Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking for Moments

I'm giving a homily (mini-sermon) tonight for Advent. For the 3rd week of Advent, my homily revolves around Moses' fear, and remembering the freedom from bondage offered by Christ, which is what Christmas is all about. Christ the Deliverer, coming to redeem the world in the most peculiar way.

SO, keep it short and sweet; that's what I've been told about homilies. The question for me is, how do I get the message to connect?

Whenever I preach or am asked to speak before a crowd, I'm reminded of how difficult it must be for pastors who stand at the pulpit every Sunday. You're trying to connect with the congregation. Hopefully, you're not trying to manipulate the congregation emotionally; you simply want to communicate truth and pray that God will use your words to impact the listener, or at least prompt the listener to think about the truth you just shared.

So tonight, my intent is to prompt the listener to drop the "Praise the Lord!" mask (most of the attendees are people who confess Christ as their Savior; they are decent people, but we, myself included, need to be reminded daily that we are not all that) and stand naked before The Deliverer. My prayer is that God would pierce the heart of at least 1 person within the sound of my voice, to make that person question where they are in their spiritual ghetto (a ghetto of misguided self-righteousness and flippant treatment of our faith), and start getting honest about who they are in relation to God.

We are a people looking for moments. By moments, I mean we are all looking for those emotional, inspiring moments to confirm whatever one may believe. So this isn't limited to Christians. You can be a Wiccan, and be inspired by the story of a soldier coming home and be brought to tears. You can be an "enlightened one" (my term for someone who is open to everything except Jesus) and be moved by watching a child help an old lady cross the street. When 9/11 happened, the world entire was moved to tears and there was an outpouring of emotion and inspiration that followed; for a time at least.

And that's how it is for Christians. We look for "Hallelujah!" moments to inspire us. I don't reject those moments, I just question their frequency. I meet Christians who are "just so blessed", all the time, that it makes me wonder sometimes how they could handle all that time on the mountaintop and not have their hair turn white, like Moses. Then I wonder if maybe my life is lacking spiritually, because "Man! This guy is at the foot of God's throne 24/7! Does he ever feel defeated? Does he ever struggle?"

All that to say that my homily tonight is directed to my own heart and the listeners. A call to honesty; to stop looking for the "Hallelujah!" moments, and realize that those moments come when we acknowledge how screwed up we really are. If my goal is to be a Super-Christian, trying to convince the world how special I am and that they can be special too if they will just walk down that aisle, then I miss out on the beauty of the comfort of my Father's embrace when I acknowledge that I am broken. If my goal is to try to do "good deeds" and hope that karma will return the favor by making my life better... well we all know that doesn't really work; that is, if we're honest.

I thank God for being real enough to come to me in real-time, and in real life.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Second Opinion Today

My good friend Cameron and a few of his buddies in the medical field started a political blog, The Second Opinion Today. As usual, anything I post that smacks of politics will be a link to smarter and more capable people than I in the political arena.

So... what he said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Misha's Cupcakes

I know. What the heck am I doing blogging about cupcakes?

