Adventure Fest 2017

The outdoor camping weekend was touted as ” the greatest salty meat, campfire cooking, big fartin, Jesus praising weekend ever.” I accepted the invitation of my good friend Mark ” the Shark” Sauers to attend this event and Greg Nass, the organizer, is an old friend from my mountain biking days with the Dirt Rag Magazine crew.

Now I have been to a lot of church outings in my life but this one was intriguing because of the camping aspect( I love sleeping under the stars in my dome tent), and also the chance to ride mountain bikes at the nationally famous Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake, Pa. But little did I know the impact of this weekend on me courtesy of a bunch of axe throwing, Harley riding, arrow shooting, hiking, biking, sinners from all over the tri-state area. Pulling in Friday night, the Shark and I set up our campsite on a wooded part of the 350 acre Agape Farm and Retreat Center. Once I had my Jet Boil fired up and cooking some freeze dried cuisine courtesy of the REI camping department on the South Side of Pittsburgh, we made our way down to perhaps the largest bonfire that I had ever seen in my life. Testosterone was high as the men sat in their camp chairs taking in the fire and listening to the opening remarks from Greg Nass.

After the intros were given, we were asked to welcome the first speaker of the weekend, Pastor Jerry Conley, who came roaring into the site in his Harley, floppy hat, goggles, and pipes blazing. His group the Midnight Riders accompanied him and as he began to tell his story, the group was gripped with his testimony relating to his life before he came to be a believer in the redemptive story of Jesus. One of the misconceptions of Christians these days is that they are condescending and look down on people thinking they are better than the next guy, preachy, pointing fingers. But nothing could be further from the truth with these guys who all recognize their faults and the need to have a Savior in their lives. The Christian message is really a wonderfully freeing message and this seemed to be the theme of the weekend. Pastor Tom Rees spoke on relationships and also gave a great visual of sharing the Gospel in the proper manner. I asked the Shark how he spreads the good news of the Gospel without offending anyone. He said he treats it like he is sharing the good news of a good restaurant in a town where a friend will be visiting. They don’t have to eat there and he doesn’t brow beat them into eating there. He just shares with them the message because he cares for them. He said, “Paddy- don’t I care for you? Wouldn’t I want to share news of a great pair of skis with you?” I sat in amazement at the commitment and the caring spirit of the Shark which only got better as we made our way to Raystown Lake the next morning to ride the trails of Allegrippis.

We ended up riding with a good rider from West Virginia named Roger, and a pastor from Leechburg, Todd, and his friend Bill. Turns out Todd roasts his own coffee and is a good road and mountain bike rider and his friend Bill had a lot of experience riding as well. We were treated to dry, flowy trails with lots of interesting transitions and scenic views of Raystown Lake. Halfway through the ride, The Shark pulls over and shares his testimony of his mission trip in the Amazon jungle. Todd, Bill, Roger and I sat in silence as we listened to the stories of anacondas, aggressive native tribes and the danger of sharing the Gospel. Looking to each side of us I noticed a guy that had stopped with his four kids and two other random guys listening to Shark’s story. We all remarked that those kids were wide eyed and you never know unless you put it out there, what impact you might have by sharing the message of Christian salvation. Believe in what He did for you. John 3:16. Again, I sat in silence and watched the Shark in action. An amazing person not afraid or embarrassed in the least. Good News shared. We treated ourselves to a great lunch at Smitty’s Eats and Treats. Perhaps the best pork bar-b-que sandwich I had ever eaten made with fresh pork from a local farm. The young lady working the counter was delightful and if you ride Raystown, stop in and see Smitty. Good guy with great food.

Saturday night, there was a midnight hike to a large wooden cross at the top of the mountain. As the inner city guys from Front Street Community Church and the Philadelphia Bible Fellowship hiked up that trail, lots of them had joyous hearts knowing that they had been saved from the brink of disaster. I realized that I lead a sheltered life when I heard the stories of drugs, violence, guns, and alcoholism. I saw tough looking inner city guys kneeling at that cross crying out of thankfulness and when the Pastor conducting the service asked all of us to pound a nail into that cross symbolizing that we are leaving all of our guilt and shame up on that cross on that mountain, the vision of those city tough guys was nothing short of amazing. Tattoos and tears!!!

Wrapping up Sunday with a great message by Pastor Robert Bennett of Jakes Run Assembly of God in West Virginia, I learned something that I had not known. When Joshua defeated the enemy at the Walls of Jericho, he screamed at the end of the battle……Tetelestai!!!!- it is finished. The same words uttered by Christ when He finished his mission on the cross. Tetelestai!!!!! It is Finished. You don’t do anything……He did it. All you do is believe. ¬†Again- I sat in silence contemplating what I had seen that weekend.

I would recommend Adventure Fest to anyone who wants to hear the Good News in an incredibly beautiful setting. For more information, check out http://www.adventuremen.org These mountain biking, air gun shooting, Harley riding, RV driving, archery and camping guys are sure fun to hang with. Thanks for reading and thanks to the Shark for many things.

