Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I met last night with a friend who helps lead worship at our church. We talked for about an hour and change about our worship service; all the negatives and positives about it, and how the negatives far out-weigh the positives.

It's funny how worked up we (Christians) get over worship. I find myself getting worked up all the time. Most people get worked up because they want to know why the worship at their church isn't like the worship at that other church where the service was "deeper" because people were dancing in the aisles. Or they get worked up because they want only traditional hymns. Some people get worked up because they want to know why their worship band doesn't sound like Michael W. Smith's band.

Mostly, I get worked up because it hurts me to see people arguing over things that have nothing to do with actual worship.

Last night, we didn't talk about bringing in new songs. We didn't talk about adding instruments. We didn't talk about who's better; Chris Tomlin or Matt Reddman. We didn't talk about rocking out the service more to make it "seeker" friendly.

Instead we talked about the beauty of the older hymns. We talked about the very few new songs that have the kind of depth those older hymns have, that have made them endure for centuries. We talked about how great our worship would be if it wasn't so concentrated on musical styles, and more on praising God through music, prayer, and reading of scripture. We talked about removing instruments; how if people want to go to a rock concert, they'll buy tickets to see U2, not go to church on Sunday. We spoke of meditation, reflection and contemplation.

Most importantly, we spoke of Sunday morning being a time where people can come and worship their Father; not a time where we play the right or "cool" music to attract people to come to church.

Worship should be a beautiful and excellent offering made to a living and gracious God; not a "we're trying to be cool/relevant/real production selling God to increase membership in a church. And I know that the latter is not the intent of most sincere believers and worship leaders. But, it sure does come across like that sometimes.

Can we simplify worship? Can we make it so the true seeker comes to church and is drawn in by the authenticity of the worship in this place on a Sunday morning, and not the "peppy" music? Can we worship God in such a way that a person who has been attending church for 20 years can suddenly realize that he/she is standing before the Throne of God? Can we strip away the dead arguments of hymns vs. contemporary, raise your hands or kneel, dance or sit?

Can we worship, in spite of our pettiness?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Recognizing Nothingness

“How difficult it is to be honest, to accept that I am unacceptable, to renounce self-justification, to give up the pretense that my prayers, spiritual insight, tithing, and successes in ministry have made me pleasing to God! No antecedent beauty enamors me in His eyes. I am lovable only because He loves me.” - Brennan Manning

What a hard pill to swallow. Christ loves us, and there is nothing more to do about it. All my perceived pride, brilliance and accomplishments, laid at His feet.

This idea never ceases to leave me breathless; speechless. You can't escape it and it consumes you when you acknowledge it let it envelop you. Like a flame sucking the oxygen out of the air as it envelops you.

Nothing else matters. You realize all those things that seemed important to you become insignificant.

There's a new realization; God is love, and that is all.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I Want to Be A Clone

I went to church today and for different reasons I was reminded of an old and brilliant Steve Taylor song:

I'd gone through so much other stuff
that walking down the aisle was tough
but now I know it's not enough
I want to be a clone

I asked the Lord into my heart

they said that was the way to start
but now you've got to play the part

I want to be a clone


Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?

I'm grateful that they show the way

'cause I could never know the way

to serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

They told me that I'd fall away
unless I followed what they say

who needs the Bible anyway?

I want to be a clone

Their language it was new to me

but Christianese got through to me

now I can speak it fluently

I want to be a clone


Send in the clones
Ah, I kind of wanted to tell my friends and people about it, you know


You're still a babe!
you have to grow! give it twenty years or so
'cause if you want to be one of his got to act like one of us

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Be Careful What You Say, or Think...

We had someone visiting our house yesterday for a bit. She is an educator; nice lady, and mother of my daughter's friend. We talked about the Miami-Dade County Public School system.

The topic then segued naturally into the decline of western civilization (i.e., public schools + indoctrination = decline). She told us how the high school she works in is overflowing with children who consider themselves to be homosexuals, and how it is prevalent in middle schools as well. It's openly practiced, it's accepted, and the schools themselves, in an attempt to be "inclusive", strive to bring "understanding" on the subject.

I then gave my opinion on the subject, which was that as far as these kids go, I see their behavior to be akin to the Goth kids syndrome. In other words, homosexuality is the new cool social outcast group; the underdogs who can speak with a lisp, but without the dark eye-liner and black lipstick. It's more about identifying with a group (and freaking out their parents) then it is about gender identification or confusion.

This teacher then opened her eyes really wide, and with a look that almost resembled fear quickly gave the generic response to get her out of having to discuss this topic further, "well I don't care what people do behind closed doors...". She said it almost as if someone might be recording the conversation.

It's amazing to me how people react to this topic of conversation. Seinfeld masterfully gave an example of this in his show, when he coined the phrase "...not that there's anything wrong with that..." whenever being gay was talked about in that episode.

In fact, I can't think of any other behavior (I'm sorry, "lifestyle") that is more widely protected. You can't talk about it, unless you're using words like "lifestyle", or "life-partner". The way people broach the subject, you'd think we were living under a communist regime and we had to speak in codes, and quietly whisper your opinion, for fear that you may be arrested for speaking ill of the Party.

In fact, if you have read up to this point, how do you feel right now? Read what I said again. I made a comment of how kids find identity in homosexuality; I didn't say anything about the behavior. I made a comment about "lisps", but only because, hey, it's an identifying factor (just watch Bird Cage, La Cage Au Foles... and that guy's character on Will and Grace in the above photograph). I didn't say anything about the behavior being wrong or right, sin or not; nothing about being born with it or not.

But I bet at this point you're either angry, offended, feeling suspect, not wanting to say anything, even to yourself; maybe even fearful of your own thoughts, lest you find yourself being judgemental (the greatest sin in today's society, by the way).

I really am not impressed, phased or influenced by how the world thinks. I believe most people live the way they want and I really don't want to get involved. Why? Because I've learned that people will do what they want even to their own detriment, and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. I refuse to spin my wheels trying to convince others of anything. Someone wants to be in a serious relationship with his goldfish, that's fine with me too. I like to get involved when someone finds they need help. When they are in it too deep; they have reached the end of their rope. Only then can God start to mold and help that person. Up until that point, I can just be their friend; let them see who I am, and hopefuly they'll see that I'm a child of God -- a guy who found food for life and wants to show them where to get it.

What is amazing to me is watching how easily people are swayed one way or another. The Bible is right when it says we are sheep in a pasture, easily led astray.

I must say the homosexual movement and lobby has done an impressive job of swaying opinions on the subject of gender. Maybe we as Christians could take some lessons from them when it comes to preaching the gospel.

Oh, wait. I forgot. The Gospel, as taught to us in the Scriptures, is spread by the power of the Holy Spirit; not by human manipulation, propaganda, cash and indoctrination ala Nazi Germany or Communist Cuba.

Silly me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Friggin Hilarious

Click on "Friggin Hilarious" to be directed to a funny yet disturbing blog from Rick Hunter.

I NEVER heard of Stryken, and thankfully never saw this album cover. I think if I did, it would have led me into a life of unbelief.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Just Thinking Out Loud

I made some new friends on my trip to Tennessee. They are Roman Catholics, they're good people, and they love Jesus. We shared some good cigars, drank some Lucky Number 7, good Port, and shared our thoughts on faith, family, movies and various other issues, all in an effort to solve the worlds problems.

5 Cubans and a Chilean in the Smokey Mountains solving world issues... HA!

We talked about the differences and similarities being from Roman Catholic background, and Protestant background. We each quietly noted differences which keep us content to be where we are. We also noted similarities which drew us to a realization that we are children of a great and mighty God, who laughs at our differences and loves us in spite of them.

I'm not sure where we left off; was everyone comfortable, or were there doubts that still lingered? I don't know. It doesn't really matter.

One of my heroes, philosopher, writer, and Roman Catholic, G.K. Chesterton, once said this about the Catholic church, "The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it . . ."