Well, this weekend was my niece's bridal shower. Family and friends alike all did their part to make this event memorable. My wife and I bought the cake for the event. We bought it at Misha's Cupcakes on US-1 in Coral Gables. The actual cake is pictured above. I didn't attend the bridal shower, but I was told the cake and cupcakes were delicious.
But the yummy cake, unfortunately, is not the focus of my post. I would like to bring your attention to the plastic tier on which it sits.
On the night of the shower, my wife handed me the stand and said, 'Hold on to this. We have to return it to Misha's Cupcakes'. 'Sure', I said. As I was holding it, I rested the base of it ever so lightly against my leg, and the bottom plastic plate cracked and fell off.
The stand is made up of 5 individual plastic parts. The bottom detachable plate, which separates from the other 5 parts, broke off.
Today, we returned the stand to Misha's Cupcakes. Misha's Cupcakes charged us $100.00 for the bottom plastic plate. They were cutting us a break, you see. Originally, they intended to keep my niece's check for deposit, which totaled $150.00.
I was not impressed with their attempt at generosity.
And yes, you heard right. I now own a cheap plastic disk which I purchased for $100.00.
Actually, I don't own it. Misha's Cupcakes keeps the stand, and will now pick out a cheap plastic disk from their storage, add it to the other 4 plastic pieces and... voila! And again, voila!... I am out $100.00.
The word has already gone out through other channels. This is unjust, unfair,and flat out wrong. Actions like this are the reason businesses fail so often in Miami. The customer is expendable, and usually wrong.
A friend of mine already sent an email to Misha's Cupcakes, expressing his displeasure with the whole situation. Misha's Cupcakes responded in typical Miami fashion... tell me if you've heard this before:
"When your order was made we made it clear that there was a $150 deposit for failure to return the tier, or if it was damaged. When the order was picked up, the customer signed the tier rental form stating this, which is an acceptance and agreement to these terms. So, when the tier was broken, the completion of these terms is to forfeit the deposit. There were no surprises, no ugliness, just following through with exactly what was stated would happen if the tier was not returned, or if it was damaged. I am very sorry you feel the need to spread negativity for something that was your own fault. I think more fairly you should take responsibiliity for your own actions. I would never want to lose a reasonable customer, but unfortunately you are not reasonable."
AHHHH! Sorry.
So, I am unreasonable because I think $150.00, and yes even $100.00, is a bit much to pay for a 13" plastic disk. I am also supposed to say, "Well golly, I did sign a rental agreement, so I guess it's fair to pay $100.00 for a plastic disk I can pick up for under $5.00 wholesale (I'm assuming)."

I would be willing to pay for the amount Misha's Cupcakes paid for the plastic disk. That would be fair. $150.00 is a great incentive to make customers bring back the tier, and totally justifiable. But to charge someone $100.00 for a broken piece of plastic is wrong in principle. But we like to wipe our rear ends with principle in Miami, don't we? It's like it's our job.

Miami seems to be a place full of "gotcha!" moments. Go buy a car, "gotcha!" on the price. Go buy a property, "Gotcha!" with misinformation.

Misha's Cupcakes, you got me. Congratulations. I'm sure there was a sense of empowerment there for a moment, along with a warped sense of benevolence that came along with your decision to cut me a break at $100.00. I feel extremely sad for you, especially since I found out this afternoon that you have done this before.

So if you live in Miami, PLEASE TELL ME THERE ARE STILL PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN WITH PRINCIPLES. I'm dying to find out if the idea of good and fair business practices still exist in Miami, because crap like this really makes me wonder who my neighbors are.
Finally, I love that I am now "spreading negativity". I guess I'm supposed to take being ripped off and say "Thaaanks!" on the way out. Amazing.
So I for one will not be going back to Misha's Cupcakes again. And if you go, be careful when you sign that agreement that says you will return and not break a flimsy plastic tier! Treat that baby like gold, or it will be the most expensive piece of plastic you ever bought! Take pictures, and for God's sake, carry the used plastic and already slightly marred and cracked tier as you would a Faberge Egg!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Honesty brings out a lot of demons. No wonder we walk through life faking it. Otherwise, most of us would be a wreck.

It's easier to play a role. You can be a champion today, if you put on the right mask. "Today, I'm going to take on the world, and nothing is going to stop me." and "It's a new day!" and "God loves me when I'm cheerful and doing his work.".


When that doesn't work, there are other roles to play. "I am a victim. The world is against me. Oh well, I (dramatic pause)... guess that's just the way it is...".

Right now, in my full-disclosure role, I'm really struggling. Someone knows most of my shit, and it's not fun. Not fun at all.

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and I welcome the struggle.

Getting honest with yourself isn't about therapy. If it was all about me, then it's just more self-centered garbage. Getting honest is about getting yourself in a position of vulnerability, so you can help others realize they're dealing with a lot of the same stuff you're dealing with, that you know it, and you're calling them out on it.

So, I'm struggling today. Um, nothing else to say but that. A reminder for me the next time I visit my blog again... you know... when I'm not struggling because I'm faking it again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Beware of Christianity

I've made a deal with a dear friend of mine, and have entered into full disclosure with him. This means that we both decided it was time for us to cut through the BS and be honest with someone else about everything; our fears, sins past and present and likely future, and everything in between.

I'm not sure what this is called in psycho-babble, but in our Christian faith it is called confession. Now it's one thing to do this with a God you think may be there, but you can't see his face; or if you're a Catholic, behind a veiled wall to a priest who can't see who you are. Both of these are a good start. But it's another thing altogether when you have to look someone in the eye and tell them everything.

