ADVENTUREFEST 2021

So, I am laying in my tent Friday night listening to the Biblical rains falling on my rain fly and hoping that it will stay dry for me as I get through the night of really foul weather at Adventurefest 2021. For those of you who might be wondering what in the world is Adventurefest, it is a really spectacular weekend of men getting together at Agape Farm and Retreat Center in Shirleysburg, Pa. It is an annual thing that my friend Mark (aka Shark) Sauers and I attend in the mountains of central Pa where there is axe throwing, bon fires, drones, bike tosses, motorcycling, mini-bike riding and for us mountain biking at Raystown. Typical frivolity for a group of 150 or so of us who get together to camp and listen to really great messages from pastors affiliated with the Assembly of God Church.

So, before you hit the click button, give me a chance here to explain the good news presented by the pastors starting with Jonathan Wyns on Friday night as the welcoming speaker. Accompanied to the ” Long Building” by the musical excellence of the Morgan Dolan band, we were treated to a message that initiated the theme for the weekend called ” Boots on the Ground.” A military term basically adapted to the message of getting into your boots and moving forward to present the good news of the Gospel to your friends and family and having the courage to stand up and be the men that we were created to be- as husbands, fathers, and friends. The typical misconception of Christian messaging today is that it is condescending, or ” above it all.” When really the opposite is true when you hear testimonies of guys who sold drugs, used drugs, recovering alcoholics, and general sinners expressing their need for the saving message that Jesus died for our sins and welcomes us into His fold if we only believe. That is it. A positive message if I ever heard one and one that I feel needs to be shared. Shark always says why wouldn’t we share good news? Like telling our friends and family about a good restaurant or a good bike or a good pair of skis. Stuff that we do all the time. Why not share the good news of the Gospel? I did not grow up in the Pentecostal tradition so over the years it took me a little time to understand and be comfortable with the vigor of the messages presented and received by the men. But let me tell you, if you have ever heard an Assembly of God preacher, you will not forget it. Whether you are a believer, have faith, or have no faith, listening to one of these guys stirs something deep in your soul that at the very least will make you think. Jonathan started that and as we made our way back to our soggy tents, I definitely thought about what the heck is going on in our world and what I need to do to at least try to make it a little better.

Saturday morning welcomed us with brilliant sunshine and after I cranked up the Jet Boil and prepared the Shark breakfast, he spoke to a group of 20 or so early risers about the need to move forward like the disciples did in the book of Acts. For those of you who know the Shark, he is a fun loving guy but never sell him short on his faith. The man can present. I was so impressed with my friend’s message about the rag tag group of fishermen who changed the world. The mountain biking at Raystown Lake never disappoints and we connected with our Adventurefest friend Roger Evans from West Virginia. Roger always rides with us and is a quality guy who we really like. Strong rider too. It was just the three of us this year riding but we connected with a young lady from Sunbury , Pa who turned out to be a terrific rider and gave us all we could handle with her riding skills and fitness. Sarah from Sunbury.

Saturday evening the band struck up again and the speaker was a retired fireman from Buffalo who is now a pastor with AOG. Tom Sember gave all of some sobering statistics like percentages of men who are absent in the lives of their children. Percentages of guys in prison who had no father growing up or an absent father. Inner city statistics of kids with no fathers or father figures. Really heart wrenching and Tom, in the AOG preacher tradition, put it out there strongly to us to be the men we are supposed to be regardless of the culture we live in today. Boots on the ground and take that step forward. He kind of resonated with me because I tend to not be a pushy person and am a little shy about sharing the gospel unless people give me an opening. But he said he didn’t care if people thought he was a “Jesus freak”. ” Who cares ?” he said, and we should not care either if we share good news especially in this tumultuous world that we live in. Sleeping in my dry tent again, and looking up at the stars, I thought a lot about what Tom said and rested comfortably after a good ride, good dinner, and really great fellowship and preaching.

One of the great traditions of Adventurefest is the late night hike up the mountain to a wooden cross. It is there that guys present their life stories and how the Gospel has changed them. Growing up like I did, I had it pretty good. But listing to these guys from inner city Philadelphia give their testimonies about where they have been and where they are now and hammering a nail into that cross symbolizing that they are giving it all to the Lord to fix, I am always stunned. Greg Nass, the director of Adventuremen and Adventurefest works tirelessly with his amazing staff, for a year to put on this event and no matter how tired he is, he is always there at that cross and hammering a nail in for our children. That they grow up and know the Lord. Greg is an amazing individual.

