August 2015 Blog Archives
Monday, August 31
7:25 PM More hikes to consider.
7:20 PM Here and Now on NPR ran a story today about the Appalachian Trail (though they mispronounced the word "Appalachian"). Wowsers! The guy who leads the tour is 65. And he's leading his next group in a few years.
What do you think? Am I crazy even to think about it?
6:54 PM Please help me congratulate the young man wearing the white shirt and the handsome tie.
Wesley Davey is one of my doctoral students and today he passed his comprehensive written/oral exams with flying colors. I consider this exam to be the pinnacle of pedagogy, superseded only by the dissertation defense (which, more often than not, is basically pro forma). I am indebted to many: to Drs. Lanier and Kellum (flanking Wesley) who sat in on the oral today, and especially to Dr. Heath Thomas (foreground) who directs our Ph.D. program and does a fabulous job of it. A seminary is nothing more than a ministerium of simple followers of God who have Christ in their hearts and who have dedicated their minds to Him as well. Above all, I believe God answers prayer, and I am sure a bevy of Wesley's friends were interceding for him this day. He has answered their prayers for today, but God is not finished yet, and I am positive all of you will be super excited at the topic Wesley will be pursuing as he begins to write his prospectus and then his doctoral dissertation. The whole purpose of life, I believe, is to come to know God in a personal way, but how can this be done apart from a study of the sacred writings He has handed down to us? So a huge shout out to the Lord for making all of this possible today and to Wesley for working so diligently to make this day what it was. And remember friend: no work of faith, no labor of love, not the smallest prayer expended on others is ever lost but is instead the smoke of the incense of the sacred altar rising up to the glory of God alone.
11:38 AM Just cooked for myself a juicy rib eye. Outback, eat your heart out!
11:14 AM Big News! I have to wear a coat and tie today. If I remember how.
11:02 AM Fall Break in just a month! Lord willing I'll be teaching a class at a brand new Bible Institute on the windward side of Oahu. When I'm not surfing that is :)
10:52 AM Enjoyed my workout at the Y this morning but because of the rain I wasn't able to do my 5K. So I've been sitting here writing my questions for this afternoon's Ph.D. oral exam. I'm already up to three pages. And I'm only one of three examiners. Meanwhile I've been making voice recordings of the book of Philippians and hope to have them online (somewhere, not sure yet) by the end of next week. I love my work but I'm discovering that there's always something new I can try that I've never done before (like making audio recordings of New Testament books). I guess I'm just trying to take advantage of my current health and strength because, no, I do not expect to be eternally strong or able to overcome every obstacle that comes my way. Just my opinion, but I think men fear change and aging more than women do, because women are always leading interrupted lives (not least when they go through pregnancy and childbirth). Us guys hate to risk change and often it takes a major crisis or breakdown before we give ourselves permission to make a major life change. Even at the ripe young age of 63 I'm telling myself, "There's so much more to live for and so much more you can do with your life." I'm approaching truly uncharted territory as I eventually face retirement. For me, it's not just living that matters. It's what you choose to do with your life that matters. "For me to go on living is Christ." I think for every one of us, Christ can make our lives so much more meaningful and rewarding than they have been in the past. Never look back! Press ahead! Who knows, I may live long enough to see my grandsons grow bald!
Sunday, August 30
8:45 AM Even babies can exercise!
8:10 AM Good Sunday morning, blogging buds!
As you know, for several months now I've been weight training consistently and eating pretty clean. (That Pepsi the other day, however, sure did taste good.) I've noticed that I've begun to lose abdominal fat and gain muscle mass as well as strength, plus the energy it takes to make it through the week without feeling tired. Sitting back and not taking control of the body God has given me is simply not an option for me anymore. In other words, healthy aging begins with taking care of yourself, as Paul assumes we all do with our bodies (Eph. 5:28-30). Like most of you, I see a doctor regularly for checkups and annual physicals, but I've never had nutrition or exercise training. It's almost as though health care professionals knew nothing about the connection between exercise and health. It was a gentle prompt by one of my daughters that made me realize that I had to change my lifestyle drastically if I was going to be able to maintain my active lifestyle. Soon after that, I discovered the local YMCA -- one of the best investments I've ever made. For a mere $28.00/month I train there 3 times a week without it interfering with all of my other responsibilities. It has now been about 8 months since I began this exciting journey and not only do I feel great but I'm actually improving my physique. I'm enjoying a new level of mental focus that I lacked since Becky's death. I am also more productive in terms of my daily work (as both farmer and professor). I also love training with people two-thirds my age and learning from them. The teacher is now the student -- and this student is enjoying the role reversal tremendously!