I thought it would be liberating, because that's the impression you get. We've all heard the term 'get it off your chest'.

It seems, however, that God does not let us off that easy.

Confession means to be honest about who you are. Not just about a lie you said last Saturday that your wife caught you in, but every lie not caught as well. Confession and full disclosure is good, not because it is 'liberating', though it can be. Confession and full disclosure with another brother or sister, in confidence and face to face, is good because it is part of repentance.

My blog is about cigars, rum and grace. But grace without honesty just doesn't happen. We can talk about, write some really heady stuff about it. But without honesty, you can't really start grasping the essence of grace.

Christianity is dangerous, but not because of it's zealous throngs carrying the label on their t-shirts and signs. Christianity is dangerous because it is the only world-view that forces us to honestly address the fact that, as Rich Mullins put it, 'we are not as strong as we think we are'.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Okay... For REAL This Time

I'm starting to blog again; mostly because I need to get the creative juices flowing.

Before I begin, a poem in 2 parts, sent me by Smokin' Joe, which fits the theme of my blog quite well:

Part One: The Law

THIS Indian weed now wither'd quite,

Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,

Shows thy decay;All flesh is hay.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe, so lily-like and weak,

Does thus thy mortal state bespeak

Thou art ev'n such,Gone with a touch.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,

Then thou behold'st the vanity

Of worldy stuff,

Gone with a puff.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,

Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;

For then the fire, It does require.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away;

Then to thyself thou mayest say,

That to the dust

Return thou must.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Part Two: The Gospel

WAS this small plant for thee cut down!

So was the Plant of great renown;

Which mercy sends

For nobler ends.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed

From such a naughty foreign weed?

Then what's the power

Of Jesse's flower?

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,

And by the mouth of faith conveys

What virtue flows

From Sharon's rose.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

In vain th' unlighted pipe you blow;

Your pains in outward means are so,

Till heav'nly fire

The heart inspire.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The smoke, like burning incense, tow'rs;

So should a praying heart of yours,

With ardent cries,

Surmount the skies.

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.--

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The View from Down Here

The one major difference between Christianity and all other religions is Grace. I'm sure there are many more differences we can find. But Grace is where Christianity goes its own way and stands alone.

While other religions seek to bring their followers to a higher level of enlightenment or salvation by making them work and strive to better themselves (however that religion defines bettering), Christianity says to EVERYONE, 'you'll never make it on your own'.

So bottom line is, the only condition for being a Christian is to believe in Christ and all that he represents. There is nothing else to do. There is no work to do. There is no betterment to participate in. There is nobody to compete with. There is no cause to serve. Nothing is required of you, because it is already understood that there is nothing you can offer to a Holy God that will ever satisfy Him. There is nothing you or I could do to ever reach Him. He understands that. That is why He sacrificed Himself; because He wanted desperately to change that, and wanted desperately to be with you. Not so you could "be better", but because he just loves us.

So that's the view from down here. From up there, it's a different view.

Christians and those who call themselves Christians (by that I mean people who culturally or by heritage give themselves this title), have a tendency to hold a higher view of themselves. For that matter most people do, regardless of religious belief. It is our nature to do so. We want to believe we can achieve great things for our creator, if we believe in one or more, or we want to believe we can achieve great things to gain enlightenment.

So we build our proverbial towers to reach God. After all, the view from the top makes more sense; or at least that is what we believe. More than anything else, by nature and instinct, we believe we can reach the top (whatever the "top" is) on our own, and that it is our duty and our right to do so. Nobody wants to be at the bottom. Nobody wants to see themselves as "lesser". Nobody wants to feel small.

For Christians, it is to our disadvantage that we share this nature with the rest of the world. It's a disadvantage because it is exactly this nature that keeps us from experiencing our faith at a deeper level.

After all, if we believe the promises of Christ; that by His death and resurrection we are saved, but our nature tells us there is still something we have to do to reach Him or know Him, then we are truly at a great disadvantage.

So what is the view from down here? It is the view that says there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less than He already does.

That's it.

It is polar opposite from the the view up there; the view that complicates and clouds our vision of ourselves and God, and tells us there has GOT to be more to it than that.