Pastor Jimmie Rivera from the City Limits Assembly of God in Allentown,Pa. presented the closing message on Sunday. After Shark and I packed up right before another torrential thunderstorm, we made our way to the Long Building and sat in the front row to listen to a truly amazing preacher. Like I said before, AOG preachers are not shy and Jimmie talked about the courage of Joshua in the Old Testament in very graphic terms that had men wriggling in their seats. But the message was consistent with Boots on the Ground in that Joshua had great faith and put one foot in front of the other, and crossed the Jordan River to victory over the enemy. The perspiration was coming down Pastor Jim’s face as he put it out there about the importance of commitment and not to go back to the norm on Monday morning. Make a difference and be the man, father, husband, friend, you are supposed to be.

So if you haven’t clicked me off yet and are asking yourself, ” McCloskey- what on earth are you doing out in the middle of nowhere sleeping in a tent with a bunch of rowdies every year?” The answer is simple – good news to be shared. Mountain bikes, grills going strong, bacon, drones, basketball, mini-bikes, motorcycles, bon fires, fishing, camping- all make Adventurefest fun. But the messaging all make sleeping in the tent and roughing it a little out of the norm so worthwhile. Come to Adventurefest next year. Ask me, Shark or Greg Nass about it and we will give you details. Thanks for not clicking and reading.

” For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3-16

Benchmarks

Tussey Mountain Trail at Rothrock State Forest

I think we all try to assess our fitness in the beginning of the season with a series of ” benchmarks” which are tests to see where we are. Personally, I have several hills on many of my mountain bike rides that I use as tests, and if I can ride them with no issue and not get off my bike, I know that I am still in the game. It takes some effort but they loom ahead as a reminder and they are there so that I can see how well I am doing at different points of the season. Usually in the spring these benchmarks are harder because I am just getting over my winter maintenance mode. This year I am backing off a bit. I don’t need to race anymore and I can ride at my own pace. But I still like to see where I am and if these benchmarks become easier as the spring and summer evolve.

Wet Rocks Define the Benchmark

Sometimes the conditions of the tests make them particularly difficult. Like now in the springtime with all the rain in the east, the slimy rocks and roots make for a particular challenge and you have the choice to either back off and ride around the challenge, or get off and walk, or ……..get it in gear and take the test. See how you do with a weather affected benchmark. Can you still ride it no matter what? It takes effort to do the latter but that is the criteria for assessing fitness and a sense of self satisfaction that you can still do this!

In today’s world, you have Garmin devices or apps on your phone that can also give you information on where you are. Time of a ride, distance, vertical feet of climbing, speed, etc are all measured and visible to you after and during each ride. There are also the competitive apps like Strava that can measure your effort against someone else or a group of riders on the same trail. I would have jumped on this years ago but now, I ride to ride another day.

Rainstorms Adding to the Difficulty of Benchmarks.

Some days, you just don’t feel like challenging yourself. The weather is bad, your motivation is lax or you just plain don’t feel like it. No one is watching and really the personal challenge is always up to you. There are always roadblocks to getting in shape or maintaining fitness but you have the choice. Either accept the challenge or not. Maybe not today but tomorrow? Your call. Kind of like the benchmarks we set for ourselves in life too? The challenge is always there to do the right thing. Help out a neighbor in need. Thinking of other people and what they are going through. My mother always said ” to have a friend is to be a friend.” It is so true and some days, we are not really motivated but we ” put it in gear” and do the right thing even if we don’t feel like it. Kind of like hitting that benchmark hill in full gear even though your motivation is not there at the moment.

My dad always had a saying for doing things that you may not like to do at the moment. He said it was like ” hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.” I laugh when I think of that but really, there are times when you have to reach for that higher gear and go for it. Help that neighbor battling a life threatening disease. Or the friend who is going through a personal struggle. I keep a legal pad on my counter in the kitchen that reminds me to pray for people whose names are on that list. But also, to remind me to do something for them. No matter what the weather is, no matter how tired I am, no matter how inconvenient. When you hit that higher gear and challenge that benchmark of kindness and civility, you feel so good. It is not the food that you brought them, or the flowers, candy, treats or whatever. I am sure they are appreciated. But the real appreciation lies in the fact that you thought of them and no matter what- you are there for them.