The Kibbutz

Israel, Negev, Yotvata kibbutz

The Kibbutz( Hebrew word for communal settlement) is a unique rural community;a society dedicated to mutual aid and social justice;a socioeconomic system based on he principle of joint ownership or property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption and education;the fulfillment of the idea”from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”

So, people ask, “Pat, what is it like living with your mother in law?” I jokingly say,” It is like living in a Kibbutz.” But before I elaborate, let me take you back a bit. Jan’s mom Joan moved in with us a year ago originally into our house in Franklin Park. Circumstances dictated that this was the right thing to do and I didn’t want to move. I liked my house and I liked my fireplace.
But eventually I was prevailed upon to move because my mother in law wanted more room and a place like a mother in law suite for her own privacy. I got it, and the next thing I know, we are in a carriage home which basically is a townhouse on steroids. So here we are right around the corner from our old house in a community where they mow your lawn, shovel your walk, mulch your gardens and have a nice pool. My friends laugh and say,” Did you hear about McCloskey? He is in assisted living.” We all get a kick out of that but I call it…..the Kibbutz. We are a community joined together.

It is an interesting dynamic when you put people of different generations together. My mother in law is 86, and my son who commutes to college is 21. The dinner table is filled with conversations ranging from the political to the classes that my son is taking and questions are facilitated by Google or from the Google product Alexa who sometimes falls short in the answer department. I think we need to program her better. But the conversations are lively and my mother in law Joan says it is the highlight of her days.

You learn a lot about people when you live with them. Even Janet,who has not lived with her mom in years, is learning to adapt to someone other than Jack and I living with her. People have ways of operating that are sometimes different than your own. But that is part of a community right? We are all dedicated to living a life together and the balance deference should always be towards the other person without compromising much of your own way of doing things. For instance, my mother in law has a little bit of a hard time hearing. I talk loud. Good combination right? But my wife thinks I scream and my mother in law hears me perfectly. Sometimes I have to compete with Fox News at record decibel levels until I turn it down and talk normally. But the missed conversations, repetitions, the inevitable shouting can lead to some stressful moments.

My mother in law and I share dish washing duties. I wash and she dries. I sometimes have to give her the hip check to get her away from the sink so I can have space to wash. She has always been in control in the kitchen but the washing is my domain and we sometimes maneuver for position. But the good news is that most of the time we laugh about it. I will give her the hip check and say,” Hey Joan- get the hell out of the way?” We laugh because it is all good natured and allows us to work things out. But make no mistake- that sink is mine after dinner.

We all have our tasks. Setting the table, getting the drinks, taking out the trash. We eat like longshoremen around the house. Good thing Janet is a good cook because between Jack, me and my mother in law who has a healthy appetite for someone of her age, we are EATERS!! Food flies in and out of the Kibbutz.

So, I guess if you looked at it, we are a social experiment. We have a young perspective on looking at things, we have an experienced older person’s point of view, and we have my wife and I in the middle. But that is the way it should be right? We have no regrets. We all are in a good living situation and my mother in law is content in her old age to live a comfortable life in the Kibbutz. She has her own space yet feels part of our family community. The society is getting older folks, and soon we all will be there ourselves. I want to be “Younger Next Year” but I know that someday, hopefully, we will be in a Kibbutz having someone care about us and maybe enjoy living with us. Take care of your elders folks. They paid their price in life. Thanks for reading.

The Orange Cone

Orchard Hill Church was planted out in Wexford, Pa right after Janet and I got married in 1988. We were one of the first families to become involved and our friend Sharon Gregory got me immediately involved in the skits that were part of the non-denominational service. Janet was more traditional in her service in the children’s ministry, but whenever they needed a goof to play a part in a skit, the phone call came to me. Dennis Bowman, the weatherman, played Keith Jackson the famous sportscaster in one skit with me playing Myron Cope. Another time they got me to run around the stage with a big black hole on my shirt, signifying how my life was empty. I soon retired from the skits because the assistant pastor at the time kept changing the lines on Sunday mornings. Too much pressure for me and I still kid him about how he drove me out when I see him running at the park.

Fast forward, I wanted to do something else to volunteer and I saw these guys directing traffic in the parking lot wearing shorts in a snowstorm. I smiled and said, that is the service opportunity for me and I signed on to be a parker. Now my first session was Christmas Eve Services and our church gets really crowded. The boss put me out in the front of the lot near the road and my job was to direct people up the hill to the main lot. Equipped with an orange vest and two flash lights in a blizzard, I dutifully directed people up the hill. The only crazy thing about that point position is that even though I had two lights and a bright orange hunting vest, I was a magnet for the Ford F-150s. People get confused when they come for the first time and are not quite paying attention. I had to be quick on several occasions to dodge the big trucks but I came out unscathed.