The view from up there is called many things. I like to call it our sin-nature. Others call it original sin. It's the view that says, 'I can do this'. Some people think sex is sin. Others think being a politician is sin. Still others think gay=sin, abortion=sin. These days some people think being a Christian = sin (or mean, because most of those people don't believe sin exists).

"Sin" is our nature, and our nature is to rebel and reach whatever we are trying to reach on our own steam. Basically, 'sin' is who we are. We can't categorize it in to specific acts of disobedience.

To some this sounds horrible. To others it sounds simplistic. I guess that's why some believe and others don't.

For me it makes sense. I'm not saying 'This is my truth'. I'm saying this is truth.

God's grace is the reason Christ turned the world on it's head. There are many religions in the world; I hear that all the time. I also hear, 'With so many religions, how can you believe that Christianity is the only right one?'. Speaking from personal experience, Christianity is the only religion that, when approached honestly, makes sense in the whole realm of existence. It's the only worldview that stands on it own, because it is the only one that says you cannot know God until you recognize your utter and complete need of Him.

And no, I don't think this is arrogant. I don't think it is arrogance to say, "I can't do this on my own". There is more arrogance in saying, "I can make this happen on my own".

Perspective is a hell of a thing. I'll choose the view from down here. It's definitely not a comfortable place to be. I'd rather be where I can believe there is a "Secret", or a place where I can experience my "...Best Life Now". But then again, Jesus never said it would be easy.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

Joshua Stephen Ruiz, born June 13, 2008. What a ride!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Built For Glory, Made To Last

My friends William and Katherine gave me a copy of a best of CD for a great band, The Lost Dogs. I heard this song this morning, and thought I'd share it.

Built For Glory, Made to Last
from the album "Scenic Routes"
(Music and lyrics by Terry Taylor)

I found an old man lying on the street
thought I'd do my good deed
I wrapped my coat around him
and gave him food to eat
With labored breath he struggled
but his eyes held heaven's light
He whispered 'Young man don't feel bad for me,
it will all work out alright'


I was built for glory
I was made to last
God formed these feet to walk golden streets
when this hard life is past
Say "he's doin' well on the other side"
If anybody asks
say I was built for glory
I was made to last

He said I've been a Texas ranger
and I've been a railroad man
Lost two sons to consumption
Lost my money in a get rich scam
Buried my wife fifteen years ago
that's when I took to the road
I'm too crippled now to walk again
but I'll walk those streets of gold


I asked "What's your name?"
He shook his head, said "It don't really matter
I'm just another poor soul out on the street
whose rewards in the great hereafter
and Jesus been a friend of mine
when all others passed me by
but He led you here so I could say
these words before I die" yeah


The old man held me by the hand
and sighed his final breath
Now his spirit is in heaven
while his body is at rest
Today I'm makin it my mission
to help others understand
We're all fish out of water
Strangers in a foreign land


We were built for glory
We were made to last
God formed our feet to walk golden streets
when this hard life is past
It's time to make your peace with God
cause this life's over fast
and we were built for glory
We were made to last

Friday, May 02, 2008

Enjoy Your Weekend, and think.

"The Bible's purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible's purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome... religion is 'if you obey, then you will be accepted'. But the Gospel is, 'if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey'. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference." -Tim Keller

Friday, April 25, 2008

Am I Cynical?

I've been thinking about my last post from last week, and wondering "Wow. Maybe I'm being too harsh. Where did that come from? Maybe I should remove it. But, maybe nobody is reading it! Just in case though, it would be the 'Christian' thing to do to just take it down. Do I really want to offend my Christian brothers and sisters?"

Hmmm… YES!

Here's a few reasons why:

Mathew 23:5-7

(Jesus talking about the Pharisees) "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

Matthew 23:15

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Jesus again… Ouch!)

Matthew 23:25-26

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. - (yep; Jesus)

Matthew 23:27

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." - (Jesus)

There's more, but I'll stop there.

The interesting thing about people in general – Christian or not – is that they tend to spend a lot of time judging "sinners" and outcasts. The interesting thing about Jesus is that he spent a lot of time bashing the "holy" and those "set apart", and treated "sinners" – that would be me and you in case you're wondering – with grace and love.

