June 2019 Blog Archives
Sunday, June 30
6:06 PM Two things to share before Sheba and I go for a walk tonight:
1) Just got the results for yesterday's half marathon. I came in 87 out of 109 runners. At 67 I was by far the oldest man out on the course. I'm happy with my 87th place result. I averaged a 10:53 min./mile pace, which is about all I could handle in the heat. Still, I came in under 3 hours, which was my goal. Right now I'm a bit stiff and sore, mainly because I forgot to use my Vaseline. But it was worth every mile. Running gives me physical exercise but it does so much more than that. It does something good for one's mental well-being as well. In plain English, it reminds you that you can. That's important, because I have one more marathon this year, the BIG CHICAGO. I'm going to try really hard not to overdo it. I'll be sensible, work hard, and then do my best on race day. I am learning to listen to my body over everything else -- everything. I'm learning to pay attention to the little aches and pains and baby myself.
2) I have a 10K race planned for this coming Wednesday in Dallas. I've run this race 3 years in a row and I'm feeling nostalgic. Do you see a common theme? It's all about running the race of life with endurance. Elite runners share the same doubts and fears that plague amateur runners. We all want to make wise choices, and one of the most important choices we can make is to accept the inevitable movement from the best there is to the best we can be. Bill Rodgers won Boston 4 times and is content with shorter races today. Rather than trying to come in first place in a race he tries to place in the top three for the age awards. The deeper truth about running is that you can't change your fate, only accept it. When you can accept that fact into your daily life, you are well on your way to becoming the person you want to be, in every area of your life.
That's it. Simple, basic, and (I know) repetitive. But I enjoy sharing my thoughts with you. Thanks for listening.
4:48 PM The future of eimi ("I am") is in the middle voice. "I'll be personally" nails it!
11:50 AM I love taking exotic vacations overseas. But I also love staycations. I took one this weekend to the quaint little town of Farmville, VA. I stayed in a historic hotel and visited historic Longwood University and window-shopped and attended early church service today. I also ran in the Night Train 50K/Half Marathon last night. Since it was 101 degrees at race time, I opted for the shorter distance. I think I'm happiest when I'm outdoors in God's creation. This afternoon I'll return to our public pool to get in some laps. It's not a lap pool by the way. You're swimming surrounded by water revelers and screaming kids but you make it happen anyway. After teaching for 6 weeks I needed to cut myself a break. An MRI revealed arthritis in my neck, and a strained periformis muscle in my glutes has been causing foot numbness. Times like this require waiting on the Lord (and a good physical therapist). I'd like to be able to say to you that I always wait patiently but I don't. "Blessed is the one who waits" (Dan. 12:12). Waits in quiet confidence. Waits in silent hope. Throughout this period I've been realizing how God is weaving a tapestry through all the events of my life. There's an old German proverb that says, "Beginne zu weben, und Gott wird dir die Faden geben" ("Begin to weave, and God will give you the thread"). In my case, I believe God is dangling the thread in front of me and telling me to do something with it. He's telling me that while I'm waiting I can use my struggles and my experiences for good -- which usually means helping somebody else. Meanwhile, I try and wait with confident patience and faith, keeping my eyes fixed squarely on God.
So this weekend I went out of town though I didn't really go out of town very far. One of the best things about traveling is that you get to run in new places. Such was not the case this weekend. The High Bridge Trail and I are old friends. I know every square inch of the thing. Regardless, getting out of town (even if it's close by) helps me to reevaluate what I like and what I don't like and what I'd like to change in my life. Everything and nothing.
This coming week: Dallas. Woohoo!!! Real barbeque!!! Against such there is no law.
P.S. Why my room had two beds, I have no idea. One of them I did make good use of, that's for sure.
Saturday, June 29
10:35 AM Love riding surfboards ... and horses ... and tractors ... and ride mowers.
6:12 AM Congratulations to my New Testament colleague and friend Miguel Echavarría on the publication of his new book.
The Preface concludes with these words:
5:06 AM Beware the "affirmed event." As historians of the Bible, we can't deal directly with the events themselves. We deal with statements about those events. The "ephemeral event" is the event as it actually happened. The "affirmed event" is the affirmation about the event. Scholars can be wrong about the "affirmed event." They tell us that Paul could not have authored Hebrews because of 2:3-4. But if the letter began "Paul the apostle to the Hebrews" all of us would come up with a perfectly satisfying explanation for those verses in accordance with Pauline authorship, just as we do with the data in the Pastoral Epistles that seem to contradict Pauline authorship. Hebrews is formally anonymous. Anonymity means that the author's name was unwritten, not that it was unknown. Read chapter 13 and you will see that the readers knew exactly who the author was. Regrettably, once a consensus has been reached -- Paul could not have authored Hebrews -- it becomes the "affirmed event." It is the event as it is remembered but not necessarily as it happened. Regrettably, once an affirmed event is established, it becomes almost impossible to dismiss even when new, seemingly contradictory evidence is discovered. The old consensus must be preserved, even at the expense of logic. The "ephemeral event" has been lost and the "affirmed event" with all of its incongruities is now deeply embedded in the popular consciousness. The "affirmed event" is safe even though it might be falsely shackled to erroneous data. Markan Priority is another such "affirmed event." The secondary nature of the Byzantine text is yet another. The answers to these questions, as well as many others in biblical studies, cannot be satisfactorily found within the new consensus. The answers to each of these questions will remain elusive until the central piece of the puzzle is put in place -- the external evidence.
4:40 AM My Scripture reading this morning was from 1 John 2. This chapter is all about Jesus. He pleads with the Father for us. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice that appeases the wrath of God on our behalf. He is "the one who has existed from the beginning." We are forgiven for His sake. We can defeat the Evil One because of His word. We have had the Holy Spirit poured out upon us by Christ. He is the Messiah -- and no one dare reject that truth! Finally, Christ Jesus Himself is the one who promised to give us eternal life. I love this Jesus. I love His word. Though I daily fail to follow Him as I should, my aim is to love Him and serve Him and to live in imitation of His life (2:6). I am His and He is mine, and though our days be fraught with suffering, we who call upon His name will one day see the King of Glory!
Friday, June 28
6:34 PM I am completely humbled to announce that my new book is now out.
It's a quick read, much quicker than my mile pace (*rim shot*). It's so basic it's boring. But if you want to read about how a Greek prof went from being a couch potato to a couch potato who can barely finish an ultramarathon, I suspect it might be just the encouragement you need. A slow, aging man will not even be a footnote in the annals of running history, but I have celebrated all the miles the Lord has allowed me to put on this old body of mine, and I'm happy to share the journey with you.
6:04 PM Just thinking that we are created in the image of a Giver. Also thinking that a check for a good cause is never a replacement for giving ourselves. The impoverished Macedonians first gave themselves to the Lord, then took an offering. Maybe we should place a note in the offering plate with the words "I give myself." Only those who have given themselves first to Christ are ready for the collection plate.
5:20 PM We studied 1 John this week in class. I need to say a few things. Reading 1 John 1:9 ("If we make it our habit to confess our sins") always reminds me that I need to have a regular habit of repentance.
Every believer always has something to repent of. I know I do. It tells Jesus: I'm all in. I went to my knees in tears. Jesus, may there be less of me and more of You. I must die to live. Let me push against the darkness of my soul and breathe into Thy Kingdom Come.
The Christian life is crazy hard work. But it is good work. And it begins on our knees.
5:02 PM Our 6 weeks of Greek are over. Students:
Let's reject the tin god of "I did this" and give God all the glory!
Let's grapple with the question: Now that I can read Greek, so what?
Let's remember that we are priests to one another and for one another in Christ's body, using our gifts for mutual upbuilding and not just for self-encouragement.
Let's take our pride and "dump it all in the trash" (Phil. 3) because of Christ.
Six weeks ago you were on the threshold of a life change. You set out on your journey, not knowing where you were going. Sometimes you sat by the trail and wept, it was so hard. But every single one of you finished the course, ran your race, and won the victory. I am SO PROUD of you. I pray that you may come to know God deeply and intimately through your reading of your Greek New Testament. I pray that you would be an explorer of God's word and never be content with pat answers. I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. May Greek change your life for the better, but be prepared to be wrong about a few things. You will never outgrow your need to know more, listen more attentively, and depend on the Spirit. This is not the time for apathy. The battle is yours, and it is already won, says Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him, never on any human teacher. Then everything in your life can be a testimony to the goodness of God.
Well done, good and faithful, well done!
Monday, June 24
5:10 AM "You never know much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you" (C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed). I've lived long enough to know that my aim in life is to please Jesus, not any man. Through many sorrows He's the one who's been there for me. The only thing to do with the past is to learn whatever lessons are to be gained and then forget it. Today, as I limp through life, I'm going to reach forward to the things that lie before me. I want to possess all that is mine in Christ -- all the service that remains for me to do. I've made up my mind on "this one thing," and nothing shall detract me from it.
Sunday, June 23
7:55 PM Not that anybody cares, but because I'm in a talkative mood, these are my upcoming races (subject, of course, to good health and to a green light from the Lord):
Saturday, June 29: Night Train 50K Ultramarathon, Farmville, VA.
Thursday, July 4, Liberty by the Lake 10K, The Colony, TX.
Sunday, July 7: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Garner, NC.
Saturday, July 20: Heat of the Night Fun Run, Durham, NC.
Sunday, August 11: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Wake Forest, NC.
Sunday, September 15: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Knightdale, NC.
Sunday, October 13: Chicago Marathon!
7:02 PM I'll admit I'm a pretty lousy cook. But I've got one meal down to perfection.
6:45 PM I love John "The Penguin" Bingham's writings. He advocates slow, easy running. He's perhaps most famous for the saying, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." Here I am at the start of today's triathlon.
The oldest competitor at the race?
You're looking at a couch potato 4 years ago. Today I run because I love to. I run to overcome my need to always please people. I run to find the best in myself and in others. I run because the running community is a huge, overlooked mission field. I run because I know that if I can get better in this sport, maybe someday I can become a better father and teacher and friend and writer. I run because my body is the only one I have. I can't trade it in for a new and improved model. I can only do the best with what God's given me.
Running means you may never achieve all of your goals. But that's never an excuse not to achieve some of them.
6:24 PM We begin translating 1 John this week in summer Greek. This is heart-stoppingly important. We'll see that:
1. Greek is not the Open Sesame or Abracadabra of biblical interpretation. But a knowledge of Greek can tell us what the interpretive options are.
2. Greek enables us to adjudicate the accuracy of the Bible translations and commentaries we use. A text simply cannot mean what the grammar of that text doesn't indicate.
3. Greek is needed to do structural analysis every bit as much as it is needed to do word studies.
4. Greek linguistics can help us think more logically about the way languages work, including the biblical languages.
5. The best homiletical outlines are those that are derived from the text itself.
6. What's emphatic or prominent in a biblical text? The Greek can often help us find our way here, especially when it comes to rhetorical devices such as chiasmus, assonance, and word, phrase, and clause order.
I am uptohere with books about New Testament Greek. But they do me no good unless I am willing to read and study the Greek text itself. That is why we study Greek. To listen to God's words and then to obey them.
5:50 PM Just woke up from a 3-hour nap. As soon as napping is recognized as a professional sport, I'm ready to cut some nice endorsement deals.
2:42 PM I need this.
2:22 PM Great news, web fam! Watch for this book:
It's a slightly revised dissertation written under my supervision. I'm really looking forward to this one.
2:14 PM After the race I went to a church in Wake Forest I'd heard so much about. It was my first visit. My personal assistant and his family attend there, as do several of my faculty colleagues. The message was stellar. Anyone who can teach from the book of Leviticus and keep his audience awake deserves a medal in my book.
2:05 PM All in all, today's was one of the funnest triathlons I've done. I had my best overall time in a tri to date, praise the Lord. A tip of the old kepi to the race directors for putting on one fine event. My final time was 1:38:19.
5:04 AM "What we call trouble, God calls growth. Ask Job. Ask Joseph. Ask David. Ask Paul. Ask James." -- David Allen.
Saturday, June 22
8:12 PM Nate and I were looking for this CD but couldn't find it. It just up and disappeared. So I ordered it on Amazon. It was recorded at Second Baptist Houston, which has one of the most sublime pipe organs in the world.
It contains the best rendition of Cortège et Litanie by Marcel Dupré I've ever heard. Nate once played this piece for me on one of his reed organs. This stunning piece of music always leaves me spellbound. Can listen to it over and over again. I never want it to end!
Organ music is so much underrated today. Tragic loss to the church.
7:30 PM Fun fact: In tomorrow's triathlon I'm seeded 208 out of 235 competitors, based on our swim times. I thought I was fast but I'm up against some killer swimmers. I've learned that, in athletics, you must acquiesce to the truth about your body but that you needn't concede to it.
You speedsters out there -- watch out for #208!
7:08 PM The loggers have reached an impasse because of the recent rain.
Like life, don't you think? In John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, the "Slough of Despair" is a deep bog, stagnant and murky. At the beginning of the book, Christian falls into the Slough of Despair but is rescued by another pilgrim. Later, he falls into a river and almost drowns. This time he must rescue himself. Last weekend I was, you might say, stuck in the muck. Father's Day was just plain hard. Friends, we're going to encounter some pretty nasty stuff in life. But there is always a stairway that leads out of the slough. Jesus lifts us out of the miry clay.
The feet of Jesus. That's where we find the grace to go onward and upward.
6:48 PM "The loyalty of Christian youth must be first and foremost to Christ himself. Nothing can take the place of the daily time of intimate companionship with the Lord. Make time for it somehow and secure that it is real." -- William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury. Beautifully biblical.
5:52 PM Family love is a marathon and not a sprint. In every marathon I've ever run, you feel like your legs weigh 500 pounds during the first 3 miles. But sooner or later you find your rhythm and hit your stride. Love between family members is found only as everyone keeps moving forward, dealing as one with the setbacks and rejoicing in the progress achieved.
5:40 PM "As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight ...." So the words of John Stott while writing the Postscript to his book The Radical Disciple.
The end of a prolific author's writing career brings tender thoughts to this Christian. I ask myself, "Is there any greater sin than taking for granted the grace of God?" I too have the sobering thought that time is fast running out. If there are classes to teach and books to write or family get-togethers to organize, now is the time. Still, when all is said and done, this puny life is but a prelude to the endless story that will take an eternity to unfold.
1:25 PM Jesus told us to pray for daily bread. He is not only our Savior but our Sustenance. No wonder I feel exuberant joy this day.
12:32 PM This weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest is for a really good cause: Smile Train. This charity provides cleft repair surgery to tens of thousands of children every year. I love running. But I love running for charities even more.
12:40 PM Just finished editing Rob Plummer's essay "An Ideal Beginning Greek Grammar?" for our book on Greek linguistics. Rob's essay provides real insights into Greek pedagogy. His third characteristic of an ideal grammar is that "it will be written clearly and simply":
That's a pretty high bar. But in my opinion, Rob fits the bill to a t. We who teach beginning Greek -- take heed:
1. Always use the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid).
2. Remember that basic Greek grammar is logical and therefore relatively simple.
3. Give a brief devotional or practical application of what you're teaching every time you meet.
7:52 AM Norskov Olsen did his doctorate under Bo Reicke in Basel a decade before I did. I'm super happy to have a personal copy of one of his books.
1. The ministry of the "good news of the kingdom" involves all the members of the body.
2. The church is a family, and all believing members are brothers and sisters.
3. None is called to passivity, to being spectators in the life, worship, ministry, and service of the church.
4. Ecclesiology can only be true to the New Testament when the proper place is given to the doctrine of the priesthood of believers.
5. The vocabulary of New Testament leadership permits no pyramidal forms; it is the language of horizontal relationships.
6. The reconciling mission of the church is a mission to the whole world by the whole people of God.
7. The nature and the essence of any church ministry is that of service in the spirit and pattern of Christ.
8. No ministerial office represents status or rank in a political or social sense; its influence is measured by its Christ-likeness and the extent to which it is a medium for the working of the Holy Spirit.
I'm indescribably grateful to God for this book. Relentless overemphasis on climbing the ladder until one becomes senior/lead pastor will inevitably, inadvertently cause us to pay more attention to promoting our platforms than carrying our crosses.
6:58 AM "I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose." -- C. S. Lewis. I needed that reminder this week.
6:49 AM "Demas has forsaken me." Cannot imagine the pain behind Paul's words. If we're going to be a friend, let's be a good friend, faithful to our promise to love in both good times and bad times. Loving God and one another is our highest calling.
6:42 AM My reading today was Rom. 12:9-21. It is a masterpiece. I often hear that 1 Cor. 13 is Paul's love chapter. These verses in Romans are a close second. Rom. 12:9-21 is a defiant "No" to the bent of the human heart to be served rather than to serve. "Do not be proud, but accept humble duties" (12:16). Many students are desperately trying to find their one and only spiritual gift. Just remember that it's not always possible to pigeon-hole your gifts. Kenneth Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today, said he never knew what his spiritual gift was. He just served the Lord wherever he saw a need. Our gifts were given for the common good.
Friday, June 21
7:48 PM I love reading encouraging blogs and tweets. Many of you have a wonderful gift of encouragement. Paul begins Romans 12 with the words, "Now, I encourage you ...." How is he encouraging his readers in Rome? By writing a letter. Apparently Paul considered writing an act of encouragement. I tell y'all the truth, some of you bless my socks off with your writing.
7:22 PM This was a good week to introduce my Greek students to the fascicles of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. A thousand thanks to our library archivist Charles (who is also in our class) for this special treat.
7:04 PM "It's important to remember that it's not how a relationship starts that matters, it's how it evolves." -- Bianca Bassani.
6:58 PM Celebrating with my Ph.D. student Huss, who passed his doctoral comps this week with flying colors. Now it's on to the prospectus and dissertation.
6:55 PM Saw these signs this morning in the Wake Forest YMCA weight room. Lots of timely truth here.
6:24 PM The huge storm that passed through the area yesterday left many without power. By the grace of God, Rosewood Farm was spared. Had to repair a pasture fence that was knocked down by the wind, however. The goats had gotten out, but thankfully they didn't go very far. Everybody is safe and sound again.
6:15 PM A belated Happy Father's Day to all you men who lost your father when you were a child either to death or divorce. I know exactly how you feel. The ache seems to last forever. But, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" May the Living Water satisfy your parched throat with the cool water of His love.
5:58 PM Ended my Bible time this morning in 1 Cor. 12-14. Don't offer to God only your "spiritual gifts." Serve outside the areas of your strengths as well. Imagine God asking you to do something you don't like to do. Effective ministry isn't always happy clappy.
Monday, June 17
5:58 AM Every once in a while I come down with a bad case of imposter syndrome. My name isn't Thomas, but I'm quite a doubter. You're not a real runner, Dave, so why are you even thinking about competing in this race? There's no possible way you'll survive! Then the angel on my right shoulder whispers in my ear: "You've worked hard for this, Dave, and you deserve it. You can reach your goals, buddy, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise."
You are a runner.
You are a runner because you ran.
You don't have to earn a degree to be a runner.
Or apply for a license.
Or pass a test.
Or give an oath.
You ran. That's good enough.
You’re now an official member of the running community.
Welcome to the 'hood.
Talk about camaraderie. This is the same spirit that Paul enjoins on his readers in his letter to the Philippians. We run the race of life together. Of all the things I'm thankful for at this stage in life, it's the connection I have with friends and colleagues who are right there for me when I need them. And nothing has connected us and reconnected us more than honesty, than taking responsibility, than seeing our very souls as intertwined and seeing our lives as gifts we can give each other (Phil. 2:1-4).
I am determined by God's grace to transform myself into the kind of man who would put the interests of my fellow runners over my own. Running taps into all the fears I have about myself. But it also holds the potential to tap into something vastly more important and beautiful.
The amount of grace that life requires is unfathomable. Let's allow the Lord to fill our containers to the brim this week — pushing through exhaustion like a marathoner and wrapping our arms around each other's necks if we have to.
Sunday, June 16
6:56 PM "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity." --John Muir.
Today, in light of what I knew was going to be an extremely busy week, I went where I always go when I feel the need to put body and soul back together, to recharge my spiritual batteries, to regain balance in my life. I climbed a mountain. Oh, not just any mountain, but my second favorite local peak (after MacAfee Knob) in the famous Blue Ridge of Virginia. This was the fifth time I've climbed Sharp Top. Half the fun is seeing the mountain from a distance while driving, realizing you'll soon be on its summit.
The hike is not for the faint of heart. If you're not careful, you can easily sprain your ankle on the rock-strewn path.
And then there are the steps. As in hundreds of steps.
By the time you reach the summit, you're pretty knackered. I managed to top out in about 50 minutes, but for me that was slow. After all, I'm doing everything these days "in moderation." Still, I was winded. But the views were worth it. To get the best views you have to climb out on the rock cliffs.
The Blue Ridge in all her beauty!
"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD. Let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation!" (Psalm 95:1).
I sat there for about an hour, unmolested after most of the people had left, and reflected on what's important to me, mostly Jesus. I can't express what's in my heart. If anything good or decent has come into my life, it's been because of Him. I love my life. I love my summer Greek class. I love the classes I'll be teaching in the fall. I'll love visiting mom and dad in Dallas for the 4th of July. Before long another book of mine will roll off the press. Still, nothing compares to Him. Even now, I still have His name on my lips. That's good, because all day long I've felt out of sorts. I spent Father's Day without the mother of my children by my side. Max Lucado once described tears like this (No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, pp. 105-106):
Today I gave myself permission to weep again, remembering that one day there'll be no more need for tears. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 41:4).
Everything we do in life can be testimony to the goodness and grace of our God. Even our mourning. Anything good we did we got from Him. And everything we got wrong He bathed in His grace. God's answer to those who view aging as bad is to be Jesus-focused. Remain fresh. Continue to be creative. We can have a rebirth no matter what our age. When everyone is saying "You've earned this rest," allow God to fill you with divine discontentment. Go climb a mountain. Or hold the door open for someone. Or plant a garden. Or push back against the darkness of injustice. Become that person of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control you want to be. Watch the dry places bloom and the mountains bow down and the valleys rise up. Celebrate and champion who you are in Christ, for we are not a people of fear but a people of love (1 John 4:18).
You're an explorer and adventurer. Carry on.
Saturday, June 15
6:04 PM Well, as I hoped to, me and my best friend put in a 67-kilometer bike today to commemorate my 67th birthday.
For us 'Muricans, that's just under 42 miles.
Yep. It was just Jesus and me. Afterwards I had a nice swim in the county pool. While I was driving there a thought entered my subconscious mind. I let it rise to the surface and then I began to examine it. Here's what struck me: At 67, I've lived twice as long as Jesus did. You heard me right. Here's the math. Jesus lived for thirty-three and a half years. 33.5 x 2 = 67 exactly. Gag me with a straw. If anything will make you feel old, that will. No wonder Jesus lived with a great sense of urgency. "I'm going back to My Father." "Work for the night is coming, when no one can work any longer." "The Son of Man will return when you least expect it." Turning 67 is a good time to look back as well as forward. Just as you have to spend your money more wisely when you have less of it, so a 67-year old needs to invest wisely what remains of his days. Dangers do not necessarily grow fewer as we grow older. Beware, Dave, the tyranny of the trivial. The Pharisee in me fusses over the washing of pots and pans while the tax collectors and sinners enter the kingdom ahead of me. Many a marriage lasts only because of sheer loyalty to pledges made but the affection has long since departed. A similar sad state of affairs can prevail in our union with Christ. Loyalty must spring from love. Do I love Him? More than ...? When I said in yesterday's podcast interview that we need more Christians doing the work of God and not merely stuffing their heads with Bible information, I was preaching more to myself than to anyone else. A real Christian is sold out not merely to a church or to a cause but to Christ.
Having a birthday soon? With anything in life, you'll be better off if you look at the positives of the situation and not just the negatives. I mean, I could be back in the 70s watching The Love Boat on TV. Ugh.
6:20 AM My view at 5:30 this morning.
Wow. Makes me want to talk Greek! Here's the book that started it all off for me.
It was published in 1983. Sad thing, so few students today even know about it. Silva talks about everything that needed to be talked about in an introduction to Greek lexicography: synchrony and diachrony, etymology, semantic change, semantic borrowing, denotation (v. connotation), style, ambiguity, synonymy, etc. When, 5 years later, I wrote my little primer on Greek linguistics, I drew much of my inspiration from Silva. In his preface Silva notes that his "main intention has been to synthesize critically the results of scholars in the field of linguistic semantics" (p. 11). In this he succeeded brilliantly. No wonder the church needs this book so much today. Sound lexicography is one of the most urgent tasks of the seminary if it is to regain its significance in our generation.
I have an enormous admiration for Moisés Silva. He earned his Ph.D. under F. F. Bruce in Manchester. As a speaker he combines insight with clarity and an attractive (and often humorous) style of presentation. Such clarity and accessibility are rare among Greek scholars. In many ways he embodies what a scholar should be but frequently is not. This morning I also reread Stan Porter's outstanding essay in this book.
It's called "Defining Discourse Analysis as an Important New Testament Interpretive Framework." Stan's peroration might surprise you:
As always, I find Stan's perspective refreshing. He is part of a much larger cadre of men and women who are offering themselves to our students as leaders and guides into the sometimes confusing world of Greek linguistics. In my Advanced Greek Grammar course this fall I'm using Stan's book Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Suffice it to say that anyone who knows anything about Greek will have no doubts about the importance of this book. We'll also be reading Robertson's "Weightlifting 302" textbook, lovingly referred to as his "Big Grammar."
And why not? The work is now a classic in the field. Years ago, when I was asked if I would consider revising it, I knew immediately what my answer would be: no. It simply cannot be revised without at the same time causing it to morph into a book Robertson never intended it to be. You'll remember that Robertson himself never set out to write a new grammar. His goal was simply to revise Winer. But the more he tried to write a revision, the more he realized that the end product would hardly resemble the original work -- hence he produced his own grammar. I cannot recall any occasion when a student did not thank me for having them read Robertson. It is a book that will drive you toward the Scriptures with a new zest.
I'm going to kick off Father's Day weekend with a bike ride. How far I go, nobody knows. Then I have to finish editing the chapters in our linguistics book. Then what? Discovering what God has in store for me today. In The Search, a man happens upon the tombstone of a woman who died in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. The epitaph read, "Ever she sought the best, ever found it." Perspective in life is EVERYTHING. You see rain ruining your fishing trip; I see God watering our fields. You see a traffic jam; I see an opportunity to learn some patience. You see someone slow getting in your way during a marathon; I see someone trying to find the best in themselves. You see gray hair; I see wisdom that only age can bring. The silver lining in life is perspective. At the very least it helps us see which problems are big and which are not. A proper attitude can help us stay calm in difficult situations, not freak out through worry, and continue to go forward despite setbacks and failures.
Life truly is all about perspective.
Friday, June 14
8:12 PM You know I love to cook. (Not really, but I'm trying to learn.) So while my Indian Curry is cooking I thought I'd try to fill you on my wild and wooly week. In the first place, school has been crazy busy. I taught every day. I finished writing the preface to Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Issues in the Current Debate. (Baker is publishing it.) I began writing another book review for Filologia Neotestamentaria. I finalized the syllabus for my NT 2 class this fall (Acts - Revelation). I began hammering out the schedule for Advanced Greek Grammar, also a fall class. So there you have it -- a hectic week at school; but since I love what I do I barely noticed it at all. In the second place, I've been training for the tri I have coming up this month as well as the ultra. Because I can read your mind, I know you're thinking, "There goes Dave again, talking about his workouts." True. I talk about my training because I love to exercise and besides, it wasn't until I began to "work my own shovel" as an athlete that exercise became a source of joy instead of a burden and a chronic source of frustration. This week I swam 45 minutes every day, either at the Knightdale Y or the Wake Forest Y. The pool in Knightdale is outdoors (which I love!) but the pool in Wake Forest has longer lanes and is therefore more efficient for swimming. What I don't like about the Y in Wake Forest is that the pool is heated and once you get warmed up in the water you begin to wilt because you're getting so over-heated. But I REALLY enjoy swimming and can't wait to see if my times improve as a result.
Speaking of exercise, on Monday I had my VO2Max test at Duke Sports Physiology. VO2Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume. They determine your VO2Max by forcing you to run on a treadmill until you feel like you're literally going to keel over. "When we're finished with you," said one of the techs before we started, "you'll feel like you've been body slammed." At any rate, the test was a success (i.e., I didn't die) and I should be hearing from my sports physiologist at Duke soon with the results.
In other news ....
On my way home from work today I stopped by Clearview Church in Henderson for an interview with Abidan Shah and his staff.
Their weekly podcast is called "Carpe Mañana" (gotta love that name!). Today's topic was "The Relevance of New Testament Textual Criticism for the Christian Life." Abidan is my former personal assistant and is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the seminary in textual criticism.
My head sort of ruins their motto, don't you think?
I'm not at all in Abidan's league when it comes to things text-critical, but it was a delight to at least supply a few anecdotes during today's interview. As soon as I get the link to the podcast I'll pass it on. Meanwhile, look who arrived on the farm while I was gone. Welcome to Rosewood Farm, "Fudge"!
I also see that the loggers are almost done.
Looks like they've got only about 10 acres left out of 81. Thank the Lord for such dry weather!
Finally, while I was on campus my kids left me some farm fresh eggs from their hens.
Around here we eat an awful lot of eggs for breakfast. Throw in an avocado = perfection.
What to do this weekend? I'm open and flexible. I still want to get in my 67K bike ride to celebrate turning into a 67-year old josser. For some reason, I'm also praying about getting back to Dallas in the next month or so. I've done a race there on the 4th of July the past 3 years, plus it's a good excuse to see mom and dad again.
So there you have it, another all-too-brief (or lengthy, depending on your perspective) report about my life. Tonight I'm rereading The Climb, which is the story of one of the survivors of the 1996 Everest disaster. I've actually read the book twice before but it's been one of my favorite books for a very long time. If you haven't read it yet, let me tell you: it sucks you in. That's all I'm going to say!
Monday, June 10
6:10 AM Interested in Hebrews? Plenty of Power Points here. These two show (1) that the vocabulary of Hebrews and that of the Paulines are sui generis, and (2) that Hebrews was placed after 2 Thessalonians in our earliest majuscule manuscripts. Just saying'.
This week in Greek my students will be reading my Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. Think of putting together a plastic model of a Tiger Tank. It may have dozens of pieces that seem unrelated, but keep your eye on the final product (pictured on the box) and you'll quickly see how everything fits together. I'm going to campus this morning grateful for Greek, a knowledge of which is so valuable it barely registers because we so often take it for granted. I cannot believe how God has captured me for the classroom. All of it: facts, jokes, quizzes, exams, discussions, devotions, awards, etc. My land, though, I have so far to go to become the teacher I want to be! My weaknesses are too numerous to count, but God has at least birthed in me the unmistakable conviction that Greek instruction doesn't have to be boring or irrelevant. I'm also done pretending that Greek has any value apart from its application. You can't separate exegesis from theology and ethics. Can't.
The next 3 weeks will be hard. But good. A good hard. As someone has said, "Goals that aren't frightening aren't worth having." We'll see this as we begin to translate 1 John. Finally, we'll recognize that digging deep in the Word is the real prize, not the 110 Awards I offer to those who smash their exams.
Sunday, June 9
7:40 PM Today I got a birthday greeting from, of all people, the organizers of the Chicago Marathon. Nice. "Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town." (Go, Frank!) I'm told the race is electric. My will is strong and I'm right on track to finish the racing year on October 13 in the Windy City. I've always wanted to run this race at least once. Music on every block! Tons of spectators! Great expo! As you all know, I'm an adult-onset athlete. I believe that having an active lifestyle is the only responsible course of action for a 67-year old who takes Rom. 12:1 seriously. I owe it to my family to stay in shape for as long as possible. Moreover, I've found the running community to be one of the most compassionate, supportive, giving, and understanding communities I've ever been involved with. Had I known how rich my life would have been as a runner, I would have put my running shoes on much earlier. Staying active is really a matter of faith. It's part of our stewardship responsibility before our Creator. The people you see running 5Ks on the weekend aren't any more talented or gifted than you are. They haven't suddenly discovered the secret to happiness. They're just normal, everyday people who've discovered that running is a whole-being activity. It nourishes your mind, your body, and your spirit.
When you stand at the starting line of a marathon, your goal that day is to complete 26.2 miles. The difference between success and failure is as simple as taking the next step. I imagine that's how all of life is. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt what you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Jim Elliott did just that and entered heaven "through gates of splendor." The truth is, every step in life is important. Every step takes us a little bit closer to who we want to become. Every step reveals some new God-given potential.
Chicago. Field size of about 44,000.
Can you imagine. The community invests so much in this race. I'm just happy I was able to make it into the race this year.
Happy week and run on, my friends!
5:34 PM Ouch. The message this morning from 2 Cor. 4 really hit home. My son-in-law gave it and it wasn't for the faint of heart for sure.
People need the Lord, he said. In fact, some of your people need the Lord, like the ones who live next door or work at the next desk. "But I'm not gifted as an evangelist!" That doesn't cut it, friend. You see, God doesn't so much want us to tell others what a friend we have in Jesus as show them what a friend they have in us. A friend that loves them until they ask us why. A friend that prays for their salvation on a regular basis. Through loving them they meet Jesus, even though at first they don't realize they've met Him. If fact, prayer is so important in evangelism that Joel stopped 3 times in his message to ask us to pray for those in our lives who need a flow toward the cross. I can't argue with that. Nor should you. Soulcraft is most effective when we know what we want to accomplish and then carry out God's plan to achieve it -- the clear Gospel message mixed with communicating the reality of Christ's presence in the brokenness of our lives. Afterwards I enjoyed lunch with family and friends.
We discussed how Jesus calls us to become members of the "second incarnation." We are commissioned to make visible the invisible God -- to do as Jesus did, love as He loved, live as He lived. Evangelism is the life of Christ fleshed out. His life was the light of the world. And now we are those lights when His life is revealed through us. Pretty amazing stuff. Wouldn't you be interested in unleashing your skills, your gifts, your hobbies as redemptive tools? Can you loan out your lawn mower? Bake a pie? Someone is waiting to find Christ through just such a kind gesture, followed up with the spoken Good News.
Oh, it's been raining all day and I've not been able to get in my bike today. I don't want exercise to become a modern yoke because that will only result in useless self-obsession (and that from a guy who self-obsessively wrote a book called Running My Race). I will confess to being a bit disappointed by the weather. I feel like I'm in cycling purgatory, on hold with the weather forecasters until they figure out what the futurecast looks like. Patience is a virtue, Dave. Remember that.
Tomorrow kicks off our Greek 2 class. It'll be more of the same, but a lot more of the same. I start thinking about the third declension and the participle and the subjunctive and my brain gets fried. Which is why I need to remember that Greek is nothing more than one chapter at a time and we don't need to be there until we get there. I would feel sorry for my students except that they signed up for the torture. Actually, I think we're all having tons of fun. Oh sure, there's lots of hard work ahead of us. But the rewards? Unimaginable. Yes, I've done the math. Twenty-six lessons and you can begin to read your Greek New Testament with the use of a lexicon. That is why we celebrate. But there I go, off on another tangent. This post was supposed to be about how my birthday went. Next thing you know I'm going to tell you that God is evident in every syllable of the Greek text or something crazy like that!
7:45 AM Today is my 67th birthday. (Please don't get all carried away.) Happy Birthday to moi. Basically, today's the day I get to celebrate all things Dave, including (but not limited to) running, parenting, missions, blogging, teaching, farming, eating, hot baths, and drinking coffee. (Fast food no longer makes the list, unfortunately.) I've got quite the day planned. At the risk of sounding pedantic, puerile, over-indulgent, and just plain stupid, allow me to share with you 67 things you may not know about me (in no particular order):
1. In 5th grade I played taps at my elementary school when JFK was assassinated.
2. I chipped my front tooth when diving into our pool at the age of 14.
3. I started going gray in my early 20s.
4. I nearly drowned while surfing at Pipeline. (My board was sliced in half by that wave.)
5. I experienced numerous earthquakes in California.
6. I dropped out of Greek when I first took it at Biola.
7. I have a bad case of emetophobia (fear of vomiting).
8. I lost 35 pounds when I had malaria.
9. I once met William Buckley.
10. My Hawaiian name is Kawika.
11. I used to play the trumpet semi-professionally.
12. My dog is 98 years old in human terms.
13. I had my 4 wisdom teeth removed when I was 15 and spent a week in the hospital after my throat got infected.
14. T. D. Jakes and I share the same birthday (hmmm).
15. I've been to all 50 states except Alaska.
16. My uncle once took me to the beach during a tsunami in Hawaii.
17. I am half Romanian.
18. I needed braces when I was young but we couldn't afford them.
19. I lived in La Mirada, California for 27 years.
20. I named my first horse Cody after the famous rodeo in Cody, Wyoming.
21. I've never read Tolkien.
22. I was a lifeguard in California.
23. I almost went to Tübingen instead of Basel for my doctorate.
24. When I speak German, the Swiss think I'm German and the Germans think I'm Swiss.
25. I was a youth pastor in Hawaii.
26. I once built my own surfboard.
27. I got my first ticket when I was 14 while pulling my surfboard behind me with my bicycle. (My homemade board-carrier didn't have a license plate.)
28. My favorite movie is The Great Escape.
29. I hate sweet tea.
30. I want to snow ski one day.
31. I almost failed Logic in college.
32. At Biola I took a course in geology under Henry Morris (of The Genesis Flood fame).
33. My college roommate was blind and from Brazil.
33. The first musical instrument I learned to play was the ukulele.
34. Becky and I once climbed to the top of the Sakkara Pyramid in Egypt.
35. I've sailed from Lahaina on Maui to O'ahu.
36. I have never snow skied. (I know. When you get old you repeat yourself.)
37. My favorite TV show in the 60s was Gilligan's Island.
38. My favorite bookstore is in Piccadilly Circus, London.
39. I paid my mountain guide $640 per day to guide me in the Alps.
40. My first marathon was the Flying Pig in Cincy exactly 3 years ago.
41. My favorite movie scene is the bus stop episode in North by Northwest.
42. I began blogging back in the Dark Ages (2003).
43. I still use Front Page for my blog.
44. Despite all the "unplanned dismounts" I had while riding, I never once broke a bone.
45. I once drove to Denmark just to say I ate a Danish pastry.
46. I hate to fly.
47. I once passed out from dehydration on the top of Masada in Israel.
48. I've never even thought about getting a tattoo.
49. I will probably never finish my book Godworld.
50. I once thought that Paul could not have authored Hebrews.
51. I never set out to write Greek grammar textbooks. They were all by invitation.
52. I am a procrastinator.
53. I would drive an hour to have 2 of those Dennys hotcakes.
54. I would drive 6 hours for Ethiopian food.
55. I love how marathoning is a metaphor for life.
56. I have finally learned to listen to rather than fight my body.
57. Amazon Prime is my best friend.
58. I recently dc-ed Netflix since I wasn't using it.
59. My kids and grandkids are my treasures on this earth.
60. I've never switched to Geico.
61. Though a Baptist I still appreciate high church liturgy and the architecture of a cathedral.
62. I am so done with evangelical superstardomism.
63. I've learned that, while life may be complicated, the kingdom is simple.
64. I love diving into my blog posts from years ago.
65. I don't mind getting older.
66. My greatest joy in life has been the God-given privilege of linking my life with brothers and sisters in the Majority World to see our generation come to know Christ.
67. My closest partner in the Gospel was Becky. I miss her dearly.
Life, dear reader, is never a solo project. Yes, I talk a lot about perseverance and self-reliance on this blog. But the reality is there is no such thing as self-reliance, whether in sports or in life. Your life is not just about you. Your goals are not just about you. Your health is not just about you. Your walk with the Lord is not just about you. Whatever we do in life is never just about us. We always need others, no matter who we are or what we do. To climb the Alps, you need an experienced guide. It's a team effort. You can't do it alone. When we face tough situations in life, we need the strength that can be drawn only from others -- and from a power that is greater than any one of us. Self-reliance? It doesn't exist. Hundreds of people have had an impact on my life and I want to thank all of them -- and all of you -- and thank the Lord for placing you in my path. Without the help and support of my family and friends, nothing I have accomplished during these 67 years would have been possible. Yes, I still believe that perseverance is a virtue. Heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey said it best: "A champion is someone who gets up when he can't." I've had to do that many times during my life. You have too. But every time, it was actually God who was lifting us back up. All glory goes to Him.
I serve an unruly Savior who's taken me on a wild ride. And apparently that ride isn't over yet. What really matters is that we do life together. I'm thankful you're in it with me.
I hope you have an awesome day.
Saturday, June 8
12:58 PM I'm back from the South Boston YMCA, where I lifted for 45 minutes, then ran 4 miles on the treadmill, and then did the breaststroke for 45 minutes in the pool. It was a fabulous workout. You may not know this, but in any given year, between 65 and 85 percent of runners get laid up with an injury of one kind or another. Which means we need to be super careful with our bodies and not work them too little or too hard. My workout today was just about right. It left me feeling energized -- and famished. I've already had a bite to eat and shortly I'll take a nice long nap to restore my body. I'm finding moderation to be a very healthy way of approaching all of life, including exercise and diet. Finding that ever-so-elusive balance between rest and activity is something I'll be striving after my whole life. Bottom line, balance takes extreme self-discipline. It also takes wisdom, not only personal wisdom but the wisdom and advice of others. That's why on Monday my Duke sports physiologist has ordered a VO2Max Test for me. The idea is to measure the amount of oxygen your body uses during exercise. VO2Max is the point at which your body can't increase its intake of oxygen despite an increase in intense activity. Sports physiologists consider this test a true measure of your heart's ability to keep you going while you exercise. You breathe only with your mouth through a soft rubbery mouthpiece. A padded nose pin is clipped over nostrils so that you can't breathe through your nose. This is a test where they want to push you real hard. I'm told you are one tired puppy after it's over.
These days, I'm taking my recovery periods very seriously. I'll take the rest of today and all day tomorrow off from any form of strenuous exercise, and, of course, I'll get a good 8 hours of sleep tonight (as I normally do). Believe me, I'm not saying I have all of this figured out. But I do want to learn how to be wiser as I grow older. I am a broken record, but exercise (in moderation) has been shown to reduce heart disease and improve overall health. I think we all need to find peace with our own bodies. This begins when we stop comparing ourselves with other people and acknowledge that the only thing that matters is that you're giving your health the best you have to offer. Let me also say that it's a good idea to have certain training goals in mind, like, for example, the 31-mile ultramarathon trail race I hope to run on June 29. I'm not too worried about this race because I've already completed one of them, but you do have to dig pretty deep to keep going. Thankfully there's a 9.5 hour time limit for the race, which makes me feel pretty good since I finished my only other 31-mile ultra in under 8 hours. So, the moral of the story is, go with your heart in whatever you want to accomplish in life, but do everything in moderation. Only you can do you. And only you know what's going on with you.
I'm hoping that, after Monday's test, I'll have a much better take on what this old body of mine is capable of doing during exercise. This is nothing you want to just guess about. You want to know if you're training properly and, most importantly, whether you are pushing your body beyond its limit when you're competing.
Off for my nap.
7:58 AM Seeing I'm in the birthday spirit, I'm giving away this book to someone out there who wants to study New Testament Greek. If more than one of you requests the book, I'll cast lots to decide the winner. The announcement will be made, of course, tomorrow on my birthday.
6:50 AM They had been predicting a steady rain to begin falling yesterday and, sure enough, that's exactly what we have. The Low Pressure System we're currently in will be around for about a week, which means much needed rain for the farmers where I live (including yours truly). This also means that I might not be able to get in my bike ride today, but if I don't I still plan on visiting the Y and working out and getting in some laps. My tri is in exactly 15 days and I feel like swimming is my weakest link right now.
The rain this morning reminded me of that wonderful quote by the one, the only Malcolm Muggeridge, who once edited Punch Magazine, Britain's counterpart to the Mad Magazine I grew up with. He said:
As an incurable Muggerophile, I attempt to question traditional concepts at every turn, but not because I've become soured on life. Malcolm could be acid-tongued, but he was no kill-joy. He laughed a lot, and his love of the truth never turned him into a grumpy ascetic. But he cared deeply for the truth and trounced anyone who dared to corrupt it. That was the message I read this morning as I sipped my coffee.
1 John 2:20-28 is clear: We believers have had the Holy Spirit poured out on us by Christ, and so all of us know the truth. And as long as His Spirit remains in us, we don't need anyone to teach us because His Spirit teaches us about everything, and what He teaches is true. Hence John's final exhortation:
Good reader, this was exactly the message I needed to hear today. I grew up immersed in typical Christian culture: go to church, listen to sermons, give to missions, and attend prayer meeting when you could. I was rarely challenged to read the Bible (or think) for myself. We can't simply shrug this issue off, because biblical illiteracy is rife in our churches. Postmoderns share several key values, but one of them I respect the most is their insistence that church be relevant to all of life. They expect to be able to ask hard questions without being patronized or dismissed. Let's give them the goods. And let's begin by giving them God's Word. They want to grapple with theology and ecclesiology and a thousand other topics. Remember this: The best antidote to evangelical group-think is reading the Bible for ourselves. Yes, I enjoy a good sermon as much as the next person. But Muggeridge got it right: Even the greatest sermon pales when compared to one tiny sip of the living water Jesus Himself promises to anyone who is thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. The Bible is the best Christian resource out there, so let's lift it high. Do I read books about the Bible? Sure do. Have I written books about the Bible? Yep. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace drinking directly from the fountain of knowledge itself.
P.S. My ever-productive assistant has again updated the What's New? page at our Greek Portal. Included is a link to a journal article I published many years ago on the text of 1 John 2:20, where the apostle John either says to his readers "You all know" or "You know all things." I argue for the latter reading, in case anyone is interested.
Friday, June 7
6:24 PM Hey again friends! Right now I'm filling an order to send my Greek DVDs to a Bible school in -- of all places -- Australia. My DVDs have been shipped to such faraway places as Surrey (UK), Birmingham (UK), Johannesburg (SA), Abuja (Nigeria), Aberdeen (UK), Dunedin (NZ), Ontario (CAN), Croydon (AU), Victoria Point (AU), Auckland (NZ), and Belfast (NI). If you know me, which I think you do, you know I never tire of encouraging people to consider studying the Greek of the New Testament. Just this week I learned that one of my former students has begun teaching Greek every Monday night in his local church. You think you could never learn to read Greek? Of course YOU CAN. You control this moment in your life. So live boldly. Rather than cautiously testing the water, dive right in. You might just discover a whole new passion.
By the way, you never outgrow the joy of learning new things about Greek. I know I don't. Just today, in that issue of Filologia I mentioned earlier, I stumbled upon an essay by Jenny Heimerdinger and Stephen Levinsohn called "The Use of the Definite Article before Names of People in the Greek Text of Acts with Particular Reference to Codex Bezae." Believe me, these guys know their stuff. The question they raise is, "Why do some names in Greek have an article in front of them -- like the Peter and the Jesus?" They conclude that:
1) The first mention of a person by name in a narrative is practically always without the article. But subsequent references to the same person use the article (= that Peter or that Jesus).
2) The names of persons lack the article when attention is being drawn to their presence or to their actions at that particular point in the text.
Since I'm all about being practical with my students, I shared these facts with them after their quiz today. In reality, a whole smorgasbord of delight awaits them once they finish their year of study together. Can they get there? Of course they can! Progress in Greek is all about remembering and honoring the small stuff.
Speaking of "getting there," earlier I mentioned the tradition among runners of running the number of their years on their birthday. That would have me running 67 miles this weekend. If I did that, I'm pretty sure I'd run myself right into an early grave. Besides, I'm not a huge birthday person. They don't excite me that much and they don't bother me that much. It's just a number. I think each day that the good Lord gives us should be cherished. So I will not be running 67 miles tomorrow, though I do hope to get in a 67K bike ride. Otherwise, my goal is to relax and spend lots of time with my family. It is great to be alive and blessed with another year to walk with the Lord and hopefully make a positive impact on others.
Not too old to avoid rambling on his blog,
5:20 PM Okay -- this week I bit off totally more than I could chew. This was my desk at 5:30 this morning.
I was working on two projects at the same time -- editing the linguistics conference papers and grading a Ph.D. comp. We are all busy, I know, but this week was crazy. I did survive, however. I never said I don't have stamina. Thanks to all who made my week go so well:
My colleague Ben, who on Global Running Day this Wednesday ran 5 miles with me and then joined me for breakfast.
My students, shown here taking their final quiz of the semester while I was reading a copy of Filologia Neotestamentaria (shhh, don't tell them).
My friends at the Knightdale YMCA, who cleared the pool long enough for me to swim laps for 45 minutes yesterday.
Amazon Prime, who delivered two wonderful packages to me today.
My daughter and her kids, who helped me clean my house today and also made sure the donkeys stay spoiled with plenty of carrots.
The Creator of all things, who allowed my daughter to grow these in her garden, one of which I am enjoying for supper tonight.
My students, who gave me the nicest card for my birthday.
I am falling apart a bit after such a busy week, but I will persevere. My life is nutty compared to some people I know and boring compared to others. I plan to use the rest of this day to catch my breath and give thanks to the One who gave me such a productive week. Remember, no matter how full your life is, you can always make room for things (and people) that matter.
Monday, June 3
5:45 AM My birthday week has finally arrived and I'm going to Dennys this morning to celebrate with 2 of their scrumptious pancakes (for only 2 bucks). Then it's back to school, where my task will be to get my Greek 1 students to the finish line on Friday. On Saturday I'm planning on biking 67 kilometers in honor of my 67th birthday on Sunday. Some people actually run the number of miles that they turn on their birthday. I thought about doing that and then I realized -- that's 67 miles for crying out loud. Surely there's got to be an alternative, like eating 67 chocolate-covered macadamia nuts or drinking 67 Cokes. Instead, I'll just do a 67K bike. (That's 41.6 miles in case you were wondering.) I love my birthday regardless of what age I'm turning. The fact that I'm more comfortable in my own skin makes it all good. I'd rather get older than the alternative. I love my life and am having more fun than ever. It's great to be alive and enjoy all the great people around me. As I've careened into adulthood, somehow my firm foundation has endured. God's grace for sure. Good reader, embrace your age. It's the only one you've got. Now let's see ... what restaurants in town give you free stuff on your birthday?
Making corduroy fashionable in the 70s.
Sunday, June 2
4:44 PM By now everyone's read about the climbers who died on Everest this season due to the long lines on the Southeast Ridge, including the infamous Hillary Step. More people are climbing Everest than ever before. Not all of them successfully. There have been 11 deaths in the past 2 weeks alone. The majority of mountaineers died on the descent. No matter how physically fit you are, once you are in the Death Zone (over 26,000 feet) you struggle. Your body literally begins to die. Everything is working against you: fatigue, dehydration, energy depletion, and hypoxia. In addition, when you're going up you are facing into the mountain, looking at your feet and often at a rope. But when going down, most of the time you're staring out into space. The biomechanics of descending a mountain are also more difficult. When you are climbing up, you plant your front foot and then shift your weight onto it. But when you're coming down it's just the opposite. You have to shift your weight first before planting your front foot. Moreover, the surface is farther away, making for a much less stable condition. I can tell you from personal experience in the Alps that I'd much rather be going up than going down. Both thinking and motor coordination are impaired on the descent. It's like you're drunk. You feel physically and mentally wasted from high altitude exhaustion. According to one veteran Everest climber, the main problem this year was inexperience, both among the climbers and the tour operators supporting them. This lack of experience causes people to make wrong decisions. Paradoxically, forcing yourself to keep going when you should be turning around is not a display of too much strength but of weakness. What is more impressive in mountaineering than ambition is the power to control it. If you give everything you have to get to the top, you might just stay there.
I would not be surprised to see the Nepalese government pressured into limiting the number of climbing permits they issue each year. There's already talk about some sort of official vetting of all potential climbers before they can get a permit for Everest. If, for example, you haven't climbed above 20,000 feet already (e.g., Denali) you shouldn't be on Everest. It will be interesting to see what next year's climbing season brings. Climbers have serious responsibilities to others and to themselves. The dilemma you face is to be ambitious but not greedy, bold but not reckless, confident but not arrogant.
Now let's talk about marathoning for a minute. The marathon has often been called "Every Man's Everest." It's a sport that any reasonably healthy person can train himself or herself to run. As a result, many amateurs run in marathons these days, which drives some hardcore runners bananas. "How low is the bar?" they ask. Purists think that running a marathon involves just that: running the entire 26.2 miles at a healthy clip. Slow runners disrespect the distance, they say, and have ruined the mystique about the event. On the other hand, slow runners like myself feel that finishing the race, no matter what your pace, is the crowning achievement. That's not to say that we penguins are against time limits for races. At the Marine Corps Marathon, which I ran last year, runners had to maintain a pace of 14 minutes per mile or risk being pulled from the course at the 20-mile mark. Every one of us who has ever run a marathon has agreed in writing to abide by the cutoff times. That's exactly how it should be. Yes, I will always be a plodder at a marathon, but why should the front runners care? You run your race and I'll run mine. Everybody has a goal in mind on race day, not just the elite runners. Maybe it's just to finish. Whatever. I have seen running change my life. It takes a whole lot of preparation and tenacity to cross the finish line within the time limits. No, slower runners don't "ruin" marathons. One person's easy pace is another person's PR. So kudos to all you marathoners out there -- fast, slow, plodders, and everything in between. As long as everyone stays in their own starting corral, the more the merrier. I've never had anyone impact my race because they were walking. You just go around them and say "Good work, you got this!" As with everything in life, people just have to have the right attitude.
Both climbing Everest and running a marathon are getting more and more popular. You would definitely not want me climbing Everest. I'd slow everyone down and endanger their lives. But when I run a marathon you don't have to worry about me. I stick to the side of the road and start at the back of the pack so the quickies can do their thing. As I say in my new book, I've seen so many people in the past 4 years who've fallen in love with running and who dream of doing a marathon. I say "Go for it!" no matter what your speed and pace are. Lacing up and showing up is half the battle. And if I can do it, so can you. With all due apologies to Caesar, "I trained, I tried, I finished."
P.S. How many marathons do I have left in me? I have decided that I shouldn't do more than 2 or 3 per year. The only marathon I have left this year is Chicago in October, unless I do Honolulu in December. Truth be told, there is really only one other marathon I'd really love to do. It's the Athens Marathon, which actually starts in the city of Marathon and then follows the original route that Pheidippedes ran back in 490 B.C. More than 50,000 runners come out each year for this event. The finish line is in the magnificent Athens Olympic Stadium, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. It's possibly the most difficult of the major marathons in the world, what with its uphill climb from the 10K mark to the 31K mark. But the setting -- can you imagine???
I love Greece. Here's Becky and me in front of the Parthenon in 1982. Such happy memories!
6:20 AM Now this is interesting. An inscription has been found in Iran near the tomb of Darius written in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. There's a full-size relief carving of the unknown figure just beneath the inscription. What's perhaps of greatest interest is the fact the inscription adds new verbs to all 3 languages mentioned. What these verbs are hasn't been revealed yet. Persian is an Indo-European language (like English), so I'm really curious to find out what these words are. Here's just a partial list of English words that are derived from Persian (Farsi):
Here, by the way, is the tomb of Darius ...
... and the tomb of Cyrus.
Interested in learning more? You can do no better than to get a copy of Edwin Yamauchi's now classic Persia and the Bible.
Saturday, June 1
5:14 PM I had my eyes on today's race for several weeks. I thought it would be a good chance to test my commitment to doing all things in "moderation." Like they say, if you never race, you'll never really know. You will recall I'm making a concerted effort -- possibly for the first time in my life -- to train myself not only to run but to run wisely. What with 3 marathons in the bag within the last 5 months, I might have been "overdoing" things a bit, ya think? I've had a growing concern that I might have overplayed my hand. Anyway, enough prologue. I arrived in Durham in plenty of time to get my race bib and t-shirt. The best part of the pre-race activities was bumping into two of my students.
Lining up for the start, I went to the back of the pack like I normally do. After we started, I couldn't believe how good I felt for the entire 5 miles.
I ended up with a respectable time of 54:37 at a 10:53 pace. That means I averaged about 5.2 miles per hour.
I'd definitely say that I felt I had my mojo back even though I was trying to stay well below my maximum heart rate. For me, having a race like the one today is a huge confidence booster. Figuring out how to run a race when you're coming off an injury is a gradual process. Even though I've been running for 4 years now I'm still learning the nuances of race tactics and strategy. Today I felt like I had a good workout that helped me build fitness. And as always, it was great to see everyone enjoying the event. There were tons of veteran runners, newbies, and people of all abilities and paces. There was great energy on the course and the miles seemed to fly by. The weather was perfect with clear skies and cool temps. The route had some hills but nothing too steep. And it was really neat to finish in the Bull Durham Athletic Park.
It turns out an 8K race is a really nice distance -- not so long that you crash and burn aerobically but short enough that you can also have some fun with it. By the way, I failed to win last place in my 65+ age division (boo-hoo). But 3rd from the last ain't all that bad, now is it?
Today confirmed for me the value of being around people who see life as an opportunity for constant growth and improvement. If you ever want to be inspired, attend a race. Better yet, participate in one.
P.S. I took this picture during the race.
I have no idea what it's of. If I didn't make so much money from blogging, I'd be a professional photographer for sure.
4:20 AM Up early. It's race day! I've been training hard. Most of those hours are spent by myself on the trail. Being out there day after day, all by yourself, makes you a bit crazy. I like myself but not that much. Today I'll get to run with about 2,000 other competitors. My goal is to finish without any fatigue or soreness. If I have either I'll know I raced too hard and too fast -- which are two big No-No's. I do have goals in mind for today's race but I'm not telling anyone what they are. Okay, so maybe I will. In the end, I simply want to enjoy myself and the company of my fellow runners. My other goal is to come in dead last in my age division. Should be a cinch.
Speaking of running, I should be getting the final page proofs to my latest book any day now. Right now the publisher and I are going back on forth on the cover. Here's the latest iteration.
What do you think? I kinda like it. The publisher is under no obligation to share any of this with me (publishers always retain sole rights to design a book cover any way they please) but my publisher is a super nice guy and, I think, enjoys the give-and-take. What I've learned through the years (and after writing a bunch of books) is that a cover is a cover. The one thing that's absolutely necessary in a book cover is that it be readable. Nobody should have to put their nose 3 inches from the cover in order to read its subtitle.
I know, this book will seem boring to some. What's on your nightstand? Probably not too many books on running. But this one will be different. It will be by your *favorite* author. It offers simple words of wisdom on life and happiness. Running is a gateway to so many other wonderful things. I hope you'll discover that to be the case, as I have.
That's all I've got for now. Time to eat breakfast (PBJ) and hit the road, Jack.