February 2017 Blog Archives
Tuesday, February 28
The year is rolling by quickly and we've already come to
the end of February. So much has happened in so short a time. Next month
is shaping up to be even busier. It's amazing to think that I can
compete in the 60-64 age group for only 4 more months. For the most
part, I feel satisfied with the results of my training this year. Life:
It's a continual learning process. I'll put in a few more miles this
week then do a trail run this Saturday, Lord willing. But first things
first. My Greek students are taking a quiz this weekend over my book
New Testament Textual Criticism as well as learning chapter 18 in
our textbook. The motto of my class is "Keep Greek Weird." There are
some superbly bizarre things about Greek grammar that we love to
discuss. Then there's my NT 2 class, where "Jesus, His Early Years and
Galilean Ministry" is the topic this week, topped off with a guest
lecture by my colleague Ben Merkle who will ask the question
Which brings me back to where I began this post. Life is short. And it can be tough. We have a saying around here in southern Virginia: "As long as it's snowing, the snow plows keep moving." Perseverance is like the snowplow, opening the roadway. God offers instant help when you face the big squeeze. I'm not just another guy on the treadmill of life. I am a royal heir and linked to the King of kings. When I give Him what little I have, He multiplies it, and the results are beyond what one could ever ask or imagine.
Keep running your race!
Here's a song that's awesome.
Monday, February 27
6:14 PM Teaching has given me so many wonderful gifts. I simply can't count them all. One of the things I've learned in 40 years of teaching is that you just need to get your ideas "out there." An idea that was once an impossible dream can become a reality when you have the courage to put it out there in the universe. I love reading about people who could have said "No" but then went on to accomplish their dream. Running has taught me so much, but one of the greatest lessons is this: attitude is EVERYTHING. I am a huge believer that nothing is impossible for our God. No dream is too big. No obstacle is too large to overcome. No book idea is too farfetched to say "No" to. A few years ago I had the dream to have my books published in Spanish. There were so many questions. Who would translate them? Who would publish them? Who would read them? But my fellow dreamers made everything work. Lord willing, I'll have another one published shortly.
It's been translated and is currently "in production." Studying the New Testament church has changed my life in such acute ways that I can't keep my ideas to myself. So why not Spanish too? After Mandarin, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, with some 400 million native speakers. Moreover, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S. I know it's a risk. But I've learned through climbing and running that I'd rather take a risk than allow fear to stop me. We don't study the Bible just to study the Bible. The objective is to discover Jesus and then allow Him to reset the trajectories of our lives, from the way we do schooling, to the way we do church, to the way we do missions, to the way we do marriage and parenting.
Friend, what are your dreams? What are you putting out into the universe? What life lessons can you share about dreaming big and not giving up?
Let's go for it!
12:40 PM Goal met! 105.6 miles for February 2017! A 5K run today put me over the 100-mile top.
My purpose is not to brag about my excellent physical condition because I'm NOT in excellent physical condition. My point is that, despite my advanced years, I'm grateful that I'm able to exercise regularly and all credit goes to the Lord. Prior to my run this morning, I worked out at the Y, and boy was it intense. I just felt in the moment the whole time. With my life being as crazy as it's been the last few years, I wouldn't trade the peace I get from exercise for anything. Thanks for all your words of encouragement!
9:58 AM German hostage beheaded in the Philippines. Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia vandalized. Kansas race attack. Egyptian Christians flee attacks. How relevant is our Jesus and the Gospels class in light of current headlines! My mission is clear: This matters, this doesn't. My failure to love my enemies doesn't just affect me but my entire community, even the world. I pray, with Henri Nouwen, "Do not allow evil powers to seduce me with the complexities of the world's problems, but give me the strength to think clearly, speak freely, and act boldly." Why are we squandering our lives on temporary politics? What a waste! Pick a need, a country, a cause. You can effect change. Starting today.
9:20 AM "Oops. My bad." So Moonlight wins after all. Of course, I've never made a faux pas like that. Of course I have. My reaction? It was an honest mistake. My own lapses give me a pretty clear picture of my desperate need for a Savior. Yet it's human nature to derive pleasure from somebody else's misfortune. Writes Obadiah (1:22), "You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands. You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble." I remember the day bin Laden was taken out. I was doing a revival at a church. I arrived that evening and the place was ecstatic with glee. Justice served. True. But his name had been on my salvation prayer list for months. I began to understand that without the cross I would get exactly what I deserve: a one-way ticket to hell. I thought of Jesus, whose response to those who flogged, beat, and killed Him, was, "Father, forgive them." I gloat. I rejoice. I speak arrogantly. I hate. And that's why Jesus had to die for me too.
While we're on the Oscars, when I see a movie on the big screen I'm one of those who watches the credits as they roll by at the end. You know: the bit players, the casting directors, the production designer, the sound mixer, the makeup artists. It's my way of acknowledging the work of all those people who will never stand on the stage should their movie win an Oscar. To me, everybody is important. Jesus hung out with the nobodies of His day -- the street-corner bums, the drunks, the lowlifes. He could have chosen Yeshiva grads to be His followers but instead ended up with a group of pretty ordinary dudes. Paul has a lot to say about this too: just read 1 Corinthians 1, or Romans 12. The "nothings" receive star treatment from Christ. Believer, our response to the Gospel ought to make a difference in the way we treat the "little people." Remember that the next time you see a blatant display of favoritism in your church. Remember that, too, when you find yourself lusting after fame and recognition, or the next time you think success has anything to do with good looks, a charismatic personality, or a big house. It is Jesus, and only Jesus, who gives you your identity. So let's stop comparing ourselves to others. Let's enjoy being us!
Sunday, February 26
6:12 PM There's nothin' like havin' a blessed day. A few highlights...
1) In exactly one month I'll be in the great city of Martinsville, VA (go Bulldogs!) for their annual half marathon. This year they've introduced what they're calling the Inspiration Wall for those who are running to honor the life or memory of a loved one. A gigantic banner displaying the names of the runners and honorees will be displayed at the local Y in the days leading up to the race. Today they sent me the bib design that will go on the back of my race shirt. This is ridiculously touching. Thank you, race organizers, for thinking up such a wonderful addition to the race.
2) If you know me, you know I'm big on cross training, so today I got out the old mountain bike and did 26.2 miles at the High Bridge trail in Farmville. I chuckled when I saw my finish time. World class marathoners can easily beat my time by 40 minutes, and they're running, not biking!
3) Here's one of my sweet granddaughters dressed up for church this morning. She's proudly wearing one of Becky's hairbows.
Watching my grandkids grow up literally takes my breath away. "They're young and then they're grown." Kids and grandkids, you are my treasures on this earth, so adored. I love all of you.
4) Tonight I'm renting Apollo 13 from Amazon in honor of the life of actor Bill Paxton, who died today at the age of 61. RIP, Bill. You were one of my all-time favorite actors.
P.S. Did you know that:
Enjoy this movie, folks!
7:50 AM Today and tomorrow will be the last workouts I get to do in the month of February. Thus far this month I've managed to chock up a total of 76.3 miles. I'd like to make that an even 100 but it ain't gonna happen. There just aren't enough days in February. My half marathon training program calls for a long run either today or tomorrow but I'm not sure I'll be running that or walking it, or maybe doing it half and half, depending on how I'm feeling. (Yes, that's a run-on sentence.) I am more determined than I am disciplined.
In other news, we'll be in Amos 4 this week in our LXX class and I just noticed: the chapter ends with a ton of participles. Why? Why not just use finite verbs? What tense are these participles? Does it matter? Lots of experts are weighing in these days on these questions. Yes, I know there are many books and other resources out there that can help us negotiate the treacherous waters of the Greek participle. I've written a few of them myself. The dangerous part of all these tools is not their existence but what they detract us from. We place grammars on pedestals they were never designed for. It's far better to read, read, and then read some more in the text itself. That way (hopefully) the text becomes its own best interpreter. So that's what we'll do. We'll read sentences containing Greek participles. W e'll see if we can translate them. Then we'll try our hand at Greek composition, trying to think in Greek. Will the students be up to it? No hay problema.
To change the subject (again!), I'm getting to the point where I don't believe anything I read any more. Well, most of it. Last night I was perusing a book on Christian living that contains a chapter about food, and it mentioned a startling fact: kids living today will be the first generation of Americans to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. The culprit, it is said, is obesity. All well and good. Except for one thing. It's probably not true. Oh, the part about obesity is dreadfully accurate. Goodness, just take a look around you. But the part about our kids having a shorter lifespan? As this BBC report notes, they will still live longer, but their quality of life will probably be much lower. Folks, our "golden" years are beginning to lose their luster. This doesn't bode very well for us Baby Boomers, and it bodes even less well for our kids and grandkids. That bothers me. I know I will grow old one day (thanks for playing along!), but I'd sure like to leave to my heirs a dad and granddad who ate well and exercised. Do you know what happens to you if you cut out genuinely toxic food from your diet? You feel better. You look better. Your pants start falling down. Your digestive track works better. And you'll be a less-likely candidate for heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. How many times have we said "Lord, Lord" and then proceeded to ignore what his apostle Paul said about our "temple" when it comes to the trash we put into our mouths? Running and eating go hand in hand. So my recommendations:
Tonight for supper I'm having Brussels sprouts and a steak. O mama. Thank you, Jesus. Goes to show you: Even an old duffer like me can change his ways.
(My gosh! Did I just give nutrition advice? Me? Please act impressed folks, because I am a moron and still learning myself.)
Saturday, February 25
5:38 PM Just back from the grocery store. Bought my snacks for the week.
For crying out loud, eating clean takes planning!
2:54 PM Want to lose weight? Immediately? Stop drinking soda. It's as simple as that.
P.S. Did 5 miles today on my mountain bike. Fun.
7:40 AM Let's see. We've needed rain. Badly. There's no other way to put it. It's even tougher when you farm. Agricultural business is always at the mercy of the weather. So you can imagine my joy when I awoke to this view.
"Red sky at night, sailors' delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." The Lord is so good to us. We just fertilized our fields and they shore could use some moisture. As always, we must wait upon God to provide.
Side note: I think farming is a great way of life, but I'm no proponent of so-called Christian agrarianism. Some even claim that only agrarians can understand the Bible. Listen, I am me and you are you. Please don't take anyone else's lifestyle as a template. God has called some of us to live in the country, others in the suburbs. Some have a garden, some don't. Each of us is good at some things and horrible at others. Be yourself. Anyhoo, our fields are thirsty, and God knows that. If we say we love God, then we have to trust Him too.
Finally, I just finished this book.
It reminded me that the body of Christ is beginning to mobilize in countless ways. Jesus is behind a movement to return "the ministry" to every single one of us. 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, we're on the cusp of renewal. So imagine God doing a work in your local church. Just do the next right thing. Here are some hints from this excellent book:
Perhaps this is why the New Testament calls all of us to service. Perhaps this is why I am seeing in my students a new willingness to forsake the American Dream and the CEO model of ministry. I value you desperately, dear reader. Your gifts are invaluable to the church. Together, we can become repairers of broken walls.
Friday, February 24
4:48 PM Greetings! Today I added 9 miles to my monthly total. Year-to-date stats:
Life has been a whirlwind thus far in 2017. I really need to bump up to 100 hours per month if I can. This past week has featured some pretty phenomenal weather. Unfortunately, I feel like I'm losing mileage. I'm glad I'm running Cincy with no time goals, but a part of me is curious to see how fast I can go. One good thing: The easy runs are becoming easier all the time. Happy training for whatever you've got going on in your life!
8:20 AM This week a book I loaned out weeks ago was finally returned to me. (Thank you for remembering!) I totally recommend it.
This is by far the most comprehensive, intelligent, and explanatory book on the Byzantine text I've ever read. I give it 10 stars out of 5. If you've struggled to know what to do with those pesky variants at the bottom of your Greek New Testament, this book gives you the answer. It really does make sense. I've been following Sturz's advice for years and have included the Byzantine text in my published works on New Testament variants. These include:
I've read quite a few books on the subject and this is the one I would most heartily recommend. Sturz has helped to shift the paradigm. His book explores the reasons why traditional approaches to the Byzantine text are a crashing failure. Moreover, the book offers a science-based, tried and tested approach that takes into consideration all of the evidence God has provided for us. Buy it, read it, and let it change your life forever. If you'd like a Power Point on the book, go here. It was prepared by my wonderful assistant Mr. Noah Kelley.
Reader, allow me an illustration. 1 John 2:20 either tells us that all Christians have knowledge or that they "know all things." Colin Kruse defends the latter (minority) position, based partly on my defense of the reading panta over pantes. Here's a screen shot of that page in his commentary on the epistles of John.
"But," you say, "Christians most certainly do not know all things! We're not know-it-alls!" But John says, "What a minute! Now that you know the One who is Truth, you can't get by so easily. Because you have the Holy Spirit, you now have the ability grasp truth. You are now equipped to know and understand." That's good news, everyone. That's not to say we've arrived. My stars, we have a long ways to go! But every truth of God necessary for our salvation and sanctification is now within reach. We see truth in a light in which we did not see it before. What was once dark is now made plain. Our potential range of thought is now much greater. And all of this goes far beyond the natural facility for perceiving.
Does your Bible read "You all know" or "You know all things"? Behold how one word can make a difference!
So much love to all my faithful readers. Time to exercise!
Thursday, February 23
6:38 PM While I was getting into my workout clothes this morning, my body told me, in no uncertain terms, "Not today, buddy boy." Icky ick ick. Rest is a four-letter word to many runners, including me. Uh-oh. With my body conspiring against me, I had no choice but to take the day off and just relax. I tried a new recipe for spaghetti. I washed the dishes. I walked outside and turned my face to the sun, marveling at the day the Lord had made. I sat down with a good book. I walked the farm with Sheba. I sat quietly on the porch and listened to Nathan running the tractor while he disked, planted, and fertilized (Sheba and I supervised). Strength and grace. Peace and joy. I am so grateful for pressing the reset button today because without it I know I wouldn't have the energy to do anything productive tomorrow exercise-wise. I think it's better to cut back than to push through. Don't you?
1) Interesting book, this one.
2) My bestest buddy.
3) Yes, we loooooove Masseys around here.
4) Perfect formation.
5) No, I didn't forget fellas.
6) A born farmer.
4:26 PM Recently I received an email that jumped at me, pogo-stick like, drilling down into my soul. It requires a loving response. I've decided to wait a few days before writing back. It takes a lot of discernment to know what to say, how to say it, and when not to say anything at all. Here are a few quips that come to mind whenever I'm in this situation:
I've drafted a response I'll be sharing with people I trust to get their feedback. Life at times is so much like a sit-com!
8:38 AM When I got home last night it started to rain, but the sun is out this morning and it promises to be a warm day. I'm going to hit the Y and then maybe get in a long walk. For tomorrow I'm really hoping I can get a climb in, maybe Hanging Rock again, or MacAfee Knob. Looking ahead, I'm not participating in any more races this month simply because nothing's being offered on Saturday (they figured it would be snowing I guess), but the next couple of months are a different story. Here's what my calendar shows:
Saturday March 4: Liberty 5K at Camp Hydaway in Lynchburg.
Saturday March 11: American Cancer Society 5K in Raleigh.
Saturday March 18: Ella's 10K Race in Cary.
Saturday, March 25: Martinsville Half Marathon.
Saturday April 1: Kacie's Run 5K, Carrollton, TX.
Saturday April 8: King of the Mountain Half Mile Race, Snowflex Center, Lynchburg.
Saturday April 15: Cary Road Race 5K
That's 7 Saturdays in a row. In addition, I'm scheduled to read a paper at the regional ETS meeting in Fort Worth on March 31. My marathon training this year has been far from perfect mainly because I got sick last week. I am drinking waaaay too little water. I want to drink at least 8 glasses a day. So ... I've got a lot of work to do. I am blessed and grateful to be on this journey. I know I don't have to be the best or have the most to reach the top. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it's okay to pursue a life at the back of the pack. What doesn't matter if I give up or fail to do my best. Just like living the Christian life, running is adventurous and sacrificial and powerful. Especially when you're running for a cause. In exactly 9 weeks I leave for Cincinnati. Hoping to raise at least $4,000 for UNC!
Wednesday, February 22
5:38 PM A thousand thanks to Chuck Quarles for speaking on "The Deity of Christ in Matthew" in our NT 2 class today.
Never has a lecturer more matched his topic. It's like he exudes Matthew. People like that inspire me. They are some of my most trusted colleagues. And every last one of them is in the Gospel business. So with that, a long day of teaching has come to en end. I'm too tired even to think about exercising tomorrow. But we'll see. Never say never!
Tuesday, February 21
7:58 AM I'm just going to admit it: I love exams. Giving them, that is. I don't take exams any more. That was another life long ago. But giving them? I'm a pro. Today we're grading our Greek take-home exams over the verb. I HATE to see anybody do poorly. I hope I can give 35 A plusses today. And I hope at least one student will win the much-coveted 110 Award (a free book). What does it mean to be a good student? Half the challenge is just figuring out your teacher. I'm very old-fashioned when it comes to Greek. I still require parsing. I still require vocab. I still require you to memorize paradigms. I still use paper (yes, I realize entire rain forests are disappearing but I'm not a fan of online tests). What if we changed our label from "students" to "stewards"? What if we asked, What does it mean to "do our best"? There are a limited number of hours in the day. I can't do everything well. So I have to be selective. And, on that Day, I'll have to answer for my choices.
Quick sidebar. When I was in seminary, I aced every exam I took. Not because I'm smart. But simply because I had a good memory. But what if? What if I had studied because I loved the subject? What if I took exams to learn something? What is it like to steward well the opportunities God gives me?
I am determined to address my failings. I want to throw myself into life this day, this week. I want to become a steward and not an owner -- a concept so revolutionary it leaves me gasping. Brand Seminary is in trouble. The Christian subculture is killing us. The message we need to communicate is: We're all in. No more half measures. "Putting Christ first" isn't about giving Him an hour of time and a dollar of income. Our supreme business nowadays is not success or survival of self-satisfaction. What matters is stewardship, and it's required of stewards that they be found faithful. We need to push out our borders and, like Caleb of old, ask God for a mountain. I don't mind giving you a C on your exam today if I know your did your dead level best for Jesus. The temptation is strong to get by with shoddy stuff and build a cheaper structure. Blessed are those who give it their best in view of the Day when everyone's work will be made manifest.
Monday, February 20
5:28 PM I met with one of my daughters today for lunch and then drove to the seminary for the Katy Hardy celebration service. What a blessing. I wish I could have met Katy in this life but I'm sure she and Becky are having a great time in the Lord's presence. I was impressed by how open Katy was to receive what God wanted her to accept. When we accept God's will, we have to relinquish our own. The job of "unclasping" our hands comes to each one of us in some form. I'm so thankful today that Jesus is able to help us meet our test when it comes. Please keep her husband Chip in your prayers.
While on campus today I also picked up the day planner I had forgotten to bring home with me last week, which meant that I was pretty much dysfunctional this weekend. Now that I've recovered it I'm able to make a huge decision. It seems that the half marathon I signed up for -- the Tobacco Road Half Marathon on March 19 in Cary -- conflicted with a 10K race I really, really wanted to do on the 18th -- Ella's Race -- which I've done the past three years in a row. (I can't do both back to back.) Ella's Race honors the memory of Ella Newmiller who died from a brain tumor and benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Well, I was checking websites yesterday and it "just turns out" that there is a half marathon the following weekend in Martinsville, VA, so I've decided to do that race instead of the Tobacco Road Half Marathon on the 19th. I guess that's called having the best of both worlds: I can participate in Ella's Race and still get in a half marathon before the full marathon in May. So I'm done freaking out (for now).
The Martinsville race, incidentally, has a better starting time than the one in Cary (8:00 am instead of 7:00 am), better parking (onsite as opposed to parking at a lot and then having to be shuttled to the starting line), and better vistas (we'll run through downtown Martinsville instead of along a trail). So I just un-messed myself and I'm feeling real good about it. On the other hand, to be perfectly honest with you I'm starting to get nervous about the Cincy marathon. With all the emphasis on raising money for cancer research I almost forgot that I gotta run in that thing! Well, hopefully I'll be prepared for it. I'm planning on the half marathon giving me a good sense of where my body is.
Hope you had a great day!
9:20 AM Scattershooting ....
8:40 AM "Quest."
I haven't met a mortal who isn't on some kind of quest for meaning in their life. What's your quest? What's mine?
Action is always compelled by some good we want to attain. The question is: Which good? And: Shall I aim for the immediate good at hand, or for a higher, better good in the future? Am I willing to deny myself the desire to enjoy life this very minute, or am I willing to deny immediate gratification for higher goals?
A marathon is a good example. It's evident that millions of Americans are training for marathons because they are convinced it's good for them to do so. Nevertheless, the tendency is to backslide and return to habits that marked our pre-marathon lives. We lack motivation. Motivation is the desire to act in a certain way to achieve a certain end. If drives push us, motivations pull us. I would like to write a book. I would like to climb a mountain. I would like to surf a big wave. I would to have a better relationship with that person. I would like to love others sacrificially. All of us have desires. The problem is that motivation is not the same thing as the dedication and sacrifice needed to get what we want. As I watched the movie Marathon again last night, I was reminded that there are no formulas for successfully completing a 26.2 mile race. There is no "rule book" out there that tells you everything you have to do and all the things you have to avoid. You have to be, well, you. I will never win a race. I will never receive the Noble Prize for literature. I will never climb Everest. There are other people who know more, do more, and accomplish more than I do. But I am not them. I am my own performance. I become my latest book. I become the mountain I climb. I become the wave I ride. I become the relationship I want. I become the sacrificial person I want to be. These are all part of me.
If you're on a quest, as I am, the most important step toward success is getting to know yourself. Everything in my life changed when I decided to train for a race. My goal went from being healthy and taking care of my temple (a very worthy goal in itself) to being able to complete a 5K or a 10K or a half or full marathon. Every time I lace up my shoes I know what my goal is, what my objectives are. When in life we move into training mode -- for whatever goal you might have, from being a good parent to completing a novel -- we accept the risk of knowing that we will have to test our limits from time to time. There's a fine edge between doing too much to accomplish our goals and doing just enough. You just accept whatever God-given talent you have and then go out and see what happens. Trying is everything. That's true whether you're goal is to survive the loss of a spouse or get a promotion at work. For me, running has shortened the distance between what I am and what I want to become. It's my quest for meaning in life, but it's also a sport by which I can learn to play the life game better. I have come to realize that my life -- like yours -- is extraordinary in every way. Like you, as I pursue my goals I have to adjust to new stresses, new strengths, and new weaknesses. And I have to do so while staying focused on the real goal: finishing the race of life.
Since Becky died, I've learned that life is more about tenacity than talent. I don't have to be a professional athlete to accomplish great things. Even an unknown 12-minute miler like me can bask in the glory of race-day success, even if I come in last. Running makes us athletes in all areas of life because it trains us in the basics of living.
So that's it -- the why of my running. I run because it is who I am -- no less than the creation of the person I am meant to be.
Sunday, February 19
5:30 PM Oh my goodness. Ono-licious.
5:02 PM Writing about the Japanese in Hawaii reminded me of the song about "Fate Yanagi" by Hawaii's premier comic, Rap Replinger. (Yes, that's a German surname. Go figa.) Now "fate" is not quite what you think it is. Her first name is actually "Faith," but we no can say da "th" sound in Pidgin. Her new boyfriend, Mitz Funai, is, of course, Mitsuo, a classic Japanese name. In case you haven't figured it out, Hawaii is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world. Or at least places I've been. Should we ask, "Is Hawaii a racial paradise?", you'll find many different answers. Try this on for size. I talk about the issue in my book Running My Race so I don't need to answer it here. Speaking of home, right now on my stovetop I'm cooking teriyaki chicken wings. Really, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm trying to remember my mother's recipe. Let's see ... one cup brown sugar, one cup water, one cup soy sauce, sauté the onions, brown the chicken, bring to a boil and then summer for 50 minutes. We'll see how it turns out.
In odda news ...
Today I did 5 miles on the Tobacco Heritage Trail because the day was waaaay toooo sunny and warm not to. I've been feeling really great of late. I do love my weekly training schedule. It's more than awesome to be able to look back and track your progress. I imagine fledging Greek students feel the same way. What else to be thankful for? This fantastic weather. It's February for crying out loud. I'm so blessed and grateful. On the other hand, I'm heartsick and praying for my friend whose wife just passed away. Her funeral is tomorrow on campus. It's a reminder that we are all mortal. Thoughts? Do you grapple with your mortality? What other areas in your life are struggling with? Let's remember to pray for one another.
Time fo check da chicken.
8:48 AM Today is the "Day of Remembrance." On this day 75 years ago, an executive order was issued to place some 120,000 ethnic Japanese living on the West Coast in "relocation centers" situated in some of the most desolate regions of the country. For a list of national events happening today, go here. For a look at the executive order that cleared the way for internment, go here. And for an interesting look at why the Japanese in Hawaii were not relocated, go here. The author argues that the Nisei in Hawaii had become integrated into the fabric of Hawaiian society partly because of the patois everyone spoke, Hawaiian Creole (Pidgin). Even today my native tongue comes back to me on visits to the Islands.
Saturday, February 18
6:26 PM Hey friends! Although my main running goal for 2017 is the Cincy marathon in May, I still enjoy doing shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks. What makes a 10K so much fun is the fact that it's easier than a 5K and yet not as difficult as a half marathon. And when the course is a hilly one (like it was today), you face a really good test of your ability to combine speed with endurance. I left the house at around 7:00 and had a super-healthy breakfast on the way (two donuts at Sheetz -- tell it not in Gath). The day was exceptionally beautiful and the temps were perfect for a race.
This was an unusual event for me in that it was an "unsecured" race, meaning that the course had not been coned off. At first I was a bit concerned, but after a mile or so I could see that the race organizers had done an excellent job of providing traffic control at all major intersections (thanks sheriffs!).
The race started with a downhill section that enabled everyone to warm up.
Then the hills began. Eventually I reached the turnaround point (at about the 3-mile mark) and headed for the finish line.
The final mile was all uphill and did a number on my stats.
Finish time: 1:09:59.
That's a PR for me. My best time for a 10K prior to today was 1:14:51. After an hour and 10 minutes of solid running it was a relief to get back to the starting venue, where the organizers had refreshments waiting for us, including the most delicious cheese-broccoli soup I think my taste buds have ever experienced.
It was great fun to do a race like this, but the back story of today's event is, frankly, more important than the race itself. The race was sponsored by the Caring Hearts Free Clinic of Patrick County. Patrick County is a bit unique is that its patient-to-physicians quotient is double that of the rest of the state and even the nation. According to their website, the national benchmark is 631 patients per physician. Patrick County's is a whopping 2,080. In addition, 45 percent of Patrick County citizens lack health insurance of any kind, and there's also a 25 percent unemployment rate. So you can see why a free clinic is so desperately needed, one that not only provides basic health care (pharmacy, lab, dental, vision, etc.) but referral services. Here I am with Pam (left) who volunteers her services at the clinic as a nurse practitioner, and Christie (right) who directs the clinic and who did a fantastic job of organizing today's race.
So awesome! I plan to be back next year and hopefully I can convince others to join me. I met many people today who serve as volunteers at the clinic, people who believe in its cause with the strongest level of commitment. You know as well as I do that there is no greater joy in life than serving others. I felt extremely blessed to be part of an event that will help provide the clinic with the funding it needs to continue to provide health care to its local community. I also met people today who would normally be out there running with the rest of us but instead volunteered their time to make the race possible, from packet pickup to water-stops to post-race snacks. Truly, race volunteers make the world go 'round! I haven't done this yet but I think it would be great fun to be an orange-cutter-upper or a race-packet-stuffer or a course-monitor.
One last thing. Although I am a newbie runner, I'm quickly learning that there's only one way to train for hills, and that is by running up hills. Getting better at doing this is definitely one of my goals for 2017, but for today, I am really proud of my legs for doing so well and not having to stop to rest once. Maybe the age of miracles isn't over yet after all.
6:55 AM Race day. Course map ("Big Dipper").
Off and running.
Friday, February 17
4:24 PM Two pics I forgot to post.
1) Nice shot of Nate and Jess, eh? Not to mention Pey.
2) Daffodils in February?
4:14 PM Wowsers. Only one month to go until my next half marathon in Cary. Obviously I'm expecting it to be a real test of my abilities. What am I looking for? To see how well I do with my run-walk technique. I'd also like to see if I can come in under 3 hours using that method. As of right now, my PR is 2:48. By the way, I just ran across the elevation map for the course.
Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the 10K race tomorrow and will update you when I get back home. Today it's nice and warm but tomorrow it will only be about 55 degrees at race time. Well, that's better than running in heat and humidity. I don't really care what time I make. I'll stick with my "happy" pace and let the chips fall where they may. A perk of being a non-competitive runner is that you don't have to freak out over your times. One of the biggest motivating forces in life is just plain old fun. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, why bother? Thankfully, I've stumbled upon what I love doing. Running. And biking .... And surfing .... And climbing ....
Boredom is certainly not one of my problems.
Hope all is well with you!
10:46 AM Nate stopped by and we loaded some hay for a delivery to Wake Forest. Which means I got to see MY BOYZ!!!
9:48 AM I've often asked the question, "Why don't seminary grads use their Greek?" Of course, there will always be that graduate who's a Greek nut. In my experience, however, that person is a rare exception. Oh how I love meeting my former students and then opening my Greek New Testament and asking them to read it. (Of course, I would never do that.) (Yes I would.) "He's talking about me," you say. I'm starting to wonder, however, if what I'm doing is very helpful. I remember some of the things I learned in high school. But not much. Today I couldn't help anybody with algebra even though I took that course. And despite all the English classes I had, I didn't learn how my own language worked until I studied a foreign one (Greek). So you had three years of high school Spanish? Don't mean nothing if you don't use it. You probably don't even try to order in Spanish when you go out to eat at a Mexican place. For what it's worth, I think that's pretty normal. As I look back now on my high school/college experience, I realize that I've forgotten just about everything I didn't have an interest in or use frequently. I took logic and don't remember a single syllogism. (My apologies, Dr. Hanna.) Sheesh, I couldn't even tell you what I had for lunch on Tuesday. On the other hand, I took Greek and -- woohoo!!!!! I'm beginning to think that this is just how our brains work. It's NORMAL to forget about things we don't use or care about. So did I learn anything in college? Sure did. Even though I can't remember a whole lot from any single class I took, I came away (I hope!) very well educated in dealing with problems, people, situations, and even myself. In other words, retention of class material probably isn't the crux of education. Should I ever need to use my math, it will come back to me. Even then, we've all got computers and calculators to help us. Biblical-language-wise. ditto. Tons of facts available on-line for free. Just see our Greek Portal. This is the age of cybernetics, remember? On-demand information is there at our fingertips.
There's a lot of truth to this, but it's not the whole story. I remember my German even though I never review it and rarely use it. I think the reason I've retained my German is because I enjoy it. I enjoy all the other languages I've studied as well. People who study subjects that don't interest them are usually miserable. But find a subject you love and, oh, what a difference that makes. So how do you know if you really love something? You put more effort into it than other subjects. You like using it. You're interested in what everyone else is saying about it. You look forward to increasing your proficiency in the subject. It always seems to come up in discussions with your friends. When I was growing up, I absolutely loved art. Hence my drawings and paintings. I loved music too. Hence my proficiency in trumpet (first trumpet, first chair in the Hawaiian all-state band in my senior year of high school). On the other hand, I loved science but I was a complete dork at it.
Have you discovered it yet -- what really interests you? If so, persist undeterred. On the other hand, forcing yourself to master something you're not really interested in almost always ends in tears. And that, in my opinion, includes Greek.
8:24 AM The news came yesterday. My friend and co-LXX-class-teacher lost his wife to cancer yesterday. Hers was a long battle. The family needs our prayers today.
Before Becky finished her race, life was so very different for me, so "innocent" if you will. But Nov. 2, 2013 changed that, changed everything. You see, when it happens to you, it's like overhearing a conversation years ago only to find out that they were talking about you. Of course, three years later, it's all right. I'm okay. But today, for this day, it's not okay. On this day, looking out my window at the farm Becky and I planned for and dreamed about for years, I'm crying just a bit for what could have been. The day Becky went Home was sacred and beautiful and horrific and frightening, all at once. I entered through a door I would not wish on my worst enemy. That day didn't feel like a beginning. But it was. It was the first day of a life inching its way into existence, growing like a tiny sap into one day I hope will be a strong oak. Marriage for us was so naive. Now there is sobriety. All my life I could take control of my circumstances. And all of a sudden, that was taken away from me. I owe Becky an apology. I'm sorry for ever taking her for granted. I'm sorry that I didn't thank her more often for carrying my children and working so hard for the kingdom and investing herself deeply and unremittingly in my life. Now I'm counting my daily blessings like you wouldn't believe. Loss changes you. Each one of our lives is shot through with pain and sorrow as well as with grace and God's provision. I don't know what the future holds. For me or for my friend. But something inside of me keeps telling me it's going to be good. It's all up to Him. So come, Holy Spirit. Come into our hearts and lives and pockets of unbearable sorrow and invade us, change us, heal us, help us. We can't do this without You.
Thursday, February 16
12:35 PM Hey! While doing a 5K walk today at the local high school track, I listened to NPR's new program called A1 featuring Joshua Johnson, who replaced Diane Rehm.
He's awesome. Polite but never chummy. You can tell he does an awful lot of preparation. The trickiest part of interviewing is probably listening, which he does superbly well. He seems to be genuinely interested in the people he's chatting with, including the evangelical Christian he spoke with today on the topic of climate change. (I had never heard of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action before, had you?) He's willing to go off course when necessary and always seems to ask appropriate and thought-provoking questions. I give him three thumbs up and I know nothing about interviewing!
P.S. Check out this fabulous color-coded analysis of Paul's letter to the Philippians. (Scroll down to page 39.) I like it!
8:38 AM Potpourri ...
1) I'm feeling so much better today, all praise and thanks to the Lord. I pushed through my classes this week but did so "in weakness, fear, and trembling." I thought everything went superbly well. Okay, so they went well. I wasn't in top form and I knew it. Of course my students knew it also. So I own my temporary insanity, blaming my teaching zeal on my love of the classroom (plus the fact that I am no longer contagious). Today my legs are ACHING for some exercise and I might indulge them in a long walk. We'll see. The sun is shining but it's colder than a bear's nose.
2) Speaking of insanity, I signed up this morning for the annual Healthy Soles 10K (6.2 miles) in Stuart, VA, on Feb. 18. That's like in two days. Reader, allow me to explain the seriousness of this. Stuart, VA, is in the mountains of Virginia. Not the foothills. And everyone knows how much I fantasize about running in the mountains. I love mountains like most guys love washing dishes. When I signed up I promised myself that I wouldn't push my body beyond its limits (like I did last Saturday). Yeah, right. La di da. I did notice that the entry fee gets me not only a "marked course through the town of Stuart" (so glad it's not an unmarked course), a ceramic bowl (with spoon, mind you), a notebook, and post-race soup or chili -- all for a grand total of 35 measly bucks. In other words, by the time I drive there and back I should just about break even.
3) My provost has written a fine piece called Three things every Christian owes President Trump. Number 3 is by far the most important. After all, ultimately we're in a spiritual battle. I'm so grateful to be part of a Christian community that not only believes in prayer but practices it.
4) Today I'm reading a gignormous manuscript on the Gospel According to Matthew whose author thinks I should write an endorsement for him before it goes to press. So far I like what I see. It's like plucking a perfectly gorgeous tomato. After that, I need to begin reading the first chapter of a doctoral dissertation. Wow! 40 years of this business, and I'm still loving it.
5) I love stupid humor. Yesterday in class I tried to make a joke about the way we do "worship" in our churches nowadays. "Do we really put Christ first in everything, as we're told to do in Col. 1:18?" Almost zero churches that I know do this. What if our "worship leaders" and "choirs" were placed off to the side, as they are in those big fancy cathedrals in the U.K.? Keep Jesus in the center (the altar -- well, I'd prefer a table). What if the piano and organ were placed in the entrances to our buildings (like I've seen in Basel)? "Sheesh, then nobody would be able to watch me!" That's the point. What if we put our pulpits off to the side like they do in some mainline churches? Maybe, just maybe, our meetings would be a little less anthropocentric. What if we actually lived a radical life? That's really hard. I'm exhausted this morning thinking about all the possible ways we as a church can think outside our little boxes. The opportunities are endless. Let's invite the Holy Spirit deeply into our gatherings. And remember: He likes to point us to Jesus.
Wednesday, February 15
6:14 PM A few odds and ends before cooking my supper ...
1) My thanks to my colleague Josh Waggener (musicologist) for lecturing in my Jesus and the Gospels class on "The Gospels and Worship." His doctorate is from Durham University in the U.K. (It is really ridiculous how musically talented he is.)
2) Ditto to Steve Eccher (church historian) for sharing with us how the Anabaptists differed from the Swiss Magisterial Reformers in their understanding of the Gospels. Steve's Ph.D. is also from the U.K. (Saint Andrews). (Note: I'd like to thank Steve for reminding us that tennis shoes are perfectly acceptable in the classroom.)
5) "The good Lord gave you a body that stands most anything. It's your mind you have to convince" (Vince Lombardi). At the finish line of last week's 5K. Photo arrived today. I know nobody cares. But I do. :-)
Tuesday, February 14
9:25 AM This was perhaps the most tweeted picture from the weekend:
Listen. We've all done it. We've all taken a picture (or a Bible verse) out of its context and read waaaaay toooo much into it. The reason? To push our narrative. As Katz notes:
Isn't that what we do when we take Bible verses out of their context? It's tempting (and even lucrative for greeting card publishers) to use Jer. 29:11 as a sort of guarantee of personal happiness. I myself have used Phil. 4:13 to gin up the courage to run a race. (*Sigh.*) We need to ask, "What does Paul mean by 'all things' in this verse?" A good place to begin would be verse 10. If you didn't grow up in a Christian subculture (with "Awana" and "Bible Memory Association" and "Bible drills") this will probably make zero sense. While I'm thankful for the 1551 invention of versification (for ease of reference) in our Bibles, this did create some new problems. Arguably, the most abused verse is 2 Chron. 7:14. Is it a blanket promise for "God's people" in any era? Probably not. I have a saying in my Greek classes: "Never read a Bible verse." Verses must be read in their contexts. To do this, we have to start where we must always start: reading an entire book of the Bible. This should not be an afterthought, after we've already pulled our favorite verse, kicking, screaming, and bleeding, out of context. That's like, well, taking a snapshot. The Bible is a book of books, not a talisman. That's why exegesis is such a noble, necessary work. Let's widen the lens a bit, shall we? Doesn't that sound like wonderful relief from writing memes?
Monday, February 13
5:58 PM Well, I've spent the day sitting in bed with my iPad propped up against my knees fighting a head cold. Hope to nip it in the bud. I've cancelled all of my meetings scheduled for tomorrow but I am bound and determined to teach my 3:00 Greek class (keeping a safe distance from my students). One good thing about being a little on the sick side is that it allows you time to get caught up on all the day's news. Did you read about the UA captain whose bizarre pre-flight rant got her removed from an SFO-bound flight? It's a very sad story. I for one wish her a full and speedy recovery. I do hope she'll be supported by her employer and get the help she needs. We've all had times when we've had to sort out "life issues." Hopefully, she'll get over it and be flying again soon if that's what she wants. Apparently she was divorced in 2015 after 28 years of marriage. After losing my wife of 37 years to cancer, I can empathize. Divorce is horrible, and stress is the inevitable result. Sleep deprivation (common among pilots) only exacerbates the problem. It's been almost 3 and a half years since Becky passed away and I still miss her, especially on occasions like tomorrow (Valentine's Day). But self-pity is not appropriate for someone who's received so much mercy and grace. I giggle to imagine what B would think of all my running and climbing. I'm just beginning to embrace my singleness. I've learned so much during these past few years. It's okay to struggle. It's okay to admit that you struggle. It's okay to feel lonely. You don't have to be awesome. Marriage is not what makes us human beings. That's not a put-down of marriage. It's just reality. No one was more fully human than Jesus, and He was single. I wonder if that's the freedom Paul meant when he said, "I've learned to be content in every situation." I don't need to always "have it all together." It's okay to live a life that has some deep potholes. Jesus is the answer to the cry of every human heart. I hope the UA pilot finds Him, somehow, some way. The "rules of how to behave" are meaningless for people who are adrift in a sea of stress and grief. This is where my head is on this day before "Heart Day." I belong to a community that embraces people who are widowed or divorced or lonely or single even though they want to be married. My wedding ring reminds me that it's not about me. It was always about us. And that's a very happy memory to take with me into tomorrow.
Below: A blast from the past. If only I had saved those trousers.
10:22 AM You've all seen it:
The DOE meant to write, of course, DuBois -- referring to the Civil Rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP.
Then came the sloppy apology:
I once saw this sign in an Ethiopian public schoolyard:
Get the point?
Of course, I've never had any misspellings in any of my blog posts or problems with "autocorrect."
Seriously, the more we write, the greater the danger of sloppiness. Nobody at the DOE is illiterate. They made honest mistakes. On Twitter of all things.
Maybe we could all lighten up a bit.
9:55 AM Good morning and good Monday. I love my work as a teacher. In fact, I've never been more encouraged about my career choice in my life. When I get to invite a colleague of mine to speak on ethnic diversity to my students (as I did last week), you realize just how much grace God has poured out on you. Here's what I want to say about this. As you know, I'm currently reading Thomas Friedman's latest book called Thank You for Being Late. It's an argument for "being late" -- for slowing down long enough to appreciate the amazing change our culture is going through and then reflecting on its possibilities and dangers. He argues that unless we build a "topsoil of trust" within our nation and our local communities, we will fail to deal in a healthy way with our increasingly diverse populations. According to the Pew Research Center, from 2000 to 2013, from California to North Carolina, 78 counties in 19 states turned majority-minority, and in 19 of the 25 largest U.S. counties by population, whites make up less than half of the population.
I'm a haole and I was born and raised in Hawaii. (I wen grad Kailua High School 1970.) I grew up as an ethnic minority and LOVED it. Speaking of demographics, as a baby boomer I belong to the only generation in history that can say we witnessed the population of the world double in our lifetime, and if I live long enough I could see it triple. Put rather unambiguously: the world is changing. I noticed this again at yesterday's 5K race in Raleigh. I had a long conversation with an Indian couple who work at RTP. We reminisced about their birthplace (Mumbai) but mostly we talked about their work here in their adopted country. The impact of immigration will affect every American generation going forward. It is our time to stand tall. To repeat what Barack Obama said at Hiroshima: "We can tell our children a different story." How to solve the immigration problem is beyond my skill set, but I know something about strong multi-ethnic communities, because I grew up in one. And so I hope you don't mind if I make an appeal that you get your hands on books like The Earth Is Flat and Thank You for Being Late. Something else you should read is Jesus is not colorblind: Celebrating racial and ethnic diversity in the local church, which reminds us that:
As I said, I have never been so encouraged in my life. May the Spirit empower us to be Christ's witnesses not only to the ends of the earth but also cross-culturally. God can and will use a multiracial and multiethnic church to foreshadow what the future kingdom will look like (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).
Sunday, February 12
5:58 PM Before driving to Raleigh today I told myself, "You can do this, Dave. You haven't crossed the magical 30-minute barrier in a while. In fact, in all the dozens of 5Ks you've run in, you've only done it 3 times. Today's the day, man. Work hard, buddy boy, and I'll buy you Ethiopian for dinner. Deal?" So off we went to Raleigh. Gun time: 2:00 pm. I warmed up by fast-walking and jogging for 20 minutes. I wanted to charge out of the starting block like Nyquist at last year's Kentucky Derby, lungs and legs on fire. My first mile was a winner. I had a 9-minute-mile pace. That went up to 10 in the second mile of the race. Then I made the final turn, saw that steep incline, and wanted to weep. I didn't know if I could make it. Suddenly I saw a crowd of people yelling, and the finish line soon after. My goal today was to beat my previous record on this course of 34:30. I finished in 31:00, good enough for little old moi. I averaged a 10-minute-mile pace (fast!!), which earned me a last place finish in my age group (slow!!). I was sore and stunned. That was not the outcome I wanted. I was so discouraged (and tired) I wanted to lie down right there and sleep. I knew this race was going to be a doozy -- considering THAT HILL. In one sense, it really wasn't a "hard" course. But it was too hard for me, on this day. Still, I had done it. I had DONE IT. I HAD FINISHED! I staggered, punch-drunk, for 10 minutes then sauntered over to the refreshment table to get my Gatorade and banana. It was O-V-E-R.
As always, I got exactly what I deserved out of today's race. I gave it my best, and that's all that matters in the end. I think of all those Greek students of mine through the years who started seminary in their 50s or 60s and were slammed to the ground by participles and principal parts, yet they never gave up. For me, running has gone from something I do to escape myself to something I do to reclaim myself. I loved being out there. I loved meeting the charities who'll benefit from all the hard work the runners and volunteers put in today. I'm allowing myself to be at peace with whatever my time is. So what if I didn't crack the big Three-Oh. There'll be another day. Yeah, you Greek duffers out there. You can master those participles! Take it from this sweaty old geezer who finishes in the middle of the pack with his head high and a smile on his face. Running makes you a phoenix. I am reborn every time I cross the finish line and tell myself, "I didn't die."
1) These races have such a carnival spirit. Here some ladies are face-painting all the kiddos.
2) As you can see, it was so warm today that Hercules could show off his stuff.
3) Yours truly before the race.
4) I always start out about mid-way in the pack.
5) Me and my server at the Abyssinia. No, I hadn't beaten the 30-minute mark, but I still deserved this meal. At least I had the good sense to get out of my smelly race shirt before entering the restaurant.
6) In honor of Becky, I always get kai wat. It's a reminder to me that, yes, by God's grace, I can do the really hard things of life.
Okay. It's not even 6:00 pm but I'm hitting the hay. Peace and love!
9:30 AM So much love to my kids, who are always sending me links to news stories, including this one: New York Man Who Completed 744 Marathons Dies at Age 96. My children are so wise. They know I'll be completely intimidated by this story and will now be even more freaked out by my marathon than ever. Seriously, blessings are the greatest affirmations we can offer others. My kids make sure I am covered in them!
P.S. I read elsewhere that Don ran 30 miles a week and did a monthly marathon. What an inspiration.
9:14 AM Yesterday I was ordering a couple of books from Amazon and ran across a book whose author's bio read simply, "_________ is part of a house church in Orange, California where no one takes a salary and all offerings are given to help the poor in the community." I live in a part of the country where many refer to the church as "the house of the Lord." As we will hopefully see in our Jesus and the Gospels class this week, much of our ecclesiology today is based not on the New Covenant inaugurated by the blood of Jesus but on the Old Covenant, where holy men did holy things in holy places. Over time the body of Christ began to develop church buildings and hire professionals to engage in "the ministry" while others were expected to attend, listen to messages, and give financial support. It's the perfect storm. I wouldn't call this kind of church a "New Testament" church, however. In other words, participation in fraternal ministry is one of the most fundamental distinctive marks of the church. When Jesus ascended on high, He gave gifts to men (and women). Just read 1 Cor. 12-14. I confess I am entirely sympathetic to the house church movement, partly because of their more participatory gatherings. But the one thing I hope we can all agree on is that Christlike love must be placed above everything else, including our correct doctrine or our primitive ecclesiology or our political agendas. Paul goes so far as to say that even if we have everything else correct, if we lack love, nothing we do has any kingdom value (1 Cor. 13). Think about the implications of this. Our congregations may meet in huge buildings or they may meet in less formal household settings; they may have outstanding pulpiteers or excellent informal teaching; they may be age-integrated or age-segregated. But if our gatherings don't result in people having a greater willingness to engage in Calvary acts of love on behalf of other people, regardless of their ethnicity, social standing, nationality, etc., then "church" has merely become a charade. I serve a Savior who prioritized the sinners on the fringes of society. All this is clear from reading the Gospels, but at some point the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it. This is why the body of Christ is so essential. I believe in a very deep way that this Jesus we're studying in the Gospels has the potential of dramatically changing the way we view everything. Either I'm a man who is passionate about seeing Christ incarnated in the world through my life, or I'm not. My family will surely know the difference. So will my students, though it might take them longer to figure it out. Teaching our students about the geography of first-century Galilee is essential. So is teaching them about not being first, resisting competition, shining brightly with their gifts, and a thousand other things that have nothing to do with geography.
Saturday, February 11
6:08 PM Saturday night musings ...
So I worked out this morning and got in 30 solid minutes of heavy lifting. In addition, I'm well into my preparations for week 4 of school, which means making sure my NT students have their study questions, seeing to it that my take-home exam in Greek 2 is ready to be passed out on Tuesday, and working through Amos chapter 2 for the LXX class. This book has really gotten into my bloodstream because its message is oh so apropos to what's going on in our world today. The coming downfall of the northern kingdom is the book's main theme. The house of Israel will soon collapse. Amos was deeply troubled by the contrast between the Haves and the Have-Nots as well as by the way the religious/political leaders tried to justify this disparity. His book is a fantastic story of personal faith, aggravation, and a real look at why faith and wealth are so often diametrically opposed to each other. I suppose had Amos been living today, he might have noticed (as many of us have) the increasing presence of religious leaders in politics. Perhaps he would remind us that our ultimate hope is in God, and that there is a sad and dangerous tendency in mankind to use religion to further one's own personal/political gains while doing very little or nothing to help our fellow citizens. As I see it, our job as Christians isn't necessarily to police government. Instead, Christ calls us into the trenches ourselves, to be there with the dying and the sick and the prostitutes and the widows and the prisoners. I know of no greater force than the power of sacrificial love. It's no good trying to loop Christianity into American politics. That doesn't mean we withdraw from political engagement. You act as your conscience leads. Don't like the lying that goes on in DC? Call it out. Personally, I find the attacks on the judiciary both ridiculous and dangerous. And don't get me started on the name-calling, bullying tactics, and what clearly seem to me to be financial conflicts of interest. But we can't forget that our primary calling in life as Jesus-followers is not fixing government but rather incarnating ourselves into the world's problems. Pick a need or a country or an organization or a local cause and pour yourself into it both personally and financially. You could be the answer to a myriad of prayers. The Gospel will die if it's planted in the soil of self. Jesus' kingdom operates today the same way it operated 2,000 years ago -- through subversion, sacrifice, humility, love, and through calling empty religion back to God. Thanks, Amos of Tekoa, for the reminder!
Tomorrow it's church and then the 5K in Raleigh. Maybe it will be my day. Maybe I will run as I've never run before. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that at my age I still have the strength and stamina to run a 5K. I am excited and joyous.
Off to cook supper!
8:20 AM I really didn't want to see this.
It's the elevation chart for tomorrow's 5K course in Raleigh. It's not my favorite place to run. The picture doesn't do the course justice. So help me, are you crazy David? I'd rather run outdoors in a blizzard. Sometimes I marvel at the company I keep. Lifting freaks at the Y. Running fanatics. Biking enthusiasts. They are all good people. I am commissioned to be a light, but I can't shine while remaining in my evangelical bubble. I'm so grateful for chances to get out into the world where real people struggle with real problems. Who can argue that life isn't difficult when you're panting up a hill? Maybe I should just give ... SLAP! Right across the face. You ain't givin' up on nothin', Dave. You prayed for perspective on this fleeting life. Well, racing gives you that, in bucketsful. Which brings me to my favorite song from the 70s.
I sing it practically every time I run/walk/crawl/slither/whimper across the finish line.
Whenever I think I'm going to live forever as healthy as I am now, I go for a run and I'm suddenly tossed back into reality. I'm reelin' in the years, stowin' away the time, for sure. So are you, my friend. We're running our races, you and me, to the best of our infirmity-laden selves. Tomorrow will be like every other race I've ever run in: glorious, marvelous, frustrating, challenging, liberating, happy clappy (at least at the end), and memorable. I'll blog about it and then proceed to forget about it -- until the next time I run. This is where my head is this morning. I want to run. But then again, I don't.
Dear Kailua Beach: I miss you so much.
7:40 AM Scattershooting ...
Friday, February 10
6:08 PM I got in 9 miles today, 3 of them while sprinting on my bike, and 6 while running. Feeling good. Gonna be a great weekend. Can't wait to watch SNL. It'll probably be the greatest ratings of all time. Oh, for the good ol' days when politicians like Sarah Palin (aka Tina Fey) actually laughed at the jokes made about them, and then made a cameo appearance on SNL to fraternize with the crew. I once had a seminary professor tell me, "Dave, don't ever take yourself too seriously. No one else does." I'll never forget that. (*Dave gets down off soapbox.*) Meanwhile, I'm cooking me a steak with mashed potatoes for dinner, then cozying up in front of the fireplace with Friedman's Thank You for Being Late. No, I didn't get the title either until I began reading this crazy interesting book. Stephen King once said that good writing is like water, and the water is free. I'm drinking up this book by the gallon and still my thirst still grows insatiably. Ya gotta get it!
9:15 AM This week I just happened to read David Frum's How to Build an Autocracy. (Autocracy's a good Greek word, by the way.) It's a pretty creepy disquisition (don't ever expect dystopian essays to be happy reading), but I've been in enough foreign countries to understand how democracy can be -- and has been -- threatened by a modern bureaucratic state. It doesn't take all that much to destroy a vigorous democracy -- a little gaslighting here, a few lies there, stirring up a bit of chaos and confusion now and then, etc. Which reminds me ... the wonderful French Christian philosopher Jacque Ellul had quite a bit to say about the technocratic state that goes awry, and I have documented this in my little book called Christian Archy in case you're interested.
We think we're too smart to fall for the lies of the Party (think 1984), but history shows just how gullible people are. Even Paul could accuse his beloved Galatians of being abject fools ("You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses?" -- so Eugene Peterson). In 1984, Orwell wrote "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake."
Goodness gracious. All this can be very unsettling. If The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate fantasy story, so 1984 is the last word in the dystopian story genre. Or is it? Time will tell. As much as I enjoy reading Frum and others, however, the ultimate priority for a Christian soldier is to seek the kingdom of God and not become entangled (too much) in the affairs of this world. I'm trying, folks, I'm trying! It's much more important to please our enlisting officer, King Jesus (2 Tim. 2:4). And I suspect His plan of action is a bit simpler than that of your typical Washington PAC. It involves imitating Him by witnessing to His alternative kingdom through loving service to other people. The kingdom He came to establish is "not of this world." And if He could include an ultra-right-winger (a tax collector) and an ultra-left-winger (a zealot) among His followers, we cannot and must not divide ourselves as Christians on the basis of political party or nationalistic agendas.
God is inviting us into the spiritual battle seven days a week. It's such warfare. What words do I write? What acts of goodness should I perform in His name today? What must I forgive, release, lay down, surrender, offer to Him? There is something supernatural to this battle we're in. I keep telling myself, "Dave, don't miss the forest for the trees, even if the trees and the tiny little saps come in rapid succession each and every day."
Alarm is set.
8:20 AM The weekend is off to a great start. I got my 4-mile run in yesterday but it was almost too windy to be outdoors. Cold too. But my body felt good and I gained some much needed miles. Then it was off to the Verizon store to replace my decrepit old iPhone 5s.
And just like that, I was the proud owner of an iPhone 7 and a new iPad mini. I even got an educator's discount (10 percent), which I didn't even know existed. I had a superb customer experience at the store, and that was due mostly to the outstanding care I received from Steven, pictured here. (Isn't he a very cool selfie-taker?)
The main reason I went to this store was the way I was treated when I initially bought my phone here a few years ago. You already know this, but businesses today have to work harder than ever to keep customers and build their trust. The Verizon store on Dabney Drive in Henderson, NC, has done just that. Check 'em out, dude.
I could sit and write a ton of stuff that's going through my mind right now, now that the 9th Court of Appeals has issued its ruling. While waiting for my data to transfer from the iCloud to my new phone last night, I actually read every single word of the court ruling, and one statement hit me like a ton of bricks:
So it was hardly the slam dunk case the administration thought it would be. The ban now goes to the Supreme Court or else it returns to the district court in Seattle, where a trial could take months or even years. Whatever. I'm just sooooo grateful this morning that we still have an independent judiciary. Hopefully the next EO that rolls out will be more measured -- and more carefully vetted.
On the teaching front, this coming week in our Jesus and the Gospels class my students will be reading (and answering study questions) from Mark Strauss's Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels and my The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Chapters to be read this week include "The Historical Setting of the Gospels," "The Religious Setting of the Gospels," "The Social and Cultural Setting of the Gospels," "The Political History of Palestine During the Intertestamental Period," "Life in the World of the New Testament," and "The Religious Background to the New Testament." Yes, I realize that some say that "background information" is not necessary to study the Gospels. But how do you know who a "Pharisee" is without historical context? Or what a denarius is? Or where the "Syro-Phonecian" woman lived? Background information is no threat to biblical exegesis. You see, it's not about learning facts. It's about framing our exegesis to include questions about historical background. Jesus ate and fellowship with tax collectors. He interacted with beggars. He treated women respectfully. He praised a centurion. He often sided with the poor. If we want to join Jesus' kingdom revolution today, we have to understand how Jesus lived and taught -- how He manifested the beauty of the kingdom -- in some pretty scandalous ways in His own day and age, and then we have to ask ourselves, "How well are we doing embodying Christ's scandalous love to people in our society whom the world deems as outcasts?" Even the fact that Jesus observed the Passover for (apparently) the first time at the age of 12 has potentially tremendous ramifications for the way we do parenting today and the way we view "youth ministry." Can you imagine how relevant Jesus' message would be in today's American culture if He were here personally? I marvel at how out of place humble, simple discipleship seems to be today. As for me and my house, we will study about the Herodians. I never know how relevant that little factlet might become when I study the Gospel According to Mark!
Thursday, February 9
8:45 AM I had to smile this morning when I saw WRAL news announce that the temps were going to "plummet" in the next couple of days. I'll take February temps of 48 any day. Warmer weather returns this weekend, just in time for my 5K on Sunday afternoon. In fact, the race day temp should be around 76 degrees! Tuesday evening's run was really enjoyable. I ran 5 miles before the sun set. It was so warm I could run in a t-shirt. I am definitely a warm weather running type of guy, though I'll run in cold weather if I have to. Today is my "easy" day. I'm not sure what I'll do but a bike ride is not out of the question. I have to admit that after losing some weight and running with greater frequency my legs are beginning to feel like they are where they need to be. I have to say it's the little runs like the ones I do in Wake Forest that remind me why I like to run so much: It's all about getting outdoors and having fun. But I noticed something interested (to me). My mind is always jumping to the next race, as though I'm in it for the competition. Running is funny in that way. You do it for its own sake, and you do it because God has made us to be in community (even if that "community" is a competitive one). I guess the fact of the matter is that people run for different reasons because we all have different goals. Those goals can even shift from run to run. I'm going to do everything I can to succeed in my upcoming races -- "succeed" meaning finishing with my head held high regardless of my pace and time. My next "big" event is the half marathon on March 19, and I clearly recall the last half I did and how my legs just sort of froze up at about the 10-mile marker. I wasn't hurting. I just couldn't run. I fought with my legs to the finish line, doing some running but mostly fast-walking. This time around I'll be using the run-walk method and hope to maintain a more even pace on the course. At any rate, I'm fairly excited about the races I see written on my day planner, including Sunday's. The course is a hilly one so it should be a good test of my abilities.
Moving on ....
I've been trying to keep up with the various and sundry reports/essays/op-eds about the immigration debate, so I was glad to see on CNN that a group of evangelicals is going to publish a full-page ad in a major Washington newspaper affirming the call of Jesus for His followers to "love our neighbor as we love ourselves." You can read it here and also check out the signatures (one of which is my school president's). What I really like about the statement is that it clearly objects to prioritizing Christian refugees over Muslim refugees or refugees "of other faiths or no faith at all." Sounds pretty radical, but our God is no respecter of persons. On a similar note, in our Jesus and the Gospels class yesterday I asked my friend and colleague Walter Strickland to address the class on the subject of diversity in the kingdom of God. When God's kingdom is fully established on earth as it is in heaven, we will be free from all those things that stand against a kingdom lifestyle -- empowering men over women, whites over blacks, the wealthy over the poor, the educated over the uneducated, etc. We will become a kingdom community in which ethnic prejudices are abolished. In the meantime, argued Walter, we need to learn how to listen to others, because everyone one of us "sees through a glass darkly." If we aren't in dialogue, if we insist on remaining in our homogeneous contexts, the result will be ever-increasing polarization. Diversity is not merely a social justice issue but is rooted in the very oneness and diversity of the Triune God. The Gospel will become credible when the world sees us in the church building relationships regardless of color, ethnicity, nationality, and culture. Jesus' actions toward people who weren't Jewish was revolutionary. He was giving us a picture of what the kingdom looks by interacting with Roman centurions and despised Samaritans. Is that our attitude to "outsiders" today? It's just that serious!
Well, I still can't believe how incredibly blessed I am to be here in southern Virginia enjoying such incredibly sunny weather while schools are shutting down in other states due to snow. It will probably be short-lived, however. We usually get another whopping snow storm before spring arrives, but for now I'm basking in the sun. I may try for a 4ish mile run today after I work out at the Y. We'll see. My body will tell me!
1) I love this course. It's only 2 miles from the seminary in a very peaceful subdivision. As you can see, I love running in circles. Each lap is about a mile.
2) On Tuesday I enjoyed delicious Mexican food and great conversation with one of my Jesus and the Gospels students.
3) In our LXX class yesterday, the student-led discussion of Amos 1 went swimmingly well I thought. Afterwards I persecuted the saints by having them translate (without any helps) Exod. 20. They nailed it.
4) Walter Strickland speaking in class yesterday.
Walt is completing his doctorate at the University of Aberdeen, teaches theology, and advises the president in an effort to help SEBTS "equip students from every corner of the Kingdom to serve in every context of the Kingdom."
Tuesday, February 7
8:30 AM I just looked outdoors. My goodness, is it really February? Right now it's a comfortable 51 degrees, going up to a warm 72, which means that unless the teacher in my Greek class today (moi) goes long, I'll get a chance to grab a run before dark. Perfect running weather! Overall, I have to say that I feel extremely blessed with the weather God has given us this "winter." If I can maintain my training schedule, I just might be able to add a 26.2 bumper sticker to my car this year!
7:58 AM Well, it's gonna be an interesting day, don't you think? May as well dust off that old scrap of paper called the U.S. Constitution and give it another gander. Together, the nation will hopefully figure this thing out and determine what is legal and constitutional. Ain't nothin' wrong with issuing an executive order. Ain't nothin' wrong with disagreeing with that EO on moral or legal grounds (or both). And ain't nothin' wrong with challenging that EO in court. Do we shield our children from the debate? Of course. But can we also use this as an opportunity to teach a civics lesson or two? Naturally. They need to learn, for example, that there are three branches of government, not one. They need to know that members of all three branches are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which is the "law of the land." They need to learn what the "foreign-emoluments clause" is. (It's found in Article 1, Section 9, clause number 8.) They need to learn as teenagers that when they're stopped for speeding, the man or woman in uniform is not a so-called police officer. He or she has been placed there as an authority to uphold the law, and they are to be treated with the utmost respect. Don't like the law? There are legitimate ways of changing it. But unless we learn what is objectively lawful (and unlawful) in young adulthood, we may end up learning it the hard way in our twenties and thirties, when we are making the most important decisions of our life. (Side note: You want your children to see government in action? Take them to a state or local legislature meeting. It's an eye-opener, believe me.) In the meantime, let's you and I buy up the opportunities we're given today for investing our talents for the glory of God and the good of others. Some of you believe (as do I) that Jesus may come at any time. But we don't know the day or the hour. This sense of emergency and immediacy should give us a holy urgency to use our time and strength well so that we won't be ashamed at His coming.
Monday, February 6
4:48 PM They're saying it was mental toughness that won the game for the Patriots.
Blessed are those followers of Jesus who give it their best in view of the Day when every person's work will be manifested. The alternative is unthinkable: get by with shoddy workmanship. To all of my wonderful students: Except the Lord build the house, we labor in vain who build it. But the One who has begun a good work in us will complete it. Work hard. Draw upon His strength. Give it your best. I promise to do the same.
4:10 PM This and that ...
1) I've added another event to my race schedule: The Liberty Mountain 5K on Saturday, March 4, hosted by our good friends at Liberty University. It's another trail run. Appears I'm a glutton for punishment.
2) Every American needs to read this: Response to Emergency Motion Exhibit A.
3) I just polished off the best steak I've had in a long time. Yes, you wake up at 5:00 am, you get to eat supper at 4:00 pm.
4) We keep adding goodies to the Power Point page over at our Greek Portal. Feel feel to use anything you like.
5) My trip to Hawaii is booooooked!!!! The dates are Aug. 3-11. I'm already praying for some big waves.
9:08 AM QOTD:
7:54 AM Update on our LXX class: In lieu of taking a final exam over Amos, students can opt to memorize a portion of the book in Greek. I've been pleased that so many students have chosen to do this in classes we've offered in the past. In previous years we also allowed memorization of the Hebrew. Here's a good example of a student who chose that option. Language study is crazy work but it's good work. You've got to fight for it, though. Some parts are easier than others.
5:55 AM Morning! Up and at-em bright and early today. Got lots on my plate as I know you do. I'm feeling very energetic, which is usually the case after a long workout. The key is to just stick with it. TRAINING is only 8 letters long but it's not quite that simple. All you have to do is schedule, lift, run, walk, climb, bike, condition, strengthen, stretch, rest, etc. Exercise trends come and go. But you have to be steady. According to the CDC, 80 percent of American adults don't get regular exercise. The fewest adults exercise in West Virginia and the most in Colorado. But every state has safe and convenient places to be active. I was shocked when I discovered that not 20 minutes from the farm is a section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The local Y is the same distance. Then there are the races you can enter. Lord willing, next weekend I'll be back in Raleigh for the annual Run for the Roses event at the Dorothea Dix Park. It's a 5K that also offers two runs for kids (100 meters for 6 years and under, and a half mile race for 6 years and over). Parents run with their kids. Couples run together. All children automatically receive a medal for competing. The money raised will go to Canines for Service, which selects and trains dogs for people with mobility disabilities. This is going to so much fun. Every race is different, but the "next" one is always the best!
Today my goal is to do 30 minutes of intense strength training at the Y, then work on the book review I owe JETS. Today is what I call my "vice" workout. If I do really well I reward myself with a Pepsi. My house? A mess. But I did clean the dishes from dinner last night. I'm eating clean nowadays, so that's good. I did make the mistake of stopping by Taco Bell on the way home from school last week. Bec and I used to get their burrito/taco combo with a soft drink, so what the hay, I stopped. I couldn't finish it. Maybe it's just me, but the food tasted so blech. And I used to LOVE that meal. I did stop by Kroger in Appomattox yesterday and bought me a couple of sirloins. Their meat is so much leaner (and tastier) than the stuff I can get at our local grocery store.
Looking forward to this week, I need to get in 25 hours of training. I want to do 2 short runs and 1 long run, plus bike at least 15 miles. Let me know if you're interested in doing the 5K on Sunday. I'll meet you there. It starts at 2:00.
Sunday, February 5
6:25 PM Hi friends. Usually I can't wait for Sunday to roll around because it's usually my day off from activity. But then Sunday (as in today) came around and all I could think of was, "Let's get outdoors and jam, Davie Boy!" After all, my legs weren't at all tired after yesterday's Everest climb. (Don't believe me? Check out this elevation graphic of yesterday's summit day.)
Anyhow, I told myself I could go ahead and exercise as long as I gave my "running" legs the day off, or something like that. So off we went (legs and all) to Farmville this afternoon to tackle for the umpteenth time the High River Bridge Trail, which is as flat as trails come (it's a former railroad bed, after all). As you can see, the traffic today was ferocious in sunny Southside ...
... as were the hiking trails.
Eventually I reached the bridge itself, which marked the 5-mile point.
All I had to do was go another 1.55 miles, turn around, and head back to my starting point if I wanted to get in a half marathon today (13.1 miles).
I was a good boy and walked pretty much the entire distance without running. Well, to be honest, I did break into a jog around three miles from the finish, but hey, sometimes my body refuses to listen to my head. I am not a moron, however. I do realize that I can't run every day, so I promised myself to take tomorrow off from any form of human activity except for lifting. You know, Davey Boy, you don't only have a marathon coming up. You've got three mountains you want to climb in July, and one of them is a monster. Folks, here's a YouTube of what it's like to climb the Allalinhorn.
Ugh. That's why I need to push myself now. These climbs are going to be a huge challenge. Everything in me is going to scream, "Stop this nonsense NOW and let's go back to town and have some sushi!" That's when you have to just ignore yourself. Can I tell you my goals for practically anything I do? Finish. Finish well if I can. But at least finish the silly thing. Believe it or not, I think God's created all of us to function this way. Listen. I'm an inexperienced runner and climber at best. All the more reason for me to work hard. Smart too, if I can. Thankfully, there's a totally awesome place called Amazon.com. Place your order, and in a couple of days you'll have all the knowledge you need at your fingertips. Then you can stop running and just read about how to be a runner or a climber or whatever. NOT. Ain't nobody got time for slacking off. It's time to train, and training involves not just thinking about doing something but actually doing it. Today was a great example of how my body and my mind worked in harmony to accomplish a goal. And, because I didn't overdo it, I'm feeling great right now. Well, mostly great. The question, I guess, is this: What shall I do tomorrow? Take my "Sunday" day off? Yessiree. How much shall I lift? Who knows? I'm not worried about that right now. Once my mind gets itself into gear, my body will know what to do.
Now where did I put that Advil?
P.S. After my half today I decided to drive west for about 30 minutes to grab some more shots of one of the most historic sites in all of the U.S.
Recognize the place?
9:22 AM Hey folks. So glad you decided to stop by. Here's the beautiful view that awaited me this morning.
Sure glad we didn't get this light dusting yesterday during the race. The crazy thing was hard enough as it was. This morning I'm feeling soooo good. My legs are purring like a happy kitten, while my upper body feels like I just worked out at the Y. Turns out that running up and down hills on a narrow trail while trying to keep your balance involves a lot more than fancy footwork. Studies have shown that runners are able to generate more energy with their legs when they also engage their opposite arms. And so my arms and pects are really feeling it today. I must be in "running appreciation mode" because all I have to say about the sport is I LOVE IT. I love the challenge, the people, the camaraderie, the boring blog posts they allow you to write, and so much more. Just think of how yawnish you'd be if all I talked about was Greek!
Well, it's been quite a week, eh???!!! Swastikas on New York trains, a smashed synagogue window in Houston, a swastika on an iconic statue at Rice University, bone-chilling tweets, the federal judiciary standing up to the executive branch. Yikes. Of all the things, of all the thousands of things that could have stood out to me in this week's news, I was drawn to a story about a mother's instinct to save the life of her child. (Cue sermonette.) The older I get, folks, the more I realize why millions of people are going to hell without ever hearing the Gospel. Nothing is more indicative that America is fast becoming a post-Christian nation than Christians who have lost their basic purpose for living in this world. In recent days I've looked back on three years of running/hiking/climbing/biking as one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Exercise involves commitment, self-discipline, and most of all keeping your eye on the goal. So what is the goal for the follower of Jesus? How silly of me to ask you that question! You know the answer as well as I do. The only question to be answered is: How will I, Dave Black, live TODAY as God's agent to redeem and transform the lives of people? That's what I find so disturbing about well-meaning efforts to "keep America safe." A ban on immigration may or may not be a good first step in this direction, politically. People can debate that until hell freezes over. But there's one thing I'm absolutely sure about:
The nations have already come to America!!!!!
And unless we followers of Jesus abandon the racism implied in our unwritten definition of "security," we will never see the world reached for Christ. Foreign governments (like Iran) may close the doors to U.S. Christians, but they can't close them to their own people. John 20:21 -- "As the Father sent Me, even so I am now sending you" -- reveals the reason God left us on this earth. Reaching those around us with the Gospel is the main activity of the church until Jesus Himself returns as King of kings. So then, the purpose of my life as a follower of Jesus must be to "Go everywhere and tell everyone" (Mark 16:15). (Yes, I just quoted from the last twelve verses of Mark. Deal with it.)
Listen. If my only concerns are about my own life -- my security from terrorism, a healthy body, a prestigious education, marriage, a good-paying job -- then how I am any different from the lost all around me? Regrettably, too few of us think of ourselves as fulltime missionaries to the world, including our own nation. That's why I wrote a little book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? The red-hot political issues of the day need to be kept in their proper perspective. It's human nature to be driven by our egos always to be right. The opposite is to have the mind of Christ -- that is, a spirit of servanthood and humility. It's the same attitude of other-centeredness that caused a young mother to place the safety of her baby's life above her own. She didn't care a whit about anything else. It was another life over her own. Friends, we can't follow Jesus very long without being confronted by our ego and greed. It's His way of demonstrating His presence in our lives. This week in our "Jesus and the Gospels" class we're looking at the Gospels and asking, "Why four -- no fewer and no more?" I believe we'll see that each Gospel points us to the church's primary task: to complete the task of world evangelization. My prayer? For students with the spiritual sensitivity to hear what the Lord Jesus is saying today to the North American church. We who are called by Christ are called to serve and not to be served. We are called not to gain our lives but the lose them. We have the keys, you guys! We have the word and the Spirit and a cheering section in heaven. But we're not promised a secure life!!!!!
Love the lost.
Do these simple things, and the church will hit a home run.
Saturday, February 4
6:38 PM Just ordered: Thomas Friedman's new book Thank You for Being Late. Friedman never fails to make me think.
6:25 PM Albert Einstein:
1:36 PM Just tried to donate to this fund in Victoria, Texas, and was told, in essence, "Fund Closed. No More Donations Accepted." They've exceeded their goal.
Marvelous. This is a welcome sign that Americans of all faiths really do care for each other. The church in America is moving from micro-ethics (dancing, drinking, gambling) to macro-ethics (issues of race, poverty, justice, and freedom). No matter who the victim of injustice is, we can stand beside them and say, "We are with you as our friend. We are better human beings when we stand beside each other." Light dispels darkness. Show up. Be seen. Play the music. Share the love of Jesus. Calvary love is well-noticed when it is willing to give itself away for the sake of others.
1:12 PM Hey fellow runners! After participating in last week's trail run at Harris Lake, I've come to the realization that 5K trail runs are tons harder than your run-of-the-mill 5K race. Today's race started at a quiet, beautiful lake just east of Lynchburg, VA.
The race went uphill and over a narrow mountain track, which had leaves covering the trail everywhere -- meaning that even when you were coming back down the trail you still couldn't go very fast or you could easily slip and fall. I don't want to whine, but the ascent today was brutal, and not just on the older folks like me. Even the younger racers were walking -- yes, I said walking -- for a good mile uphill until they reached the summit and could turn around and begin their descent to the bottom of Liberty Mountain. I did meet (and even surpass) my goal of coming in under 45 minutes, and while it was cold, the weather was otherwise perfect for an outdoor competition. Before the race began we all huddled inside the large cabin facility at the Hydaway Recreation Center. Then it was time to leave the warmth behind and risk the outdoors. I was standing close to the starting line when I took this.
Everyone was freezing and oh so ready to begin the race. When I finished the course I saw that I had clocked in at 42:42 with a 14-minute per mile pace. According to Map My Run, my first mile was 14:09, my second ("Heartbreak Hill") was a disappointing 16:23, and my final mile was 11:50. Being a stickler for "causes" I just had to introduce myself to the race staff and chat with them about where the proceeds to the race were going.
As the race was both organized by Liberty and drew mostly from the university community, they told me that the funds went to the local athletic club there. I must say, these people are fantastic and I'm looking forward to participating in one of their other trail runs in the near future. I am pleased to announce that I didn't slip or trip one time on the course, which is very unusual for a klutz like me, but I have to admit that I was being extra vigilant. I wasn't the only one, too. After the race I met a young guy who was sitting out this event because of a sprained ankle he got on his last trail run here. Anyway, for me it was a decent run considering the difficulties of the course. The crowd was decent-sized and everyone was in great spirits. I asked for a size "small" t-shirt to give away to one of grandkids. It's a new race tradition I'm starting ....
By far I was the oldest guy at the event today. I believe that age is one of the most arbitrary ways we measure people. At races I've met 70-year olds who continually teach me about vision-casting and possibility, and I know 20- and 30-somethings who are as set in their unhealthy ways as is Archie Bunker. Age is like a letter on a report card. It's an "evaluation" that actually tells you very little about who the person is. The same is true of numbers on a weight scale. You know that someone is taking good care of themselves just by looking at them.
Today there were plenty of people who very clearly were committed to taking good care of their bodies. The crowds aren't as large at one of these events, but I think that's because trail runs aren't for everyone. It's definitely an acquired skill to be able to run up and down hills over several miles of rocks and roots. I love these races because they mix things up for me. They're also definitely more laid back than your typical 5K race in Raleigh. You really have to watch your footing, though, or you'll find yourself skidding across the rocks. Having done two trail races back-to-back now, I realize just how blessed I am to have the stamina to finish a race that is genuinely difficult. All glory to God.
Friday, February 3
6:50 PM The cost of following Jesus is great:
6:30 PM Wow. I see that Roger Federer just won the Australian Open. This was his first Grand Slam title in 5 years. What's really surprising is that he's 35 years old -- a dinosaur in tennis years. Gives me hope. When I'm running, I push it to the limit. I am a boy again -- a youth exulting in his physical prowess. But age has its benefits too. If my times get slower and slower, I'm developing wisdom and insights I didn't have before. So I don't mourn my lost youth. Well, not often. I'm rebuilding my life on something better: experience. Just think of baseball. It's the September of my life, but I'm certain that the best games are played in that month. There's no time any more for nonessentials. You just gotta get down and boogie.
5:46 PM It'll be 27 degrees at race time tomorrow morning in Lynchburg. Ick! I run to feel better, not worse. By nature I am stubborn and bull-headed so I will run the race even though my brain is screaming at me that it's too cold. I'll be wearing my ankle-length tights, for sure. I see that the Liberty Mountain Trail System has some pretty interesting names. We'll be competing on "Dirty Ridge." That's right next to "Deer Trail" and "Lake Trail." Then things get funny. How about the "Alternate Flight Pattern Trail"? Or "Idiot's Run"? My favorites have got to be "Trail Too Far" and "Psycho Path." I love these names! They are seriously funny.
If you're going outside tomorrow, be safe, my friends.
1:16 PM Living in the South, you'd think I'd love snow. I don't. It was snowing lightly when I left the house this morning to go on a bike ride. Thankfully it didn't stick so I was able to get in 5 miles before I met the Blacks in town for Chinese food. Biking, family, food -- this stuff seriously lights my fire. So now, just one day before my second trail race in a week, I've got to decide how to spend my afternoon. :-)
Run strong, my friends!
9:45 AM Next week in our LXX class we're going to begin our study of Amos in both Greek and Hebrew. If you'd like to follow us, here's a helpful list of Greek vocabulary used in Amos. I got up early this morning to retranslate Amos 1 and I'm eager to get started next Wednesday. There are so many Greek idioms in the New Testament that got their start in the LXX: "into the age" meaning "forever"; "receive a face" meaning "show partiality"; "house" for "household"; "bloods" for "blood"; "heavens" for "heaven"; "Sabbaths" meaning "week"; "waters" meaning "water"; "by the hand of" meaning "by"; "And it came to pass" as a discourse marker; transliteration of proper names; loanwords; "foreskin" for "circumcision"; "give a tenth" meaning "tithe"; disuse of the dual; heis as article; nominative for vocative; autos as unemphatic pronoun; idios as a mere possessive pronoun; deka duo for dodeka; the terminal -san in the 3d person plural; the Attic future (elpio, not elpiso); rare use of men and de; parataxis over hypotaxis; generic use of the article; singular for plural ("the frog" meaning "frogs," Exod. 8:6); cognate accusatives ("sacrifice a sacrifice"); cognate datives ("hear with hearing," "die with death," "stone with stones," "rejoice with joy"); frequent use of pronouns; "man" for "each"; hostis for hos; increase in periphrastic constructions; jussive future (used for a command); paucity of participles when compared to Classical Greek; hanging nominative; singular verbs with plural subjects; reduplication of words ("greatly greatly," Gen. 30:43); the use of "day" as a vague expression of time (e.g., "after days" meaning "after a long time," 3 Kings 18:1); "in that hour" meaning "just then"; prominence of prepositions; ei with the subjunctive; ean with the indicative; ei with oaths; hina with the indicative; legon to introduce speeches; and many more.
This morning I also reread Jennifer Dine's excellent doctoral dissertation, especially her discussion of Amos chapter 1. You can access that here. We all have a finite amount of time we can invest in our interests. I just hope and pray I don't spend my time haphazardly. That's a terrible waste. I'm easily seduced by the idea that I can just rely on translations when I know better. I like solving problems on my own. I'm proud to say that I'm getting better at saying no to people or activities that just waste my time. I try to think about and do only those things that matter. I've not always made the best choices, but I'm working on it.
I can't wait to discuss Amos 1 next week. There are so many idioms that we'll find useful in our study of the Greek New Testament, one of them being the author's use of compound verbs with intensifying prepositions: katesthio instead of esthio, and katakopto instead of kopto. Mark's Gospel has droves of these. I love trying to bring out the nuances of the Greek in my English translation of Mark. I think that makes a difference in the way we understand Mark's peculiar style and diction. Our LXX class involves rethinking our view of Greek. Reading Amos together means entering the same story, walking the same path, learning the same lessons. We've already laughed together and worked hard together. Expertise in a language doesn't happen overnight. But I've discovered that when you do what you love with other people who love the same thing, you become connected with each other very quickly. A bond develops that never goes away. There are a zillion things I don't do well. But I really, really want to do Greek well. Hebrew too. Of course, the world's population will survive without me mastering either language. But I have to live within my own skin.
So this is the work I'm doing now. It's the work I invite you into.
Thursday, February 2
9:25 PM Scot McKnight has posted what might well be the best blog I've read in days. It's called The Scandal of the Evangelical Soul. It has been my joy to have known Scot for many years. He's contributed to books I've edited, and I once had the delight of debating him about the synoptic problem at an annual SBL meeting. There are probably very few things we would see completely eye to eye on. Still, I am very grateful for his blog post, and I hope it will cause us all to reconsider how we approach the post-election world we live in. Most of all, I want to thank all of the commenters who posted responses and interactions with Scot's post. Here's but one example of the kind of thoughtful discourse you will find:
Years ago I remember reading a little book by John Stott called Balanced Christianity: A Call to Avoid Unnecessary Polarization. In it Stott pointed out how hard it is for evangelicals to retain a sense of balance. "We separate from one another on matters of lesser importance," he wrote. We are divided not only intellectually, he said, but also temperamentally. Thus "We push people over to one pole, while keeping the opposite pole as our preserve." A divided and polarized church cannot evangelize, he insisted. Scot, in his blog post, is convinced that we all need to take a hiatus from politics for a while. The times we all live in involve climactic change. It can be difficult to get our bearings. On the other hand, we can and should speak out against what we perceive to be acts of injustice.
I think it can be safely said that the evangelical church in America has not yet resolved these matters. I've sought to write honestly in my own blog as I see things. I may well be wrong. I can only record that while I may not have changed my opinion about the rightness and wrongness of certain actions taken in recent days, reading Scot's essay has most certainly caused me to rethink my understanding and compassion.
May the Lord guide us all.
8:24 PM I just ordered James Smith's You Are What You Love. His thesis is that people are fundamentally lovers and not thinkers. This sounds a little overdone, but I need to read the book before offering a critique. Yet I love the title. People do what they love to do. We learn Greek (and retain it) because we love it. We exercise (and stay with it) because we love it. People do not come to Christ because they are reluctant to surrender their independence to the great Lover. Today there is unquestionably a move from the search for truth to the search for purpose and significance, and the change is (partly) welcome. I am so thankful for the scholars in my university and seminary experience who not only thought well but loved well. Nobody likes a stuff-shirted pontificating bore. I found my own skills in leadership greatly increased after spending some time with these people. Of course, I still prize bold thinking. In the end, though, I am probably a lover more than a thinker. Intellectualism has no place in the evangelical's creed.
Then again, what do I know?
7:34 PM I like Eugene Peterson's rendering of Heb. 12:27. He said that God will shake the earth, "getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered." I am so glad that the world as we know it will not last forever. As the old hymn puts it, "Jesus Is Coming Again." Meanwhile, I want to commit myself deeply and unremittingly to the life that surrounds me instead of giving up and throwing in the towel to the powers of darkness all around us. I hope and pray you find this blog useful. I hope and pray that it will make you think, squirm, and laugh all at the same time. Blogging is demanding and often frustrating, but it offers rewards of great joy and fulfillment to those who throw themselves into it with love, prayer, and vision. I long to see the teachings of Jesus translated into our culture. I know you do too. That's why I blog, and that's why, as the Christian influence in the West diminishes, it's more necessary than ever to bring God into the affairs of daily life. Let's make a more serious effort than ever to think and act biblically about the pressing problems of our day in a sea of untruthfulness, materialism, hubris, relativism, and skepticism. We have a right to expect not only the gifts but the graces of the Holy Spirit as together we give until it hurts for the growth of the Gospel.
Don't exactly know why I felt the need to preach this sermonette!
7:16 PM So after a day of hunting around online I decided to sign up for a 5K this Saturday called, of all things, the Arctic 5K Trail Race. The sponsor is none other than Liberty University, and the venue is the Hydaway Recreation Center on Liberty Mountain. I've driven past this site a gazillion times so it will be interesting to see what it looks like up close and personal. Last weekend I found running on a trail to be actually quite awesome, but this course looks a lot hillier.
I may drive up tomorrow afternoon rather than on Saturday morning for the simple reason that it's always harder to run right after a long drive. Looking forward to burning more calories and working up a good sweat. My doctor looked at me today and said, "You've lost some weight, haven't you? You look great." Oh yeah -- I'm healthier and happier. Low cholesterol, good blood pressure, not-so-bad BMI, so there's a lot to be grateful for. Looking at the participant list for the race my impression is that it's mostly Liberty students. No one over 60 except for yours truly. What a great journey I'm on. I look forward to each and every challenge. If you persist and persevere, friend, you will eventually get to where you want to go. Runners have a saying: "First or last, it's the same finish line." I like that. Everyone who has found their sport knows that feeling. In the running community, learning counts for little, as do wealth and beauty and talent and station. All of us possess all we need to be heroes. The body in action is always impelled by some good we want to attain. And, for those few moments on the course, we become the equal of anyone on this earth.
12:28 PM As you know, I've chosen to do the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk method for my upcoming marathon, which means you run for so many minutes and then take a walk break, and so on. Today I enjoyed a workout at the Y with some of my buddies.
Afterwards my legs were feeling so good that I ended up running for a straight hour and 10 minutes.
I would have gone longer but I had to hurry to get to Clarkesville to see my doctor. I have a suspicious-looking mole near my left eye and my doctor wants me to see a dermatologist in the next week or so. I know that sounds a little melodramatic, but I'm a bit wary of anything that looks like it might become cancerous, so I'm being overly cautious you might say. At any rate, I had a blast running today and I feel absolutely no after-effects. I'm toying with the idea of doing a race on Saturday but there's nothing in Raleigh so I'm checking out Roanoke, Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Greensboro. I have simply decided that races are where it's at, even though I do enjoy my training runs. Don't my sunglasses make me look like a real runner?
My doctor was so excited to hear about the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure I've started to honor Becky's memory. Folks, please support this little fund raiser I'm doing if you can. I desperately need your help to make this a success. Contributing gets you a special bumper sticker for your car with my mug shot on it and the words "Doofus Does Dorky Dimwitted Dash." Kidding. But a reward you will get -- the satisfaction of knowing you're making a difference in the lives of endometrial cancer patients. Go here to make a contribution if the Lord leads you to do so. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who's already given. I hate asking for money. I really do. But anything you can do to help the "cause" is greatly appreciated.
Today my head is exploding with one of my patented sinus headaches. I get them whenever the weather changes. I know that some of you experience the same thing because you've told me. It's a small snag, though, when you think of any number of things far worse that could happen to you. I'm still so excited about the marathon in Cincy. Whenever I worry about not finishing I think of all the grandparents out there who will be running the race for their third or fourth time. This means maybe I can run one too.
Off to cook my lunch -- hamburger meat with cream of chicken sauce over rice!
7:58 AM Odds and ends ...
1) 7 reasons to study Hebrew and Greek.
2) This is utter hogwash.
Sorry. An uninflected language like English is neither unsystematic, unstructured, unreliable, or inconsistent. That said, I agree that you should study Latin.
3) "Fake Tears Chuck Schumer." Must we? For crying out loud (literally), he was hurting for these people. I thought we were beyond such childish slurs. Guess not.
4) 63.9. That's how many miles are on my Map My Run app for 2017. It's a lower number than I want but I'm happy with it. I need to get back up to 100 hours/month if I'm going to get back to the Alps this summer. 15 workouts per month is just not cutting it.
5) For some reason, this verse came to mind this week:
If you are in authority and are also a Christian, grace your leadership with kindness. There is nothing weak or effeminate about it. Only great souls can be truly kind.
Wednesday, February 1
6:15 PM I love me a good interview. This one about studying Greek by Ray van Neste is bursting with passion and enthusiasm. If it doesn't fire you up, chances are you're probably not breathing and have bigger issues than just learning Greek. It's a chance for you to think about a very important issue and maybe even reflect on the bad and savor the good. His is a story of inspiration, and it is so much like my own. The big question is, "Why don't more of our Greek students use what they learned in seminary?" He made a statement I will never forget:
There you have it. That's it. Greek pedagogy made simple. To use an analogy from running, I started my health journey 3 years ago and it's been a long road but one that really puts a lot of things into perspective for me about health and even Greek studies. Loving what I do -- absolutely loving what I do -- has made the world of difference for me. I've heard it said that less than 1 percent of the American public will ever run and compete in a full marathon. I want to be in that 1 percent club! But the thing is, any reasonably healthy person can do this. But everyone is not doing it. I am doing it because I want to do it and I can do it. I've come to realize that taking care of my temple is not optional for me as a follower of Jesus. Having big goals and races to train for are now a part of my life. Folks, you can choose to exercise or you can choose to be a couch potato. Or, applied to the study of Greek, if you love the Greek language, you will use it. And you will only get "better and stronger" for the effort. Loving what you do will make a world of difference. The feeling of mastery of Greek is like nothing else. So if you're taking me for Greek this semester, I want to congratulate you. You've made it through half of our textbook. The rest of the semester is going to rock! If you keep up your motivation, you'll be unstoppable. Guaranteed. Take a lesson from my philosophy of running:
1) I will take one day at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day. And training has to be regular and consistent. Ditto for language study.
2) I will remember: I am an athlete. Someday I love getting out there and running, and some days I have to force myself to run. Either way, I AM A RUNNER. I won't quit. I won't stop. I won't let up. Ditto for studying Greek.
3) I've never regretted a day of running. Not one. Exercise is something I'm going to do until I'm too old and decrepit to get out of bed. The demands are huge but so are the benefits. I love my new life and will never go back to the goal-less, unmotivated person I was 3 years ago. Ditto for Greek. Either you are a Greek student or you are not. If you are one, you know you will NEVER go back to your life before you learned Greek. Never.
The final thanks goes to God. Thank You for the beautiful creation I get to enjoy each and every day. Thank You for providing me with shoes that fit my feet. Thank You for race day excitement. Thank You for making me thinner and healthier. Thank You for inspiring me to be all I can be. Thank You for helping me achieve new dreams and reach new goals. Thank You. To Ray Van Neste I say: Keep doing what you're doing. You're an inspiration and a motivation. And to all my Greek students, past, present and future, I say: May your Greek "shoelaces" stay tied, may you make "exercise" (in your Greek studies) a regular part of your life, and may your heart always be your guide!
P.S. Here are some wonderful people who are running beside me in the race of life.
1) Willi and Esther Honegger, visiting from Switzerland. We had lunch together yesterday in their apartment. Vielen Dank!
2) My beginning Greek students taking their first quiz of the new semester yesterday. They are the greatest.
3) My good friend John May. We had Mexican food for dinner last night.
4) Chip Hardy leading a discussion in our LXX class this morning.
5) The class "amanuensis" doing his thing.
6) My esteemed colleague Keith Whitfield lecturing on "Jesus and the Christian Life" in our NT Intro class this afternoon.
7) He was followed by my new colleague in New Testament, Jake Pratt. He spoke on "Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew."
8) Finally, my colleagues in our Bible-Area meeting this afternoon. I'm so grateful for their love, their support, and even their ribbing whenever I mention the strange race I want to run next.
Off to cook Chinese food for dinner!