Guatemala Recap

So we have finished the project!  I had hoped to Blog each day about the experience but did not have access to WiFi so not possible. I will try to catch up some of the experiences of the last four days.

Day 1: Spent the morning going to the community and laying out the project.  We spent most of the time meeting people and doing a  bunch of prep work.  The seven member drilling team prepared the ground by digging ditches that would control the flow of water and then we drilled the pilot hole some 135 feet in order to find  water. The hygiene team began to teach the women and children of the village.

Day 2: Drilled the larger hole that would eventually fit the PVC pipe that would form the paramaters of the well.  Working side by side with the men of the village.  Playing with tons of kids.  The village prepared us a great lunch of Tilapia.

Day 3:  Opened up the water aquifer using a huge generator to pump out the water into the street, getting rid of all the rock and sand.   Kids had a blast playing in the water!  Great connections with the people by now… they really seem to dig us.

Day 4:  Final preparations of the well with the smaller pipe inserted within the PVC and the pump mechanism placed within the pipe.  Finally put the pump in place and I  was able to pump the first glass of water from the new well!  We had a final celebration with the people before jumping in the van and heading back north to Antigua.

Crazy great week so far and can’t even begin to tell all the details.  I am amazed at how  our team has bonded with the people here as well as the rest of our team from Houston!  I amazed that God had prepared this water from the beginning of time ready for this group to come and get to it in order to help a village have clean water.  I amazed at the way Christ’s love continues to blow us all away.

We will never be the same!

Here in Guatemala!

So we have arrived in Guatemala and have spent our first night in this beautiful country! We have an awesome group made up of 7 from our church and 4 from Houston.  We have already jelled as a group and it feels like God put us together!

We arrived at the airport in Guatemala City and made our way down south of the city to Antigua.  We had a great breakfast this morning in town and then wandered the city looking at some of the sites… Check us out here with the active valcano in the background.

We will soon be heading over to a bilingual church for worship. Our leaders from Guatemala have been incredibly gracious and are just a lot of fun to be around.  They prepared an authentic Guatemalan meal for us last night with homemade tortillas. Since I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast, I literally made a pig of myself.

I have to admit, last night I was so tired that I slept the best sleep I have had for some time. The weather dipped near 50 degrees which made for some great sleeping weather.  I was with three other guys from our group so I took the added precaution of wearing earplugs to avoid their sounds as well as my own.

I am truly amazed at how God has been so instrumental in making this trip work out and the way our church made sacrifices in order to fund the drilling of the well!  Later today, we head down toward the coast to begin our work and I can’t wait to get my feet dirty, literally!

It will be exciting to see the people and to make connections.  We are certain to go away changed by our time down here.  Stay tuned for updates… as long as I have Wifi connections.  I guess it all is about connections when we get right down to it: Connections with God, connections with each other and connections with the world…

I am sure that Guatemala will be in our hearts before we return!

Your cheating heart

If you are like me, you have been catching as much of the Olympics as possible.  It is exciting to watch our team go for the gold!  The Olympics itself represents some of the best athletes in the world competing at a high level with high expectations.

So, anytime we hear the word “cheating” in reference to the games, we are concerned and maybe even disillusioned. We probably assume it has something to do with drugs. Someone has been caught with a steroid cocktail.

But, in this case, that isn’t true. O yeah, there have been some suspicions and some assumptions about certain athletes but we have a first in this Olympics… at least it appears to be a first.

Some athletes have been disqualified for “fixing” the outcome of some matches in order to have a more favorable draw in the tourny.  In other words, they were trying to lose.

What makes this even more disgusting is that is happened in the powerful Olympic sport of …. drum roll… “Badminton.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I am already a bit floored that this is even an Olympic sport.

I mean it seems more like something that might happen at a family picnic. What’s next? Horseshoes as an Olympic sport? Or, maybe even corn hole (bean bag toss)?

I know you might be thinking of the fact that we already ping pong, a game normally relegated to basements and garages… Why not Badminton? Well, ping pong has been given the other name “Table Tennis” giving it refinement and moving it to a legitimate sport in my mind.

Back to the incident. Apparently people were booing during the matches in question. Again, were they booing at the poor play or the fact that they wasted time to go and watch Badminton in the first place. Who knows?

Regardless of how you feel about the “sport,” the fact that someone cheated is pretty sad. Cheating is one of those things that is just not cool whenever and however it occurs. It is basically another form of stealing, a close cousin of lying.

It shakes the integrity of the games and takes something away from everyone.  It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It makes you want to throw something at your TV set… especially when it happens with something as innocuous as a little bitty birdie.

At the center of cheating whether it happens in sports or in a classroom or in relationships, are people who are insecure, who are afraid to stand on their own merit. When we cheat, we say that we aren’t satisfied with who we are, what we have, or where we are going. We basically say “We aren’t enough.”

Sad stuff really.  But before we take out our badminton rackets and pound someone, maybe we need to take a hard look at ourselves.  Are we cheating in any way? After all, cheating takes many forms.

For instance, we may be cheating others important to us with our time allocation or we may be cheating the government in our taxes or we could be cheating our spouses with stolen glances toward someone else.

Don’t forget the old adage, “Cheaters never prosper.” Eventually, it will catch up with us. Hopefully, not while the whole world is watching.

Wonderful world!

I was listening to the song “What a wonderful world” this morning. It was a song originally made famous by Louis Armstrong.  I was listening to newer versions by Rod Stewart and Iz: two very different singers.

It’s hard to beat the original by Armstrong and I also have that downloaded to my Itunes.  His raspy deep voice adds to the message of the song. Regardless of who sings it, every time I hear it, I smile!

As I listened to the words, I consider how good I really have it. I am here hanging out on vacation with my kids and grandkids and I feel I have it better than anybody I know. I can’t tell you how alive I feel today!

Maybe it was the dancing. That’s right. I was dancing. Not well but with great energy at least. I had one of my grandsons, Skyler in my arms and he was giggling as I stepped across the floor, somewhat to the beat of the music.

Maybe it was this entire trip seeing my family and hanging out with them and simply enjoying the laughter. Maybe it was the beautiful sunshine or the grass or the flowers or the dogs walking by or a hundred little reminders of God’s presence.

Maybe it was the sweet presence of my wife Mary and the kiss on my cheek she gave me this morning. Regardless, I am realizing that I have a pretty incredible life!

No, things aren’t perfect and bad stuff still happens to good people. But, God made this world with an intention for us to experience the adventure! He wants us to embrace all the goodness around us in spite of all the badness that tries to insert itself.

Maybe, like me you need a reminder today.  Here are the words once more for you to listen to and smile with me:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Lessons from the nursery

It is a good morning… the sun is shining outside (we had rain late in the afternoon yesterday in Chicago) and we are up and at it.  It is vacation and I am enjoying my time with the boys.  Fun times!

Yesterday, Ollie and I went to the park and played in the water… Nice water park for little kids. I love watching him watch other kids. He was fascinated by their activities and then he got involved himself sticking his hand in the water and getting close to the sprayers.

It was like getting involved in multiple sprinklers but way cooler sprinklers than I have ever been in.  Of course, I had to follow him around, hence getting very wet myself in the process. Thanks Ollie for the excuse!

I did have to change Ollie’s dirty diaper today. Even that became an adventure. Try holding down a little 13 month old kid while you are trying to take off the old one and put on a new one while cleaning away the “stuff.” I swear the kid has four hands!

It is so much fun watching him and Skyler explore the world around them. So neat to try to see the world through their eyes. They are so fresh and so ready for whatever comes next.  I love how they are taking it all in, trying to figure it all out.

They are giving me life simply by watching them experience life with such abandonment.  They head after life at full throttle, nothing held back.  And they trust the adults around them to help them figure out boundaries and be there when they extend themselves too far.

What happened to that?  Why are we so reserved?  I hope I can learn my lesson from these two little balls of energy… Time to go find out what else I can learn…

Trip prep

I am here in Michigan! Yahoo!  I have already had several hours with one of my grandsons, hanging out on the floor, taking him for a walk, playing peak-a-boo and other games, and generally just doing whatever he wants to do.

I am having a blast!  I have to admit that I am not a fan of the overnight (red eye) plane trip it took for me to get here.  I am a bit groggy and a bit unsure of which end is up. Looking forward to an early bedtime.

But, I am on vacation.  Here’s the thing I noticed about going on a trip or taking time off.  It is kind of annoying but I realized again  how much work it takes just to be able to go out of town.

I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons making sure everything would be OK while I was gone. You know what I mean? My first priority was doing as much of my pastoral stuff ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to do it while on vacation.  I want to maximize time with our family.

It takes so much time and effort to be able to “leave it at the office” especially when you are taking an extended time away. I am hopeful however that I won’t have to spend time with emails, phone calls, and other communications.  The downside is that all that stuff will be waiting for me when I get home… Yuck!

Other preparation involved readying our home for when we were gone.  I had to do such things as putting a hold on our mail, getting a neighbor to water the trees/vegetation in our backyard, locking up, setting the thermostat for our “not here” temperature, buying items for the trip itself, checking into the flight, and of course packing.

I even had to ask a friend to “babysit” my wife’s geranium.  It normally sits in a large pot on our front porch in indirect sunlight and apparently needs a daily watering. What a pain! I thought, “why not let it die and start over.”

But, apparently, my wife has a fondness in her heart for this plant. And since I have a fondness for my wife (as well as a deep desire to not “blow it”), I determined to take care of her “baby.” So, I was obligated to ask our dear friends if they could watch over our little guy while we were out of town.  Live geranium, live!

It appears to me that there is a whole lot of preparations that go into going on a journey. Sometimes, I want to take shortcuts and avoid the “things to do” checklist. But, it is necessary if I can cut loose and just experience the adventure.

That isn’t just true for vacations but for all of life. For us to really “live it” we have to get ready. We have to prepare or we won’t have what we need for the journey.

We have to “check off stuff” so we can leave it behind and not worry about it.  We have to deal with all that stuff that clutters our lives so we can really focus on the people we will encounter each and every day.

Prep work is never fun, but it is so important!  As they say before a race: Get ready, get set… and finally… GO!

Love hurts

Allright, I will admit it. I miss her. It even led me to Blog after not blogging for quite some time. But, I don’t get it.  She has only been gone for one week. Shouldn’t be any big deal for veterans like us.

My wife Mary is in Michigan with our kiddos and grand-kiddos. We have been married for almost 31 years. You would think that I would fly through these days like no problem.

I have to admit the first couple of days were easy. I was so busy that I really didn’t think too much about her being gone. But, then I started to realize that I wanted someone to talk to when I got home and I am not used to sleeping alone.

More specifically, I wanted my Mary! I admit it. I am kind of a wimp when it comes to being alone. I need her in my life so much.

There is a false assumption that when you have known someone or have been with someone for a long time that you are cool when you have to be apart. After all, isn’t it the young couples who feel all those romantic feelings and can’t stop touching.

So, why would an old (older at least) fart like me having separation anxiety. Again, remember I admitted already that I am a total wimp.  So, you can laugh at me but I had the first laugh… not sure that makes it better.

Anyway, here is what I am learning not only from my own experience but also from watching couples who have lost spouses through death. It actually gets harder the longer you have been connected to another person. The “miss you” feeling intensifies.

My theory is that love really does grow as time goes on. If you stick with a person for a long time through all the pitfalls and all the tough situations and all the arguments. If you refuse to give up on each other, you hurt when that person is away or gone.

Mary already knows that when it comes to the discussion of death, I for sure want to be the first to go. She is stronger than I am and can handle it better. Again, remember the wimp admission.

Thankfully, we will be reconnected in about a week. I will be more than ready. I am even ready for those long conversations when I barely say two words. Or, holding her hand or just sitting in the same room with her or looking into her eyes.

Did I tell you that this wimp is a hopeless romantic.  My heart still skips a beat when she walks into the room.  Ah yes, even us old dudes have feelings!

School’s out!

The last day of school! Do you remember how that felt? I was able to see it first hand yesterday at a local elementary school. The second graders were super excited about it.  They could hardly wait for the end of the day.

I know how it felt to me. An entire year of work trying to get from one day to the next, trying not to learn too much while also trying to make my folks happy. But when summer hit, the feeling of freedom was overwhelming.

I can so remember how long it seemed like each year waiting for the end of it. And the summer seemed to go so quickly. Days at the pool, walking barefoot through the cool grass, sleeping till noon… summers were awesome!

But, whenever summer ended, school unfortunately began again. Back to the books, the studying, the tests. Summer break never seemed to last long enough. Year after year, season after season, back to the blackboard.

Elementary school bleeds into Middle School leads to High School followed by college and for some even grad school. Eventually, the training ends and school is out for good.

Now days, I long for those wonderful days with the rhythm of school and summer break. I would love to get back to the days of preparation for life, when someone else was responsible for taking care of everything.

But, eventually training has to end and the purpose of the training must be put to the test. It is not enough just to be educated. We have to use it to live the life.

Jesus said that “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.”  The purpose of all our training is to become like our teacher.

A true student has not arrived till he or she applies the lessons to real life.  The mark of our learning is our living. Are we living like the true teacher?

School’s out!