To my friends who are grabbing for their guns ready to bring up works, praying to Saints, the Inquisition, child-molesting priests, etc..., put your guns back in your holsters. Relax. Take a deep, non-Pharisaical breath. Your utterances will not change anyone's opinion. Also, if you look at the failings of the Catholic church, you will be forced to acknowledge the failings of the 100's of thousands of Protestant churches and various denominations with their many hypocricies, marketing plans, false theology and various other misgivings.


I'm not changing my membership to a Catholic church. I love my heritage on the Protestant side of the fence. I am also fond of the history and mystic nature of the Catholic faith. As Protestants, we are deprived of some wonderful tradition going back over thousands of years. At the same time, I am so thankful for my understanding of God's grace. I am thankful for the teachings of Luther and Calvin, who helped nurture that.

I am also aware that much of my understanding of God's Grace came from people like St. Augustine, St. Francis, Thomas Merton, Chesterton, and St. Manning (HI AL!!)... all Catholics.

I guess what I was reminded of on this trip was that I'm not so interested in being right anymore. It's important to have conviction, but it is also important to listen. There is one way of Salvation, being Christ, but it is important to be loving and gracious; not combative and defensive.

I don't want to be right. I want to share what Christ has done in my life. I want to tell people of His Grace and mercy. I want to tell people that Jesus loves them, without having to be right. I want to trust that Christ, not I, will do a work in peoples live.

As the body of Christ, we need less bickering and more love. It sounds idealistic. It scares the pants off of the "non-ecumenical" crowd. I'm not talking about being ecumenical. We just need to be a people that live what we believe, and stop talking about what we believe.

We need to stop trying to be right.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

So we finally saw some snow in Tennessee.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Take Me To Another Place

We're on our way to Tennessee. Our mission? This Cuban wants to see snow.

That's right. This 36 year old Cubanaso has never seen snow. I've seen it at the top of the Andes mountains, but never within reach.

Tonight our road trip brings us to Savannah, GA, exhausted. The weather is cool, in the upper 50's. The men (there are 3 families on this trip) will go out and hunt for food (not Paula Deans... more like Sticky Fingers Ribs or something of that nature). In the morning, we plan on grabbing breakfast in old Savannah, take a look around then head for Gatlinburg.

Let's hope for snow before Wednesday!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Yes, I Speak Good. Thanks, yo.

Click on the blog title to read a great entry by Fayola (Elsita, you HAVE to read it.)

Oye Fayola, the new banner esta... buenisimo!

Kool-Aide Anyone? - A Look At Grace

I recently heard that a well known cult leader who began his career as the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul and later said, "Okay... I'm actually Jesus..." has NOW declared himself the anti-Christ.

Kool-Aid anyone?

I know very little about the subject, so I'm keeping information on this to a minimum. This guy gets enough press; he doesn't need the help of bloggers.

But the whole thing got me thinking; thinking about the thousands of people who follow this guy. What kind of person gets sucked into this ideal based on such a shaky foundation? What makes say, an East-Berliner give all of his worldly possessions to a Puerto Rican, based solely on a nice Italian suit and a smile? There's obviously more to it than that. But I'm just trying to figure out -- what kind of thinking is that? What's going on in your head?

It's the attraction of the cult mentality, which to me is similar to the mentality of a lot of Christians.

Cults offer different things; sense of belonging, sense of purpose, a charismatic leader, etc... Many people go to church for the same reasons. There they find community. They find love and acceptance. They also find a reason to live; a reason for existence. They also find a Savior; Christ. They are told, "believe in Jesus as your Savior, His promise that He fullfilled the debt you owed on the cross, and your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life."

And they say, "Yes. I believe.... now what?"

Here's where some churches go wrong. But the blame can't fall squarely on the church. Our nature tells us, "there's gotta be a catch. I mean, it can't just be 'believe' and that's it. I gotta be a good person, right? I have to be Baptized, don't I?" or "I have to change the way I live, don't I ?" or "I have to quit smoking, don't I?" or "I have to be Baptized by the Holy Spirit, don't I" or "I have to stop sinning, right?"

The answer to all of those questions is, no.

Unfortunately, many church "leaders" who should not be leading, proceed to add lists of rules and regulations; follow-up for the Biblically challenged.

