Monday, September 24
6:45 AM It's back-to-work week. Hard to believe it's already the 6th week of the semester and that our first semester break is in only 2 weeks. Of course, that won't be much of a break for yours truly since I'm teaching Hebrews from 8:00 - 5:00 daily. Doesn't seem fair. Even Paul taught in the school house of Tyrannus from only 11:00 - 4:00. This week I'm looking forward to being back at The Shepherd's Seminary in Cary to lecture on the origin of the Gospels. For some crazy reason they're open to hearing from a fuddy-duddy like me. I think I should organize a benefit concert (Obscurantist Aid) but they don't exist for lowly Greek professors. This morning's time in the word was precious. I made the decision to read through Philemon, and why not? Was anybody more tactful than the apostle Paul? And to think he took the time out of his busy schedule to write a letter on behalf of a slave, a piece of property back in that day. Would you do such a thing? Would you care that much about a "nobody"? Paul did. Because in Christ there are no "nobodies." When I look at my students' faces, I see more than a crowd. I see individuals each with gignormous potential to become great in the kingdom (i.e., little in the kingdom). I'd like to blame my own teachers in college, seminary, and grad school, who treated me like I was important -- a simple kid from Kailua Beach no less. This long line of perpetrators taught me more than Greek and Hebrew. They taught me how Jesus sees us: wanted, valuable, a brother and sister. So today I began my day as I always do -- at the feet of Jesus, looking at Love, and yes, asking Him to show me small ways I can come to love the whole world today. It's in the details for me. Grading my students' papers myself (and not asking my assistant to do it for me). Giving respect and honor to their stories. Choosing to affirm them in their God-appointed ministries. Writing references on their behalf as they apply to doctoral programs or for jobs in academia. Keeping my office door open. It's in the following of the daily nudges from Abba, because we are family.
This is the kingdom of God. It's where we see our best dreams come true.
Sunday, September 23
6:30 PM After church I took in a movie (Fahrenheit 11/9) and then visited my Ethiopian friends at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. My tummy is now happily filled with kai wat and kik alecha. Time to sit on the porch and enjoy the cool weather, then fix my meals for the week. As I watched the movie, I thought to myself that Jesus could have been a politician. You can almost hear the people wildly chanting, "MAKE ISRAEL GREAT AGAIN!" I'm glad Jesus didn't put His name on the ballot. His kingdom, after all, wasn't of this world. He said as much. Jesus' message is finally getting through to some today. Let the dead bury their dead. The book of Philippians teaches us to decide on one thing and stay with it, while Hebrews reminds us that we have to go to Him outside the camp and bear His reproach. That, to me, sounds a lot more like persecution than promotion. Let's beware of any deals with the devil to get the kingdoms of the world by a short-cut. We travel the way of the cross, but we travel it with our Lord.
Back to my great book about Everest.
8:12 AM I don't know about you, but when I read the Bible, I often like to read a whole book at a time. This morning that book was Paul's Letter to Titus.
Titus was a Gentile convert to Christianity who became Paul's trusted assistant in his missionary work. In Paul's' Letter to Titus, the apostle advises Titus about how to appoint church leaders, how various groups in the church should treat one another, and how Christians are to be full of "good" (the Greek could also be rendered "attractive") works and especially how they are to avoid argument and division. I was struck by something today I'd never seen before in this short letter, and that was Paul use of "philanthropy" to describe God's nature.
God is philanthropic. He "loves humankind." And since God loves all men and women, so should His people. This was, in fact, one of my themes during yesterday's apologetics conference. Apologetics involves both a good defense and an effective offense. Or, as Paul puts it right here in Titus, we are to "be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it" (Tit. 1:9). In the end, it all comes down to action, not theory. "They claim that they know God, but their actions deny it" writes Paul about the false teachers (Tit. 1:16). The Christian, on the other hand, is known for his or her good works.
I camped on this last verse for a good while this morning. What does Paul mean by "real" needs? I think he meant pressing needs. Not every so-called need requires our generosity. In other words, we need to exercise discernment when it comes to meeting needs. I recall reading once about a congregation who went without salaries for their elders and opted out of purchasing a building for their meetings. No, they didn't feel that paying pastors or having a church building were sinful. But as long as they were supporting single mothers in their midst who wanted to raise their kids at home, they had nothing left over for those other things.
Recently I was curious to see where my money was being spent, so I got out my credit card statement. You know, I've always thought of myself as a caring person, but the truth is that I am most concerned about myself. I'm appalled at my self-centeredness. But actually, nothing I have is my own. Everything is a gift from God. If I've received it freely, then I should also give it freely (Matt. 10:8). That's the work of the Gospel, isn't it? It's you first, not me first. Of course, not all "needs" are genuine needs. But many are. So let's be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in all these things, shall we? When He tells us to give, let's be eager to dispense with our money (or time, or labor, or words of encouragement, etc.). If we do so, we'll all move a little bit further into God's redemptive movement.
Saturday, September 22
9:16 PM Sometimes I hate to write about my races because I'm sure most people aren't too interested in them. Yet, they are such an important part of my life post-Becky that I can't keep quiet. Take next Saturday's historic Virginia Ten Miler in Lynchburg. I just found out that the special guest at this event will be none other than Ann Audain.
Now before you say, "Ann who?" let me explain. One of my favorite features of the VTM is that it attracts world class athletes from all over the world. Last year I met several elite Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. Moreover, each year the race directors are keen on inviting a world class runner to serve as a "special guest" whose duties include packet pickup appearances, race day announcing at the finish line, and participation in the awards ceremony after the race. In past years, the VTM has hosted such famous runners as Molly Huddle, Carrie Tollerson, Kathrine Switzer, Dick Beardsley, and John Benoit Samuelson. Ann Audain, this year's special guest, has won the Virginia Ten Miler a record 6 times. Her female course record of 53:47, set in 1984, still stands today. Why, I can't even run 6 miles (let alone 10) in under an hour. She also qualified to compete in 6 Olympic Games. But, by far the best part of having Ann at the race will be to meet somebody who succeeded at this sport despite being born with major foot deformities that weren't corrected by surgery until she was 13. Like so many of us, Ann Audain began running because she knew she could overcome the obstacles that showed up, unwanted, in her life. For the dedicated runner, obstacles are to be sought out and savored, not avoided. Dedication means not giving up and not giving in, no matter what hand life has dealt you. Even our bad runs are doing us some good. I've never, ever heard one of my fellow runners say that the hours and hours of training weren't worth it. Running is life-changing. It's changed my life, I believe for the better. With each step forward, it becomes more difficult not to be a person who cares about physical fitness. As Ann discovered, lasting inspiration comes by overcoming your doubts and fears, one doubt and fear at a time. And the great thing about it is that you don't have to run a 10-Miler to be an athlete. You can run or walk any distance. Compared to others, your accomplishments might seem modest, but to you they will be monumental. Any one of us can be more active. The first step toward lifelong exercise is simple: Trash those "can'ts" in your life. You can do this. You can walk or run. For many of us, it isn't the last step we take during a 10-Miler that counts. It's the first step we took on our journey to becoming athletes. I realize this every time I get out there on a race course.
Ann Audain is a living reminder that every starting line is another opportunity to prove that our past will not determine our future.
3:02 PM What a great day it's been. I spent it in Severn, NC, a rural community that is located about 120 miles east of me. The local Baptist church there was hosting an apologetics conference on such topics as creation, the resurrection, and suffering.
I spoke 3 times. My topics were the historicity of the Gospels, how to handle textual variants in the New Testament, and "Love: The Greatest Apologetic for Christianity (John 13:35)."
My thanks to brother Mark Corbett and the folks at Severn Baptist Church for their warm hospitality. I am deeply humbled and honored by the opportunity. My prayer is that God will use the conference to prepare His people to fulfill the vitally important role He has for them in the kingdom movement He's inspiring in our day.
Friday, September 21
7:04 PM I've been mowing this afternoon.
Plus sitting on the front porch with Sheba. I'm reading a book about that fateful day in May 1996 when several climbers died on Mount Everest.
In my headphones I'm listening to one of my favorite songs from the 1980s.
I remember listening to it when Becky and I moved to Basel, when she began her cancer treatments, and after she went home to be with the Lord. The song truly does take me somewhere else. Thank you, Christopher Cross, for being such an amazing composer and musician. There was a time when music was created to touch the soul and speak into our human spirits to sooth the pain and create joy. Now it is mostly visceral noise lacking musicality and emotional substance. Sitting on the porch this afternoon, I am at peace. At peace with my God, at peace with myself, and at peace with the world, as much as you can be at peace with a world system that spat upon, mocked, and finally killed the Lord of glory. The peace Christ gives is different from the peace the world gives. In the middle of the difficulties you face, God will help you develop the "fruit of peace" in your life, peace even in the midst of your biggest wars. You may even find yourself soaring toward heights you've never before attempted, something much bigger than yourself -- facing it, being in it, becoming part of it, your own "Everest." Being alive is precious. Life is so short. Be proud of who you are, my friend. Revel in whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life.
12:30 PM As you may remember, I'm running my very first ultramarathon 3 weeks from tomorrow. We runners have a remarkable talent for self-deception. The harder the race, however, the more realistic you need to be about your training. So how am I training for race day?
Here are a few more principles I'm trying to follow as I train:
1) Try and maintain a balance between running and other activities such as biking and hiking.
2) Rest, rest, and then rest some more. Yesterday I took a 1-hour power nap after my 20-mile ride. Today I'll get in another nap. I give myself permission to nap every day that I exercise without feeling the least twinge of guilt. That's just how our bodies are made to work: exercise balanced by rest.
3) Remain flexible. Remember, you can't predict how you'll be feeling tomorrow let alone a week from today. I know of no more important tenet of running than listening to your own body. Much of what we can get done on any given day depends on how well and strong we're feeling that day.
4) Give myself a day (or two) off at least once a week. Better to take an extra day off than to become susceptible to injury or illness because you're not rested.
5) Don't try and make up a training day you miss. The idea is to avoid over-training at all costs.
6) It's not only about mileage. Quality counts too. Take today's 5-mile run. My goal was to start out at a slow and comfortable pace, and then gradually increase my pace, all the while taking brief 30-second breaks in which I did leg swings to relax my running muscles. As you can see, I think this method worked well today as seen in my improving pace.
In sum, for any long distance race, you'll need a training plan, but not one that's set in concrete. Listen to your body. How do you feel? Are you strong? Do you need more rest? Do you need more exercise? Are you frustrated with the sport? If so, do you need to take a month off? More than anything, we runners want to enjoy the sport of running, not simply endure it. Yes, we need to move forward, but at our own pace. In short, never let running take over your life. Ask yourself: Do I live to run, or do I run to live? My biggest goal for the next 3 weeks isn't to complete my first ultramarathon. I realize that finishing the race might not even be a possibility come race day depending on how I'm feeling that day. Instead, my main goal is to maintain a level of fitness that I can be pleased with because I know I am doing what I can to maintain the marvelous temple God's allowed me to steward. I'm sorry if you get tired with all my posts about running, but I have to say, the sport really keeps me coming back to the Scriptures and to biblical principles of life. In ultramarathon training you will most certainly push your body to new limits. However, you must always listen to your body when you're training or you're setting yourself up for failure. Train harder. But also train smarter.
To my Christian friends: Be honest. Growth in the Christian life is a very gradual process. Remember the Goldilocks Principle. Are you pushing yourself too hard? Not hard enough? Or just right? Only you can answer that question!
7:50 AM Heard the one about the young man who wanted to become a great writer when he grew up? When asked what he meant by "great," he replied, "I want to write what the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream in pain and anger!"
Today he works for Microsoft writing error messages.
Off to the gym.
Thursday, September 20
2:26 PM Hey folks. I just finished a 20-mile bike.
Like most people, I think of lots of things when I'm biking (or running, or walking).
Today my random thought was: I wonder why Paul used so many agricultural metaphors in his writings. Specifically, he mentions the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians -- a book I've been pondering of late, as you can probably tell. Please tell me I'm not the only person who likes to take a metaphor and translate it into non-metaphorical language. So, why did Paul say "fruit" of the Spirit when he could have said "deeds" or "works" or "expressions" or "products"? He must have thought there was an important distinction between the "works" of the flesh and the "fruit" of the Spirit, ya think? I once heard someone say that it's the difference between the fruit on a tree in an orchard and the ornaments on a Christmas tree in your living room. The Christmas tree ornaments have no living connection to the tree. They are completely independent objects that we hang on the tree. But fruit has a vital connection to the tree. Without the life in the tree, there can be no fruit on the tree.
As I pondered this question while riding along, I thought back to the lecture I gave yesterday on what the apostle Paul says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the book of Galatians. It's one thing to know the will of God. It's another thing to actually do God's will. And the amazing thing is that the obedience that God requires in our lives is exactly the same obedience that He enables. Because I wasn't able to do this in my lecture yesterday due to time constraints, I want to point out here four additional metaphors Paul uses to describe how we are to live the Christian life. These are all to be found in the 5th chapter of Galatians. They are:
To walk in the Spirit is to live by the power that the Spirit gives us. To be led by the Spirit is to allow the Spirit to direct our lives instead of our fallen, sinful natures. To keep in step in the Spirit is a wonderful military metaphor. "Left, right, left, right," goes the drill sergeant, and likewise we place our feet wherever the Holy Spirit is wanting us to place them. Finally, we need to sow to the Spirit if we are to bear the "fruit" of the Spirit.
So you might wonder: How do I know whether or not I am walking in, being led by, keeping in step with, and sowing to the Spirit? The Bible is clear that this does not happen automatically. As Paul says in Eph. 5:18, we have to invite the Holy Spirit of God to control our lives. I don't know about you, but I have to do this on a daily basis at least. Every morning, before I set foot on the floor, I pray a very simple prayer: "Father, thank You so much for this new day. It belongs to You. My goal this day is to please You. Lord Jesus, You are my King and my Master. My goal this day is to serve You. And Holy Spirit, please fill me with Your power and presence so that I may be enabled to please the Father and serve the Lord Christ." Then I begin to proceed through my day. I'm constantly asking, "Lord, what would you have me do today? What shall I write today, if anything? How shall I serve you today? What emails and text messages should I answer and when? Who needs a phone call of encouragement from me today? What exercises shall I do today to maintain this temple You've given me? Where and for how long shall I meditate on Your word? Shall I cut grass today or tomorrow?"
As for prayer, for me the key verse is Eph. 5:18: "praying at all times in the Spirit." I don't want prayer to be a do-it-yourself activity. I want to pray when the Spirit is prompting me to pray, all throughout the day. Plus, keep in mind that prayer is much more than spoken communication. Prayer is also communion -- a moment by moment, step by step, relationship with God. Not only do I pray when I get up in the morning, but I pray while biking or running, while doing the kitchen dishes, while standing in the grocery store line, while taking a shower. I'm not very good at compartmentalizing: This is spiritual, and this isn't. Sometimes my prayer is a quick "Thanks." Often it's a desperate "Help me." Prayer, for me, is like talking to my best friend. It's spontaneous. While out biking today, about all I could think about was how thankful I am to God to be able to be outdoors doing what I love to do. Sometimes I pray with groanings that can't be expressed in words, as I did for a long time last night. It's at these moments that the Holy Spirit, we are told, "helps us in our weakness.... And the Father who knows our hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's will" (Rom. 8:26-27). Finally, more often than I'd like, I find myself asking forgiveness of the One I love. That's why, when I wake up in the morning, the first thought on my mind is, "Holy Spirit, please help me. Fill me with Yourself so that I may walk in You, be led by You, keep in step with You, and sow to You."
My friend, whatever it is you are relying on today other than the Spirit for help in making progress in holiness, for God's sake, get rid of it. Amputate it as you would a gangrene limb. He accepts you as you are. And the obedience that He requires of you this day, He will also enable. You can count on it.
Well, sorry folks, but my thoughts are totally random and scrambled after I work out. I think of a lot of things while exercising, and it just so happened that today you had to bear the brunt of my latest cogitating!
7:12 AM Random musings on a beautiful Thursday morning ....
1) On Monday the flooding finally subsided enough for me to drive to campus and so I was able to teach all of my classes this week. However, as I type this, hundreds of thousands of people are still without power in the Carolinas. The death toll continues to grow. The rivers are still rising and some of them have yet to crest. People and animals still need rescuing. Homes are hidden by the floodwaters. Cities like Wilmington are cut off for now from the outside world. Bridges are still out. Oh God, have mercy upon us. Please continue to pray -- and give.
2) I just received my racing singlet from TEAM LUNGevity for the Marine Corps Marathon next month. I hope to raise $1,000 to fund research into early detection methods and more effective treatments for lung cancer.
3) This morning I read the book of Galatians straight through while sipping coffee on the porch. We covered Galatians in our NT class yesterday. I asked the students to memorize Gal 5:1 and many of them did. "Freedom is what we have. Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people and don't allow yourselves to become slaves again!" We also recited Gal. 2:20 in class: "I've been put to death with Christ on His cross, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This life that I now live, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me." I also love this verse: "In order to set us free from the present evil age, Christ gave Himself for our sins, in obedience to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen." You are free, Dave. But you are free only to do what is right. "You are called to be free. But do not let this freedom of yours become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another." I think of my NT students, each of whom is required this semester to perform "towel-and-basin" ministries. They are displaying the love of Christ in very ordinary, everyday ways. Most people will never notice what they do. And yet I know there's a special reward in heaven for them and for all among us who would honor Christ by following their example. Praise be to God.
4) Not long ago, my colleague Maurice Robinson was honored with a well-deserved Festschrift, which contains an essay titled "Arguments For and Against the Byzantine and Alexandrian Text Types."
The essay concludes with this interesting statement:
The answer is a resounding Yes.
5) In our NT class yesterday we were blessed to have John Hammett lecture on the significance of Romans in church history (he focused on Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Barth) and Chip McDaniel lecture on Galatians and the Abrahamic Covenant. My thanks to these friends and colleagues. One is a church historian, the other an Old Testament expert. Would that I could have them in class every time we meet.
6) In Tuesday's chapel service I noticed that the Hebrew word "Selah" ("Say-La") appears in the Psalm that was being exposited. I was shocked when I asked one of my Old Testament colleagues what he thought the word meant and how he would translate it. "No idea," was his reply. So I did a little digging and I think I've come up with the definitive answer to this question. Even my Old Testament colleague agrees. Listen carefully:
"Sail on, sail on, Selah!"
Have a great day!
Monday, September 17
11:56 AM I'm trapped for now on White House Rd.
In both directions.
If I can't make it to campus I've already got my Monday night class covered. There's no way I'm driving through standing water.
9:25 AM Good Monday morning one and all! The rain is falling in huge sheets. (Let' see ... am I "soaked" or just "soggy"?) I have one bar of Wi-Fi but the really good news is that Raleigh and points south are now rain-free (see weather map below) and will start to dry out.
Last night we probably got a good 3 inches of rain -- a nice soaking rain, what we country folk call a "farmer's rain," which means that as soon as the fields dry out we'll be back to haying, big time. I've been sitting on the front porch trying to take it all in -- the absolute beauty of the rain, the pond rising, the animals plopping themselves down in their rain shelters, and I'm feeling utterly relaxed. I love this place even though it's "eine Menge Arbeit" (sorry, but only the German came to me just now). I haven't run or walked or biked much with all this precipitation, so I'm hoping against hope to be able to get in a few miles when I'm down in the Forest of Wake. Poor weather forces you to become flexible and creative. I can only imagine what things are like in Fayetteville and Lumberton. They are still rescuing people by boat for crying out loud. Many people have been flooded out of their homes, and there's been some tragic loss of life. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon for everybody. The campus reopens today on its usual schedule.
Since I'll by MIA for a couple of days, I thought I'd leave you with a link to a great article on the value of walking.
That's right -- no running tips today! For many of us, our journey to fitness began with walking once or twice a week. Before long, we found ourselves giving up soda and fast food. Why, if you're really careless, you may even find yourself hiking, climbing, biking, and maybe even running a 5K just for the fun of it. Before I began walking regularly, my main excuse was laziness. Excuse no. 2? "I'm too busy." No more. Today, workouts are like brushing my teeth. You don't even have to think about it. You just do it. Funny thing, before I began working out regularly, I actually had loads of time. It's just that I wasn't using my time very efficiently. Sometimes you just have to shut up and get 'er done. As we get older, I think we realize that if we don't keep moving, one day we'll plop down on the sofa and never get up again. Do you like the idea of looking and feeling better? Then why not give walking a try? Throw those silly excuses out the window. You can either sit on the couch or get busy with life. Who knows -- within a couple of years you may be running your first marathon. So if you have no pain, get out and take a walk. Unless it's raining, of course. Keep in mind that walking is not the same as running. The big difference is that there's a lot less impact on your knees, muscles, and joints. Moreover, unlike running, you don't have to worry about the risk of an overuse injury.
Life is short, folks. Make the most of it.
P.S. I just now got an alert from the National Weather Service. "Flash Flood warning this area till 12:15 pm EDT. Avoid flood areas." The grammar isn't the best but I get the message loud and clear. Be safe wherever you are, my friend.
Sunday, September 16
6:18 PM In just 3 weeks, my week-long class on Hebrews will begin. The course syllabus is explicit that I'll pursue a "learner-centered" method that encourages students to be full participants in the learning process. I see my role as one of coaching and facilitating the learning process. I'll expect the students to read well, translate well, lead class discussions, and present one section of Hebrews to the rest of the class. Now, I know my method will surprise none of you who have read this blog for any length of time. I've often said, "All learning is self-learning." In fact, the author of Hebrews assumes as much of his readers. He points out their mental sluggishness, and even calls them out for not being "teachers" when presumably by now they had much to teach (and learn from) each other. "How long will you be a learner?" Seneca once asked his students. "From now on be a teacher as well!" (Disc. 3.24.53). Experts in pedagogy calls this a flipped classroom model. I call it participatory learning. But whatever term we use, students at the graduate level need to become actively involved in the classroom and not remain passive note-takers.
May I suggest a starting place as mutual truth seekers? It's okay to question what you're learning. It's even okay to question your teachers. (Politely, please.) It's okay to challenge the consensus quo. If you study the synoptic problem on your own, God will not fall off His throne. Seeking truth on one's own is powerful in and of itself. We learn best in community and when we are Berean Christians. This point came home to me today while I was perusing a magazine called Outside Online. The article was titled Disaster in the Alps. Being a novice mountain climber, that sure got my attention! It's the tragic story about a group of alpinists trapped in an overnight storm that killed most of them even though they were close to safety. Their professional mountain guide simply got lost and lacked the equipment to call for help. Oddly, all of the climbers were experienced alpinists. What makes their story saddest is that none of them asked whether they should turn around when the weather conditions worsened. In fact, none of them even asked their guide whether they should have been climbing at all, because everyone knew a major storm was brewing in the Alps. Why didn't they question the decisions their guide was making? The group seems to have succumbed to what the author calls "the expert halo." They had hired a professional guide, after all, and "they surrendered their decision-making to his." As one of the climbers who survived put it, "Nobody said anything because, probably, they all trusted him."
The lesson? Good team members don't blindly hand off all the responsibility to their leader. You must take charge of your own life. When I climbed the Alps two summers ago, I promised my family that when I climbed the Breithorn, the Oberrothorn, the Kletterstieg, and the Matterhorn, I would hire the best mountain guide available but that I would ultimately take responsibility for my own itinerary and safety.
Walter and I worked hand in glove. I sought and valued his professional guidance. However, we both knew that I would make the final decision as to where, when, and what to climb.
Long before I arrived in Zermatt, he and I had a long series of email exchanges in which we planned and modified our plans. I promised I would follow him, and he promised he would listen to me. It was a great partnership that led to a very successful trip.
You see, ignorant compliance is a trick of the enemy, and if we're slaves to it, we're way off the beaten path.
Can I tell you my goal for my students? I want them to turn out to be humble self-starters who work well in teams. I want them to teach as much as they learn. Becoming educated is mind-numbingly hard. No one is perfect at it, least of all me. But if we pursue truth both individually and corporately, everything else will pretty much fall into place.
When I look back on my teaching career, I want to remember not so much what I did but what God did through my students. They are a joy and a gift and the delight of my heart. Our (participatory) Hebrews class is, I think, going to be awesome.
9:16 AM My "local" TV station, WRAL in Raleigh, has an excellent list of ways you can donate to hurricane relief in the Carolinas. "Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are" (Heb. 13:3).
8:48 AM He did it! Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record at the Berlin Marathon today, finishing in 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. He took 1 minute and 18 seconds off the previous world record set by Dennis Kimetto. Kudos also to Amos Kipruto and Wilson Kipsang for their second and third place finishes. Kenya can be proud today.
1) Can you think of any other sport where the world record holder and the average marathoner cross the same finish line? As John Bingham puts it in the movie Spirit of the Marathon: "Some run to compete in a marathon. Some run to complete a marathon. And the beauty is that the sport is big enough to embrace us all."
2) "My only words are 'Thank you!'" It's always good to give credit where is due, in this case his trainers and pacers.
3) There's one thing that unites all runners, no matter how slow or how fast. It's our love of the sport. Not long ago, marathoning was reserved for elite athletes. What's changed is that today people like you and me can be one of them. We can all become more active. Whether you're 16 or 66 like me, your future is in your feet.
7:45 AM Do you remember when you fell in love with the word of God? I can. I was a teenager, suffering through high school, and it seemed like overnight I had a new desire to read the Scriptures. I couldn't put the Bible down. At that time, my Bible was the Good News Bible, commonly called Today's English Version. It was written in language I could understand and even had beautiful line drawings and a glossary of terms in the back. It was just what a 16-year old needed. I began to realize just how amazing was the ridiculous mercy God had spoiled me with.
How 'bout you? Which Bible do you enjoy reading? If you haven't looked at the Good News Bible in a while, I want to make a pitch. When I'm not reading my Greek New Testament, I'm reading my GNB, as I did this morning on the porch. I was meditating on one of my favorite passages in Hebrews. Here's the Greek:
And here's the Good News translation:
This is crazy, I said to myself. This passage meshes exactly with the movie I saw last night.
"Let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way." For Lou Zamperini, this impediment was his anger and hatred for his Japanese captors.
"And of the sin which holds on to us so tightly." Lou's easily-entangling sin was alcohol. What's yours? Mine?
"Let us run with determination the race that lies before us." Lou Zamperini was a track star in high school. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He knew a thing or two about running. Problem is -- and this point the movie makes crystal clear -- even though the war was over, his battle had only just begun. He needed to put the past behind him and focus on the race ahead.
"Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end." I couldn't make it through a single day without Jesus. Lou discovered this truth as well. Jesus is the only thing we can ever be sure of. That's what I loved so much about this film. When Billy Graham stands up to preach in a Los Angeles tent, it's not Billy Graham you see but Someone you can trust because anywhere He asks you to go, He's been there too. Jesus is enough, Lou, for you -- for all your nightmares and insufficiencies and failures and sins. No one will be more kind to you or lead you better.
"He did not give because of the cross!" People will fail you, Lou. But Jesus never will. He never gives up. He is ever faithful. He is the most trustworthy person you will ever know. You are never alone, Lou.
Do you see now why I love this version of Scripture so much? So here's my invitation to you. Grab a copy (or just read it online) and use it alongside your favorite Greek New Testament (or your favorite English translation). Enjoying the line drawing is optional. But you may need the glossary.
1) In the movie, the role of Billy Graham was played by his grandson Will Graham, whom I once had in class. Central casting, you done good.
2) "Let us run with determination the race that lies before us." I love "determination" instead of "endurance." When Becky died, I only believed what I couldn't do. But to survive the loss of a spouse, you need dedication and determination. Determination sometimes means doing what you don't want to do. People look at me and sometimes think I'm a self-disciplined person. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm the laziest, most un-self-disciplined person I've ever known. What I think I am, and what I think most runners are, is determined. Part of my determination comes from wanting to find answers to life's most important questions. I may not know what causes a perfectly healthy woman to develop endometrial cancer, but I'm determined to try and find the answer. Being determined means mustering up every ounce of commitment and dedication you can when you feel like quitting. I see this most clearly in the long distance races I run. How in the world can you stay the course unless you have determination? It's just not possible. It took me a year and a half to complete my first marathon. Why? Because it took me that long to develop a sense of determination in my training. When I talk to people who say they used to run but stopped because they became frustrated and discouraged by the difficulty of it all, I feel sad. I wonder, What if they had just taken one more step? Maybe you're at that place in life, my friend. You don't need to see a movie to know that Jesus trumps every seminar you will attend or book you will read. Look to Him -- fix your eyes on Him -- and watch what He can do.
Saturday, September 15
8:22 PM Tonight I went to see the movie Unbroken: Path to Redemption. It's the true story of a WWII POW who suffers from PTSD (before that acronym was invented) and tries to smooth over his problems and anger with an occasional "sorry." Eventually he finds Jesus Christ to be the heart of life's greatest decision.
I always go into a "Christian" movie with a bit of trepidation. Will it be just another low-budget, poorly-scripted, faith-based film that disappoints on so many levels, not least because of its unbelievably poor acting? Unbroken did not disappoint. Yes, it lacked nuance. Yes, its message was simple. And yes, the Gospel came through loud and clear. To choose eternal life is a simple matter. You say yes or no. When Louis Zamperini made the most important decision of his life -- to choose Jesus over self -- he found the lifeline he was looking for all those wasted years. The message of this wonderful film is: When you're adrift on the sea of life's problems, you need to act quickly and decisively. Grab on tight. Release your grip on the past. Bad memories erased, old friendships restored, sins forgiven -- nothing is too hard for Jesus.
Take a friend to see this film. He or she will thank you. Better yet, take yourself. Its message is glorious. Grace will encounter you afresh. Perhaps you will even allow God to assume the center of your life again rather than the periphery.
3:35 PM Got in a 45-minute workout at the Y followed by an afternoon of listening pleasure. The Tenerife Symphony simply nails Bernie Herrmann's theme from the movie "North by Northwest." How is it even possible to play a piece so perfectly? Hitchcock lovers -- enjoy!
6:48 AM Happy Saturday everyone! This morning I made myself go over my running calendar just to remind myself how a lazy lump of lard had somehow run a bunch of races in 2018. To wit:
The following races are on my schedule:
If I can keep up this pace, I will be able to meet my goal of running at least 5 marathons, 5 half marathons, and 1 ultramarathon in 2018. I added the Vulcan Run in Birmingham on Nov. 3 because I'll be spending the weekend there with my daughter and her family.
We'll commemorate the 5th anniversary of Becky's homegoing on Nov. 2 by attending my granddaughter's choral performance at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Long ago I read a book called Necessary Losses.
If I recall correctly, the theme of the book is that in order to grow, loss has to be a necessary part of the equation. Loss of innocence. Loss of youth. Loss of vitality. Loss of loved ones. Loss of kids when they go off to college. It's hard to let go, isn't it? But that's exactly what we have to learn how to do. This is easier said than done, but it helps when you have your family to help you through the transitions of life. So I'm really looking forward to what God might have in store for my soul when I'm in Birmingham. I love family. I love music. I love running. And when you can combine all three? Paradise.
P.S. The suspense grows. Will he or will he not set a new world record at the Berlin Marathon tomorrow? Inquiring minds will be watching. Looks like the weather in Berlin will be perfect. Go Kipchoge!
6:12 AM The rain began last night and has been falling steadily. I'm in the dark green band. I can only imagine what those who live in North and South Carolina are facing this morning.
Folks, please watch out for flash floods and falling trees. Given the emphasis the Bible puts on prayer, I believe God wants to hear our voices petitioning for the safety of those hardest hit by the storm. "There is nothing that makes us love a person so much as praying for him" (William Law).
Friday, September 14
7:58 PM I just finished reading Bob Woodward's new book Fear. A real page turner. Not sure why, but I've always been interested in presidential politics, stemming back to my days as a student in Hawaii and reading Arthur Schlesinger's now classic The Imperial Presidency. This book, published in 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal, ends with a discussion of Nixon's abuse of presidential power. To some perhaps, recent events will make Schlesinger's work seem both relevant and prophetic again.
7:36 PM The news I was hoping against hope I wouldn't receive: People have died from the hurricane. You can die from a heart attack because the emergency responders couldn't get to you in time. You can die from plugging in your generator. And how must that husband feel who lost his wife and 8-month old when a tree fell on their house? Death is a fundamental part of the world we live in, and Christians aren't immune to it either. I try to imagine a world in which evil doesn't happen any more. Such a world doesn't exist. Not yet at least. And to think of all the times God preserved us from danger and we weren't even aware of it.
Do you long as much as I do for a new heaven and a new earth without a trace of death or weeping or pain?
12:55 PM As I was running on the treadmill at the Y this morning, my mind went to two things:
1) This is truly sooooo not me. I'd much rather run outdoors. Running on a treadmill makes me feel like a hamster. I get bored easily and survive only by listening to music or watching YouTubes. Plus, you have to be super careful about getting on and off one of those contraptions. Seriously, people have gotten injured trying to dismount a treadmill while the thing was still moving. I remember reading about Mike Tyson's 4-year old daughter dying after a treadmill accident. Yikes.
2) I only have 4 weeks until my ultra. And I'm behind in my training. I have absolutely no excuse for this. Yes, I'm busy, but so is everyone else. I sure hope this isn't going to be a disaster.
So because of the rain, I had to run indoors today. I think people were shocked. Dave might lift weights, but he never runs on the treadmill. Well, he did today. My goal was to run at 4 miles per hour for 1 hour straight. I managed this without a hitch. It was a hard but satisfying sweat fest. Here's what I figured out. If I can run at that pace for 7.75 hours, I can finish my ultra in under the 8 hour time limit. The course is as flat as a pancake so I don't have to worry about worrisome hills. I am giddy when I think about that. I want to smash that time goal and be a super star! All jesting aside, I think I've got 8 hours inside me. And today's run helped to confirm that. I am amazed that anyone would try to run beyond 26.2. Are these people crazy? Am I?
I can't wait. I'm ultra excited!
9:50 AM Did you read the amazing story about some strangers renting a van for a woman in Myrtle Beach so that she could evacuate herself and her 7 rescue dogs to safety in Tennessee? Wow. Now that Flo has made landfall, the needs will be tremendous for disaster relief. This isn't a particularly cosmic thought, I know, but you can go here to make a donation to the Salvation Army's Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief Fund. You can also make a gift by calling 800-725-2769. The link for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is here. Let's gladly do for others what we would want them to do for us, and demonstrate our love in very plain and ordinary ways for those who are suffering because of this awful storm.
8:15 AM So, how are things in your neck of the woods? We've dodged a huge bullet where I live, as some meteorologists were predicting Aunt Florence would pass right over Raleigh and points north. I kept wondering if we would see a pivot, and that's just what happened.
Of course, I feel for those in the path of the storm. Over 430,000 customers are without power, and the floodwaters have risen more than 10 feet in parts of the Carolinas. Dozens of people are awaiting rescue in New Bern, NC. Flo is now "only" a Category 1 storm, but it's still dangerous. I've already informed my students that their safety is my greatest concern. Here on the farm we've had nothing more than light breezes so far and very little rain, certainly nothing like the 1-2 feet that was originally forecast for my region of the Piedmont. The only flooding I've seen occurred in my downstairs bathroom when the Jacuzzi tub I was filling sprung a leak and before I knew it I was mopping up a couple inches of water on the bathroom floor. And I spent beaucoup bucks on that crazy thing. What's that all about? Then I remembered James 1:2-4. (Honestly, sometimes I wish I wouldn't remember the Bible.) The daily frustrations of life that we want off our backs are, says the Lord's brother, the very things we are to endure joyfully. Joyfully? "But Lord. I just wasted an hour on a gigantic irritant." It's so easy for me to fall into complaint mode. Problem is, faith is an action word according to James. When I'm put to the test, my faith and love for God ought to motivate me to handle the stresses of life better than I do. Faith like that speaks louder than all the books I could ever write.
I think sometimes I have this Christianity thing all wrong. I want a risk-free life, but God wants faith. The Bible never guarantees a life free from hurts and hardships. The only guarantee is the fact that He will lead us if we will follow Him. "The world offers only a craving for physical pleasure," writes the apostle John, "a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever" (1 John 2:16-17). Unless Jesus returns, this old planet, with all of its natural disasters and come-hither-and-be-satisfied lies will wage a constant war on my soul. When I graduated from Biola 43 years ago, I secretly hoped the Second Coming would wait until I at least married Becky and began teaching Greek and had a family and bought my first home. Today, however, I hope Christ returns soon. "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King." I've grown a bit weary of Satan's assaults and, more importantly, of offending the One I love the most. The timing of that event is all in His hands, of course. This planet, despite all its fallennness and calamities, is still a beautiful place. Out of nothing, God created a stunning universe and even decided to hang a little blue planet in one of its corners.
Then He bathed it in love. We are surrounded 24 hours a day with evidence of His glory and love. The very things we worry about and fret over are the things we ought to trust God with. Nothing is too hard for Him. What's more, when Jesus left this earth for heaven, He left His followers behind and asked them to serve for Him, love for Him, and speak for Him. This is a timeless truth -- and one well worth remembering when we grow weary in well-doing, as I do from time to time (especially when on my hands and knees wiping up a sodden floor).
P.S. As you may remember, I had the privilege of speaking at a Chinese congregation last Sunday.
I thank the Lord that more and more of my books are being translated into Simplified Mandarin, including Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and Learn to Read New Testament Greek. This is so amazing, you guys. Enormous shout-out to my publishers. Please let your Chinese-speaking friends know if you will. Much appreciation.
Thursday, September 13
12:38 PM Okay. So I think I'm caught up. Had a hearty breakfast before working out.
I ate much faster than a professor of Greek is expected to, but I was starved. (Burp.) After that I went to the post office, the bank, and Food Lion to stock up on more water.
They had just replenished the water aisle so I didn't feel too guilty in getting a few more bottles even though I'm already pretty well stocked. Then it was off to the Y to get in a 45-minute upper body workout.
The gym was pretty busy when I started and pretty empty when I left. Hmm, did I sweat that much? Of course, my legs insisted on running, so I got in a 5K tempo run at the local high school track before calling it a day. It was breezy but very, very humid, as you can probably see in this picture.
Right now the only things I've got left to do by way of hurricane preparedness is to fill the bathtubs and empty out the freezer -- a good excuse to have a pizza for lunch, don't you think?
Let's pray that our fellow citizens might be spared the full force of Hurricane Florence as it hits the coast and begins its jaunt through the Carolinas. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).
7:10 AM Good morning folks. I was up at 5:30 this morning washing dishes and otherwise battening down the hatches for the arrival of Lady Florence tomorrow. Although the storm has begun to track a bit south of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, we're still gonna feel its effects in terms of rain, wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour (or greater), and flooding. Since I live on a tertiary road and at the end of a very long gravel driveway, if the power goes off it will likely be off for some time. The campus was officially closed last night but the plan is for it to reopen on Monday, but nothing is settled at this point. I'm thinking about running today because if I don't the chances are unlikely that I'll get to do anything outdoors for about a week. (Can you say treadmill?) As you know, I'm still trying to find the sweet spot between training too much and training too little. Someone once asked an elite runner, "How do you get better at running?" He answered, "Run more." Makes sense to me.
Otherwise, nothing special going on here. If I do get stuck on the farm, I know what I'll be reading....
Wednesday, September 12
9:24 PM If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how sentimental I can become whenever I think about Becky and all the years the Lord gave us together. I've been a bag of mixed emotions for the past two days, on the one hand rejoicing as I celebrate 37 years of marriage and on the other hand becoming weepy because, well, I MISS HER. Basically, life is about letting go. Learning to accept the hand you're dealt. Riding out the storm the best you can. Thankfully, as a Christian I don't have to do this alone. I literally have a Father who cares about me, and then I have people like you who send me encouraging texts and emails. If the visible cord was broken between me and Becky almost 5 years ago, the invisible cord, in one sense, still remains. Just because Becky is in heaven doesn't mean that the cord breaks completely. It just changes. It ebbs and flows, like the storm surge from a hurricane. I'm struck just now by the difference between my life 5 years ago and my life today. It's not hard to compare what I lack with what I once had. It's also hard not to feel a little ashamed as I look over my shoulder at "what once was." I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to reflect on the past, but I also think it can be detrimental to always push the past into the back of your thoughts so that you never reflect on what your life was "before." You see, I never want to forget her face, or her love, or the trials and joys we shared together. It's not that I want to live in the past. I just want to learn from it. Losing Becky has taught me so much about life:
I honestly can't say enough about what God is teaching me these days. It hurts my heart so much not to be with Becky. Sometimes I feel like she's just in the next room, not a universe away. Still, I am more convinced than ever that nothing can or will separate me from the love of God. There's Jesus, holding out His arms. Come to me. I will give you rest. And I do. I went to Him yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the day before that. I relaxed into that place He's reserved for me, the place where all grieving husbands go. It's such a strange paradox, living in this big empty house. Everywhere I go I sense her presence and feel her absence. Yet I love living here because I love the challenge of trying to make something good come out of her death. If I can't be with Becky right now, then there's nowhere I'd rather be than right here. I'm heartsick yet happy, broken yet whole. Yes, it still hurts. It hurts so much. And I never want that pain to go away completely. Just the opposite. I want to learn how to leverage that pain for good. Because there is life after loss. Life thrives in the fertile soil of death. In Him, there is hope and healing. And in choosing to face the darkness, you take the first baby steps toward the sunrise of His love.
Give me one pure and holy passion. Give me one magnificent obsession. Give me one glorious ambition for my life. To know and follow hard after You.
In the wake of heartache and grief, that's the only thing that matters, isn't it?
Thank you for hanging in there with me. Your words of support have meant the world to me. They really have. You guys rock. A theme of this blog is acceptance. We all move through grief at different rates. So be yourself. Always. You will weather this season. You will have good days and bad days, but the good will outnumber the bad as time progresses.
Monday, September 10
6:55 AM Rain, rain, and more rain is in the forecast thanks to Florence. The rain will be coming down in huge sheets. I love the sound of rain on my roof. I will even run in the rain if there's no lightening. So, this week will be soggy. I've got my road bike with me in the car and I might try to get in a 20-mile ride today in Raleigh. I'll let you know how it goes. If all else fails, I'll give myself the week off from training. I don't want to make light of the situation. I know that some people are potentially in harm's way with this hurricane. My thoughts go out to everyone affected.
Now get out there and face your challenges with gusto. Tomorrow will be a tough day (my anniversary) but I'll get through it.
Sunday, September 9
5:22 PM My thanks to the Greensboro Chinese Christian Church for their warm hospitality today. I spoke in their English Sunday School class ...
... and in their combined morning service.
The theme was "Every Member a Missionary." Many thanks to brother Steve Chang, one of my former Greek students, for the kind invitation.
I need to amp up my training again this week. It won't be long before October's RUN FEST. I feel like I'm getting ready -- physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. And boy am I excited. The human body is a really incredible machine, but you knew that already, didn't you?
Thanks for reading!
5:10 AM This Tuesday I will have celebrated my 42nd wedding anniversary. Let's face it: Life can be brutal at times. And yet it can also be exhilarating. There is something wondrous about falling into the arms of God. I'm not scared off by hardships and challenges. Let's ride to the bottom and see what's waiting for us there.
With marriage on my mind, I was up at 4:00 this morning listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers speak about marriage from Ephesians 5. One thing for which I remain eternally grateful is the desire to listen and learn from others. John Stott's words gave me a picture of God and His plan for marriage that surprised, challenged, and, I think, even changed me. Not that I'm planning on remarrying. I'm not. But I think it's both hard work and good work to be constantly rethinking our perspective on life in general and on relationships in particular. After all, I'm still a teacher, and teachers can't avoid the topic of marriage.
Stott's message is titled God's ideal for marriage. You'll notice it's only 30 minutes long, as are all of his sermons given at All Souls in London. I'm not sure why this is. I'm quite positive he could have taken a lot longer to deal with his subjects. I suspect, however, that the time for the sermon in the weekly meeting is due to the church's unrelenting emphasis on every-member ministry and participatory meetings, so that not all of the teaching is done by professionals from the pulpit. At any rate, Stott is able to pack an enormous amount of truth into a 30-minute message, and you will not be disappointed if you listen to it in its entirely, preferably with your spouse. Think about this: We can't "Live in love as we are loved" (Eph. 5:1-2) unless we are manifesting love right now, in the moment. I don't really care how many years you've been married. Your marriage begins today, right now, in the present. Resolve to live this moment fully engaged, and you (and your spouse) will be blessed.
Blessings on you,
Saturday, September 8
9:44 AM Confession: I am tired. Last night we worked until 9:30 getting up hay.
Not that I'm complaining (much). Despite the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and the ubiquitous horsefly (why are you always picking on me?), I thoroughly enjoyed the work.
I still can't believe my life. Growing up in the Islands, I would have never thought in a million years I would be farming today. Nevertheless, I feel exhausted. Not only because of the farm work. As you know, in exactly four weeks I will try to complete my first 31-mile (50K) ultramarathon. You may be wondering where it is. The venue will come as no surprise to you since I bike and run there on a regular basis. The High Bridge Trail runs from Burkeville in the east to Pamplin in the west. Smack dab in the middle of the trail is the quaint town of Farmville, replete with Southern charm and historic lore. The ultramarathon organizers have decided that we runners will all meet up in Pamplin early Saturday morning and then be bussed to the trailhead in Burkeville (about a 45-minute drive away). The bus leaves at 7:00 am sharp. Yesterday I decided to bike from Farmville to Burkeville because I wanted to see what the trailhead looked like. When I got there, I had the surprise of my life. This is what I saw:
A dead end. No outlet to Burkeville. None whatsoever. Not a road, not a trail, not even a footpath. One of the points of this post (I just realized this) is that we all have "surprises" in life, where things aren't what they seemed to be. So, I just stood there for a moment in a state of shock before turning around and biking back to Farmville along the route I will race in 30 days.
Turns out my round trip was exactly 31 miles.
This is the distance I will have to travel on race day, except not on a bike but on hoof. Mission Impossible much? Let's put it this way. You will notice that it took me 3 hours to cover 31 miles by bike. My Garmin tells me that I averaged 10.5 miles per hour. In 4 weeks, on ultramarathon day, the race directors have set a time limit of 8 hours, with a cutoff point along the route for slower runners. Eww. Maybe I don't want to do this after all. Then again, I know I can complete a 42K (26.2 mile) marathon in under 6 hours because I've done that many times. That leaves me with a full 2 hours to go an additional 8K (or 5 miles). If there's ever a time to be optimistic this is it. Maybe you're like me. You have God-sized goals and man-sized fears. You doubt your abilities. You want so hard to push yourself, but you say to yourself, "There's got to be a breaking point." The thing is, nobody really cares all that much about your struggles. Sure, your friends and family are interested and curious about what you're doing, but it is you who will have to make the investment if you want to succeed. Back to me. I have a wonderful family who loves what I do. But I am the one who controls my destiny. I am the one who has to overcome my fatigue. I am the one who can either live up to someone's else's expectations or work within my own limitations. I am the one who has to kick negative thoughts to the curb. In the words of two-time FIFA world cup champion Mia Hamm, "The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is looking." Love, love, love this saying! It's something we all need to be reminded of. I have never regretted a race. Never. I tell myself that over and over again and I usually get there. Kudos to everyone who gets out there and tries the impossible. Do it anyway.
If I were to ever finish an ultramarathon, it will be because I had the desire to try and the God-given strength to endure. This will definitely be the most brutal thing I will ever put myself through. This is a picture of Katherine Beiers.
At the age of 85 she ran this year's Boston Marathon in absolutely horrible weather conditions. She finished in just under 8 hours. The main thing? She never gave up despite the cold, wind, rain, and fatigue.
"Just keep moving forward."
That's the runner's mantra. Unconcerned about what others think, we make the effort and do our best. All around us, other runners are engaged in the same fight. I tell my Greek students, "It matters little, in the end, what grade you get. It matters that you are doing it with all your might." Doing one's best in the strength God provides becomes the criterion of success. I can't aspire to win the Boston Marathon. But I can run my race with all my might.
The bottom line is this: "You go on. You set one foot in front of the other. And if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going" (Geraldine Brooks).
Friday, September 7
7:30 AM Call me crazy, but this is what I had for breakfast this morning.
Yep, that's SPAM on my plate. Now, why in the world would a world-class athlete (cough) eat something as provably unhealthy as Spam? In self-defense, I offer the following impeccably logical arguments:
1) I grew up in Hawaii. Spam is served with everything. Once an addict, always an addict.
2) Which of the 50 States has the longest lifespan? You guessed it: Spam-loving Hawaii.
Now, I don't normally have such a gignormous breakfast. But 1) I've been up since 5:00 and I'm really hungry, and 2) my training goal for the day is to get in a 26.2 mile bike in Farmville before getting up more hay. Throughout the day I'll drink several liters of water because I'm always wary of becoming dehydrated during a workout on a hot day like today. I don't think my eating habits are too atrocious, do you? I realize there's a great deal of controversy as to what qualifies for "carbs" (Twinkies qualify, right?), but my carbs are mostly "clean." That said, I definitely have a sweet tooth. That's why you probably noticed I had fruit juice with my breakfast, and not just any old juice, but mango juice (see, I still love Hawaii). As for dinners, I eat two every evening -- the one I'm cooking, and the one I'm grazing on while cooking (usually fresh vegetables). I know I need to cut out processed foods but that will never happen (Spam is not organic, is it?). Oh man, I'm in trouble with the diet police. I know I need to be more diligent about my diet, but hey, I'm a guy -- and a busy guy at that.
Which means I better stop blogging and get exercising.
6:25 AM Greek students, for what it's worth, here's my approach to doing Greek sentence diagramming within a paragraph. Note: It has nothing to do with English sentence diagramming!
Instead, my goal is to identify all main clauses and then identify any clauses that are syntactically subordinated to those main clauses. Here's a simple example from 1 Thess. 1:2-5:
As you can see, there's only one main finite verb in the entire paragraph: "We give thanks." This verb is marked in blue. There are other finite verbs in the paragraph (marked in green), but they are not main verbs. The main verb "We give thanks" is then expanded in a series of participial clauses, three in fact:
See how this works? Easy cheesy! At this point, your teaching outline practically jumps off the page:
1) The When of Paul's Thanksgiving.
2) The What of Paul's Thanksgiving.
3) The Why of Paul's Thanksgiving.
In other words ...
1) Paul gives thanks when he prays personally for the Thessalonians.
2) Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians' practical faith, sacrificial love, and unwavering hope.
3) Paul gives thanks because he knows that God has chosen them.
The next step is to produce a translation of the paragraph based on your own exegesis of the text.
The final step is to draw as many practical applications from the paragraph as you can. Here's a sampling (for more you can go here):
Now that is true greatness.
Good day! (Said in my best Paul Harvey voice.)
Thursday, September 6
7:12 PM Today I was able to get in a 20-mile bike ride between La Cross and Brodnax.
It's a 10-mile out and back that I did twice. The Tobacco Heritage Trail is normally a pretty safe place to ride. But lately it seems to be filled with various and sundry obstacles -- rocks, wet leaves, dogs, a few potholes, and even iron stanchions like this one, which actually gave me a flat tire the other day because I couldn't see it in time (I was riding at dawn).
This is more than just a pet peeve. Obstacles like these can lead to injury and death. I stopped by the local town hall to show them this picture, told them exactly where the obstacle was located, and requested that they replace the post that someone had obviously removed from its spot. After my bike, I had my annual physical then mowed the yards at Bradford Hall and Maple Ridge.
Nice, eh? Maybe I missed my calling when I went into teaching instead of landscaping.
Okay, enough rambling. I'm off to sit on the front porch and gel with a good book. Not that it matters to anyone but me, I'm rereading the novel Gettysburg by Newt Gingrich. It's not a bad read, though it's highly repetitive. Unlike moi, of course (wink).
8:22 AM "All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear" (Rom. 13:1-2, The Message). Like a cold glass of water on a scorching hot day, I found this text to be very refreshing. Let's pray that God might grant us citizens -- all of us -- strength and wisdom in these critical days in our Republic and, above all, to grant us the courage to be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ wherever we go.
8:05 AM My friend Jim Voelz has been duly honored with a Festschrift. I got a copy yesterday.
I'm eager to read the entire book. These essays interest me in particular:
So much to learn, so little time.
7:20 AM I hope we all live like we believe. I know my NT students do. This week they turned in their "towel-and-basin" ministries detailing how the Lord is leading them to serve their communities sacrificially this semester. What an exciting time to be a part of the body of Christ! I am incredibly thankful for this generation of young people who are such brave and beautiful believers. I'll share with you soon what their ministries are, and I think you will be delightfully surprised. Here's a foretaste. It's called Hope Reins. The idea is to connect a child with a magnificent horse "to comfort the pain and sorrow that is all too common in a hurting kid's day-to-day life." If you live in or near Wake County, NC, you'll want to become aware of this free, Christ-honoring ministry. I hope we all wrestle with how to best serve King Jesus. I hope we can all learn to live like we are loved by Him, transformed even more into the likeness of Jesus, into God's heart for humanity.
Wednesday, September 5
8:30 PM Nice stay on campus. A couple of highlights:
1) Rob The Bike Guy fixed a flat for me.
2) Enjoyed Chinese today with my colleague and friend Ronjour Locke.
3) Maurice Robinson lectured on "The Text of Revelation" in our NT class.
4) And Ant Greenham did the same on "Muslim Evangelism."
I loved how both speakers kept the words few and the concepts simple. They weren't skimpy on the facts, however. This is exactly the sort of thing I want modeled for my students. It might not take a village (sorry, Hillary), but it most certainly takes a community for true Christian growth to take place.
What's tomorrow look like?
Write a book review. Get up more hay. Get my annual physical. Mow. Do a 20-mile bike. In exactly 38 days I'll stand at the start of my first ultramarathon. I like to keep life, um, interesting, you might say. Yes, I'm freaking out a bit. But I'm keeping my eyes on the prize. At this point in life, I'm just grateful to be able to keep active. I thank God every day for physical and emotional strength.
What is the next stage you're looking forward to?
What kind of planting are you doing in your life right now that you don't see the fruits of yet?
Do you see a link between your physical health and your spiritual health?
What's the greatest evidence of Jesus you've experienced so far this week?
What do you worry about the most?
God knows how to give good gifts that are marvelous. May that be your experience in abundance.
Tuesday, September 4
6:40 AM My toes are feeling much better today. I'm actually thinking about having my big toenails surgically removed. Wow. Each time I run I discover new challenges to overcome. That's just part of the sport. Now it's back to school. Let's see, how can I fill that 10 minutes of free time I'll have this week? Okay, so I'm not that busy, but sometimes it feels like I am. Life is absurd at times. I hate not being busy, which is a big part of my problem. (I need therapy.) I'm working on it, though. If I can get in a long bike while in NC I'll be happy.
This week we have one last crack at the book of Acts in my NT 2 class. I'll be focusing on the missionary journeys of Paul this week. My primary concern is with the evangelization that the church is required to carry on throughout the world. I still remember how enthusiastically Lloyd Quast taught me the book of Acts when I was a student at Biola University in the early 1970s, and I suppose his lectures were a milestone on what has become a long and exciting pilgrimage. Do I really believe in the Great Commission? Do I really depend on the Holy Spirit alone for the salvation of souls? I must then continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send me out, and I must go, depending not on my own worthiness and merits, but on the ground of the merits and worthiness of the Lord Jesus.
Although I'm perhaps known for my criticisms of much in the church's practical life, I seek above all to be a churchman rather than a theologian or a scholar. For me, theology can be distinguished but never separated from the Christian life. I have sought to study and emulate the apostle Paul's theology because it takes seriously the experience of Christianity. The mystical presence of Christ (Paul's "in Christ" formula) forms the undertow of daily life. It affects everything we do – getting up, sitting down, eating, working, even sleeping (which I do a lot of). Nothing in our lives is "profane" if we live to know Him and to make Him known, as Paul did (Phil. 1:21).
I don't know. I like to think of my own teaching as preeminently missional. If we really believe in the Gospel, what should we be doing to advance it? What is the church, and how can we help it transform society? Although I dislike the term "missionary" (the word itself is not found in the New Testament), I admit candidly that I feel "called" to be one. Hence I always ask myself when I read Paul, "How did this letter contribute to his work as a church-planter and disciple-maker? And what can it teach me about doing the same?"
I still have so much to learn. In the meantime, I never want to lose sight of the simple things that make life so worth living.
Monday, September 3
6:26 PM I am now in self-imposed exile from running, now that the dust (and the Advil) have settled. Both of my big toenails are trying to fall out. Again. I kid you not. I definitely won't run again for a while, like maybe before this Wednesday. Lots of other things I could tell you about my day but I can see you're already bored. I did spend one last day at the local public pool. My summer pool pass expires today, which is also the day the pool closes for the year. Needless to say, it was a tight fit; I could swim, but not swim laps. But back to my feet. I would highly recommend the sport of running to anyone -- anyone who doesn't mind their toenails falling out, that is. I'm now without a "next race," well, at least until Saturday.
That's it for now. Time to hit the Advil again.
9:04 AM The following is a glossary of abbreviations in New Testament studies, or at least the ones I know (or at least I think I know):
NPP: No, this isn't the National Patriotic Party of Liberia or the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico or even the National People's Party of India. It stands for New Perspective on Paul. NPP is what happens to you when you begin to rethink things like Greek genitives and then rewrite your theology accordingly. Is this happens to you, I suggest you keep quiet about it.
PP: If you thought this is "NPP" without the "P," you would be wrong. The PP are the Pastoral Epistles, which, of course, were neither written to nor by pastors. Some have tried to replace PP with LTT, but "Letters to Timothy and Titus" is probably too wordy to catch on.
2 Cor.: Second Corinthians. Or, for people in the know, Two Corinthians.
Ch or CH: Anyone living in Switzerland will tell you that CH stands for Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation), but New Testament scholars (especially Swiss New Testament scholars) will tell you it means chapter.
ESV: English Standard Version, or, in some circles, Extremely Saved Version.
2 Macc.: Whenever I see this abbreviation I get hungry for two Big Macs. It actually stands for Second Maccabees, a Greek letter written in the second century B.C. that talks about such things as praying for the dead, the merits of the martyrs, and the intercession of deceased saints.
Vv. vs. vs.: Verses versus versus.
SBL: Society of Biblical Literature, whose handbook, by the way, is the go-to source for abbreviations.
GNT: Greek New Testament, not to be confused with Good News Translation.
Vulg.: Vulgate. This is the Bible in Latin. And no, there's nothing vulgar about it whatsoever.
NHC: Nag Hammadi Codices, though it's probably easier to say National Hurricane Center.
VT: This is not the Green Mountain State but the journal Vetus Testamentum.
Q: Who knows what this is!!!???
For more, see my never-to-be-written How to Write Like a New Testament Scholar.
7:45 AM There's no class tonight so I've got all day to get caught up on farm chores, especially mowing. The grass is so tall I almost need to use my bush hog to cut it. I'm really looking forward to this week on campus. In NT class, we have two very special guest lecturers: Maurice Robinson on the text of the book of Revelation, and Ant Greenham (who once lived in Jordan) on Muslim evangelism and the insider movement. Speakingwise, I'm scheduled to teach at two churches next week, one in Greensboro and one in Severn. As for racing, I've signed up for two events for the month of September: the North Hills 5K on the 8th and the famous Virginia Ten Miler on the 29th in Lynchburg. Of course, this is also the month for celebrating my anniversary on the 11th, which will mark year #42. Observing an anniversary of a deceased wife is sort of like taking a deep breath. I personally think it's worth the risk and trouble to commemorate something as wonderful as one's wedding day, considering that if we knew what accidents would befall us when we got married we probably would have opted out in the first place. On Sept. 11, I will celebrate again how God's grace triumphed over evil, and that He is good in ways we can't always see at the time. On that day, I will choose (again) to believe that God is alive and that He is at work toward some ultimate unseen purpose, and may even use my loss to that end. One thing I'd really like to do this month is climb another mountain, maybe MacAfee Knob again. Being a good Baptist, I love being "immersed" in trees and the complete connectedness you feel with your Creator when you're out in nature. Germans call this Waldeinsamkeit, or being alone in the woods. Any time I'm alone in the forest, I experience an almost other-worldly solitude and peace. Hiking is the perfect fusion of physical activity and the calming gift of nature. There is a sort of primal quality to hiking in the woods that inspires you to appreciate the world all around you. Hiking, for me, is my most humble expression of gratitude for the One who created the heavens and earth. Life is a pure gift, and I pray that I can pay it forward with the joy I hope is expressed in my blog posts.
Have a great week,
Sunday, September 2
7:50 PM Happy Labor Day Weekend, y'all! First of all, I'd like to report that the Lord actually allowed me not only to run a half marathon at the beach today but also let me catch a few "big ones" (wink) while there! Believe me, that was about all the activity I could handle for one day. First stop? The race expo at the VB convention center.
After picking up my bib I waited in line to meet the one and only Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon 51 years ago.
I only wish she had brought her new book with her. Kathrine was nice enough to take the time to tell me about her running experience at Boston last year and she even signed my race bib. How very kind!
After that, I made a beeline to the Olive Garden to pig out on carbs before heading to the local La Quinta to take a shower and crawl into bed early.
When I left the hotel at 5:30 this morning, I was already perspiring. In fact, during the entire weekend, the race directors were constantly warning us about the heat.
That didn't quench anyone's prerace enthusiasm, however, least of all mine.
I fell in with the 2:45 pace team hoping I could keep up with them. (It was not to be.)
The race started out a bit on the crowded side, but after a few miles people began to spread out along the course.
I had forgotten just how brutally hot this course is. I may have even whined a little. By mile 9 (pictured below), I began wilting.
Thankfully, every mile of the race provided live music for the runners, and that always gives me a burst of much-needed energy. I love running through the neighborhoods of Virginia Beach, including Camp Pendleton. I was holding a steady pace, but I was slowing down. The last mile or so of the race was on the breezy boardwalk, so I felt good as I headed toward the finish. In case you're interested, here are the stats from my Garmin.
And here are the stats from the official race website, confirming my reputation as being a "middle-to-back-of-the-packer."
I picked up my finisher's medal and walked about mile to recover from the race. Eventually I found a chair to sit down on while working on my hydration.
As always, Rock 'N Roll puts on a well-organized, fun event. I was especially pleased to see so many church groups along the course, including these Methodists (whose t-shirts had "Love God, Love Others" written on them).
Afterwards, I headed to the beach. Not Virginia Beach, mind you, which was uber-crowded. Instead I ended up in Sandbridge Beach, about 10 miles south of VB.
It's a very quiet place, mostly sand and sun and beach cottages. It's got a children's playground, volleyball, showers, and multiple beach access-ways. Personally, I prefer this quieter kind of venue to the much more developed Virginia Beach. Parking was only $5.00. I saw lots of fish tooling around in their "schools," but very few waves. The waves were mostly breaking on the shore. Occasionally, you could catch a larger wave breaking on a sandbar about 50 yards offshore.
With the exception of a couple of good waves, I'd say today wasn't my most pleasant surfing experience. But hey -- if you can't surf, you can always lounge around on the sand.
All in all, I had a great day and accomplished all I set out to do. Reading this blog post to this point (one of us has had to do it!), I realize I've highlighted only good things about my day in V-Beach. That's because everything was good. Even the hydration issue was never an issue thanks to superb organization on the part of the race directors. There were more water stations than ever, plus ice cold towels and sponges. Keeping your neck cool goes a long way toward lowering your body temperature and increasing your endurance when running in hot weather. It was indeed an amazing race and great training for my big events next month. I do hope and pray I can get into good enough shape to run Boston next year as a fund raiser for cancer. That would be fun! At races, I see most clearly how God has blessed me physically. I am running farther than I had ever dreamed possible. Even the ability to stand up and walk each day is something I no longer take for granted. When I get to the back of the pack on race day, I know I'm among friends, people who worry the way I do, think the way I do, and run the way I do. They are a fantastic bunch. Many of us are a little on the "older" side. We've learned that each race has to be run one step at a time. We're also learning to apply this principle in our everyday lives. Running reminds us that the only "now" we have is today. It teaches us to truly enjoy the moment, and especially not to take our families for granted. Rather than merely putting up with our age, we are compelled to stand firm and weather the storms of aging as gracefully as we can. Not a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. I've never had so much to cherish. Thank you, Lord.
Saturday, September 1
8:45 AM If you're just tuning in, half marathon weekend is here. Glory be! No rain is predicted for race day tomorrow in Virginia Beach. That's good. As for the temps, well, that's another story. The real feel will be 98 degrees and the humidity 90 percent. I face yet another decision: Take water with me (and thus add weight to my run) or rely on the aid stations? And how 'bout the pace team? Shall I follow the 2:45 balloons or the 3:00 ones? (The balloons, by the way, are held up in the air by people called pacers, who are experienced runners who guarantee to lead their team across the finish line at a specific time. It's a great idea for idiots like me who aren't sure how to pace themselves.) I'll discuss this when I get to the expo today at the V-Beach Convention Center. An expo is a racket that forces you to walk through a makeshift bazaar to pick up your race bib. There's a booth for everything and everyone, whether your problem is perspiration or constipation. I plan to speed walk through the expo as I want to go surfing today. Not that there any real waves in Virginia Beach today, mind you. The latest surf report reads as follows.
Real surfers, however, always ignore surf reports. We are the ultimate optimists. "Okay, so maybe the waves are teeny tiny, as in minuscule, but I know there's a huge swell just over the horizon!" Here's my board, by the way.
I designed it myself in Hawaii. It's called a semi-gun -- which either means that you're not into pacifism all that much or else that you like to surf fairly big waves. This chunk of fiberglass-coated foam has been my companion at such notorious breaks as Pipeline, Pupukea, Haleiwa, Makaha, Huntington Beach, and, of course, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the waves usually break a whopping 10-12! (Inches.) Anyhoo, back to the half marathon tomorrow. Overall, here are my race goals for the weekend:
Thank you, thank you to all of you who read this blog, because I know what I write probably doesn't interest you in the least. I pass no judgment. You are the greatest anyway.
Friday, August 31
1:25 PM Hey folks. Despite a flat tire, I knocked out a pretty good bike today. It was hot, it was challenging, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Training is going well, but there's nothing like actually racing. Can't wait for Sunday. I don't think any course records are in jeopardy, but it should be boatloads of fun, even if I have to drag myself across the finish line.
7:45 AM Two reminders:
1) I saw this on CNN.
John McCain was one of my favorite politicians. His complicated dance with DC politics and all its tentacles is one that is familiar to so many of us. He lived with the fire of a preacher and the soul of a mother. His memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church was thoughtful, moving, compelling, and real. McCain modeled a stripe of politics that many are seeking but are afraid to voice. He was strong but gracious, prophetic but approachable, strident but accessible. I have no idea how he managed it. But I'm sure his faith -- and his wife -- had everything to do with it. "You were his ballast," said Joe Biden to Cincy McCain. How do I possibly name the ballasts that have been in my life? I can't. They are simply too many. You know who you are, and that I wouldn't have survived this season of life without your practical help and prayers. Still, no one can compare with Jesus. Your name is honey on my lips. With You, life is beautiful and terrifying and wild and intimate. I love You more than life itself. I desperately want to come to know You, deeply and intimately.
2) This came in today's inbox. Hype it's called.
The Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series has 28 marathons and half marathons, 20 of them in the U.S. The San Diego Marathon was its original race. Their philosophy is, "Anybody can do it. You don't have to be an elite athlete to cross the finish line." Me, I like that. Some races can expect upwards of 30,000 runners. Think of it as a huge block party. What's more, the Series has raised more than 335 million dollars in their charity program. If you're ready to go the distance, give them a look.
Time for a bike. Just to be able to move my body is a pretty awesome feeling. All this to say that I'm thankful for the things I can do. Thank you, body. I appreciate and honor you.
Thursday, August 30
6:42 PM Why do older people run? I can't speak for others. But I run for several reasons, including these 4:
It's unbelievable. This Sunday will be my 15th half marathon. I can't quite fathom it. Talking about how the Lord has helped me to stay active after losing Becky is very much in keeping with my reasons for writing this blog. Runners are exceptional, yet they are also ordinary. I will never be an elite athlete. But I believe that ordinary stories hold just as much value and that we can learn much from them.
If you've been sideswiped by life, I have some advice for you. Start again. Get up and get going. Don't hate yourself. Focus on the new thing the Lord has for you. You can't let obstacles stand in the way of your journey to the goals He has given you.
1:02 PM I got out of the house today and there was no way I wasn't going to get me some exercise. I plain and simple needed a workout after 3 days of physical inactivity on campus (no time for any workouts in Wake Forest this week). Sometimes the best way to rejuvenate your body is to get it moving. So after a 45-minute workout at the Y, I managed to get in a 10-mile bike.
Yeah, that worked! I almost died from the heat, which makes me wonder what race conditions will be like this weekend. Fall weather tantalized us last week, but hot and humid conditions have returned with a vengeance. Besides, the course on Sunday is notorious for having very few water stops in the last 3 miles of the course. Realizing this, I'm actually toying with the idea of carrying several liters of water with me in my backpack and hope that it will help me to cope better with the hot weather. It would be so much easier to get water along the course but that may or may not happen. Water intake is crucial for me. Even when I crank the pace down to a slow plod, I perspire like nothing you've ever seen. I'm trying hard not to think too much about this aspect of the race, but it's hard not to do. As you know, heat and me are not the best of friends. However, I WILL master pacing, hydration, and fueling some day -- I promise! The one time I didn't freak out over the weather was during the St. George (Utah) Marathon and it got me a PR. I hope I can get my mind back there again. It's a sweet place to be, for sure.
Today I have a couple of writing projects I need to work on. I was hoping to mow (the grass is tall!) but that will have to wait.
7:10 AM It came out of nowhere. I awoke from a nightmare feeling as though I was under direct assault from the Evil One himself. I reached with frantic hands to pull back the nightmarish reality in the fog of my weariness and fear. Hubris is what the ancient Greeks called it -- pride, arrogance, the cult of me-ism, temptations that have dogged me all my adult life. I've travelled the globe, explored dozens of countries, but the darkness of my own soul will always be my greatest adventure.
What do you in such circumstances? You do what the apostles did on the Sea of Galilee. I cried out, "Lord, save me! I'm drowning!" I threw my arms around Him. I got out my iPhone and listened to a Haven of Rest song.
I have no wisdom, no insight, no words that can match the onslaught of the Devil. Sometimes I feel completely trapped, crying out for salvation from myself. And then in the face of all the darkness, hope and joy appear. In the face of the blackness, another Face pulls me out of my own darkness, every single time. I went back to sleep and awoke refreshed and renewed, the suffocating fear removed as if by an unseen hand.
When I get to heaven, I'll see who had the most faith, and it won't be me. I've always been good at life. I learn languages easily and read quickly and speak widely. Somehow I allowed these things to define me. But thorns are no respecter of talent. Thank God, O thank God, that He is the one who walks through this fire with me. Because He is enough, I am enough. Should I be stripped of everything, I would still have Him.
It's hard to imagine a world without Jesus. Christ is victor, whether I understand it or not, whether I feel it or not. I experienced a miracle last night, a forerunner, a precursor perhaps of a different kind of miracle where the healing will be forever. Until then, dear Lord, my kind Shepherd, stay by my side and lead me, all the way home.
Wednesday, August 29
7:58 PM Hey folks! This week is turning out to be another busy one. The highlight so far was having lunch with two Southeastern grads. Both earned their doctorates in New Testament from our seminary. Mel Winstead was visiting the campus from Charlotte, where he teaches New Testament and Greek at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Alex Stewart is currently spending a semester on campus as a visiting scholar. He teaches New Testament and Greek at Tyndale Seminary in Holland.
I believe still today what I've always believed: Teaching is one of the greatest vocations God can call us into. And here are two of His choicest servants. And of all the things I'm grateful for right now, being able to be in the classroom again after 41 years of teaching might be at the top of the list. Since Becky died, I've somehow made it through to a new, better place. Our hearts are more resilient than we think, and the work of healing and transformation can do things you can't even imagine from where you're sitting now. Now is your time, my friend. Own it. Believe it. Become it. Walk in the path God has placed you in. Don't get stuck in the past. And don't try to second guess the future. Give today everything you've got. Never lose the dream.
P.S. Here's my assistant Noah Kelley introducing himself to one of my Greek classes this week.
He's helped to organize a new group on campus called Biblical Languages for Everyone. You can check out their Facebook page here. Almost makes me want to start my Greek studies all over again!
Monday, August 27
6:48 AM News and notes ...
1) This is week 2 of beginning Greek and by far the most important week of all. If students can't grasp the idea of how the Greek verb works (conjugation -- ugh!), then the party's over. Knowing a little Spanish will help. Mucho.
2) So far this year I've ridden 554.2 miles on my bike. I guess you could say I'm hooked.
3) I highly recommend the Joshua Project for anyone wanting to know how to pray for the nations.
4) In NT 2, we're studying the Pauline epistles in their chronological order. One reason I treat 1-2 Thessalonians before Galatians is the absence of apostolos in their opening greetings. If you'd like to see what I mean at a glance, here's a Power Point.
5) This morning I prayed Phil. 1:9-11 for my grandkids. They will need love. They will need knowledge (love is never blind). They will need discernment (NLT: "I want you to understand what really matters"). And they will need a fruitful life ("By their fruit you will know them"). "Prayer is the very sword of the saints" (Francis Thompson). I need to unsheathe it more often.
6) For what it's worth, I enjoy listening to John Stott's sermons. His series on Ephesians is outstanding. His sermon titles are always catchy and, hence, memorable. I bet you can complete the following message titles:
7) Daily Dose of Greek continues to amaze me. Greek student, bookmark it today.
8) The director of the Boston Marathon, at age 63, completed the World Marathon Challenge this year. That means running 7 marathons in 7 days on all 7 of the world's continents. I got to meet Dave MacGillivray at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May. The man is truly an inspiration.
9) Why your kids should study Latin, the "other" classical language. (You see: I'm not biased.)
Sunday, August 26
5:35 PM Haying has concluded for the evening, early. A bolt broke on the bailer and a spare was nowhere to be found.
Oh well. You win some and you lose some. I felt exhausted this afternoon. Like the kind of tired you feel when you can do nothing but crash and burn, which I did for about 3 hours. I'm still a bit tired but it's nothing a good night's sleep can't fix. My training goal for the week is to begin my taper for the half on Sunday. Come race day, I need to be in top form, both physically and (maybe even more importantly) mentally. I actually think I was long overdue for a bonk. By far the best part of my afternoon (after napping, of course) was working in the fields and enjoying some good old-fashioned farm labor. I've noticed that about a week before a big race all my runs feel horrible. But when I decide to run more conservatively something in me tells me I'm running too conservatively, and then I kick myself for being lazy. What a life. I know part of it is physical fatigue, but part of it has got to be mental fatigue as well. So frustrating, but that's all a part of life, no?
Anyhoo, it's time to cook supper. The rice is already cooking. I made extra for you know who. Sometimes I think Sheba must hail from Asia.
8:44 AM Although it's somewhat reductive, I categorize most New Testament scholarship as either cutting edge or traditional. There are pros and cons to both approaches, and lots of overlap too, but still, most of us tend toward one or the other. (Any guesses where I end up? Hehe.) That's why I was delighted to see on the Nerdy Language Majors website this morning someone cite Stan Porter's view on the "Go" versus "Going" debate in Matt. 28:19. (You may recall that I just blogged about this.) Is there anything quite like a debate about Greek grammar? I'm conditioned to hold to "my" view and never even consider that I might be wrong. Sometimes the value of Greek is obvious. Sometimes it's less than obvious. We don't live in a cocoon. We have to deal with differing viewpoints.
Can I tell you my goal for my Greek students? That their Greek experience will help them read and obey their New Testament. Also, that they will never see Greek as an Open Sesame or an Abracadabra to biblical interpretation. Exegesis can be mind-numbingly hard, and none of us is perfect at it. After teaching Greek for 41 years, I still feel like a child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. That's why we cheer on each other's attempts to do exegesis. We give each other the permission to hold to minority viewpoints. The best kinds of conversations are like those found at the NLM site. Sometimes the debate is boring and pedantic, sometimes it's rich and rewarding. But it all sets the table for sound exegesis. Good friends can disagree with each other. The church can handle it. Sure, life would be simpler if we didn't have any disagreements. I mean, I always have the best answers, right? However, the best transformation takes place when we listen to each other respectfully.
Dear reader, you have permission to disagree. But do it well. Being proven right is not the highest goal. Engage your empathy, and then watch how God grows you.
7:48 AM Despite my great love for India, I haven't been able to return to that great nation in many years, so I love it when I get updates from brother Mammen Joseph in Bagdogra (Northern India). I once had the privilege of teaching his son Moncy at the seminary. Moncy's father-in-law just passed away so they are now in Kerala, where, as you know, severe flooding is taking place. Mammen reports that thousands of people have lost their homes. I remember thinking to myself the other night during a thunderstorm, "I sure hope the power doesn't go out." And here you have people losing their homes and all of their belongings. Mammen also gave me an update on the Bible School in Bagdogra (whose building is named after Becky). Last year they had 21 graduates who have joined with their mobile evangelism teams. This makes 6 mobile teams working in 6 different directions. This year the school has 65 students and some of them were the first to convert from their people group. Here's the current class.
Even though I've spent much of my life teaching, writing, and bouncing in and out of all kinds of theological debates, I still don't know how to live my life except at the feet of Jesus, eyes focused squarely on His. Once you taste His love, once you see His heart for the nations, you are ruined forever. "I have found the paradox," wrote Mother Teresa, "that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Joseph, I thank God for you and your family. I imagine your legacy is more far-reaching than you will ever know. Thank you for allowing me to be a very small part of your beautiful ministry. Together, we are the people of God, moving forwards, prophetically embodying God's shalom. Blessed be His kingdom, now and forevermore.
Saturday, August 25
9:12 PM Today I got back into running. But first I did a 40-minute workout at the Y. That was followed by a mere 5-mile run at the Tobacco Heritage Trail. My goal was simply not to kill myself as I was coming off a long bike yesterday. So I took my time and just soaked in the gorgeous weather. We were going to get up hay this evening but the grass was too damp so we'll finish up that job tomorrow, Lord willing. Oh, and guys, I found the perfect Airbnb for next weekend's half in Virginia Beach. It's in a quiet neighborhood and the parking is free. I'm hoping I can get a good night's sleep there. Road races are cruel because they make you run (I use that word somewhat loosely) hard the whole way. I still have a lot more running to do this coming week, so it's forge ahead with my training plan and see what the Lord has in store for me next weekend. I'm not sure my 66-year old body can hold up doing 4 major races in the next two months (two halves, one ultra, and one full marathon). We'll see, I reckon.
And now I must get back to watching my favorite Hitchcock film, North by Northwest.
Run strong, my friends.
8:10 AM Hello virtual friends. Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend. Mine is exhaustingly delightful. Today I need to spray Roundup. This evening I need to get up hay. In between, I'm going for a long bike ride. Not. My quads are pretty much trashed so the best I can do today is either a long walk or a lift at the Y or a swim. This coming week on campus I'm teaching some really heavy duty material, both in Greek 1 and NT 2. I've been doing this for 42 years. This is shocking, I know, because I look so young (thanks for playing along). I clearly haven't always placed the proper emphasis on what's of eternal value, however. Ladies and gentlemen, teachers don't teach forever. So I'm extra careful about what to include in my lectures these days.
For example, this week in NT 2 my students are reading my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. This is literally the only book I will ever write on the church. When I assess the current state of the evangelical church, I sense the subject of chapter 3 ("Apostolic Teaching") is more relevant than ever. I don't care a whit about preaching styles. I love teaching that's based on the text, that's simple without being simplistic, and that's affective -- it affects you, the listener. Obedience inspires me. Talking heads don't. I've been listening to sermons since I was 8. That's 60 years. I once thought that listening to someone else talk about God was where it's at. Not anymore. Now, I'm grateful for God-gifted pastor-teachers. I've known many of them through the years, and I've been training them for 42 years. But Paul is clear about what their main function is. The passage I have in mind, of course, is Eph. 4:11-12. The purpose for which the risen Christ gave the gift of pastor-teacher to the church is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" -- or, better, "to prepare God's people for works of service." Notice that the "service" (diakonia) mentioned here does not describe the pastors but the so-called lay people -- you and me. Paul does not mean, of course, that there's no place for pastoral ministry. There is! He means, rather, that pastoral teaching and training ought to be directed to the enabling of all God's people to be ministering actively according to the gifts the Spirit has given them. Too often we think of the pastor-teacher as the primary conduit by which God speaks truth into our lives. He drives the bus while we sit docilely in the back. I argue in my book that all believers have direct access to biblical truth themselves. For clearly the way the whole body grows is not by becoming dependent on human teachers but by all the members relying on the Holy Spirit to use God's word to help them become more healthy and mature. The word of God, then, comes to us in three ways: through the teaching of gifted pastors, through us "one-anothering" the word (see Col. 3:16), and through personal Bible study and meditation. When we come to Christ, we begin a life of friendship with Him -- a personal rather than a mediated relationship that is meant to grow richer and richer until we see Him face to face. Once we understand this, personal Bible study will become an important part of our lives, a discipline we can hardly afford to neglect. As our "Anointing," the Spirit not only teaches us the truth of God's word but guides us as we seek to live out that truth in our everyday lives. To allow ourselves to depend on others for spiritual truth is to condemn ourselves and the church to perpetual immaturity. What Paul is calling for is a balance between formal teaching, informal teaching, and personal reflection. The apostle calls us to hold these three truths together.
It's our turn to step up to the plate. Run headlong into the life-changing power of the Bible for yourself. Allow the Spirit to speak to you as you read His word. Let your "Anointing" teach you, and you might be shocked how that changes your entire life.
P.S. Did you see the photo of John Lennon's son Sean and Paul McCartney's son James posing for a selfie? The headline reads, "Lennon and McCartney sons come together for selfie." I suppose the words "come together" could have been placed in quotation marks. If not a direct quote of their fathers' song Come Together, it's at least an allusion to it. Those familiar with the interplay in the book of Hebrews (which I'm teaching this fall) and the Old Testament often face the same question. Is this a direct quote from the Old Testament? Is it an allusion? An "echo" perhaps? Or a paraphrase (see 10:38 and 13:6)? One thing is clear: The theology of Hebrews derives in large part from an engagement with the Scriptures of Israel. And just as obvious is the fact that the author of Hebrews read and knew these Scriptures himself.
Friday, August 24
8:30 PM Today I biked from Jamestown to Richmond.
It's a distance of just over 50 miles.
It was the longest ride I've ever done. It was so much fun. As you can see, the weather was perfect.
Afterwards I treated myself to Ethiopian food at the Kuru.
My road bike didn't skip a beat. I'm so glad I bought it. This brings my monthly Map My Run total for August to 245.6 miles. As crazy as it may sound, I've loved every mile. I am blessed, truly I am. I am filled with the happiness and peace that comes from being out in God's nature. Right now I'm about to sit on the front porch with Sheba. We'll enjoy a full moon rising in the eastern sky.
What a historic day. I'll always remember it. I think I'm getting stronger. I know I'm getting stronger. Soli Deo gloria!
P.S. If you would like to bike this route, the shuttle service I used from Richmond to Jamestown is called the Capital Trail Bike Shuttle. Highly recommended!
P.P.S. Praying for all my Hawaiian friends!
Thursday, August 23
9:08 PM "Dig deep, and remember that you like to do hard things." I've decided that's gonna be my mantra for the Virginia Beach Half. When your body tells you to stop, you must ignore those voices. As I've said, I'm using the half marathon as a training run for my ultra on Oct. 13. I don't have any wild expectations for next weekend's half. I've given up on the notion that I'm anything faster than a 2:45 half marathoner. I know that sounds slow, but for me it's actually a good time. My PR is 2:27 (set in Petersburg), but I really don't care if I ever beat that time. If I'm healthy, I know I can finish a half. Plus, I'm learning to feel my pace effort without always having to look at my watch. The main thing is that I'm getting outdoors and enjoying God's beautiful creation. When I run, I'm lost in wonder and don't care about doing X distance in Y time. I'm just happy to be alive, completely immersed in this adventurous life God's allowed me to live.
It's not lost on me that my days spent on a race course are numbered, so I soak up every drop. Running is the best therapy I've ever had, and mountain climbing comes in a close second. Both sports give me an awareness of my God-given strength and the confidence to run the rest of my life with gusto. I'm eager to get back to the Rockies and climb Mount Elbert. Although I've already summited two 14ers, I don't consider myself a "peakbagger" who has to conquer all of the 14ers in Colorado. What I like most about hiking in the Rockies is the vast array of scenery. You start out below the tree line, then all of a sudden you're doing rock scrambling. I'm so immensely grateful I've had the chance to enjoy these gorgeous peaks. The view from the top of a 14er is stunning, like a well-written love note from the Creator.
A summit always reminds me that the best views in life are those you have to work for. I'm not sure how much longer my body will hold out, but if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough. Entering an unknown ultra in October, I don't have much of a gauge to tell me when I'll land across the finish line. But I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I'll be smiling if and when I cross it. Sometimes I have fleeting thoughts of reaching my breaking point before the end of the race. But I will never, ever give up trying. And to you, all of you, who've been by my side ever since Becky passed away, I am deeply filled with gratitude. I'm honored to take you along with me on my journey. I truly hope one day, when I'm long gone, to have painted for my children a vast landscape describing a life that placed its hope in Jesus. We need one another, all of us, sharing our life experiences with each other. We're not designed to thrive as Lone Rangers. Life can be hard, really hard, but not for a second will it ever be impossible, not as long as we have Him and each other. Adapting to our circumstances is the key to survival. Just ask anyone who has summited a 14er.
Dear reader, you can't change the past. You can't change the inevitable. But you can take charge of your attitude. I hope, my friend, you embrace each opportunity you have been given and never get too down on those days that are inordinately tough. Somehow you'll find the strength to keep on climbing -- even on legs that are absolutely spent. "Fill all thy bones with aches" said the sorcerer king Prospero in The Tempest. Or, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, it's not the spectator who counts, nor the one who points out how others stumble. The glory goes to the one who enters the arena and whose face is marred by blood, sweat, and tears.
1:10 PM Raise your hand if you can't wait for fall weather to begin. Today we got a taste of fall: no humidity, a cool breeze, and temps in the lower 70s. I spent the morning in South Hill having the oil in my van changed. While there I did an 11.3-mile bike followed by a half hour workout at the Y. I'm praying about biking the entire Virginia Capital Trail tomorrow, all 50 or so miles of it. If I do, that will be my major workout for the week. I've already done both halves of this trail and I can tell you it's nothing short of spectacular. My next big race is in only 10 days in Virginia Beach. I've done the Virginia Beach Half Marathon twice before. This year the race will mark my 15th half overall. I love half marathons. I think the 13.1 mile distance is my personal favorite. A half challenges you without beating you up too much. I think most of you know I'm training for two big races in October -- my first 31-mile ultra, and the Marine Corps Marathon. Before doing these races, I'm trying to build up my base mileage. The idea is to sort of snooker your body into thinking its only going 20 miles and then gently coax it into going farther than that. I'm so thankful I have lungs that can go the distance without exploding. But I still need to teach my brain to fight through fatigue. I thank EVERYONE who has given me advice about running.
I think that's it for now. Pretty simple, eh? Until my next post, happy miles!
6:12 AM Good morning, folks! Time to fire this old blog up again after spending 3 days on campus.
1) Remember my "Five Minute Greek Club"? You know, the club that never meets and has no dues? I launched this "club" years ago to encourage my students to continue to use their Greek during the summer months. Translate 2 verses daily, Monday through Friday, and you get one of your prof's books for free. Well, club members have begun collecting their prizes. The more the merrier!
2) On Monday I got in a 26.2 mile bike between Wake Forest and Raleigh. Hope to do another long ride today.
3) Joining our office quad this semester is Ben Holloway, who teaches philosophy. (I don't understand a word Christian philosophers say, but I'm sure glad they're on our side.) Yesterday we enjoyed some Korean bulgogi together at the Seoul Garden in Raleigh. Ben is a Brit to whom I will henceforth defer all questions about the English language that arise in my Greek classes.
4) In NT 2 yesterday, we did a thorough exegesis of Matt. 28:19-20, the Great Commission passage most of us are familiar with. Who would have thought there were so many hidden gems in this text? Jesus promises to be with us "all the days" (not "always"; Greek has an adverb for that idea). I would render this as either "day after day after day" or "each and every day." When you're suffering for Christ in an overseas prison, methinks you will probably need Jesus one day at a time! Then there's the verb "Make disciples" (one word in Greek). I asked the class not to use biblical jargon in rendering that verb. We came up with something like "Train." You get hired at Wal-Mart, and you become a "trainee" for the first few months. I might render Jesus' command as "Train the people from every nation how to follow Me in obedience." Finally, is it "As you go" or "Go"? Enter Stan Porter. If you're able, take a gander sometime at his essay "The Grammar of Obedience: Matthew 28:19-20" in his outstanding book Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament. (Even Sheba likes it.)
He's one of maybe two scholars who argue for the translation "Going, therefore...." I'm convinced he's right.
5) Finally, this week I was able (thank you Jesus!) to send to my publisher the final page proofs of the Mandarin translation of Becky's book My Life Story. Mind you, her book will now be available in English, Spanish, and Chinese -- the 3 most widely spoken languages in the world. That's over 2 billion people!
"Amazing" might be applicable here.
Love each other well, my friends.
Monday, August 20
7:10 AM "Old teachers are better." That's the catchy title of a blog post I stumbled upon this morning. And just how are old teachers better?
First of all, let me reiterate: I'm not an expert in pedagogy. But you already know that. I write based on my personal experience and maybe some research I've done through the years. Take what I say here with a grain of salt and do your own research. If you're a teacher, only you know what's going on with you. That said, what's my response to this post? I say hogwash. Age is just a number. You can be 70 and have the physiology of a 30-year old. And you can be 30 and have the physiology of a 70-year old. Ditto for spirituality and maturity. Of course, I'm protective of older teachers because I am one. But at the end of the day, what I look for in a teacher is very simple:
Teacher, I really don't care how old you are. Find your tribe and love it with all the grace and ardor you can muster. Love God and love other people. That's pretty much what teaching is all about. Learning dies in the toxic soil of self. Be someone who aspires to change the world. Keep your office door wide open, and remember: You're as much a learner as your students are. Put their interests before your own. Flee the original sin of teaching (being a bore) with all you've got. Our students crave examples. Let's give them the goods. A good place to start might be with setting a precedent. Teach them: This is how to love the lost, this is how to spend our dollars, this is how to serve the needy. And remember, even if ultimately we aren't able to live up to our own standards as teachers, God is always at work. Blessed are the wonderers who look beyond the faults of their teachers (no matter how old or young they are) and place their confidence squarely and only in Jesus. He is always the best Teacher and the greatest Example. With good reason my students may doubt a man entering his 42nd year of teaching, but it's a lot harder to doubt a Master as good as Jesus. Even if you're not a teacher, I think your discipline, drive, determination to be your best, and guts in the face of life's trials speaks volumes.
By the way, I never did get in my bike yesterday. It rained again. As in thunder and lightning. Don't tell anyone, but I schlepped and chillaxed and even griped a bit. I went to bed early. If you read this blog as I hope you do, you know that I have a Sheltie named Sheba. She is the most lovable dog you could ever imagine. Anyhoo, while I was laying in bed having a mental pity party, I heard the pitter patter of a dog's paws on the steps. It was Sheba, scared to death of the thunder, seeking solace as she used to do in my upstairs bedroom. I knew that, because of her arthritis, she was struggling with every step, so I bounded out of bed to carry her the rest of the way up the steps but she had already arrived on the landing. There she was, with that same pitiful look in her eyes that says, "Daddy, I'm scared." The best word to describe how I felt at that moment is stupid. Here you are, feeling sorry for yourself that you couldn't bike for 20 miles when your puppy can barely make it up the steps. What kind of a man are you anyway? I got down on the floor and Sheba tucked her head into my lap. We just sat there, and I cherished every moment. I guess every dog owner gets attached to their pets. For almost 14 years we've been inseparable, Sheba and me. I know the day will come when there will be no more walks on the farm together or lounging on the front porch. Losing a pet is losing family. I love Sheba and worry about her. My senior tail wagger follows me everywhere and never lets me out of her sight. And don't get me started on how therapeutic these fine furry creatures can be. A dog is never "just" a pet. Thankfully, I still have her with me. For now.
Well, I've rambled on long enough. Time to get to school. There's a short saying I once read about dogs and I think I'll close by quoting it here.
Have a blessed week,
P.S. C. S. Lewis had 8 dogs. You can read about them here. You will even discover why Lewis called himself "Jack."
Sunday, August 19
9:12 AM This morning I've been reading the Shepherd of Hermas. It's not in our Bible, but Irenaeus considered it canonical. It's even part of Codex Sinaiticus. Like so many other writings from the 100s and 200s, it shows just how sacrificial the earliest followers of Jesus were. In the section on fasting, the writer says you'll eat nothing but bread and water, then you'll count up the money you saved and give it "to a widow, or an orphan, or someone in need."
Tertullian likewise notes how Christians of his day used a common fund to support widows, the elderly, burials for the poor, the disabled, and even the release of slaves. Even the pagan Emperor Julian declared that "The impious Galileans relieve both their own poor and ours .... It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance." I'd call this extravagant giving. Rather than extravagant hoarding. And note: Believers didn't only help other believers. They spared themselves no effort to serve the lost community all around them. Me, me, me? No. Other, other, other.
When sacrifice is left out of the Gospel, then it isn't the Gospel at all. Those who have received mercy dispense mercy. I'm a huge fan of "causes." But the real secret? Making the decision to live sacrificially and do it every day. What it boils down to is a pretty simple solution. Stop thinking inside yourself so much. Look outside yourself. Exercise some self-discipline (maybe even fast?). Yeah, yeah, yeah. Easier said than done. I know that. Boy do I know that. My biggest challenge this week is not the office appointments I have or the classes I'll teach or the writing I'll do. It's to stop focusing on myself and balance kingdom blessings with kingdom duties. The good news is that it's a lot more fun and satisfying to be a giver rather than a mere consumer of God's blessings. I can do better than I'm doing. I must do better.
Glad to get that off my chest.
6:44 AM Sunday morning scattershooting ....
1) This was my view at 6:00 am this morning.
It rained all evening yesterday, and I mean it poured. The pond is about to overflow. I think the skies will clear later today. After church I'm thinking about doing a bike since I need to take tomorrow off from training to prepare for classes.
2) Speaking of rain, I just got an email from a friend in India. He asks for prayer for the millions who've been displaced by the recent flooding in different parts of the country (especially Kerala). The constant downpour is hampering the rescue operations too. Please pray.
3) After I finished yesterday's 5K, I stood at the finish line to cheer on the other runners. I think it took the last person just over an hour to finish the race. Big cheer! When you see somebody who is overcoming obstacles to reach their running goals, it's like watching a victorious gladiator. I see such resilience in my fellow runners it's amazing. This is how the running community is. We celebrate each other's personal victories, one victory at a time. Our church communities could well do the same.
4) Next month will be busy. I'll be speaking at churches in both Greensboro and Severn, NC. As for running, my races include:
If I can cash in some flying miles, I also like to climb another 14-er in the Rockies, Mount Elbert in particular (because it's the highest).
5) I've been reviewing this book for Filologia Neotestamentaria.
The author's argument is that ekklesia never lost its civic denotation even when writers like Paul used the term for "God's people." The word "in Paul's time denoted predominantly the honorable body of citizens" (p. 218). As such, ekklesia was rarely used for voluntary associations. The use of the term by Paul also suggests the existence of a hierarchical structure. Interesting perspective, to say the least.
Saturday, August 18
6:44 PM When I heard that BirthChoice was sponsoring a 5K run in Cary today, I jumped at the chance to participate in it. The WakeMed Soccer Complex is maybe my least favorite course in the world because of the hills. (I tried not to think about it.) I finally did what I always do: Hit the Go button, and see what happens.
I quickly discovered: The race was trying to kill me. Murder might be a better word. I finished it only to learn that I had come in first place in my division. I began to believe that maybe I'm not a Cessationist after all. I resumed my will to live and made my way to the awards table.
Instead of a silly medal I got a nifty gift certificate to the local running store. (Yes, I've already cashed it in.)
I could have, at this point, gorged myself on bananas and oranges, but I decided that since I was in Cary, why not beat a retreat over to the Awazé and grab some doro wat. The finish line is nice, but the post-race food is even better.
Before I left the race venue, I listened to the sponsors share about their ministry to pregnant mothers.
Last year BirthChoice counseled 1,000 mothers at their clinic. When I heard that 80 percent of the women chose to carry their babies to term, I spontaneously broke out into tears. I tear up now just thinking about it. Moral of the story: Beware of falling in love with the sport of running. It might renew your faith in humanity. It might also help you to maintain perspective when you're passed by a mother pushing a 40-pound baby stroller during a 5K. Aargh!
Friday, August 17
7:25 PM Got up two loads of hay this evening. This was the first.
Nate drove the second load to his farm while I walked back to my car.
I can see the commercial now. "Honda Odyssey. Farm Car of the Year."
2:12 PM Sweet, sweet, sweet. SWEET. Today at around 7:30 I left the house to get in my 20-mile bike between LaCrosse and Brodnax. I would be remiss not to mention that this was one of my fastest bikes ever.
A speedier Dave has never been known. Yay me! May I also brag on my road bike, my Garmin watch, my padded riding shorts, and my anti-chafing goo? Please act impressed, because I am a biking moron and have no idea what I'm doing. If I don't hear from at least five of you, with very complimentary emails, I'll curl up into a ball. Please don't make me read my Amazon reviews. Again.
Afterwards I returned to the public pool and got in some laps. The pool is Olympic-sized, which means that there's plenty of room for people who want to swim laps and for people who just want to play in the water. Since the public schools are back in session, the pool is practically empty these days, but not completely. Today I witnessed, for the very first time, an Amish family enjoying the cool water on a warm day. They were dressed to the hilt -- fully clothed, ladies' hair in buns -- and frolicking like ducks taking a bath, all the while speaking Pennsylvania Dutch (which I can understand). I mean, isn't America a crazy cool place to live?
And good news! We're getting up more hay tonight. Yep, the weather's been dry enough to cut, rake, bale, and trailer. (I may have just invented a verb.) I'm poised for pickup, but not before mowing again. What happens when the Lord sends rain? You mow, and mow, and mow some more. Then you bale, bale, and bale some more. Also called farming. Which I love. Farming is hard but it's a good hard. It puts you to bed at night with a good tired. Know what I mean?
By the way, just because I haven't been running doesn't mean I'm not training for my next foot race. Biking is making a huge difference in my overall fitness. Besides, miles go a lot faster when you're biking. Running is the absolute best. But I also like swimming and cycling. It's all bliss for me!
6:22 AM There will always be only one Aretha Franklin. When I was playing trumpet in a soul band as a teenager in Hawaii, she was my hero. Aretha had pure talent on loan from God. She was inspiring. She was beautiful. Here she is singing at the age of 73 at the Kennedy Center. I shed a tear:
In its tribute to Aretha Franklin yesterday, Christianity Today wrote these powerful words:
Whitney Houston once said, "We all die. The goal isn't to live forever. The goal is to create something that will." Rest in peace, Queen of Soul. I just said a little prayer for your family. You will be remembered as the greatest soul musician in history. You earned the RESPECT of an entire nation. I'm glad I got to live in a world that included your music. Heaven is now blessed with your wonderful voice.
Thursday, August 16
8:28 PM Well, just so I don't leave the impression that I never miss a workout, I needed today to recover from all the miles I've done so far this month. That's why when chapel let out I didn't do what I had planned to do today: bike 20 miles. Besides, the heat was oppressive. So I drove home and celebrated the day the best way I knew how. I took a really long nap. I missed a day of training but I'm not worried about it. I'm still good to go for my October races if I can stay healthy. I've enjoyed running as a learning exercise. I like the constant challenge and the ups and downs of it all. When I feel stressed at trying to balance it all, I put my family first and let everything else fall into place. If you're a beginning runner, the best piece of advice I can give you is to be patient and gentle with yourself. Find gratitude even when things are hard. This summarizes my general approach to life, though I don't always live up to it.
6:54 PM Today's powerful convocation message was on the incredible life of John Paton, missionary to cannibals. His story was popularized in this post by John Piper. When I think of John Paton, old fashioned terms like stalwart, fortitude, guts, and character come to mind. Our circumstances are less important than our response to them. When Paton arrived in New Hebrides, both his wife and his newborn died of the fever. He dug their graves with his own hands. He stated, " ... my reason seemed to give way." "But for Jesus," he added, "and the fellowship He vouchsafed to me there, I must have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave!"
Ah, the words of an honest widower.
That's widowerhood (or widowhood or divorcehood) in a nutshell.
That's been my life exactly for the past 4 and a half years. When unfortunate incidents come up in your life, you have a choice. You can give up or you can grow up. You can shake your fist at God or you can trust God to help you fight off the discouragement. When that time comes, remember the words of John Paton:
Paton would serve alone for the next 4 years. Eventually he would remarry and experience the Savior's blessing on his ministry among the cannibals.
I'll just add this. It's true that widowerhood can affect you physically. But in the long run, loss shouldn't take away our strength. It should give us new energy and strength. It should fill us with the joy of the Lord, to whom we now look, as perhaps never before, for strength in the midst of our struggles. We must rely upon God. We must also believe that He knows what's best and will help us decide how to serve Him in our singleness.
It must be dreadful to face loneliness without Jesus. If you're in that category today, my friend, you need to start -- I mean really start -- getting the Solid Rock beneath you. The water is rising, and only a house that's build on solid rock can stand.
7:45 AM It's another beautiful day here in Southside. Off to convocation and then (I hope) a long bike on the Neuse River Greenway. Classes for me begin next Monday. In 1929, Ernest Dimnet wrote a book called The Art of Thinking. He believed that 19 out of 20 people don't think. They react. They are automatons. I would hope things have changed a bit since then. I want my students to learn the art of thinking. Nothing is more important. Except the art of living. Thinking gives rise to the actions that determine our lives. We must make every effort to develop the habit of thinking. That's true whether you're a 6-year old or a 66-year old. "The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts" (C. S. Lewis).
Time to get out the water hose again!
Wednesday, August 15
1:44 PM Now here's a scary thought. There's only 52 days before my first ultramarathon on Oct. 6 in Farmville. D minus 52, I guess you could say. I've read a ton about how to prepare for your first ultra and to be honest, the more I read, the less confident I become. Here's the thing. No matter how well you train, things can always go terribly wrong on race day. No matter how well prepared (you think) you are, you can still end up not doing well. So if you have any tidbits of advice, let me know. Meanwhile, my training continues. Today I did a 1-hour lift at the Y. Nothing too strenuous, just some upper body work and stomach crunches while being very careful to avoid anything having to do with my delts (which are still recovering from being overworked by yours truly last week). Then I went to the public pool (which happened to actually be OPEN today) and got in a swim. I would LOVE to lose about 10 pounds, because the more weight you carry around with you, the more difficult it is to run. Being a bachelor who's also a meatasaurous doesn't help. Dietary changes need to be gradual if they are to last, but I'm a very impatient guy. I'm a healthy eater for the most part (I do cheat from time to time), but I struggle with a body that's not built to run long distances. Cooking at home more often is helping some, as well as trying not to live off of freezer food. But hey, the temptation to throw junk food down the gullet never seems to disappear. I still eat meat, just less of it. I know I need to eat more vegetables. Training (and diet) are definitely a challenge. In fact, life is all about the challenge. But truth be told, I have completely fallen in love with racing. How much longer? Only God knows. I'm just happy to be mobile. :-)
After my swim today I kicked back and soaked up the gorgeous sun. My mind went sort of in a weird direction. I began to muse, "Dave, any regrets? Anything you'd do over if you could in your 66 years?" I thought about my career. Let's say I didn't end up in the classroom. What would I have done with my life? Or how about studying abroad for my doctorate? Was it worth all the trouble and expense? I honestly can't say enough about how much fun it was to study in Basel. Living in Europe was such an amazing (and humbling) experience. I mean, where else can you:
Okay, so we never really froze during the winter (that's what hot baths are for). But as I look back at my life, there's very little I think I would want to do differently. I guess I could have become an airline pilot (my Walter Mitty identity). Well. Not really. I can't even change a light bulb without instructions. Or I guess I could have stayed stateside and done my doctorate. Well. Probably not. Too much busywork for my taste. I am now, more than ever, convinced that God has only good in store for us, and that nothing can separate us from His love, and that He does indeed guide His children both personally and professionally. No matter how hard I think things have become, and no matter how much second guessing I do, I have been blessed with friends who show me with their lives that God always makes a way for His children.
I could arguably be the poster child for worry. As I look forward to the next 10 years or so of my life, I wonder: Will I finish well? And by "well," I don't mean "well" by worldly standards. I mean "well" as God defines "well"ness. In the middle of my brokenness, I've arrived at the place where Jesus' "well done" trumps my publishers' and students' "well said." Before you desert me, let me add that I think things should be said well. But I want to belong to a Christian community known for its deeds as much as its words. As John Stott puts it in the book I'm now reading (one of many books by Stott I'm reading these days), "What we need is not less knowledge but more knowledge, so long as we act upon it" (Your Mind Matters, p. 84). Paul put it this way: "If I have not love, I am nothing." I thank God for my mind. I thank God that He delivered me from the spirit of anti-intellectualism in which I was raised. I also thank God that He's still in the business of changing me, not only my habits but my heart.
Like I said, I like challenges. While exercising, my body talks to me. It's telling me that I'm not really 66. "Age is just a number," it reminds me. It's telling me that I am an athlete capable of so much more activity than I ever suspected. Maybe, just maybe, even a 31-mile ultra. In short, today I am the man I always was. Lazy and undisciplined. Studious and self-giving. Confident yet fearful. The body, soul, and mind that I have -- for whatever length of time I still have on this earth -- can still become whole and healthy. For that, I can only thank Him.
8:10 AM Hey guys. Just wanted to give you a brief running update. This morning I registered for the Flying Pig Marathon to be held next May in Cincinnati. It will be my third consecutive Pig. My daughter and her husband will be running it with me. It will be their first marathon. The race usually falls on the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby so the city is slammed packed. I can definitely recommend the Flying Pig if this is going to be your first 26.2 mile race. The course is fun but it does have its challenging sections. I've divided the course into five parts:
Actually, the worst hill comes at mile 24. It's not huge, but it comes at a point where you just want to be done with the race and have very little gas left in your tank. So ... will you be doing the Pig next year? How did you get into long distance running? Do you dislike hills as much as I do? Today I also registered for this Saturday's 24th annual Run for Life 5K in Cary. I think this will be my fourth time competing in this race at the WakeMed Soccer Park. All proceeds benefit BirthChoice, which provides free services to pregnant women in the greater Raleigh area. Great race. Great cause.
That's all for now.
Make America Chafe Again!
Tuesday, August 14
9:08 PM The other day I got this crazy idea in my head. More than anything, I had an insatiable craving to entertain guests in the formal dining room here at Bradford Hall, something I hadn't done in a very long time. My wife designed it, and my son built it, so the room has a very special place in my heart. So tonight I hosted the Bradsher clan and we spent the better part of 3 hours having the most fun. My granddaughter set the table, and did a marvelous job don't ya think?
They risked their digestions on my homemade spaghetti, and then we enjoyed fresh cobbler (as in baked today) that my daughter brought.
The kids enjoyed feeding the donks ...
... and petting them ...
... and Papa B, of course, enjoyed reading to them a story ("Melody's Cookie Cover Up" in the Psalty series).
It's hard to sit down and try to quantify just how full my heart is right now. Today? Definitely a good one.
Let's see. Shall I bike or climb a mountain tomorrow?
3:30 PM Just back from my bike in Farmville. As you can see, it was a beautiful day to be outdoors.
The humidity was less than 50 percent. I got in my 20 miles.
But I felt like I could have kept going forever. I came home floating. Thank you, Lord, for this gorgeous day.
8:24 AM Good morning, fellow Gospelers! Today I'm writing up my review of this 600-page doctoral dissertation.
Ronald Hock, in his now classic The Social Context of Paul's Ministry: Tentmaking and Apostleship, argued that Paul had four possible means of support to finance his missionary work:
In this dissertation, the author argues that Paul availed himself of a fifth model: the societas. There's nothing really new here, of course. Years ago, Paul Sampley made much the same argument in his Pauline Partnership with Christ (which I cite extensively in my essay on the authorship of the Christ hymn in Phil. 2:5-11). What's new in this dissertation is the author's thorough examination of hitherto neglected documentary sources, namely the papyri and inscriptions. Indeed, for me the most helpful part of this lengthy tome are the two appendices on (1) partnership language in the inscriptions and (2) partnership language in the papyri.
Right now I'm off to pick up my mountain bike in Farmville and get in a long ride. The day is absolutely gorgeous and I may end up getting in some laps at the public pool afterwards. Then it's back home to mow the yard and prepare a meal for my dinner guests.
Make it a great day wherever you are!
Monday, August 13
4:55 PM I'm having dinner guests tomorrow night so I figured it was time to get the puppy all purdied up. Sorry, Sheba girl, for using men's shampoo on you, but that's all I got.
Right now she's experiencing post-bath hyperactivity. Don't know what that is? Just ask any dog owner. Sheba is 97 years old on the human scale. The sweet thing has to use the handicap ramp to get up and down the porch. Girl, I'm probably not far behind you. There's only so much you can do when a faithful companion grows old. Old dogs, like older people, need lots of TLC. I've had Sheba for just over 13 years now. I can still remember the day when Becky brought her home from Greensboro. Sheba stole my heart then and she steals my heart today. I'm one blessed guy to still have her around. She is such a big part of our family. Everybody loves Sheba. Shelties are awesome dogs. Great temperaments, and loving personalities. I honestly can't imagine life without one.
4:04 PM Hey guys. Just thought I'd give you a quick workout update. My training schedule for today called for a 20-mile bike at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. Because it's a crushed gravel surface, I can only use my mountain bike on it and not my road bike. My mountain bike has been in the shop in Farmville and I was planning on getting it out today for my ride but forgot that the store is closed on Mondays, so instead I did a 10-mile bike at the Tobacco Heritage Trail between LaCrosse and Brodnax, VA. Afterwards I planned on doing a 250-yard swim at the public pool, but for some reason it too was closed today, so I did my swim at the Y instead.
I feel really good about both of my workouts today, so I'm giving myself a big thumbs up. My ultra is exactly 2 months from today and I still have lots of preparation to do for the race. So tomorrow I'll pick up my mountain bike and try to get in a good long 20-miler. I'm halfway through the month and I still plan to get in another 100 miles or so of training, Lord willing.
I'm getting real excited about the ultra in October. Can you tell? I've never attempted anything of this magnitude before so I had better be prepared for it.
Well, I'll stop my rambling (for now at least).
8:40 AM Next week Wednesday my NT 2 class begins. The official title is "New Testament Introduction and Interpretation 2." Yawn. I'm calling it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." The course deals with Acts through Revelation. There'll be a lot of facts, data, details, information, etc., most of it drawn from my book The New Testament: Its Background and Message. But the goal isn't knowledge. I think of this class as "training" for life." It's like learning how to run a marathon. The first step is knowledge and motivation. But the real test comes only by running the race itself. It's the same with learning how to become New Covenant Christians. Truth receivers need to become truth practitioners. Here's a screen shot from the syllabus. Get the idea?
Hence I've designed the following SLOs for the class (Student Learning Outcomes). By the end of the course students will be able to:
Hear this: I don't think God wants us to minimize knowledge. Ignorance isn't His medium. But Jesus finished the "discussion" on the cross, and that's exactly where we all need to go as well. There's no time for anything else. So while we're warring with each other, Jesus is waging war against sin and injustice and is calling us to join Him. The Christian life actually isn't all that complicated. You gain your life by losing it. What really counts is that all the information and knowledge we amass be conformed to one purpose: to allow us to speak more clearly and unambiguously God's truth into a hurting world.
Today I'm happily sequestered on 123 beautiful acres enjoying the morning breeze and watching the donkeys nip grass. The Artist of the Universe is everywhere you look, but He's also fanning to flames in my heart the desire to live out His mission. If we all lived sacrificially, the world couldn't ignore us any longer.
Sunday, August 12
6:02 PM Thank You Notes:
1) Thank you, petroleum jelly. You make races possible. You are my soul mate.
2) Thank you, Phil. 4:13. I know Paul probably didn't have running in mind when he wrote that promise, and yes, I realize that the exegesis here might be a little suspect, but the guy I met today at the race with that verse on his t-shirt was at least being intentional about the Gospel.
3) Thank you, anonymous ATC who tried to help a suicidal pilot land his stolen aircraft yesterday, for doing such a great job in what I imagine were very trying circumstances. No controller I would suspect is trained to deal with mental heath issues but there you were, dealing with it anyway. Hope you get the support you deserve. You did one fantastic job. I might use the YouTube of your conversation when I discuss Jesus as our sympathetic High Priest in Hebrews 4 this semester.
4) Thank you, Heather Heyer's mom, for the reminder that we never forget our lost loved ones but work as hard as we can to leverage their death for good. Prayers going up on this, the one-year anniversary of her senseless murder.
5) Than you, Other Runners. Just when I feel like I want to quit, you give me the Head Nod of Approval, and on I go. Lord, let me be an encouragement to others like that.
4:12 PM Hey guys! The race is over and the results are in. First place went to 33-year old Dwayne Dixon with a time of 40:54. I finished 258th out of 358 participants with a time of 1:17:54. I placed second in my division (ages 65-69).
I've gotten to know both of these guys pretty well over the past year. They've been regulars in the greater Raleigh tri circuit for decades. In fact, this is the same order the three of us placed in the Rex Wellness Triathlon in Garner a few weeks ago. Ron Sauer always comes in first, and Ken Frinzl or I usually appear in second or third place out of about 6 runners in our age group. Today was Ron's 68th birthday. His wife told me before the race, "It's Ron's birthday today, so be sure to let him win." To which I drily replied, "You have nothing to worry about, I assure you." Ron always beats me by a good 12-13 minutes. After the awards ceremony, I told Ron to hurry up and graduate to the 70-99 age group so I could be rid of him! I consider myself a casual runner and not a competitive runner. As someone who finished next to last in the Allen (TX) Marathon on January 1 of this year (the temp was 1 degree that morning; there were 750 runners signed up for the race; 44 finished; I was #43), I can tell you what it feels like to have a police car or an ambulance trailing you. But the emotion of just crossing the finish line is as powerful for the last place finisher as for the first. That said, there's no denying the fact the human soul is made for competition. I've found myself locked in battle with people twice my age and half my age. As long as the competition remains "friendly," all is well. I love running with (and against!) Ron and Ken, but regardless of my finish time, I can look myself in the eye with respect after the race because I've done my best. You may not be the fastest person out there on the course, my friend, but running will embrace you anyway and offer you rewards beyond a cheap medal and a t-shirt. One day, in fact, you won't even recognize yourself. And if you run long enough, you'll come across some really inspiring people and even get to know their names and faces. Ken climbed Kilimanjaro last year. In a month he leaves for Machu Pichu. And he's 67. Both of these guys are in-your-face reminders to me that I have the God-given capability inside myself to overcome so much. Today I got back to the house sweaty and a bit weary, but then I immediately started planning for my training tomorrow. I guess the old saying is true after all: Behave like a runner long enough and you eventually become one.
Thanks for reading,
Saturday, August 11
3:40 PM I'm very excited -- and nervous -- about tomorrow's sprint triathlon in Wake Forest. Excited because when I did this event last year I did the bike portion on my super slow mountain bike and was killed in that leg. Hopefully this year I can set a new PR for the course. But I'm also nervous. Last week, while lifting at the gym, I pulled a muscle in my right deltoid. Not a big tear, but just enough to make you uncomfortable. Of course, since you don't use your delts when cycling or running, that shouldn't be an issue tomorrow. But swimming is altogether another story. I use the crawl stroke during triathlons. This involves four basis phrases:
You use your delts during each phase of this stroke. I'm not anticipating any major problems tomorrow, though I won't be surprised if my swim time is slower than usual. Once again, I'll be starting the swim at the back of the pack because there's a lot less jostling when you do that and it allows you to avoid the "washing machine" effect. At 66, I love the challenge of a triathlon. I triathlon (there, I just made the noun into a verb!) because I love the hours you put into training and because I enjoy being around obsessed people. Oh yeah, I can also be competitive, but mostly with myself. Am I trying to prove something? Maybe!
By the way, one of our new faculty members is a runner. He's even done a few marathons though he tells me he hasn't run in years. Well, I told him it's never too late to start running -- again. When I finished my first 5K, the urge to keep going hit me like a ton of bricks. In many ways, running was my own mental therapy. Today I wake up every morning more thankful than ever for the ability to move. I hope to run both Chicago and New York next year, and maybe Boston the following. But I also love to motivate others to cross the finish line. Don't let your age stand in the way of your running. It's never too late to start. Studies have shown that it's not only safe for people over 50 to run marathons, but that it can improve your overall fitness. If I'm that slow and can still finish endurance challenges, surely you can too. First place, last place, or somewhere in the middle, get out there and just enjoy yourself!
P.S. The latest weather in Wake Forest? "Showers and a thunderstorm tomorrow morning through Monday afternoon." O my.
10:50 AM Hey, check out Flourishing Faith, where you can preorder custom made paintings like these.
Ain't they beautiful? I've already ordered two as gifts (one for myself!).
9:45 AM Hello bloggers! I've finally decided to give you a summary of John Stott's book The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to summarize the writings of a man who was such a profound thinker? For cry'n out loud! Stott discusses (among many things) the church's "self-understanding." In fact, I might call chapter 3 a "mini-theology" of the church. I can summarize the heart of Stott's discussion in three points:
1) There are two false images of the church prevalent today. On the one hand is what Stott calls "introverted Christianity." This is the church that is completely into itself, like an ingrown toenail. The church resembles little more than a golf club, except that the focus is God rather than golf. At the opposite extreme, says Stott, lies "religionless Christianity." The focus here is not on divine service but the secular city. Worship is reinterpreted as mission, love for God as love for neighbor, and prayer to God as encounter with people.
2) There's a third way to understand the church, says Stott, a way that combines what is true in both false images, a way that recognizes that followers of Jesus have a responsibility both to gather and to go, to worship God and to serve the world, to maintain a vertical focus and a horizontal focus at the very same time. Stott calls this the "double identity of the church." The church is the people of God who've been called out of the world to worship God and then sent right back into the world to witness and serve in Jesus' name. The church, in other words, is both "holy" (set apart) and apostolic (incarnational).
3) Nobody has exhibited such "holy worldliness" (the term is Alec Vidler's) better than the Lord Jesus Himself who, on the one hand, never compromised His own unique identity but who, on the other hand, assumed the full reality of our humanness and made Himself one with us in our frailty. This Jesus now sends us into the world (John 20:21) to penetrate other people's worlds just as He penetrated ours. We do this in three ways, says Stott:
I don't think any of us would disagree with the three points Stott makes above. Our churches are either too ingrown or too worldly. But our divine calling is to be holy and worldly at the same time. Stott writes:
Please read that again. The center of the church, Stott insists, lies outside itself. Or, as I've said ad nauseum on this blog, the gathering exists for the going. This is essential. Because if we fail to get this right, we are in danger of perpetuating "come" structures rather than "go" structures. The gathering becomes an end in itself, not a means of impacting the world with the gospel.
Put all this together and you arrive at Stott's main point. "Come to Christ for worship and go for Christ in mission." If you didn't grow up in a Christian subculture, this will probably be all Greek to you. But for those who did, do you remember the centrality of "going to church"? Nothing was more important, not even evangelism (which was often defined as "bringing the unsaved to church"). So here's my invitation to you. Turn yourself outwards to the world. This entry into other people's world need not involve compromise. It should not be undertaken at the cost of your own Christian identity. But beware of becoming so insulated that you fail to live a mission-shaped life. Stott suggests (among many other things) adopting a local nightclub, not for the purpose of making occasional evangelistic "raids" into it, but to visit it regularly over a long period of time in order to make friends with the people who congregate there with a view to sharing with them the evangel, the good news. For me, the running community has become one of my newest mission fields. Many people look to running to help them cope with life. Jesus fraternized with the common people of His day. He identified with their sorrows and pain even though He never comprised, even for a moment, His sinlessness. His life was the very definition of "holy wordiness."
There's no substitute for genuine connection. We have the keys, folks! All we have to do is be the kind of friend we want for ourselves. Where to start? Maybe we could begin by looking around us. Who needs a helping hand? Who is lonely? Who is new to the neighborhood? Sure, we can spend all our time doing things with our Christian friends, but doing so leaves us starving for something else. Let's be the body of Christ. And what did Christ do with His body? He gave it away for the world.
I encourage you all to read Stott's powerful book. In another post (to come), I'll try and summarize Stott's chapter on "Giving." Until then, let's stay centered in Jesus.
Friday, August 10
5:52 PM Whew! These past two days have been busy! Our faculty workshop took up most of yesterday and today. Then I got an invitation via email yesterday to write two 1,200-word essays for an online magazine. The topics? "Why Four Gospels?" and "Aging." Aging? Now why would anybody want moi to write an essay on aging!!!??? I mean, seriously!!! I got up early this morning and knocked out both of those pieces. Old geezers don't pussyfoot around, ya know? #writingnerd.
Yesterday too, I had dinner with one of my former doctoral students who now teaches New Testament fulltime in Wisconsin. Nice to see you again, Paul!
Finally (for now), after I left my Wake Forest office today I drove over to the Neuse River Greenway and got in a 20-mile bike.
It's totally worth putting all these miles on your bike since the running leg of the triathlon will be easier if your legs and lungs are strong from cycling. We'll see....
Before the sun sets, I still have to get up a few hundred bales of hay. No matter how busy you are, you'll always have time for what's important to you.
So there you have it. Short and sweet!
Thursday, August 9
6:45 AM Today is Faculty Workshop, and I see that the school has been busy hiring new faculty. I look forward to meeting each and every one of them.
The sunrise this morning reminded me that God is always shining the sunshine of His truth upon our lives, truth that goes far beyond mere head knowledge. An example might be a truth which John Stott wrote in his Ephesians commentary and which I meditated upon this morning. "The traditional model [of the church]," he wrote (p. 167), "is that of the pyramid, with the pastor perched precariously on its pinnacle, like a little pope in his own church, while the laity are arrayed beneath him in serried ranks of inferiority."
Remember, the good Dr. Stott was a member of the Church of England! Like all of us, pastors are so human. Little wonder the New Testament talks about a shared ministry, a "fellowship of leadership" to use Michael Green's famous statement. After 58 years under steeples, I've become convinced of the truth of this. We'll have more to say about this when we get to the so-called Pastoral Epistles this semester. The moral of the story is: Keep learning, keep growing, keep striving to become more obedient to the Scriptures. I'll try to do the same.
P.S. I'm a bit obsessive about the weather. They're calling for rain on race day morning, with the possibility of thunderstorms. Ugh. Are umbrellas legal in a triathlon?
Wednesday, August 8
7:04 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. Today I drove up to Richmond to try and get in a 20-mile bike in preparation for my triathlon this weekend. I ended up going 30!
The course is called the Virginia Capital Trail.
If that name sounds familiar to you, it's because I biked about half of it a couple of months ago. My idea was to finish the other half today. I arrived in Richmond just in time to get one of the last parking spaces at the trailhead.
Then it was time to enjoy the beautiful day the Lord made. Isn't the scenery fantastic?
I must have crossed 20 of these wooden bridges.
If you like historical markers as much as I do, then you will love this trail.
By the time I finished I had worked up a mammoth appetite. I knew that Richmond had a few Ethiopian restaurants so I thought I'd try the one on Grace St. It's called the KuRu. As soon as I walked through the doors the owner Mesi made me feel right at home. The decor, the ambience, the food, the service, and of course the prices were outstanding!
The topper was that the restaurant was impeccably clean. Mesi's restaurant has been open for only about 6 months and I hope it does really well. It's location is perfect to attract business people and university students. Thank you for the outstanding service and meal, Mesi. I hope you enjoy Becky's book. After all, she was a fellow Ethiopian!
I hope y'all had a fabulous day. I know this will make everyone's green eyes pop out, but I'm cooking Korean barbeque beef for dinner tonight. I know, I know -- that all's I can cook.
Happy miles, folks!
6:45 AM Like you, I begin my day by planning it out. When it's not too hot, I do this on my front porch enjoying the beauty of the sunrise.
Then I usually end up in my office typing up my thoughts as I'm doing now. (Dear coffee: Thank you for making all of this possible.)
This is a good time to tell you what I've been reading these days in the Scriptures. This morning I was in a wonderful part of Ephesians I'm calling "Walking in Wisdom by Being Filled with the Spirit." The passage is Eph. 5:15-22.
(Many translations, and even my Greek New Testament, begin a new paragraph in v. 21. This is a grave mistake in my opinion. Verses 18-21 are all one sentence in Greek.) In this chapter, Paul's been describing the standards that are expected of God's new society the church. God's people are called (1) to personal purity (5:1-14) and (2) to practical wisdom (5:15-21). What's immediately obvious is the threefold contrast Paul sets before his readers in 5:15-21. He says, in effect:
In other words, wise Christians make the most of their time. They invest every passing moment in eternity. Wise Christians also discern the will of God. Nothing is more important in life. What is God's will for you this day, David? Have you thought about it? Prayed about it? Finally, wise Christians are filled (controlled) by the Spirit, the results of which are fourfold (as seen in the participles that follow): The praise of God, the worship of God, gratitude "always and for everything," and mutual submission to Christ and to one another. If I'm filled with the Spirit, I will be (1) constantly worshipping and praising God with joy and thanksgiving, and (2) constantly speaking and submitting to my fellow believers. I don't know how many more years God will leave me on this earth. But I acknowledge that what Paul is describing here is not the way I always live. I want to live more humbly, gratefully, hopefully, joyfully. Clinging to the past has not made me happier. It's just made me mordant. That's not the legacy I want to leave to my children and grandchildren.
So this has been my morning -- trying to discern the will of God for me, praying over the day, making my plans, acknowledging to God how disappointed and tired I am of the American rat race, trying to be like Jesus, the most completely unselfish, ungreedy, and unpretentious man who ever lived. "Don't be an imbecile," says Paul. "Wise up. What you do today matters, and so does the why."
So for now I'll continue to pursue a life that is marked by simplicity and obscurity. It doesn't matter what others think. For Christ's kingdom to come, my kingdom will have to go. Time is fleeting, Dave old boy, and the days are evil. Once it has past, not even the smartest and wisest and most gifted Christian can recover it.
Tuesday, August 7
2:05 PM Remember when I told you that I am learning, ever so gradually, to balance activity and rest as I train for my October races? I don't. But I went back and reread Sunday's blog and then remembered that I had not only told you that rest is an essential part of training, but that you have to know when to say "when." Well, today I woke up and my body was telling me to get outdoors and exercise, so off I went to South Hill to cycle 10 miles on the Tobacco Heritage Trail before swimming laps at the pool. Bike? Checked! Swim? Checked! When I left the pool I decided that since I had such a good workout I could gorge myself on hot dogs at the local convenience store. Boy was that good. After my jaw muscles had cramped from all the chewing, I stopped eating and struck up a conversation with the cashier, who I sensed might have hailed from India from his complexion and accent. Sure enough, he turns out to be from a state near Mumbai and also happens to be the owner of the convenience store/gas station. As we reminisced about his home country, I had the chance to share with him the story of the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra that was dedicated to the Lord in 2013. Before leaving, I gave him a copy of Becky's autobiography My Life Story. What a very nice man. I'm so glad we could meet and talk.
On a different (though perhaps related) subject, earlier today I listened to a sermon while cycling. It was John Stott (there's that name name again!) talking about the assignment Jesus entrusted to His followers shortly before He returned to heaven, and how we are to be His body, His hands, His eyes, His heart, and His mouth in this world -- serving Him, loving Him, speaking for Him. This assignment is one we can fulfill wherever the Lord places us during the day. Our words, our thoughts, and our actions should all mirror His character and His love. If people fail to recognize Him in us, could it be that we are failing to do our job? Real love, said Stott, wants to share, to give, to reach out. It thinks of the other, not of itself. We're here to shine in Jesus' name, to bring out all the God-colors in this dark world and to help illuminate people's way toward heaven. That's the way it is with Christ. If He is truly Lord, we can't keep silent about what He has done for us.
Well, it's time to get back to work. The yards need mowing, the water troughs need cleaning out, and the weeds are craving a good dose of Round Up. It's nice to do something other than swim, run, and bike. Anything to get me outdoors, I guess!
P.S. This beauty arrived today. It's worth its weight in gold (and cost about as much). Eager to peruse it tonight while sipping mango juice on the front porch with my puppy.
Monday, August 6
1:50 PM Today I slept in until 7:30, even though I originally awoke at 5:00 am (as I normally do). My body felt tired so I went back to sleep. When I woke up again I was entirely restored and refreshed in body and mind and ready to face the day. On the docket was a workout at the Y and a swim at the pool. I've done both and am now back on the farm. Today's swim workout was important to me because my next sprint triathlon is this weekend. Tris are easy if you know what you're doing. First of all, start at the back for the swim leg so you don't have to pass (or be passed) by other swimmers. That way, when you get to the first transition area, you'll be able to find your bike easily as it will be the last one there. Then all you have left is the cycle and the run. Easy cheesy. If things go well, you'll probably end up in the back of the middle of the pack. If you doubt this, go to howtoloseatriathlon.com, a website that doesn't exist.
Right now I'm typing up some notes on church unity for a lecture I plan to give this semester when we get to 1 Corinthians. Warring factions among the Corinthian believers had led to deep splits. Each group advocated their own "hero" for leadership. Paul was snubbed by most. For my lecture, I've been reading an appendix in John Stott's wonderful book entitled The Living Church. The appendix is called "Why I Am Still a Member of the Church of England." Years ago, it seems, there was a major falling out between evangelicals in the Church of England, with some of them quitting the church altogether while others deciding to remain within its folds. Stott adopted the latter course of action. In his appendix, he tells us there are three options open to evangelicals who face this question of whether to stay or to leave.
The first option is that of separation or secession. These evangelicals argue that it would be intolerable to remain within a doctrinally compromised church. Stott agrees partially with this view. He commends the secessionists for their concern to maintain the doctrinal purity of the church. We should all share a zeal for the truth of God's word, he says. But, he adds, secessionists tend to pursue the purity of the church at the expense of its unity. Stott notes how the 16th century Reformers were reluctant schismatics. They didn't necessarily want to leave the Catholic Church. They wanted to reform it according to Scripture.
The second option, says Stott, is compromise and conformity. He notes that there are those who would be willing to remain with the Church of England at all costs, even if this meant that they lost their evangelical witness. In this option, differences are minimized for the sake of unity. This position, says Stott, is misguided. Evangelical Christians can't conceal or smother their biblical convictions, he notes. That's because our highest loyalty as evangelical believers is not to a party or a denomination but to revealed truth. We therefore insist on sola scriptura. And, while nothing is gained by becoming obstinate or uncooperative, for the good of the church and the glory of God, we must maintain our evangelical convictions.
The final option, and the one Stott himself prefers, is what he calls "comprehensiveness without compromise." He argues that one can "stay in" without "caving in." In short, Stott believes that both options 1 and 2 are unacceptable. Option 1 pursues truth at the expense of unity. Option 2 pursues unity at the expense of truth. But option 3 pursues truth and unity simultaneously, which is the only kind of unity commended by Christ and the apostles, a unity in truth.
Stott makes sense to me. His position (option 3) does justice to Scripture and to the power of the Gospel. I'm afraid, however, that in some situations this option will simply not be possible, especially when a first-order doctrine is at stake. Seeking unity is noble, necessary work. But it's not easy. That's because we church people are regular old sinners. However, God is big enough to lead us all, and who knows -- together we just might see the kind of unity Jesus prayed would exist among His followers (John 17).
Sunday, August 5
7:34 PM This morning's message on Col. 3:1-17 was fabulous, not simply because I'm hopelessly biased toward the speaker (my daughter's husband) but because his message contained all 3 essentials of a good sermon: transparency, relevance, and faithfulness to the text. Obviously, sermons are only starting points. Today's message triggered a half dozen questions in my mind:
1) Is "on the sons of disobedience" in 3:6 to be retained or not? The words are almost certainly original in my view yet they are missing from many English translations today.
2) Why does Paul's list in Col. 3:11 differ from the very similar one he writes in Gal. 3:20? In particular, why does the Colossians list mention "barbarians" and "Scythians" but leave out the "male/female" contrast?
3) Finally -- and this has nothing to do with the sermon today -- since when can the editors of a hymnal change the wording of a hymn (in this case, "At the Cross') without any explanation or footnotes? Didn't Isaac Watts write "For such a worm as I" instead of "For sinners such as I"?
Why should we have an issue with worminess? William Carey's tombstone reads:
If you feel your "but" rising up, I completely identify with the desire to make our hymnody less offensive, but my argument should be considered, especially when the original text makes for very good theology. Afterwards we all enjoyed pizza and I even heard a piano concert by my granddaughter.
When I got back home my intention was to get in a long run. Not. Sunday is my rest day, and my body needed it. At least my 3-hour nap seemed to indicate that. Dave giving himself permission to rest? Yep. This thick head of mine is finally learning that rest is a part of training. The physiological benefits of rest while training should be obvious to all, but novices like me tend to forget that the greater the training, the greater the need for recovery. "I can't be tired; I only did a 5K yesterday" is not the healthiest example of self-talk. The last 30 days in numbers:
I guess it's all about knowing "when" to say "when." Train, and then rest, and then train again, right?
Time to cook my supper!
6:58 AM Good morning friends! Happy to report that the race last night went well. It was even rain free!
I have to start by saying a huge THANK YOU to the race sponsors -- Habitat for Humanity of Durham.
I am overwhelmed by the support they received for the race. It will help them build at least 3 houses in Durham. Besides that, I can honestly say this was one of the best 5Ks I've ever done. Not because of my finish time. I missed a new PR by about 3 minutes. I'm happy because I paced myself intelligently. My goals from start to finish were to give it my best, run the entire course, and conquer the hills (and there were many hills). Post race, though, I was absolutely drenched.
But I had completed a really difficult course in what for me is a great time and a better-than-usual pace. Glory to God!
Afterwards I hung around for the post-race shindig and had some great convos with fellow runners. It's all about planting seeds for you know Who.
Running, like life, is alternatively easy and hard, good and not-so-good, boring and exhilarating. Above all, it's immensely satisfying. If I can't get any younger (and I can't), I can at least get a little bit fitter. Today I'm living a life that only 4 years ago I would have considered a fantasy. I'm enjoying running so much (especially what it's been teaching me about my walk with God) that I've started writing a book about it. I'm calling it They Shall Run and Not Grow Weary: 52 Devotions to Lighten Your Running Load. I love to take my experiences and distill them into black and white. And what keeps me going? Faith in God. His strength. Undeserved grace. His hand in mine. Don't know if I can put into words what I'm thinking, but I'm going to try.
So there you have it. The briefest post-race report I think I've ever published. Don't worry. You'll get used to it.
Enjoy your day,
Saturday, August 4
4:55 PM Just when I was about to build an ark, the sun came out. Whatdja know. Hey, what's that blue stuff in the sky?
Which meant I could get in a 9 mile walk today between LaCrosse and Brodnax, VA.
If I look serious, it's because I listened to several heavy-duty sermons by John Stott while I was walking.
I like listening to God speak through regular people. No affectation. And talk about deep. Anyways, I gotta get in the car and make my way down to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for tonight's run. Can't let anybody beat me to the back of the pack.
8:12 AM It's race day! Woohoo! The 5K starts at 7:45 tonight in downtown Durham, rain or shine. For many runners, it will be their first race. Millions of racers have gone before them. Each of us has faced the exact same fear and excitement. Each has learned the truth in the Runner's Credo: There are no losers in a race. The measure of a true runner has very little to do with speed and PRs. I was reminded of this fact yesterday while I was perusing the running blogs. Have I ever mentioned the name Jamie Watts before? This year, Jamie completed her first marathon. She was born with cerebral palsy. She didn't walk until she was 3. Jamie has to concentrate with every step to get her body to cooperate. She took up the sport of running in 2012, two years before I did. At the age of 33, she decided she would run 34 races before she turned 34. She went on to finish 40 races by her 34th birthday. In 2016, she ran her first half marathon. She started the Marine Corps Historic Half at 2:28 am. She finished 7 hours and 53 minute later. In April of this year, Jamie completed the New Jersey Marathon. She started the race at 10:00 pm the night before. The other competitors started at 7:30 am. The winner finished in 2 and a half hours. Jamie's time was 14 hours and 33 minutes.
Sometimes in life I think we need to rethink our definition of success. The road of life is not always smooth or flat. Every runner has to learn to take the first step. Each of us, in our own way, has to find that courage. Whether you like it nor not, you're the only you that you will ever get. What you decide to do with your life is up to you. Every day, every race, gives you the opportunity to improve. And, as a follower of Jesus, I realize I never run alone. I have never won a race. I never will. But life is bigger than loss because God is bigger than loss. Life on earth is not the end. My loved ones are in heaven now because they trusted in Jesus, who loved them and died for them and who was raised for their sake. My wife Becky lives in a reality I long to enter one day, in God's good time. I hope and pray I will see all of you there too. Let me encourage you to trust Jesus today if you haven't done so already. As a Christian, you will still have problems on this earth. But believe me, the story that God will begin to write in your life will be a story that He will finish, and it will be a good story. Countless people can testify to the limitless power that God has to sustain them through every challenge of life.
Go here and watch Jamie finish her marathon. It will truly move you. I will never forget the look of pure, unabashed joy on her face. It's a reminder to me, and I hope to all of you, that we need to be more grateful for what do have and spend less time complaining about what we don't have.
Run on, Dave
Friday, August 3
9:24 PM Hey guys. I've been offline all day. Advanced System Care just took 8 hours to remove a very malicious trojan on my hard drive and run a full scan. Sure glad we found it. I found a wonderful story about perseverance that I can't wait to share with you in the morning. Night, all.
8:55 AM Good morning, fellow bloggerites! I'm currently reviewing a book called Liebe als Agape (Love as Agape) for publication in Filologia Neotestamentaria.
Love is difficult to define in any language. I love my kids and grandkids. I also love Korean food. What is love? Next time you're reading 1 Corinthians 13, you might try "fleshing out" love. Be practical. Be real. For example:
I think you get the idea. Try writing down a few applications of your own. Remember: Hebrews is a "word of encouragement" (13:22).
And we are to answer with our willingness to be conduits of encouragement to each other (3:12-13):
Paul is writing to a group of people whose world was caving in around them. They were bruised with adversity. They needed to be encouraged, to be helped, yes, even to be rebuked. But if you're going to confront and rebuke and wound, be sure to be there to apply the salve afterwards.
Is my life a message of encouragement today? Is my blog? Is my classroom demeanor? What can we say this very day that will lift the hearts of others? After all, none of us can be assured of another "Today."
Thursday, August 2
6:22 PM Hey folks! Time for a training update? The funny thing about my "20" mile bike ride today was (1) that it was cut short (I only did 12.7 miles) and (2) that I finished much faster than I started. That's because at around mile six I got caught in a downpour and had to race back to the car as fast as the crushed gravel would allow me to pedal (see avg. speed summary below. It's hilarious.).
When I finished, I felt liked a drowned rat. I was soaked, but at least I was cool. I'm calling it a successfully failed bike ride. I am not a cyclist and don't claim to be one. But rides are good for crosstraining, and so I doeth them. Meanwhile, Map My Run sent me this reminder.
While July wasn't in the "incredible" category, I feel good about going over 180 miles. Definitely feeling good about my fall races. Right now, though, our weather is crazy. Let's just say we're soaked. Which makes working out all that more challenging. Weather teaches you to be flexible. You do what can, when you can. But, you are tough. You meet your goal. You suffer. You get wet. Today I came this close (imagine my thumb and forefinger about a centimeter apart) to not biking today. Of course, if I had heard thunder, I would have bailed, big time. That's why I try and keep my goals in mind always. And my biggest, hugest, gignormousest goal for 2018? Finishing a 31-mile ultra.
What are your year-end goals? I'd like to eat cleaner and cook more at home. I'd like to have a more plant-based diet. I'd like to shed a few more pounds. I'd like to eat only locally sourced meat (since I'm not slaughtering and butchering my own beef any more). I'd like to push my body and mind to boundaries unknown. I'd like to draw closer to my Father. I have lots of other goals but they all revolve around stewardship. Nothing I have is mine -- not my body, not my house, not my strength, nothing. Being a faithful steward is the hardest thing we will ever do. It's a sweaty struggle. But it's the most rewarding thing we'll ever do too.
Thanks for reading,
8:44 AM Just listened to an excellent message on "brotherly love" in Heb. 13:2. Note the verbal aspect here: "Let brotherly love continue." My question is: What would we lose if we rendered the Greek, "Keep on loving one another as Christian brothers and sisters"? Much would be gained, I should think. By the way, the sermon pointed out that the 7 virtues Peter mentions in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 include both philadelphia and agapē:
"To your love add love"? I like what the NET Bible does with the last two virtues here. The words philadelphia and agapē are translated "brotherly affection" and "unselfish love." Koester, in his Hebrews commentary, takes it a step further. He translates Heb. 13:2 as: "Let care for the brethren abide." He wants to show how "philadelphia is more of a bond than a feeling" (p. 557).
Just how can I better express care for my Christian brothers and sisters? I know can I do better at this. I'm going to start by saying "Thank you" more often than I do. In my emails. On my blog. In my classrooms. In my office quad. It's not just people I forget to thank. It's God. Why couldn't we write an email to ... God? Maybe it would read something like this:
I thank you for reading this. The Lord bless you as you discern how to better express your love, care, and gratitude toward your brothers and sisters in Christ this very day.
7:45 AM A couple of random musings before starting my day. Very random!
1) You might have noticed that yesterday's post dated 9:55 am wasn't actually published until about 9:00 last night. I had just uploaded the latest version of FileZilla and it took that long before my site could be read by my server. For a while there, I was worried that FileZilla was no longer working, and since FZ is the only platform that allows me to upload from Front Page I thought, "There goes my blog." Does anyone else feel my pain? When you self-identify as a blogger, and can't blog "normal," it effects your entire life. It would be very hard for me stop blogging after 15 years of doing it almost daily. Idol or hobby? Honestly, sometimes it's hard to say. I once wrote a piece called Why I Blog. I think I still agree with what I said then. I blog because I'm trying to become a follower of King Jesus. I share this journey with you in the hopes of showing you how the soul grows through loss and how God uses the ordinary stuff of our lives to redeem us. Sometimes, of course, my blog is little more than a brain dump (like this morning). Either way, I hope you continue to benefit from reading it.
2) The older Tom gets, the farther he runs and the better his movies become. That's a fact, folks. (As for MI: Fallout. Preposterous plot. AMAZING STUNTS.)
3) Meet Yovana Portillo.
In 2016, as a healthy 35-year old, Yovana was diagnosed with stage 1B mucinous adenocarcinoma, i.e., lung cancer. Doctors removed the lower lobe of her left lung. Two years after her diagnosis she's celebrating being cancer-free by running in her first marathon. I'll be joining Yovana and other lung cancer survivors on October 28 in DC, where I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon as part of Team LUNGevity. Thank you, God, for the ability to enjoy running, and for allowing me to meet so many wonderful people like Yovana.
4) What makes something a cult?
5) How to start running. (You knew this was coming!)
Wednesday, August 1
9:55 AM Hey folks! August has gotten off to crazy start. It's already been an extremely busy morning. Not sure how it happened, but I've been juggling plates like crazy. Here's a snippet of my life beyond my farm chores, animal care, cooking and cleaning, etc.
See, I've got lots of pots on the fire. I'm studying the doctrines of forgiveness and repentance for my book Godworld. I love how John MacArthur distinguishes between judicial forgiveness and paternal forgiveness. Wise words. And with this I (finally!) came back to the book of Hebrews, especially chapter 12, where I spent about an hour this morning studying both the Greek and English texts. Put all this together and you arrive at the conclusion that the Father expects us to look out for our hearts and confess our sins and, when we don't, He disciplines us. I encourage all to read or listen to John MacArthur's powerful message.
Meanwhile, life goes on. Today I hope to get in a 20 mile bike before the rains return. I'm looking forward to another long run tomorrow followed by a swim. August will be a time for me to get back into racing -- and the classroom. I'm scheduled to do two races this month (the Bull Moon 5K in Durham this Saturday night and the Rex Wellness Triathlon on the 12th), attend our faculty workshop on the 9th and 10th, begin teaching on Monday the 20th, and "other." I'm not sure what the "other" category entails yet, but there are always surprises in life. I think the old bod is holding up pretty well despite all the workouts I make it do. As for my emotions, I took a pretty big hit yesterday. I was talking to my daughter in Birmingham about attending my granddaughter's choral performance on Nov. 2 when it hit me: that date will be the fifth anniversary of Becky's homegoing. Let's state the obvious: No, I haven't completely recovered from losing her. The tears began flowing. Thankfully, it wasn't the crushing, exhausting pain I first experienced when Becky died. Not the searing, agonizing realization that you live alone in a big house where "she" is in everything you see. But then the tears disappeared as quickly as they came. It's this jumble of emotion that surprises you as you go through your day. And maybe that God's gift to me. Maybe that's His way of reminding me that there is nothing in nature that is hidden from His sight, least of all the pain of a widower perched in the middle of a raging river with nowhere to go but deeper into His love. I'm not on this earth to live my own life, untouched by the suffering all around me. Jesus got dirty and hurt when He was on this planet. What I do know is that His victory over death has been won (perfect tense y'all) whether I can understand it or not and whether I can feel it on or not in my emotions. And so you cry and you pray and you read Scripture and you do, because there are grandkids to love and concerts to attend.
In "The Rebellion of Antinomianism" (see above for the link), the author quoted a stanza from "Depth of Mercy," a hymn by Charles Wesley.
What a promise! Is it any wonder I trust and love Him? For all of this, I count myself as blessed among men.
Tuesday, July 31
7:40 PM It felt really good to get in a 10-mile run today. Feeling super motivated. Love, love, love it. Here's a short YouTube in case you're interested.
Time to cook dinner. Hope your day went well!
Monday, July 30
4:50 PM Just got back from a 5-mile bike and found these waiting for me.
Fresh off the farm. Thank you Nate, Jess, and boys!!
11:26 AM I just finished an amazing 1-hour workout at the Y. I focused on the incline bench press, dumbbell curls, lateral raises, and regular bench press. I mostly tried to work my pectorals, biceps, triceps, and deltoids. I tried to pick weights that made it difficult to finish all my reps with clean form. I'm not a real heavy lifter. I just concentrate on going slow with good form. Afterwards I had planned to get a run in but it was still raining. I could have opted for the treadmill but I simply can't bring myself to run indoors. It's so much fun working up to my races. Training is a great test of one's overall fitness but I want to train smarter and harder than ever before. In this sport, you live and learn, that's for sure.
7:22 AM Hey guys. A brief update:
1) Today I was up at 5:00 reviewing some of the essays I'm having my Hebrews students read for our class. I thought I'd share with you a few of the titles:
As is obvious, Hebrews contains a bagful of topics that beg for discussion. I believe all of these issues are crucial for the church today.
2) In case you were wondering, Ben Merkle and I will be editing for publication the papers from our Linguistics and New Testament Greek conference next April. (Yes, we've already signed the contract. I'll announce the publisher later. Both Ben and I have published numerous times with this well-known publishing house.) This morning I began writing my part of the introduction. I'll begin by suggesting that if we students of the Bible are to have a robust integration of linguistics and Greek, we need to start with a robust doctrine of revelation. We biblical students tend to forget that God is the God of science as well as Scripture, the secular as well as the sacred. In fact, as John Stott was careful to point in many of his writings, nothing is secular in the sense that God is excluded from it, and everything is sacred in the sense that it belongs to and originates from God. This, in our view, would include the "secular" science of linguistics. Ben and I are of the persuasion that we evangelicals should be more grateful than we usually are for the good gifts that God has given us -- including the gift of the scientific study of how languages work. A "Christian" mind is one that not only thinks about specifically biblical matters, but one that can think Christianly about so-called secular topics. To approach the study of New Testament Greek linguistically does not mean that we're approaching the Bible in a way that lessens its divine inspiration and authority. The fact is that a proper application of linguistics to the language of the New Testament is wonderfully beneficial. It enriches us, because God has made us rational beings in His own image. At any rate, I hope that many of you will be able to attend the conference next spring and will also benefit from the essays when they're eventually published.
3) Once again, it's back to the gym today. Only 10 weeks out before my ultra. I've yet to determine my goal for that event. Let's just say I'm obviously grateful to the Lord to be able to get outdoors today and exercise. Despite my frailties and fears, I really do want to run this ultra race well. But I'm not obsessing about it. Running is a big part of my life but it isn't my life. Today I'll probably try for a short run. All I want to do is get loose and stretch and lubricate the bones and ligaments. I want to be as strong and thin as possible for the race. Today is overcast and breezy but hot. So we'll see how it goes.
Thanks for reading. Hope you're doing well!
P.S. Ordered this book (and its workbook) today:
Sunday, July 29
5:32 PM One of my all-time favorite pastimes is visiting churches where my former students serve as a pastor-elder. Today it was Clearview Baptist Church in Henderson, NC.
Abidan Shah was not only my student but my assistant for over a year. He's completing his doctorate at Southeastern in textual criticism. Of course, going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than climbing a tree makes you a monkey. I liken church gatherings to family reunions. Reunions happen because we plan for them. They are times to bring together a diversity of people who've led imperfect lives but with whom we remain linked by reason of our common heritage. And what a wonderful family Clearview is. As head of the church, Christ was clearly exalted today. Abidan has been bringing a series of messages on the titles of Jesus, and today's title was "Christ" -- or, as Abidan had us repeating throughout his message, "God's chosen King." (I love interactive sermons!) Every week, because we are God's children through Jesus, our exalted King, we have the privilege and responsibility of gathering to affirm our family ties and encourage one another on to love and good works. Thank you, Abidan, for the reminder today that Jesus is my Savior and my King, whose every wish I should be eager to obey.
Today I took the entire day off from any kind of exercise (except the type that exercises the jaw. Thank you, KFC.). Instead, I finally got around to registering for next Saturday's Blue Moon 5K run. It starts at 7:30 pm at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park right in downtown Durham. If you live nearby, why not join us? I did this race last year and it was a hoot. The post race party on Blackwell St. is something you'll never forget, believe you me. And, while you're registering, you can make a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Durham, a most worthy cause.
While online I also completed my registration for the 21st Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy next May. Last year the race sold out long before race day so I wanted to be sure I got in again this year. Plus, the price goes up next month. If I'm able to go, this will be my third time squealing in Porkopolis. The Pig was my inaugural marathon race just two summers ago. That day in Cincinnati taught me a very important lesson. You don't have to be super fit, super fast, or a super athlete to complete a marathon. By the pure grace of God, and after many months of training, I was able to finish what I started and made a personal dream come true. Did you know the Pig raises money for over 300 charities (they call it "piganthropy"). The Lord was so good to me when I ran this race in 2017 by allowing me to raise $7,000 for endometrial cancer research at UNC. This time, a couple of my kids are "threatening" to run the race with me. Now wouldn't that be fun! The Pig has become a traditional race for me. I plan to run it every year as the Lord enables me. It's hands down the happiest marathon I've ever done. You never forget what it's like to have that enormous crowd cheering you on. I loved every second of the race, including infamous Mount Adams, Cincy's equivalent to Boston's Heartbreak Hill. At mile 18 there's even a luau with everyone dressed in grass skirts. Taste of home! You can check out the race website here.
Let's see, what else? I've started re-reading my history of the Gettysburg battle again. I haven't given up on making a trip up there before the semester begins, but the weather isn't cooperating right now. Either way, I plan to continue my marathon and ultra training this week. No, I'm not happy with where I am today. But yes, I am making progress. I do have goals for both races, but I'm not ready to share them with you yet. I don't know about you, but being a Type A kinda guy, I hate to plod along in life without specific goals. Without being a tad hard on yourself, you probably wouldn't be where you are in life either. I think it's the way we're wired.
Later this week I'll have an update for you on some of the books I'm currently reading so I can review them for a journal. But for now, my stomach is talking to me, and it ain't Greek either!
7:55 AM Good Sunday morning all! I'm feeling really pumped right now about the Marine Corps Marathon in October. It's a unique event that means a lot to people. It's called "The People's Marathon" because there are no big cash awards that attract the elite runners. Just the moms and pops. Everyone is running for the love of the sport. I'm told that the presence of the Marines along the course makes for a really memorable experience regardless of your finishing time. The finisher's medal features the eagle, globe, and anchor, and the ribbon includes the words "Semper Fi." See, I'm already getting teary-eyed. The globe even opens up to a rendering of the Iwo Jima War Memorial. Plus, running on the National Mall is pretty hard to beat. Last year, runners from all 50 states and 60 countries participated. I believe something like 27,000 runners finished it.
I love big races like the MCM. You are surrounded by thousands of other amateur athletes who are experiencing the same excitement and fears you are. Just knowing that others are pushing through the same exhaustion you're feeling makes the race go so much easier. When I first started running, I was scared to death that I wouldn't be accepted. What I've learned is that the running community is one of the most understanding and compassionate communities I've ever been involved in. All of us have the exact same goal: to keep moving until we finish. The running community is especially supportive of a beginner's efforts. That's true with triathlons too. No one will laugh at you for being slow or overweight of whatever. That's because it isn't the shoes or the clothes or the speed that makes you a runner. It's your attitude toward life.
You have a lot of God-given potential, my friend. Remember that, not only on race day, but every day.
Saturday, July 28
6:22 PM Hey guys. Today I got on my bike again. I love to crosstrain by cycling. It almost seems like when I'm not running I'm "letting my body rest." Of course, today's workout was pretty strenuous. I thought I'd go 20 miles but ended up biking a full marathon distance. That's correct. 26.2 invigorating miles. And why not? The day was perfect for cycling.
Biking makes me look forward to running, and vice versa. I've discovered that my joints just feel a lot better if I alternate running and crosstraining. Here's the irony, though. Take a look at my total time. Today I finished 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 16 minutes. That's slower than most elite athletes average in a marathon when running! Today I managed a mere 11.5 miles per hour. Elite marathoners average 12 miles per hour on foot. I couldn't run at that pace if my life depended on it, but elite runners are doing it for 26.2 miles. Such is life I reckon. Growing up in Hawaii I did no running. None. And very little biking. But give me a surfboard, and ....
All that has changed. And it's never too late for you to start too. Go ahead, make the last half the best half. You say, "I'm too old." For the love of Pheidippedes! I started running at 62. And then I began cycling at 64. I feel younger today than I did before I started running and biking. Never too old to do a good thing, right? The neat thing about biking for the runner is that it strengthens your quads, which are the muscles you need for good knee health. In addition, because you're not pounding the pavement, you're not putting any weight on your lower joints. So the benefits of bilking are obvious. It's a great way to stay fit while not running. Running is still the foundation of your active lifestyle but crosstraining keeps you fresh and eager to get back on the running course. I think I'm on track to be ready for my big races in October. I'm not there yet, however. I've got to keep training so that when race day comes I'll be as prepared as I can be. I can still do poorly, of course. But, God willing, it won't be because I didn't train hard enough.
Thanks for reading,
"Biker" (hehe) Dave
8:45 AM I'm studying Heb. 1:1-4 this morning. (For a detailed analysis, go here.)
Here's a thought I will be emphasizing in my class on Hebrews: In promoting the excellence of Christ, Hebrews never disparages anything or anyone Christ is compared with. The old is not "bad" and the new "good"; the old is "good" and the new is "better." It is the same God who spoke equally through the prophets and through His Son. The Greek of Heb. 1:1-2 clearly shows this.
Indeed, the whole of Hebrews is an extended qal wahomer argument moving from the "good" of foundational Jewish events, institutions, and persons to the "best" of Jesus Christ. I see no denigration whatsoever of the Old Testament in Hebrews, and certainly not here in the letter's exordium, which presents a schema of continuity in which the prophets prepare for and are completed by the climactic speech act of God through His Son.
Okay. So what's the upshot? The principle for living I'm drawing from this text can be summarized as follows: "To make someone look good you don't have to make someone else look bad." This principle seems to have been consistently followed by the author of Hebrews. "Moses was faithful in all his house," he writes in Heb. 3:5. The difference between Moses and Christ is not one of faithfulness (both were equally faithful) but rather one of status: Moses was faithful as a son in the house, whereas Christ was faithful as the Son over the house. And, as everyone knows, "the builder of the house has more honor than the house" (Heb. 3:3). Got it? As we suggested yesterday, all of Hebrews is an early Christian exposition of the Old Testament. In it the author shows how something importantly new and different has occurred in Christ and His once-and-for-all death on the cross. Hence the recrucifixion of Christ is to deny the single and total effectiveness of that sacrifice (6:4-6).
Wedge-building between the Old and New Testaments is still high among the marks of false teachers today. Both Hebrews' author and Paul (if they are not one and the same) remind us that if the Old Covenant possesses a transient glory, this was part of God's plan (compare Heb. 8 with 2 Cor. 3:1-18, the former of which quotes Jer. 31, while the latter clearly echoes Jer. 31). Hence Abraham could look for the city of God to come, and Moses could bear the denunciation of Christ (11:13-16, 26). Hebrews reads the Old Testament christologically, as should we. We are called to the same trust and faithfulness that persons in the Old Testament exhibited, finding our confidence by looking to Jesus while avoiding the unfaithfulness of the wilderness generation. In short, there's no passivity in attaining holiness. The apostle calls us to be good runners (12:1-2). I for one (speaking to myself first) venture to hope that I will run with endurance the race set before me.
P.S. I see that a Polish dare-devil has skied down K2. (Google YouTube. I mean, this is something amazing.) At one time I thought I could never conquer endurance challenges. I've learned to push those doubts aside. I once ran a 5K with a vet who lost a leg in Iraq. That was such a good, simple reminder to me to shuck the victim mentality. Life is hard for everybody. Get over it. Get something done with your life. Don't just think about pushing yourself. Even with all your doubts and struggles, you can still get out there and take risks. Even if you decide to walk a mile every other day, you are doing something most people will never accomplish.
Now I'm off to get some exercise. But first I have to stuff my face with eggs and corned beef hash.
What's your Everest? Your K2? Your big hair audacious goal? GET TOUGH AND DO IT!
Friday, July 27
5:58 PM Happiness is getting in a 45-minute workout at the gym and then a 5-mile bike ride and then a lap swim at the pool right before a huge storm hit. Today I also registered for my next tri in Wake Forest on Sept. 6. It's the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon and features a 250-yard pool swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 5K run. This will be my second time participating in this event. I just checked on the ages of the competitors. So far, there's only 4 of us men over 65 who've signed up. I hope that number goes up. I like plenty of competition. I also just paid my registration fees for the Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 2. This will be my third time running V-Beach. The course is flat and fast and finishes right beside the ocean. I'll start at the back of the pack in the old man wave, of course. I'll plan to drive up the night before and stay at the same Airbnb I rented last year. The last thing you want to do is tire yourself out with a long drive the day of the race. Races are the culmination of all of my training, which is why I like them so much. I'm going to take my surfboard with me in case there are any waves at the beach.
Not sure what else I can add here. Oh -- here's a pic of the hot dogs I devoured today after my bike ride.
Mustard, onions, chili, and slaw. The dogs themselves were, no doubt, full of all kinds of healthy ingredients, such as preservatives, flavorings, colorings, and who-knows what other chemicals. No ketchup, of course. No one over 18 should ever put ketchup on a hot dog. Just sayin'. I scarfed down these babies in less than a minute, declaring myself the wiener of my pigging out contest.
Well, that's about it for now. I relish the chance to ketchup with you later. (Don't hit me.)
7:58 AM Good morning fellow bloggers! Today I'm putting the final touches on my Hebrews class for this fall. Our main textbook (after the Greek New Testament, of course) is Attridge's excellent commentary. I'm also asking students to purchase Lane's two-volume commentary on the book. (I'm not sure there will ever be a definitive commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews.) Both Attridge and Lane bring up little details you might never think about otherwise. There are 4 assignments for the class:
We only have one week for this class (we meet from 8:00-5:00 daily) so I've had to be über-selective in our translation assignments:
So much to do. So little time. I love how the author of Hebrews uses Old Testament allusions as clues or hints to a historical situation in the Old Testament with bearing on his audience's situation. His eleventh chapter is a good case in point. Hebrews itself is an often-alluded-to book. Take Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (see Heb. 11:13) or W. H. Murray's Evidence of Things Not Seen (see Heb. 11:1) or Entertaining Angels (see Heb. 11:13) -- a movie about the life of Catholic activist Dorothy Day. Almost every day I find allusions in the news. Here's one I noticed this morning in Chris Cilizza's piece at CNN about Michael Cohen:
Allusions work because an author can assume there's a body of knowledge that's shared by the author and his or her readers. The New Testament depends heavily on the Old Testament in this manner. According to Stephen Voorwinde, "The writer to the Hebrews has a mind that was marinated in the Old Testament." And, in his peroration, Dr. Voorwinde makes this utterly amazing application:
So that's Hebrews. Today I plan to work out at the Y and then go for either a long walk or a bike ride. It's quite beautiful outside though on the hot side. By the way, I just found an app to find the best doughnuts in your area. It's called Doughbot. Pretty clever don't you think? For doughnuts, you can't beat the Amish bakery in South Boston. As for my training schedule, even though the race in October will be my tenth marathon, I'm still nervous. I won't go into my worries and doubts, except to say there's no reason to do anything unless it brings joy into your life. Why would someone with as little talent as me want to do yet another marathon? I'm not sure I have the answer. I keep coming back to the finish line. Have you ever stood at the finish line of a marathon? I mean, the pure unmitigated joy you see on the faces of the runners. Even as you watch their bodies giving in to fatigue, you witness their souls as the realty of their accomplishment dawns on them. There's nothing like it in the world. It's a joy you can see, feel, believe in. It doesn't matter what you look like or what position you come in at the finish. The joy is in the act of running. It's in the joy of accomplishing a goal. It's in knowing you're not stuck somewhere in life but moving forward. I suppose that's why I keep on running. If I had known this would happen, I would have started running years before I did.
So I'm back outdoors again today. Did I mention it's hot and humid? Now I'm getting carried away! See ya!
Thursday, July 26
7:28 PM Another day of training is in the books. And I nailed today's workout. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but really, it was good to run 10 miles and not feel all beat up afterwards. I think my body is (finally) adapting to the warmer weather when I run, or at least I hope so. I met one other athlete out on the trail, who was very kind to take this pic.
I'm just coming up on the 5-mile turnaround juncture in my run. I was real happy with my time and pace.
137.7 total miles so far in July!
After my run, I went to the pool to get some laps in. Then some book reading happened, followed by a long nap. Today I concentrated on my breathing while running. I find this helps me with my pacing. Remaining conscious of your breathing at all times is really important. I'm also trying to improve my running style -- elbows high, shoulders relaxed -- while trying not to over-think everything I do. I believe God made each of our bodies unique. You have to find the best style for you. It's so much like the Christian life. As I've often said, God calls all of us to ministry but He calls different people to different ministries and expects us to concentrate on our calling and not on somebody else's. It's inconceivable that as Christians we should spend our lives in any other way than ministering to or serving others. But there's a wide diversity of spiritual gifts, and a big part of our responsibility is to discover what our gifts are and to help others to discover theirs.
Well, one of my spiritual gifts is eating, and supper is calling. By the way, at the public pool today, there was a guy with one leg who must have been around 26 or 27. Oh Lord, I should be more grateful than I am to be able to run.
6:55 AM I'm not going to lie, I am kinda bummed about the weather up in Gettysburg. They're calling for thunderstorms over the next few days. On the other hand, we're enjoying some pretty nice weather down here, so I've decided to take my trip to the battlefield some other time. So what to do today? My plans are as follows. Drive to Farmville and do a 10-mile run on the High Bridge Trail. (Yes, there are super-humans among us who crave workouts in the heat. Either that or they're just really good liars.) After that my idea is to do some lap swimming before chillaxing poolside and reading a good book. But first, there are my farm chores to do. God provides nature, but we have to tend it. Luther once said, "For God will be working all things through you; he will be milking the cows through you and will be performing the most menial duties through you, and all duties, from greatest to least, will be pleasing to him." Which reminds me. I also have to clean the kitchen this morning before I leave. But hey -- laborare est orare, "work is worship," so there you have it.
I'm happy to report that the blister I got from my last long run has healed up completely, thanks to some ointment and divine providence. (A sixteenth century French surgeon once said, "I dressed the wound; God healed it." I couldn't agree more.) So it's off to the races with my new shoes and healthy feet. Hopefully I won't look as tired after today's workout as I did after my last long run. I'm kinda of hoping to finish before it gets too hot. I'm always surprised at hard the first 1-3 miles seem but I'm sure it happens in order to add more challenge to the miles that follow. Once you get going, however, things tend to improve. Between my run and my swim I plan on filling every glycogen storage space in my body with delicious, fatty Southern-style hot dogs.
By the way, there are only 10 days until my next "official" race. It's one of the biggest 5Ks in Durham and takes place in the cool of the evening, which makes for a great time for all. I am already craving it. Training is all well and good, but there's nothing like putting on a race bib.
When's your next race? Do you ever train in hot weather?
Wednesday, July 25
6:52 PM I love me a good gym workout. Plus a 5-mile bike ride. I finished just as the rain started. As in one HUGE thunderstorm. I thought for sure the highways would become flooded. My farm lanes were 8 inches deep in water. Tomorrow, if it's dry enough, I hope to get in another long run. For slower runners like me, long runs are L-O-N-G runs. Part of me really looks forward to them, and part of me dreads them. But when you realize that only 3 years ago the only running I did was out to my car when it was raining, I've come a long ways, baby. Who knew this running thing would embrace me the way it has? I love my non-running friends, but they don't entirely understand this passion of mine. Can't say I blame them. Running involves faith. You have to believe that you will get better and stronger the longer you keep at it. Running keeps me thankful -- for my family, my friends, my farm, my students, my blog, my races, my relationship to God. Not a day goes by that I don't count myself incredibly blessed. It's been a lovely year so far, filled with joy and peace. I'm grateful for every single step. I know that I'm on the right road, and that if I keep on moving forward, no matter how slowly, I'll eventually get to the finish line.
Tonight I'm finishing up John Stott's book on missions. It's been a very convicting read so far. Then I'll re-watch the movie Gettysburg, as I haven't totally given up on the idea of making a quick trip up there this week. I'll probably make up my mind in the morning. I have a large, diverse collection of books about Gettysburg, but nothing can top a visit there yourself.
Well, another thunderstorm is approaching and I have to unplug my computer before it gets zapped.
9:35 AM Hey, did you know that investment advisors tell you to do three things: buy quality, hold on to your investments for a long time, and diversify? It occurs to me that these "rules of the road" apply to exercise as well. Invest in activities that you enjoy and that are time-tested for their effectiveness. Then plan to be involved in exercise for the long term. If you're a runner, it's the dedication to run for the rest of your life that counts. This is especially true when the initial jolt of inspiration begins to wear off. Finally, diversify. Find as many ways as possible to keep moving and to enjoy your new fitness level. In running, this is called cross-training. There are so many things we can do to improve our running that have nothing to do with running. But note: We don't do these things instead of running. We do them because we are runners. Examples might be strength training (weight lifting), bicycling, rowing, swimming, hiking, mountain climbing, paddling, surfing, etc. Participating in sports other than running can keep your running fresh for the rest of your life.
So that's my "financial" advice for you today. And it's even free.
Today I plan to do a gym workout and then either a bike or a run depending on the weather. It's down to 9 weeks before my 31-mile ultra and, yes, I'm getting nervous. I've said it before, but I'm not a big fan of running in heat and humidity. On some days, the best decision is not to put on your running shoes. But today's not that day. As long as I stay hydrated I'll be okay. The rule of thumb is: Don't do anything today that might keep you from running tomorrow!
Do you like or despise running in hot weather? Do you train all year long?
Tuesday, July 24
9:44 PM Well, hello. I really hadn't planned on waiting this long to blog today. I took the entire day off from training so I could devote my time to academic work, including sitting in on a Ph.D. exam and then dictating a book review to my secretary. I also began reading this recently-delivered book by Stott.
The weather continues to be rainy, but things should begin clearing up on Thursday. I need to get back outside again this week. I haven't ruled out a jaunt up to G-Burg but it all depends on the weather. As I said, I'm hoping to bike the battlefield. Or maybe I'll just run it. Either way, I'll be out in nature. One of the best things about being a runner is being able to get outdoors, pound the pavement (or gravel), clear your head, and remind yourself how closely related you are to your Creator. Yes, it's hard work to get outside and bust your tail off. But the payoff is absolutely worth it. I could go to the gym and do my runs on the dreadmill. But I know I won't. I belong outside.
What's the weather like where you are? Are you okay with running outdoors when the weather is less than desirable?
Monday, July 23
6:22 PM On Saturday, my neighbor and dear friend Thomas Hayes passed away. His funeral and interment was today. Thomas was 89. For many years we attended church together. He and I used to sing in the choir, and our men's quartet traveled to other churches and the retirement home on a regular basis. Thomas worked for Burlington Industries and farmed fulltime. He was indeed a hard worker. He and his wife Charlotte welcomed us with open arms when we moved into this farming community in 2004. As I drove to the cemetery today, the oncoming cars stopped by the side of the road out of respect for the deceased.
It's a wonderful Southern custom. I'm praying for Miss Charlotte. She will miss her husband. I hope she will discover that the Savior is so much greater than one could ever think He is, that His truth can stand any test, and that we can learn to fear and trust and love Him better every day.
You will be missed, Thomas Grey Hayes. Thank you for your love and friendship through these years. I grieve your passing, and yet not as those without hope. The resurrection of Jesus happened. You and I have banked our very souls on it.
9:15 AM Hey folks! John Stott wrote what is perhaps the definitive book on preaching. It was all the more surprising, then, when I read these words in his book The Living Church (p. 103).
He then concludes:
Paul often uses the images of milk and meat when he describes Christian growth and maturity. Babies in Christ need the bottle. But very soon afterwards they need to consume meat so that they can begin to discern the mind of God for themselves. It is to that high measure of independence that Christian teachers need to bring their charges.
I love teaching. It's what I do. But I'm learning that enabling and equipping is just as important to my teaching ministry as is lecturing. I see a generation of Christians who are overly dependent on others for their spiritual growth. Yes, we need each other. But nothing can compare with a personal encounter with the God of the Bible. Thank you, Dr. Stott, for the reminder.
Sunday, July 22
7:14 PM Hey guys. My first love is running, but I also enjoy getting out there on the bicycle and putting in some training miles. Well, when I saw a break in the weather this afternoon, I immediately drove to Farmville to try and get in a bike at the High Bridge Trail before the rains returned. My goal was, maybe, 10-15 miles, but I surprised myself by surpassing that goal by 5 miles.
That said, I still felt rushed in order not to get caught out during a thunderstorm. It feels good to take a break from running and to be challenging myself with other activities such as cycling. I've pretty much decided that I'm a triathlete for life, so it never hurts to get some cycling miles under your belt. To be honest, though, I miss my old friend the marathon. At the same time, I've come to embrace the multisport option as well. I feel that cycling makes me a stronger runner as it involves complementary muscles.
Which do you enjoy more -- the run, the bike, or the swim? Have you tried a triathlon yet? What exercises make you stronger as an athlete?
Rest is a huge part of training, so it's off to bed early for this old fossil. Hope you enjoy your week!
8:15 AM Two verses from Hebrews jumped out at me as I read my Bible and sipped coffee on the front porch this morning. The first was Heb. 6:7:
Where I live, we've entered a very strange weather pattern. It rained all last night, and this morning a steady drizzle is falling. I'm told this is the start of an abnormally wet pattern that will elevate flood risks in the eastern U.S. into the end of July.
Last night there was flooding in parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland. Baltimore saw almost 5 inches of rain, breaking the previous record from 1887. Weather experts tell us we can expect days of downpours, travel delays -- and ruined outdoor plans.
But farmers view rain slightly differently. On my road alone (White House Rd.), there are several large farms that grow anything from tobacco to soy beans to grapes (yes, we have a vineyard on my quaint country lane). As you know, our main crop here at Rosewood is horse-quality square bale hay. Where there is no rain, farmers suffer. The effects of an El Niño can lead to under-average crop yields, and irrigation systems are expensive. Of course, rain falling at the wrong time can delay planting and harvesting. Too much rain is almost as bad as no rain. But all plants need water to survive. And God provides the rain for that very purpose, as our verse reminds us. For those of us who live on White House Rd., rain couldn't have come at a better time. I, for one, am most grateful to the Supplier.
Here's the other verse that leaped off the page as I read my Bible this morning. It's Heb. 13:15:
Last night I attended a wonderful worship service. It took place at my bedside. With evocative works like Dietrich Buxtehude's "Jesu, meines Lebens Leben" on your iPhone, whose heart wouldn't be lifted up in worship? It was as though I was transported into the very Presence of heaven with the angels and the archangels. According to Albert Schweitzer (himself an accomplished organist), Buxtehude was the greatest organist between Scheidt and Bach. It was from Buxtehude that Bach acquired his rich harmonic vocabulary. Here's the work I listened to last night.
I sang along as the choir led me in worship. You'll notice that this is a prayer.
Prayer is central to anything we do as Christians. Paul advises us to pray with the spirit and also with the mind (1 Cor. 14:15). I think what he means is that prayer should not only be from the heart, but should be well-informed. Paul's own prayers reveal a deeply spiritual and precise nature (see, for example, Phil. 1:9-11 and Col. 1:9-14). If this is to be true, a great deal of care needs to be given to teaching on prayer in our modern churches. How rich and deep ought the words to our music be!
True worship is intelligible worship. This is the teaching of Rom. 12:1. The term logikos here can be rendered either "reasonable" or "rational." Moreover, it's clear that Paul is thinking of worship that is expressed not only when we gather as Christ's body but in the home and in the workplace and in the gym and on the bike path . In view of God's great mercies that I have received, now more than ever I seek to present my body as a living sacrifice to God.
How is your worship experience these days? What kind of music transports you into the heavens? Do you come to church, not merely to worship, but as a worshipper?
Saturday, July 21
8:26 PM In a world full of bad news, I hope you'll watch this documentary on the Thai cave rescue. You will be glued to your computer.
Flooded caves. Monsoon season. Even professional divers wouldn't have dived in those circumstances. And yet these rescuers pulled 13 people out of the cave. It's a beautiful thing when people work together to accomplish a goal. Everyone had to work together to come up with a solution. The rescue required thousands of volunteers from many nations working together. Apart from the military personnel, every single person involved in the rescue was a volunteer. Nobody forced them to help but yet they were there, working their tails off. Even the Thai diver who lost his life was a volunteer. Well done to everyone involved. My admiration for you is beyond words. I prayed for your success. God worked a miracle but not without your bravery and sacrifice.
P.S. Australian documentaries rock!
3:18 PM Just did a bike and a swim. (I'll take my walk later this evening.) Afterwards I sat poolside and read, stumbling upon this great quote (Stott, The Living Church, p. 74):
God calls all people to ministry. Period. Anybody need some sackcloth and ashes? You can borrow some of mine (if I have any left).
P.S. I am refining my race list for the rest of the year. Not overly aggressive but it does contain some biggies. So far it looks like this:
Nothing makes me more alive than running. What are you most excited about this year?
10:08 AM Quote of the day (from a sermon I heard this morning):
Let that sink in!
9:10 AM Okay, you can stop wondering why I didn't post last night after I finished getting up hay. We stopped work at 11:30 pm. Yes, I said ELEVEN THIRTY!! That's over 6 hours of getting up hay, folks. Don't you ever say I don't work hard. But it wasn't all blood, sweat, and tears. It was actually fun getting up hay in the dark. Plus, the temperature was perfect. (Oh my, did I just type "temperature"? For 66 years I had no idea that temperature had an "a" in it.) All that is about to change. We're back to our daily afternoon thunderstorm weather pattern so common here in the South during the summer months. I'm pretty sure I'll survive the hiatus from haying. Besides, I've got oodles of book reviews to complete. I just finished reading Bradley Arnold's doctoral thesis (Exeter University) called Christ as the Telos of Life. You would not (please note the "not") know this from its title, but the book is really a study of Philippians and how Paul develops the image of the runner pursuing the goal (telos) of living for Christ. This becomes "Paul's overarching argumentative aim in the letter" (p. 2). At this stage, I'm not convinced that the author has proven his point, especially because he seems to make more of Phil. 3:13-14 than Paul does. Now, of course, there's nothing I would love more than to be able to argue that Philippians is all about running! Goal setting (telosity?) is what the sport of running is all about. I've got to admit, however, that my own study of the discourse structure of Philippians constrains me to see unity for the sake of the Gospel as what Paul is really reaching for in this letter. Oh well. That won't be anything new to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time. So this weekend I'll be writing up my thoughts about this book and getting started on my next book review. I'm not sure how involved I'll be in the blogosphere in the next few days as I'm sorely tempted to make a jaunt up to Gettysburg to bike the battlefield, which is something I've wanted to do for a long time. However, it looks like they're going to have the same weather pattern we're in, and if I can't ride in the afternoons because of thunderstorms that will sort of nix that idea. We'll see. I wouldn't be able to leave until next Wednesday anyway because I'll be sitting in on a Ph.D. dissertation defense on Tuesday.
As for today, I'm going to take a break from running and enjoy a nice long walk out in nature before the rain comes. How 'bout you? Trust me, something happens to us when we begin to move. Our bodies release chemicals that can almost produce a high -- and it's all free and legal. This morning I was reading about a doctor in Houston who was shot and killed while riding his bike to work. In fact, the man was George H. W. Bush's cardiologist. Whenever I read about such tragedies I ask myself, "What's really important in your life, Dave?" It's so easy to get so inwardly focused that we have little time for other people. I so want to be a better giver/investor, especially in the lives of my kids and their families, who love their dad and Papa B and whose love and support I value and cherish. I often think of my puppy Sheba and how connected she wants to be with me. Her happiness is based on human connection (and marking her territory). Becky and I would often just sit on the porch together, not saying a word to each other but still connecting, if you know what I mean. I know she is no longer suffering but I selfishly want her back with me. Friends, let's not become too busy to be involved in the lives of those who are most important to us. Don't pressure yourself to "feel better" when you are sorrowing or feeling loss. Let yourself feel the heaviness. Then get outdoors and spend some time "in the Word." Allow the Holy One to invade you daily. This is where God has placed you. Thrive in it. May we, the broken, be the ones who don't give up on radical obedience to our Lord's commands. You belong to the family of God. You are loved. Now may we in turn love Jesus and the Father and the Spirit to whom He introduced us with all of our hearts. Maybe then, His love will spill out of our lives into the lives of others.
So there you have it. The most disjointed blog post you've ever read. Of course, I'm never guilty of over-sharing. Thank you for reading my words and for allowing me this platform to express my thoughts and feelings.
Peace be to you,
Friday, July 20
8:55 AM I was looking for a September race to add to the Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 2 and I think I found what I was looking for. It's the Genworth Virginia Ten Miler on Sept. 29. I ran this race the past two years. Last year alone saw 3,394 finishers. The venue is the great city of Lynchburg, VA. There's also a 4-mile run, a 4-mile walk, and a children's run. Thankfully the race has same-day packet pickup, which means that I can get up early and drive to Lynchburg without having to stay overnight the night before. The race is an out-and-back course with a 1.5-mile long climb to the finish line (for good reason they call Lynchburg the City of Hills). I recall the race being very challenging but also a lot of fun. Join me if you can. It's the perfect way to get in a long run before your next marathon. It's definitely a win-win situation. :-)
7:46 AM Hey guys. This morning I've been "in the Word." Both of them. I think God worked overtime on this morning's sunrise, don't you?
And then there was this passage in Heb. 13:1-2:
Two quick observations if I may:
First, I noticed the verbal aspect in the first command: "Keep on loving one another." I find it interesting that the author didn't rely on the tense of the verb to express his desire for continuous action. He used a verb that literally means "let it continue." Perhaps our Greek textbooks should reflect this way of "mitigating" imperfective aspect?
Second, I noticed the morphological connection between "love of brothers" and "love of strangers." This play on the phil-prefix is often missed in our English translations -- "brotherly love" versus "hospitality." Why should this be?
Finally, this morning I was reviewing my syllabus for the New Testament course I'm teaching this fall. This course is designed to cover Acts through Revelation. Its official title is "New Testament Introduction and Interpretation 2," but I've entitled it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." One of the books we'll be using in class is this one.
I wrote this short treatise because, despite the proliferation of books about the church in recent years, no one had (to the best of my knowledge) ever exegeted 11 brief verses in Acts 2 that seem to practically "list" the hallmarks of the nascent church in Jerusalem. The early church was an evangelistic church, reaching out to the world in witness. It was a committed church, pledging allegiance to Christ alone in the waters of baptism. It was a learning church, devoted to the teachings of the apostles. It was a caring church, eager to share life together with one another (koinonia). It was a Christ-centered church, elevating His supper to a place of continued prominence. It was a praying church, asking God to help keep it pure and to give it bigger challenges to expand its territory. And it was a sacrificing church, generously caring for their poor brothers and sisters.
Today we read a great deal about "unhooked Christians," Christians who've dropped out of the church. The reason they had done this was their disappointment and disillusionment with the local church. These churches seemed to lack a heart of witness, unquestioned loyalty to Jesus, devotion to biblical truth, genuine fellowship, Christ-centeredness, a keen sense of dependence upon God, and a sacrificial spirit, which is always a test of the sincerity of one's love for Christ. With apologies to MLK, I have a dream of a church that is a truly biblical church, whose people love the Word of God and adorn it with loyalty and obedience. Such is my dream for the church. May it be one that all of us can share in our NT class this semester!
Thursday, July 19
7:22 PM I know you've been holding your breath wondering if I got in my 20 mile run today. Well, I'm happy to say that I didn't. I got in a 20.78 mile run instead.
Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm sore. And yes, I walked quite a bit toward the end. But finish I did, and this ambassador of slow runners is pretty pleased about it too. One of the great rewards of running is being "in the Word" while out on the course. You say, "What do mean, Dave? Were you listening to Scripture on your iPhone while running? Were you listening to sermons on your iPod while running? Were you meditating on Bible verses while running?" The answer is, "None of the above." You see, my friends, there are two ways of understanding the expression "in the Word." Let me explain.
For millennia, Christian theologians have spoken about two types of divine revelation -- two "Words" from God, if you will. The first is the Word of nature. And the second is the Word of Scripture. Nature reveals the glory of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above displays His handiwork" (Psa. 19:1). Scripture, on the other, reveals God's grace, in particular His offer of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. "As it is written, the just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). Thus God has provided us with two books: the book of His works, which we call nature, and the book of His words, which we call Scripture. This means that science and theology are closely related. Science seeks to understand what God has revealed in nature. Theology seeks to understand what God has revealed in Scripture. In both of them, as Johann Kempler said, we are thinking God's thoughts after Him. This is why the Bible and nature should go together. We need both theology and science. In fact, when I studied in Basel, theology was (and still is) considered the "Queen of the Sciences." Theology is taught as a Wissenschaft, a science, because in both science and theology we are thinking God's thoughts after Him.
Through nature, God speaks to us, teaches us, and provides for us. Nature, of course, can't teach us everything about God. But something inside of us comes alive when we're surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of God's creation. Nature reflects God's glory, power, creativity, sovereignty, awe, wonder, and provision. If God takes care of birds and bugs and plants and flowers, surely He will take care of me. God has taught me so much about Himself through my walking and running and climbing and cycling through nature. I've always loved God's creation, but it seems that I am enjoying it more these days since Becky's home-going. There are so many spiritual analogies to be derived through the study of nature.
Do you ever read God's "Word" in nature? I dare say, there's a great need for more Christians to be involved in this Word. It can start with something as simple as a walk in the park or a visit to the local zoo or starting a garden. This was my view today as I listened to the sounds of nature and communed with my Creator for 5 plus hours.
I can say this: You don't need a church pew to experience God. Today I heard creation singing and saw the trees clapping their hands and I wanted to join in and accompany them. God surrounds us 24 hours a day with evidence of His love and glory. It's a shame that we are often too busy to notice. Open your eyes, my friend. He's right there.
Well, there you have it. My sermon for the day. My goal now is to stay healthy and continue my training for my 10th marathon and my first ultra in October. Believe me, I realize I have a long ways to go. An ultra is no joke. Neither is a hilly marathon. Suffice it to say, I'll keep on running as long God gives me strength. Somehow, He always does. One of the best things about running is you know there's always an adventure around the next corner. If you lack excitement in your life, dear reader, you ought to try running. The pain involved is a small price to pay to read this "Word."
7:55 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another training update as I prepare for my big races in October. But first, a look back. 2018 has already been a great year in terms of my races and overall health. As you know, I'm very slow and a bit on the older side for a runner, but God has given me a strong set of legs and an undaunted spirit, and these are blessings I try not to take for granted, ever. So far I've run 16 races in 2018:
Allen (TX) Marathon
Run for Young 5K (Raleigh)
Birmingham (AL) Half Marathon
Carolina Fever 5K (Chapel Hill)
DC 10 Miler
Tobacco Road Marathon (Raleigh)
Ella's Race 5K (Raleigh)
Durham Park Run 5K (Durham)
Garland (TX) 5K
Petersburg Half Marathon
Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati)
Marine Corps Half Marathon (Fredericksburg)
Race 13.1 Half Marathon (Raleigh)
Smile Train Triathlon (Wake Forest)
Liberty on the Lake 10K (The Colony, TX)
Rex Wellness Triathlon (Garner)
Today I hope to get in a long run (maybe 20 miles?). I can't wait. I'll share it with you if and when I get 'er done. What inspiring things have you accomplished in 2018? What setbacks have you had to overcome to reach your goals? I hope everyone has the best of days today pursuing God's will for your life. I've been spending a lot of time with the Lord lately. My heart feels renewed at this point in the year. Perhaps His greatest gift to me has been clarity -- clarity about my single status, clarity about my future goals (professional and personal), clarity about relationships. I'm learning to downsize: This matters, this doesn't. I'm thankful for all the contemplatives who've stirred me this year: John Stott, James Packer, Jacque Ellul, Craig Koester, James Boice (who attended Basel just before me), and many others. I have happy memories of yesterday and an anticipation of the next day. In only 4 weeks, classes begin. What a privilege to begin my 42nd year of teaching. So believe me, life is good even though I complain so often about this or that. I love, love, love the farm and every rustic outbuilding. I have no clue where I'd be emotionally had it not been for this country oasis. As the sun sets every evening and I prepare dinner, I love reflecting on the many times Becky and I would sit on the porch together competing for space to tell each other how good God is. I mean, really? This is my life? Oh Lord, use me to be a blessing to others today. Allow me to lean into Christlike simplicity and generosity. Help my kids and grandkids, especially, to see in their dad and Papa B a man fighting back against materialism and overindulgence, a man who's determined to address his failings and follow his Master in simple obedience, a man willing to align himself with the humble ministry of Jesus.
Do this for Your glory, Lord.
Wednesday, July 18
6:44 PM Today I got in a workout, a bike, and a swim. Trifecta! Before that, the grandkids came over to pick blueberries.
They are soooo sweet!
One of them has begun piano lessons and treated me to a concert.
Here's some of today's loot.
Right now it's time for me to cook dinner. Tomorrow I want to get back into running. Hopefully my 66-year old body can handle a 20 mile run. If you're one of those people who can achieve their goals effortlessly, more power to you. Seems I have to work like the dickens to get anything done. That's why the sport of running is so amazing. Nothing worth accomplishing ever comes easily.
What's your next challenge?
1:10 PM Hello again, virtual friends. I'm so loving writing my book Godworld. I'm far from being finished, but the driving concern behind the book remains my desire to embrace the kingdom and to do so better than I have in the past. I think some Christian denominations get this profoundly wrong. To take but one example. In some denominations, missions is a most unfashionable concept. (See last Sunday's post.) C. S. Lewis reminded us in The Screwtape Letters that Satan blinds our minds by persuading us that the Gospel is false or too exclusive or unnecessary. The god of this world is utterly opposed to the personal Gospel and will hinder it at every turn. However, we can't forget that Paul was a traveling evangelist. For him, people are either saved or lost, redeemed or not redeemed, in Christ or not in Christ, on the broad way or on the narrow way. There is no excluded middle. Paul knew he was commanded by God "to open [people's] eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God." This can't be put any more clearly. Evangelism was foundational to all Paul did as an apostle.
Do we academics have anything like Paul's concern to reach lost people with the Good News? If not, there is something terribly amiss. I must not remain content with what I have gained in Christ. Others need Him too. The Lamb of God shed His precious blood to set captives free. Paul therefore sees the cross of Christ as foundational to Christianity. It is the centerpiece of the Gospel, and Paul for one is not going to neglect to proclaim it.
When I left the U.S. to study for my doctorate at the University of Basel in 1980, people warned me that I would lose my faith. A European university is a very intellectual place and values the mind very highly. If the Gospel is folly in the world's eyes, it is also folly to many academics. But the fact is: We cannot reach God through our minds alone. In other words, it takes Scripture to reveal God, and that is exactly what God has done. The unaided intellect finds it impossible to believe the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). Unfettered reason rejects revelation. "Why do I need a Savior? Why do I need grace?" The paradox for me, however, was that when I got to Basel, I found that not a few of the academics I met there were genuine believers. They weren't so bewitched by their own brilliance that they didn't need Jesus. In Basel, I discovered that it is not a choice between faith and reason. The choice we face is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason. The true place of the intellect in the life of the believer is not only to immerse itself in active scholarship but to concentrate on the revelation of God (1 Cor. 2:9-10) and to be transformed into the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).
As a teacher of the New Testament, I have a responsibility to develop the mind of Christ in the students I serve. He is the goal of all knowledge. I was reminded of this when, in 1978, I arrived in Seeheim, Germany, as a summer missionary at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse. A sign mounted on the school's gate read, "In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is this truth that allows us to look at the whole of life with intellectual integrity.
If our churches are to be an effective and true manifestation of Christ's life, they will need to work and pray as never before for steadfast growth in love and truth. We who have pledged our lives to following Christ are to do one thing: love Him with everything we've got, including our minds. We're not called to sacrifice our intellects. But we're not called to elevate them above Scripture either.
Blessings on y'all!
8:34 AM Here's a question for all of you verbal aspect guys out there. How would you render the present tense (imperfective aspect) of the imperative in Heb. 13:18a?
8:22 AM "Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God" (Heb. 13:16).
Tuesday, July 17
8:52 PM Spending a lot of time driving, as I do, can lead to thinking some novel thoughts. Three of them came to mind today:
1) Why couldn't we do what apparently the earliest churches in Acts did and observe a weekly fellowship dinner (Acts 20:7)? I know of only a handful of churches that do this regularly. But think about this: For the single Christian, this may well be the only dinner in the week they don't eat alone. The early church was a family. Paul talked about his brothers and sisters. He could refer to himself as a nursing mother or an encouraging father. For Jesus, family life lived out on the spiritual level was just as important, if not more important, than family life lived out merely because of blood lines. Loneliness is one of the burdens an unmarried, divorced, or widowed person bears. It's part of the charisma of singleness we talked about earlier today. My oh my, how it could be alleviated when the body of Christ makes much of family meals! Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about this and he lavished praise on the widows in his congregation who help to prepare food for their church-wide dinners every Wednesday evening. Not only does this get them out of the house, it gives them an opportunity to serve others. What a gift.
2) Why couldn't we have our people pray before we preach to them? I don't mean simply bow their heads as we lead them in a brief prayer. Latin American churches, I am told, have something called orando la palabra. Before the speaker begins to exposit a passage of Scripture, the people are invited to turn to that text and meditate on it prayerfully for as long as 15-20 minutes in hushed silence. We can do no better than to ask, each of us, for God to speak truth into our lives as we first read then hear the word of God taught. Do we have anything like this in our churches in North America? I'm not aware of any such practice. I need others in the body of Christ, including those who teach formally on Sundays, just as they need me. But I also need to humbly approach the word of God myself to ask the Holy Spirit to give me discernment, knowledge, and wisdom (1 John 2:27).
3) Why don't we have a service of celebration for single followers of Jesus ("eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom") like we do for Christian couples who are getting married? Marriage, of course, is a wonderful picture of Christ and His bride, the church. Hence we solemnize it by taking vows and making promises and even asking the congregation to formally vow to love, support, and pray for the newlyweds. Is it too much to envision a church service in which persons who know themselves to be called by God (as was John Stott) to a life of singleness and celibacy affirm their calling publicly, vowing to gladly accept the yoke of loneliness and sexual non-fulfillment even as the congregation vows publicly to love, support, and pray for them? Such a service, I should think, would not only speak eloquently and clearly of the Gospel, it would be a goad in the service of that Gospel. (Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about elevating the unmarried state as if it were holier than the married state, as some of the monks did. I'm only talking about the people Jesus described in Matt. 19:12 as those who were willing to forego marriage for the kingdom's sake. See Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:23.)
You say, this simply cannot be done. But I know of no good Scriptural reasons why not. These are humbling reflections. I am far too prone to see "doing church" as something static and never-changing. Alas, it may be far more flexible than that. If you're thinking, "Dave's gone off the deep end (again)," I applaud you for your skepticism. In the end, what I say or think doesn't matter. I don't want to base my life on anything I think. The Bible is true. That's what matters. Read it. Meditate on it. Obey it. I promise I'll try and do the same.
6:46 PM Photo update:
1) Picked up these books from my office today.
I'll be reviewing them for Filologia Neotestamentaria.
2) Stopped by to see my friends at the Awazé in Cary today for lunch on my way to UNC.
Doro wat never tasted better.
3) At UNC, I met with Dr. Vickie Bae-Jump and her team to get an update on their research into the causes and potential cures for endometrial cancer -- the form of cancer that took the life of my then-60-year-old wife four and a half years ago.
Afterwards Dr. Bae-Jump was kind enough to send me this summary of how the Becky Black Memorial Fund to Fight Endometrial Cancer is being used:
Please, don't miss the connection between weight and endometrial cancer. This is yet another good reason to exercise, folks.
I'm going to bed tonight grateful for good health, a blessing so taken for granted it barely registers. May my good health continue to drive me to help others who are less fortunate. Greater yet, may God bless the work of researchers like Bae-Jump who devote their entire lives and careers to doing what they can to relieve the awful scourge of cancer.
So it's been a good day for me, and I hope for you. Just simply communing with the Lord. Spending time together, Him and me. "Life together" is what Bonhoeffer once called it. Contributing to cancer research satisfies the deeper part of me that so desires a better, healthier, safer world. I know that the only ultimate solution to sin and death is the Savior. But, in small ways at least, maybe we can do something to help alleviate the temporal suffering of others. It was my own experience of loss and grief that gave me a different perspective on what it really means to live Christianly. Once we see ourselves as people who need God's mercy and grace, we will be more likely to extend that mercy and grace to others.
In a world where suffering and death seem to win out in the end, Easter reminds us that Jesus has conquered death and that one day, for all those who have placed their trust in Him, all of our tears and pain and sorrow will be swallowed up by inextinguishable joy. Until then, let us overcome evil by doing good.
7:58 AM Good morning, Blogworld! Do you have Amazon Prime? Don't you just love it? It allows you to use free shipping to justify buying all the books you want. Yesterday I ordered 7 books by John Stott. John WHO? John Stott was only one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the past three quarters of a century.
I love his books. For one, his prolific writing keeps me humble. For another, he always hid his considerable scholarship behind an amicable smile. Reading his books makes you feel like you're having coffee with your best friend. Finally, every time I finish one of his tomes I'm left with a renewed love for life, people, and especially Jesus. Let's face it. I'm very protective of my time. And let me tell you: John's writings float my boat. You get sucked in from the very first sentence. Here are some things that made the life of John Stott so worth emulating. (This isn't my list; you can find it here: Six Lessons from the Life of John Stott.)
3) Holistic Gospel.
5) Fulfilled Singleness.
To flesh this out a bit: John Stott ordered his life by the Word of God. He didn't dabble in a million things. "This one thing I do" could have been written by him instead of by Paul. He somehow believed that the personal Gospel and a social conscience belonged together. He listened to others, even when he disagreed with them. He chose singleness because he felt he could better serve Jesus that way. He lived a simple, humble life.
Alright, Davey old boy. How do you measure up? Long exhale. It's horrifying to confront my own materialism, to take just one example. Here's another: When I think about how many times I've complained to the Lord about being single, my heart breaks. John Stott represents, in so many ways, the kind of kingdom man I want to be and the kind of kingdom students I want to raise up. Maybe it's time we reframed the way we think about these six areas. For instance, our culture stresses that a good marriage takes a lot of hard work. And it does. Well, guess what? A good single life also takes a lot of hard work. Paul was unmarried and wanted everyone to be just like him (1 Cor. 7:7). That is a lovely attitude. There was not a hint of unfulfillment in the lives of Paul or Jesus for that matter. I consider it a great honor and privilege to hear from so many of you who have recently become widowers. Our soul is sorrowful, yet every morning we wake up joyful and eager to see what the Lord has in store for us. We are broken and yet whole. We've come to realize, as did John Stott, that both marriage and singleness are a charisma, a special gracious gift from the Lord (1 Cor. 7:7).
I could go on and on but I think you get a taste of Stott's medicine. The works of John Stott are like breaths of fresh air. You won't agree with everything he says, of course. However, you will hardly be able to find another author who will challenge you to fight for scandalous love like he does. Read his books for yourself and see what speaks to you.
Monday, July 16
8:28 PM Tetelestai! It is finished! Haying, that is. As we were picking up bales, the Lord protected us from the storm clouds that seemed to hover all around us.
I can't tell you how often that's happened. What a blessing. Thank you, Creator Father!
Earlier today I worked out at the gym and then biked 5 miles. When I got home I was exhausted. Seems I had been pushing too hard and resting too little. Without rest, our bodies weaken due to lack of recovery time. So they require rest to adapt and grow stronger. Rob your body of rest, and eventually you'll burn out. So I took a long nap this afternoon.
Usually I find it hard to take a break. I always seem to run on all 8 cylinders. Not today. I slumped over into bed and kissed the world goodbye. When I woke up I was completely restored and eager to get back out into the hot and humid day to get my work done. Like salt, rest adds flavor to your workout program. I sure needed a good rest today. A little nap time never hurt anybody!
7:40 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another brief training update. I remain super motivated about my big races coming up in October. By God's grace, I've been able to keep up a fairly consistent pace in my weekly/monthly training schedule.
And my new shoes will go a long way toward making my workouts even more effective. There's no way I can praise the New Balance 1080s enough. I get them in my usual Neanderthal size of 13 double wide.
They feel great just putting them on and even better when running in them. It's a really nice-performing and good-looking shoe, I think. The guy at the shoe store yesterday told me he's going to do his first sprint triathlon and was asking me all kinds of questions about the event. Imagine that. People asking me for advice. Nothing is so much fun as trying a new sport with a fresh attitude. I've found that participating in tris takes the definition of fitness to a whole new level, and running takes on a whole new character. I told him to be cool, not to freak out over the strangeness of it all, and to be happy with just finishing. Since our body is what's propelling us over these distances, it's important that we take care of it. Make sure your running shoes are of the highest quality. Change your diet if you need to in order to ensure that you're getting the appropriate nutrients for running. Pamper yourself by getting an occasional massage. And be sure to get plenty of rest. For example, today I plan a gym workout and a 5-mile bike -- nothing more -- because I have a few hundred bales to get up this afternoon. Sure, I'd like to put in a 10 mile run today, but there are times when even the most devoted warrior must sit out the battle. Know thyself. It's not a sign of courage to push yourself through injury or pain or fatigue. Like anything else, running can become a self-destructive addiction. Make no mistake -- I'm not immune!
Speaking of our bodies, last night and this morning me and the Lord were discussing Paul's teaching about the body, marriage, singleness, and worldly possessions in 1 Cor. 7:29-31. And guess what? I saw something I had never seen before. Here's the Greek:
I suppose we could translate this as follows:
Wow. Did you see it? The marvelous play on words? Paul says that those who use (crasthai) this world shouldn't cling tenaciously (katachrasthai) to it. In other words, as we go about our daily lives, we have to constantly be dealing with material things -- today I'm having the tire alignment checked on my Odyssey -- but we are not to be fully occupied with such "things." Take my singleness as an example. Paul says that if you're called by God to singleness and celibacy (as I am currently), be useful to the Lord! If you're married, be useful to the Lord! Do I have the right to remarry? Technically yes, but practically no -- unless I have first honestly dealt with the question of the impact marriage might have on my usefulness to the Lord. Either way, the appointed time for the Lord's return is near. "There's not much time left." Which means: even as I go about my daily business of working for a living and getting up hay and caring for my properties and possessions, I can't cling tenaciously to any of them. I am simply a pilgrim and stranger on this old earth. And whether or not I am single or married, I must make it my chief "business" to give my undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:35). For most American evangelicals, this will begin with a radical deconstruction of the American Dream. God doesn't pull any punches here. We gain our life by losing it. But there is something sooooo liberating when we unhook from consumerism and at least try to find a path through the me-first culture that surrounds us. Chrasthai, friends. But beware katachrasthai!
Make it a great day!
Sunday, July 15
9:10 PM This morning I attended what some would consider to be the most visible (and perhaps largest) church of a certain mainline denomination in North Carolina. My goal was to get a perspective on how this particular denomination views the kingdom. It's all part of a book I'm writing called Godworld. I've attended this church about three times in the past and the sermons all sound pretty much the same. One hears a lot of about human rights, social justice, immigration reform, the evils of mass incarceration and centralized wealth, and the dehumanization of the poor. Today the word "cross" was mentioned, but it was defined as "the struggle to fix a broken world."
I've become used to such language from the pulpits of both conservative and non-conservative churches. Today many Christians think there must be a "Christian" solution to political problems. They are often quick to make judgments based on their views -- whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat -- of how society "should" work. They cherish the hope that all can be resolved if only their approach to social justice is adopted. I think these people forget that there can be no accord between the world and the kingdom, between the values of society and those of divine revelation. As Christians, we are indeed invited to take part in a dialectic with the world, but in my opinion it is a very grave mistake to climb on the bandwagon of political parties or doctrines. The Gospel can't be reduced to social responsibility and political action. Such a reductionist approach invariably accelerates divisions within the church, and the reason is obvious: Christ had no political axe to grind. Never have there been so many Christian consults on world hunger, the problem of war, race, poverty, etc., but despite the significant increase in knowledge there is less and less active obedience. Jesus cares deeply about social injustice and poverty, about immigrants and their families, but His followers engage these issues in unique kingdom ways. What is uniquely Christian about supporting amnesty on the one hand or deportation on the other? Following Jesus doesn't necessarily give us any insights into the means of "fixing" society through political avenues. The far more difficult task of imitating Jesus remains. What have I, as a Jesus follower, personally done to alleviate poverty or human suffering? When the Yazidis fled to Sinjar Mountain while being pursued by ISIS, did I give anything to help in their relief? When I heard that Nina Pham was infected with Ebola and was asking for financial aid, did I assist her? When a tornado swept through my community three years ago, did I get out my chain saw? Each party has its mantra. Republicans "don't care about the poor." Democrats "don't care about the law." Each demonizes the other. Why should the church get involved in any of this mess? It's a grave mistake, in my view, to confuse Christianity with socialism or capitalism. Christian love is addressed to the "neighbor"; it is an inter-individual matter. Our protest against "injustice" rings hollow because we have failed on a personal level to love our neighbor. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century knew all about the hypocrisy of church-state politics. They argued that the Christian's actions must be specifically Christian, that Christians must never identify themselves with this or that political or economic movement. Instead, Christians are to inject into social movements what Christ alone can provide. That view is worth considering again today.
Friends, let's apply the two great commandments absolutely. Let's act on them without weakening their power by acting like the world. As Christians, we are called to weave into the fabric of our daily lives the revolutionary teachings of Jesus. I don't mean "revolutionary" in the sense that Jesus was a Zealot or an advocate of state power. (Oscar Cullmann disposed of this nonsense in his book God and Caesar many years ago). My point is this: When Christians preach the saving power of the state, they only contribute to the evil of our time. Let's not forget that what people really need is not a few more political advantages, but something that Christ alone offers: forgiveness of sin and newness of life. Christians will be Christians to the degree that they suffer with those who suffer, and if they seek out, along with those sufferers, the one and only way of salvation.
When I got back home today, I wrote the following prayer in my journal.
Holy One, I come to You today with gratitude in my heart for the opportunity to wrestle anew with the Gospel, to pursue truth with academic rigor, with a relentless focus on intellectual engagement instead of of spiritual superficiality, with a zeal directed by knowledge, with a firm "No" to "Mindless Christianity." In an age of anti-intellectualism, I struggle, dear God, with Your call to stand for truth, for unity, for the Gospel Commission. I struggle with Your holy call to be a true "disciple" ("under discipline") of Jesus, to follow His teaching, to respond biblically to pluralism, racism, materialism, relativism, narcissism, and injustice. I struggle with how to imitate Christ, to be incarnational like He was, a servant, patient in endurance, like Him in mission. I struggle to demonstrate the distinctiveness of Jesus to the world, with how to display His nonconformity in a world with upside down values -- in short, how to become, every step of the way, a radical disciple. Yet despite my struggles, dear Savior, I know You are with me, possibly more so than ever before, and that You are good, and that You created an extraordinary world, and that Your salvation is both personal and social. Even the most bittersweet season of my life still sparkles with beauty because of Your mercy and grace. This is what I want to do: Tell Your story -- the sacred, transforming story of what You alone can do in the human heart. May I emerge from the pain of the past new and transformed, beautiful after the brokenness, so that I might live out Your Gospel Commission by giving generously, serving without recognition, putting others' needs above my own, and sharing with all the life-giving message of the Gospel.
In the name of Jesus the Christ I pray, Amen.
8:20 AM Some will perhaps recall that I'm writing a book called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. It's about the kingdom of the God in the New Testament. One chapter will deal with how God's kingdom finds expression through various Christian denominations. I sense there's a movement afoot in evangelicalism, a holy rumbling. I've seen a lot -- rural churches in Africa, underground churches in many parts of the world, churches held in living rooms, churches called cathedrals. I want to discover how these expressions of Godworld seek to set up outposts of the kingdom in the teeth of the enemy. I want to wrap up this chapter soon, but there are several churches I still need to visit. I'll visit one of them today in North Carolina. Afterwards, I'll "force myself" to have Ethiopian food in Durham. Then I need to stop by New Balance in Raleigh to pick up my new running shoes and visit The Bike Guy in Wake Forest to have a fit assessment. I've begun to develop tingly fingers in my left hand when I ride due to strain my ulnar nerve.
I suspect that my problem stems from my riding position and weight distribution on my bike. Hallelujah. I've got The Bike Guy to check it out for me.
Wherever you attend today, may God meet you there.
Saturday, July 14
8:58 PM "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22).
"The earth has yielded its produce. God, our God, blesses us" (Psa. 67:6).
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isa. 40:29).
2:06 PM Today I worked on the yards and am happy to announce that I am done! I finally finished pruning the orchards and completing various other landscaping projects around the farm.
I love the "new" look at Bradford Hall.
Now if I can only keep it looking so nice.
Earlier today my new mower arrived.
I introduced myself to the workers, who hail from Mexico. I gave them some Gatorade and we reminisced about their wonderful country (I've been blessed to have made 3 trips to Mexico). They even let me try out my super awful Spanish on them.
After that, it was off to South Boston to bike 5 miles, get some nail clippers and bug spray at Wal-Mart, and go to the post office and bank. Arriving back on the farm, I wormed the goats and donks, filled their waters, and then broke in my new mower. I remember the first time I climbed into the seat of a ride mower. That was 20 years ago when we moved from SoCal to the tobacco fields of Granville Country, NC. At the time I had a John Deere. On mowing day, I'd cut about 5 acres. Here I was, thinking about nothing and about everything, totally cut off from the world, the vinyl seat burning the back of my thighs -- and loving every second of it. Things haven't changed since then. Even if I have other work to so, my lawns will get mowed, and the place will look new again. Do you enjoy mowing the lawn, or has it become just another a chore? One of my grandsons has just starting mowing their yard. That's what I call coming of age. I think we can take it as a general principle of life that hard work is necessary for personal happiness. At my age, I've found three things to be necessary: discovering what are the things most desirable in life, dismissing other objects of desire as unattainable, and becoming less preoccupied with self.
I hope I can mow forever.
6:55 AM Will Varner has posted an excellent comment on James 3:17 at the Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page.
This is a good reminder that the New Testament in Greek was intended to be heard and not merely read. I strongly suspect that the Holy Spirit is responsible for more than just the words of Scripture. The rhetorical level of language can be chalked up to Him as well. James has a brilliant way of getting his message across. He must have been a fascinating person to listen to.
Have you engaged the text in this way yet? If not, jump on in. The water's fine. I still haven't decided how I would translate this verse to bring out its use of alliteration, assonance, etc. I'll just make a few preliminary comments and leave things there:
1) Clearly, "pure" is set off as the first and foremost virtue in James' list.
2) Despite the alliteration that follows based on the Greek letter epsilon, only 3 of these 6 alliterated words belong together in any significant way: "peaceful," "gentle," and "friendly." (Will says there are 6 consecutive words beginning with epsilon in this verse, but there are really only 5. The last word is preceded by mestes.)
3) The next 3 alliterated words begin with the Greek letter alpha so in one sense they belong together. But notice that the last 2 words use the alpha-privative, meaning something like "not" in Greek. So I wouldn't press the alliteration here. "Good works" seems to be differentiated from "un-prejudiced" and "un-hypocritical."
This is awesome stuff. But how to bring this out in translation? Let's try this:
Like it? If you do, I can't take credit for it. It's the way the translators of the Good News Bible rendered the verse. One possible improvement would be to alliterate in English the Greek behind "peaceful, gentle, and friendly." How about "composed, congenial, and considerate"? Okay, that's pretty lame. Maybe we should all just learn Greek instead!
Friday, July 13
6:50 PM Hello, fellow bloggerites. I'd like to share with you two things I'm doing this evening.
1) I'm baking muffins. Since I had forgotten the recipe, I got out Becky's Betty Crocker Cookbook and found what I was looking for on p. 421 under the entry "Muffins."
2) I'm reading through Craig Koester's Hebrews commentary again and noticing how he is constantly referring back to the discourse structure of the entire book whenever he examines a particular verse.
You might be thinking, "What in the world do those two activities have to do with each other?" Much in every way, to quote one of my favorite authors.
We can read a book of the New Testament in one of two ways. We can read it like we read a cookbook, or we can read it like a novel. These are vastly different approaches. A cookbook is simply a repository of facts. It doesn't really matter where in the cookbook you find your recipe. The page number is irrelevant. You just need to know how to bake muffins. But when you read a novel, the opposite is true. As the story progresses, the entire plot shifts. Only as the story unfolds can we truly understand the significance of the novel's characters and plot line. It's important for us to realize that reading a book like Hebrews is a lot like reading a novel. As the argument develops, we learn more and more about the overarching theme of the novel. Nor can we simply go to the ending and read the last chapter. There is no "surprise" ending to a novel unless we've done our due diligence and read the entire book. Koester shows how Hebrews is a very carefully argued homily in which all the parts fit the whole in a way that supports the center. At the same time, this concentric structuring is balanced by a more linear argument that moves toward the goal expressed in the final chapters of how to "please" God by offering Him our service and sacrifice. This is a far cry from simply memorizing verses out of their context. In New Testament Philology, a book edited by Mel Winstead, my good friend Radu Gheorghita offers a chapter called "Scripture Memorization and Theological Education." He writes (p. 176): "The following considerations are intended as an apologia for reconsidering Scripture memorization as an indispensable part of the instrumentarium of the theologian, the biblicist and systematician alike, especially during the years of their theological formation." As the essay notes, Radu himself has memorized large portions of the New Testament in Greek, including the book of Hebrews. "The primary cognitive benefit of memorization," he writes (p. 179)
What this means is that for us to truly understand a book like Hebrews, we have to read it from beginning to end and study it that way too.
Thank you, Radu, for this important reminder.
And thank you, Betty Crocker, for the muffin recipe.
4:12 PM Wow. Wow! WOW. WOW!!!! My 2-day mini-vacation was off the charts. Just the Lord and me -- walking together, biking together, hiking together, talking together (seems I did most of the talking), and just -- what word am I looking for here? -- communing together. Here's a teaser. They say it's the most beautiful waterfall along the Appalachian Trail. I can believe it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yesterday I drove almost 5 hours to Damascus, VA to grab a shuttle to take my bike and me to the end of the Virginia Creeper Trail in White Top. The Appalachian and 6 other trails intersect this quaint town. Our van driver told us that Damascus was once a booming textile town but is staying above water today mostly because of the bicycle rental/shuttle businesses (I counted 8 of them).
It took us about 30 minutes to arrive at the trail head.
This building is actually a replica of the original station that stood atop the highest point of the railroad until it was abandoned in 1977.
Here's a pretty good view of what the Creeper looks like. Every half mile or so you cross one of these wooden trestle bridges.
Occasionally, however, you break out into the open, where a huge meadow awaits you.
About 11 miles into your ride, you're plenty hungry. Of course, the tourism industry doesn't miss a beat.
I enjoyed a foot-long hot dog, "all the way" as we say in North Carolina. Sure hit the spot. After completing my 17-mile ride, I drove to my Airbnb in Buchanan.
The guest room at the Mount Joy Manor has a queen size bed plus a jacuzzi tub and tiled shower. Awesome.
Phil and Lori were the perfect hosts, even volunteering to cook breakfast for me even though that wasn't included in our rental agreement. Thank you!
After eating, I made my way via the Peaks of Otter to the trail head for Apple Orchard Falls. Here's Sharp Top, which I've climbed 3 or 4 times (I can't recall exactly).
I enjoyed the views (and a cup of coffee) at the Peaks of Otter Lodge before heading back out on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You begin your hike at milepost 28. The Apple Orchard Trail is a down-and-back hike for a total of about 2.8 miles, according to my Garmin.
This sign says otherwise. But I think my watch is correct.
The trail moves in a northerly direction, where it crosses the Appalachian Trail at about 0.2 miles.
One mile into your hike you pass a gigantic overhanging rock. At this point, you begin a fairly steep descent to the falls. Stairs are added for safety.
All of a sudden you are treated to a view of the 200-foot high waterfall. Isn't this place gorgeous?
You're looking at one happy (and sweaty) hiker.
I had no idea the waterfall would be so breathtaking. Of course, what goes down must go up.
If you ever needed a good cardio workout, I think I've found the right place for you. I've discovered so much about my body through exercise. When you're climbing up a mountain, you call on all your reserves. You're operating at full throttle. The climb, therefore, becomes a good litmus test for your overall fitness. That's why hiking is an ever-changing learning experience. You learn something new about yourself every time you climb. And when you push to the limit, you become the phoenix, born all over again.
Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I hope my report today was an encouragement and maybe even an inspiration to put those hiking shoes on again. If someone my age who is as un-athletic as it gets can get out there and conquer a mountain, you must now believe you can too. My little mini-vacation was such a great, simple reminder to stop the pity party and get something done. It's when I'm actually pushing myself that I can look myself in the eye with respect.
Wednesday, July 11
10:16 PM This evening Sheba and I were sitting on the front porch watching the storms going through the area, casting a feeling of foreboding over the countryside. My mind went to a decision I recently made that I have since come to regret. It wasn't a life or death matter, or even a right versus wrong matter. It was simply a choice I made, made too hastily and without sufficient forethought. The regrets have since piled up in my brain and are sitting there festering. Ugh. I'm often paralyzed by decision making. I have been guilty of making by-the-seat-of-my-pants decisions. Then I say to myself, "Wie dumm von mir!" (Okay, so I don't really speak German to myself. Well, not often. But I love that line of Rommel's from the movie The Longest Day. "How dumb of me!" said the German commander when he realized that the Allied invasion of Europe was taking place in Normandy and not at the Pas de Calais as everyone, Rommel included, had assumed.) Do you know what happened next? I opened the book of Hebrews and my eyes just happened to fall on Heb. 4:14-16. That was a God thing, big time. This text began whispering to me, "You're ignoring your Great High Priest." And I was. Not only was I not turning to the throne of grace for help in time of need, I was turning everywhere else for relief from my self-inflicted guilt. Evidently, Jesus understands exactly what I'm going through. "Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses." And boy do I have weaknesses. Becky would have not made the mistake I made. But I'm not Becky. I'm me. We each had our own weaknesses, but a good many of them we shared, per Craig Koester's description of "weaknesses" in his Hebrews commentary (p. 283):
1) Physical weakness.
2) Social weakness.
3) Vulnerability to sin.
Jesus enables weak people like me to "approach the throne of grace" (v. 14). "[H]uman beings are subject to forces beyond their control, and they need help to cope with daily life" (Koester, p. 295). There is something so nourishing, so healing, when we remember that our High Priest understands exactly what we're going through. It's like falling into a soft cushion. When I'm feeling down, I want to call Pizza Hut. When I fail to look unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, I injure my own soul. A soul divided against itself will collapse, crushing everyone taking refuge under its shelter. Enter Jesus. Is there anything more we could ask for? Sure, we could spend our lives dragging our regrets behind us, but that's our choice. Jesus allows us to move beyond our guilt and regrets by commanding us to look unto Himself (Heb. 12:2). "You're not a failure." "Everyone else struggles like you." "I understand." Jesus may have suffered, but I bet you a thousand bucks He was not whiny. I am His friend, beloved and treasured. If I ask Him for strength and mercy and grace, He will give them to me.
Obviously, I'm still working on this wisdom thingy. When we make silly decisions, He's neither shocked nor horrified. Love still wins. Hope still triumphs. Faith still conquers. I may not be able to see my Great High Priest, but evidences of His presence are everywhere. All I have to do is pause and look for them. If any of you cared what I thought and asked for my opinion (right after Uncle Sam sends me a million dollar tax refund), I would say that we all need to give a lot more space in our lives for the concept of redemption. We need to incorporate a worldview that begins and ends with our Great High Priest, Jesus. I couldn't fathom living a single day without Him. Could you? This has everything to do with Christian discipleship. Not only is Jesus the compassionate High Priest we've always wanted, He creates peace in us that we can only find in Him.
I've had many setbacks in life. And there will be plenty more to come. But the fact is, failure after failure has brought me to the place where I am today. The point is that I tried. I wasn't afraid of failing. Mistakes are always learning opportunities.
Learn from your mistakes.
Never let fear paralyze you.
Fall down 10 times, get up 11.
Keep the faith even when you have no earthly reason to do so.
Never be the victim of your circumstances.
Stop beating yourself up.
Grab hold of your High Priest.
In celebration of Him, I'm gonna visit the throne of grace and tarry a while tonight. It's not about me. It's about Jesus -- not Jesus the tooth fairy, but Jesus the Redeemer and Lover of my soul. This is so cliché, I know, but it really is true.
Through all of my tough times, I will forever be grateful for Him.
3:20 PM Well, it was "one of those days." No, it wasn't as bad as being trapped inside a cave or being sucked out of an airplane window, but it was mighty close. My plan this morning was to take my car down to Oxford and have my new tires installed and aligned, then get in a workout, a bike, and a swim before picking up bales at 1:30. No problemo, right? Problemo! A real disaster. I was at the Goodyear dealer when they opened at 7:30. They couldn't check the alignment ("We don't have the right specs for a 2017 Odyssey."). They didn't reprogram the tire pressure sensors. ("Oops. We forgot."). I was finally liberated from the tire store at 1:00, just in time to get up hay. Speaking of which, whatcha think of this 6-decker?
We had to really work to get that done, too, especially in 101-degree temps. That's some nice-lookin' horsie hay if I do say so meself. Since it will probably rain tonight, I'm going to take a couple of days off from haying and do a couple of things I've wanted to do for a very long time in my home state of Virginia -- (1) bike the Virginia Creeper Trail (or at least 17 miles of it), and (2) hike to Apple Orchard Falls (a moderately-difficult 7.5-mile loop trail). I'll need to get an early start tomorrow morning if I'm going to be able to take the bike shuttle at noon from Damascus to White Top. Then it's a leisurely ride, all downhill, through what I am told is some of the purtiest countryside of all of Virginny. Tomorrow night I'm staying in an Airbnb in Buchanan, VA, close to the Falls trailhead. It's a restored mansion that was built in 1804 by a Revolutionary War veteran.
I'm told it's set on a majestic hill with views of the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains.
I can't wait to hike again. It's been a while. Hiking is welcoming to even the least athletically inclined. It's a mystery drug that -- like a Starbuck's Caramel Macchiato -- will keep you coming back for more. And, unlike running, there are no gross side-effects like toenails falling off or snot rockets shooting out of your nose. Hiking is, in short, an incredible experience.
I might take my GoPro camera with me.
Yes, that's a threat.
Time to eat ....
Tuesday, July 10
9:20 PM Just finished my work for the day. And what a lovely day it was. We got up yet another large field this evening and finished up just as the fireflies were making their nightly debut. Beautiful. I won't bore you with another baling report except to post this message chain that I had with one of my daughters. We were discussing farm work -- its joys and challenges (she froze 159 ears of corn today). It can get tiring for sure. I sent her a pic with this message:
We also talked about mom -- her work ethic, her seeming tirelessness, and how happy she would be to see us working so hard. Earlier today I got in a 5 mile bike then swam my laps. I notice there's a major triathlon this weekend at Jordan Lake down in North Carolina but I'm not ready for a half mile open-water swim. Sigh. Maybe one day.
Rice is cookin' and I'm starving, so ....
4:40 PM I used to publish a great deal more in the field of New Testament textual criticism than I do nowadays. What motivated me greatly was the way I sensed that some students were simply adopting whichever reading was printed above the line in their Greek New Testament rather than evaluating the textual evidence for themselves. Thus I'm always happy when I see a blog post having anything to do with a major New Testament textual variant, and this one at the Evangelical Textual Criticism website is no exception. I'm very glad that the author prefers the longer reading ("in Ephesus") in Eph. 1:1, since I came to the same conclusion both in my master's thesis at Talbot and the first essay I ever published in a journal, entitled "The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address" (accessible here by permission of the publishers). Not all of my ideas have been adopted, of course, but I do think the days of automatically following the so-called "earliest and best manuscripts" (in this case, p46, Aleph, and B) are waning. The idea is that an opening salutation in Paul that lacks a place designation is out of step with his normal pattern of writing. There are, of course, some who argue for a so-called "encyclical theory" in which Paul is said to have left a blank space that was to be filled in later by Tychicus. But if you carefully read p46, Aleph, and B you'll see that there is no such thing as a blank space in any of these manuscripts.
Let me try and summarize my views on the variant "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1. Both the external and the internal evidence, in my opinion, point to the originality of these words. If this is the case, then the letter we know as "Ephesians" was in fact written to, addressed to, sent to, delivered to, and first read by the Ephesian believers. (Upshot? When you as a pastor ask your parishioners to "Turn to the Book of Ephesians," you don't have to go "wink, wink.") Moreover, it's no accident that the place designation was excised in some of our early Greek manuscripts in an apparent attempt to transform the letter from an occasional document into a general/catholic/universal epistle. Nils Dahl was right: The problem of particularity existed in the earliest church, and apparently the easiest way to "solve" the problem was by removing place names. This practice stopped once the early church began to acknowledge that all of the Pauline letters were general/catholic/universal in one sense: They were ultimately intended by the Holy Spirit to be read by all Christians everywhere. Which is why I can read a very personal letter like the one Paul sent to his friend Philemon and not feel guilty for reading someone else's mail!
As an aside, I was a bit surprised to find a number of what seemed to be significant typos in a blog post dealing with "transcription errors." This might be the most glaring example of them all:
Here, of course, the Greek for "Ephesians" needs a "Phi" instead of a "Pi." I realize you're probably thinking, "As if Dave Black doesn't have any typos in his blog posts." Clearly I believe I can be a better typist. Evidently, typos matter. And maybe for good reason. On the other hand, typos like these are easily fixable -- as I've discovered on many an occasion after one of my kids has pointed them out to me. Typos notwithstanding, I've been enormously helped in my work as an amateur textual critic by websites such as Evangelical Textual Criticism, whose posts (including this one) are always stimulating and often provocative.
6:40 AM Have you done much sailing? I haven't, despite the fact that I grew up on an island surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. In Kailua, my friend and I would sometimes take his Hobie Cat (our surfboards in tow) out to the Mokulua Islands when the reef was breaking.
That saved us a good hour of paddling. The only long-distance sailing I did in Hawaii was when I was spending a week on Maui and a friend asked me if I'd like to sail back to O'ahu with him on his dad's 35-foot yacht. It would be him, another friend, and 16-year old me. I said sure. We left Lahaina Harbor at sunrise and before we knew it we were in the Molokai Channel, where the winds are treacherous. To say the experience was exhilarating would be an understatement. Eventually Koko Head appeared as a tiny speck on the horizon, and I knew we would make it home safely. I learned a lot about sailing that day. A sailboat never goes in a straight line. You have to point the bow slightly windward via the rudder, allowing it to be constantly pushed to the leeward side. The most important part of this whole process is to leave yourself enough leeway. That's not always easy to do, especially when the wind direction is constantly shifting. Here's a picture of what this looks like. (I can't post a real photo of me and my friends on the boat since we didn't have cameras in the Dark Ages.)
Life is a lot like sailing. You set your sail, and then watch yourself achieve your goal. Right? Hardly. The fact is, the winds in our lives are constantly changing. Which means that we're always altering our course accordingly. Like today. I was hoping to get in a 10 mile run this morning but my Achilles Tendon on my left foot is hurting, just a little bit, but enough to make me pause and readjust my sails. You see, I'm the kind of person who doesn't give himself enough leeway in life. I set my sail and rudder and expect everything to go as planned. Which means I've trained when I shouldn't have, run in races that I had no business running in, and pushed my body when I should have been resting it. Running is so "daily," if you get my drift. You are constantly having to pay attention to yourself and make adjustments along the way. The winds are outside of your control. But the one thing you can control is the sail and the rudder.
Sometimes I'm asked, "Who is your reader?" I'm going to guess that the person who reads this blog is probably a Jesus follower whose life is mostly blessed and whose world is pretty secure. But occasionally, I'll hear from someone who's teetering on the edge of faith. They've run into a strong headwind, and are having to make some pretty significant course adjustments, just as I have had to do in my own life recently. I value you desperately, dear reader, whoever you are and whatever you may be going through (or not going through). Hear me: I don't think God wants you to ever doubt His faithfulness. In fact, He sent Jesus to soothe those troubled waters in our lives. Something wonderful happens in our lives when we yield to the pain and the sorrow. The Spirit begins rushing in, sweeping us up in His wake. I've lived long enough to know that you can press extremely hard on the Lord and He will hold you. I've discovered that it's okay to be a widower, to age, to find all of life very challenging and yet equally beautiful. Your life is a story you've been given to live. Live it with beauty and light. Banish envy and doubt with truth. And always be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway. It's a matter of endless fiddling -- with your schedule, your priorities, and a dozen other major things that affect your life.
Sail on, friend!
Monday, July 9
7:50 PM Farm update:
1) Baled this field again.
2) Our first load of the day.
3) And our second.
4) Yes, we were hot and sweaty. Satisfaction is often disguised as hard work.
Time for supper (did I say stir-fry?).
3:02 PM Busy day:
Tonight we're getting up hay. Such is the world I live in. I am ready for a nice long nap!
P.S. Here's my new Husqvarna ride mower. I seem to go through one of these every three years or so. What a weird life.
8:20 AM How do we find just that right balance between exercise and rest? For me, the porridge is usually a little too hot or too cold, when it needs to be "just right" (thank you, Goldilocks). Here's my Map My Run data for the past 30 days.
I put in 26 workouts for a total of 170 miles. So today I'm asking myself, "Self, are you working out too much?" In other words, regardless of the amount of miles or hours we put in monthly, the solution to the balance question is to listen to our bodies. They are usually quick to tell us when we're doing too much. When we push ourselves beyond what they are ready for, we experience fatigue and pain. It's really just that simple. That's why we have to listen to our bodies attentively. If we don't, we may find ourselves working too hard and thus working against ourselves.
My goal for October is to (1) complete my first 31-mile ultramarathon and (2) run a PR at the Marine Corps Marathon. I think both are do-able, but I won't get there unless I find the right balance between too hard and too easy. On weeks like this week, I already know I'll be getting up hay several evenings in a row, so I have to conserve enough energy for that. As for my training cycle this week, I'll just have to listen to my body. Today it's telling me to take the day off from running. However, I still hope to get in a good workout at the Y and then swim some laps at the public pool. Again, it's all a matter of balance. I'm trying to be a good Goldilocks.
Moreover, I'm beginning to see the relevance of training for my non-running life as well. Through running I'm hoping to find that balance in my everyday life that often eludes me. Facebook? There's only one site I read. Goodbye everyone else. TV? Haven't watched it in years (except every time I go out for dinner -- where a TV is in every nook and cranny of the restaurant, even in the men's room. Yikes). I've also pressed the reset button on getting news online. Let's be honest: I don't have time to stay engaged with all the news outlets that are demanding my attention 24/7. Without the noise and static of being online, I'm learning how to rest and simplify. I know that a media fast won't make the evening news, but I gotta tell you, it's so liberating. As for emails, I'm really good at answering them quickly, perhaps too good. I like people who respond to my texts and emails immediately. But later responses don't hurt anybody. All too often I hold myself at gunpoint by the expectations of others. Let's face it, that works for only so long.
So where do things stand as of today? Few care whether or not I fast from social media. You don't need to read my blog as much as I need to write it. Instead, this week I hope to find quality time with family while not neglecting my workouts and my farm jobs. Maybe this is a new beginning on a new perspective on balance. Hopefully so.
7:40 AM I read Stan Porter's essay on discourse analysis last night.
When I think about the guy who published Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek in 1988, my second book, I can't remember him. It would be like describing another person. I had only just begun to be interested in the art and science of linguistics and its application to the study and teaching of New Testament Greek. Today, all that has changed. As Stan reminds us, discourse analysis "is important to the future of New Testament interpretation" (p. 208). Stan warns against neglecting discourse analysis for a reason. All exegesis needs to be grounded in linguistics. It's just that simple. When I wrote my 1988 book, I was a linguistic neophyte. In many ways I still am. So if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by your Greek studies and are considering surrender, do read this essay by one of the world's leading New Testament Greek scholars. His perspective would, I think, do us all good.
Sunday, July 8
6:16 PM I did it! My fourth triathlon is in the books! Because the race site in North Carolina was at least a two hour drive from home, I got a room in the Hampton Inn and enjoyed some great Ethiopian food last night.
I woke up at 4:30 (the race started at 7:00 am) and grabbed some coffee before driving to the Rex Wellness Center in Garner. After picking up my bib and getting body-marked, I headed off to set up in the transition area. This time I tried to be scientific about where I put my stuff, and believe it or not, my T1 and T2 times were my best yet for a tri. I tried to keep everything simple and well organized during transition.
The swim was a breeze. So was the bike. The bike course consisted of a simple out-and-back for a total of a mere 10 miles. I usually hug the right side of the road and let the speed demons pass me, but this time it seemed like I was the one doing the passing, thanks to my nifty new road bike. The second transition was easy. You just rack your bike and throw your helmet off. All I had to do was a 2 mile run. I was secretly planning on placing in my age group if possible. I felt pretty good. The 2 miles flew by and I finished the race with a smile on my face. Here are the vital stats:
Official Finish Time = 1:11:49.
65-69 Age Group = 2nd Place.
Lots of thanks to all of the course volunteers who made everything happen today. I'm especially grateful that I placed in my division because let me tell you, the people here in Garner are SUPER FIT. It was humbling to be able to stand on the podium with these guys.
After the awards ceremony I headed to one of my favorite Mexican eateries to celebrate. La Cocina has some of the very best chili rellenos in Raleigh.
I came home and mowed about 4 acres before my lawn mower bit the dust. That's fine, I needed to get a new one anyway. Besides, I needed a nap too! It was a great race, but I still have things to work on. I'm getting faster on the bike, but my swim times can be greatly improved. This will only happen if I'm willing to put in the effort to get faster at this whole triathlon thing. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.
Another day, another race, another personal victory over sedentary confinement:-)
Thanks for reading.
Saturday, July 7
9:38 AM I probably shouldn't be admitting this, but I'm enjoying reading the Festschrift edited by Mel Winstead. My colleague Ben Merkle's essay ("Verbal Aspect and Imperatives: Ephesians as a Test Case") concludes as follows (p. 51):
Ben still thinks the general distinction between aorist imperatives as referring to specific commands and present imperatives as referring to general precepts is helpful. But it's too simplistic. With that I agree. As I'm prepping for my Hebrews class, I took another look at the present hortatory subjunctive in Heb. 12:1: ""Let us run with endurance the race set before us." Here trechōmen seems to have the idea of "continue running," but did the author have the luxury of choosing an aorist form for this lexeme? A glance at the data shows that he did. I found numerous examples of aorist hortatory subjunctives of the verb trechō in Greek. Take a look at these:
Truth is, I need to do this kind of research every time I examine the use of a present versus aorist imperative/hortatory subjunctive. That said, I do think the general distinction between these two tense-forms holds true. All told, Ben offers some pretty good perspective. We sometimes place verbal aspect on a pedestal it wasn't meant for. If we're not careful, exegesis can become over-exegesis, as Ben reminds us. The dangerous part of exegesis is not what it focuses on but what it distracts us from -- context and usage.
8:42 AM Hey guys, and welcome back. I just returned from a week in the Big D where I visited with mom and dad as well as her brother and his wife. I'm sure we did more eating than is legal.
On Wednesday morning, I competed in the Liberty-on-the-Lake 10K in The Colony, TX. Truthfully, I wasn't sure I was going to run in this race. The forecast looked bleak (heat and humidity). But I felt I had trained hard for the event, so why not give it the old college try? On my way to the race site I fueled up at the local Dennys. It was my usual fare: two pancakes and two cups of coffee. Breakfast of running champions! I then drove to the race venue, got my running bib, and waited for the race to start. At 8:10 am we were off. The first mile was probably the hardest. The sidewalk we were running on was too narrow to hold all the runners and we were practically stumbling over each other.
Finally the 5K runners turned around and the 10K runners were left on their own. At this point, I was running with about 300 other people. I tried to keep a 13 min./mile pace, hoping to shave a couple of minutes off my course PR. That was not to be. By mile four, I was beginning to wilt. I was taking three cups of water at every aid station -- one to drink, and two to pour over my head and down my back. There was a guy about my age who was really smoking it, and I fell behind him for the rest of the race, letting him pace me.
When I passed the 6 mile marker I kicked it into high gear and crossed the finish line strong. I got my finisher's medal and chugged down two liters of Gatorade while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Believe it nor not, I was awarded third place in my age group.
I felt I had run a mediocre race, but hey, I'll take it.
Congratulations to everyone who participated in the event. The heat was blistering, but if you kept hydrated you were okay. The next morning I woke up feeling super motivated and got in an early 6.6 mile run through the local subdivision. It felt great.
Afterwards I stopped by 24 Hour Fitness and swam laps for 40 minutes in a last-ditch effort to get ready for Sunday's tri.
Looking back, I was super glad I participated in the 10K on Wednesday. Now I'm more pumped than ever to train for my ultra and the MCM in October. Game on!
Thanks for checking in, and talk to you soon.
Monday, July 2
6:40 AM One of the extraordinary blessings of being married to Becky Lynn Lapsley was getting to know her missionary parents, who ministered the Gospel in Ethiopia many years ago. There they raised their eldest daughter, who ended up marrying a surfer dude from Hawaii. Could anyone have predicted that?
Becky is no longer physically present with us, and her death left a gigantic hole in our lives. But we have all grown during the past four years, grown spiritually and -- just as importantly -- grown closer to each other. This week I get to visit mom and dad in Dallas again. Of course, we will talk about Becky, but not very much. Our focus is more on the present and the future than on the past. We are, each one of us, finding ways to feed our souls, to keep going, to stay involved in the world, to find new places for our lives. Becky would have expected that of us, and I expect that of myself. Becky would have loved having Ethiopian food with us or going to a concert on the Fourth of July. She and her mom would probably work in the garden together. She would, for sure, never allow us to give into self-pitying thoughts. "Go on with your lives," I can hear her saying. Becky is still with us, if only in our memories. She will always be a part of our lives, a huge part, and we shall love her forever.
Sunday, July 1
8:18 PM Haying is done for the day. The real feel today was exactly 100 degrees, and it felt that way too. Miserable.
Can't wait to get to Dallas tomorrow, where the temps are even higher. Not only do I get to visit mom and dad, but Becky's brother and his wife will be there too. It will be a grand reunion.
This morning I was up at 4:30. I read the entire book of Hebrews. (My daughter tells me that in her Sunday School class this morning the teacher read aloud the entire book of Galatians. Sweet.) Tonight I'll read something else. Like my book on the 1996 Everest disaster. How foolish of them to climb beyond the agreed-upon turnaround time. Summit fever is very real. I felt it myself in Switzerland. The week after I was on the Matterhorn two 67-year old Brits died on the mountain because they got caught out overnight without warm clothing. My heart goes out to their families.
I have a race this Wednesday in Dallas. It's only a 10K but the weather will be brutal. Thankfully we have the Weather Channel, cause you're checking the weather forecast several times a day. The real feel on Wednesday will be 102. Perfect weather, right? The jury is out on whether I'll run. I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. I am not lying when I say that I love running so much I can easily get running fever every bit as much as I can get summit fever. Be aware of this possibility for you. Sometimes it's best just to take a couple days off and not risk your health or safety doing what you love to do.
Well, time to get cleaned up and cook supper. (Stir-fry? Yes.). The rice is already cooking. Me? Cooking dinner every night? I still can't believe it.
7:15 AM Well, I blinked, and suddenly half of 2018 disappeared. Where did it go? The halfway point is perhaps a good time to take stock of where we've been and where we hope to go.
That's the first word that comes to mind as I reflect on the first half of 2018. It's crazy, I know, but I think of her first thing every morning. How can't I? I live in our house, still enjoy her canned veggies, still see her picture on the mantel and hear her voice singing. Marriages go through phases -- newlyweds, first home, children, empty nest, widowhood/widowerhood. People a lot smarter than me describe these as "seasons" of life or psycho-social stages. Each stage of life requires us to learn new lessons. "Even the saddest things," wrote Frederich Buechner, "can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead." I once read that it takes about two years to recovery from a natural death. But if the death was traumatic, recovery can take a lot longer. Ann Kaiser Stearns, in her book Coming Back, writes: "Recovery from loss is like having to get off the main highway every so many miles because the main route is under construction." Exactly. I live in Podunk, Virginia. So on my drive to work in North Carolina, I take the countriest of country roads. It seems that one of them is always undergoing a bridge repair. You are rerouted through roads and hamlets you never expected to visit. Basically, you're still heading in the right direction, but you're not following a straight line any more. It often takes months for the county to finish building a bridge, and you sometimes wonder if they will ever be done. Ann Stearns basically says, Don't worry about that. There is a finished highway in your future.
For me, recovery has involved many elements, both good and not-so-good. Concentration and focus have become difficult. Sleep can still be a struggle. The ache in my heart never seems to go away. On the other hand, I've discovered exercise to be a great stress reliever. And teacher. Climbing the Alps and the Rockies has taught me so much about grieving. You have to take one step at a time. You look for a rhythm between your breathing and the steps you are taking. You settle into a metronome-like pace, one that can sustain you for a very long time. It took me seven hours to summit Mount Bierstadt in 2016. To manage fatigue, I pictured very precisely in my mind what my body was doing. I saw my legs balance as they prepared to take the next step. I saw my muscles tense as they pushed into the next step. I saw my muscles then relax as they rested for an instant before taking the next step. I saw the air as it moved in and out of my lungs. I was brand new to the sport of mountain climbing, but what seemed strange to me began to feel familiar. Today, as I continue to cope with Becky's death, I'm creating another "new normal." It's like learning to climb. You just take one step after the other, knowing that you will eventually reach your goal. And, as with climbing or traveling along a highway detour, the journey of grief takes you through uncharted territory. Anniversaries are the hardest. Becky's birthday. Mother's Day. The anniversary of her Homegoing. I recall the first anniversary of her death. Am I losing my mind? Will I ever get over this? Today, the pain is not as in-your-face, but it's still there. It's seems that I have to "let go" on a daily basis. Easy? No. Essential? Yes. You feel, and God continues to heal.
Prior to Becky's death, I had a very limited view of God's sovereignty. I now see that God takes all of our experiences and molds them into a greater whole. God's sovereignty doesn't protect us from loss. But our Sovereign God is also a Suffering Sovereign. We approach Him boldly because He can feel not only our sorrow but our joy. His presence doesn't erase our grief. But it gives us peace. The road is still crazy crooked, but at least I don't have to travel it alone.
I don't know what other detours the rest of 2018 holds. But I know they'll be there. If you are traveling on the detour of loss today, I have no advice to give you. I am so done with pious (and even un-pious) platitudes. Thankfully, I have friends and family who want to listen and sympathize. I have often told them how grateful I am for their concern and love. Sometimes a person will write me and let me know how they found meaning in their suffering through something I wrote or said. Recently I received an email from a pastor whose wife died from cancer. "I sure do miss her!" he wrote. Then he concluded his email with these words:
I'm sure my friend is still probing for meaning in his wife's death, trying to make sense of it all. We all do. My appreciation for widowers has grown exponentially in the past 4 years. Our loss joins us. Through it we have found community, a community for broken people like me, a "Jesus-is-wonderful" community. William Blake well captures the meaning of "Jesus is wonderful!" in his poem "Can I See Another's Woe?"
Today, with half the year gone, I feel like I'm halfway up the Matterhorn. Becky's death was and will always remain a horrible experience in my life. But I'm climbing on. I noticed that Becky always seemed to have had a much higher pain tolerance than I do. I'm getting older. No matter how hard I try to control the airplane I'm flying, I can't control the natural flow. The lesson here? Do what Becky did, and did so well. Surrender. To the loss. To the pain. To the unmet goals. To the grief. To the fear. To the raw emotions.
Then look forward.
Embrace the future.
Trust the One "who doth sit by us and moan."
So that's my mid-year report, friends. A jumbled array of feelings, eh? That's the way of grief, I reckon. Grief is very personal. Each of us mourns in a different way. So heal in your own way, my friend. I'm not a lover of advice columns. But that's about the best I can do. God doesn't give us explanations, only a deeper revelation of His heart.
Saturday, June 30
9:45 PM Another busy but rewarding day of farming.
6:44 AM Today I want to run another 5 miles. Today I'm glad my 66-year old body can still run. Today I am glad I can run another marathon this year. Today I am glad I will never qualify for Boston (keeps one humble). Today.
Dear God, Giver of life and Author of love, the gifts You have given me have really made a difference. Today, I'd just like to publicly say, "Thank You."
Friday, June 29
5:58 PM It's a lot of work to maintain a whole bunch of acres and two homes. But the work goes a lot easier when one of your daughters and two of your grandkids help.
I mowed while they spiffied up the houses. What a blessing. Tomorrow I'll finish my yard work in the early morning before it gets too hot and then go for a run and swim. My next tri is only 9 days away in Garner, NC. The clock is ticking. Monday I leave for Dallas, where I see the temperature is a mere 100 degrees. Made today's high of 95 seem nice and cool.
I'm still glad I'm farming. I'm still glad I'm running and biking and swimming and climbing. I'm still glad I'm teaching and writing. Did I mention that I love life? It's not perfect of course. But it's the best I could have hoped for.
May today you find the blessings around you.
8:26 AM In one of my essays, I likened the composition of Hebrews to Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel. Grandeur. Symmetry. Sublimity. Architectural precision. This is obvious from the very first paragraph of Hebrews, which Lightfoot once called "the most beautifully constructed and expressive sentence in the New Testament." Paul's momentous theme called for a literary style unparalleled in its beauty and form. Here's the outline we'll be using in my Hebrews class this fall.
It's taken from the work of Albert Vanhoye. As Vanhoye notes, the exact center of the book -- its rhetorical "high water mark" if you will -- is the anarthrous Christos in 9:11.
Χριστὸς δὲ παραγενόμενος ἀρχιερεὺς τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν διὰ τῆς μείζονος καὶ τελειοτέρας σκηνῆς οὐ χειροποιήτου....
I keep telling myself I should spend more time in the book of Hebrews. But then again, the message of Hebrews is that through Christ we have constant access to and fellowship with the Father, not only when we are praying or reading the Scriptures, but throughout the day. Brother Lawrence once wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He said that some of his closest times with God were not spent on his knees or in Bible study but "in the noise and chatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things." I wonder where you are right now as you read my words. Try practicing God's presence amid the nasty noise and chaotic confusion of your world. Jesus opened that door for us. How ironic if we Bible readers do not walk through it.
7:20 AM I want to thank brother Mammen Joseph for sending me this picture of the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra, India.
Becky organized and funded the school before she passed away. So much love to all these wonderful children and teachers. I get choked up when I see this picture, because I love these people so much. I hardly know what to say. Yes, I miss Becky, but I could not be more grateful for her vision and faithfulness to the Gospel Commission.
The magnum opus of Becky's life isn't this building project, however. Nor is it any of the other works she did for Christ. It's the way she lived. Likewise, our greatest work will not be seen in the spectacular but in the impact of our ordinary daily lives faithfully lived in extraordinary ways. Becky made a difference in this world because she was always seeking out ways she could help her brothers and sisters in foreign lands. If you will, Becky had a robust theology of Christian vocation, and her life inspired others to embrace common grace for the common good. Having herself embraced the Gospel, she then lived it in humble deeds of service to people small and great. Like the apostle Paul, she didn't view her work as a tentmaker a distraction but instead saw it as a conduit for Gospel incarnation. Christian discipleship was woven seamlessly into all aspects of her life. Her well-lived life now lives on in this building and the ministries it houses. I am so proud of her.
Thank you, Becky. Thank you, Lord.
Thursday, June 28
7:28 PM So I've done 3 sprint triathlons. No biggie. Lots of people have done that -- and much much more than that. But each race has taught me lessons, and so without further ado, here are 7 things to remember if you ever want to try a tri:
1) The swim is always the first part of the race. This is because if they were to put the swim last, everybody would drown.
2) Even if you are fast on your bike, others will be faster. Much faster. Get used to it.
3) Always concentrate on your own form and abilities. Ultimately, you're racing against yourself.
4) Don't skip the awards ceremony. You want to applaud the winners -- and spy out the competition for your next race.
5) Need gear? Don't feel like you have to break the bank. You're not trying to win the silly thing, just finish it.
6) Never worry about "looking" like a triathlete. (Some guys actually shave their legs before a race. Yuk.)
7) Dress comfortably.
The sprint triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. The beauty of the tri is that you don't have to be an expert in any of the three sports to take part in it and enjoy it. At least you won't be bored.
7:35 AM Here's a connection I hadn't seen before. It's between Heb. 1:3 and Heb. 6:1. Note the words highlighted in green.
Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι’ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας· ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων.
Διὸ ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα, μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν, ἀναστάσεώς τε νεκρῶν καὶ κρίματος αἰωνίου. καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσομεν, ἐάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός.
In 1:3 the Son is said to carry the universe by His powerful word. In 6:1, believers are described as being "carried along to maturity." I had always assumed that the Carry-er in 6:1 was the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21, where the same verb phero is used in the passive to describe how the writers of Scripture were "carried along by the Holy Spirit"). However, I wonder if the agent in 6:1 isn't Christ Himself. After all, He carries "all things" (Greek: ta panta) by His powerful word.
How practical is the book of Hebrews! The purpose of this book is not only to demonstrate the finality of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. It is also to strengthen and encourage the weary members of a house church to respond to their trials with the resources that God has lavished on them, including the presence of the One who sustains them (and all things) through the word of His power. This is why so many commentators have concluded that the dominant motif in Hebrews is parenetic -- that is, the book was not written merely to inform but to shore up the readers' sagging faith.
This is a word I often need. The amazing thing is that it's often within our power to decide which way we will go. Ignore Jesus, and we can create horrors. Trust Him to work miracles, and He can heal a multitude of hurts. My friend, what do you need to entrust to Him today? What do I? Who in our lives right now needs an encouraging word? A pat on the back? A touch on the shoulder?
5:55 AM This interview on the authorship of Hebrews just came out and I thought you might be interested in it. The interviewer is none other than Abidan Shah, one of our doctoral students in textual criticism at SEBTS.
Wednesday, June 27
6:10 PM Hey there guys! My 20 mile run is done. As in dun, dun, DUN, DUNNN!!!!!!! When I finished, I went through my post-run check list:
As you can see, I ran at a very slow pace.
Since I didn't want to walk, I chose to combine a jog and a walk. It's what one famous world-class athlete (me) has dubbed a "wog." So I wogged until I could wog no more. My wog started out nice and cloudy.
This was the easy part. I guess I averaged about 5.2 mph during this part of my run. Later, the sun came out in all of its force, and my pace slowed to a crawl.
Maybe 4.2 mph max. But I got 'er done, folks. Thumbs up! The one thing I did forget to do today was apply anti-chafing cream to those places that are most sensitive to chafing. (You runners know exactly what I'm talking about.) I also underestimated how much water I would need today. I took three liters of water with me plus one liter of Gatorade and believe me, I could have used more. Otherwise, I felt good about today's training run. Running for 20 miles gives me confidence going into the marathon in October. When I run nowadays, it's like reading Greek. I feel the joy. It's the same as when you make a brand new friend. "Dave, meet running. Running, meet Dave." The joy is in the magical moment of watching the world as you pass it. When I pound the pavement (or, as I did today, pound the crushed gravel), I know that I'm truly alive. It's being a runner that matters, not how far or how fast I can run. I have to laugh, by the way, when I think that my "new" shoes already need replacing. I have to do that every 300 miles. It's already been 300 miles? Yep.
When I got home this book awaited me.
I read it in less than an hour. It's great. The five core habits the author speaks about are:
Actually, I'm already doing many of these things, but I can still make significant improvement. I try and eat "everything" (that is, meals made from the six basic categories of natural whole foods -- vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds/healthy oils, unprocessed meat, seafood, and dairy. My problem is, rather than eating high-quality foods, my diet is still skewed toward eating low-quality foods. Tonight, for example, I made stir-fry and used mostly all fresh vegetables, though I did add some frozen peas and frozen corn to the mix. I want to change that. By "eating enough," the author notes that fit people neither mindlessly overeat nor consciously restrict the amount of food they eat by enforcing inflexible calorie-cutting "diets." Finally, he says we are to "eat individually." Each of us is a unique person and has different eating patterns and diets. We therefore have to develop our own version of the endurance diet. While I don't agree with everything the author says, I do recommend reading his book.
I'm not a vegetarian, and I've raised Angus, but I really don't eat an awful lot of red meat anymore. What I want to do is increase my intake of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. I want to eat my veggies as raw as possible (the broccoli in my stir-fry tonight was nice and crunchy). I want to eat whole foods instead of processed foods (hard to do where I live, where the only grocery store is Food Lion). I want to stop eating off of "freezer food." I know, I know. I'm stating the obvious. You probably know a lot more about a healthy diet than I do. My hugest, biggest goal? Try some new vegetarian recipes. Yes, I, the ultimate meatasaurous, actually said that. Woo ... the pressure is on!
Pray for me.
6:15 AM Happy Wednesday, everybody! I'll start off this blog post with a disclosure: I think Hebrews is the perfect book to teach novice Greek students. Challenging, but do-able. If you know anything about me, then you know that I've defended the Pauline authorship of Hebrews -- in print, no less. Thus Hebrews is just another Pauline letter. Did you know that Hebrews has some of the best Greek in the entire New Testament? Did you know that it also contains numerous Septuagintalisms? Did you know that I brushed Sheba yesterday? You get all of this and more if you read my blog. You are welcome.
Today my goal is to get in a 20 mile "long run" at the High Bridge Trail. (Whenever I type "Trail," it almost always comes out "Trial." Hmmm.) Yes, I'm telling you this even though I know most people don't really care. Telling others what we're doing -- ad nauseum -- is just what runners do. While I'm running I'm going to try and visualize crossing the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. I'll be listening to Chicago as I do so. Why, there's even talk about the group doing one final grand tour with Danny back on drums and Peter singing lead vocals again. Danny would sound great, but poor Peter seems to be struggling these days hitting the high notes. The dude is getting old. Believe me, Peter, I know how you feel.
So what are your big plans for the day? Whatever they are, get up, take care of business, drink your coffee, and get on with it. 20 miles is a long way to go, but the last 5 miles aren't so bad when you spend them planning your post-run meal. What's your biggest challenge today? Think of the rewards. A fatty pastry. A long hot shower. Starbucks. (They could use our business right now.) And if you should have a mental meltdown? Keep going anyway. One tip: If you visualize where you're going ahead of time, getting there is so much easier.
Okay. I'm off. I'll let you know how it goes.
Tuesday, June 26
8:58 PM Hey guys. Just for fun, here's the course map for the Marine Corps Marathon:
As I prepare for race day, I've been studying this map and watching as many YouTubes as I can about the race. My goals for race day remain undefined. I may want to try for a new PR. Or I may simply lace up my shoes and run as leisurely as I care to. But you have to have a goal going into your races. And, once you set such goals, you accept the risk of failing to meet them. Unlike a daily jog, during a race you put everything on the line. You're willing to find out what you're made of. Once you pin that number on your shirt, you're a racer!
Let me take another look at that map. I noticed the following:
1) The course is marked out for the runners. It is intended to be a track or path kept by them. Runners don't design the race course. And they don't have the luxury of going off course either. Their job is to run within the boundaries. That's their duty.
2) One look at a course map and you quickly realize just how much effort is going to be required of you on race day. You can already see your muscles straining, your body kicking it into high gear. Nothing can be accomplished unless you give it your best shot. Running a race requires concentration and vigorous effort. Nothing less will do on race day.
3) The course by its very nature is progressive. You don't cross the finish line immediately. You finish mile 1, then mile 2, then mile 3, until you reach the 26.2 mile marker.
The image of a race is a common one in the New Testament, and so I can't help applying these observations to my own Christian life. First of all, God has a very specific plan for my life. It's been marked out by Him, and He intends for me to finish it. To diverge from it would be foolish and perilous. I have to constantly ask myself before beginning my day, "What is God's appointed task for me today? At what stage of the course am I on?" Obligation is laid upon me to finish my course! Secondly, continual effort is required if I am to finish my race. Anything worth doing in life requires effort. The Christian life demands constant concentration and the utmost energy. Finally, is my Christian life one of continual advance? Am I a more faithful follower of Jesus this year than I was last year? Am I making progress? Of course, our progress will be marred by failures and imperfections. One can be blameless without being perfect. Racing is all about putting forth an honest effort. And, one day, I'll answer for my choices.
Believers, let's oppose the temptation to become lazy in the Christian life. Let's challenge the laissez-faire mentality that says "It's never been done that way before." Let's stop lying about ourselves and using our weaknesses and imperfections to keep us from pursuing wholeheartedly the downward path of Jesus. But be prepared for a struggle. We've invented a thousand excuses to take the easy way out. According to Scripture, no real disciple is content with the level of spirituality to which they have attained. Time and again, the apostle Paul spoke of the need to run with endurance the race set before him. "I'm not beating the air. I'm not running around in circles. I'm giving life all I've got. I'm getting the most out of myself. I am determined to finish all that God intends for me to do. Nothing will move me, so that I might finish my course with joy." Friend, no one can run your race for you. But be sure of this: The Author and Perfecter of faith will enable you to finish your course, meet faithfully every duty, and overcome every trial.
Oh my stars, what a great way to live life!
5:36 PM Today I had a great workout at the gym. If I could only be 1/25th as disciplined as some of the people I see working out. So naturally I overdid it. That's just me. Go all out. Thankfully, it wasn't anything a long nap couldn't solve. Now, feeling fully refreshed, I am about to bore you silly with a few mantras about exercise (no need to thank me):
1) If you want to be happy, don't rely on the horizontal. Good health is a blessing, but real peace and joy come only from above, from the Father of Lights.
2) Share your knowledge. We all have something to give to others. When I need to learn a new exercise, I ask a more experienced lifting buddy. When I was in seminary, I took my professors out for lunch. And guess what? They were approachable, each and every one of them. They were more than willing to counsel a young married man with stars in his eyes about the academy. They were sharers. Nice trait.
3) Travel to a place where you've never been before. Like I did yesterday. You see, I've lived in Virginia for 18 years but only yesterday visited one of the most historic sites on the planet (Jamestown). As far as exercise is concerned, try running or walking or biking on a new trail. Mix things up. Don't get stuck in a rut.
4) Remember that there is risk in everything we do with our bodies. Try climbing the Alps. You will quickly reach your limits as an athlete. Risk it my friend. Risk running your first 5K. Risk ugly toenails. Risk getting sweaty. The payoff may well be a new you.
5) When working out at the gym, try not to sing out loud while listening to music. I caught myself doing that today. Not a good idea. You never sound as good to others as you do to yourself. So stop singing. Lip-sync instead. Your gym-mates will love you for it. And stop tripping you.
6) Be prepared for some pretty awesome events that will change your life forever. Learning to run is like giving birth or publishing your first book. It's amazing, for example, what a marathon will do for you. After months and months of preparation, and miles and miles of training, it all boils down to a single step when you cross that finish line for the first time. That experience will change your life forever.
7) Live in the moment. The past is past. You will never be able to relive it. And the future is future. Living in the moment means concentrating on this time in your life. For me, that looks a lot like being content to let time march on without becoming complacent about getting older. Truly enjoy each moment of your life, my friend. It's a pure gift from God.
8) Be yourself. Always. I get passed in races. A lot. That's because I'm slow. It's just who I am. By giving myself permission to be myself, I accept the body God has given me. So if you see me running in a race, don't be surprised at the sight of my persistent and stubborn style. But don't expect the smile to come off my face either.
9) Keep moving. Motion is the proof that you're still living. When I feel the breeze of a bike ride, when I feel the heat of a road race, when I feel a pouring rain as I walk, I know that I'm alive.
10) There is no secret. To anything, least of all diet and exercise. And don't let anybody tell you there is.
4:34 PM Welcome back everybody. How's the weather where you are? It's been raining constantly here -- a nice, slow "farmer's rain." Which got my somewhat addled (quasi-theologian's) brain to thinking: The Bible often speaks about God sending rain upon the earth. In Hebrews, in fact, the author is very clear: richly watered fields produce useful crops instead of worthless weeds (Heb. 6:7-8). These two verses are what I often refer to as the forgotten verses in this famous warning passage. The principle seems obvious: Where there is fruit on the tree, there is life in the tree. This is why the author can be so confident about his hearers' "salvation" (see 6:9-12). The basis for his confidence is in the work that God is doing in and through them, as seen primarily in their love for one another. Not only did they show practical concern for each other in the past but they continue to do so. (Note the shift from the aorist participle "having ministered" to the present participle "ministering." See, I told you Greek was useful!). Love is always the first mark of a genuine Christian community. So is progress and growth. Apathy is a sure sign that we are drifting away from our biblical and spiritual moorings (2:1-4). How ironic it would be for, say, students to take a year of Greek and then neglect all of their learning. That would be like a field that was well watered and cultivated producing thorns and thistles. Unthinkable! Growth in knowledge and love are indisputable evidences of God's blessing and work in us. The issue is not merely facts. It is obedience. Or, as the author of Hebrews suggests in 6:1-3, a foundation exists for only one reason -- to build a superstructure on top of it.
If you're a Greek student -- seasoned or unseasoned -- it's worth reflecting for a moment on how you plan to continue your Greek studies. Years ago I wrote A Letter to My Greek Students. If we are going to get better at our Greek, then we're going to have to participate. The good news is that there are plenty of helps out there to assist us on our way. Why not teach Greek in your local church? I spent a year doing this in my local church and it paid huge dividends. God bless those students of mine. They worked so hard. And for what? The study of Greek has a goal, which is not the careful study of Greek. The object is to discover Jesus and allow Him to wreck our lives (in a good sort of way). Show me a Greek teacher (or student) off mission, and I will show you someone with no concept of what it means to follow Jesus.
To all of my summer Greek students: You are my heart's delight. It's been a privilege to truth-seek and rabble-rouse with all of you. I hope and pray, even in a small way, Jesus is wrecking your life. We're in this together. Let's do this together.
6:15 AM Hey guys, and a very happy Tuesday morning to you. Here's a brief update for you as I continue to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Today I'm giving my legs a much-deserved day off and spending most of my time at the gym working on my upper body. My plan for tomorrow (Lord willing and weather permitting) is to get in a long run (maybe as many as 20 miles) at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, where my ultra will take place (also in October). Last Sunday, when I listed my upcoming races, I forgot to mention that I'm scheduled to do a 10K (6.2 mile) race in Dallas next Wednesday while visiting mom and dad. As you can see, by running so regularly, I'm trying to build up my "base." The idea is to try and convince your legs/heart/lungs that running 26.2 miles (or, in the case of the ultra, 31 miles) is not that big of a deal. Training is all about maintaining an overall consistency. Having a training schedule is important, but it's even more important to be out there doing it. You don't have to be super-regimented, either. Just a bit self-disciplined. And you need to remember to always have fun! (I believe in the "work hard, play hard" philosophy of life.) By the way, the same idea applies to the study of Greek. I was thrilled to see a post about this on Nerdy Language Majors this morning. How can I keep up with my Greek? What tools/apps are there to help me? Is there a Greek reading group I can join? If I can throw my hat into the ring ...
You probably know that I have a summer "Five Minute Greek Club" for my students. When you join, you agree to translate, unless providentially hindered, any two verses from your Greek New Testament daily, Monday to Friday, until the beginning of the next semester (which is Aug. 16 at Southeastern). If you do this, you get one of my books for free. Today I'm going to make this offer public. The first five people to sign up for the club and who complete their translation work by Aug. 16 will receive a gratis copy of my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. This offer is valid only today, and only to the first five people who email me at email@example.com. Want a free book? Enter today!
Okay, back to my training plan. After logging 180 miles in the past 30 days, it's time to focus on proper nutrition. Yes, one's digestive system is every bit as important as one's exercise routine. Of course, the goal is not to get thin but to get fit, so I'm not that concerned about standing on the scales every day. In fact, I haven't weighed myself in probably three months. I know when I'm feeling/looking good and when I'm not. What I would like to do -- and need to do -- is learn about how my body uses the food I put into it and to make choices that foster good health. I want to focus on balanced meals -- and more of them at less frequent intervals. I need to begin by eating at least three meals a day. I also want to eat several smaller meals a day rather than three humongous ones. I want to make better choices about what I put into my mouth. The key is to work with my body. I have to trust it -- and myself. I've got to strike the right balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Like a car engine, my body requires the proper fuel.
I hate writing about diet. I am not a nutritionist. Bottom line, my body type is large, and there's very little I can do about that. But what I can do is eat balanced meals and move my body in a way that makes me happy. I actually don't think my diet is too bad, but (as with every area of life) I know I can do better. How about you? Do you struggle (as I do) to treat your body with respect and fuel it accordingly? What's your eating philosophy?
All the best!
Monday, June 25
6:40 PM This morning I awoke at 5:00 with an insatiable case of Wanderlust. Where to go today? Preferably a place I'd never been before. But where? An idea had been forming in my sub-consciousness, and now I let it surface and examined it. The Virginia Capital Trail. You know, the one that connects Virginia's first capital (Jamestown) with its current capital (Richmond). 52 miles of pristine bike trails. 400 years of history. Historic plantation homes by the bucketful. So off I went, enjoying the sunrise over the bridge at "my fair city" of Clarksville ...
... before stopping at the Cracker Barrel in South Hill for some scrumptious hotcakes. Now I was ready for a ride!
I started my bike about 20 miles east of Richmond. Which meant that I ended up biking about 30 miles today. (Yes, I'm saddle sore.)
But it was biking through some of the prettiest countryside in Old Dominion. There were cornfields galore.
And wheat fields.
And plantation homes. Here's Berkeley.
Eventually you arrive at Jamestown.
Talk about history! You pass historical marker ...
... after historical marker ...
... after historical marker.
And in the middle of it all -- smack dab in the center of the trail in the town of Charles City -- is the cutest little restaurant you will ever find.
The food was out of this world. I couldn't even finish my meal, the portions were so large. I brought half of it home with me.
I've had a love affair with travelling for many years. Wanderlust, the very strong desire to travel, is in my blood. I imagine we adopted the word from German without change because it can't be improved on. (The Germans actually have a "Tag des Wanderns," an annual Hiking Day.) Becky and I travelled all over Europe together. I still laugh whenever I recall how we once got lost in Lamorlaye, France. And where hadn't we gone in Ethiopia?
What will you do with the rest of the year? Where will you go? What are your goals, and what should they be? Do some people have a Wanderlust gene? I think I do. Well, wherever you go and whatever you do, may God be with you.
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, June 24
7:58 PM My upcoming races (a reminder, more for myself than for you):
I don't know about you, but I find goal-setting something to help me stay dedicated. Most of us would agree that when we don't plan for something, nothing is likely to happen. What are your exercise goals for the remainder of 2018? Remember: Your goals must be your goals. Judge yourself only by your own standards. If you do, the rewards will be yours as well.
Happy running everybody!
7:44 PM The race staff wrote my age on my leg. I gave them explicit instructions NOT to add another 6.
5:42 PM Hey guys! Today I conquered my third triathlon. It couldn't have been more different from the first two I did last year. This might be the first time I really felt like a triathlete. I loved everything about today's race. Right now I'm feeling a bit tired but great. Here's a brief race report.
The setting: The course is set in the beautiful suburbs of Wake Forest, NC. The swim takes place at the Heritage Swim Club pool with a 250-meter swim. You are told to put down 99.99 for your swim time if you want to be placed last in the group. I did so, and was seeded at the end of the line. The bike is a relatively flat 12 miles with police officers and volunteers at every turn. The route does NOT close to traffic so you have to be extra vigilant while riding. Thankfully, the traffic seemed extra sparse today. The run is a simple out-and-back 5K (3.1 miles) and takes you through the neighborhood subdivisions. As I recall, there were water stations at the half mile point as well as at the 1.5 mile turnaround. At about mile 1.4 somebody had their water sprinkler out, which was most refreshing.
I woke up at 4:00 this morning and headed out of the driveway at about 4:45. This put me in Wake Forest around sunrise. It also put me there in plenty of time to find some coffee and pick up my race kit, bike and helmet stickers, timing chip, t-shirt, and a pair of free socks.
I also got my race number written on my arms and my age written on the back of my right calf. Then, as with most of the other participants, I attended the pre-race briefing. I had lots of time to set up in transition, use the porta-potty, put on sunscreen (sorely needed today), and get wet before the race.
The swim: I used to be a very strong swimmer. You had to be a good swimmer if you surfed in Hawaii. But nowadays I rarely swim, so I started at the back of the pack in order to avoid the tangle of swimmers at the start and in the middle sections of the course. (Sidebar: I left my goggles at the pool yesterday and so I arrived at the race venue goggle-less. Thankfully, one of the race vendors had a pair for sale. My new pair is even nicer than my old pair, so everything worked out in the end. I can't imagine swimming 250 meters without swim goggles!) As in the past, this year the race officials were starting the swimmers out with a rolling start. Presumably, this results in fewer swimmers making contact with each other. My goal today was to continue at a steady pace, using the crawl stroke exclusively. (Last year I had to do the breast stroke when I got tired.) The water was calm and, by starting out at the back of the back, I had absolutely no contact with my fellow swimmers along the way.
Transition 1: I exited the pool and ran to the transition area, where my bike, helmet, and sunglasses awaited me. I think I wasted a few precious seconds putting on my socks and shoes. (I need to work on this.) I also hydrated (simple water, no Gatorade yet) but didn't feel I needed nutrition.
The bike: In my first two triathlons, I rode my mountain bike. That was a huge mistake. A lot of people passed me. I have to admit: I was so discouraged after those first two races that I seriously thought I would never do another triathlon -- until I purchased my road bike. Today I actually passed a few riders. I was pretty happy with my 15.2 mph average speed on the bike course.
Time: 48:37. (Last year it was a whopping one hour and two minutes!!!)
Transition 2: Back at the transition area, I racked my bike, swapped a hat for my helmet, drank some water, and took off.
The run: When I came off my bike, my legs were feeling pretty shot. I was breathing heavily and knew I had to slow down. It was a very hot day. I took water at every aid station and also poured cups of water down my neck and back. The run went fairly well, I think, considering that my legs were dead.
Overall: I had a PR today. My overall time this year was 1:37:35. Last year, at the same event, my overall time was 1:50:02. The best part of the race was the bike. The hardest part was the run due to the heat. However, I wasn't alone. There were many fellow athletes to commiserate with! My favorite memory from the race? The water sprinkler at mile 1.4. (Suggestion for the race directors: Next year please have the fire department bring their hoses.) Afterwards I stayed for the awards while munching on post-race pizza. I earned second place in my age group this year, as opposed to seventh (and last) place in 2017. Clearly I should do triathlons more often (*wink*).
I highly recommend the Smile Train Triathlon in Wake Forest, especially for any newbies out there. It's a blast -- and an awesome way to spend your hard-earned dollars (all proceeds go to provide cleft lip and palate surgery to children in the Majority World).
With that-- thanks for reading!
Saturday, June 23
7:44 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to:
COUNTDOWN TO THE MCM!
I'm sitting here digesting a plate load of carbs in preparation for tomorrow's tri. After all, my body has to swim/bike/run over 15 miles tomorrow. Although I'm trying to train myself to eat several small meals each day rather than two gigantic ones, I fell off the wagon big time today. For breakfast I had eggs, toast, and a large serving of corned beef hash. Then I pigged out on seafood and hush puppies tonight. Habits are hard to break sometimes. My biggest problem is learning to view food as fuel rather than as a weight management problem. And, where I live, food is all too often a provider of comfort and companionship rather than something we use to fuel our bodies. You know: faith, hope, love, truth, justice, the American Way, and key lime pie. Running is a whole being activity. Ditto for cycling and swimming, I imagine. (I wouldn't really know since I'm not a very consistent cyclist or swimmer.) It's much easier to make poor food choices than to get fit. The good news is that I was able to get both a bike and a swim in today.
I am so, so, so excited about tomorrow's race. I'm eager to see how I do. Can I top last year's time? I hope so. But rather than just focusing on the destination, I want to enjoy the journey to the finish line. I'm so glad that the pool is located outdoors. I absolutely detest indoor swimming pools, like the one we had to swim in last year during the Rex Wellness Triathlon. Heated water -- along with about 500 swimmers expending their body heat -- make for cauldron-like conditions when you're enclosed in a swimming hall. As for the 12-mile bike ride, we'll see how things go. Having a road bike should make a difference in my time for this leg of the race, but then again, I'm a complete novice when it comes to cycling. The easiest leg for me should be the 5K run, mainly because I've learned to accept my own limitations as a runner. As always, I will do my best, not someone else's best. In my mind, equating "second place" with "first loser" is just plain idiotic. The difference between a win and a victory is huge. Racing meets a need in my life. It's the need you and I and every other person has -- the need to rise up and face a challenge. This need, as with every other need in life, challenges us to meet our greatest need: learning how to love and serve our Abba Father with every fiber of our being.
Tomorrow, I will lose the race. That's a given. But I can be victorious if I know what I'm striving for.
8:20 AM I'm preparing my initial lecture on Hebrews. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:
1) Is Hebrews a letter that lacks the customary opening or a sermon to which an epistolary conclusion was added? The latter seems more likely. Here's Heb. 1:1:
Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις....
And here's Heb. 13:18-25:
Προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν, πειθόμεθα γὰρ ὅτι καλὴν συνείδησιν ἔχομεν, ἐν πᾶσιν καλῶς θέλοντες ἀναστρέφεσθαι. περισσοτέρως δὲ παρακαλῶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι ἵνα τάχιον ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν. Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, ὁ ἀναγαγὼν ἐκ νεκρῶν τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν, καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς ἐν παντὶ ἀγαθῷ εἰς τὸ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ, ποιῶν ἐν ἡμῖν τὸ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν. Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν. γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον, μεθʼ οὗ ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς. ἀσπάσασθε πάντας τοὺς ἡγουμένους ὑμῶν καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας. ἡ χάρις μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.
Clearly, Hebrews is a "word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22):
Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν.
2) Such exhortations were common in the Jewish synagogues of the day (see Acts 13:15):
μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν ἀπέστειλαν οἱ ἀρχισυνάγωγοι πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγοντες· Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν λόγος παρακλήσεως πρὸς τὸν λαόν, λέγετε.
Here Paul gives a sermon in response to an invitation to do so by the officials of the synagogue in Antioch on his first missionary journey.
3) Now note 1 Tim 4:13:
ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ.
This verse establishes the pattern of reading from Scripture followed by an exhortation in the earliest Christian assemblies.
4) Finally, note how Paul expects his first letter to the Thessalonians to be read aloud to the entire congregation (1 Thess 5:27):
ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς.
Hebrews therefore seems to be a homily, intended to be read aloud. Approaching Hebrews from this perspective allows us to see how the book does not neatly fit into the category of "epistle."
This is so much fun!
6:45 AM A few random reflections on a cloudy Saturday morning:
1) Yesterday I sent the editors of Filologia Neotestamentaria my review of Paul Danove's latest book called New Testament Verbs of Communication: A Case Frame and Exegetical Study (LNTS 520; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).
I concluded with this statement, which I hope will challenge all of my students to pursue a study of Greek linguistics:
2) Here are three brief comments based on my reading of the Orthodox Prayer Book this morning. First, I noticed how similar chrestos ("good," "kind") is to Christos (see line 7).
In fact, some have argued that Jesus was originally known as Chrestos and His followers were called Chrestians instead of Christians. I seem to recall F. F. Bruce suggesting somewhere that the earliest believers may have been derided as being "Goodie-goodies" (Chrestianoi) because of their high moral character in contrast to the pagan culture of the day. At any rate, the two terms are very similar indeed, and there may even be a word play between chrestos and Christos in 1 Pet. 2:3 (where p72 actually reads Christos).
3) The last line of this famous prayer reminded me that the optative (instead of the indicative) was commonly used in Greek prayer-wishes.
This helps me when I run across Paul's opening greetings, in which the Greek verb is elided (left out), as in Phil. 1:2: "Grace to you and peace ...." Here the likeliest rendering is "May grace be yours and peace ...." rather than "Grace is yours and peace ...."
4) Even though I don't see a clergy-laity division in the New Testament, I still think this is an awesome prayer.
5) Finally, "One pearl is better than a whole necklace of potatoes" (Etienne Decroux). There is some awful good prose in Bill Lane's Hebrews commentary.
Friday, June 22
6:34 PM Good Friday evening, fellow bloggers! I have so much to be thankful for this week.
1) I enjoyed a Father's Day celebration on Wednesday with my daughter and her sweet family.
2) I began rereading this fine work on Hebrews.
I admired Bill Lane enormously. I got to know him when he was teaching at Seattle Pacific and I was guest lecturing at Fuller Northwest in Seattle for two summers. Almost all great scholarship involves being intellectually rigorous without being rude. Bill was a scholar's scholar. I strongly recommend that you check out his commentary on Hebrews. There's a simplicity and elegance to everything he writes. Bill retired in 1999 and passed away only two years later. He is greatly missed but his ideas live on through his writings.
3) Since summer school has ended, and because I got in a solid 10-mile bike ride today, I decided to treat myself to some Ethiopian food at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. Thank you, Tegegne, for the great food and fellowship. As usual, I got kai wat in memory of Becky (that was her favorite dish).
4) Finally, I laughed out loud when I saw this.
For this weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest, yours truly has been seeded #313 out of 314 participants. I'll start the swim a good 50 minutes after the first swimmer begins at 8:00 am. Looks like I'm quickly becoming the patron saint of the back of the pack! My philosophy is: Have fun with it, or why do it?
Next week my summer vacation begins in earnest. I plan to bike two trails this summer: The Virginia Capital Trail from Jamestown to Richmond, and the Virginia Creeper Trail from White Top to Damascus. Weather permitting, I hope to begin my cycling adventure next week. Overall, I'm feeling real good about my training workouts. The marathon can't get here quickly enough. I think the chances are about 50/50 that I'll complete the race the same day that I start!!
Tomorrow I'd like to get in a workout at the Y, a run, and a swim. I'm also behind on my farm projects and hope to knock out a couple of major projects.
Happy training wherever you are!
Thursday, June 21
6:12 AM Well, today we take the quiz over chapter 25 of our beginning Greek grammar. Only one chapter to go. There it is -- the finish line! Only one more mile to go in your 26-chapter "marathon"! You've done it. You've finished your first race. It's fantastic.
When I ran my first marathon, someone told me, "When you cross the finish line, don't stop. You have to keep moving through the finish area. If you stop, your legs will freeze up on you. You've got to keep on moving." Greek 1-2 is only the first step in a lifetime of using Greek in your lives and ministries. Most of us will use it on an occasionally basis at best. Others will go on to become "elite" Greek athletes, even earning a Ph.D. in the subject. What it's all said and done, the only question any of us needs to ask is, "Did I do my best?"
Greek students, thank you for all of your hard this summer. I mean that: Thank you! I'm so proud of you. This is your moment of victory. Savor it!
Wednesday, June 20
7:15 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to DBO. I just wanted to update you on my training log for my marathon in October. This week I got in two runs, two bikes, and two swims. That's right. I finally found a swimming pool where I can do lap swimming any time of the day or evening.
It's in a town called Knightdale, which is about a 35-minute drive southeast of Wake Forest. But it's well worth the drive. I'm able to get in as many laps as I want to without anybody disturbing me. And the best news of all is that it's a YMCA, which means that my Virginia Y membership is valid there -- hence no cost to me at all. In addition, I've also gotten back into cycling big time. The main reason for this is that I've decided to do another triathlon this weekend. It will be my third tri. It's called the Smile Train TRI and all proceeds will go to the world's largest cleft lip and palate charity called "Smile Train."
I did this tri last year at this same time and came in almost dead last. I was pretty good at both the swim and the running legs of the race, but because I only had my mountain bike for the cycling portion, everyone else was racing past me at speeds exceeding 25 miles per hour. All of that has changed as of yesterday, when I visited The Bike Guy in Wake Forest and purchased a brand new road bike. It's called the Marin Argenta Elite and is as light as a feather.
I tested it twice yesterday at the Neuse Rover Greenway and now I'm the one blowing by slower riders. What an adrenalin rush! This means that I now have two bikes, my Marin for road races and for concrete or asphalt paths, and my Fuji mountain bike for crushed gravel. Best of all, I won't feel like I'm kicking against the goads every time I do a triathlon. This weekend's race is a fairly short affair: a 250-meter pool swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and an out-and-back 5K run. The weather on race day will be hot and muggy, but what do you expect for June in North Carolina? Last year, as I said, I was doing my very first tri and I can remember how difficult and challenging I found this event to be. The swim and the run were relatively uneventful, but by the end of the bike segment I was so discouraged. As I settled into the run part of the race, I thought of the utter futility of trying to do a road race with a mountain bike. It was clear that if I was going to continue to do triathlons I would eventually need to get a road bike. Thankfully, the Bike Guy had exactly what I needed. Incidentally, as Rob (the owner) and I got to talking, he suddenly blurted out, "Are you Dr. Black? Why, I had you for New Testament at Southeastern!" It's a small world, folks! Right now I'm filled with trepidation, expectation, and a desperate lack of preparation. As I said, I've been getting in some good rides and laps at the pool but not nearly enough training to feel that I'm ready for the race this weekend. But I've paid my entry fee and I'm not turning back now. I figure I can at least expect to do a little bit better on the bike leg this time around. But I'm not going to push myself too much. I still need to get used to how my new bike handles before I go full bore. Besides -- perspective, Dave, perspective! These races I'm doing now are really only training events for my 26.2 mile marathon and my 31-mile ultra in October. I often think to myself, "Is this really happening to me? Am I really going to run in the Marine Corps Marathon?" It all seems like a big dream. Can you imagine standing at the start of the MCM with 25,000 other runners who share a common goal and a common dream? I have to laugh, mostly at my own lack of talent. But what I lack in talent I make up in raw dedication. At the starting line, all runners are equal. All of us are alone, and yet each of us is part of a larger group. The thousands of people standing next to you are both companions and competitors. Each of us has a gnawing need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and yet each of us maintains the integrity of who we are as individuals. I can't imagine another sport where this happens. Tomorrow I hope to get in another long bike ride as well as some lap swimming at the pool in Knightdale. Then Friday, with the end of summer school Greek, I return to the farm for some much needed R & R before this weekend's race. As always, I'm struggling with balance. Somewhere, all athletes have to find that equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. When I climbed the Alps two summers ago, I recall Walter, my mountain guide, telling me, "Dave, you should climb with as little effort as possible. If you become restless, speed up. If you become tired, slow down. Above all, enjoy each step you take. Tho goal is not just the summit. The goal is to enjoy each footstep to the top and back."
What a wonderful thought. Equilibrium is so important in every area of life, isn't it? Nearly all of us find a healthy balance between work and leisure to be an unattainable goal. But we keep striving for that balance anyway. We have to. By not striving for that goal we actually prevent ourselves from improving.
Well, I see I've begun to ramble again. Let me close this post with pictures of two websites I told my Greek students about today. The Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page is a real winner.
I hope many of my students will consider applying for membership in this group. As for Rob Plummer's Daily Dose of Greek, it's a solid resource to keep you in your Greek for years to come.
When I started running three years ago, my goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping. At the time, that seemed like an unattainable distance. The first time I achieved that goal -- it was in Hawaii where I had gone to surf -- I couldn't wait to text my kids and let them know. I wanted them to celebrate with me, not just because I had finally covered that distance, but because I had overcome my self-imposed limitations. Greek student, don't underestimate your ability to do sound biblical exegesis based on the original languages of the Bible. If you persist in making progress, sooner or later the unthinkable happens. In time, reading a passage of your Greek New Testament that you once thought was way beyond your ability becomes routine. At that point, you'll begin to set new goals for yourself. What that next step is, you will have to choose, not me. And the greatest joy comes in being enough of a student to make that choice wisely.
Thanks for stopping by!
Monday, June 18
6:12 AM Greetings, fellow athletes, and welcome to another episode of:
COUNTDOWN TO MCM!
I can't believe it's only 4 months to the Marine Corps Marathon. And frankly, I don't really know why I'm so excited about this event. Maybe because it will be in DC and I'll get to see all of the monuments up close and personal. Maybe because this will be the first "major" marathon I've done. Maybe I'm going crazy. Honestly, when I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati 13 months ago, I had no plans to run another one. And here I am running my 10th! Surely my motivation would have tanked by now, you'd think. The "inspiration muscle" is always the hardest one to use. Most of us who say we need motivation to get into shape are just dreaming. Dreams are very illusive things. A dream without regular action will get you nowhere fast. So let's talk about motivation for a second. Here are some reasons that come to my mind this morning of why I think I've been able to stay motivated for so long. I'm listing them here for my sake more than yours!
It's really no more complicated than that. To stay motivated, you simply have to have good reasons to do what you're doing. When I took Greek, I fell in love with the language. Yes, it was challenging. After all, it was my very first foreign language. But when Greek clicked, everything else seemed to click along with it. I found my "niche" in life, so to speak. And, 42 years later, I am enjoying the classroom as much today as I did when I first entered it.
Today, I am an adult-onset athlete. I believe that having an active lifestyle is the only responsible course of action for a 66-year old who takes Rom. 12:1 seriously. I owe it to my family to stay in shape for as long as possible. Moreover, I've found the running community to be one of the most compassionate, supportive, giving, and understanding communities I've ever been involved with. Had I known how rich my life would have been as a runner, I would have put my running shoes on much earlier. Staying active is really a matter of faith. It's part of our stewardship responsibility before our Creator. The people you see running 5Ks on the weekend aren't any more talented or gifted than you are. They haven't suddenly discovered the secret to happiness. They aren't any different from you and me. They're just normal, everyday people who've discovered that running is a whole-being activity. It nourishes your mind, your body, and your spirit. Anyone can be more active!
When you stand at the starting line of a marathon, your goal that day is to complete 26.2 miles. The difference between success and failure is as simple as taking the next step. I imagine that's how all of life is. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt what you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Jim Elliott did just that, and entered heaven "through gates of splendor." The truth is, every step in life is important. Every step takes us a little bit closer to who we want to become. Every step reveals some new God-given potential. My hope and dream is that you will find your "niche" in life and then pursue it with all the gusto you can.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, June 17
8:55 AM Good morning, guys, and Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there. This morning I thought I'd continue blogging about the book of Hebrews, which is my favorite New Testament writing outside of the Gospels. This morning I'm meditating on the opening verses of the book. I used to spend a lot of time in the prologue of Hebrews when I was writing my journal article on the subject. What moved me greatly was to see the absolute beauty of the passage. At the time, I profited eminently from the work of Johannes Louw on discourse analysis, and so I called my essay "Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis," which appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal and can be accessed, free of charge, here. My study of this text was invaluable. It set a trajectory for me in my subsequent studies in Greek discourse analysis. In this opening paragraph of Hebrews, the exalted Christ is found, front and center. And the Greek of this text? It's perhaps the most exalted Greek in the entire New Testament, which is what you'd expect when the theme of the book is "Christianity Is Christ." I often tell my students to look for issues of style in a New Testament book every bit as much as matters of theology. The way something is said can enhance its effectiveness. Today I simply want to note the opening two adverbs of the letter. Here the author uses a figure of speech called alliteration in introducing how God spoke in the Old Testament -- "in many parts and in many ways" (Greek: polumeros kai polutropos). Note the initial "p" sound. This was designed to make the audience attentive and receptive to the speaker's message. God, he says, spoke in many parts and in many ways through His spokesmen the prophets. Here the words polumeros and polutropos have to do with the varied and manifold nature of Old Testament revelation. It helps, then, when studying the Old Testament, that we at least try and understand how all of these parts fit together. Likewise -- and here's the main point I'm trying to make this morning (cf. Heb. 8:1!), I believe we can apply these same two adverbs to the letter to the Hebrews. Has not our author (1) used a great variety of parts in order to communicate a single message, and (2) used any number of rhetorical devices (alliteration, assonance, anaphora, asyndeton, metonymy, hyperbole, etc.) in order to increase the impact and appeal of his message, the "hitting" and the "drawing" of his letter on his audience? What this means, at least to me, is that if we are to understand the book of Hebrews aright, we have to begin by understanding at least two things:
Its discourse structure (that is, how all the parts fit the whole), and
Its literary devices (that is, how the message is enhanced by the style of the writing).
What an achievement if we could even begin to understand these two components of meaning! For this reason, I'd like to call your attention to two essays of mine that might help us do just that. They are both accessible online, free of charge:
"The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews" available here, and
"Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews," found here.
At one time, as you can see, Hebrews occupied a good deal of my study time. I do hope you will not find these essays to be "scholarship for the sake of scholarship." I well recall in the 1980s having to come to grips with a serious academic issue. Would I write for the academy, or would I try to ensure that what I wrote (both my essays and books) would be of some use to the church at large? I have suffered from that schizophrenia ever since. But ultimately I decided that my writings would, hopefully, be useful to more than scholars. Hence my essays and books have tended to be, not less scholarly necessarily (at least I hope not!), but more geared for a broader reading audience. I've never had occasion to regret that decision.
Please read these essays if you can. I'm a little embarrassed to call attention to my own essays. Writing is, in fact, at best a supplement to what I do in the classroom. But since most of you can't attend class with me, I suppose the next best thing is to put my thoughts into words. God has called me to write, and I have tried to obey that calling, but others will have to decide how effective I've been.
Below: Heb. 1:1-7 in p46.
Saturday, June 16
8:45 PM We were able to get up two trailer loads of hay tonight.
We worked until dark, per usual. What a gorgeous evening.
It was so much fun working with my son on this Father's Day weekend.
As if that wasn't blessing enough, I just found out today that one of my former doctoral students edited this book.
Mel, what an honor. I am so humbled and grateful, not to mention surprised! Thank you for your kindness to me. And to all of my fellow New Testament scholars: You will never know just how you, your friendship, and your prayers have meant to me at the time of my own greatest loss and confusion. I am so humbled to belong to the guild of New Testament academics. Thank you all so very much.
Time to wash clothes and cook supper. Pork stir fry over rice. Ono-licious!
2:18 PM Hey guys. I thought I'd update you again on my marathon training. Today my goal was to work out for 45 minutes at the Y, run for 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston, and then swim laps at the public pool. Mission accomplished! -- all except for the swimming. By the time I got to the pool it was way too crowded for lap swimming, so I just grabbed one of the lawn chairs and read for an hour or so. Here's a video of today's workout. Thanks for sharing my journey to the Marine Corps Marathon with me. I'm still feeling super motivated!
7:25 AM I spent the early morning hours on the front porch sipping coffee and reading Hebrews. Paul made this statement in 2 Tim. 3:16:
"All Scripture is God-breathed."
This verse drives everything I do as a Greek teacher. The Bible is the word of God -- every word, everywhere. Theologians call this "verbal-plenary inspiration." But not only are the words inspired by God. Inspiration includes the words, but it also involves tense, voice, mood, person, number, gender, case, source, word order, phrase order, clause order, discourse structure, rhetorical devices, and the list goes on and on. Exegesis is not something to tackle on our own. The same Spirit who inspired God's word has to illuminate its truths to our minds and hearts. At stake is a matter of life and death. There's zero chance of doing exegesis if you think you can do the job alone. But every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. He'll go with you, helping you study, teaching you what the text is saying, and showing you how you can apply its truth to your life. And, if you think the Bible is something else, look at Jesus. God's essence was funneled into the plain package of a human being. Through the incarnation Jesus proved to us that God can indeed be known. Today, my friend, harness the heavens. God's word is there to light our lives for all of eternity.
Friday, June 15
9:30 PM Hey folks. Just a barebones photo update:
1) Had a wonderful lunch yesterday at a local Chinese restaurant with several of my Greek students. They were a happy bunch.
2) My able assistant taught today's class on pronouns. As always, Noah did a superb job.
3) I'm enjoying this book.
4) Our secretaries surprised me today with a birthday card and donuts for our entire quad. Thank you, ladies!
But that wasn't the only surprise ....
5) This came today from one of my daughters.
A healthy fruit basket! Just what the doctor ordered for someone in training.
6) By the grace of God, during the past 30 days I've managed to put 170 miles on my Map My Run app.
7) Yesterday I thought I'd do some biking. A marathon on wheels, if you will.
8) Here's a time-lapse video of my ride.
I'm not a very gifted athlete. That's an understatement! But I'm tenacious and stubborn. Sometimes when out alone on the bike path I feel Becky with me. I imagine us breathing in the fresh air together and planning our next mission trip. In those moments, I feel her spirit beside me. As with athletics, so with life. And no more than athletics is life a game for rookies. It's the supreme aging game. I hope I can do a better job of it in the days and weeks ahead.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great weekend.
Wednesday, June 13
6:20 PM Hey guys. Dave here with another update. I'm back on the farm doing chores and checking up on the animals. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Greek class. We'll be reviewing chapters 17-21 in my textbook and then I'm sending the class home with their second take-home exam of the semester. I'm super excited to see how well they do with the participle and the infinitive. Grammar is never boring to me! Meanwhile, I was sent the final page proofs to Becky's book My Life Story in Chinese, and after one more pass-through, the book will go to the printer.
I still can't believe that her autobiography will now be available in the world's three most-widely spoken languages (English, Spanish, and Mandarin). God is good!
Finally, I'm on target to accomplish all of my marathon training goals for the week. Before this weekend's long run I only have a 26.2 mile bike ride left, which I hope to do tomorrow. For me, the best part about being outdoors is fellowshipping with the Creator. My running/walking/biking brings me closer to Him. Over and over again I can hear Him saying, "My grace is enough for you, Dave" (2 Cor. 12:9). At the end of the day, I know that He will be with me through thick and thin, enabling me to keep on taking one step after the other. I feel like my breakthrough moment in life came when I realized that anything we do as Jesus-followers has the potential of glorifying God, even if it's washing dishes or running a road race. (I do both of these activities quite frequently.) God helps me physically every day that I get out of bed, whether it's to do farm chores or teach my classes. I am about to say something that might sound revolutionary but I believe it's absolutely true: running is a "ministry" of mine every bit as much as teaching is. The truth is that, as Christians, we find our greatest pleasure when we are doing what God created us to be and do without ever comparing ourselves to anyone else. In Greek, the verbs "serve," minister," and "worship" are closely related. My goal in life is to serve and worship God in everything I do. This means, for one thing, that I no longer separate the "sacred" from the "secular" parts of my life. Being a Christian is not about dying to our natural gifts or God-given desires and joys. It's about living life, the life He's given us, to the max.
Every day, through my running, God is teaching me more and more about who I am in Him. It's not about running fast or about running slow. I run not because I want to but because I have to. I teach for the same reason. Yes, teaching is my "job," my "vocation," but it's oh so much more than that. I know of no other way to live than to teach. Likewise, I know of no other way to exist apart from being active, as long as God allows me to be active. Being a runner is so much like being a Christian. You begin at the starting line and then each step takes you closer to the finish line. There is always a goal in your relentless forward progress. Not only do you want to see what you're capable of accomplishing in life, in your heart of hearts you want to see how God works through your life to bless others. But here's the clincher: At some point in your race, pain becomes your companion. It becomes part of the journey. Sometimes the pain is relatively minor, and at other times it is practically unbearable. But pain always comes to us eventually. Fortunately, Christianity teaches us how to suffer. Running in the midst of pain is a crash course in perseverance and gratitude. In those moments when you are struggling, when your limits are being tested, you sense that the Lord is with you in a special way. Heaven seems to come down and touch the earth.
C. S. Lewis once put it this way: "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think that one would often want to do anything else." I love road races, not only because of the fantastic comradery, but because they remind us that we, yes WE, can do this, that we are capable of so much more than we know. It probably goes without saying, but when Becky died my life changed forever. I realized I faced a choice: I could let her death ruin me, or I could, as much as possible, learn to grow from the experience. My friend, just showing up at the starting line proves that you "dared greatly." If you make a few mistakes, learn from then and then get right back on track. Life is not supposed to be easy! You just keep plugging along. In my running life, I try not to live with regrets. "I should have done this or that." Nope. Learn from your mistakes, Dave, but don't dwell on the past. Life vacillates between peaks and valleys. Get used to it. The one constant is the Lord. Every day, God is teaching me more about who I am and who He wants me to be. It's awesome to know that while stretching or running or cooking or teaching or cleaning the house He's right there with me. He created me this way. He created me to celebrate the disciplined, physically hard-working lifestyle. I am meant to be fully alive, fully alive in Christ. I am adamant, therefore, that being a Christian doesn't mean a joyless existence. "When I run I feel His pleasure," said Eric Liddle in the movie Chariots of Fire. What are you doing to feel His pleasure, my friend? Our primary role is to find God's will for our lives and then pursue it with all we have. And this "divining" God's will for our lives is not exclusive to one denomination, gender, ethnicity, etc. Each of us can know God if we truly seek Him. After all, He's the one who both designed the race course and finished it (Heb. 12:2). Our only job is to look to Him, "the Author and Perfecter of our faith."
I'll be back, Lord willing, with another update on Friday. I hope that you enjoy your "race" this day!
Monday, June 11
6:12 AM Lessons about running (and maybe about studying Greek) from my run yesterday:
1) Never, ever try to predict the future. Stay in the moment. Focus on how you are running now, not how many more miles you still have to go.
2) Expect the race to get harder the longer you go. Before you reach the finish line you'll have to dig deeper, maybe deeper than you've ever dug before.
3) Do not listen to yourself when your mind tells you it's time to quit. You're stronger than you think you are. Unless you are injured (or have started hallucinating), you will find another level of strength to persevere.
4) Be willing to embrace hardship and suffering. It is possible to suffer and not give up.
5) Imagine how incredibly amazing it will be when you finish.
Only 2 weeks left in baby Greek. It's not always smooth sailing for sure. But don't give up. The good things in life aren't supposed to be easy.
Sunday, June 10
9:06 PM Today I tried to get in a 10-mile run in Farmville on a hot and humid day. Here's a GoPro video in case you're interested in my run.
Thanks, and God bless.
Saturday, June 9
4:55 PM Hey folks! What a busy day it's been. I had to get gas, go to two banks, visit the post office, work out at the Y, visit my favorite breakfast joint, and get to the pool. Plus pick up hay. We just finished (early) and so I'm going to upload a few pix and then chillax. Thanks for stopping by!
1) The local Amish run this place. The food is scrumptious. I had two delicious and fattening glazed donuts along with my coffee.
2) Then I picked up some treats for the donks and goats.
3) While at Tractor Supply, the Humane Society was trying to give away kittens. I made a donation but didn't take a cat home with me. They sure were adorable though.
4) My 45-minute workout at the gym today focused on upper body strength. For a Saturday, the Y seemed unusually empty.
5) Not sure who Bubba is, but I like his sign.
6) I arrived at the pool just when it opened so that I could get some lap swimming in before the crowds arrived. Yes, I'm actually thinking about doing another triathlon this year.
7) Did I mention we baled today?
8) I'll leave you with this wonderful church sign I saw in South Boston. I think they left out the word "When," but the message still comes through loud and clear.
"On Christ, the solid rock, I stand ...."
Friday, June 8
9:32 PM I turn 66 tomorrow, but you know, that's merely a number. In this respect, I am the person I was 30 or 40 years ago. I am the me I have always been. "Have I matured?" is the real question. I suppose so, in maybe a few ways. I no longer need a lot of friends. Only a few trusted people. These I call my "Garden Friends" (an allusion to the Garden of Gethsemane). I find myself craving the company of the broken. I can't seem to get too excited any more about MMMs (massive mega ministries). I tend to meet God nowadays in the small places of life: a hiking trail, a fellowship group, a quiet beach, a hay field. I've learned to thrive in the darkness. I seek to be fully human, as Jesus was fully human -- the perfect example of how we are to move through life. One thing I've come to accept is that the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. He moves, and we move. I used to think this meant that some stayed while others went (to the mission field). I'm not so sure that's the correct way to view missions. I have learned to find a mission field wherever I am. I see leaders as empowering the rest of us to be who we are, Christ's witnesses to the kingdom of God ("Godworld"). I have been many Daves throughout the years. With each phase of life, I've done my best to figure out what I should be doing, not always successfully. Instead of fearing the inevitable changes that come with aging, I've decided I would (mostly) accept them, make the most of them, but certainly not fear them. Today I cling more to the Bible than I ever did in the past. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God looks like. The Gospels don't need my books to be understood. Jesus interprets the Gospels. I have learned to challenge my own assumptions in all things. I am free to walk away from preconceived conclusions, free to push into the hard questions. I still have answers for my students, but some of them are not the same answers I had 20 or 30 years ago. My opinions don't matter so much to me anymore. I would rather equip my students with tools that will empower and equip them to study the Bible on their own. These days most of my metaphors about Christian living come from running. Aging is like a game, and to play the game well we have to become aware of the unused capabilities resident in our bodies and minds. My health, thanks be to God, has never been better. My life is so changed by running that I am restless if I don't have a chance to get outside and exercise. You don't have to be old to be out of shape or bored. "It does not do," said the philosopher Bertrand Russell, "to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead." Young or old, we must always be looking ahead to the prize that lies before us. I hope we can all become a bit more relaxed about the future. I hope we can grow and change and push back against lies and become a change agent for the kingdom.
Yes, I am turning 66, but I'm not too old to learn new tricks. Above all, I can grow old, as can you, without living out my years in joyless existence. Sure, people will look at you as an oddity, but we are all capable of staying young (in heart at least), spiritually lithe and supple, remembering that for every disadvantage to growing older there is an advantage. I sometimes long for the past, but I would never want to relive it. There is something exhilarating about another birthday, something wondrous about flinging yourself on the mercy of God, anxious though you may be. We are never alone. We have constant company for the journey. God doesn't shift or change over a lifetime. He never has a birthday. So bring it on, Birthday Genie. Clinging to Jesus, my Hope, I'm ready to tumble headlong into the future.
6:22 AM I read very little fiction, but when I saw that Hal Higdon -- yes, that Hal Higdon -- had written a novel about a big city marathon, I just had to get a copy.
I started reading it last night. The book covers the 72 hours preceding the race and then the marathon itself. But like I said, I usually stick with non-fiction. There's enough interesting stories that really did happen that I don't feel a strong need to read about stories that never happened in real life. Different brains think differently I guess.
Back to school ....
Thursday, June 7
9:39 PM We just finished picking up hay.
We worked long after the sun set.
I enjoyed the work except for the mosquitoes, who are out in full force these days. We would have gotten more hay baled tonight but a part on the baler broke and that delayed us for about an hour. We'll finish up this field tomorrow and Saturday, Lord willing.
Off to put my rice on. Stuck in a rut much, Dave?
2:20 PM Hey guys, and welcome back. I'm back home trying to get caught up on my farm work ("trying" being the operative word here). What a week! Sometimes I think things can't get any weirder, and then they do. Here's my list. I bet you have your own.
1) Just agreed to do 10 book reviews this summer. 10! I think I'm having commitment issues again.
2) The frames to my reading glasses broke. Just fell apart. A replacement is on order, but I look awfully strange/nerdy wearing the remains.
3) I tried to find a pool for lap swimming in the Wake Forest/North Raleigh area that didn't cost me an arm and a leg to use. Failed.
4) I had an awesome week of training for my first ultra in October. My goals were to bike 26.2 miles on Monday, run 10 miles on Tuesday, and walk 6 miles yesterday. By God's grace, I did all three. The best news of all: I have absolutely no leg or feet pain.
5) I've taken the week off from reading the news. They call that being "unplugged" I think. Never been happier.
6) I watched an amazing video about the 2018 Boston Marathon (aka the Bout in the Blizzard). It was your typical message: Shut up and get 'er done, push through your pain, never quit, etc. The best part was that the runner wasn't trying to be preachy or anything. He was just being honest and real, and let you derive your own inspiration. Which I did.
7) I finally ordered a hand-held water bottle for my training runs in the heat and humidity. I never, ever, thought I would carry a hand-held during a run.
8) This online article was food for thought: One Running Shoe in the Grave. It's subtitled, "New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits." I'm not sure what to make of it. My philosophy has always been, regular exercise is good for me, and running is actually better than sitting around all day doing nothing. The study argues that running faster than a 7:30 minute/mile pace could make you die quicker. Well, no worries there. I couldn't run at that pace if a pit bull were chasing me. My advice is: do try and be reasonable. Always check with your doctor first. (I did, and even had a stress test. I was told my heart is good to go.) Rest between workouts. Eat clean. Listen to your body. But hey: Everything we do carries risks with it. You can kill yourself by running. You can kill yourself by not running. But almost everyone in North America is on the "too little" side of the exercise equation. I'll take exercise over a sedentary lifestyle any day. But one thing I won't do is obsess over my health. I eat well, train hard, rest all I can, and try to be the healthiest 65 year-old (66 on Saturday) I can be.
9) Pet peeve: People who walk four abreast during a race. This happened several times last weekend during my half marathon in Raleigh. For crying out loud, move to the right. Otherwise, YOU ARE IN THE WAY.
10) Finally, tomorrow we finish week one of Greek 2 (and week four of Greek 1-2). I get more out of teaching than I put into it. To see these students study so hard in the midst of trying to balance school, home, jobs, church, etc. is an amazing blessing. They remind me to be thankful for all I have. I'm grateful for my health, my job, my family, my friends, my farm, and so much more. Instead of worrying about all the things that are heavy on our hearts, why don't we start each day with gratitude and end it with expressing our thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gifts, eh?
That's it for now. Time to mow the lawns and then get up hay. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm not sure why I started this blog way back in the Dark Ages (2003). I guess I felt it would be something fun to do. But ever since Becky died, the blog has become my therapy. So thank you for reading and being my blogging tribe on bright and cloudy days.
Monday, June 4
6:10 AM Greek 2 starts today. Yay! My students will continue their "marathon" of 26 chapters. Praying for you guys! Do well in the Lord's strength! See you at the finish line! As for me, I'm seriously training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October as well as for this 50K monster:
I've already begun training at the actual site: The High Bridge Trail in Farmville.
I'll put in a total of hundreds of miles before race day. But a big part of running is drumming up enough courage to start. You can't force a race. You can't predict it. But when running becomes a part of who you are, you find a way not to be afraid. This is easier said than done. The greatest temptation in running is to either train too little or train too much. To be successful, you have to find that elusive balance between activity and rest. I often joke with my Greek students when they're leaving class: "Study hard, but not too hard." Only we can decide where that balance is in our lives. Greek is important, but so are our families, our jobs, our ministries. Yes, we want to challenge ourselves. Yes, we want to feel the satisfaction of accomplishing our goals. No one is satisfied by doing nothing. But resting (or taking a break from studying) is not doing nothing. And let me tell you: When you find that equilibrium between rest and exhaustion, that is sweet. Thankfully, in every race, as in every Greek class, there is a finish line. And, my friend, with courage and persistence, you can cross it.
Bye for now!
Sunday, June 3
6:30 PM Have you seen this new book yet?
Probably not, seeing that I've checked out the library's only copy. "Proto-Mark" is the theory that all three synoptic evangelists used a document similar to, but earlier than, the Gospel of Mark. Hence it's not a theory of Markan Priority at all, since Matthew and Luke didn't use Mark's Gospel as a source. I'm not buying into it, though this book has numerous salutary features, not the least being the author's rejection of Markan Priority based on "corrections" or "improvements" of Mark by Matthew and Luke. "Markan priorists have made the mistake of regarding these features as signs of Mark's relative primitivity," writes the author (p. 93), adding, "Markan priorists have in many cases presented an overly negative view of Mark's Greek." And note this: "Markan priorists have often selectively presented only the data that supports their theory" (p. 94).
I like this book. After all, the author cites two of my publications: "Some Dissenting Notes on R. Stein's The Synoptic Problem and Markan 'Errors,'" and "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations."
How can I disagree with that? In other words, the question isn't a linguistic one after all. It's a socio-linguistic one. Ultimately, people determine "correctness" and "incorrectness" in language, not grammar books. If everyone says "It's me," then "It's me" is correct. Hence arguing that Mark must be earlier than Matthew and Luke on the basis of grammar is like arguing the use of "shall" over "will" or "like" over "as" today. It just don't work.
Check this book out when you can. I'm returning it tomorrow :-)
5:10 PM I won't bore you with all the details, but today I somehow managed to jam my toe on the rocking chair on the front porch. Now I have a purple toe to go with my ugly black toenails.
Lovely. Oh well. Adjust and move on. As if to counterbalance my little klutzy encounter with a rocking chair, the Lord allowed me to hear a wonderful message this morning. I define "wonderful" as a message that is simple without being simplistic. As Haddon Robinson put it in his classic book Biblical Preaching, "Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!" And this was one doozy of a clear message. The passage? One of my faves: Eph. 5:15-21. I was so caught up in the message that I took two pages of notes.
The speaker did what so few speakers seem to be able to do nowadays: State biblical truths in ways that aren't trite and platitudinal (I just made that word up, and I'm already feeling proud of it). First, he taught the passage in context. Second, his outline was faithful to the text. (I tell my students that the best sermon outlines are those that are derived directly from the passage you're teaching. I know, a novel idea.) The rhetorical exigence behind his message was: How can we live a life of wisdom in the midst of our foolish and godless culture? Three thoughts came charging into our consciousness as he spoke:
1) We need to utilize our God-given time for kingdom purposes.
2) We need to understand our God-given purpose in life.
3) And we need to submit our lives to the conforming work of the Spirit.
And just what does a Spirit-filled life look like? It's when we :
1) Edify one another.
2) Give God praise for all of His work in our lives, i.e., for the good as well as for the not-so-good.
3) Possess a heart of thanksgiving.
4) And practice Christlike humility.
As I said: simple without being simplistic. No, the speaker never used the words "present active imperative" or "series of modal participles." But my oh my, he told it exactly like it is. I know because I had my Greek text open in front of me.
The Bible is God's Word. It's His final word on how to experience a rich, full life. It guides us through the maze of life. And when it is taught as well as it was this morning, well, you almost die of a heart attack, you are so refreshed and challenged. Of course, if the Bible is God's Word, we have to do more than read and teach it. We must let its truths permeate our lives to the point that we act on it. Like being thankful even when you bruise your toe, knowing full well that you could have broken it. Being a "doer of the Word" (James 1:22) isn't just an idle suggestion. It's God's plan for a truly inspiring way of life.
6:12 AM Good morning everyone. There's really no purpose for this blog post except that I like to write. Sheba and I were on the front porch this morning at 5:00 to watch the sunrise, which I'm sure happened though we didn't see the sun.
Today's another rainy day here in Southside Virginia, but we need the rain, so no one is complaining. I keep thinking to myself, "Dave, someday about all you will be able to do is sit on the front porch." But that day is not yet. I feel like I still have so much to do, and that includes the book I'm writing about the kingdom, or "should" be writing (I say "should" because I'm unpredictable at best). Right now, however, my mind is still on yesterday's race, which, of course, I lost. I know I lost because some guy named Brian Flynn won it with a time of 1:14:07. He also finished 700 places in front of me. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I came in 701st out of 879 runners. I was even more disappointed to discover that I came in 6th out of 6 in my age group. The winner in this category beat me by a "mere" 37 minutes. (That was sarcasm.) What's my point here? I'm not sure. Maybe it's just to remind myself that a guy my age can still complete a half marathon. If 700 people were faster than me, 178 people were slower. Trust me, I'm not bragging. I just want you to find inspiration from my running stories. There were 11 of us men over 65 who ran in the half marathon yesterday. Only 11. Whatever the reason, the old-timers are still out there, giving it their all. I suppose that's the other reason I'm talking about this. Do your best, and you can go through life with your head held high. Every semester I give out tons of A plusses. But I also give out Bs and an occasional C or even D. I tell my students, if you think you have to get an A in this class to please your professor, you're in the wrong class. In college I got Bs in several classes, especially if they had anything to do with philosophy, math, or logic. I stink at those subjects. But I tried as hard as I could. I am incredibly blessed to have finished a masters degree, not to speak of a doctorate. It's not like I studied or anything in high school. (You wouldn't either if you lived in Kailua.) Deciding to become a real student (i.e., somebody who actually studies) was the first step toward me becoming a teacher. I had completely run out of excuses not to study. Likewise, a couple of years ago, I decided to take up the sport of running. Without perhaps being fully aware of it at the time, I realize now that Becky's passing was a reminder of my own mortality and made me a little more health conscious. There are, of course, many reasons for running. For elite runners, it's their bread and butter. For me, it's a hobby. They'll do their thing and I'll do mine, much, much slower of course. Either way, running is a great sport. Today, there are well over 100 marathons in the U.S. alone. I'll pass on most of them, but before I end up permanently affixed to my front porch, I'd still like to do some of the majors, including Chicago, New York, and Honolulu. These are known as World Marathon Majors, but to me they're just races that have oodles of runners in them, and I like running in crowds. By the way, the average finishing time for a marathon is about 4 hours and 22 minutes. I'm happy if I come in under 6 hours. "No one ever drowned in sweat," wrote legendary football coach Lou Holtz. It's obvious that Mr. Holtz never met me.
So take courage, my friend. "The glory of God," wrote Irenaeus (an early church father), "is man fully functioning." That's true whether you're trying your hardest to get a good grade in Greek or just trying to finish a road race. For now, I simply rejoice at being healthy and of (relatively) sane mind. All of that will change one day, of course, but even then I suppose that one can still find the peace that passeth all understanding.
Saturday, June 2
5:16 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. It's been a busy week and I'm feeling super tired but also super motivated. Greek 1 ended yesterday. Yay! You guys did it! Just think: you're halfway there! I can't wait for Greek 2 to begin on Monday. It was a great three weeks. I felt like the Lord worked overtime to help us. We mastered most of the indicative mood, as well as nouns and adjectives of the first and second declensions. This semester we get to cover the other moods (including those wonderful participles) and the third declension, plus we'll read Using New Testament Greek in Ministry (my intro to exegesis) and New Testament Textual Criticism (my intro to how to read the bottom half of your Greek New Testament). We'll also be taking a look at the structure and theme of Philippians (serving others in Jesus' name) and I plan to show my slides of Ethiopia. Right now my mind is a mishmash of random musings, so let me try and list some additional thoughts for you below as they come to me:
1) As you know, the month of May was a difficult time for me emotionally. I celebrated both Mother's Day and Becky's birthday. Now, in June, not only do we have Father's Day coming up, but the conclusion of my 65th year is staring me in the face. Not that I'm expecting to celebrate my birthday in any gigantic way this year. That was for last year, when I turned 65 and my kids threw a surprise Hawaiian beach party for me at the farm. I'm not going to apologize for my age. It is what it is. And let's face it – you're only as old as you feel. Besides, I'm in pretty good company in turning 66: Sting, Mark Hamell, Anjelica Huston, John Kasich, and so on. Still, I've been having some déjà vu moments. Wasn't it just yesterday I graduated from Kailua High School? Wasn't it just yesterday I went to Biola and met Becky? Wasn't it just yesterday I began teaching Greek? Or married that beautiful Texan? I'm SO grateful for all of these things and for so much more. Yet I'll have to admit: I never expected to grow old without Becky by my side. In the blink of an eye, my life was changed unalterably. That said, I have 37 years to celebrate. OH MY GOODNESS, DO I. She was a wonderful woman, so full of life, an incredible mentor to so many, a passionate missionary, and a superb wife. Yes, I know that June is gonna be another tough month but I'll make it. God's grace!
2) Hebrews, Hebrews, Hebrews! That's about all that's been on mind lately. I hope to have the course syllabus posted next week. If there's one book in the New Testament that can speak into today's stormy situation in our churches, it's the letter to the Hebrews. It has a special message for a day marked by spiritual drift. It addresses believers who are facing unbelief, disobedience, apostasy, and the temptation to be religious without being right with God. There's a lot of theology here, for sure, but I'm just as impressed with the author's deep concern and pastoral heart for his readers. Reading the admonitions that comprise a huge part of the letter are a great encouragement to me:
The author teaches, but he also exhorts. The message is clear: Keep the faith. Obey the Word. Keep running your race. Come humbly yet boldly to God. Claim your salvation. Hebrews, if it is anything, is a book of pastoral concern. Its message, I think, is sorely needed today, mostly by me. And I get to teach it this fall! Right now I'm pouring over all of these journal articles trying to decide which ones to use in the class. Help!
3) Last week I was able to donate some books to the new theological library at the North Carolina state prison, where the seminary has begun teaching classes.
I’m told Biblical Hebrew is being offered this fall, and maybe Greek next year. Isn't that amazing?
4) Added to my summer writing schedule: 3 book reviews for Filologia Neotestamentaria. They are:
Back in the day I used to write dozens of book reviews for publication. I think I'm going to get back into that habit.
5) This week I got caught up with my journal reading. Man do we have a great library!
6) Yesterday I received the final copy of this dissertation.
David's work will eventually be published in book form. Greek teachers who participated in his survey include Alan Bandy (Oklahoma Baptist University), Ken Berding (Talbot School of Theology), Jeannine Brown (Bethel University), Randall Buth (University of the Holy Land), Con Campbell (TEDS), David Croteau (Columbia International University), David Farnell (The Master's Seminary), Karen Jobes (Wheaton College), Ben Merkle (SEBTS), Rob Plummer (SBTS), Stan Porter (McMaster Divinity College), Chuck Quarles (SEBTS), Maurice Robinson (SEBTS), Gary Shogren (Seminario ESEPA, Mark Strauss (Bethel University), William Varner (The Master's Seminary), James Voeltz (Concordia Seminary), Dan Wallace (DTS), and Danny Zacharias (Acadia Divinity School). That's quite a list of names!
7) A mere two weeks after running the Marine Corps Half I ran another half in Raleigh today. Let's just take a closer look at this gem of a race:
Yep, the course was mostly flat, except for the much-dreaded Lassiter Hill at the end. That meant one thing: a much-needed break from running up and down hills. I'm bad at hills. I mean, getting-passed-by-hundreds-of-runners bad at hills. I'm just not built for running hills. So I was very relieved to finish today's course. I think I had a pretty good race. I'm elated with a time of well under 3:00 hours. I trained hard for this race last week: 10 miles on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, and 5 on Thursday (I took yesterday off). I did all of my training at the Neuse River Greenway. The Greenway was gorgeous, per usual. This little fellow even stopped by to say hello.
Happy to report that my feet are doing great today, even my black toenails. But it was humid!
I was so glad to be part of the race today. I was glad I was part of a race that pushes us so hard to be better people, to learn how to push through when the storms of life come. I'm so thankful for that day in 2014 when my daughter said to me, "Hey dad, why don't we do a 5K together?" That was 14 half marathons and 9 marathons ago. These past 3 years hold a lot of happy memories. Running has changed me, for the better I think. I'm thankful I have had this oppo