The Final Ride

After a wonderful memorial service for our dear friend Brian Lunt, our group of riders were asked by Brian’s wife Rose to take Brian’s ashes for a final ride in the park- on his beloved trails. We all wondered how this would go and the task of filming the event fell on Dave Ashi with his brand new Go Pro and also Nancy Furbee who was backup with her I Phone. Nancy was quite creative with her Facebook video and Dave and Tim Traynor did a great job with the Go Pro video so that Rose and her family would have the event forever memorialized.

Spreading one’s ashes seems to be more popular these days as folks have favorite places where they would like to be laid to rest – rather than a cemetery plot. There are stories of people’s ashes being spread at sea, on ski slopes and trails, and in this case- on mountain bike trails. This is nothing new but it seems to be gaining in popularity and our group was happy to be compliant with Rose’s request.

Discussing our protocol

As we began the procession, the weather seemed to hold off and we were blessed with a good start – attributed to Brian looking over the proceedings from above. I had the urn in my riding pack and was dubbed ” the Hearse” by the group with a few chuckles along the way. But as we proceeded along the familiar trails of our local park, I thought about my own mortality and how a 61 year old guy like Brian is now gone. Someone who we have ridden with, laughed with, and with whom we have had many conversations on the trails and ski slopes, is now not going to be physically part of our group anymore. It makes you think. It also makes you think where and how you would like to be memorialized when the time comes. We definitely wanted to make sure that Brian was properly remembered and aside from the physical spreading on the trails, Mark “the Shark” Sauers made sure of it with his wonderful words of encouragement to all of us including fond memories of our pal Brian.

Mark set a spiritual tone when we stopped to distribute the ashes in the first location. When you see the remains and think of things like” remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” you need the encouraging words that Mark shared with all of us. This is not the end. Death is a transition for believers and we all came away with the thought that we will all see Brian again. I thought of Revelation 21-4 which says that in the end, ” He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. For the old order of things has passed away.” You can’t help to think of all of this when you are involved in something like we did that day. But Brian would not like us to all be somber either. There were many laughs along the way as we proceeded to the next stop. Our pal Bill Belch kept dropping his bike while we were standing and I joked with him to ” get it together Bill- this is a funeral you know.” We all laughed at that one, including Bill, and it kind of broke the more serious tone at the moment.

The final stop was at a scenic overlook in the park and as it started to rain, no doubt due to Brian saying” Get on with it people”. I warned the group about the wind. It was rather humorous to see us releasing Brian to the wind only to have him come back in our face. I am sure he was laughing at that one and we all joked about Brian making it difficult now with the rain and the wind. As we all put our feet in a circle of solidarity at the end of the day, we all had positive thoughts about something that we were not sure of. How was this going to go? How do we carry the urn around? Will this be somber or will we have some fun doing it, in compliance with Brian’s wonderful sense of humor? In the end, we all said that this is how we all wanted people to remember us. Take us all to a place that we love and be among friends – even though it may only be in spirit at the time. It was a positive experience and it also was an event that solidified our friendship even more. We all loved riding with Brian and Rose was right- this was the right thing to do. Thanks for reading. Photos courtesy of Nancy Furbee

Mossy Lane

Did you ever notice that some people have amazing talent? Some in more than one area. I think of Tony Bennett, obviously with his singing, but did you also know that he is a very talented painter? His art is displayed in some fairly exclusive galleries. Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane also has a gallery of her art in Sausalito. How do some people get all the talent? I suppose once you are a creative artist, that can be displayed in many ways and there are a lot of people who not only have the ability, but they take the time to share their work with all of us – much to our amazement and benefit.

Elaine Root is one of those people. When you walk into her shop in Aspinwall, Pa. you are first impressed at the cozy location on a side street that is very welcoming. Oftentimes with the door open and Elaine smiling there to greet you. As you roam her shop, you are amazed at the quantity and quality of the clothing there. I think my wife could buy out the whole store if you gave her enough time. The interesting thing is that all of the beautiful clothing on display is made by Elaine herself.

Wearable art.

Elaine is a busy person. Finding the time to prolifically create skirts, blouses, hats, scarves, purses, wraps, and a myriad of other selections is mind boggling. My wife Janet particularly liked a black dress that was just a little too long and Elaine took it immediately to her table and shortened it just right to change the whole look. She has an eye for fashion and knows what looks good on people. She can size you up as you walk into her shop and pick some of her creations that fit the bill amazingly well. Janet is sold on Mossy Lane.

But more importantly, Janet is sold on Elaine. Her inspiration to open the shop came from her mother- Mossy, and she dedicates a lot of her effort to her mother with whom she was very close. But there is more to this story. I know Elaine from mountain biking. Elaine is an excellent rider and many people do not know, but Elaine and her ex-husband Maurice, created one of the most beloved mountain bike magazines to ever hit the stands- Dirt Rag Magazine. For those of you who do not know, Dirt Rag was published right here in Pittsburgh and its circulation reached world wide status. Elaine used her creativity to develop the story lines, edit submissions, and together with Maurice, they made an iconic publication that rewarded them with an entry into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

Another world of creativity

Dirt Rag was not the typical magazine that only reviewed products, and was just a repository for advertising dollars, but rather it developed the soul of mountain biking by offering articles and submissions that talked about the off beat subjects that were associated with the sport. Dirt Rag was one of the first places that I read about craft beer( a mountain bike staple), out of the way places to eat and stay in famous and infamous mountain bike locations world wide. Articles about the pioneers of the sport who were personal friends of Elaine and Maurice. So many different articles and submissions that really separated them from the other published magazines. So much fun to read and so informational. Elaine was responsible for the quality of the content. She is a talented editor and writer. And now devotes her time to her other craft of clothing creativity.

Elaine is one of those people of whom I first mentioned above. Talented in different areas and a creative artist in different genres. Sometimes that abundant talent comes with some difficulty. Elaine is currently challenged by a health issue that will require her to take some time off with her husband Scott and address something that totally took her by surprise. You wonder why something like this happens to someone who is so creative and gives so much to the world? But Elaine is a competitor. Her mountain bike racing days taught her grit and determination to succeed. Creating a world class magazine and forcing it to succeed also developed her determination. Finally her tireless work to create fashionable clothing and make her Mossy Lane a success comes with a lot of chutzpa-(look it up). I am totally convinced that Elaine will beat this challenge because she is positive, joyful, and has an upbeat take on the situation. I told her that our prayers are powerful as well and there are many examples of success.

Elaine’s equally talented and amazing husband Scott.

Elaine will take some time off shortly, attend to her treatment and healing, and in no time I am convinced that she will be back creating the things that make us all smile. Check her website http://www.mossylaneproducts.com for hours of operation as she makes her way through the process. But remember what Elaine says,” I make clothes that remind me to breathe. To stop and take notice.” Elaine has dedicated her whole creative life to that process. Support her shop, pray for her successful treatment and healing, and most of all- marvel at the amazing talent that some people are blessed with in this life. Thanks for reading.

Back in the Saddle

Jeff- back in the saddle.

You know, it is particularly gratifying when you see someone overcome an unexpected and debilitating event in their lives. Our friend Jeff had such an event nearly a year ago and has been working hard to overcome the effects of a stroke which had him on the ropes for most of the past year. After a routine heart valve replacement, he had a stroke in the hospital and was able to be treated immediately. Jeff is an avid mountain biker, backcountry skier, hiker, snowmobiler, and general outdoors superman. This was tough on him. But with a lot of hard work on Jeff’s part with UPMC Centers for Rehabilitation Services, and prayers from a lot of people, and the unwavering support of his wife Julie, Jeff has been able to make a comeback slowly but surely with walking, hiking and this weekend, back on his mountain bike. He is literally and figuratively back in the saddle again. Gene Autry would be proud.

Jeff and Julie hiking at Laurel Mountain

So this weekend, my pal Pete and I were on notice that Jeff wanted to try riding his mountain bike. He had told us how he has been riding rollers at UPMC Center for Rehabilitation Services, on the Southside and how he wanted to give it a go outside. Pete installed flat pedals on Jeff’s bike and as we pumped up the tires and checked the bike overall, he seemed ready to go. I threw Jeff’s bike in my Jeep and the three of us made our way to the bowling green area of Frick Park which is relatively flat. A good place to start in the grass in the event of a possible spill. The last thing I said to Jeff before he mounted his favorite Spot mountain bike was, ” Jeff- don’t even think about it. Just ride your bike.” He agreed and the next thing you know, he is off and peddling. Pete and I never touched him which really surprised us seeing that we both expected to be balancing him on his bike and running beside him. This was surprisingly not the case and as Jeff rode around the grassy area around the bowling greens, we were very much surprised at his ability and progress. We immediately called his wife Julie who was visiting her son at school and sent her some video of the event. It was nothing short of a miracle and so gratifying to see that huge smile on Jeff’s face as he did laps around the park. He even made it out on to the road, made a left turn with his leg out motocross style, shifted up and peddled up the road past us. All three of us were so thrilled and the event of the day was a huge success. Jeff is on his way now and Julie, Pete, and I will be taking him out and we believe soon, he will be riding his beloved trails of Frick Park again.

Jeff front and center with his posse.

You know, most people don’t survive such an event in their lives. Or at the very least, it redefines their way of living. With the help of friends here and in his adopted other home- Bend, Oregon, Jeff has been encouraged to work hard and overcome an adversity. Julie has been unwavering in her dedication to her husband, and Jeff’s friends have all stepped up to help which is a testament to the mantra that ” to have a friend is to be a friend.” Jeff is that model and because of his friendship to so many people, everyone stepped in to help and get this guy back in the saddle again. It was a long time coming and Jeff still has some work to do. But this weekend showed that with tenacity, and the power of prayer, one can overcome what would take most people down. It won’t be long until this is all a distant memory and we all will be riding together and not giving it a thought. Good on ya Jeff. Loved seeing you on your way back. Thanks for reading.

” If you really want something- give it.”

I was in the parking lot of my church with Johnny Salvini ( a great guy and friend) who quoted a wonderful Christmas saying . ” If you really want something- give it.” He heard that line while he was volunteering, ringing the Salvation Army bell at one of the local malls. I asked him how his experience was and he said it was really an excellent way to spend some time during the Christmas season. As with most people who volunteer, he stated that he got more out of it than the time that he gave. He greeted people with “Merry Christmas” and they responded with smiles and donations to the kettle. Some people said ” I don’t celebrate but thank you.” You see- Merry Christmas is not offensive but a wonderful way of greeting people this time of year and celebrating the Christmas season. Christmas is a time of giving and if you focus on that, you will really get what you want at this time of year.

The Pittsburgh Creche- US Steel Building

Switching gears just a bit, I am in our local county park a lot and I often think of the many nights I would run around the lake and finish at a grove right near the parking lot. That grove had beautiful lodgepole pines surrounding it and was a perfect setting for a Christmas creche that was set up for years inside the grove. I can remember running in the winter on cold, clear, nights, looking up at the stars and thinking about the birth of Christ. When we speak of giving- that birth, life ,and death on the cross with the Resurrection, was the greatest gift of all and we celebrate at this time of year. I thought about that a lot as I ran around that lake and at the end of the run, I always walked up to the pine surrounded grove and spent some time looking at that creche. Loved it when it snowed too- just added more to that ambiance. I thought about the significance of the Christmas season and also what was going to happen with my life. Would I ever have a child? What would lie ahead for me and my young wife Janet? What could I do to give more at this time of year and how those acts of kindness would mean more to me than the ones receiving the gesture? It was comforting to run and then stop to see that creche at the Christmas season. It was a symbol of the greatest gift of all and how we are called to walk in that light.

The vacant grove

Things have changed in the last several years and there is no more creche in that grove. It is kind of cold and lonely out there at night and when I rode up to the grove the other night on my mountain bike, I was kind of saddened at the scene. The creche was always a reminder to remember the true meaning of Christmas and in many ways, an inspiration to be true to Johnny Salvini’s quote- ” if you really want something- you have to give it” That inspiration is ringing that bell for the Salvation Army, volunteering and giving your time to a cause that is bigger than yourself, visiting a sick friend and giving them hope and inspiration, and in general being kind and loving rather than angry and bitter with the current state of the world today. People need your help. Please – give it. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas.

Forgetting What is Behind

You know, one of the things l like about watching the Olympics are the stories that are told. It takes a lot to get to the Olympic stage and the sacrifices that are made. But you also get to see athletes putting the past behind them and concentrating on what is ahead of them. Not everyone can be a medalist and those who can’t, move on and hope that they have a better result in the future. Others have overcome a lot of adversity just to get there. They have forgotten that adversity or sadness in their lives and have moved on to perhaps the most memorable time in their lives- competing in the Olympic Games.

Interesting this week also, aside from watching the Olympics, I have had the pleasure of listening to our pastor preach on the letter of Paul to the Phillipians. Our pastor is an athlete, played college basketball, and oftentimes ties his sermons in with athletic themes. This week was no exception as he delivered a message about “running the race.” You can see the passage above in a framed piece that my wife gave to me right around the time we were married. It has the metaphorical meaning of describing a race and striving for the goal. But the spiritual message is that belief in the Lord and what He did on the cross really enables you to forget your past because you know that ……..you are forgiven. A really uplifting message if there ever was one. Forget what is behind you, and strive for the ultimate goal. A timely message during the Olympics.

There is also a story behind this framed passage which I would like to relate. I have always treasured this piece given to me by my wife, Janet. She knew the value of this to me as a runner and also as a Christian. It has great meaning and is inspirational to view every day in my office here at home. But this framed piece has also had a journey in that I gave it to a friend of mine one day as he was diagnosed with cancer. He was distraught as anyone of us would be with the news and I met him one day for lunch and presented him with this framed message as a way to buoy his spirits and give him some inspiration in the troubling days that lie ahead for him with his cancer treatment. We had a lot of discussions over the time of his illness. I told him about the power of prayer and that Janet and I had him on our list- front and center. But, sadly, he passed away. One day, months later, his wife asked me to meet her after a devastating fire destroyed their home. I felt so bad for her as she described the trials she had been through after Dan’s death and then to have her home destroyed by fire. It was incredible that she even was able to talk about it in a calm manner at our lunch visit.

I listened to her and then suddenly she pulled this framed piece out of her purse and gave it to me. She said that Dan had always treasured it and looked at it every day during his suffering and treatments. She said it gave him peace that she could not quite understand. She also said ,incredibly, that it was the only thing that survived the fire by way of personal belongings. It was untouched and unscathed. She couldn’t believe it and wanted me to have it back because she knew how much it meant to me and to Dan and that I could remember him when I looked at it. As hard as life was for her, she became a believer, and now has moved on in her quest for her own prize.

I am not sure at which point or why she was actually moved to believe, seeing that she had every right to be bitter and angry at the way life had turned out for her. But in some way, perhaps the message of this little framed piece inspired her like it had inspired her husband Dan during his trials here on earth. Paul has a way of doing that.

As I look at this piece today, I have visions of Dan running across the finish line in Heaven. Having a celestial Olympic moment. A smile on his face as he left his past behind and pressed on towards the goal. Hopefully we all have that same goal in life as we run together. Thanks for reading.

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.