So, Christian readers, as you go into the weekend and make plans to go to church on Sunday, know that I will be right alongside with you in spirit, worshipping our God (whether you believe that or not is entirely your issue). If I have offended you with any of my blog posts in the past, I will not ask for forgiveness for the same reason Jesus did not ask for forgiveness.

He was right.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled - you know, the Ben Stein documentary PRAISE GOD!!!

Soooo... I found out today that Christians all over America are 'urging' fellow parishioners to go see the new documentary, "Expelled", a Ben Stein production, in an effort to 'get the word out' and support the film. Group tickets are being sold. Church and small group leaders are telling church members to invite their 'unchristian' friends.

Support the film? Get the word out?

I don't get it. And if you read my blog, you can assume that yes, I am a Christian.

I love the premise of this film, and I'm not judging it or Ben Stein at all. I love Ben Stein (he had me at "Bueller?... Bueller...?"). He's basically investigated and uncovered something that has been known for years about Social Darwinism and, as he calls it, the "no intelligence allowed" scenario that exists in our universities, colleges, and schools.

But here's my problem (not with the film; with Christians):

SUPPORT THE FILM... what does that mean? Are Christians hoping that evolutionists everywhere will say, 'hey... maybe there's something to this movie that we should take a look at. Look at all those mid-western white evangelicals wearing "Real Men Love Jesus" t-shirts standing in line to see it.... hmmm... maybe, just maybe there's something about this movie I need to see...."? I don't get it.

GET THE WORD OUT... what does THAT mean? What word? That people prefer Social Darwinism over the idea of a creator because it allows them to SEEMINGLY be lords of their own lives? That because they want to be lord and master of their own destinies, they snub their noses at deists, Christians, or anyone else who even implies there is intelligent design? I'm sorry... don't we know that already?

So I'm going to wait for this documentary to come out on DVD. I'm really looking forward to seeing it. But the last thing I want is to pay $9.00 for a ticket to see this film in a theater, and have to hear shouts of "amen!" or "Hallelujah!" every time Richard Dawkins or one of his lemmings is nailed for saying something patently emotional and ridiculous. The image of a fat pasty red-headed woman standing up with her hands raised in the air in praise in the dark as the movie is playing because Ben Stein says 'loving God', as much as I believe it, is something I can't chance seeing.

I'm looking forward to seeing this movie... later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What I Read Today.

Psalm 116, from "The Message", a paraphrase of scripture:

I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.

He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him. Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels. Up against it, I didn't know which way to turn; then I called out to God for help: "Please, God!" I cried out. "Save my life!"

God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

I said to myself,

"Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you've been rescued from death;
Eye, you've been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."

I'm striding in the presence of God, alive in the land of the living! I stayed faithful, though bedeviled, and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race, saying, "They're all liars and cheats."

What can I give back to God for the blessings he's poured out on me?
I'll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!

... Halelujah!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Remembering Chile '07

My wife taking a walk on Las Dunas de Reñaca along the coast in Chile. Sigh...
Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Spanish, for the Abuelos

Cachao, maestro de la musica Cubana, falleció hoy a los 89 años.

Tengo 37 años de edad, y en los 90’s empecé a apreciar la música de este maestro. Es difícil describir el efecto que estas grabaciones tuvieron en mí. Tienes que ser hijo de padres Cubanos para entender, viviendo bajo el enigma por la memoria de Cuba, la cual sólo conoces a través de los ojos de tus padres.

Mientras escribo, estoy sentado en el portal trasero de mi casa, fumando un Padrón de 1964. Reflejo lo que significa ser Cubano, sin siquiera haber puesto un pie en la isla. Pienso en el significado de la palabra “legado.” Nuevamente, me maravillo al pensar en la vida y sus muchas vueltas, lo que representa vivir 89 años y haber logrado tanto.

Estoy pensando en mi padre y sus 67 años, y las muchas vueltas que su vida ha tenido; en mi madre y el legado de amor que me ha dejado.

Me siento súbitamente obligado a pensar en mi vida; dónde he estado y hacia dónde voy. Escucho la música suave y melódica del Danzón Cubano en mi mente. El sonido de las cuerdas me hipnotiza. Cachao y su orquesta tienen un sonido maravilloso!

A principios de esta semana estuve sumamente envuelto por la mudanza a una nueva casa; tratando de terminar mi trabajo; tratando de cerciorar el bienestar de mi esposa y el hijo que pronto nacerá y tratando de asegurarme que mi hija sepa lo mucho que su padre la quiere. Sin embargo, pienso en el significado de ser cubano.

¿Soy cubano-americano, o simplemente americano? ¿Quiero verdaderamente estar asociado con la locura de un país cuyo un líder ha ultrajado y destruido a su pueblo, o acepto la nación que es mi hogar y la cual quiero por su historia y libertad?¿Es ser cubano un título dado única y exclusivamente a aquellos que nacieron en la rica tierra de una isla cuya alma ha sido quebrantada en dos partes?

A veces se que soy americano, pero otras veces no se. Cuando vives las memorias de tus padres, cuando ves calles de Santiago de las Vegas en tu mente, aunque nunca hayas estado ahí, cuando ves las paredes de El Malecón, o atraviesas el Túnel de la Habana, sentado en el banco de la guagua junto a tu padre, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando entras a la casa donde tu madre y padre vivieron de recién casados, y ves lo pequeña que es la habitación, pues tenían que prácticamente brincar a la cama al entrar, o cuando ves a tu bisabuela preparar café con leche para tu padre todas las mañanas antes de ir a la escuela, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando ves a tu padre volando papalotes con sus primos bajo el sol y las palmas reales de un pueblo colonial español, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando ves a tu padre cortejando a tu madre en un hermoso parque lleno de viejos árboles, pero siempre bajo la mirada vigilante de tu abuela, quien la observa con sus brillantes ojos azules, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Esta noche, soy cubano y no hay nadie en el mundo que me diga lo contrario. Esta noche, puedo decir que fui a Santiago de las Vegas, fui al pueblo de mis padres, fui al hogar de mis padres.

Siempre puedo contar con Cachao y su música para que me transporten a aquel lugar donde puedo ser cubano. Por esto, estaré eternamente agradecido.

* Thanks to Mercedes for the translation.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Con Cachao y Su Orquesta, Ire A Bejucal...

Cachao, master Cuban composer, passed away today.

I'm 37 years old, and only began appreciating the music of this maestro with the release of his Master Sessions in the 90's. The effect those recording have on me is hard to describe. You have to be the son of Cuban parents -- mystified by the memory of a Cuba known to you only through the eyes of your parents -- to understand.

As I write this, I'm sitting in my back porch, smoking a Padron 1964. I'm reflecting on what it means to be Cuban, without having ever set foot on the island. I'm reflecting on the word legacy. I am again, mystified by life and the many twists in the road; what it means to live 89 years and have accomplished so much.

I'm reflecting on my father and his 67 years and the many twists and turns in his road; on my mother and the legacy of love she has left for me.

I am prompted suddenly to think of my life; where I've been, where I am and where I am going.

The slow, melodic rhythm of a Danzon Cubano is playing in my head. The strings are hypnotizing. Cachao and his orchestra sound amazing.

Earlier this week amidst the busyness of moving to a new home and trying to catch up with my work; of making sure my wife and our soon to be born son are comfortable; of making sure my daughter knows she is loved deeply by her father, I thought of what it means to be Cuban. Am I Cuban-American, or just plain American? Do I want to associate myself with the madness of a nation whose leader has raped and destroyed his people, or do I embrace the nation that is my home and I have loved for its rich history of freedom?

Is being Cuban a title given exclusively to those born on the rich soil of that island whose soul has been ripped in two?

Sometimes, I know I am American. Sometimes, I just don't know.

When you live the memories of your parents, when you see the streets of Santiago de las Vegas in your mind even though you've never been there, when you see the waves crashing on the walls of El Malecon, or drive through the tunnel to Havana sitting on the bus bench next to your father, you just don't know.

When you walk into the house your mother and father lived in when they first married and see how small the bedroom was that they had to jump right into bed in order to step into the room, or watch your great grandmother prepare cafe con leche for your father every morning before going to school, you just don't know.

When you see your father flying paper kites with his cousins under the sun and palm trees of a colonial Spanish town, you just don't know.

When you see your father courting your mother in a beautiful park lined with ancient trees, always under the watchful eye of your grandmother looking beautiful with her bright blue eyes, you just don't know.

So tonight, I am Cuban, and there isn't a damn thing anyone can say to me otherwise.

Tonight, I can say que fui a Santiago de las Vegas; I went to the town of my parents. The place they called home.

I can always count on Cachao and his music to take me to that place where I can be Cuban. For that I am ever grateful.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You Gotta Love Lewis

"Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan," sobbed Lucy. "At last."...

"Welcome child," he said.

"Aslan,", said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis

Cool Blog

I added a new site to my blog roll, Un-churched In Miami". There's a poll on the site entitled, "Why Have You Stopped Going To Church?".

The blog asks questions about spirituality, community and relevance.

I am an active member of my church*, so I don't fit into the Un-Churched category. But I have expressed repeatedly that, if for whatever reason I fell out of my current faith community, it would be very difficult to find another home church in Miami. I think a lot of people feel this way. I understand the mind of the person who is fed up with the idea of the modern protestant church. Churches with depth are hard to come by in these parts. It seems everyone is too busy embracing relativism, putting on the best AV show in town, being "relevant", or being right.

The object of our worship should be God. Instead, we're too focused on our agendas and keeping our churches full. The object of our affection has been kidnapped and replaced with rhetoric and marketing.

I do like the this blog though; great opportunity for discussion. I hope to see more postings for and from the Un-Churched in Miami.

* - my church is far from perfect; but it's home.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


It's a story as old as time. Guy says he's going to start an intensive Bible study, guy finds out he's having a son, guy buys a house, guy starts remodeling house, guy's source of income is challenged.

Guy has no time for intensive Bible study.

It's been a crazy start to '08; mostly full of blessings and good things. Still, it was nuts. I'm looking to get back into blogging again in a couple of weeks.

How the hell do all those really cool sounding pastors do it; you know, the ones who tell us how to read the entire Bible in one year, and seem to have their "quiet time" undeterred by life's interuptions? Maybe they're special... hmmm... nah... they're just as full of it as I am, that's all.

But today, a new era begins. A time of deep spirtual reflection and contemplation. A time of personal study of God's word. Daily, I will wake up before the sun rises, pour myself a hot cup of coffee, and sit studiously (and spiritually) at my hardwood desk in my library, in my brown leather executive chair, and begin anew my time of deep spiritual reflection on the Holy scriptures. I will allow God to speak to me, and I will be blessed and at peace.

Oh wait. I forgot. I don't have a library. Or a hardwood desk. And I have a plastic chair on wheels.

The imagery was nice though, wasn't it?

The nice thing is though, imagery aside, God still loves me. I am His son. So, I'll look past the how-to books, the imagery and what everyone thinks spending time with God should be; or look like.

I'll focus instead on the fact that I am His. That's all that matters. He loves me. That's all I need to motivate me. That should be my only motivation.

So I'll endeavor to read my Bible, around 9'ish, a few days a week. God will speak to me; hopefully I'll listen. And when I do, it will be beautiful. And when I don't, he still loves me.

More blogging soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Arriving At Brighton...

I just started a new scripture study. One of my Roman-Catholic friends, Robert, published a scripture compilation book a few years ago, and he wants to put it on the Internet. So, he asked me and several other friends and family to share thoughts on his notes and scripture selection.

His work is called "God's Will and the Purpose of Life", which I do believe is quite a grandiose title, but he's Cuban so he can't help it. I know his heart, however, so his motives are not self-aggrandizing at all. He has compiled this as a labor of love to give people a greater understanding of our relationship with God.

So, I might be the only Protestant in his group of critics. One of Robert's pet-peeves is he believes many Protestants are arrogant and judgemental. So, this whole being "right" thing rubs him the wrong way. I can see where he's coming from, sort of. I'm hoping however that through our time of study, we can share each perspective with the other, and grow in our understanding of God and ourselves. God knows I still have way too much to learn.

I hope to share as much as I can on my blog; like an online devotional. Right off the bat, I know my perspective will be different from his; probably completely. But what I'm finding is that the differences are not a result of his being Roman-Catholic. I'm finding already how similar his view of God mirrors that of most protestants, born-agains, evangelicals, etc... even people in my own church. Very interesting.

More to come.