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Wednesday, February 10

5:38 PM This and that ....

1) These came today.

Added to my bucket list are:

  • North Carolina: Stone Mountain, Blowing Rock, and Chimney Rock.

  • Zion: East Rim, The Watchman, Emerald Pools, and (especially) Angels Landing. The exposure of the latter trail will be good training for the Matterhorn.

  • Bryce: Rim Trail, Peekaboo Loop, Mossy Cave, and the Navajo Loop.

2) Lord willing, I'll be heading out to Dallas in two weeks to spend five days with Becky's mom and dad. I always enjoy their company. While there I'll be attending a Fab Four concert. These guys are, like, unbelievably amazing. See for yourself.

On a scale of 1-10, they rank at least an 11. Who needs Ke$ha when you can have the Beatles?

3) Here's my Wednesday Greek class prepping for their take-home exam over the indicative mood.

Man, I'm so proud of them. I do believe they are pretty excited, though some I'm sure are praying for the Rapture.

4) I've been studying Psalm 90. I may be wrong, but I believe this is the only Psalm written by Moses. My favorite verse is verse 12: "Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Moses understood old age. He began serving God at the age of 80, and ministered for 40 years. (Oddly enough, I've been teaching for 40 years.) When he died at the age of 120, "his eyes were not weak nor was his strength gone" (Deut. 34:7). During those 40 years of ministry, Moses experienced pain and suffering. Folks, we are 100 percent certain to suffer in this life, and Christ is 100 percent certain to meet us in our trouble. Numbering our days means seeing our lives for what they are: brief opportunities to live under the reign and mercy of God. The New Living Translation renders verse 12 as follows: "Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom." I suggest this hits the nail on the head.

Moses says we are to number our days. Becky lived from May 12, 1953 to November 2, 2013. That's exactly 22,089 days. As of today, I have lived on this earth 23,256 days. In view of eternity, that doesn't seem like a very long time. Our 37 years of marriage went by in a flash. I still miss her. Lots. Yet I'm finding new strength and joy each day that I am alive. I love what I do. I love teaching and writing and traveling and sports. I love being around my kids and my grandkids. I love trying out new things. I love being with good friends. I want to spend my last years in ways that count. Psalm 90 reminds me that:

  • We are all mortal.

  • Life is very brief.

  • We neither live to ourselves nor die to ourselves.

  • What matters is not growing older but growing wiser.

We can NEVER give up. The outer man may be wasting away, but the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). Robert Murray McCheyne once said, "For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ." We all tend to reverse that ten-to-one ratio. We brood over our sins and forget the Lord. I want to learn the lesson of the 10:1 rule. I want to so discipline myself that every sentence I utter about the pain of Becky's loss is matched by ten sentences talking about the goodness and mercy of God. I am not promised a pain-free life but I am promised the tools to survive and even thrive: God and others. Praise His name.

5) I am cooking myself a rib eye steak for supper tonight. There's a 100 percent chance it will be restaurant quality. Becky was a good teacher.

Cheers!

Dave

Tuesday, February 9

7:24 AM You know you're getting old when you say "Bo Reicke" and people go, "Who?" Bo Reicke was my Doctor Father in Basel from 1980-1983. (In case you can't remember back that far, that was about when the ark landed on Ararat.)

I remember my first meeting with Prof. Reicke in the university library in Basel. The prodigal son couldn't have had a warmer welcome. I can still recall how he shook my hand and said how glad he was that I had come to Basel. I knew immediately that I was glad too. Doctoral studies can be quite an experience. That experience can be bad or good – or even great. Mine certainly was the latter. Of course, that was all the Lord's doing. He knew I would benefit from studying under Bo Reicke. A kinder scholar never graced any university campus. No one could know the man without having his or her life touched permanently. I will be forever grateful to God for that wonderful experience.

When you get to be my age, you often enjoy bouts of nostalgia. I heartily approve of it. As a history addict, I would be shocked if I didn't find myself rehearsing my own biography from time to time. For one, it makes you grateful. For another, it reminds you that no matter how old you get, you will always feel young. I can't be 63! But the mirror doesn't lie. However, there's good news too. By 63 you are free to be you. You no longer take the safest path through life. What others think of you doesn't matter. And, again, you are ALWAYS young. In your mind's eye, you're still the eager-beaver doctoral student on the cusp of writing the best thing since the Book of Revelation.

No, aging isn't easy, my Dearies. But if you trust Jesus, believe me: it's not a bad life at all.

Monday, February 8

3:52 PM I am a hero. I am washing clothes, putting up the dinner dishes, and disinfecting my bathroom. Well done, cleaning warrior. In the meantime, I've been doing a little study of compound words in New Testament Greek for a talk I'm giving in Dallas in April. I'm one step away from an emotional outburst. You see, we're often told that the New Testament (especially the apostle Paul) teaches that husbands are to love their wives and wives are to submit themselves to their husbands. That's quite a gross over-generalization if you ask me. And the proof is nothing other than a compound adjective in Titus 2:4. Here Paul instructs the wives to love their husbands in no uncertain terms (lit., be "husband-lovers," philandrous). The Greek reads:

... φιλάνδρους εἶναι ....

Please note: We get the English word "philanderer" from the Greek term Paul uses here -- a fact that is utterly irrelevant but preaches well. Now, I will admit that the predominance of Paul's commands are for the husband (and not the wife) to love. In fact, in Ephesians 5, not once, not twice, but three times Paul commands husbands to love their wives (verses 25, 28, and 33). In all likelihood, we husbands need more encouragement than wives because we tend to be prone to offer cheap gestures as substitutes for selfless love. But both spouses are to love each other. That's because people are the same everywhere you go: we need to be loved, to be known, to be appreciated, to belong. Love is a basic human need. According to Jesus, love is the way of the Christian, and no less is expected of a Christian couple. We are not promised an easy marriage in the Bible, but we are given a potent tool to overcome every obstacle: love.

So husband: love your wife.

And wife: love your husband.

This will take courage, but what's the alternative? 

12:32 PM Just got this email about my 13.1-mile half marathon in May:

In case you haven't heard, this year's race will feature a brand new course with a 40% decrease in elevation!

Did I read that correctly? THANK YOU, RACE ORGANIZERS!

12:25 PM At the age of 63, this is me, staring at the object of my quest.

I find myself in a teachable period of life. Baby Boomers reach their peak around 60 and start their Second Adulthood. It's a time of new discoveries, not least about one's self. So what is my quest? What am I seeking in life? Or am I better off leaving the most profound questions in life unanswered?

I hope to provide some answers in my book Running My Race. For now, let me just say: successful aging in one's later years is a choice. You will have to rewrite the script completely. Gone is a careless attitude toward exercise. Gone is the notion that our later years are to be lived "comfortably." We older folk need to be engaged, active, and passionate. We need to get outdoors and we need to get out of ourselves and take part in spirit-boosting social activities. We need to keep mentally stimulated. Intense involvement in work that is enjoyable pays rich dividends. Reading books about men and women who conquered great odds fires the imagination and reminds us to listen to our own spirits. The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes asked, "I know that many people feel that old age is a time to take it easy, but I compare my life now to being the last runner in a relay race. Would you have me slow down as I near the finish line?"

Every day I'm making new discoveries. There's no part of me that can't be stimulated by constant reading. The pain of loss has moved me to seek a Higher Power in life. The same God who sends us storms also sends us periods of solace. It is never too late even to find love again. My new loves are the result of new ambitions and goals. As long as I am able, I'm going to be active. God alone knows how long that will be. But the best way I can love my children and grandchildren is by taking the trouble to stay healthy and independent as long as I possibly can. I have only one life to live. It is a wild and precious thing. The quest will be imperfect for sure, but I dream of being a better man next year than I am this year. And did I mention Wanderlust? I've got it in spades. Next month I leave for Asia. Then it's back to Hawaii. Then it's hiking the Grand Canyon and the Alps. Did I mention Toronto? I'm ready to lay down the junk in my life and begin to call forth the best in others -- and myself. Life is incredibly powerful. As Christians we get to point each other to God. In Him no one is worthless. I'll never stop beating the drum for the underdog and serving others. This is what we were made for. This is how we can live well. And Jesus is better than anything else. So let's raise Him high.

11:50 AM Today it takes longer to grow old and even longer to grow up.

8:58 AM Well, the day we've all been waiting for is here. No, not Super Bowl Monday. Not National Kite Flying Day. Not National Frozen Yogurt Day. It's International Septuagint Day.  

In appreciation of this most auspicious occasion, why not take a moment and read a favorite Old Testament passage of yours in the LXX? PDFs of the New International Translation of the LXX are here. I think I'm going to read "Jesus."

8:40 AM The official race stats from Saturday's 5K are now in:

  • Fastest time: 19.52

  • Slowest time: 46.01

  • My time: 31.40

There were 115 officially-timed racers. 67 runners were faster than me and 46 were slower. Doesn't seem like much, but I'm pleased as punch.

7:54 AM One of my favorite publishers is giving his Discussion Network a new look. Bravo, Henry! (I borrowed that exclamation point from tomorrow's stash.) I have no idea why other publishers aren't quite so, say, intentional about publishing their goals. Henry loves to mix it up. Few issues are actually worth arguing about. But some are. Some issues are very big deals. And at Energion you're likely to get more than one perspective on any biting issue of the day.

Publishers and authors ought to have good relationships with each other. After all, we are individuals who are walking our spiritual road together. God isn't a wedge between Methodists (like Henry) and Baptists (like me). In your church, encourage people to grow together, serve together, seek together, and -- here's a big one -- learn together. Good books will help. Good books are magic. If you have no idea where to start, check out Energion. "I have all the answers and so can you" is definitely not their motto. Believe it or not, as authors we all have a long ways to go. We just don't want to turn out looking like complete fools. Which is another reason I love good publishers. They work hard at improving my writing. Even if you didn't grow up in the Christian subculture like I did, you probably realize that we have our good share of inch-deep superstars. I meet students all the time who bend the knee at the altar of their (current) favorite author. People crave to be told what to think. I think there's a better way. So, apparently, does Henry.

  • Think for yourself.

  • No fussing or fluffing.

  • Be truthful.

  • Instead of waiting to be spoon fed on Sunday, dig deep in the Bible yourself and you'll end up a much richer soul.

I highly recommend Energion. But nothing beats an hour in the Word itself.  

7:25 AM Woohoo! Saturday's 5K raised $3,000 for cancer research at UNC! Last year's total was $2,200! A big thank you to those of you who donated to the cause! (I have now used up my quota of exclamation points for the day.)

7:14 AM So there was a game yesterday? Must have missed it. Listen, I really am glad the old man is going to Disneyland.

Yeah, I know I'm supposed to root for the Panthers, teaching in Wake Forest and all. Okay, fine. Whatever, man.

Sunday, February 7

5:25 PM Biked 10.77 miles today. The High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville is a flat and easy mountain bike trail. I loved every second of my ride. I feel like I'm on happy pills. Life is certifiably insane.

The bridge itself offers an amazing view of the surrounding countryside and is (true to its name) very high. Be sure to brush up on your Civil War history before you go. Next time I want to jog it. Either way, after your ride be sure to chow down on some good Mexican cuisine in town. You have two restaurants to choose from.

P.S. Thank you, GoPro, for helping me bike my way through my teen years again as a 63-year old grandfather.

 

6:48 AM On days like yesterday, I'm reminded why I enjoy the endurance challenge that a 5K represents. You have to overcome not just your physical fatigue and suffering but also your natural resistance to them. In other words, you have to be a good sufferer. Your body wants to quit, even though your mind keeps telling it not to. Your mind and not your body must win the struggle. During a 5K race, it's a constant struggle, especially for those of us for whom running doesn't come naturally. The minute your inner voice says, "I can't do this any longer," the party's over.

I suppose this summer in the Alps will be more of the same. Mountain climbing offers challenges of its own -- high altitude sickness, poor climbing conditions, avalanche, crevasses, high winds, and other obstacles. My mental toughness will be challenged to the max.  If I lose mental focus and motivation, I might as well pack my bags and go home.

I mentioned motivation. To me, that's a huge consideration. The other day I was invited to participate with someone in a 5K race. The first thing I wanted to know was, "What's the cause?" You see, I love being an amateur runner and climber. The origin of the word "amateur" is Latin: to love. Be definition, we run and climb just for the love of the sport. Needless to say, participation in any strenuous physical activity teaches us plenty about how to live our lives on a daily basis. The story is told of three college students who went climbing one weekend. As they approach the summit one of the climbers slipped and tumbled about 60 feet, landing on a small ledge. "You okay, Justin?" "Yeah. I'm alive but I think I've broken both of my arms." "Hold on, man. We'll toss you a rope and pull you up." They lowered one end of the rope and started tugging and grunting together. Suddenly they remembered that Justin said he had broken both of his arms. "Justin!" they called. "If you broke both of your arms, how in the world are you holding on?"

"With my TEEEEEEEETH" came the reply. That's exactly how I felt yesterday.

This week, this month, this year, I've set before myself several goals -- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We read that our Lord "set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Paul the apostle did the exact same thing. He left some things behind and he was forgetting them. This is the only right thing to do with our past. Learn the lessons God wanted us to learn, then forget it and move on. Paul was done looking back. He was too busy looking forward "to those things that are before" (Phil. 3:13). Paul would have made a great 5K runner, I think. "This one thing I do" was his philosophy.

What does your week look like, friend? Your month? Your year? Make up your mind about "this one thing I do." Set your face like flint and bring all things into their proper relation to that supreme goal. To my pastor friends: You are so special to me. I respect you immensely. But you take on responsibilities that are far beyond your capacity. 90 percent of you think you are inadequate at managing the demands of your job, and 50 percent of you would abandon the pastorate if you had another job option (see Bo Lane, "Why Do So Many Pastors Leave the Ministry?" ExPastors.com, Jan. 27, 2014). That's not good. We needn't mistake healthy commitment with unhealthy ambition. You can have the first without the second. Put yourself on the bench for a while if you need to. (Our farm makes for a wonderful spiritual retreat.) Share leadership if you can. A church where one man does all the work is surely not the church Jesus intended. Your attend-every-meeting schedule sets you up for failure. Delegate -- and then instruct your people that the Bible never measures commitment merely by attendance. I am also suggesting this, pastors: Get out and exercise. If your church has a fitness center, use it. (Yes, set the example for others.) Exercise provides wonderful relief from the daily stresses of life. And church people: free up your pastors to be real people with real problems with real families and real weaknesses. When was the last time you offered them a sabbatical?

When a man like the apostle Paul comes along he is very disturbing to us. His single-minded devotion to the work God called him to do -- and not the work God called others to do, including local church elders -- shows up our busyness and poor time management skills. He was a doer and not a dabbler. He was not a double-minded man. He had learned how to say no. He did one thing. All of him was going in one direction. He knew what the goal was.

Do we?

Saturday, February 6

3:42 PM Up early this morning. I had to make a long drive to Chapel Hill. I wasn't surprised at this morning's sunrise. It was God's way of saying, "Hey, Dave, I'm with you, man. Give it all you got!"

Carolina Fever is UNC's largest student organization and here I am with its president who organized today's benefit for cancer research and treatment. Go Carolina Blue!

A total of 142 registrants ran their hearts out for a great cause.

I had completed this same course last year and I knew it was a killer. I can guarantee you that it was designed by either Attila the Hun or Count Dracula. You go up and down and up and down ad infinitum.

I knew I could walk away from today's race with my head held high if I came in under 33 minutes -- that is, with an average of 11 minutes per mile. Praise God, I did it! So grab my hand, dear reader, and I'll show you how amazing today's event was and how amazingly good our God us. I hope this vid will inspire you to run your race well, to live wide, and to practice the wholehearted life you were created for.

Dave

 

Friday, February 5

6:48 PM Tonight I was suffering from EUS (Exercise Urge Syndrome), so off I went and before I knew it -- 5 miles!

When I turned back toward the farm, this is the view that met my eyes:

5 by 5 baby! All systems go! I'm locked and loaded, filled to the brim, good to go, and ready to scoot and boot and rock and roll!  

12:16 PM Today was my final practice for tomorrow's 5K race. If you don't like my videos, blame GoPro. They make doing this way too much fun.

7:18 AM This is the story of Beck Weathers, who lost two hands to his climbing passion (and whose adventure is recounted in the movie Everest).

I am proud of him. I just finished reading his book Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest. I am inspired by people doing what they do best. But for Beck, coming "home" from Everest meant more than leaving mountaineering behind. It was a pilgrimage from being a self-centered fool to a solid husband. Thankfully, his marriage was restored -- but it was a very close call. I don't like it when people neglect their families for the sake of their "passions." It never occurred to Beck that he had any obligation to put his wife's needs above his own. Husbands, I am watching you. You are making the world a better, kinder, more beautiful place for your wife. Or you are making it hell on earth. How many trot out that tired cliché -- "I'm only doing what I love!" Sure you are. I just wish the bull's-eye was different. Look at your spouse. She is the wife you've been given. This isn't a small matter. This is not make-believe marriage. Let her be proud of you. And if you've made a mistake, the timing is always perfect to say you're sorry. And then, like Peach Weathers, maybe your wife will give you a year to prove to her that you've really changed. Yes, some of us have passions to climb mountains. I know. Fine. Listen, just don't let it destroy your relationships. Your self worth doesn't depend on your achievements. We reclaim our merit when we go through with our promises. Go ahead. You can do the hard thing. It's never too late to heal your marriage. Hopefully it won't cost you $65,000 and two lost limbs in the progress.

Beck ends the video with these words:

Because of Everest I've had to change my priorities and it's worked.

So many of our marriages crash and burn because of misplaced priorities. Even Christian ones. Jesus is the only thing that will endure. When your marriage fails, Jesus delivers. He trumps even your best-made plans and stupidest mistakes.

Thursday, February 4

2:06 PM Lifted. Did 4.2 miles. Went to the bank. Had lunch with the Blacks. Peyton is groooooowing!

So is Bradford. (Note his mastery of the chopstick.)

The little men's club.

Love you, boys. You are a delight.

8:38 AM A few "Thank Yous" before heading to the gym.

1) Thank you, Curt, for reminding us about the dangers of using study Bibles.

(Yes, I'm a huge fan of study Bibles and even contributed to the one pictured above, but the dangers of misusing them are real, folks.)

2) Thank you, Steve, for the great job you do in keeping my patriotism in check. Loved this quote:

Politics works on another plane altogether. Its notions of “to the victor goes the spoils,” divide and conquer, us versus them, winners and losers, has no place in God’s vision for the world. Therefore, I engage in political conversations merely as a good citizen. I have no illusions that anything resembling the Kingdom of God will emerge from political activity. With the church’s consumerist mentality and unwholesome entrance into the political sphere, I have my doubts that it can do any better than Rome.

3) Thank you, Brian, for feeding my split personality by inspiring me to keep up with studies on the book of Hebrews after losing all interest in the letter several months ago.

4) Thank you to the organizers of World Cancer Day for reminding us that 8 million people die every year from cancer, half of whom are between the ages of 30 and 70. May the world see in us Christians a thankful, caring family who loves their God, adores their King, and can't do enough to help others in need.

5) Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for writing, "When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place." Dear Dave. Today you can either reflect on your past misfortunes or your present blessings. Your choice, buddy.

Later,

Dave

Wednesday, February 3

6:58 PM Thank you, Jamie Dew, for this stimulating interview with Derek Hicks of Duke Divinity School about the racial divisions in our society and churches. And thank you, Derek, for being gentle with your truth-telling. 

 

6:40 PM Thank you, editors of the new online journal Inservitus, for publishing a superb first edition.

And kudos to my assistant Noah Kelley for his outstanding essay on Philippians. In multos annos!

6:24 PM Physically speaking, the past two days have been tough for me. Seems every time it rains I come down with one of my "patented" sinus headaches. Still, I'm eager to run in this Saturday's "Fight Cancer" 5K at UNC in Chapel Hill. I've come to the place in my life where I need to find my reason for being in something more than my career. Becky's death threw me into a confusing identity crisis, and although the pain has subsided it has not gone away. More than anything, I've needed to come to grips with my need to know God better. In the past 6 years God has been immeasurably good to me, and a huge part of His goodness came via the staff at the UNC Cancer Hospital. Through our 4-year cancer journey together, Becky and I learned to go the second mile, endure suffering, and live not for this life but for the next one, all the while clinging to the promises of God when we didn't feel His goodness. We came to realize that we exist for Him, not the other way around. Cancer mattered, but God mattered more. Resting in the undeserved grace of God, we came to the realization that there is so much more to life than merely living. We both knew we could not survive our ordeal unless we found in God our all in all. Nothing mattered more to us than pleasing Him. And then, after 4 years of fighting the good fight, when God finally decided to take Becky home, I became passionately determined to do whatever it takes to make my life count for God in this maddeningly uncertain world. The question became: How can I best deploy my resources (time, energy, wealth, vacations) not to gain the approval of others but to bless them? I wanted people to see in me a person who endured loneliness and heartbreak with uncomplaining sadness. As the old foundations crumbled, I was asked to ascend to greater heights. There is more to life than relief from pain, I kept telling myself. God is good regardless of what happens in our lives. Indeed, life is simply about reflecting that confidence in God in all our relationships and activities.

Which brings me to this Saturday's race. As I struggle to find God in the midst of ongoing pain, He replies with an invitation to live as He lived, to give and not simply receive. Up until November 2, 2013, I had no inkling of what widowers went through. Imagine a man as he sits alone at the breakfast table. He hurts, but he is moving forward in the midst of his unresolved problems. He is finding God in his pain and, by the miracle of grace, is a person who is committed to a far higher purpose than relieving loneliness. God alone now satisfies him, and that realization releases his passion to bless, connect, and love. He rests in the confidence that God is still very much at work in his life, and he knows no greater joy than the joy of bringing healing to others. No, my participation in Saturday's race will not provide a cure for cancer. But to the degree that I can do something, no matter how seemingly insignificant, I am content. A quiet sense of achievement is replacing the despair and loneliness. The message from God seems clear. "Do whatever I am leading you to do, Dave. You are free from the need to 'have it all together.' You have received mercy. Now go and dispense it."

If you'd like to help, please go here and make a donation. If you like, you can stipulate that you are making your contribution in the memory of Becky Black, and your contribution (and Becky's name) will appear on a scrolling list.  As you "run the race with me" (so to speak), I fervently hope that a passion to know God better will be stirred within you, perhaps a deeper passion than you have ever known before.

Blessings!

Dave

Tuesday, February 2

7:12 AM Speaking of goals ... here's the Breithorn.

Only 161 days to go until I attempt to summit it. 13,661 foot elevation. Mount Hood is only 11,250. A bit intimidating to say the least. All the more reason to train now. "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Ernest Hemingway.

6:30 AM This morning I read a post called 5 Books You Should Read This Election Year. Were I to draw up my own list, it would look a bit different. These books will make you laugh as much as they will make you cry. They will stir your soul and leave you feeling like their authors were patting you on the back, encouraging you to leave status quo thinking about politics behind and step into all that God has for you in the upside-down kingdom He is establishing. Believe me, each book is a breath of fresh air.

1) Jacque Ellul, The Politics of God and the Politics of Man.

2) Jacque Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity.

3) Jacque Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom.

4) Vernard Eller, Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy over the Powers.

5) John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus.

Grab these books, dear reader, and you'll discover how amazing the kingdom is and how shockingly gracious God is. (Oh! I discussed all of this in a little book I published a few years ago called Christian Archy.)

Reading books in an election year. This is going to be so fun!

6:12 AM Do atonement theories continue to speak to the human condition? Allan Bevere say yes. Allan nails it. Thank you sir!

6:05 AM Hola amigos! Bill Gates once said that people tend to set their sights too low when they plan for the future yet set their sights too high when they plan for the short term. When you teach a biblical language, you have to plan for both. Our ultimate goal after one year of Greek instruction is a very simple one: to be able to read our Greek New Testaments with the use of a lexicon. Our shorter-term goal has been to complete our study of the indicative mood, which we will do today and tomorrow in my Greek 2 classes. A milestone has been reached! Let's party! (Say hello to Krispy Kreme donuts.)

Numa Numa

A new class logo is also in order, don't you think? How about this one:

If you're a State fan, we also offer this option:

I can have it printed on mugs and then we'll be true Baptists. Seriously, milestones in our lives are important. They allow us to celebrate (ever so briefly), enjoy the day, take a deep breath, and regroup. Greek students, think of it like this: You've just summited Kilimanjaro. Next stop: Everest. Man, what a party that will be. (We'll have to move up to Dunkin' Donuts.)

By the way, Oprah Winfrey, that great American theologian, once said: "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." Guys and gals in Greek class, today is a day to celebrate. It represents a major achievement in your life, and you'll be on WRAL if nothing else. Your teacher says "Thank you!" and "Great Job!" Now let's set our brains on our milestone-based path toward complete success. With God, nothing is impossible.

Monday, February 1

2:24 PM Odds and ends on a gorgeous February day:

1) Just buried one of our farm animals. God attended the funeral.

2) Had a great workout at the Y this morning. Here are two of my exercise buddies.

On the left is Ibrahim who manages the local Italian restaurant (and is teaching me Arabic), while on the right is Ken who pastors a local church. They keep me humble.

3) As promised, I did my 8 miles today. This gives me such comfort. To hike the Alps you need strong legs. Stamina matters more than speed. As Walter Rossini, my guide, often tells his clients: "Langsam. Laaaaangsam. Kleine Tritte machen. Kleine Tritte machen." Jawohl, Herr Bergführer!

4) This Saturday's 5K race will be in Chapel Hill at 8:00 am. The theme is Fight Cancer. I'm all for that!

5) Had my teeth cleaned in South Boston today. I had to severely rebuke both my dental hygienist and my dentist. Both, it seems, have been inexcusably derelict in their education. Neither has seen the movie The Marathon Man!

6) Finally, I'm throwing a party. And you're invited. The cause is Becky's 63rd birthday on May 12, 2016. To commemorate this auspicious occasion I've signed up for my very first half marathon on May 15 in Greensboro, NC.

You can help me celebrate by sponsoring cancer research at the UNC Women's Cancer Hospital. I'm asking you to give 1 dollar per mile (13.1 miles total) and then, if I'm able to finish the race under my target time of three and a half hours, you would agree to double your donation. More details to come. For now, just make a note of that date. I can't think of a better way to remember Becky!

7:46 AM The semester is off to a great start and I'm snuggled in my library reading John 1:1-2 in Hebrew. Some people have called this the most important verse on the Deity of Christ ever written. But what caught my attention was the use of the Hebrew word etzel in verse 2: "He was in the beginning with God."

We might say this is a bit of an unusual Hebrew word for "with." The same is true for the Greek pros (instead of sun or meta or para) and the Latin apud (instead of the much more common cum). Indeed, Luther used bei instead of the normal mit. As a writer, I am sensitive to how people use words. In Greek, the word pros used here by John implies active interchange or interface. Hence Williams' rendering, "face to face." The word pros seems to imply an intimacy with God. According to John 1:1-2, Jesus wasn't merely in the presence of the Father; He was enjoying intimacy with Him. It helps me greatly to know that the Persons of the Godhead enjoy intimacy with each other. Sometimes I get tired of all the shallow relationships I have. With God, the size of your ministry isn't important. It's more about depth. The idea of being vulnerable with people scares me. I feel insecure and unqualified. Maybe God made a mistake when he took an introvert like me and made him a teacher. If you choose to follow the Lord with all your heart (and make no mistake about it, that's what He requires of us), you will probably worry about the limitations you have. Just remember: None of us will ever measure up to what we think God requires of us. The only thing God doesn't need are any more superstars. Are you willing to go wherever the Lord wants you to go, do whatever He wants you to do, and speak to whomever He brings your way -- even if it's that self-centered student who thinks the whole world revolves around them? Jesus was so intimate with God that He could call Him "Abba." He seemed to be very informal in the way He prayed. "Daddy ..." (Mark 14:36). You know, such familiarly is not reserved for Jesus or for a few other spiritual alpha males and wonder women. Today, I too can enjoy an intimacy with the Father. I too have direct access to Him, regardless of how I feel about my inadequacies. Friends, God longs to hear our voice, to have fellowship with us, and not only when we're in trouble. He has not left us to stumble our way through darkness. Rather, He helps us in our daily walk. All we have to do is take His outstretched hand.

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