contraflow lane of I-10 for Baton Rouge about 10 a.m. and had the smoothest hurricane evacuation we've ever had. We made record time from New Orleans to Opelousas when I began to get cocky and call my dad bragging about how smoothly things were going. About 1 minute into the conversation traffic began to slow. The next 4 hours were much slower, averaging about 30 miles an hour. But hey we were moving! so not bad for an evacuation.

We finally stopped to get some lunch around 3 p.m. about an hour south of Shreveport thinking that because the traffic was thinning a bit it would be a good time for a relaxing lunch. Well the traffic had thinned out because they all stopped at the same place we stopped. So I got in line at Wendy's and 25 minutes later I was within about 4 customers of the counter. About that time we get word that a fight had started at the Popeyes next door. I was actually surprised that a fight had not broken out at Wendy's I was in because there were a whole lot of hungry, cranky people overwhellming the small staff of the restaurant. I could feel myself getting tense and frustrated as well. It seems as if this whole experience is causing a lot of old feelings from Katrina days to surface again in everyone who had been through it. Well in the midst of it I was reminded of the phrase "peacemakers". I realized that I could get caught up in and contribute to the negative, frustrated vibe in the place or I could dial down a bit and sense God's presence and maybe bring a little peace. Well, I don't know if i actually contributed to any peace in that crowded fast food joint but I did sense God in it, and it wasn't that bad.

This whole last week has been kind of like that--having these familiar feelings from the not-so-distant past resurface. There's the fear of loosing things and having to start over again, anxiety about what to do, and the familiar questions of "Why?" The other night Dina was really having a hard time with these questions. Somwhere in our conversation though it occured to me that the years since Katrina have really been some of the best years of my life. Easy? No. Good? You bet. I feel as if the storm changed me, or at least got me in a place where I could experience change. As Dina and I discussed our lives since Katrina we both agreed that we wouldn't trade anything for what God had done in us. I really do have a slightly better understanding of words from scripture like "rejoice when you face various trails..." We can rejoice because what God does in these times is much more precious than gold or any material wealth or position.

I don't know what the next few days holds for us in South Louisiana but I do know God is with us, whether it's in a crowd of frustrated customers at a Wendy's or in a very real storm.

More to come...

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Scariest Movie I’ve Seen In Years

Last night I attended a screening of I.O.U.S.A. Live, a documentary America’s national debt. This was a special screening which was followed by a live town hall meeting featuring Warren Buffet (rich dude), Dave Walker (Peterson foundation), and William Niskanen (Cato Institute) among others.

I have seen better documentaries but the content on this one was fascinating and quite scary. The basic premise of the film is that there has never been a time when our nation was more in debt, and unlike other times of great national debt, we won’t be able to pay the bill off unless we make some serious adjustments in how our government spends and takes in money. The reality, as put forth by this film, is that unless serious changes are made, our children and grand children will live in a very different world from us—saddled with a debt they didn’t rack up and can never pay. As one congressman in the film put it, “The only thing scarier for our country would be if a terrorist were to explode a nuclear bomb on American soil.” Scary stuff indeed!

Scary documentaries are nothing new these days. In fact scary documentaries are quite en vogue right now. I recent years I have been scared by documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth, or even the light hearted Super Size Me. But for some reason the reality of I.O.U.S.A has really resonated with me. Maybe it’s because of the simple nature of economics verses the very complex nature of speculating about global warming. While I have heard convincing arguments on both sides of the global warming debate, this topic is seems much less abstract because we all have experience with making, spending, saving, and losing money. What’s scary is how much we have simply trusted that government would run its finances (our finances) in a responsible way. Whether it’s ignorance or just wishful thinking this does not seem to be the case.

In the last five years Dina and I have been taking deliberate and consistent steps at getting out of debt. This has meant that we have all but stopped using credit cards and that we have paid off both of our car notes and that we are being very aggressive in the repayment of our student loans (someday soon I hope!). After years of trying to be more fiscally responsible it is actually becoming kind of fun to get out of debt and live within our means (though certainly not as sexy). One thing has become abundantly clear to me over the last couple of years—if I ran my family’s finances the way the United States Government is running it’s budget we would be in really big trouble.

I.O.U.S.A. is at the very least a good lesson in history and economics; a much-needed lesson for anyone under age forty, since we stand to loose the most if these fiscally irresponsible ways continue. And for this reason, I would urge anyone who can find a showing of I.O.U.S.A. to check it out.


Film Website: