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Father in One Word or Less

ImageI took a one-word poll on facebook the other day. I had noticed that others had posted a lot of “dad” pictures and deduced that it was Father’s Day. Luckily, there was still time to post my own tribute to dear old dad before sundown and to kiss the father of my children and make a proper Father’s Day feast of Hebrew National Hot Dogs and baked beans from a can.

Any way, I asked all of my BFFs on my least favorite internet site to describe fathers in one word. The answers were pithy, thoughtful, nutshell descriptions of the “greatest generation” dads. Here you go.

Supportive       Repairer       Determined       Rock       Cornerstone       Strength       Faithful       Teacher       Putzer (in a good way)       Warm       Inspirational       Caring       Steady       Strong       Awesome       Thoughtful       Hardworking       Provider       Wonderful        

But sprinkled in were a few of the not-so-fond descriptors like…

Detached       Unengaged       Drinker       Frustrating       Unloving

The gutsy, honest, and wounded children of these men must, like all of us, come face to face with a God who has asked us to call him “Daddy.”  For many Christians, this relationship with a heavenly Dad does not come easily. And I’ve learned that God had reasons for this intimate descriptor. Jesus didn’t suggest Abba (daddy) as a way to address our Father, but the way. (“This then, is how you should pray, Our Father in heaven…” Matthew 6:9) While God celebrates gender and created male and female in His Image, He is more anxious for us to know Him as Daddy rather than Mum. So look at the lists above. How has God demonstrated His Love to you? If you described your Heavenly dad in one word, what would it be? 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in The Hikes

 

Marriage and Michelangelo

When Michelangelo’s David celebrated its 500th birthday, the world renowned sculpture was still unquestionably considered a Imagemasterpiece of art and design. Standing over 17 feet high, this depiction of the nude Biblical shepherd boy captures in every detail the heart of a young hero and has been a symbol of liberty and defense for centuries. Having suffered 500 years of dirt, grime and dust, it was determined by some that David needed a bit of restoration. After two years of research and careful thought, a committee was formed to determine just how to care for one of the world’s greatest treasures. Of highest importance was the preservation of the integrity of the work so that the future generations would not see the work of the “restorationists” but instead see the hand of Michelangelo himself.

Marriage celebrates its 5,000th anniversary this year, give or take a thousand years. Some say that, like David, it too needs a bit of restoration. Years of dirt and grime have obscured its natural beauty and integrity. Before launching into the job of “fixing marriage,” we should do some research. What do we know about this societal work of art? Whose hand sculpted this masterpiece? And how do we preserve and restore the beauty and purpose of this world renowned institution of marriage?

A judge in Pennsylvania simply decided to redefine the matter by allowing same sex marriage. That’s his fix to the old dusty relic. With a single pen stroke, he believes that marriage will now be less sexist, more inclusive, and more dignified. Perhaps he would also prefer plastering female body parts on David, to make the “restored” sculpture more “equal.”

Let’s step back from the debate for a moment and look at the history of the masterpiece of marriage. What was God trying to tell us about ourselves, about His character, and about our purpose? Here are just a few things that come to mind.

1.  God celebrates Gender differences.  He is best seen in two genders. “Let us create them in our image and after our likeness…in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”  Genesis 1:26-27. We need to see both male and female in a covenant relationship to get the whole picture of God. Natural marriage celebrates gender. Male and female are equal, but not the same. Same sex marriage segregates and diminishes gender differences.

2.  God loves Creativity. The first command in the Bible is to “Be fruitful and multiply!” After creating everything on earth, God gives us a chance to share in the creative process, “Fill the earth!” Natural marriage is creative, bringing new life. Same sex marriage limits the creative process because it can’t ever create life.

3.  God communicates with Covenants. He tells us about himself by giving visual aids, symbols, parables, and physical road marks that clearly communicate His values and character. The great promises of God are made with signs that cannot be missed: Blood of animals, circumcision, the rainbow after the flood, sex and virginity. Marriage is a covenant between two people that together reveal the image of God and the fullness of the trinity–one flesh. The blood shed by a virgin bride is the seal of that promise just as Christ’s blood was the seal of his promise. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. God is trying to tell you something every time you go to a wedding. I love you, my Bride, my Church. I am your husband, you are my love.

Image“…For this reason, a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife…” For this reason indeed. Marriage is a symbol of God’s eternal love and covenant that is fully communicated when male and female are joined as one. Let’s make sure that future generations see the hand of the Master when they look at marriage. To redefine it is to mar a masterpiece and mock it’s designer.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in The Hikes

 

Delicious

Delicious

Apparently many people like to hike with their dogs. The evidence is everywhere. We carefully avoid the “poop loop” dog walking area where walkers are encouraged to pickup and carry away their best friend’s doodoo. It’s just not our thing. You see, we have a cat. Cats don’t pretend to be man’s best friend, and they cover their own “evidence” while on the trail. But I must concede that cats are lousy hikers. After hiking about 47 feet and chasing some thistle-down, they sit and wait for humans to carry them back to their food bowls.

We didn’t always have a cat. But one Saturday afternoon three years ago, I felt that a kitten would brighten up our debt filled college tuition paying years. So I left TJMaxx and went over to the pet store and got right to the point.

“Do you have any kittens?”

“Yes, we have one kitten left,” was the eager teenager’s first-job-at-a-pet-store reply.

“I’ll take it.”

“Don’t you want to look at it…I mean to see if you are compatible.”

Who is compatible with a cat? I wondered.  “No thanks. Do you have a box, or a bag or something that I can take it home in?”

“?!!”  “I need to get my manager,” the rookie looked quite upset.

This is when I realized that most people approach kitten shopping much like shoe shopping. One takes one’s time to find just the right kitten, looking for that special furry friend that fits just right. But I was kind of in a hurry and wasn’t really in the mood for shopping.

“The recipe clearly calls for one kitten. Do you have one or not?” But no one at the pet store found that to be very funny and they made me sign a bunch of papers and told me that pets were almost just like people and sold me some kitten food and a nice soft kitten box. They even called me the next day to ask, “How was my kitten?” I told them, “Delicious.”

Banksy (named after an artist/felon) is now a healthy three year old ginger colored tabby. He’s a great cat. He has scarred most of our furniture and all of our carpeting while brightening up our lives. But I’ll admit, he’s not a great hiker. So you won’t see him out on the trail. It’s just better that way. Enjoy your weekly hike and don’t forget your doodoo bag.

Who could eat you?

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail

 

Who Wrote This Map Anyway?

vacation shots 2011 035Going “off trail” hasn’t ever really gone well for us. There was that one time when faded blazes and disappearing paths tempted us to rely on our own sense of direction. After walking for miles blindly following a map, we stopped and agreed, “This can’t be right!” “Who wrote this map anyway?” Trusting our keen “inner hiker” instincts, we set off in a direction that seemed shorter, or smoother, or just better. Yeah. After an hour or so, we saw the sign. Yes, Dolly Sods was a World War II testing site. And going “off trail” there has some interesting consequences.

When lost in life’s most challenging seasons, CS Lewis reminds us to continue following the path: “Was the map wrong? Maps can be wrong, but the other explanation is more often true.”  Just as most computer problems occur between the keyboard and the chair, many of life’s challenges happen when we stop looking at the signs. Maps and trail signs are very useful things.

The great thing about being a Christian is the map. The rules for the journey are all laid out in the Bible. God told us what we needed to know, we just need to trust it. The trail includes some dry miserable stretches that we didn’t expect. The challenges that we thought the map would help us avoid may in fact be the scenic attractions and destination points along the way. If we go off trail, we will never fully know that deep, tired satisfied feeling that “I made it!”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

So what are the signs? Start reading the Bible and you’ll find that sometimes the warnings and markers are glaringly obvious. One of God’s most grand and obvious signs to us is marriage.  It is His way of saying, “I love you. I will never stop loving you. I’m your husband, you are my bride.” Whether you are married or not, let this “map” of relationship, commitment, covenant, and joy really sink in. God said “I do” to you! Imagine it! You are eternally His! Have you been faithfully following His trail?

This week’s hike was at McConnell’s Mill’s Hell’s Hollow Trail. Icy and muddy but the “signs” that Spring has come were everywhere: robins, singing cardinals, and green grass peaking through the snow!

 

 
 

Urban Eagles and Curling

It’s in all the local papers. Mr. and Mrs. Bald Eagle from Hays in Pittsburgh have just laid a third egg in their big-ass nest. This is the second year in a row that the eagle couple has chosen to raise a family within the city limits of Pittsburgh. Last year, one egg hatched and fledged. The last time this happened was over 150 years ago according to the “eggsperts”.

eagle nest

Like most of the traffic on Route 19, their Hays area nest is now under 24 hour surveillance by remote cameras. If anything suspicious happens, it will be on film. I am enthralled with the return of the eagles and love to see them flying overhead but watching the live feed is much like watching Olympic Curling. You know it’s supposed to be interesting but you are not sure why. Click the picture for the link to the big event where egg number 1 is seen for the very first time. Find the frame for “first egg laid, 2-19-2014.” The first 2 minutes are cool. After that, it’s like the 6th End for the Great Britain Curling Team…just not really going anywhere. (http://www.pixcontroller.com/eagles/)

Tom and I will be heading over to congratulate the lucky new parents this weekend. Sadly, they have declined our invitation to join us for dinner afterward at the Hofbrauhaus. (If you visit along the trail, you’ll notice a sign insisting that you keep your voice to a whisper so as not to disturb the love birds whilst nesting. Apparently human voices might drown out the sounds of trains, traffic, construction vehicles, and barge horns that eagles love so much.)

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in The Hikes

 

Time For A Confession

eastern_bluebird_11“Can’t we take the shortcut?” That was me whining. It was getting colder as the afternoon wore on. The trail was a slippery mix of mud, ice and dirty snow. There wasn’t much to see and my ears were cold. But Tom was ever bright and hopeful. “You can make it!” My mouth smiled but the rest of me didn’t. And so, on we went. The Long Way.

Not even 100 yards of ooze later, I stopped so fast that Tom ran into me. A bluebird was sitting on a frozen branch right in front of my face. It was so incredibly bright blue against the dull gray woods. Then Tom spotted another. It was chirping out a cheery little chuckle of a song not 10 feet away. Two more flew into view, then five or six more. It was so exciting I could hardly breathe. Ok, yes, it’s true. You were going to find out sooner or later: I’m a bird nerd. Be warned. Once you start down this path of identification, bird calls, and migration schedules, you’ll find you just can’t stop. Binoculars, birding books…the whole Avian enchilada. Remember Jane Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies? That’s me in five years. Jane Hathaway

Tom too has succumbed and now shares my unnatural affinity for bird culture. But he looks more like Kenny Bostick from The Big Year. rrc_TBY_bostick_mag_clearance

There are four things I’ve noticed about birdwatching which are listed below. Since birding is inherently geeky, I totally understand if you never read my blog again.

1.  Birding is just not that cool. If you think otherwise, you are wrong and suffer from acute denial. 

2.  It’s not just a chick thing (no pun intended). There are an equal number of men out there, and they really look like they want to be, if you know what I mean.

3.  Birdwatchers are predominantly white. We need to seek Justice here and get our Black and Latino friends involved.

4.  The 15-39 year old age group is not well represented in the birding world. Make what ever conclusions seem logical.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Hikes

 

What’s Your Legacy?

What is the most important legacy you can leave your children?  Most Christians would immediately say that building a strong Christian faith is the highest priority.  But if there were just one more value that you could instill in the hearts of your children, it should be the meaning and vision for marriage.

Remember when kids went to weddings?  No wonder young children, even those raised in the Church, lack a basic understanding of marriage.  By-gone church weddings have been replaced by today’s pricey adult affairs. The popular wedding site The Knot encourages brides to “stand strong” and “limit the guest list” and warns, “Don’t extend ‘ceremony only’ invitations to children.” Martha Stewart’s wedding etiquette agrees that inviting children is “not appropriate” at most weddings. (What? … really!?) When asked “who has been to a wedding?” very few elementary school children’s hands go up. The occasional “yes” will then reveal that it was “my mom’s” or “my dad’s” wedding. While marriage has become irrelevant to the post modern millennial generation, today’s Generation Alpha kids will be left completely adrift with no real understanding of the concept.

As a sexual abstinence educator for over 25 years, I’m convinced that if we are going to ask our kids to wait for marriage to have sex, then we’d darn well better show them that marriage is something worth waiting for.  God’s design, His purpose, and His very heartbeat is revealed in the sacred vows of marriage.  To understand a wedding is to glimpse into God’s love of His Bride, the Church.  The lifetime pledge of a husband to his wife sheds new light on the eternal covenant God makes with His people.  Without a vision for marriage, sex has no context, purity has no meaning, and we leave the next generation without the picture of God’s covenantal love.

ImageOh, yeah…today’s hike was fun.  I love being married to Tom Scheuring.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Hikes

 
Quote
mcconnells mill March 2011 006

Hell’s Hollow at McConnell’s Mill

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?

J B Priestly

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Quotable

 

Why I Love Hiking in the Snow.

jan hike pic

No, really I’m serious. I love it.  Here are a few great reasons to march out into the snow before it’s all gone:

  • There are no bugs or poison ivy.  This is huge.
  • It’s gorgeous.  The leaves are down.  Snow shows every contour of the ground that you don’t see at other times of the year.  Views are spectacular and the occasional pine groves feel cozy and homey.
  • Everything smells wonderful.  Hints, of deer, pine needles and distant woodstoves make you stop in your tracks to suck it all in.
  • It’s bright.  Even on a cloudy day, the woods look bright and welcoming.  This is a real pick me up for the winter blues.
  • It’s quiet.  Other than the crunching beneath your boots, snow absorbs sound.  We didn’t see another human being on the trail today…sublime peace!
  • Tracks.  Today we saw zillions of tracks from bunnies, deer, birds, cross country skis, mountain bikes, dogs, and previous hikers.  And it’s so great to leave your own mark alongside the snowy traffic of the forest!

Today’s hike was at Deer Lakes Park. Find great trails here: deer lakes trail map

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in The Hikes

 

I’m In!

Want to know the secret to a joyful marriage?  Two words.  “I’m in.”

Just before walking down the aisle 27 years ago, my mom (who you already know gave only the wisest of counsel) asked me a strange question.  I mean, I was already poured into the white gown.  The worship team music was already playing the latest Sandi Patti tune.  Tom was somewhere in the building sweating through his rented tuxedo.  And she asked me, “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Geez mom, …duh.  Mom continued, “Well if he really loves you, then I have one piece of advice:  Never say no to him.

Wait. Wha….? There was very little time to argue this point.  My dad had his elbow poised and ready to escort me to the “have and to hold from this day forward” moment I’d looked forward to since age 4.  I remember looking at Tom on the way down the aisle thinking, “Really?  Never?” mr mrs

Of course at the time I thought she was making some reference to the bedroom.  But (and many of you are not going to like this) I have found that in pretty much every situation, saying “no” has never gotten me anywhere.  Marriage works far better when you say yes.

Saying “yes” to Tom is so, well… Biblical. Look at Ephesians 5:21-33. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” If someone loves you that much, you’d be a fool to say no.  If you are truly “one flesh” then saying no to your spouse is like saying no to yourself.  “Wives, respect your husbands.”  Mostly that means letting him take the lead.  Wives, let your husband lead and then respect his opinion enough to follow.  You’ll put a huge silly smile on his face…and isn’t that what you really wanted…to make someone you love happy?

This advice isn’t for everyone.  We don’t say “yes” to abuse, harm, or immorality.  This is why my mom qualified the advice with “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Without her husband’s love, a wife won’t want to say “yes” to much of anything.

Marriage isn’t a competitive sport.  I think that’s why hiking together is so natural.  No one is trying to win an argument.  No one has to be “right”.  Just follow the trail.  (If you get lost, blame it on the map.)  So next time your husband says “Let’s go look at power tools we can’t afford!” or “I’d like a Whopper for dinner, how about you?” remember to smile and force out the two words that will work like magic: “I’m in!”

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Word