As we get older, complacency can settle in. But just like the hill challenge on a mountain bike ride, there are daunting challenges out there for you to tackle. Be up for the challenge and help your friends and even people who you may not know. Volunteer, donate, give your time and resources, and hit that higher gear. You will feel a sense of purpose and a calling that is highly rewarding. Thanks for reading.

Wolf Rocks. Laurel Mountain , Pa.

Storms

We looked off into the north the other night and saw huge black clouds coming our way. The distant thunder and far off lightning were beginning to warn us of a pending doozie of a storm. Oftentimes, in our area, the storm track is north of us and most of them head to the east before emptying themselves after they leave our area. Unless they sometimes, in a fickle mood, hook around and get us from behind with a southern wind assist. Thus was the case as we pressed on. Up on the ridge, the wind became stronger and the large droplets of rain began pelting our helmets as we could smell the approaching storm and the pace picked up for all of us on the trail that evening. This time, the storm decided to empty itself on us with a wicked fury and as we popped out of the woods, the lightning was cracking directly overhead as we headed for shelter. No place was really safe. The roads were beginning to “pond up” and as we rapidly approached the building water, we wondered whether we were going to hydroplane off to the side of the road in a crumpled heap. It was raining so hard we could hardly see and fortunately I remembered to put my cell phone in a zip lock bag, otherwise, it would have been destroyed like a lot of other phones of mine that have hit the creek, or became too wet to even save with the bag of rice.

I have always had a healthy fear of lightning. I can remember being caught in a storm in the mountains east of here and the storm was right on top of me. The lightning was crackling directly overhead and bolts seemed to be all around me as I hunkered down under a tree in the woods and prayed for the storm to move on. I was an old caddie back in the day and also had some harrowing experiences on the golf course where I worked. I remember one day sitting in a shelter on Number 17 at Shannopin Country Club and seeing a bolt of lightning hit a sprinkler head on Number 10 – right next to us. The turf exploded all along the pipe line and a black smoking line was formed all the way to the green. Again, ” Dear God- please let this storm pass.” Very frightening. I even was caught in a wicked lightning storm on the old Cascade chair lift at Killington, Vermont while spring skiing. It started to rain and the next thing you know, the chair stopped. I was swinging in the wind as bolts of lightning were all around me and I was pelted with driving rain. Not too cool being in an all metal chair lift with metal towers all around. The chair finally begin to move again and the operator at the top said to me, ” Pretty scary ride, eh?” I said-” you really don’t know the half of it.” Thank God again. Rescue from what could have been a disaster. So, when I shouted to the guys to pull into the shelter the other night, I was not kidding.

Lightning bolt strike from a thunderstorm over El Paso, Texas.

When you hear thunder and then see a bolt of lightning immediately, you know that that storm cloud is close by. It is often said that the time difference between thunder and lighting indicates how close or far away the storm actually is. In any case, whenever I am out in a storm like the other night, my mind starts racing. ” What if?” So I head to shelter or the closest resemblance to shelter I can find. Kind of like the storms of life , right? You seek shelter. You seek a safe place and let the storm pass which it always does. No matter how frightening the storms of life can be for us, there is shelter. That is why we all need faith in these times of storms and uncertainty. It would be really frightening without it.

” Then He got up to rebuke the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ” What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him.”

Mark 8:26-27

Thanks for reading.

One Day At A Time

Does it seem, in a lot of ways, that life has slowed wayyyyyyyy down recently? I mean, there is work to do for sure in my home office, and things never change in that regard. Happy to be still employed. But there are no real plans being made, no restaurant visits, no vacations or trips planned for the immediate future, no real plans to get together with friends socially? No group rides for the moment. The social interaction between co-workers is limited to Microsoft Teams,Zoom, and Emails. The interaction with friends, at least for me, is limited to socially distanced mountain bike rides with a few friends, and interacting with some lone trail lovers removing trees from the recent storms.  Or, riding a lot by myself on some remote trails nearby. I think often of the group rides we all enjoyed. I even daydreamed back to the days at this time of year when I would be sitting in a pack of road cyclists, 6 inches from each others wheel and roaring down the local and country roads here in Western Pa. The only scenery I saw was the back of some guys shorts but we all enjoyed the rides, races, and activity afterwards. We always said the social element was as good as the rides. But for the moment, that is suspended and we move about in this current world of the unknown.

