Monday, June 19, 2006

Bits and Pieces

I am taking a break from my Cuba Highlights series because I want to give it its full attention... and I have not had time to draft the Wednesday - Saturday entries. They will be posted in due time...

So today, I am reverting back to the "random things" method.

1. I received my license plates in the mail for my new car... they read: 600 MRX. Now I instantly saw Mr. X in that... but most people I have told about it do not find the humor until I bring it to their attention. Regardless, you can now refer to me as Mr. X (affectionately, if you like).

2. The coffee gods have smiled upon us here in the Marathon Oil Tower. We used to have the most horrid set up that was similar to the coffee you might get from an airport vending machine. Well today... we have actual coffee pots and we can bring in our own coffee to brew. Mr. X is very happy with this turn of events.

3. The other night at the Astros game, I tried to say "happy family"... but instead, I said "fappy hamily." We then tried to give "fappy" a definition... but nothing seemed to work. None of us were very comfortable with word after we said it many times...

4. I think one of my favorite things to do is sit in the easy chair, read, drink coffee... all while it is raining outside. This morning, I had a particularly difficult time leaving this ideal scenario to come to work. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is that I can do it and not feel like I am being unproductive or lazy. If it is sunny outside, I feel like I should be out enjoying the weather... but if it is raining, I am justified to just sit inside and read for hours if I want to.

5. I have discovered (much like Donald Miller says in his intro to Blue Like Jazz) that seeing someone else enjoy something makes it all the more appealing. I have had a number of instances in recent weeks where I was indifferent to a given item/issue... but when I saw a friend truly enjoy said item/issue... it caused me to see the merits previously hidden to me.

6. I posted this entry and it had 4 grammatical errors... and it has taken me at least 30 minutes to fix them. Of all the times for Blogger to experience server problems...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cuba 2006 Highlights - Part 2

Tuesday - May 30

On Tuesday, there were two highlights.

The first one was when we split into smaller groups with some of the college students to share testimonies and just ask each other questions. Each group had two Americans and four Cubans. We sat on a curb and just shared a little about ourselves with each other. My group consisted of Andriel, Nelson, Nori, and Franklin... and then Laurie Lau was the other American (though she is Chinese). Anyway, the best part of this was seeing that life for Cuban College students is not very different from life here in the US of A. We asked them how we could pray for them... and finals was the answer across the board. Andriel had just graduated, so his prayer request was for his job. Pretty much exactly what we said. Another great aspect of this afternoon was when one of the guys (known as Pappito) shared with the whole group how much he was blessed by us praying for the leaders the night before. It was one of those moments where I realized that our presence really was ministering to them even though the direct impact was slightly hidden to us.

The second highlight of this day involved worshiping in the dorms with the college students. Apparently, outside groups are not allowed in the dorms in Cuba... but we were (one of the many doors God opened while we were there). And not only were we allowed in... we were allowed to worship the Lord. As our host (Dan the Man Dan) said, we there to engage in "spiritual exercises." Two young ladies shared about how they had been down and depressed lately... so we prayed for that. And then Dan said there was too much sadness... we needed to just "praise the Lord." This guy had a passion to worship God... and it was catching. Another aspect of the night that blessed me was a young girl from Barbados singing How Great Thou Art accapella. I am telling you... this girl has some pipes. She could easily be the Cuban Idol. Even Simon would give her high marks. But even more beautiful than her voice was her desire to honor God with her voice... and she did just that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cuba 2006 Highlights - Part 1

As you are all aware, I recently traveled to Havana, Cuba with 26 other singles from my church here in Houston, TX. We returned on June 3, but work kept me too busy last week to post anything about the trip. So this week, I plan to give you a day-by-day look at our trip by discussing my personal trip highlights. Today's installment will cover Saturday, Sunday, and Monday... my apologies up front for the length of this post.

Saturday - May 27th

Our time in the airport was an event in and of itself. This was the only place that I ever felt like I was in a communist country. I may be making too much of this, but being in the airport terminal we were in (the one for chartered flights) had a very "controlled" feel to it. I was not scared at all... I just didn't feel free at all either. But then when I got through customs and walked outside, our new Cuban friends were so welcoming. And they spoke English... so we could all talk to them with reletive ease. Elmer (the leader of the group that we would be meeting with all week) was the first person I had a conversation with. It was truly a great way to start the week off because I could tell right off that he loved the Lord and just wanted to honor him. And besides that, he was hilarious.

Sunday - May 28th

We worshiped in a Cuban church that morning and then had the rest of the day as free time. Worshiping in another language and culture always presents its own challenges and blessings. Catha reminded us to embrace and experience the blessings as opposed to being annoyed by the challenges. Unexpectedly, Elmer translated the message for us (I fully expected to sit through an hour long sermon in Spanish. Now this was meaningful because Elmer had just told me the day before at the airport that his dream is to be a translator for a preacher. Well, we got to see/hear him do that for the first time... and he did a fine job. The rest of the day was free time. Many of us spent it at the pool just relaxing. This was a highlight because it allowed some of us who didn't know each other to get to know each other... which is in the top 3 highlights of the trip in general (more on that on Friday).

That night, we went into Havana to have dinner and just see the city. There were many highlights to be had here, and I will just list them out:

1. Watching Bart just be bold for the Christ by witnessing to a guy in a store where we bought some small paintings
2. Two-steppin' with Lori Latham to Cuban music
3. Salsa dancing with Lisa Karabatsos
4. Just seeing how another culture spends a Sunday night

Monday - May 29th

The highlight for me on Monday, was the leadership meeting we were blessed to be a part of. The group we were there to meet with all week have their leadership meeting on Monday nights. Well, they wanted us to sit in on the meeting... and to introduce ourselves to them and vice versa. Our introductions proved to be funny (some things were "lost in translation"), but the best part of the night was when we sang worship songs with them. As I noted above, worshiping with other cultures and in other languages always presents certain blessings... and this was no different. This group loves to sing (and so do I), and we just got loud in that room as we worshiped our Heavenly Father in song. In addtition to singing with them, we asked if we could pray for their group... so we all split into smaller groups and prayed for each of the leaders present. Again... truly a blessing. We didn't translate our prayers - we just voiced our thoughts to the Lord with the understanding that different languages was His doing in the first place and it does not confuse Him in the least. What a joy to be unified in Christ...