Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 Kick-Off Weekend

"...You are my Son; today I have become your Father..." Psalms 2:7
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1
"My SON..."
This how my Dad introduces me. To everyone. No hesitation, no reservations, no quams about it. He will meet you (and if you know Tony, you know he will) and then quickly introduce me, "This is My Son."
This past weekend, my Dad and I went to Pittsburgh for the home opener. We are huge Steelers fan! My Dad has instilled the love of the Steelers since I can remember. And this past weekend, a dream has been fullfilled...I got to watch a game with my Dad at Heinz Field. My Dad has been before, but this was my first visit to Heinz. Let me tell ya...this entire weekend was amazing. The city, the stadium, the fans, the food, the beer...all of it was truly an experience I will remember forever. But the best memory of the weekend is just being able to spend time with my dad.
So back to introductions...It's not the fact he introduces me EVERYTIME he meets a new person that gets to me...No. This is no surprise since he is a genuinely courteous guy and wants everyone to feel welcomed,'s HOW he introduces me EVERTIME that amazes me. You see, my dad just doesn't introduce me to be courteous, or to be inclusive, or whatever it is people feel when they introduce others. For my dad, you can see it means much more. Over and over again, my dad would go over and introduce himself, and then with beaming pride...introduce me, "This is MY son!"
And it didn't let up. The introduction never wavers or seems to lessen over time. My dad enthusiastically, proudly, and excitedly wants the stranger to meet ME! Again...
My dad wants to let you know who I am, and because of who I am...there's an implication that is unmistakeable. When my dad calls me "Son", with his reverent tone and kind blue eyes, it shouts to the world exactly what's on his heart: I LOVE MY SON! This past weekend, I realized that my dad wasn't simply introducing his heart, he was doing much more. My dad exercised his authority as a father and claimed me...and in doing so, he proudly presented me...honored me...exalted me. Trust me, I don't deserve the type of introduction my father gives me...but it doesn't matter to him. Regardless of myself, my dad unconditionally loves me, honors me, serves me, and much much more.

At one point in the weekend, I sent Sarah a text saying, "being called My SON is the best term of endearment." Because in my case, it means I always belong...I always have a place to go...I am always looked out for...I am always taken care of...and most importantly, I am always loved! No matter what...I am always loved. Simply because I am a son or daughter, and nothing more, I am a source of pride to my father.
So this leads me to my Heavenly Father. How much more is this the case with our Father in Heaven? Now, I know there are many that have strained, difficult, or non-existent dads. So it is difficult to see God as a father. It is difficult to see God as a loving father who is proud to call you Son or Daughter. There is no way He made you...or claims proud of you...loves you...or maybe even think that He doesn't even know you. Maybe...because of what you think of don't care to know Him. I get it. I see it everyday. I can understand your thoughts on Him.
But please know this is not true. This past weekend, I was shown a glimpse of our Father's love through my dad. And though I'm sure there are many that cannot relate, I want to share with you that God the Father sees us as His children. Despite what we think, or feel about doesn't matter, He still sees us as His own. He created us, breathed life into us, sees us, knows us, desires and pursues after us. God the Father is deeply, deeply in love with you.
God says, "I will be a Father to you...and you will be my sons and daughter." You know the implications of this promise? Do you know how big of a hug and kiss this is to us? Do you know what He wants for you by shouting this out into the vast corners of all the galaxies?
God is screaming...telling us: "YOU ARE MY SON! YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER! YOU ARE MINE!" And it's not just a simple introduction of who we are. No!  It's the ultimate invitation. It's the ultimate declaration. It's the ultimate term of endearment from the Ultimate Being...It's God, without hesitation, reservation, or quams about it...proclaiming that we all belong! We all have a place...we are always looked out for...we are all taken care of...and most of all, that He personally, deeply, passionately loves us. God is proud to be our Father. Imagine, the source of his pride.  
What: Pittsburgh Steelers Home Opener...Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Who: Tony, Milena, Me Pasquel
When: 9/6-9/7/14

Want to thank my woderful momma (Milena/Nena) for making this weekend happen. She surprised us earlier in the year with Father's Day presents to the game. She took care of everything for us. Everything was easy for my dad and I...Mom, thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are the best!
Not much of a trip report for this one...other than the Steelers beat the Browns 30-27...and it was way to close for comfort. We had a great time dining at a few places...including the famous Primanti Bros...
 We also spent time at Grille 36...Jerome Bettis' restuarant/sports bar where my dad got to meet The Bus...
The rest of the photos hopefully captures some of the sights of the city/game.


GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch: Labor Day 2014

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

What is God calling us to [do]?

Is this the crux of Christianity? What's our purpose here?...This is what we desire, is it not? To know what God desires for us... and of us? To know the ultimate plan in our lives...

I know we all struggle with these questions. And I know there are moments, low moments when we face these questions in desperation. Confused, scared, and frustrated...we face the fact that we  have no clue what the hell we're doing here. It's the Christian's version of the proverbial, "What's the purpose of life?"

Fortunately, for believers...we know the Purpose of life. Unfortunately, that's the extent of it. So yeah, as I'm typing this out, I am realizing that most of us are not that far removed from being completely clueless. So with that being said...

I still don't have THE answer to the Christian's Conundrum to specific callings in our lives, or even my life...but, maybe there's something to be said about not knowing for sure. If you will, allow me to share some recent revelation...
These are the McNeely's...our sweet neighbors of almost 8 years! We invited Scott and Crystal to join us on a rock climbing trip to Arkansas for Labor Day weekend. I invited them about a month before the trip. I remember the day...I went over to their garage and Crystal and I casually visited. I extended an invitation for their family to join us, believing they would kindly decline since the idea of spending a long weekend sleeping outside to just rock climb usually does not spark much of an interest to those outside of rock jocks. Instead of the usual decline I get from most people, Crystal, without hesitation, took me up on my offer. I was surprised at the immediate commitment. They've never been, seen, or have heard of the place we were going to. In addition, they have never been on a rock trip, didn't have any gear, and quite frankly...didn't have any clue what to expect. But it didn't matter...they were in!
To solidify their commitment even more...they purchased new gear for the weekend. Climbing shoes, harness, sleeping bags...They were all in! The McNeely's were still committed and even more excited about something they didn't know about. Then came the time to go. It is a 7 hour drive from home, arriving in the middle of the night, to set up camp in the dark...just to get enough (or no) sleep to start the physically demanding weekend. This one inconvenience would deter most people of going...not them. So, at one point over the weekend, Crystal says to me,
"You never thought you would see us here...huh?.?.?" 
No, no I didn't.
And this is when revelation kicked in. I never thought I would see my neighbors on a rock trip with me. They are not rock climbers, have no rock climbing background, and quite frankly have no reason to rock climb at all. So how did they end up on this trip again? What it all boils down to is they simply said YES.
 There was an invitation made, an invitation recieved, and a commitment seen through.
So what's this story have to do with our Purpose? I think it has everything to do with purpose. Sure, some of us have very specific callings in our lives to serve the Lord. Some of you out there have had clear, unshakeable visions of what the Lord wants of you. From early age, you know you are called to ministry, or missions, or _________! But most of us...for the most part, are uncertain. But that's ok. Life is not all about specifics. Sometimes, life is just about accepting an invitation!
God calls everyone of us. Or better yet, God invites everyone of us to join him. I would even say, that our calling is to simply say, "Yes!" to His invitation. So even though we may not have this outlined, detailed spiritual itinerary for our lives...we still have a calling/invitation to follow Him. And what's really cool, is more often than not, the Lord will just stop by your "garage" to simply extend an invitation to something. So, will we kindly decline?..or without hesitation, take up Jesus' offer to join him? Will it matter if we haven't been, seen, or heard of the places he wants to take us to? Will it matter if we aren't properly equipped? Will it matter if we have no CLUE??? Do these things matter?
The McNeely's jumped into the weekend, no hesitation...they were all in! I recently read on an inspirational poster:
"The greatest failure is the failure to try."
I know, kinda cheesy. But it's a truism I like. Scott and Crystal just went for it. They accepted the invitation and gave it a try. I admire their willingness to try something new, something out of their comfort zone.
In regards to our calling in life, I think the same can be said...
"The greatest failure in Christianity is the failure to try."
Maybe this is why most of us feel like we are missing a call in life. We don't say "YES" to Jesus enough. Maybe if we accepted his invitation to new, out of comfort experiences...we would start seeing our lives as a calling in itself. Maybe, just maybe...our Calling in life is to simply accept the everyday, casual invitation. And maybe, by not knowing our specific calling...that leaves a large margin of question to accept all different types of Christ's invitations. Just maybe...

What: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Rock Trip.
When: Labor Day weekend 2014
Who: Scott and Crystal McNeely, Reyes-Ortiz Family, Pasquel Family
There's not much of a trip report. We had a fun, relaxing weekend climbing and camping. So this trip report will be another picture collage. Hope you enjoy!