My new crew chief is Mike Fischbaugh who is one of these guys who will wear shorts and a windbreaker when it is 20 degrees. I swear the guy must be the most hot blooded guy I know but also has the biggest heart. Along with Johnny Salvini, Larry Zamer, Steve Nagler, and Matt Warheit, we manage the lot every other Sunday and mayhem usually ensues in one form or another.

I often shout out when an vehicle is coming in hot. People don’t pay attention when they are late for church and on their cell phones. They come screaming into the lot at warp speed and I shout the warning and jump to get my toes out of the way. Volunteering in the parking lot can be a hazardous occupation. But we love it. Matt keeps us all in line despite vigorous conversations about fantasy football where some folks are left to park on their own if the conversation becomes lively. Cindy Adams has the dubious task of taking care of the parkers with coffee and food on the multiple Christmas services. We also fall under her general guidance- poor girl. Her smile is welcoming as we come in between services to get warm and get a nice hot cup of coffee only to get back at it at the beginning of the next service. I always tell her the worse the weather, the better I like it. I like adverse conditions because I can wear all my foul weather gear including a 40 year old pair of green wool pants that I brought back with me when I worked in Maine. Love the crappy weather, and I always remark to Mike that this is the best volunteer job in the church. I kid him and say, ” When I croak, take my ashes and put them in that orange parking cone to remember me. A part of me will be left in that lot. We get a good laugh about that one.

I guess the point of all this frivolity is the fact that I believe that it is important to volunteer and serve where there is a need. This happens to be fun but when asked what I feel about the parking ministry, I always remark that we are the first smiling faces people see when they come to church. Maybe they are new and not sure about the format of our services. But we make them feel comfortable with a friendly smile and a cheery hello. They probably think,” these guys are crazy with wool hats and shorts.” But if we can help someone feel at home in a new surrounding, our zaniness has been worthwhile. An old pastor of ours once said,” You don’t have to serve overseas to minister. Just look around in your own neighborhood, school, workplace, or parking lot. God is all around us and protects all of us. Even when they “come in hot.” Thanks for reading.

The Night Visitor

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This time of year, I kind of switch gears and get away from the mountain bike, and transition to skiing,running trails, or hauling out the snowshoes. I have always been a runner at night in the winter and it is a solitary pursuit whether running around the lake in our local park, or running trails.img_1227 I am not anti-social this time of year, but it is nice to go out at night with the headlamp and spend some time by myself. I enjoy my own company. I talk to myself. Sometimes I get answers. It gives me time to think and to enjoy the winter weather. There is nothing like a run with the softly falling snow accompanied by my Pandora Christmas selections on the I-Phone. In the old days, it was the Sony Walkman with tapes. But I move ahead with technology- kicking and screaming. img_1232

There were many nights that I had the chance to contemplate Christmas and the true meaning of the birth of Christ. I always had fond memories of nativity scenes or the “creche” because of a wonderful story that I watched as a kid- ” Amahl and the Night Visitors.” carnegie_presepio It was re-broadcasted in 1963 from its original 1951 production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Although the story is fictional with the shepherd boy and the Magi, the opera by Carlo Menotti was based on biblical truth. I was always fascinated with that production on TV and thought of it often when I would see a creche. Perhaps one of my favorite nativity scene locations was in the grove right near my run starting point at Stone Field in North Park. It was always nice to finish a run and walk up to the grove which was decorated by Allegheny County Parks and Recreation. The star was perched at the apex of the roof of the grove and the floor was coated with hay and the walls lined with hay bales. The Magi, the shepherds, the angels all were present with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. A brilliant display especially on cold, snowy, winter nights around Christmas time.

Looking at that scene at the end of a run was comforting to me and I noticed a lot of other runners, walkers, and hikers in the park making the trek up through the field to the grove. Children were amazed and even the dogs seemed to be silent in reverence to the serene scene in our county’s largest park. It has been several years since that nativity scene or creche has been present in that grove. As we all know, there is controversy about separation of church and state and due to nationally recognized litigation, the grove is now an empty, silent, space this time of year. img_1229

Now I am not one to get political or controversial on my blog at all. I also hold any opinions to myself on Facebook posts. But I must say that I miss that creche in the park and the wonderful job that the County did on the presentation each year in that grove. I also believe there are many people who feel the same way as I do. We miss it – that’s all. We are not here to debate the first amendment but rather reminisce on the nice feeling that was present on those winter nights at the end of a solitary, contemplative run. Christmas has many meanings to different people. For me it is a celebration of my faith and the wondrous miracle that took place 2000 years ago. I never see the creche as a graven image, but rather a reminder of the humility of Christ as He came among us.

So, I continue to run, in the solitary darkness. I watched the space shuttle soar overhead last night in the presence of hundreds of stars that can be seen from the darkness of our beautiful county park. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a blessed time with your family and friends. Enjoy the season and thanks for reading.

Creche picture courtesy of Carnegie Museum.