I have always been a planner. Where are we riding? Where are we meeting afterwards? Where is the next trip planned? Who is going? We better make plane and general reservations. Time to get the car ready for a road trip. Are we going to the party? That has come to a screeching halt and most of my interaction any more is with my wife and my mother in law who lives with us. But………I am learning something through all of this. I am learning to appreciate my family. Learning to slow down. Learning to enjoy and appreciate each day. One day at a time. Instead of running at 100MPH looking for my next adventure or gathering, I am enjoying the day at a slower pace and taking in some things that I never did before. Take daffodils for instance. I never really paid much attention to them other than when my dad, the consummate gardener, asked me to pinch off the dead flowers so that they would grow fully again next spring. I was in such a hurry that I got the weed whacker and just whacked all of them off the stalks, much to my dads chagrin. I never really paid much attention to the blossoms and new flower growth over my past years. I was usually running out of the house, or riding by all of that in a frenzy. Now with some socially distanced time out of the house, I have slowed down and notice things like …….daffodils. Also, forsythia. I think of my mom now when I see the blooming forsythia. She used to bring some sprigs in at the end of winter to force them to bloom in a vase in our house. She wanted spring to come so badly that she did whatever she could to bring spring into the house. I now see the beautiful blossoms on the trees and when I ride or take a hike, I can see and smell them and really enjoy them.

Talking to my friend Pete the other day on a socially distanced mountain bike ride, we both remarked how fortunate we are to at least get out on these days and get some exercise. And we do it, one day at a time. That is all we really can do. Enjoy each day and appreciate friends and family. And appreciate all the beauty that is around us because we have the time and inclination to do that now.

Which brings me to my final point this week. We are all starting to realize that we really are not in control of things. In my opinion, I believe that God has a plan in all of this. I just think we have to trust that He is the one in control. And He gives us what we need – day by day. We just have to focus on each day as it comes. There will be brighter days ahead. Thanks for reading.

Moses said to them,” It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded:” Each one is to gather as much as he needs….No one is to keep any of it until morning” Exodus 16:15-16,19

A Great Story About A Great Guy.

Let me tell you all a great story about a really great guy. We all need stories like that don’t we? Especially in this time and place in our world. My friend Bob Reading is from the Villages in Florida by way of “Bahhhhhstan, Mass”. He and his wife Valerie, who is my wife’s good friend from Penn State, are some of the most active people I know. We get together with the PSU group several times a year and Bobby is always along when he can to join in the festivities. Mike Smith, Bobby and I are the only non-Penn State people and we kind of became friends because of that distinction over the years. Mike shown in the middle here with his wife Judy and my wife Janet. We laugh about it because the PSU fraternity is very strong. So Mike, Bobby and I started riding mountain bikes together up at Rothrock State Forest as a way to bond as the non-PSU guys and also to take advantage of the great terrain up in the mountains around State College, Pa.

Bob is an amazing athlete. A former college quarterback, he can do most things very well. We were all in the batting cages up at PSU one time for a contest that Kathy Ritchey put together for the crowd one homecoming. Bobby stepped in and had a stance just like a major league guy and started to make solid contact with the fast balls coming into him from the batting machine. He is great on the basketball court. Mike and I knew that he was a really strong road cyclist and when he first came to State College, we invited him to mountain bike with us. We took him into the famous/ heinous rock section on the John Wert Path up near Tussey Mountain and amazingly he kept up even though he had never ridden much on the mountain bike and never on the rocks that make up the advanced trails at the Rothrock State Forest. When we got to a fire road climb, Bobby was gone as he was like a rocket up the hill leaving Mike and I in the dust. The only way we could keep him in check was with the rocky sections but even at that, he was right with us and whenever a smooth section or a fire road came up, he was gone. I mean gone!!! Always has a smile on his face and in the middle of this PSU crowd, with former gridiron stars from the Nittany Lions, he was and is still the athlete of the group – bar none. But that is not the story really. Just a little background on a guy who started his own software company and then decided to do something totally different. He went to work for Samaritan’s Purse. http://www.samaritanspurse.org

We all started to get these messages from Valerie that Bobby was leaving for Africa, or the Carribean, or some other remote place where the Samaritan’s Purse reach extended. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief organization that provides healthcare, food, shelter, and other amenities to those living in desperate situations around the globe. The conditions in many of these places are deplorable but Samaritan’s Purse continues to provide much needed care with their teams of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. Bobby provides assistance with logistics and also financial and accounting advice and the places he has seen in the last number of years is impressive to say the least. So, what makes a guy who is successful in business, lives in a beautiful home on a lake in Florida, has a wonderful life with a great wife, and all the summer weather activities he can enjoy, pick up and go to Somalia? A good heart- that is what. There are not many people in this world who walk the walk like Bobby. He even has Valerie involved now, but Bobby is gone for long stretches at a time. I am sure he misses home but to hear Valerie, Bobby has finally found his passion in life.
I often think what I would be doing if I really wanted to make a difference in life. Don’t you also think that? Especially now when we are all sequestered. I think often, what can I do to better the world? How can I contribute? It takes a special person to do what Bobby does.

The latest is that Bobby is now in New York City with Samaritan’s Purse Franklin Graham held Easter services there today and Bobby was working behind the scenes as he always does, making sure the finances work and the costs and payments are accounted for. He is the unsung hero for the organization and that is exactly how this humble guy wants it. Don’t you just wish you could have the courage to drop everything and follow your heart? I know that Janet and I think about it often. But some people actually make the move and do it. Bobby is that guy. Humble, giving, and when he returns, I am hoping to get thrashed on the bike by him again. He does it with a smile and we all say,” How does he do it?” Thanks for reading and pray for Bobby, Valerie and Samaritan’s Purse. They do such great work at great risk.

The Rainy Day


This is a picture of my grandfather and me fishing off the coast of North Carolina a while back in the spring. He has been gone for a while now, but I always remember him as the fun, upbeat guy who loved to fish and loved spending his winters in Florida. He and my grandmother were two of the most frugal people I knew growing up, as they lived through a lot of things that told them to save for the rainy day. They rented a little efficiency apartment in Pompano Beach every winter because they were able to save for it during the years when my grandfather worked as a real estate appraiser. He and his pals did all the legal and appraisal work when they were first developing I-279. The three of them would work together for most of the year and shut it down for the winter and spend the time in Florida. Fishing, playing golf, and eating my grandmother’s cooking. Going out for dinner was a rarity for them as my grandfather always said the best food in Pompano was my grandmother’s kitchen. He was right but he was always frugal. He called me Pedro and always said,” Pedro- you have to save for the rainy day.

Well, thinking about this today, I would say that the rainy day is here with this Covid-19 crisis in our nation. We all don’t know what to expect. Many have lost their jobs and I am fortunate to at least still have mine. But the financial fallout of all of this is not clear to many people and we all have to do what we have to do to stay ahead of this situation both financially and with our health. Much has been said about it in the media. But I think there are other things that are in our piggy bank besides financial savings that can help with ……the rainy day.

I think we can dig in there to find a myriad of things. One thing that we have discussed here before is communicating with our friends and family. So important and our bank is probably filled with funny stories of how we got together and how we will get together in the future after this crisis abates. With social media and the phone, we can at least keep in touch and there is a lot of Skyping, and meetings on Zoom between friends that can help as we feel kind of isolated. My wife’s group did it on Sunday.

Another item with your bank is to make sure you make deposits too. Sunny days allow for outdoor recreation and it is so important to get outside and get some exercise. Yes, we can do it in a socially acceptable way by doing it by ourselves or with a very small group of friends- socially distanced apart. My friend Jeff and I rode mountain bikes yesterday and both remarked how exercise and sunshine can really benefit the psyche. Days like this form good memories as we deposit them into our piggy bank.

It has not been lost on me that the apex of this Covid-19 crisis will occur during Holy Week and Passover. I think a good withdrawal from the rainy day savings bank can be to reach deep in there and perhaps “resurrect” some of the faith that we have, or maybe might think about having during this time. I often think that God is sending us a message or encouraging us to come back to Him. Many of us were raised with a faith based background and perhaps have left it aside? I take great comfort in praying for all of you and asking the Lord for help during this time. A good withdrawal from the bank in my book, and trusting that we will all get through this with His help.

Lastly I need to dig deep in there too for patience during this time. I am not used to working from home, being isolated other than with my wife Janet, and my mother in law. It has been a good time to reconnect and spend quality time together. But I do need to show patience at times, right here at home, and probably have to make a daily withdrawal from my rainy day bank for that. And I also long for the days when we can enjoy a draft beer and a sandwich with friends, go on group rides again, and hoping for a good ski season again next year. Or how about a ball game at PNC Park and not really caring about who wins or loses just enjoying the skyline and relaxing in the sunshine. We take a lot for granted and in this time of the “rainy day” we are all aware now of what we had and how we don’t have it now. But we can still be grateful for what we do have- family, friends, food, and the comfort of knowing that no matter what, we are a resilient nation. Hopefully this will be a time where we can all get together and forget the politics. Jeff and I both said yesterday,” Who cares, really?” We are all one people and we need to stick together as family, friends, and Americans. Stay healthy friends. Thanks for reading.

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That’s Why I Married Her

You learn a lot about patience when you are confined to your home in times like this. You become aware of things that maybe you were too busy to see before, or maybe just never took the time to notice. For instance, the patience shown by my wife Janet, for her ailing 89 year old mother, Joan, who lives with us. Janet is the only caregiver for her mom and outside of the weekly nursing visits, she is all alone in the care of her mother. Sure, I can assist by going to the store, getting supplies, cleaning up after dinner, and other mundane things, but for the most part-Janet is the one. Every day, every week.

We have someone who will come in and be with her mom when Janet and I wanted to get out,or go away, but now that there is nothing open, that option is tabled. I am sure she is like a lot of women who care for their elderly parents, but to see it up close and personal, is impressive.

I can remember my mom cooking and caring for our elderly relatives and she was good about that. But the difference is that when someone actually lives with you, the neediness as they age, becomes acute and you have to have a lot of patience and kindness in order to take each day at a time.

Janet and her mom are best friends. Sure they have their battles as they vied for supremacy in the kitchen. Two women in one house have different ways of doing things and after many years of living with me, Janet all of a sudden had her mom back in the house living with her. Joan can’t dictate in the kitchen any more. Her years of doing that are over. Strange times and a real need to adapt. We were able to get away before all of this Covid stuff, but as it turns out, Janet’s mom is becoming more needy as the days go on. We are not sure what lies ahead. Outside of the walks outside in the neighborhood, and using the elliptical machine in the basement, Janet has been pretty much confined to the house as is a lot of the population. I have been around a lot more than I usually am but am able to get out and ride some remote trails on my mountain bike and see some of my riding friends in a socially acceptable way. And it is helpful. But my wife, God love her, gets up every day and the first thing on her mind is her mom. How is she? Wonder what she wants to eat today? Does she need her shower? The aides that have been coming have been great, but with the need to isolate due to this disease, their appearance has been suspended to keep Joan safe. So shower time duties belong to Janet. Her mother’s laundry, her pills( how she keeps track of that I will never know), other things that I will not go into here are daily, taxing things that only Janet can do for her mom. Every day, every week, with no relief as long as this Covid- 19 crisis is with us, and beyond.

I try to support Jan by being here but I have to tell you, if I didn’t get out a little bit I would lose my mind. I don’t have the patience that my wife shows and although she gets frustrated from time to time, she is the archetype of what a caring, Christian person should be. Sure it is her mom, but I am sure Janet never thought this would happen. She and her mom cared for her dad while he was infirm in the last years of his life, and now she has the care of her mom every day.

I always tell Janet that someday, she will look back and know that she did the right thing. She extends grace, as grace was extended to her from our Savior. Her mom has macular degeneration, and hearing loss, as well as other life threatening issues. Her life here in our home, is really the best that she could have and it would not be possible without the daily, weekly, attention and care that she gets from her daughter.

Someday I hope she can get back to her happy place. Someday I will look at her and be happy that she found some relaxation. Today I look at her with love and admiration. She is a caring, loving, grace giving, person and that is why I married her and how blessed I am . Thanks for reading.

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These are the Times

” These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he, that stands by it now, deserves the love and the thanks of man and woman.”

Prophetic words from Thomas Paine, one of the Founders, which rings true today. We are all in a position to come together – although not physically with the “stay at home” rules, but mentally, in communication with each other, and prayers to the Almighty in these trying times. With social media, I-Phones and technology, we can stay in touch, communicate, send pictures, work from home and call and talk to each other. We can have some semblance of normalcy if we band together to beat this virus or at least stem the tide of its advancement.


Looking at pictures of our groups, we can remember good times and look forward to good times ahead. When you view a picture, sometimes you can see someone who you have not talked to in a little while. Text them. Email them. Call them. Ask them how they are doing in these unusual times. In many ways, that is the service to your country. It pales in comparison to military service or perhaps the service of our many first responders, nurses, hospital workers, but in many ways- bonding together even virtually for a time is service to us all.

Janet and I are trying to do our part by being responsible. Yes, I am getting outside but not in big groups. Most often by myself on the trails just to get some exercise and fresh air which is encouraged by the stay at home edict. Janet walks in the neighborhood and greets the neighbors from an acceptable social distance. We are trying to avoid large groups. Shopping when necessary but trying to keep Janet’s 89 year old mother safe. She lives with us and is most vulnerable.

So sure- we all are beginning to have some cabin fever. We need to return to some kind of routine with work, social life, restaurant outings, and in general an active lifestyle again. It will come. It may take a little bit but with some patience, understanding, generosity, and compassion and not being selfish, we can get through this. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Write an encouraging email, text or better yet- make a phone call. So important in these days of isolation.

We will get there again. Say your prayers, be kind and generous with others. Short and sweet but thanks for reading and ……….wash your hands.

Resolutions- 2020

So I was thinking the other day as we turned the corner on the new decade. How easy it will be to type 2020. Or write 2020. Tap tap. Click click. It was a kind of foreshadowing of how good I am hoping the New Year and the new decade will be. Lots of good things happening and surprises for sure for all of us. I was in our local park the other day on January 1 and chuckled a bit at all the Resolutioners that were out and about. You know, the ” this year I am going to get in shape, eat healthier and feel better about myself” crowd. They were out in droves walking and running around the lake and I even saw a guy in a canoe with full winter garb paddling furiously. Now don’t get me wrong, I always admire anyone who makes a change in their life as it is not only good for them but very admirable to see the commitment. The parking lots were full and the enthusiasm and some times expressions of pain, were abundant in the faces of those folks who were undertaking the process of getting in shape for the New Year. My advice to anyone who wants to start an exercise program is to start slowly. Ease into it so that you won’t get burned out and sore. Every day is an improvement and if you stick with it, good things happen with your health and mental state of affairs.

No matter what you do, cycling, walking, running,skiing,hiking, or any kind of activity that gets you outside is great. Take my old neighbor here. He got into running and now he is hooked, entering races, and leading a healthy lifestyle all because of a New Year’s resolution. I have made a couple of resolutions in my day as well. I started to write this blog a number of years ago upon the suggestion of my wife. I also made the choice to eat more healthy and try to reduce some cholesterol issues by quitting sweets,unhealthy snacks, and sticking basically to chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables. As a result, I lost 12 pounds and had one of the best riding years I have had in 2019.

But really, what does it take to make a resolution? What do you want to change? How do you want to change? These are questions that pop up in your head anytime you want to do something different in your life. I speak of all the Resolutioners pounding around the lake on January 1 making the commitment to improve their health in 2020. But are there other things that we all should do to make a change? Personally I hope so. I would like to see people try to be more kind. Social media these days is dripping with sarcasm and vitriol for anyone who differs in opinion. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and type some God awful things these days. It is sad. We are all Americans and this country was founded on discourse and discussion. Just because someone’s opinion is different than yours does not make them a bad person. I hope we can make an attempt to be more forgiving and kind especially in the election cycle ahead. I hate to say this but there is really nothing we can do about the political climate aside from casting a vote if we are honest with ourselves. Any change is really made at a grass roots level with all of us being more tolerant, kind and concerned for each other as Americans and as friends. I am hoping a lot of people in this country make that change. I am going to try to do the same in my own little way. We come into situations in our lives every day where we can help people if we look for that opportunity. John Guest, the famous evangelist, once said that ” you don’t have to go to a foreign country to evangelize or be helpful. You can serve people right in your own neighborhood. Your mission does not have to be in a foreign country.” I agree with him. If you make yourself available to people, you can be kind and helpful. What you say or do may move mountains for that person and you might not even realize it. People like to have kindness afforded to them. If we do it a little bit, we all can make a difference one person, one household, one neighborhood at a time.

So as 2020 (tap tap) evolves, maybe we all extend some grace as we have been extended grace. Look out for your family, friends and neighbors. After all, what is really more important than that? Thanks for reading.

” Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace.”
– 1 Peter 4:10

Messiah

I have to hand it to George Frideric Handel. His oratorio produced in April of 1742 still stands today as one of the finest pieces of orchestral and vocal performance. On my way out of the beautifully decorated Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh the other night, Janet asked me how I knew every word and the accompanying solo artist performance? Aside from the fact that “Messiah” is all based on scripture and reveals the salvation message of the Bible, the music is powerful and the choral work is so inspiring it brings people like me to tears. The Pittsburgh Symphony and the Mendelssohn Choir bring this masterpiece to life and I always take the opportunity to take it in during the holidays when I can. The reason I know it well, is that at Christmas time, I play it often in my vehicle.

“Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low.” Isaiah 40:4 “Oh thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain.” Isaiah 40:9

On my way to the mountains to ski, I listen to this verse and imagine the power of that day. In my meager effort to imitate the tenor part here, I sing it in my car much to the delight of passing truck drivers and toll booth operators. They laugh and think I am rocking out to something on the radio. Little do they know. Listening to this, and seeing the mountains around me in the car, it is almost like I am transported to a place higher than where I am.

“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel; God with us.” Isaiah 7:14

I take this in silence in the vehicle. Contemplative and the counter tenor part is inspiring.

“And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2 10-11

Aside from thinking about Linus and Lucy in a Charlie Brown Christmas here, the soprano part definitely stirs the Christmas soul in all of us. This is a signature performance for the soprano in the oratorio and in Heinz Hall the other night, Rachel Gilmore was spectacular. I crank this up in the car when I listen on the road, because I really appreciate the talent of a trained soprano.

“All we like sheep have gone astray,we have turned everyone to his own way;and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isiah 53:6

I hear this and think how crazy the world has gotten. Some of the things that have happened in the news- natural disasters, violence, division among us, it makes you think when you hear a chorus like the Mendelssohn sing this verse in a venue like Heinz Hall. Not only does the music stir you, but the words make you think about the message of Christmas. We need some help here folks.

Then comes the ultimate moment when tradition has all of us stand when the orchestra and the chorus sing the Hallelujah Chorus. One year I took my wife Janet to see the performance and it was a sing a long. All the local choirs came and sang each part with the Mendelssohn. When the Hallelujah Chorus was sung, all of Heinz Hall was singing and I almost jumped out of my seat. I sang the tenor part and was part of a powerful group of people singing their hearts out with one of the world’s finest symphony orchestras and an equally talented Mendelssohn Choir. We have a little history here in that my wife’s grandmother sang in the Mendelssohn years ago and when my mother in law went with us this year, she told the tales of the practices and performances in days gone past.

“Oh death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Corinthians 15:55-56

Driving, or listening in Heinz Hall, I think of all who have gone before us. This beautiful message sung by the tenor and the counter tenor, makes me smile and think that they are happy and enjoying the best Christmas of their lives in the company of a celestial chorus of angels. What a vision.

Heinz Hall comes alive for one last chorus of the Great Amen and everyone is up and reveling in the magnificence of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the brass,the violins,the cellos,the resounding kettle drums, and the combined voices of the chorus that shake the walls. To a sentimental Christmas guy like me, memories come alive of Christmas in the past, and great treasures of Christmas present. I hold my wife’s hand as we listen to the last verse from Revelations 5:9.

I love it. I cannot wait to take it in again. If you get the chance, take in “Messiah.” One of the truly great musical and visual performances you will ever see. Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading.