Monday, August 29, 2011

Katrina: Becoming Who We Are Going to Be

In some ways, the storm that changed our lives forever has made us who we are and we are better versions of ourselves because of the fury of Katrina.

Lots of things were wrong about Katrina. The way she destroyed our city. The way she took lives and homes and hearts from people. There is nothing that can prepare you for an event like that in your life. The best you can do is hope that something like that never happens to you and trust that if indeed it does, you will have the grace to walk through it. I hated that storm. That storm crushed my heart and angered me. That storm threw my life into confusion and created enough doubt to last for years on end.

And at the same time, that storm saved my life and led me to my heart. I could literally write for hours about how Katrina has impacted my heart and life over the last 6 years, but for today, on this 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here are just a few thoughts on how Katrina has impacted my life.

Katrina changed my life... bringing new relationships into my life. Had it not been for Katrina, I might not have met some amazing people, many of whom still play a significant role in my life today. giving me a greater imagination for what humanity can do when working together. giving me a greater imagination for what the community of faith who follows after the teachings of Jesus could really look like when we put aside our individualistic, independent, it's- all- about- me lifestyle and actually live our lives for the sake of one another. allowing my beautiful Kristy and I to realize that our marriage is not made out of where we live, what we drive, what we own or any of those externals, but our marriage is built on our love for one another and an amazing friendship. You always hope that you're marriage is built on something solid, but until you come face to face with the reality of life in your marriage, you just don't know. I realized one afternoon after the storm as I sat on my refrigerator out on my front lawn, looking at everything we owned piled up in a trash heap, that my life and my identity were actually not wrapped up in my stuff. It was as though chains fell off of me in that moment and I was free. I realized that our relationship was built on nothing but who we are together. We cried about our stuff and then we embarked on a richer, deeper life of togetherness that I don't know we would have ever found apart from Katrina.

It's been six years and I honestly believe that I am still processing. Those days were difficult. We still realize on a regular basis new ways that the storm impacted us and our family. I think this story is still being written as we continue our journey of becoming the people we are going to be. 

We lost much. Many lost more than we did. I'll never forget what was lost.

But for everything that we lost, we gained much more...we began to find ourselves and we found an imagination for what could be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

8 Miles, Eminem and Reconciliation

When I started listening to Eminem, it was simply because of his undeniable ability to tell a story. With unrivaled passion and heart, he is an artist who is capable of drawing one into his story, allowing others to feel and touch and experience what it is to live his story. I figured, at most, I would develop a richer ability for storytelling and at the very least I would have some good music to keep me running strong miles.

A few Saturdays ago, as the sun set, I laced up my running shoes, grabbed my ipod and headed out the door. It was a Forrest Gump moment, through and through, as something inside of me was compelling me and 'I just felt like running.' I set out with no predetermined route as I figured I would simply run until I didn't feel like running any longer. 

About one mile into my run, my thoughts took me places that I had not intended to go. I became overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about relationships from my past that went wrong. In many of these relationships I had been offended or hurt by the other party. In all of these relationships, I retaliated - defended my hurt and struck back. The way in which I was best able to defend myself was by becoming an expert wall builder - building walls around my life and my heart, severing the relationships and moving on.

As my feet pounded the pavement, stride after stride, I felt my heart pounding within my chest. These faces of people that I really loved and yet banished from my life kept flashing through my thoughts. I sensed that something needed to be done to reconcile, but had no idea how. Some of these relationships had been severed over 12 years ago, with no words spoken since. So, I kept running.

My running playlist is quite diverse. It has everything from 'Christ is Risen' by Matt Maher to 'I Need a Doctor' by Eminem and Dr. Dre and everything in between. At around mile 4, Eminem's 'Not Afraid' made it to the top of the playlist. The story behind this song is fascinating (as is much of Eminem's whole story:, but what struck me most on this night was the powerful heart of the bridge: 

And I just can't keep living this way
So starting today, I'm breaking out of this cage
I'm standing up, I'm a face my demons
I'm manning up, I'm a hold my ground
I've had enough, now I'm so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

As his words resonated within, I knew that if I was going to truly break out of the cage that was barring me in, I would have to lay it all down. The hurt. The pain. The resentment. The need to be right. The desire to win. If there was going to be reconciliation, I would have to allow myself to forgive and I would have to ask for forgiveness, because no matter how much I might have been hurt, the truth is, I was also guilty. 

Eight miles later, I was done with my run. The next 36 hours proved to be 36 of the most powerful hours of my life as the silence was broken between me and all eight faces that came into my thoughts that night. Emails. Facebook messages. Phone calls. Different communication with each. Same result with all: Forgiveness. Reconciliation.

I've never experienced the power of reconciliation at this level and I am so deeply grateful for the forgiveness that was so quickly extended towards me.

I've hesitated posting this particular blog because some will be inclined to hail me as some type of hero for taking certain steps. For the record, hero's don't take 12 years to get their crap fixed. I do believe that stepping away from relationships is necessary sometimes when one has been hurt, but I also know firsthand that allowing those relationships to float away into some obscure land of silence without ever going back to forgive and ask for forgiveness is a sure way to keep oneself behind bars. The interesting thing about life behind the bars though is that there is a fuller life of freedom just on the other side. I decided to post it today because I can't help but think that there are others who may be trapped in this land of silence and perhaps it's time to move to a new land. 

Friday, August 5, 2011


I was recently reconciled to an old friend after 12 years. I happened upon the lyrics to a song that this friend wrote during the time we did not speak. Twelve years is a long time. It gives people a chance to change, maybe mature and hopefully grow. It changed me. It kind of sucks to lose 12 years and relationship. But reconciliation is quite beautiful and I'm grateful at very deep levels for it.

"But I am older, I am wiser, a whole lot smarter
And I thought it through
And there's been a change in me
Because you must examine all the evidence you can see
And I nailed you down and pinned you up and questioned
Is this love for you enough for me
Cause there's so many good things and true things
And I want to hear them out and see how they play out in me
There's been a change in me, I'm no longer who I used to be
Cause I'm wide open now
I am utterly convinced of you"

The music is much richer when you know the story behind it and even sweeter still when you find yourself in the story.