Salvation is by faith alone. There is nothing to add to that. It is all about God's grace.

But our nature can't handle a free gift. We have to add stuff to it.

I just heard a song by Derek Webb called, A New Law.

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

Great song. Makes sense. There is nothing to add to God's promises. It's all about His promise and our response in faith. There is nothing we can do or not do that will change that. We believe, and that's it.

But someone cries out, "Yes, but...." and it all goes to hell.

It's the same mentality of the cultist. "Sacrifice is required. We must work hard. There is much to do. We must live rightly. We are the only ones who are right. Everyone else is wrong."

"We ARE the new law."

If Christ came to liberate us from bondage, why are we so bent on staying imprisoned?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Cuban in St. Augustine...

... is like a lechon asado on Christmas Eve... for a Cuban. They go hand in hand.

Unfortunately Cuban, even Spanish presence in the old city is minimal.

I love going to the Old City, and just spent 2 days there with my father. We went to sight-see and check out things that only history nerds like us could get into.

St. Augustine is the oldest European established city in the USA. It was established by the Spanish in the 1500's. The Spanish would trade and use the shipping lanes from Spain, through the Caribbean and up to St. Augustine. Many Cubans were educated in St. Augustine (including Padre Felix Varela, who also spent the last years of his life and passed away in the Old City).

Unfortunately, it seem that most of the Spanish and Cuban presence has been whittled down to re-constructed Spanish colonial homes, and white Anglo Americans dressed in Spanish garb to commemorate the early days of the city.

Don't get me wrong. I am so grateful for the people of St. Augustine, and their love for the history of the place and the people who founded it. They have really done an incredible job at keeping the history alive. I'm just saying it would be nice to see some REAL Spanish restaurants, and REAL cigar shops (Columbia Restaurant is a tourist trap pretending to be Spanish, and the cigar shops have over-priced, low quality cigars).Speaking of cigars, I took one of my own from Miami and happily smoked it outside Cafe Hidalgo. A Torano Exodus 1959. First one I smoked was at Berkley Boricua's going away BBQ (yes Rick... the night I fell back on the rocking chair and you laughed as my cool points drifted off with the smoke from my cigar). This is an AMAZINGLY smooth cigar, but not for the novice smoker.

The demitasse you see photographed is from Cafe Hidalgo. One thing that St. Augustine does not have a shortage of is cafes, most of them with EXCELLENT espresso. So if you're Cuban, don't worry about packing up the cafetera for your trip. St. Augustine's got you covered. Cafe Hidalgo also had great gelatto and tiramisu.

One of the tourist things we did was take a ghost tour. We took the walking tour in the evening. I had never been on a ghost tour so I thought I'd check it out. The neat thing about a ghost tour is you hear stories you might not hear otherwise, because they are usually based on real people who had some sort of tragedy befall them, but are minor characters in history. They lost me when they started talking about "orbs" and "sensitivity" and little girls hanging around city gates 100 years after they died. Can you imagine how horrific that would be? For a child's soul to be trapped for eternity on a busy street corner on AIA, waving at people? I don't know how many in the group actually believed it, but one guy was going nuts taking pictures with his flash, trying to catch the ghosts on film. The guide was very entertaining though, and it was a good way to end the evening.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Mision Nombre de Dios at the crack of dawn. I took this picture by the altar built on the location where the first Catholic Mass was held on mainland North America. It's such a peaceful place. You get a real sense of history, but also of the beauty of creation. Not to mention, the beauty of the Cross.

Finally, one of the cooler moments of the trip was in the re-built home of a Spanish soldier. My dad saw the kitchen, and was really taken aback because it was almost identical to the one in his house in Santiago de Las Vegas a suburb of Havana. His childhood home was a Spanish colonial home, and still had the original concrete coal oven. He recalls how his grandmother (my great grandmother) would heat up the coal and make amazing dishes. He remembered that they would stick a boniato (sweet potato) wrapped, directly on the coals, and how it would come out completely cooked through, almost syrupy. He could smell the sweet potato, the memory was so vivid.

We really had a great time in the Old City. Thanks Papi, for sharing this time with me. It meant a lot.