March 2016 Blog Archives
Thursday, March 31
4:34 AM Hello wonderful internet friends. Crazy days for me! I'm making a quick trip to the Big D to lecture tomorrow at Dallas Seminary, arguing that we ignore the rhetorical dimension of the Greek New Testament at our own peril. Here's a couple of the 100 or so slides I'll be showing.
If this line of reasoning is correct, rhetorical analysis should be included in every guide to New Testament exegesis. On a related note, Henry Neufeld chimes in and adds his thoughts about the translation of biblical poetry here. In any event, I'm excited to be in Dallas again and am eager to see Becky's mom and dad. I even plan to get in an official 5K while I'm there. While I'm gone Nate will be fertilizing all of the fields in preparation for our first cutting of hay. Is it that time of the year already? Life is good. So good.
Blessings on you!
Wednesday, March 30
5:12 PM Here's a shout-out to Kevin Youngblood of Harding University who delivered a very stimulating lecture today in our LXX class.
Kevin is currently serving as visiting professor of Old Testament and as scholar in residence at SEBTS. Professional exegetes and writers of biblical commentaries hotly debate the origin and nature of the so-called kaige-Theodotian (or proto-Theodotian) recension of the LXX, which Origen apparently relied on in the fifth column of his famous Hexapla.
Today it is difficult if not impossible to determine which books of the LXX represent the kaige recension. Just take a look at Samuel and Kings! Moreover, as everyone knows, the kaige recension represents a special problem in the book of Daniel. Kevin discussed all of these problems as well as delved a bit into the famous discovery in Nahal Hever (Israel) of a Greek scroll of the Minor Prophets that is not actually a part of the LXX tradition at all. Kevin's talk was a gem of a lecture and was a reminder that the Bible is an incredible book of history and facts. It is, in fact, God's word!
Oh, one more pic. Publishing a book, they say, is like giving birth.
In your eyes it's the most beautiful thing in the world. But you're hardly objective. At any rate, the book will shortly be available at Amazon -- and it's pricey (ugh). The travails of parenting!
Tuesday, March 29
6:52 AM Quote of the day (C. S. Lewis):
That is such a spectacular quote I don't know what I can add to it. Read more at Andy Naselli's blog.
Monday, March 28
6:05 PM Read Answering 10 Critiques of Elder-Led Congregationalism.
3:48 PM Mountaineering feeds on itself. No sooner do I complete one book about the 2008 disaster on K2 than I read another one. I think this is a good time to mention that we have four Gospels simply because there are different ways of presenting the same truth. The same thing applies to stories about life and death on a mountain. My latest book? A work called Buried in the Sky by alpinists Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan.
Unlike most tales of woe that occurred on the world's second tallest peak, this book tells the story from the perspective of the Sherpa climbers who did much of the real climbing work yet who are often ignored or forgotten. Not long ago I linked to a YouTube that recounts the entire story of the most deadly day in K2's history. If you watched that video you will recall that two of the climbers that day were a Norwegian duo named Rolf Bae and his wife Cecilie Skog. Cecilie saw her husband die as an avalanche swept him off the mountain on the descent. I've often wondered, What happens to the surviving spouses of those who die on K2? Well, buried in the book Buried in the Sky is, we might say, the rest of the story. It hardly needs to be said that Cecilie was devastated by her husband's death. According to the book,
In her own words, "The pain was physical .... Every part of me hurt, every muscle." This, friends, is what grief does. Grief is a natural, normal, and predicable response to loss. So what did Cecilie do? She ran. Each day she ran farther and faster until one day, 18 months later, she completed the first unassisted crossing of Antarctica.
What went wrong that day on K2 was caused by many circumstances. I'm not here to make judgments about anyone's decisions. The event itself is factually complex -- just read any of the books on the subject. What I do understand is Cecilie's response to her husband's death. Death deflates your soul. Your heart collapses like a punctured party balloon. Grief disrupts everything in your life. For a brief time you may even shut out the world. Then, before you know it, you're crossing Antarctica or climbing a Swiss Alp.
I think this is an important thing for all of us to understand. When loss strikes your family, you feel as though you've been bucked off a rodeo horse. Your ability to cope with the simplest things is overwhelmed. Perhaps the worst part of it is that no one seems to understand what you're going through. And yet, at some point, the pain begins to subside. Not the dull ache in your heart. No, that ache will never go away. But as you continue to remember your loved one, you begin to realize just how the God of hope, comfort, strength, and love is with you. You begin to let go, move on, and embrace life again. This is not a betrayal of your loved one. It's what they would have wanted. Resilient people have a creed that says, "Onward!"
As your life makes its own twists and turns, I hope you will remember this, my friend. I like to think today that my love for Becky is a force within me that drives me forward to the next big thing God has in store for me. Oddly enough, I often ask myself, "If the roles were reversed, what on earth would Becky be doing today?" I can tell you one thing. She'd by living life to the fullest. She'd be involved -- deeply involved -- in the lives of her children and grandchildren. She'd be serving the Lord with a passion. And she'd be giving testimony to her most precious memories.
If my blog is anything, I hope it is a story. A love story. The story of how I survived loss, and how you can too. Perhaps you're carrying in your mind videotapes full of pain. Dear reader, you do not need to live in bondage to the past. You will always have a relationship with the one you lost. Always. And one day you'll say hello again if you are both in the Lord.
You see, saying goodbye is not the end.
It's only the beginning.
8:55 AM My good friend and fellow New Testament teacher Allan Bevere asks:
In one strand of Protestantism there are traditions involving holy days: the 40 days of Lent, the 50 days of Easter, etc. Allan argues that Easter is the most significant of these holy days. If this is true, then why, he asks, do we not celebrate "the full fifty days of the Easter season?"
For me, a Baptist, I suppose the first answer that comes to mind is, "Where is the biblical requirement that I do so?" But such cynicism can often be an obstacle to real understanding. Methodists observe holy days, and they obviously do so for legitimate reasons (at least in their minds). So Allan's question is a legitimate one. He raises a good point that deserves serious consideration.
My guess is that the current generation of youthful believers is not likely to pay too much attention to it, however. They are too busy screaming, "Why are Christians so mean and angry? Why do they insist on putting Christ in the White House when Jesus used to hang out with lepers? Who do churches spend so much money on themselves? Why do so many strands of Christianity smack of power and hubris when Jesus humbly served others?" If we're not careful, we Christians (Methodists and Baptists alike) can easily prioritize tradition over engagement. Still, Allan's essay is worth careful study. It seems to me that a good place to start is Paul's teaching in Rom. 14:1-12 (The Message).
Paul seems to be making three points here:
1) Whether or not we follow any particular "holy day" is a matter of personal conscience and conviction.
2) Either way we choose, we are to live each day for the glory of God and in cooperation with those with whom we disagree about such non-essentials.
3) Jesus died and rose again not only so that He could save us from sin but so that He could "free us from the petty tyrannies of each other."
Believe it or not, this is a matter I want to discuss with my students next fall as I teach Romans and 1-2 Corinthians. Let's put the difficult questions before our students. Let's teach them to ask hard questions about why they do what they do in their churches. Let's stop patronizing them because -- let me tell you -- millennials are very capable of thinking for themselves. Lest you think that Allan's question is irrelevant to Baptists, think of all of our own "holy" observances -- from the "annual revival meeting" to the "Christmas cantata" to "youth Sunday." Good friends can discuss such matters without getting put out with each other. Jesus can handle it. When Paul says, "One person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other," I tend to find myself in the latter camp. And yet I see the logic behind the church calendar. As Methodist New Testament scholar Ben Witherington puts it in his essay Happy New Year!!:
For Ben, the church year is all about Christ, about His story, about a kingdom of God that is tangible, about living in the midst of a ridiculous pagan culture that tailors its calendar to retail sales. No, I don't think Allan or Ben or any other Methodist scholar I know of is trying to impose a new set of legalisms on the church. Customs are fine as long as we attach no salvific significance to them. Perhaps, in the end, the real question is the evangelistic one. Secular culture recognizes our holy days, but people seem woefully confused about our love. Which is why Paul concluded (NLT):
This is the kind of scandalous love that drives the world crazy -- or should I say sane? Followers of Jesus (of whatever denominational stripe) live by an "others-first" credo that only people who are secure both in themselves and in their Savior can pull off. Perhaps when not-yet-believers see this kind of love in action they'll stop and ask, "Maybe this kind of love is for me too?"
Sunday, March 27
12:58 PM Wow! What a great service! Even sang one of my favorite hymns -- "Fairest, Lord Jesus." Verse two says it all:
Oh Jesus! You are so knock dead beautiful! So is Your word. Today's message -- very interactive by the way, with lots of Q & A -- was on how You always keep Your promises. (Fist bump!) Jesus, You save and heal. Why? Because You said You would. The leader spoke without a note (he knew his message well), all the while holding his baby son in his left arm and using the Scriptures with his right. Reminded me of the time when Robert E. Lee was sitting in the president's chair during one of the commencement services at Washington College and someone's child walked up to the platform and snuggled into his arms. The child remained there, sound asleep, for the remainder of the service.
Folks, church is not easy, but it is simple. Find one that you can feel truly at home in (it exists) and then love it with all the grace and kindness God grants you.
Gracious God, thank You for Your word. Help me realize that You always keep Your promises. When You said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," You meant it. Help me also realize that suffering produces endurance, and that endurance produces character, and that character produces hope. Help me, Jesus, to be open to myself and to Your life-giving Spirit not only on Resurrection Sunday but each day that I live. Let me always be open to change and growth. God of everything good, help me to live this week in such a way that my children and grandchildren would be proud of our name. May my love be Your love and my clothing Your strength and dignity. Amen.
8:48 AM Greetings all! Happy Resurrection Day! Consider the following an Easter reflection if you like. I'll just call it a few random reflections on the day after.
Running in a 5K takes hard work, lots of effort, tons of grit, and constant practice. Actually, optimum health is an asymptote -- something impossible to achieve fully, which is the precise reason why physical exercise is both frustrating and alluring. One purpose of Jesus' resurrection was so that we could "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). "Yes," you say, "that's true, Dave. But Paul isn't referring to actually 'walking.' He's using a metaphor for living. Don't you be trying to take the term too literally now!" Not a problem. I'll just apply the metaphor to our daily lives.
Walking is something all of us do every day. But walking for exercise and health? That's another story. In my opinion, we tend to be weak in two areas. First of all, we have faulty goals. Research has shown that if we exercise for short-term goals -- let's say, to slim down to fit into that wedding gown -- we often reach our goals but we gain the weight back as soon as our short-term goal has been achieved. On the other hand, people who pursue more intrinsic goals for exercising -- say, staying in good health for the sake of their families or (as in my case) to enable them to travel long distances internationally for ministry -- may make slower progress at first but achieve better results in the long run. The problem is staying motivated. And the key to motivation is incentive. Doing something that's not inherently interesting or fun can become more meaningful if it's part of a larger purpose. This works especially well if you are in a genuinely motivating environment.
Take yesterday's 5K race for example. Most of us were there because we wanted to support a certain cause. A cause is one of the things that gives meaning and purpose to life. As I see it, participating in a 5K race means that 1) you care about something, 2) that the cause is important to you, and 3) that you are willing to work for it. Does that make sense? Let me try and personalize it. The first baby-boomers turned 60 in 2006. I turned 60 in 2012. Studies agree that the average 60-year old American male can expect to live for at least another 20 years. But that is precisely the rub. I'm now 63. When I look back at how quickly the last 63 years went I wonder, "Will the next 20 be like that?" In other words, the baby-boomers in America, who are perhaps the wealthiest and best educated generation the world has even known, are asking themselves deep questions about what's really important in their lives.
At my age, staying motivated and pursuing purpose isn't easy, largely, I think, because I've allowed behaviors and practices to creep into my lifestyle that sap my energy and divert my focus. Management expert Tom Peters once said, "What you decide not to do is probably more important than what you decide to do." So what's the simplest solution? Quit my job? Hardly. I love my work too much. It's never felt like a dreary obligation. So for me, the solution to getting unstuck has been to go oblique. I've added behaviors and activities that help me stay motivated and on track. In particular, running has become an enjoyable pastime partly because it's an activity in which I can improve all the time. The same thing holds true for climbing as I constantly set more audacious goals for myself (such as Mount Olomana in Hawaii next month). I'm about to turn 64 in June and I'm more aware than ever of the unused capabilities God has given my body. Being physically active helps me to redirect my focus forward. "Chasing yesterday is a bum show," said Ernest Hemmingway. You don't need to be as old as I am to be aware of the temptation to wallow in the past. Whether we are 28 or 78, we can sadly live our lives backwards. The mind is not that different from the body. Both need a forward focus. As well, both need constant exercise and stimulation. What that requires is regular maintenance -- the regular use of our mental and motor faculties.
So what are you doing with your life? Easter is a time of renewal. It's a time to remember that for every measurable loss there is an immeasurable gain. This is the heart of the Christian experience. Dead with Christ, we nevertheless live to walk in newness of life. We go down to go up. We die to live. It takes the grindstone to sharpen the axe. If you find the going hard, just remember that Christian character is not grown at pleasure resorts.
Hear me, my friend: If we live to ourselves we will die to ourselves. We outlive others only when we live to the glory of God and for the good of others in the resurrection power of His Son. Which means: Even if I'm old I can stay fresh and "walk in newness of life" until the Savior calls me home.
Saturday, March 26
4:50 PM It felt like it had been forever since I last ran a 5K race, but actually it was only last Saturday. Right now I'm more or less riding high. I had an unexpectedly easy race. My legs felt stronger than they had ever felt before. God is so good to me. I woke up this morning with the feeling that today was going to be really momentous. It's not every day that I get to meet with my special "society." Of course, it's a society that no one wants to join. I'm talking, of course, about that unique club of cancer patients and cancer survivors (along with their spouses and families). But nowadays it's the most natural thing for me to hang out with people who have been (or whose loved ones have been) affected by some form of cancer. Today, as I arrived at the venue in Durham, I knew I had to seek out the event sponsors -- an organization called A Cure in Sight. I had a nice chat with three of their board members. Each has faced ocular melanoma. Each is a survivor. Each is blind in one eye. And each is committed to doing whatever is possible to eradicate this form of cancer in their lifetime. I thought to myself, What a huge, audacious, seemingly impossible goal. It's so much bigger than any one of us. I'm awed by the size of the challenge. And then I remembered that God's not calling me to save the world. He's asking me to take what little time and energy I have and invest them in things that matter -- one race at a time, one cause at a time. I found it oddly comforting being around cancer patients, cancer doctors, and cancer survivors for three hours. I love these people. In the wake of tragedy and uncertainty and surgery and radiation and feelings of inadequacy, each person I met today was wearing a big smile on their face. I well recall the day Becky died -- how I frantically reached for a spiritual toehold in the sickening mess of heartache and loss. God is a strange God -- strange in the sense that He seems to delight to meet us at our weakest points. And so I drove to today's race with some pretty strong emotions as well as some pretty high expectations. I expected smiling faces. I expected a grueling course. I expected an intense race. But I wasn't expecting a cancer community so well organized and so united around their cause. Even the lead ocular oncologist from the Duke Cancer Institute was on hand to lend encouragement to the crowd just by his presence. Just before the race he gave an impromptu talk about the disease, a very brief portion of which I captured on video.
It was one of those moments in life when you're scared to blink because you're afraid you'll miss something important. Here are the basic facts:
I loved being in Durham today. In fact, I love the life and health that God has given me. I don't deserve any of it, but I sure do appreciate it. Today I got an overwhelming sense that I am right where God wants me to be in life. Today I heard story after story of God binding fresh bandages around ugly wounds. Like these cancer survivors, I want to learn what it means to live purely and simply and gratefully for each day that I am alive.
There is so much more I could share. Today's event was good. Really good, actually. It was all so incredibly satisfying. As we ran the 5K course together, each of was paying an equal amount of pain. My experience today was but a reminder that all runners are indeed equal; only our finishing times are different. Every new week, each race I enter is a new drama, a new challenge, a new way for God to stretch me in one way or another. Today I was young again, jogging along Kailua Beach, pushing myself to the limit for the pure pleasure of the experience. I will never be 16 again, but that doesn't matter, doesn't matter in the least, because speed doesn't matter, and neither does age. It's the running that counts.
A few pix:
1) Love these guys. Durham's finest.
They kept us safe from vehicular traffic. Thank you, gentlemen!
2) The sponsors of today's race. Each is a survivor.
3) Dr. Prithvi Mruthyunjaya of Duke, affectionately known as "Dr. M."
4) Group shot of all of the cancer survivors and their families who were present at today's event.
5) After the race I enjoyed my all-time favorite Asian cuisine on my drive home.
(Yes, there will be Bulgogi in heaven. Guaranteed. And sticky rice.)
P.S. I was informed that $25,000 was raised today by 175 runners. Woohoo!
6:54 AM "One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself." -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Off to the races.
Friday, March 25
5:54 PM Just in case you were wondering ....
8:36 AM Odds and sods ...
1) The program for the Eastern Region of the Evangelical Theological Society's meeting at Liberty University next weekend is here. There are some fine and dandy papers for sure.
2) God willing, one month from today I will be in Hawaii surfing again. Please, please, please let Sunset be breaking.
3) Meet Chris Latta.
I met him at last week's 5K. For the past 4 years, the event ("Ella's Race") has been sponsored by Chris and the Chick Fil-A restaurant he owns and operates in North Raleigh. So many people wax on about how it's not government's job to feed the hungry, help the poor and needy, etc. Well, here's one man and a franchise who are putting their money where their mouth is. Not to mention that their breakfast biscuits are depressingly scrumptious. (Chick Fil-A and I are now BFF.)
4) Hey, folks, we're lookin' for a cure!
If you can't join us at 9:00 am at the Lakewood Shopping Center in Durham, NC, tomorrow, send in a donation. It's a super great cause. Here's the 5K course map:
Bwaaaaaa! Looks so easy on paper! But just think. If I finish, I can say that a lowly Southeastern prof has literally run circles around Duke.
Thursday, March 24
6:04 PM While looking for an Easter Sunrise Service I ran across a church in a major U.S. city that will be serving food to the homeless this Sunday under an Interstate overpass to celebrate a Risen Savior. I'd really love to attend but the city is 1,400 miles away. Let's face it: It's been a long time since I went to church for the sermon. Not that I don't mind a good sermon. But it's sacrificial service that holds the body of Christ together. That's just plain good doctrine, by the way. ("Faith working itself out through love," is how Paul puts it.) That's what's so remarkable to me about the messy, mixed-up church that Christ died for. The New Testament church was so basic and so lovely. They assembled for togetherness -- and service. Sure, there was solid biblical teaching (there had to be), but teaching that drove the people back out into the world to be Jesus to their neighbors, even under an Interstate underpass. (Just between you and me, I'm becoming a Jesus Freak again.) Give me a scrappy, tough-minded, doctrinally sound AND practically engaged church any day. A church that actually resembles the ministry of Jesus. A church where apathy is exchanged for authenticity. It's as if God were saying, "Church, do with your 'body' what My Son did with His -- He gave it away for others."
Oh how I wish Becky were still here. She could sniff out what is real and what is spiritual smoke much better than I ever could. But I'm learning. I find it strange that the focus this Sunday in so many of our churches will be on getting people who rarely (if ever) attend to show up in our sanctuaries for an hour when we could be exploding Jesus' love in our dirty neighborhoods. Listen, church. The best thing we can do for others is give them Jesus -- plain old Jesus -- not entertainment, and most certainly not church culture. He trumps everything. Because He is the only constant in life.
11:40 AM Lord willing, one week from tomorrow it will be my joy and honor to present a Power Point presentation at the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, assembling this year at Dallas Seminary. I've titled my paper, "The Medium Is the Message: Hermeneutics and Rhetorical Devices in the Greek New Testament." Here's what first piqued my interested in the topic:
It was years ago when I first picked up this delightful and definitive German biography of Karl Barth. I was surprised (and a bit delighted) to find out that young Barth was as bored in primary school as I was. So what would he do to whittle away his time in class? He wrote poetry. I mean, good poetry. Busch cites this example:
That's just crazy hilarious!
Now, poetry is a controversial topic, especially when it comes to translating the Bible. At the time I was reading Barth's biography by Busch, I had just begun producing the base translation for all 27 books of the New Testament into English for the International Standard Version project. Since I'm a huge lover of poetry, I paused and asked myself, "I wonder how the translator of Busch's biography (John Bowden) rendered Barth's exquisite poetry into English -- as poetry or as prose?" My guess was poetry, and sure enough, I was right. Check this out:
Oh my but Barth was funny! Here you can see that the translator had to take certain "liberties" with Barth's German (actually, his Basel German) in order to produce his rendering of Barth's poetry. For example, Barth's initial line in German could properly be rendered, "Dear people, listen to me." Note that the German strophe ends in the "an" sound, as do the next two lines ("ganh," "han").
This is called phonemic repetition and is quite common in both German and English poetry. Now notice the English. You will see that each line now ends, poetically, in:
Which makes the point very nicely! So I asked myself: "Why, then, shouldn't we try to produce poetry in our English Bibles whenever we find poetry in the Greek?"
This "poetry," if you will, is actually pretty close to what you will find in the Greek. If and when it is necessary to depart from the literal, a footnote explaining the departure should be sufficient to satisfy even the purest purest out there. I am suggesting this, friends: The rhetorical level of language is important. The literary devices used by the human authors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21) are all part of that "inspiration" that 2 Tim. 3:16 talks about.
Now, of course we can't translate every dimension of meaning from one language to another. That is an impossibility. There will always be some "translational loss." But when it comes to poetry, can't we at least make an effort? Bad boundary: "Poetry takes too many liberties with the original text." Good boundary: "Attempt to translate Greek poetry as English poetry inasmuch as this is possible, always trying to indicate any departures from the literal in a footnote." I'm in my 60s, so I've been through a lot of "translation wars" when it comes to the Bible. But, my dear friend, if you'd like to give it a try in your teaching or preaching, I have your back. I assure you, your renderings will be far from perfect. So were ours. (For an explanation of our philosophy of translating poetry as poetry in the ISV New Testament, see my essay On Translating New Testament Poetry that appeared in the Harold Greenlee Festschrift.) But I think it's worth the try. At any rate, I hope to see some of you at DTS at 2:00 on Friday next.
Side note: I want to thank my personal assistant and co-laborer in the Gospel Mr. Noah Kelley, without whose help I would be completely bereft of such nice things as Power Point presentations. You are very kind, thoughtful, funny, smart, and humble. I appreciate your help so much.
11:12 AM Loved this new pic of Nate and Jess. Handsome couple!
Here's a picture of your mother and me when we were your age :)
Such great years to be alive!
11:10 AM Today I peddled over 13 miles per hour on my bike ride. I love speed, always have -- whether on a wave, a horse, or a bike.
8:24 AM Some great Simon Sinek quotes:
1) There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
2) We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.
3) For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea - we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.
4) Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.
5) You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.
6) Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not.
7) Trust is maintained when values and beliefs are actively managed. If companies do not actively work to keep clarity, discipline and consistency in balance, then trust starts to break down.
8) All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.
I especially like #3 when it comes to Bible translations. "Distributing to the needs of the saints" (Rom. 12:13) is fine and dandy, but it really means "Share what you have with God's people who are in need" -- and the latter is much easier to understand and apply.
For more Sinek quotes, go here.
Off to ride.
Wednesday, March 23
3:38 PM Thank-You Notes:
1) Thank you, little purple flowers, whatever your names are.
Becky loved to greet you every spring. Each year I look forward to seeing you too.
2) Thank you, Kim, Joel, and kids, for the great fellowship at the Mexican restaurant in Roxboro. After all, it is National Chips and Dip Day. (Don't believe me? Google it.) Can't wait to meet my new grandson when he arrives at the end of the month.
3) Thank you, lawn mower, for starting right up even though you've been "dormant" all winter. I (sneeze, sneeze) loved (sneeze, sneeze) mowing the grass again (sneeze, sneeze).
Wow. A Trifecta. Life don't get much betta.
8:32 AM Don't blink when you're driving though Gladys, VA, or you'll miss the entire town. When I saw the words on this building yesterday I did a double take and had to turn around and grab this pic.
Every true Christian is a citizen of heaven -- so says Paul in Phil. 1:27, where he tells us to "Live as good citizens of heaven in a manner required by the Gospel." That includes you and me -- in our own corner of the world. I love it how Paul appeals to these Roman citizens (Philippi was a Roman colony) on the basis of their sense of civic responsibility. That's why Paul wrote, "Live as good citizens...." I shake my head whenever I see otherwise good English translations miss this powerful metaphor. Yet it is so foundational to what is Paul is saying. I know of no better way of putting this than in the immortal words of the late James Allan Francis:
When we moved to the South 17 years ago I joined the local volunteer fire department out of a sense of civic duty. Who is going to put out our house fires unless we do it ourselves? In the same way, our faith and love for God ought to motivate us to love others actively and practically. The Nazis got away with their atrocities because good people said and did nothing. The same thing can happen today when Christians neglect their obligations as citizens of heaven. And that will take commitment. Tons of it.
The other day I walked over 13 miles for exercise and pleasure. That's nothing. On June 30, 1863, the Union 5th Corps managed 20 miles on the road from Monocacy Junction (just below Frederick) to Union Mills on their way to Gettysburg. The same day the 6th Corps logged 34. When Jesus says "March!" we had better march -- and to the tune of a far different drummer than the one beating the marching orders in the political debates.
Tuesday, March 22
5:26 PM Yo folks! Hope yall are enjoying this splendid summer-like weather. Yesterday I drove up to Lexington, VA -- a place where Bec and I spent countless hours wandering its historic streets and visiting such sites as Washington and Lee University (which still has an "honor code" among its student body). I was also able to hike to the waterfall at the Natural Bridge -- a bridge which, I'm told, is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. I stayed in a B & B just outside of Lexington so that I could get an early start this morning. My goal was to hike the Mount Pleasant Trail near Amherst, VA. The trail is "officially" 5.2 miles long, but I think they forgot to calculate the time it takes you to reach the summit from the summit spur. My Map My Run app clocked the loop plus the summit spur at exactly 6.33 miles. A few notes about this trail if you ever plan to hike it:
1) Wear study hiking shoes/boots. Your high school sneakers will not cut it here.
2) Be prepared to get lost. That's because the blue blazes are faded in lots of places. When you come to a fork in the road you pretty much have to toss a coin. I did, and lost twice. That's okay. All you have to do is backtrack to find the correct path. You're not in a hurry anyway.
3) I call this a "roots and rocks" trail. Like so many of our Virginia hiking spots, this one can easily trip you up. Which means that you can never relax your vigilance or you might end up with a sprained ankle or worse.
4) I'd rate the trail as moderate-strenuous. I averaged 2.6 miles per hour, which is slow for me. But again, I wasn't trying to hurry to the summit; I was just enjoying another "worship service." I passed maybe two sets of hikers, all young guys in their 20s. Otherwise, it was just me and the Lord. We had a grand time at the summit!
Pix (of course), then a YouTube should you care to hike with me. The view from the top was unreal.
1) The world-famous Natural Bridge.
2) W & L University in Lexington.
3) The Lee Chapel.
4) The Stonewall Jackson House.
5) Arriving on site.
6) The entire loop is 5.2 miles unless you push to the summit -- which you definitely will want to do.
7) A faded blaze. (Sounds like an oxymoron to me.)
8) A little summit snow.
9) Let's see now ... 1,719 calories burned?
Not for long. I pigged out afterwards at my go-to restaurant in Appomattox, El Cazador. (Nice name; I like hunting down good food.) I've gotten to know the servers there pretty well and had been meaning to give Rejulio a copy of Becky's book La Historia de Mi Vida. Well, today was the day.
Here's the GoPro I promised:
Monday, March 21
9:02 AM This is my all-time favorite Palm Sunday hymn. I would like to dedicate it to God in joyful memory of my wife Becky, who, by His grace and mercy, I shall one day see again.
Here might I stay and sing,
Sunday, March 20
7:58 PM In two months it will be exactly one year since one of my daughters asked me to cheer her on as she ran a half marathon in Fredericksburg, VA. As I think back on that day, I'm reminded I'm still on a journey, still very much in the process of becoming what God wants me to become. You see, that day changed everything in terms of my health, diet, and exercise habits. When my daughter asked me if I would one day do a 5K race with her, it was a "with heads bowed and eyes closed" moment for me. Becoming committed to healthy eating and regular exercise is particularly difficult in the rural South where I live. I cannot imagine anything more difficult. I came to the point of having to choose between obedience and blatant disobedience. Transformation came in the form of walking at first, then entering my first 5K "run" (I walked most of it). At the risk of oversimplifying, I've seen a daughter's gentle nudge cure my apathy better than any sermon. Once again, Jesus was wrecking my comfortable Christianity.
Celine Dion once said, "There's no such thing as aging, but maturing and knowledge." I've come to the same conclusion. I am, as far as I can tell, the same Dave Black who married Becky at the ripe old age of 26 in Dallas, TX. I remain "ageless" if you will, if only in my own mind. I'm not denying the stages of life. I know full well that I am in my Second Adulthood. Oddly enough, I also know full well that I haven't reached my peak yet physically. One year ago my only exercise was picking up bales in the fields and paddling to catch a wave. Contrast that with today -- hiking for miles, climbing mountains, running in races, still discovering what this body of mine can do. My life is so changed that I'm miserable if I can't go outdoors and get in a few miles each week. It has been said that the human body has a mind of its own. Mine is telling me that I am as young as ever I was. Yes, I know that one day age will catch up with me. The truth is, by God's grace I hope to push my body to the limits as long as He allows it. That's why I'm looking forward to the Alps this summer with such great anticipation. I will call on all my reserves. It will be full throttle or nothing. I'm here to report that a 63-year old man is no longer a rookie at this health and exercise business. If a mountain guide is willing to take me on, I'm up for the challenge. "Life is motion," said Aristotle. The world's oldest ballerina still dances in her 70s.
Friend, we live to the extent that we function. And function comes from movement. Life is not over just because others think you're "elderly." I'm in the September of my life. Every new year is a joy, every new experience a treasure.
How about you?
Now if someone would just have the temerity to design a 5K course that is all downhill!
P.S. My guide is Walter Rossini. Here's one of his GoPro videos. (Nifty!)
2:14 PM Hey folks! Happy Palm Sunday!
So how did I spend this, my third Palm Sunday living alone since Becky went home to be with the Lord?
Well, I attended, not one, but two worship services! One was indoors. People sat and stood, sang and listened to singing, gave and received words of encouragement, listened to someone give a long speech. It was perfect. My other worship service was held outdoors. I biked 10 miles at the High Bridge State Park in Farmville, bringing my grand total since January 1 to 328 miles -- about the distance from Los Angeles to Phoenix. Please note: There is no biblical reason why we should call one activity "worship" and not the other. Worship is at the heart of everything we do as followers of Jesus. Today I worshipped when I sang "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Love that song!). I also worshiped when I put the pedal to the metal and rode 10 miles as fast as I possibly could. Yesterday? Ditto. Every mile of that 5K was an act of worship and gratitude to God. After all, every breath I took was a undeserved gift from Him, not to mention the strength He injected into my feeble, aging legs. When we worship God in this way -- both in our "sacred" and "secular" lives -- we are engaged in an activity that is most authentically human, for we were all created to worship God. We have been made in God's image to reflect His majesty. Eric Liddell was once asked by his sister, "Eric, why are you wasting your time running in the Olympics when you know that God has called you to be a missionary to China?" "Yes," replied Liddell, "I know that God has called me to be a missionary to China. But He has also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure."
All of our acts -- no matter how "mundane" -- can overflow into acts of praise to God, even the federal taxes I worked on last Thursday. In fact, I believe that the more we worship God in our daily habits, the better we will be able to worship Him when we meet corporately. This is all part of the "New Covenant" that Jesus has established through His blood -- a covenant whereby we worship God not in any one place but in Spirit and in truth.
This is what makes this day, Palm Sunday, so special to me. Here is Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, weeping over the city, grieved that the people who call out to Him "Save now! Save now!" have no intention of ever making Him king in their hearts. It would be like Jesus riding into Washington, DC today on a donkey and crying out, "God blesses those who are humble and realize their need for Him ... those who mourn and grieve ... those who hunger and thirst after righteousness ... those who are merciful to others (including immigrants)... those whose hearts are pure ... those who are persecuted for doing what is right even when it is unpopular." I can just hear the politicians' retort. "No! No! You've got it all wrong, Jesus. Blessed are those who are wealthy and arrogant, who change with the times, whose morals are flexible, who are praised for their craftiness and ambition!" Listen, the only hope for America is for us to get out of our holy huddles and follow the example of Jesus and win people over with His ridiculous love and a lifestyle that makes them sit up and take notice. In their book The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay write, "This type of new is about returning. Returning to something ancient, something tried, something true and trustworthy. Something that has rerouted the legacies of families, nations, kings, and peasants.... It's not anti-church; it's pro-church. It's about the type of church that Jesus would go to, the type he died to give flight to."
I'm afraid that too many of us "evangelicals" (can we still use such a befuddled term?) are caught in the grips of politics. Are material things the only things I'm going to leave my children and my grandchildren when I die? Or can I leave them a better world, symbolized by a humble donkey, or by my unending love, or by the gift of total acceptance? As the Methodist author B. T. Roberts wrote in his essay "Free Churches":
Reader, brace yourself: It's going to get a lot worse this election year before it gets better. I can say with some confidence: ugly, difficult days are ahead for the U.S., especially if you try to follow King Jesus. As I told my classes last week, I'm so done with superstars -- whether they are political or pastoral. Thankfully, the Gospel remains the same: Down is up, through defeat we experience victory, in our grief there is inexplicable joy, and the best news of all: This Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey is now the risen, resurrected, ruling, and returning Lord of glory. Follow Him in obedience and love, my friend. I'm cheering you on!
Saturday, March 19
4:30 PM Look who's 33 today.
Happy birthday, Nate!
Or should I say ...
12:12 PM Awesome event today (both 5K and 10K), and super well-attended. Here's the start of the 10K race:
In addition, I felt like I ran a strong 5K, one of my best ever (thank you, Jesus!). I especially enjoyed getting to spend some time with Ella's mom and dad. Jesus is the best "cure" for grief, so let's raise Him high!
1) Mark and Renae Newmiller.
Their transparency, honesty, and faith are inspiring. Love you guys! (And yes, I'll be back next year.)
2) Look at these runners.
It's a gorgeous sight. The entire crowd was at least four times larger than what you see here. There is a 100 percent chance they were at the race today because they loved Ella even though they may have never met her. Honestly, I can't speak highly enough of the 5K running community.
3) Thank you, Chick Fil-A of North Raleigh for sponsoring today's race -- in fact, for sponsoring the last four races. God bless.
4) Finally, thank you, legs, for holding me up so well today. You deserve your second place medal. (Relax. No need to throw me a party.)
I also want to acknowledge my indebtedness to my family and friends who pray for me every time I go out and do crazy things like this. I feel unworthy of having such wonderful people in my life. Words will never be able to express what you mean to me. As odd as it might sound, I wish every man could experience what I have experienced in the past two years, without the suffering and loss of course. A family that stands behind you has got to be one of the greatest blessings in life.
Next Saturday's race? Lookin' for a Cure 5K at Duke in support of ocular melanoma research. Gun time is 9:00.
5:52 AM Today's the day. Love wins. Hope conquers. Faith triumphs.
Friday, March 18
1:44 PM Lifted, biked 5 miles, then jogged 3 miles. (Cackling as I typed that.)
7:58 AM The Weather Channel is calling for 1-3 inches of snow in Gettysburg on Sunday, so my Easter Break plans have changed. Instead of going up north I'll stay around here and do some local biking and hiking trails. Next week promises to be great weather. Tomorrow we're expecting rain but hopefully not until after Ella's 5K in Raleigh is finished -- the proceeds going to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. (Hooray!) One day I'll get too old for 5Ks (sob), but until then the choices I make might cure cancer. (I need to stop exaggerating so much. But every little bit helps, right?) Right now I'm heading back to the gym, after which I'll get out the trusty old mountain bike and see if I can find a trail without any dogs on it today. Then it's time to mow. Lots of good and perfect gifts God is sending my way today.
We were made to run (spiritually and physically). So run!
Thursday, March 17
8:02 PM Had to return my boots. (My feet are too wide; they're much better suited for snorkeling. Don't even have to use fins.) I need to find a good boot fitter but none of the local stores carries mountaineering boots. If I'm going to spend a ton of money on a pair of boots I want to be sure they fit perfectly. I'd rather not climb as a cripple.
Determined to crack this nut!
8:42 AM Please join me this Saturday if you can.
Wednesday, March 16
8:02 PM Hello friends of the wonderful internet. One or two pix and then I'm going upstairs to read my new book about K2.
1) The campus never looked prettier.
2) Proud of my Greek students. They nailed this composition exercise.
3) Our LXX class was blessed with another excellent presentation, this time on Psalm 2.
4) My new mountaineering boots arrived today.
5) Enjoyed seafood dinner tonight with Nate, Jess, and the boys. Like Peyton's new hairdo?
I just finished two of the best days of my teaching career. Mind you, I've been doing this for 40 years. It all started with our chapel message yesterday morning. Lord, it was good. The text was Psalm 23, and the topic was -- death. Yes, I said death. I have never been so challenged in my life. (I'm exaggerating, but not much.) How do we experience the peace of God when we lose that person we're closest to? We rest in what the Psalmist said: "When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me." (You teach from the Old Testament, and we are friends. You teach from Psalm 23, and we are friends forever.) We Christians grieve over our losses with real tears and with real hope. This is something to nail down now, folks, before you lose that loved one of yours. If your loved one knew Jesus, then your goodbye is only for a brief season. And saying "goodbye" is just one step in a long process that involves accepting your loss, reinvesting your emotional energy, adjusting to life without your loved one, and finally changing the relationship you enjoy with your precious loved one from presence to memory.
The message was so profound that students were talking about it all day. Then I had the audacity (or foolishness) to bring up the subject in class, in tears no less. Jesus was right: "In the world you will have trouble, but I give you my peace." Facing loss is truly the work of God. It's the plain old hard work of knowing what to move forward toward and what to move away from in your journey. Earlier today I spoke with one of my colleagues whose wife just died of cancer. It hurts, folks. Facing death is inevitable, said our speaker. Easy? No. Necessary? Yes. Remember: suffering itself doesn't have any value. It's what we do with the suffering that matters.
I tried, feebly, to get this point across to my Greek students. What I said to them I say to you: Faith is not knowing the answer to the "Why?" question and yet never doubting God. It means living with constant pain -- that dull ache that will never completely go away, those memories and emotions that you will never "get over," nor would you want to. "Death is inevitable," said our chapel speaker. It is also extremely personal. Each of us must heal in our own way. Dear one, you are not bound by your past. Your loss does not dictate your future. The pain can be an agent of healing through the mercy and grace of Christ.
Much appreciation to our chapel speaker, who opened old wounds, but thanks anyway. And to all my students who listen to me chase rabbits, thanks for letting me be me, but also adding your sensitivity (and maybe even a few tears) to the mix. The extent of your love for me is but a whisper of the love the Father has for me.
I thank you, all.
Tuesday, March 15
8:14 AM Oh my. Here we go again. Gloom and doom. America is going down the tubes. Especially if you vote for the other guy, who is a despicable fraud.
Quick, Dave, check your insurance premiums!
Frankly, I'm not worried. Not one bit. It's the same old ads. Just different names. It reminds me of an operating room. The surgeons and nurses are clothed immaculately and the instruments are sterilized. But they refuse to wash their hands. "All that matters is that you trust us. I am a surgeon. See my diploma? I don't have to worry about keeping clean. Condition is of no importance." The result? Pseudo-politics, pseudo-Christianity, pseudo-orthodoxy, and pseudo-piety. "For this reason God will send them strong delusion, and they will believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:11). I'm not expert in eschatology, but it seems that Paul is talking about how God is preparing the world for Antichrist, the Big Lie, the final embodiment of all that is opposed to Christ. We are being primed for the final delusion, and as a result we accept cheap substitutes for the real thing. People believe the lie rather than love the truth.
I believe our Father would be pleased to give us much more if we had faith to ask for it. I've been rereading Elton Trueblood's classic book, The Company of the Committed.
Trueblood was a lifelong Quaker, educator, and author. (He was also twice widowed.) His book is about Christian living, and the author wants to encourage a deep conversation about church and society. His main point is that the church as it exists today is ill-suited to fulfill its basic redemptive function since it has compromised itself in so many ways. "The movement we need is a movement in depth," he writes (p. 10). This question is especially relevant in light of the fact that the line between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world is becoming increasingly blurred in this election year of ours. While on the one had I have no problem with people being passionately involved in politics as they feel God is leading them, I simply maintain that politics should be kept strictly separate from what we are about as churches, and that no one should label their position as the distinctly "Christian" way of doing politics. Remember, in most wars in history, both sides firmly believed that their "God" was on their side. The unique call of the Christian is to pursue the kingdom, and this is accomplished in counter-cultural ways, including our willingness to sacrifice ourselves and even our very lives for others.
Trueblood gets this. He shows that many of the most "successful" programs in our churches will not bear up under close examination. "It is hard to exaggerate the degree to which the modern Church seems irrelevant to modern man" (p. 17). From my own experience, I can tell you this is very true in post-Christian Europe, where I have lived. To be a Christian in Switzerland was the equivalent of putting your brain in park or neutral. But not only does Europe suffer from this malaise. I live in the rural South, and here the church often has only marginal relevance. To be sure, people are willing to put up with it as long as it does not require anything of them. Hence, writes Trueblood, the question today is not one of whether Christian fellowships exist. Rather, the question is what kind of character these fellowships have (p. 21). I personally think this distinction is very helpful. The Gospel is not the true Gospel unless it is about transforming people, one life at a time. I deeply appreciate Trueblood's attempt to call the church back to its militant stance, which produced "the amazing vitality of early Christianity' (p. 28). On p. 31 he writes:
The "service" he's talking about is a far cry from the typical worship service or political rally one attends today. As in an army, every soldier has his or her own duty to perform.
Christ, says Trueblood, is organizing a genuine band of brothers, a company of the committed. Jesus wasn't asking for people to go to church. "He was, instead, asking for recruits in a company of danger. He was asking not primarily for belief, but for commitment with consequent involvement" (p. 34). "We cannot understand the idea of of a company apart from the concept of involvement" (p. 38). The soldier's one desire is to please their commander in everything.
The undeniable reality is that many of us today are both under-trained and uninvolved. The easiest way to undermine Christianity is to appoint someone else to do the work for us. During the American Civil War, if you had enough money you could purchase your way out of the draft and let someone else do the fighting for you. The simple fact is that we have been called -- all of us -- to follow Jesus Christ in acts of radical Calvary-love, not someone else's good ideas or movements or strategies, however good we may think they are. Whether you are a Republican Matthew or a Democrat Simon the Zealot, we can all get along just fine as long as we follow Jesus and stop making our political ideals the bullseye.
This is the kind of lay ministry that I have long espoused and have argued for in my various publications. In the words of Trueblood, "...in the ministry of Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, neither layman nor cleric [italics his], but all are one in Christ" (p. 62). If you share this vision of the kingdom, will you support my work? Not financially of course. Will you join me in praying for the church in North America in 2016? Pray that God will help us wake up to the political delusion that has descended upon us through well-meaning people. Pray that we start caring more about sacrificing for the country than controlling it. To me, the most basic and most difficult challenge of being a Christ-follower is what Trueblood addresses in this marvelous book. It's becoming completely sold out to the Commander-in-Chief and living under His authority and in His love on a moment-by-moment basis. I want to encourage us to cultivate a surrendered attitude toward God. By all means, let's express our opinion about politics. Let's vote for the person of our choice (or not vote at all if our conscience prohibits it). But let's never, ever forget where the hope of the world lies. Let's obey Jesus and love others as He did.
You want security? Love each other and the world well, and your house will stand.
Monday, March 14
1:04 PM Thus far today's weather has been cloudy, overcast, foggy, and drizzly.
In other words, a perfect day to get outdoors and take a walk. Since I felt I needed to take it easy today, I was bound and determined to walk no farther than 5 miles. I almost succeeded.
Along the way guess what I saw? That's right. The first redbud of the season.
Which can only mean one thing: get the lawn mower out because spring is here and the grass is growing. Right now I'm working on Godworld -- or actually getting ready to work on Godworld, since I first have to prepare my translation of Psalm 2 from Hebrew and Greek for Wednesday's LXX class. (Rule No. 1 of Teaching: Stay an hour ahead of the hounds.) I'll be curious to see what the students do with "Christ" (wink, wink) in verse 2 as well as the use of Psalm 2:7 in Heb. 1:5 -- which, in this context, is further proof of the authors' argument that Jesus is God's "Son" (1:2). Theological tangents in class are not only tolerated but encouraged, and thus I wonder where our discussion of the so-called doctrine of the "eternal generation of the Son" ends up. I always enjoy glimpses into the unseen world, especially when they have to do with Christology. At the same time, Psalm 2 raises certain questions about God's anger and how it is manifested in the world. Yes, our God can be an angry God, and the Scriptures continually emphasize the validity of that anger. I recall a book that appeared in the 1990s called The Death of Outrage and often wonder if we as the church have taken Eph. 4:26 seriously enough. Psalm 2 isn't just pretty poetry. It's Gospel truth.
I promise to be gentle with the guys on Wednesday, although I will warn them: We'll probably do some English to Greek composition, so do come prepared.
8:34 AM Odds and ends ...
1) In my Rolodex of pet peeves certainly the use of Greek or Hebrew from the pulpit stands out. Yesterday I watched a message online in which the speaker not once but twice "corrected" the English translation of Genesis he was using, telling his audience, "Here the Hebrew literally says...." In both instances he was wrong. Pastor friend, just tell the truth when you speak. If we speak the truth in small things, people will be more likely to trust us when things get really complicated.
2) The Allalinhorn. Think I can do it?
3) Thank you, Allan Bevere, for making it acceptable to question the craziness we call "Christian" politics. Jesus taught that it is impossible to put the new wine of the Gospel into the old wineskins of politics. I am very glad for conversations like the one Allan is starting. With this selection cycle, perhaps we will see a new beginning for God's people in America, a new exodus from the rancor of politics. That would take faith, of course -- and it might involve risk. But isn't that better than becoming character assassins?
4) Happy 100th Anniversary to Kamaka Hawaii, which has been crafting ukuleles since 1916. I still have the Kamaka my mother gave me when I was six. The contribution that the ukulele has made to American culture is, well, indescribable:
Sunday, March 13
4:28 PM Sitting on the front porch swatting mosquitoes and meditating on these beautiful words by Henri Nouwen:
2:58 PM Howdy folks! This BBC documentary called K2: The Killer Summit is truly remarkable.
On that day in 2008, 11 climbers perished, most on the descent from the summit of the world's second highest mountain. It's not difficult to conclude that many of the climbers were guilty of errors of judgment. The delays while attempting the summit should have made them postpone their ascent. Indeed, as the video makes clear, the American team did just that, knowing full well that they couldn't arrive at the summit and then descend back to Camp 4 in daylight. It's not hard to compare this video with Ed Kasischke's book After the Wind: 1996 Everest Tragedy - One Survivor's Story.
It's a riveting book that details the errors of judgment made during his team's ascent of Everest in 1996 -- mistakes that perhaps might seem innocuous to us non-climbers. Kasischke admits how difficult it was for him to turn back. "Everyone else is still climbing. So why shouldn't I keep going up?" The book propels the reader straight into the action. You feel as though you're on Mount Everest, above the South Summit, with the summit in view, knowing that you are already way past the agreed-upon turnaround time of 1:00 pm. What should I do? Keep on climbing, or descend while there's still time? There is something about this story that fascinates me. I really can't describe it. Why did some turn back and live, while others climbed and died? I can't even begin to comprehend what these men and women faced on Everest. But there's a high probability that both "summit fever" and "groupthink" played important roles in the disaster. In fact, as I read today in a Psychology Today essay called Summit Fever: Groupthink and The 2008 K2 Tragedy, this seems to be precisely what happened in 2008 on K2. The author, Jonathan Fader, notes:
What's even more interesting to me is the way Fader suggests the means by which fatal groupthink can be avoided. These means include identifying a "devil's advocate" within the group whose job it is to ask difficult questions about safety, creating an expectation within the group that it's okay to question the norm, and making sure that no important dissenting opinion is overlooked during team meetings.
If you decide to watch the BBC documentary about K2 (and I hope you will, though I must tell you that it includes a couple of expletives), be prepared to be drawn into the adventure personally as you feel the frustration of the lack of progress on summit day, as you push on to the summit despite the lateness of the hour, and then as you realize, in the darkness, that an avalanche has destroyed all the guide ropes. This is a great story if you want to learn lessons about leadership, teamwork, determination, and the ever-present danger of groupthink. It's your "man-against-the-elements" theme at its very best -- and very worst. I would also urge you to read Jonathan Fader's excellent essay. He does a terrific job of explaining terms and then applying the lessons of the K2 disaster to daily living. As one who teaches the New Testament, I concur with many of his recommendations, including the need for us teachers to seek out dissenting opinions. The tragedy that struck in K2 in 2008 is not at all surprising given the fact that climbers never find it easy to say no. However, with K2, as with anything in life, things can go terribly wrong at any time and anywhere. As much as I would hope to climb an 8,000-meter peak one day, I've already said no. It would be certifiable insanity.
As an aside, if you are a young scholarly writer, I might urge you to push back against academic groupthink every chance you get. Write the most bold, naked, and entirely truthful things you know how to write. There are already plenty of good books out there that espouse status quo thinking. I might urge that you try and do something a little bit different. I really, really care that my students are challenged to think for themselves. For me, the first step in scholarship is observing. Notice what is being said, and why. Look especially at the primary sources if you can. Then, if at all possible, explore new avenues of research. Work hard to find that extremely elusive balance between conservatism and creativity. I thank God every time I read authors like Jacque Ellul and Vernard Eller. That's what I want my writing to be like. I want to be different, but not just for the sake of being different. I have to remind myself that mine is only one possible perspective among many. I just don't want to be guilty of espousing a position that I haven't studied on my own.
Keep praying, thinking, and writing!
9:05 AM This and that ...
1) The Calvin Jones House/Wake Forest College Birthplace. I pass it every time I jog in town. Loverly.
2) The entire program for the ETS Regional Meeting in Dallas April 1-2 is now online. Titles include: "Were the Philistines of Ashdod Struck with Hemorrhoids or by the Bubonic Plague?" Now that should be interesting.
3) Dema Kotik reviews Why Four Gospels?
4) A reminder: Anybody using my beginning Greek grammar will find Rob Plummer's videos an excellent resource.
Saturday, March 12
6:30 PM Okay. Work is done. Now it's time to play. Which means -- time to text with my family. What fun! Especially when I get pix like this one. Go Peyton!
3:30 PM Today I woke up and wrote my list of things to do. (Actually, I'm not that organized. I just like to fake it.) It included:
So what did I decide to do first? Go for a hike, of course. You see, my first half marathon is coming up in a mere 8 weeks, and I feel like I have to get ready for it. (You know, I am so done with 5Ks. They're for rank beginners, after all. Wink.) So I drove to the Danville-Richmond Rail Trail, my thought being that I would hike from the Sutherlin trail head to the Ringgold station and back -- a total of 11 miles. As you can see, however, I had to make a "divinely-planned" detour:
Here's the back story.
About 4 miles into my walk I was attacked by a dog. No, it wasn't your standard, run-of-the-mill farm dog protecting its turf -- you know, the kind of harmless dog that runs up to you and barks a few times and then turns around and resumes his place on the front porch. No. This dog was an attack dog. He ran toward me with fangs bared and foam in its mouth. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to pick up a fallen tree branch, and the dog, being as dumb as it was, was fooled into thinking that the thing I had in my shaking hand was a lethal weapon. There we stood, staring at each other -- the dog baring its fangs and barking louder and louder, while I, for my part, slowly backed away, making sure that my "weapon" was all the while visible to my mortal enemy. This silliness went on for a good 15 minutes I'd say. Eventually my fine furry friend decided that he had sufficiently made his point. He stopped barking, turned around, and trotted off victoriously. As for me, I turned around and slowly resumed my walk toward the Ringgold station, careful not to let go of my ersatz billy club until I knew I was safe.
As you might assume, I wasn't about to return to my car the same way I had come -- hence the detour you see above. The funny thing is that the Lord apparently wanted me to get a complete half marathon in today (13.1 miles), though I'm not too crazy about the means He went about doing it. (I know I'm supposed to be brave and all that, but I was pretty much scared out of my wits.) As soon as I arrived back at my car and had a signal on my phone again, I dutifully reported what I had seen both to the Pittsylvania County Sherriff's Department as well as to the local Animal Control officer. Actually, this was the second report about this dog they had received today, and I would not be surprised if they are able to locate it and "handle" it in a much more humane way than a man holding a tree branch would have.
Which reminded me: There is risk in life, no matter what you're doing or where you're going. So what? You can't let that stop you from living. I love how James puts it. "Hurting are you? Pray." What incredibly important theology. In other words, when you're frightened, tell God the truth, even if you are an Alpha Mensch. Then trust Him to provide a way out.
At any rate, I'm home now, about to get to work on my list of things to do -- that is, after I cook for myself the largest beef steak you've ever seen. I've also ordered this from Amazon, for obvious reasons.
8:24 AM Here's a hilarious look at why you should drop the marathons and focus on 5Ks. (Full disclosure: I skipped today's race in Raleigh because it rained last light and I'm a wimp and I don't like running when it's wet or rainy. Just saying'.) As I've become acquainted with the "running community" out there -- and believe me, there is definitely a subculture in America called the "running community" -- I've detected a bit of a stigma attached to 5K races. "Why some people in a 5K even walk!" As far as I'm concerned, folks, if you need to walk, walk. It will take you about an hour to complete a 5K at a moderate pace. And guess what? I'll be there at the finish line to give you a high five. But I'm warning you: there will be lots of peer pressure to run even when your heart rate is going ballistic. Little old moi experienced this in Wake Forest last week. I had gone jogging through town after class and found myself under extreme duress to "look good" whenever I was running on a busy road. (The other option, of course, is to stop running altogether and make believe you're looking at the roses in someone's yard. Yes, I've actually done that.) The fact is this: Go at your own pace when you train or run in a race, and eventually YOU WILL FINISH. The "high" you will experience at that moment is more than the "Yes! I can do this!" kind of high but rather the realization that, if you can overcome your mental hurdles in a 5K race, you can probably do the same thing with the other challenges in your life. I'm not saying that 5Ks aren't about competition. They most certainly are. But your main competitor will always be yourself. And the more races you finish, the more you will enjoy the hobby and have a great time. The goal is to cover about 3 miles confidently -- as defined by you. And believe me: one day you will cross a psychological threshold. Your self-confidence will skyrocket and your fears will simply melt away.
Of course, all of this will take something called self-discipline. (I don't like the concept of self-discipline. I am a very un-self-disciplined person. Remember: I am a "hang loose" shaka Hawaiian. Still, I can grow, right?) Occasionally someone will do a 5K with me. I think it's mostly to placate me -- and get me off their backs. Occasionally someone will catch the running bug. And then the Law of Running kicks in. The Law of Running states that people who "get running fever" usually follow a precise script: 1) buy running shoes, 2) get the Map My Run or Fitbit app, 3) do a 5K or two, 4) get discouraged, and 5) give up. (The Law of Studying Greek is very similar, by the way.) I'm not pointing any fingers here. What you do with your life is between you and God. But if there's one thing regular exercise and training will teach you is your need for discipline in all areas of life. At least that's what I'm discovering. What keeps me going is 1) the grace of God, 2) the realization that I need to exercise or I will grow flabby, and 3) having a workable weekly schedule of activities.
Oh, there's one other motivational factor I need to mention here. I mentioned it the other day in fact. For the record, I'm an incurable supporter of "causes." The race in Raleigh today, as I said, was to support our vets. I'm not sure if my fees and donations make that big of a difference in these kinds of fundraisers. But this I do know: the more we do with what little we have, the more we succeed in life. Mother Teresa once put it this way: "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you." That's a great way to live. Look around you today, friend. Who has a need you can meet? You probably won't have to look very far. Over 15 million people compete in road races every year in the United States. And it's a good guess that some of them participate in those races because of the "causes" they represent. Every time you pay your registration fee and add a donation, you're helping someone in the U.S. who needs help. The event then become intrinsically rewarding, if that makes any sense.
The great mountaineer Edmund Hillary confessed that he drew strength from the mountains. I experience something like that whenever I participate in a race. When you see hundreds of everyday people sacrificing their Saturday mornings for something bigger than themselves, that gives you strength to overcome whatever you're facing. The tougher life becomes for me, the more I feel God's strength welling up inside. Folks, you just have to hang in there and not quit when the race gets tough. Let His power sustain you, and you will experience His victory.
Friday, March 11
5:35 PM Evenin' folks! Today I had a great Stairmaster workout -- not in the gym but at Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC, about a 2.5 hour drive from the farm. I hiked up to Moore's Knob from the campground parking lot and got the workout of a lifetime. The loop has everything you could hope for in a hiking trail -- great views on the trail, a lake, a lookout tower at the summit, and extreme changes in elevation. I arrived at the park at about 10:00 am and had just about the whole trail to myself. The hike was hard only because I insisted on pushing myself; otherwise I'd rate it as moderate-to-difficult. You'll notice that my mileage is recorded in kilometers below.
I have no idea why. I never made the switch from miles to kilos. Indeed, after I got back to my car I also noticed that my Map My Run app was showing everything in Spanish! If I've done my calculations correctly, I think 9.55 kilometers is about 6 miles. I loved every step of the climb both up and down. The loop basically gives you a choice of two directions: if you go counterclockwise there are about 600 rock steps you'll need to negotiate on a fairly wide path. On the other hand, if you climb in a clockwise direction, you'll find yourself on a single track that's inundated with rocks and tree roots. Last year when I hiked this trail I did the steps first. Today I went in the other direction, returning to the parking along the steps (which are much easier to negotiate when you are descending). Either way you go, this is a must trail, but be sure to bring your trekking poles with you. They will definitely protect your knees from a lot of stress. At the top, the tower treats you to some fine views of nearby Pilot Mountain and, of course, Hanging Rock itself. Your elevation at this point is exactly 2,579 feet. The view is 360 degrees, just as you get at Pilot Mountain. As I ascended I also tried a little rock scrambling when it was convenient. That was fun.
Hanging Rock State Park is located just northwest of Winston-Salem in the North Carolina Piedmont. There is no fee for parking. Here's a GoPro video should you want to climb the trail vicariously with me. It was a delight to enjoy God's beautiful creation up close and personal.
Thursday, March 10
7:54 PM Eight tips for 5K runners over 50:
1) Set realistic goals for yourself. My body at age 63 is not the same body I enjoyed when I was 30. Older people simply can't train and race at the same level as 20-year olds. But this doesn't mean you can't set goals for yourself. And, if you pick realistic ones, you'll be proud of yourself each and every time you cross the finish line. Remember: Don't run faster than your body is able to maintain. Find your "sweet spot" and stick with it.
2) Always plan for recovery. I often find that I feel super great the day after a 5K. My legs don't hurt and I feel energized. But if I really listen to my body, it's usually telling me to take a break after a race. The same thing holds true for the gym. After I do weight training, I always wait at least one (if not two) days before lifting again. Rest is just as important as exercise.
3) Speaking of strength training, the benefits of lifting should be obvious to anyone who runs a 5K. The older we get, the more muscle mass we tend to lose. By strengthening our muscles in the gym we can help them to absorb more of the impact while running on race day. Resistance training will also help prevent age-related injuries and muscle loss. Gradually you will build your endurance and stamina.
4) Get started with walking. I did. Begin with walking 30 minutes each week, then increase that to three times a week. Walking is the perfect way to get into basic shape for more strenuous activities later.
5) Try biking to get those legs in shape. I'm still a novice at this, but already I've noticed that biking has increased the overall muscle tone in my thighs and calves. Biking also affords a nice break from the monotony of walking and/or running all the time.
6) Choose the best running shoes for your feet. This is even more important if you have "luau" feet like I do. (In Hawaii, most kids grow up barefooted, oftentimes producing flat feet, or "luau" feet.) And be sure to replace your shoes every 300 miles or so.
7) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I'm terrible at this. Especially when running in cold weather, when the body needs hydration perhaps even more so than in warmer temps. But it needs to be done. Keep a close eye on hydration.
8) Plan your racing schedule. There are many websites that can help you do this. (Just Google "5K races in North Carolina," for example.) Speaking personally, it helps in terms of my personal motivation if the race is for a worthy cause. This Saturday's 5K event in Raleigh, for example, has the delightful name "Sola Hot Mini 5K," and its goal is to raise funds in support of the United States Military Veterans Foundation. According to the foundation's website:
Now that's something I can get behind!
Since I started walking and running in May of last year, my body fat has dropped off measurably. My lung capacity has, conversely, increased. I feel younger today than I felt when I was 40. Every time I put on my running shoes I feel a sense of elation -- that this old body of mine still has the God-given ability to move and to move well. And get this: I am no longer a novice at the sport. (Wink.)
Remember: no goal is insurmountable when you start slow. So go for it!
6:05 PM It was 80 degrees today in Rice, VA. (Amen and hallelujah. Ain't nobody more ready for summer than I am.) When I woke up this morning I thought I would try and get in some strenuous bike work after doing my weight training in South Boston. So I drove to Farmville to attack the High Bridge Trail for the third time since I began my career as über-mountain-biker-extraordinaire. Here are the vital stats:
Destination: To Rice, Virginia, and then back to Farmville.
Total distance covered: 18 miles.
Duration: 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Average pace: 12 miles per hour. (Speed Racer, you!).
Temperature: Like I said, a WONDERFUL 80 degrees.
Greatest surprise on the trail: Some super well-preserved Confederate fortifications just east of the bridge. I had no idea they were there. Neither does anyone else, apparently. The fort was abandoned on April 6, 1865, three days before the surrender in Appomattox. (Virginia, I love you: So much history!)
Goal: To improve my strength and stamina so that I can climb Mount Olomana in Hawaii next month and three Swiss "horns" in July (the Breithorn, the Allalinhorn, and the Matterhorn). I've summited Olomana three times but not since I was 40. Oh boy. Yes. I am a bit nuts.
Jesus: "Start new hobbies."
Me: "I'm too lazy."
Jesus: "Climb mountains."
Me: "I don't know how to."
Jesus: "Run in 5Ks."
Me: "Are You kidding? I HATE running!"
Jesus: "Write a book about the kingdom. You can call it Godworld."
Me: "Easy for You to say."
Does Jesus ever scare you like this? See, there once was this guy who lost his wife and needed to expand his horizons so he wouldn't get stuck in the rut of self-pity ....
Friends, listen. A house divided against itself will fall. When Jesus tells you to do something, you had better listen -- and then do it. It has nothing to do with your strength or ability. We're all as weak as kittens. Jesus knows this. But do we? It's time to push through self-limiting boundaries, guys and gals. Let's let God fill our lives -- to the brim. Following Jesus shouldn't be just one more thing we add to our bucket list. It should be fun and exciting and scary and stretching and just plain nuts. Which means we can't make comfort and safety our top goals.
Side note: My trip to Asia, scheduled to begin March 17, has been postponed due to circumstances beyond my control. Which means that I'll be staying stateside during Easter Break. My plan is to throw my bike into the car and head north, destination Gettysburg. Once there I plan to bike the entire military park, from Herr's Ridge to Big Round Top to the Peach Orchard to the Virginia Memorial and back. On the way I'm hoping to do some mountain climbing/biking in four different states: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the greatest state of all, Confusion. If you know of any good trails, I hope you'll let me know.
Another side note: Jessie sent me a pic today of my youngest grand-kiddo Peyton. He is so cute it hurts.
Ok. It's time to read through Running My Race one more time before sending it off to the publisher. If I haven't done so already, I want to thank all of you for praying for me to complete this project. Bless you.
1) Map My Run never lies.
2) The "big" town of Rice along the High Bridge Trail. Saw nary a soul. Not a dog barked.
3) Aren't these fortifications well-persevered? I mean, I've been to Bull Run and Antietam and Gettysburg and Shiloh and Vicksburg and have never seen anything like them. Wowsers.
4) Here's Peyton enjoying today's weather.
With those giant hands and feet I expect he will grow up to be a big help to his farmer daddy. Plus he takes after me, his grandfather: He's a flower child, straight out of the 60s!
Wednesday, March 9
6:20 PM Scattershooting ....
1) Started reading Richard Clarke's novel Sting of the Drone. He poses the question: What would happen if the U.S.'s drone program came under attack? So far it's an enjoyable read, and I'm learning tons about the decisions behind the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and where the ethical lines can (and should) be drawn.
2) Brian Hedges asks, Is the Christian Life about Running or Resting? Of course, it's about both.
3) Politics, pastors, and the narcissistic personality disorder.
4) The Top Ten Civil War Blogs.
5) Just mashed my first mosquito. Summer's coming!
Tuesday, March 8
8:15 AM Good morning, intelligent bloggers of the world wide web! This was the view from my bedroom window this morning:
Do the outdoors ever get tiring? Today's sunrise is a reminder that longer days and warmer weather are upon us. It's time to get outdoors and let your car take you to places you've never been before. This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Since your tax dollars are paying for the upkeep of these parks, you might as well take advantage of them. Your next adventure could be as close as a 25-mile drive. Here's a list of the National Parks I've visited in my lifetime:
This might sound impressive, but that's only 26 out of the 58 National Parks. There are 70 parks within the National Park system that commemorate the American Civil War. Of these I've had the joy of visiting:
I've walked thousands of miles through these parks both during my teen years and as recently as last year (Gettysburg twice). You can make hiking a part of your life no matter what your age or situation. Pick any hiking trail near you and get started this month. There you'll find people of every age and ability -- getting fresh air, great exercise, a view of God's creation, and an escape from the digital cacophony of the modern world. The key to getting outdoors is simply getting off the couch. Once you do, you'll discover, as I have, that the possibilities are endless. Never has this been more important than the day in which we live, filled as it is with endless bickering over politics. When was the last time you experienced utter and complete silence? A million stars blanketing the sky? An escape from the crowds? No need to get fanatical about it. "Hi, I'm Dave. I'm a mountain climber and 5K racer and I teach Greek on the side so that I can buy new running shoes." Outdoor activities will always be a hobby for me, pure and simple. And you? Ready to get active again? Hiking will not only make you stronger and healthier, but it will help you meet all kinds of new people and experience this great country of ours in ways you never thought possible. Start by walking a mile every day. Then break the undisciplined habit of over-eating. Learn to think of sleep in terms of quality and not quantity. Your body is valuable to God, to your family, and (hopefully) to you. Cherish it, control it, and offer it up to God as a living sacrifice.
Monday, March 7
11:50 AM Got up early this morning to get some writing done. Then I lifted at the Y before driving to the Dan River Bike Trail to get in some sprints. I'm happy with my speeds.
Oh, here's the new look I
I haven't felt this light in years. Lol. We'll see if it lasts, but I just had to do it!
Back to wordsmithing. :-)
Sunday, March 6
5:26 PM What a wonderful day it's been. I spent it in worship -- not asking God for anything but rather simply expressing my love for Him through word and music. Immediately my heart was lifted up with inexpressible joy. The great "pool of hurt" is known by Him! Today, as with yesterday, I sought and found Him in a quiet place. As you may have guessed, I've decided to hike Virginia's State Parks -- all 36 of them. Thus far I've been privileged to hike in Occoneechee, Natural Bridge (which is slated to become an "official" state park this year), Pocahontas, Sailor's Creek, Staunton River, and Twin Lakes. Today I took advantage of the mild weather to drive to Holliday Lake State Park located between Appomattox and Farmville, VA. It was exactly what the doctor ordered -- nature's tonic -- and for a mere 4 dollar entrance fee at that. I opted for the Lakeshore Trail, called a "difficult hiking trail" in the literature. It's supposed to be 6.3 miles long but because of recent storm damage several of the bridges were washed out and I only hiked for 4.6 miles. Still, it was a perfect day for a walk in the woods. On the drive there I enjoyed WCPE's Great Sacred Music Program with host Rob Kennedy, which today featured the Gabrielli Consort and Players as well as Bach's "Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf" ("The Spirit Also Helpeth Us"). I guess you can say I've been a Bachian all my life and I love his music more and more each day. His motets are so marvelous that's it's virtually impossible for me to choose "the best of," but in the top 5 is certainly his motet No. 2 ("Der Geist ...."). If you can't read German, here's the English translation:
Wow. Bach's music will endure long after rock and hip hop (not to mention Justin Bieber). Then WCPE played Mulholland's "If love should count you worthy," which is based on Sidney Royse Lysaght's moving poem, "The Penalty of Love":
So cool. Love "wakes desires you may never forget." I could give many other examples. Music and poetry -- ah, the Father's means of allowing His hurting children to be transformed by their loss rather to think they can somehow avoid it. It's like chasing the sun, but instead of heading west you race eastward, into the darkness, until you see the sunrise. Can you believe my life? It's more wonderful than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. God, You are so great. You are literally the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you. I really do.
A final serendipity. About a mile from the state park I came upon a little Southern Baptist church and there enjoyed rich fellowship with brothers and sisters I had never met before but who seemed like long lost friends. The message was from John 6 ("I am the bread of life") and the question was posed: "Why do people seek satisfaction in things that don't last?" (Jesus, did You have to ask me that question today? Sheesh!) What an incredibly important question. And if I'm very honest with myself, the answer is that I often struggle with misplaced priorities, like everyone does. I try to satisfy my deepest longings and needs with material things only to become more and more frustrated. The fact is that Jesus is more than enough to meet our deepest needs. The Message puts it this way:
There are moments when I feel suddenly lucky, thankful, and shocked at how precious God's word is to me. This was one of those moments. When it comes right down to it, I need to be throwing my lot in with Jesus. Not tomorrow. Today. Jesus, You're a genius. You always seem to know what I need, when I need it the most. I'm not surprised. That's just like You.
So there you have it -- a wonderful day, a day in which Jesus reached down into the deepest part of me and drew me up to a better self. I'm amused -- and a little bit sore. Amused because I wasn't expecting to be "surprised by joy" today, and sore because it's not every day that Jesus hits you upside the head with a spiritual two-by-four. I'm immeasurably thankful for His blessings this day -- music and nature and exercise and fellowship and sound biblical teaching.
In other words, it's been, as I said, a wonderful day. Soli Deo gloria!
7:45 AM Good morning, bloggers! Happy Resurrection Sunday! The early church celebrated Easter every Sunday, so why can't we?
Have you noticed -- it's Spring?
And not a moment too soon as far as I'm concerned. I enjoy the changing seasons, I really do. I too have changed this past year, this past month even. Lucretius, writing 2,000 years ago, said, "Once something changes, it will never again be what it was before." So true. I thought about this as I was driving home yesterday. My drive took me past places Becky and I used to frequent and it wasn't long before I was overcome with emotion. I pulled off the road and tears began streaming down my cheeks. "Oh dear Becky, when will I ever see you again? When will I be able to wrap my arms around you and tell you just how much you meant to me?" Once again a wave of grief washed over me. My theologian brain, of course, thinks it has to analyze all of this, wants to pinpoint the factor that caused me to weep 28 months after Becky's passing. To cite a specific cause would be impossible and promote an omniscience that only God and politicians running for office can claim. What I do know is that life is a journey and we are all learning things each and every day. I need to embrace that, embrace the changes, embrace the grief and learn from it. Pain is part of life. So cope! Lord, if that's what you want me to be, break me -- as long as You are the calm in my storm. Even when I feel totally beaten I have to keep on going, keep trying to be positive and energetic, despite the grief. If walking a hiking trail can stretch me, how more more can pain become a positive step that leads to wholeness? The real heart of survival is as simple as that.
Yesterday, for the umpteenth time, I asked "Is God enough?" My answer always seems to come from reversing the word order: "God is enough." I tell people I want to conquer the Alps this summer but I really want to conquer my fears. Lord, you are bigger than any mountain I face. And You hold all the solutions in Your hands. If I know that, then why have I yet to become "content in whatever the circumstances" (Phil. 4:11)? What should I do, God? I know that life will never be "normal" for me again. So what can I do -- except to keep on climbing my mountain, facing it one day at a time, knowing that You will use this pain for good so that maybe others might feel encouraged to keep on climbing when their mountains get too steep. Healing? I believe it will come, in this life or the next. If it be in the next life, I know You will make a way when there seems so little hope. Please dear God, use this blog of mine to be a platform from which You display Your grace, power, and sufficiency -- a channel for sharing what You are doing through a weak but yielded vessel. May my confidence be in Your power and not in mine.
I know that when I call upon You, You will answer.
Even when I'm parked on the side of the road pondering the imponderable.
Saturday, March 5
5:06 PM Here you go. I think you'll enjoy seeing the old mill (or what's left of it). By the way, sorry for the misspelling of Pocahontas.
4:34 PM Yo folks!
Today I hiked 6.17 miles and biked 1.37 miles. My year-to-date distance (January 1 - March 5) now totals 250.6 miles. Today's destination was the Pocahontas State Park near Chesterfield, VA, about a 2-hour drive from the farm. It's actually the largest state park in Virginia, with more than 7,600 acres and two lakes. The park contains numerous hiking trails: Beaver Lake Trail, Bright Hope Trial, Fendley Station Trail, Lakeview Mountain Bike Trail, Muddy Buddy Trail, Poorhouse Run, and many others. Today I decided to hike the relatively short Old Mill Bicycle Trail. I really didn't want to hike it on a busy Saturday, but I ran into a grand total of zero hikers as I trekked, which really surprised me given that the park is so close to Petersburg and Richmond. I had a lot of fun on the trail. The scenery was splendid and to think -- this is only one of numerous trails in the park. I bet it's beautiful here in the fall with all the colors. The Old Mill Trail would be great for some flat trail running but I'm glad I just hiked it. I pushed myself for the cardio and I'll admit I got a good workout. It was a mixture of slight uphill and downhill slopes. There's plenty of wildlife to see too. The surface was very easy on the feet -- gravel and sandy dirt for the most part. It was very peaceful and I found myself thanking the Lord for the beauty of His great creation more than once. Here are a few pix. If I have time, I'll post a GoPro video later.
8:02 AM This and that ...
1) Speaking of Matteo's coining of the word "petaloso." I noted that his teacher marked him wrong on his essay but admitted that it was a "beautiful mistake." We had this discussion in Greek class last week. In some languages, people make up new words all the time. German and Ancient Greek are but two examples. My favorite New Testament neologism is a word that Paul apparently coins in Eph. 3:8, where he writes, "I am the least of all the saints." Actually, he used a superlative adjective ("least") and then added to it a comparative suffix ("-er") -- thus forming, if you will, "leaster." The only other New Testament example I can find is "greaterer" in 3 John 4. You gotta love Paul. Essentially he's saying he is "less than the least of all the saints." Like any organization, churches have some wonderful, humble leaders, and some proud, abusive leaders. If you are a church leader, please remember that you are an ordinary person who fulfills an extraordinary role. So love your people with all the grace and humility you can muster. And let's all remember to put Jesus first: on our church's marquee, in our worship folders, in the use of titles. The biggest downside to modern churchianity is when grown men act lame. I suppose that being known as the top dog isn't God's highest priority for any of us. We should all gladly recede into the group (all shepherds are sheep too!), laughing all the while that God saved any one of us, because surely none of us deserves it.
2) The 2016 Southwest Regional unit of the ETS has just announced its program. New Testament papers include:
The plenary sessions have Doug Moo speaking on "The Strange Silence of the Text in Some Modern Exegesis" and Ed Glenny on "Exegesis and Hermeneutics at the Jerusalem Council." The conference meets April 1-2 on the campus of Dallas Seminary.
3) Interesting in hiking? This is the best website around: AllTrails.
Friday, March 4
2:48 PM Hey folks! Hope you're having a wonderful day. Mine has been simply spectacular so far. Did some lifting at the Y, then did my banking, went grocery shopping, got the oil changed in my van and new rotors for the front wheels, ordered four new Michelin tires, drove to the Dan River, then hiked 5 miles. You can see that none of this is extra-ordinary stuff. It's just what life looks like these days, and I'm loving it. Now it's time to put up the groceries and get some rest before writing. I am blessed beyond words.
Oh, here are some guaranteed-to-bore-you-pix:
1) The gym at the Y has been completely overhauled. Ain't it sweet? State-of-the-art everything!
2) Taking a break between sets.
Today's routine: one-arm dumbbell curls, one-arm row, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell concentration curls, barbell upright row, bent barbell row, barbell curls, dumbbell lateral rise, triceps pushdowns, lat pulls, leg raises, and crunches. Whew!
3) Could only eat half of my meal today. So much food! I asked for "una caja" and all was well!
4) Another short hike today.
I'm saving my strength for the weekend.
5) The Tobacco Heritage Trail at the Dan River.
Love this place. No iPod either. I prefer the voices of nature.
8:38 AM A few random reflections ...
1) I'm actually glad I watched the Republican debate last night. And all this time I thought politicians were con-men, liars, and frauds. BTW, thank you, Mr. Kasich, for your thoughtful performance during the debate. "I'm not biting" was the only appropriate response to a group of moderators who can't moderate anything and who actually are trying to egg everyone on. Other than that, the debate made me shudder. My stars! They were even talking about the size of Mr. Trump's "manhood." No wonder we're the laughing stock of the world.
2) Hear about the 8-year old in Italy who invented a new word -- "petaloso"?
3) I love the Athanasian Creed. It reminds us of our Lord that ...
We rightly proclaim the full deity of Christ. But do we minimize His humanity? Of course we do. We take the manure out of the manger. The baby Jesus never cries. It might be helpful to unpack the root motivations behind our tendency to see Jesus as less than fully human. I suspect we think that, being human, Jesus must be susceptible to sin and failure. Wrong. Jesus is sinless. But He is also one of us. When facing danger, He begged God to help Him. When I am grasping to understand my own humanity, there He is. When I'm wondering how I should act in the face of grief and sorrow, His life is my example. Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder that being human is not some kind of cosmic joke. So why do I find it so hard to embrace my own humanity?
Time to work out ....
Thursday, March 3
7:48 PM A Vulgarian at the gate.
7:36 PM Just got my fall teaching schedule:
I'm also scheduled to teach Greek 1-2 this summer. Should be fun. "The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings" (Wendell Berry). It's time for baffling our lazy brains and impeding unbiblical thinking!
12:16 PM What a great dad.
10:54 AM Had an easy workout today, biking from South Hill to Brodnax and back -- a total of 11 miles.
The bike trail, as always, was immaculate.
Here's my "new look," my beard having been butchered in Dallas.
The question of the ages: Will he shave the rest off, in accordance with Jesus' instructions to His disciples to "travel light" (Luke 9:1-10)? Stay tuned ....
7:20 AM Scattershooting ...
1) If you haven't seen yet Risen yet, do it this weekend. And take an unsaved friend with you. The movie clearly bears witness to the Truth.
2) Why Max Lucado spoke out against Trump.
3) A new biography of Leon Morris is reviewed.
4) The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor announces an opening in Christian Studies (New Testament emphasis).
5) The Gettysburg Addresses you didn't know about.
Wednesday, March 2
5:04 PM I'm back on the farm having written until late last night, all the while sneezing and coughing. After a couple of ridiculous attempts to complete the final draft of Running My Race, I went to bed. Not a very professional performance, I'm afraid. But you don't win every battle, especially when your body is fighting a mild head cold ("mild" being a very relative term). Thankfully I was strong enough to teach my three classes. This weekend I need to get ready for some serious biking and hiking but I'm suffering from an extreme lack of mental focus because I'm trying too hard to finish my book. What I really need is to feel good again and then get in a good 16-mile bike ride. Still not sure whether I'll do another 5K this weekend in Raleigh. (I'm scheduled to.) We're expecting more rain between now and Saturday, but if the weather holds you can bet your bottom dollar I'll soon be back in nature, where the line between this world and the next becomes blurred. My car is packed with my bike, helmet, backpack, trekking poles, Gatorade, water bottles, and power bars.
I constantly battle with self-imposed publishing deadlines. It's a headache but it can turn into a nightmare if you're not on top of things. I wish I hadn't sat by the guy with a cold on my flight from Dallas to RDU on Monday, but God knows. Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief. Acceptance is the key to peace.
Oh, on Monday I stopped by Super Cuts in Dallas where the barber practically shaved off my entire beard. I guess that's not a bad thing. (When I saw mom she said, "Why, Dave, you look 20 years younger!") So the big question is: Shall I shave it all off? We'll see. But I'm ready for a change.
Time to put up the groceries, grab a tuna sandwich and avocado, and hit the hay. Plus: NO WRITING.
Tuesday, March 1
9:10 AM Note to professional photographers: If you're on the course and snap my photo, I'm likely to buy a digital copy.
Mostly for my posterity: "Did great-granddaddy really look that old?"
8:55 AM The schedule for this year's Society for New Testament Studies meeting in Montréal in August just arrived in my inbox. I'll be attending the seminar on The Greek of the New Testament (led by J. W. Voelz, J. Pelaez, and P. Danove). This is the description they sent us:
I have not seen Michael's paper yet so I'm not really sure how I will respond to it. But I do know that Greek loves participles, and so do I!
8:20 AM I snapped this photo in the administrative building at SMU. (In fact, I parked in the president's parking space for the Fab Four concert but I guess that was okay -- I was directed there by the parking lot attendant.) I loved the Latin.
How many of our great universities once had such lofty goals! Today it will take rugged tenacity and inspired stubbornness to hang on to the truth that only Jesus sets us free. Today the temptation is strong to get by with shoddy substitutes for Jesus and build our lives out of cheaper materials. But there is no true living until we come to "know the truth." Only the truth can set us free. When your heart is broken where else can you turn but to the Truth? You ask yourself, Where in all this pain is God's love? Then you remember Romans 8 and I Thessalonians 4 and Psalm 23. Think about it: The cup we drink was once on the lips of Jesus. He drank it, and so we accept suffering as one of His greatest gifts to us. "Though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies." There is room here, of course, for serious misunderstanding. Just because we put certain Latin words on a plaque does not mean that we understand them let alone obey them. I am so done with living by platitudes and wall mottoes and bumper stickers. I am so done with politics -- the insane act of pouring our heart and endless energy into an abyss that has no bottom. (Yes, I'm watching the debates, and I think they are very CREEPY.) Come, dear one, and listen: Truth will set you free. Jesus Himself modeled this behavior for us. He was free from toxic relationships, free from caving into social pressure, free to love in the midst of His own fatigue and frustrations. We can do likewise.
Thank you, Jesus, for schools like SMU and Perkins School of Theology. None of us is above failing to listen and learn from our own mottos. But this can't happen until we take a serious look at systemic issues. God help us to do so.