Perhaps your life is on a similar trajectory that mine was on a few months ago. Folks, I'm living proof that anybody, at any age, can become their own health advocate and take charge of their fitness and physical well-being (which are all gifts of the Lord to begin with). But the time to act is now. I'm especially concerned for my friends who are overweight or obese and who sincerely want to do something about it but don't know where to start. Some of them are clearly at risk of heart attack and other age- and health style-related illnesses, including diabetes. I believe it's my duty to help my brothers if I can. Men's health is not that hard to figure out. To prevent disease and preserve vitality, two basic steps are necessary:
1) You need to carefully select everything that goes into your mouth.
2) You need to do some form of exercise regularly.
At the risk of sounding like a stuffy professor (which I am) or a proud know-it-all (I know very little, believe me!), let me offer a few suggestions for anyone who is reading this blog post today and who would like to prayerfully consider changing their eating and exercise habits. These are principles I've been learning along the way and are simply too good not to pass on to you! So here we go, in no particular order.
1) If you're eating the wrong foods, it doesn't matter how often you exercise. You must cut yourself off from your bad eating habits.
2) So-called "diets" do not work.
3) Nor does cardio training by itself. Cardio is simply not rigorous enough to take pounds off and keep them off.
4) Weight training is by far the best way to achieve a caloric deficit because, rather than triggering the starvation response (as most diets do), it increases your metabolic rate, thus increasing all of your fat-burning enzymes. It targets body fat rather than muscle tissue.
5) Weight training works. It really does. That's why it's the cornerstone of my exercise program. Without it, there is no way I could look and feel as I do. Once you get used to regular weight training, your body becomes a fat-burning machine.
6) You're never too old to start weight training. I used to lift regularly when I was in college and when we moved to North Carolina 17 years ago. More recently I began aerobic exercises that increase heart rate for a sustained period of time. I've noticed that people who do only cardio (walking, jogging, swimming) experience very little permanent weight loss. On the other hand, with basic weight training you will notice immediate results such as fat loss, increased muscle tone, and overall higher energy levels. Let me repeat: Most experts agree that muscle loss and weight gain can be stopped and reversed only through weight training. Cardio alone can't do it.
7) My own exercise routine (for what it's worth) consists of weight training for 40 minutes (no longer!) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and cardio training (walk/run a 5K) at least 3 times a week (usually Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Sunday is my day off.
8) Once you start an exercise program, keep at it. Join the Y or a local gym. Train for an event like a local 5K or 10K. Start off with one day per week but keep your schedule religiously. "Every Monday I will work out. No exceptions!" At this stage, it's not so important that you worry too much about sets, reps, and specific exercises, but that you form a habit.
9) Train with intensity but rest between workouts for at least 48 hours. Exercise as if your life depends on it, because in a sense it does.
10) As for your diet, eat more often (4-6 smaller meals a day), eat breakfast every day (I blogged about this previously), drink lots of water, avoid processed foods as much as possible, and eat more fiber and protein. This is what I ate for breakfast this morning (accompanied by a delicious glass of well water).
11) Finally, don't begin a weight training program without first consulting your doctor. And when you do begin, be sure to avail yourself of the wisdom of a personal trainer who will help you put together an exercise program that's just right for you and your goals.
The truth is that everybody can benefit from larger and stronger muscles. Without weight training two results are inevitable: reduced functional capacity (leading to less physical activity), and reduced caloric utilization (leading to a slower metabolism). Adding muscle is a double solution in that it increases both your functional capacity and your metabolic rate. This is because muscle tissue requires large amounts of energy during exercise and a significant energy supply while resting.
Okay, these are merely some random reflections from a non-expert. So if you disagree with me, that's fine! I encourage you to watch the following YouTube if you can find the time. It's called Muscle Growth. This month the journal Baptist Health published an essay called More Evidence That Southern Cooking Boosts Heart Risk. Also this month, The Baptist Messenger wrote:
So there you have it. It's pretty obvious to me that we can all do better at taking care of the temples God has given us.
Blessings and good health!
P.S. You'll notice I'm not running a 5K this morning. When I woke up my body said to me, "Dave, I've worked out 6 times this week. I'm tired. I need the day off." Always listen to your body!
Saturday, August 29
6:22 PM I see that Energion Publications will be at SBL this year in Atlanta. I'm told that their booth will be situated between Eisenbrauns and Wipf & Stock. I've had the blessing of publishing books with all three of these excellent companies. Hope you will stop by their booths. Which got me to thinking ...
Why do we love the book displays at SBL as much as if not more than the seminars? It's partly got to do with word of mouth, I believe. You stand there reading a copy of a fairly newly released book and you hear your friend whispering in your ear, "Now that's a great book. You really ought to get a copy." Sure, the publisher has advertised for that book. But you can always count on your friends to tell you the truth. There's always that kind of a buzz at an annual SBL meeting. Everyone is eager to see that newly minted release. The logic of the publishers' displays is straightforward. If they can get people to talk about their book, its popularity will spread like a virus. And that makes sense. After all, publishers rent display tables at SBL (often at outrageous prices) for a reason. It just makes it faster and easier to connect with real live people. Furthermore, conversations do not end at SBL. I might go home and blog about a new book I liked. Now that's effective marketing. It all plays into the science of social transmission. Imagine you're sharing an evening meal at SBL with a bunch of cronies. It's been a long day, and there are a gazillion things you all could talk about. Certain stories are more infectious than others. But nothing is more contagious than a raving report about so-and-so's latest tome.
So what's my point? It turns out that publishers know exactly what they're doing when they set up their fancy display tables at SBL or at ETS or at other scholarly venues. Their intuition is dead right. Let the buzz begin! And that is very good news for everyone involved -- the publishers, the authors, the reading public, and even the booth vendors. And that's (partly) how book publishing works today -- through word of mouth and social transmission. Think about that the next time you stop by one of their displays to gaze upon their unsearchable riches.
2:04 PM Both of my blog readers will know that I can be absent-minded at times, and today was no exception. Today's 5K in Morrisville was actually scheduled for -- you guessed it -- tomorrow. Races on Sunday? Unheard of! Well, this one is indeed a Sunday race. I'm thinking of staying away in protest but then again, these 5Ks afford so many opportunities for Gospel conversations that I may very well end up driving there tomorrow. Both of my DBO readers also know that I believe in a serendipitous God who delights in surprising His children with good things, and instead of doing an official 5K this morning I was able to (1) have breakfast with one of my sons (which was absolutely wonderful) and (2) shop at Kroger. The latter is quite a privilege for someone who lives in Podunk. (I once read a book called The Eight Nations of North America. Actually, America can be divided into two basic cultures: those which are fitness-minded and which have a Kroger and a Whole Foods Market, and those which aren't and don't.) I love shopping at Kroger where today I found such delectables as:
Notice the California Rolls and the Bodenseekäse? Wow! Afterwards I drove to the high school track and did a personal 5K and am now getting ready to dig into my sushi then rest and write. See how self-disciplined I am? I am thinking about going away tomorrow night on a personal retreat. Of course, I can also accomplish the same goal here. Either way, solitude is such a necessary part of the Christian life but is almost a thing of the past. Jesus frequently withdrew to pray and to prepare for further ministry, and I am learning that I need to do the same thing. No servant is above his or her Master in this regard. I am just a human being, subject to like passions as anyone else. But when we look to God, we get what He can give.
Your absent-minded friend.
5:58 AM Spectators at today's race:
Friday, August 28
6:44 PM Nineteen years ago today, Charles and Diana divorced. Who would have ever imagined that happening?
In Greek class this week we talked about the difference between "preaching" (the kerusso word group) and "teaching" (the didasko word group). I suggested that "preaching" should be reserved in our parlance for what we do before unbelievers, as the sermons in Acts seem to indicate (these "sermons" being directed toward the lost). The sole exception is a place in Acts where Paul reminds his newly founded congregations that "it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Jesus does not invite us to a fad. He does not call us to pleasant serenity. He did not come with such a powerful ministry merely to inaugurate a social club. Christianity has a price tag. Many of you are paying for it now through obedience. It takes courage to follow Jesus, strength to face the trials He allows to come into our lives and marriages, and humility to submit to His plans with an ear tuned to a different drummer from the one the world hears. May we all learn to pay that price gladly.
6:22 PM Quote of the day:
6:18 PM Tomorrow: my 8th 5K in as many Saturdays.
To sign up go here.
6:14 PM HEADLINE NEWS: Having had nothing but water for several days, I am enjoying a Pepsi tonight on the front porch.
6:05 PM I'm ready.
12:28 PM Picture time:
1) I can go for this!
2) When I moved here 17 years ago, I didn't even know what a bush hog was. Now I am one!
3) Our new and improved donkey pasture ...
4) ... and fruit orchard!
Anyway, it's time to write!
10:28 AM Workout ... done. 5K ... done. Yet to be done: Change water and air filters in the house; bush hog the orchards and donkey pasture; prepare for our next cutting of hay; write another chapter in Godworld. Yes indeed, I feel inspired to write today, though I'm not sure which s/Spirit is doing the inspiring. I only write when I want to. I don't recommend this method to anyone of you, but I am too un-self-disciplined to do it any other way. In yesteryear people used to talk about having "unction." I'm not too sure what that word means, but I think the idea was to refuse to do anything without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Just because a writer writes is no sign that God is in it. The most accomplished author may fall flat where the simplest blogger may ring the bells of heaven.
Enough yakking. I've got work to do!
Thursday, August 27
11:12 AM Good reminder today from Henry Neufeld:
11:06 AM Someone told me they watched the murder video by mistake. How horrific. It's the perils of autoplay. Maybe it's time to disengage it if you have Twitter or Facebook accounts.
10:38 AM Welcome to Fall! It was a pleasant 68 degrees as I did my 5K this morning. Embedded in my gray matter was the thought, "If I can just go a little faster I can reach my goal of a 30-minute run." Thankfully, I'm not in any hurry. It may take me a year to reach my goal but I'm going to give it all I've got. In the meantime God has been telling me not to obsess about tomorrow. "Give us today our daily bread." What is past is past. What is coming tomorrow will arrive tomorrow. I will never have this day again. It is a gift I will never see again. So I'm gonna enjoy it. Sniff the fall weather. Pick some of Becky's roses. Scratch the dogs' backs. Study and read and write and do all the things I do on Thursdays after a marathon session of teaching on campus.
Enjoy today, Dave. It will be tomorrow before you know it.
8:18 AM My heart has been strangely heavy since I heard the news yesterday of the two journalists who were senselessly murdered in Virginia, of Tullian Tchividijian's (Billy Graham's grandson) filing for divorce, and especially the news that my dear friend David Allen (dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Seminary) lost his wife Sherri to cancer. How can we live hopefully in a world where bad things happen, where relationships wear out, where death happens? Perhaps there is nothing in this world more painful than the death of a marriage, simply because there is no place where grace is more solely needed. Reconciliation is always possible, of course, and this is my prayer for Tullian. As for David, I pray that he may know himself to be surrounded by a company of angels and a loving community as he goes through this great transition and prepares for his wife's funeral. Dying is hard work, even for the living. "I had seen birth and death," said T. S. Eliot, "but thought they were different." Well, they are not so very different after all. Both are scary, unpredictable, strenuous. Last night I lay awake trying to take it all in, memories of Becky's death washing over me like waves. I wept. Yes, I know that death is not the end but only the beginning for the believer. I realize that Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, and that when we go Home we will finally understand how and why our lives unfolded the way they did. I know that some will offer David pious clichés as they try to comfort him. I also know that David will get through this, will eventually come to realize that grief has a beginning, a middle, and an end, that -- as Paul says -- in life and in death "we are God's." Last night I laid aside my own concerns and lifted up those for whom grief and anguish threaten to crush them. If I need protection from the demons that assail me at night, how much more they? As usual, I turned to prayer -- and to music. I worshipped my Creator and Redeemer. I savored the Savior, images of Jesus' death flooding my tear-soaked eyes. "Oh my God, how I love you. You are more beautiful than anything in this life. May I bless and cherish You all the days of my life, living in gratitude on good days and bad. Let my trust in You uphold me when all I see and hear seems so uncertain."
As long as life lasts, music will be my partner in sorrow. Last night I met God in an aria so powerful that it defies description. It lifted me to a new level of trust and adoration in the One who meets me in the midst of my sorrow and loss and leads me Home. Gracious God, Oh how I love Thee! May I love Thee even more!
Wednesday, August 26
6:38 PM Happy National Dog Day! Below are my sweet puppies. When I'm tired of being a good sport or tired of exhorting myself to patience or just plain tired of being tired, I'll sit with the dogs and it seems like a quiet wind blows through my body and I sense that everything's okay after all. Sheba and Dayda, you're the greatest!
Oh, I love this place.
It's the weight room at the seminary. Had a good workout there at 6:30 this morning. It's smallish and the equipment is somewhat dated, but it gets the job done while I'm in the Forest of Wake.
Off to cook stirfry for supper. I'm really in the mood for homemade Chinese tonight :)
Tuesday, August 25
6:50 AM There are times in our lives when we come upon the truth with relief. I guess this has happened to President Carter. He realizes he's got cancer. All other diagnoses have been excluded. He knows. What makes him press on? What made him teach his Sunday School class last weekend? What kind of a man can be so resilient, accepting, joyful, optimistic? No complaining, only serving. Someone has said, "Put up a complaint box and you'll get complaints." It's our nature to grumble. But then there's the cross. When we're tempted to complain, it's time to stop and remember that we are all undeserving sinners, miserable offenders of the grace of God, foolish, weak, and blind. But there's that amazing cross, telling us that no matter how shocking we see ourselves in the light of God's holiness, God Himself has done something about all that.
What I wish for President Carter is joy. I want him to have the happiest year of his life. Sure, he is staring death in the face (Vincent Millay puts it so bluntly: "Death beating the door down"), but even a funeral is a celebration for a Christian. I know what it's like to lose a spouse to cancer. But there are much worse ways to lose a spouse. Mr. President, if by chance you should be reading these words, my prayer for you is the prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians -- "that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to grasp ... how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ [for you]." I have tried, Sir, throughout most of my life, to trust God in the midst of trying circumstances. Nearly always, people like you have made it a lot easier. Please do not forget this. America needs your example right now. At His death, Christ offered Himself unreservedly into the Father's hands. May you find safety and peace where Christ found His, in the bosom of the Father.
Monday, August 24
10:14 AM Just back from working out and stopping at the store to get some fruit and veggies. You will NEVER guess what confronted me as soon as I entered the market.
I kid you not. This is like CRAZY! Somehow I managed to resist the temptation and was able to crawl on all fours around the temptation aisle to where I wanted to be. Here are my healthy sugar substitutes for the week:
And here's today's lunch:
A cheese sandwich, a mango, and -- you guessed it! -- a glass of water. Ain't you proud of me?
As I mentioned earlier, today at the gym I was trying out a new exercise (no, not the doggy thingy). Here it is. It's called a barbell curl.
There were about five of us guys working out this morning and we all took turns helping each other in various ways. Since I'm the new kid on the block I need lots of help and plenty of advice. One thing I find helpful is to have a picture taken of my exercising so that later on I can tell whether or not I'm doing the exercise properly. In the above photo you can clearly see that the barbell is slightly tilted. That's a no-no. Ok, now I know what to correct. Folks, good form is crucial in weight training. Bad form can lead to an increased risk of injury. So I sort of self-monitor and then ask for the input of the more experienced lifters or even the YMCA trainer when he is available.
You see, when you lift, the weight goes up, then it goes down. It goes up and down. As in the acute accent, the grave accent, and the circumflex accent in Greek. (See how effortlessly I transitioned into Greek from weight lifting? Aren't I smart? I mean, I am really smart, like Donald Trump smart.) This week in Greek 1 we're working on correct pronunciation, which means, guys and gals, that you should always accentuate the accented syllable in every Greek word you encounter. I can't tell you how many people fail to do this, even experienced Greek teachers. Remember: The Greeks didn't need accent marks to help them in pronunciation any more than we English speakers do. Accents were added for the sake of us foreigners. Notice this video clip of Mark 1:1 in Greek. My stars! You will see that the last four words are all accented on the final syllable in Greek but they are not pronounced that way by the reader. So make sure, my dear student, that when you are reading Greek you accent the accented syllable on each word you're reading. If you need help with pronunciation, ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness. There is no such thing as Super Greek Student or Super Greek Teacher. None of us is perfect, and we need each other's help in the classroom -- as well as in the gym.
Well, gotta boogie and straighten up my messy house!
P.S. Couldn't resist shooting this clip today. It was such a gorgeous morning.
6:18 AM Off to the gym. Gotta work on my latest exercise.
6:12 AM I have a terrible choice to make, largely because I am such a renowned health guru (please play along here). I am addicted to Pepsi and other soft drinks.
So what's the problem? Only that soft drinks are the leading source of calories in the American diet, accounting for 1 in every 10 calories consumed. Imagine this: a 12-ounce can of soda contains about 13 teaspoons of sugar. Yuck. The problem is that our body perceives the calories in a soft drink as less filling than the calories, say, in an apple covered with peanut butter (both contain around 165 calories). Which is why many of us consume more calories on the days when we drink our meals instead of eating them.
The solution is simple, Dave. Drink more water. Among other things, water fills you up. Studies have also shown that people who drink at least 5 glasses of water a day were 41 percent less likely to die of a heart attack than those who drank 2 or fewer. More water translates into more fat burned.
So there you have it, folks. The question of the ages. Pepsi versus water. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know if I can give up my sacred Pepsi. But health wins out, truth by little truth. I really do want to detox from soft drinks even if that means some kicking and screaming along the way.
Sunday, August 23
10:02 AM So here's another "first" in my life. I've begun eating breakfast. Regularly. Up to this point my pattern has been to grab a cup of coffee and get right to work. It shocks me that my lifestyle was so stupid up to this point. Once again, I owe my body an apology. You see, skipping meals -- especially breakfast -- in order to limit calories is the number one reason why we can't achieve leanness and muscularity. Every time we miss a meal our blood sugar goes into the tank, increasing our hunger and cravings. The result is overeating later in the day and eating the wrong foods. When our body enters the starvation mode, our basal metabolic rate slows down. We want to avoid that.
Well, this morning I ate a superb breakfast. I decided that since I was able to conquer my Everest yesterday I deserved to be taken out to breakfast. So I got into the van and drove 45 minutes to South Hill, where Brian's Steakhouse awaited me.
You gotta love this place. Local farmers are greeted by name.
When a senior citizen walked in, she was greeted with "Hey, Miss Georgia, I'll have your coffee and water in just a minute." This is what I ate.
Well, most of it. I skipped the bread. While driving home I had a PTIC -- prayer time in car. My prayer list is full, a whirl of names and needs. Something inside me -- maybe it's hormones or the grace of God or something -- tells me that other people need my prayers. In many ways, praying is like waiting. Waiting, watching, and preparing. In other ways, it feels like you are helping someone lift a heavy burden. Thank God for the gift of prayer.
Thank you, Lord, for the things You teach us, the habits You redeem, the things You refuse to leave as they are. Thank you, God, for giving me a new perspective on something as mundane as breakfast. Thank you for listening to all those crazy requests for miracles I brought before You today while driving. There now, Lord, I feel much better. Thanks a lot, Dad! Dave
Saturday, August 22
6:45 PM Hey there. Got time for yet another boring update from yours truly? Well, here goes.
Since Becky's death I've had to make an investment in a "new self" as it were. I've had to struggle with such questions as, "Why am I here?" "What parts of me died with Becky and what parts didn't?" "What's the meaning of my new-found bachelorhood?" Thankfully, in the midst of all these questions (and many more like them) there has also been an amazing level of consistency -- my work, my family, my farm, my writing and publishing. But at times it felt like I was only going through the motions. I needed to find new passages to a new self. I needed new dreams.
Life offers us many new and rich and varied opportunities if we will only look for them. Since that fateful day in November of 2013, I've fought a battle against sameness. I needed to find new ways to make a difference in people's lives. I guess that's one reason I've enjoyed 5Ks so much. Or why I like going to the gym. My days are full of firsts again. It's like learning how to surf all over again, or learning Greek all over again, or riding horses all over again. I've also had more time for intimacy (with the Lord), exploring new ideas with my publishers, and trying out new foods. I can speak from personal experience when I say that growing older doesn't mean you have to slow down and stagnate. Even a 63-year old widower can sprout new foliage and choose a new direction.
What's more, I'm blessed beyond words because I don't have to worry about many of the things men of my age tend to worry about -- dating, loss of libido, a life filled with regrets. In a sense, in moving forward I've turned to the past -- witness my three trips to Hawaii since Becky died. Waking up morning after morning at Kailua Beach to squint at the endless horizon and the sun rising over the Mokulua Islands works wonders with a sagging spirit. Sitting for hours on a surfboard has given me time to decode the mindboggling changes I've experienced in my life. As always, my theologian brain tries to make sense of it all, remembering the words of Jorge Luis Borges, "While we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere. In this way every man is two men." You might say I've lived three times: my pre-Becky life, my with-Becky life, and now my post-Becky life. Becky and I weren't perfect, but we were perfect for each other. Oh, the happy memories! You see, friends, singleness has its own eroticism, for the erotic lies not only in the physical act but in the millions of memories you build in your mind, memories that converge into a giant waterfall deluging your thoughts with the preciousness of marriage and with the hope of seeing your loved one again in eternity.
Yes, I'm aging, but I'm also trying to outwit it. I'm writing a new map of my life, eager to travel the new passages the Lord has designed for me in His sovereignty and love, recognizing that each new change is a passport to renewal. For far too many men, their whole identity is tied up with the status they've achieved so far. That's not what I want. As far as I'm concerned, 60 is the new 40. I'm not ready to accept "old age." Where's the adventure in that? No, I've got too much tire tread left in this old bod of mine to coast through my 60s. 60 did you say? In my mind's eye I'm still that 19-year old who left Hawaii for Biola or that 26-year old who married a gorgeous Southern Belle in Dallas or that 31-year old who received his doctorate in Europe. The 20-somethings who left me in the dust during today's 5K in Cary ain't got nothin' on me. I've got more wisdom and I'm probably tons happier too. I can still manage to pump blood and oxygen around my circulatory system with the best of them. Sure, I've got my inner battles (as do you), but today I'm more comfortable with uncertainty and I feel far more diversified on the outside and far more unified on the inside.
The only thing I'm having difficulty understanding is why people like you would even be faintly interested in anything I say here at DBO. Maybe it's curiosity. Maybe you want to know what a major life-passage looks like. If so, that's normal and necessary. Glad I can be of service! But listen, folks, there are no rules for aging today. The answer to the manhood puzzle must come from within. If there is a key to successfully negotiating the aging process, it's to be self-directed but geared toward goals that are larger than yourself. Go where your spirit (and the Spirit) leads you. Stand apart from the crowd. Like William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart), be willing to risk your life for what you believe in.
At the same time, discover your nurturing side. You can't help everybody but you can help someone. Bottom line? To speak of aging as being "over the hill" is as absurd as it is destructive. God has a purpose for our lives regardless of our age. The greatest joy in life comes from seeking His will and then obeying it to the very best of our God-given ability.
"I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star," spoke Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "whose influence if I now court not, but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop." Friend, there is still time to redirect your life toward that Star, the Lord Jesus Christ. Health never lasts. But influence can outlast our mortality.
12:20 PM The race today was very well attended, which made me very happy because it was for such a good cause.
Here I am with Linda Plummer, the CEO of Birthchoice, which sponsored today's Run for Life.
In her pre-race speech Linda reminded everyone of an amazing statistic. She said that if a pregnant woman sees an ultrasound of her baby, she is 80 percent less likely to have an abortion. 80 percent! I praise God for the work Birthchoice is doing in "empowering women to make informed decisions." I hope they raised tons of funds today.
As I said before, the course was grueling. I woke up this morning feeling strong so I decided I would try and go all out and RUN the entire race, hills and all. And guess what? I did it! No walking. No jogging. All glory to God! Here I am not 5 minutes after I crossed the finished line.
I was super energized! That's what exercise will do for you, folks. The more you work out, the more energy you have. Sounds ironic but it's true. When I began "Operation Getfit" a few months ago at the urging of one of my daughters, I weighed 245 pounds. Today I stood on the scales and couldn't believe my eyes. I'm 214 pounds. And all of this without trying to lose weight. It's just the result of eating better and regular exercise. Several words come to mind: Motivation. Exhilaration. Improvement. Change. 5Ks are great motivators. They are excellent fitness boosters. When you're running, you really feel like you're competing. But perhaps the best thing about a 5K is that you can work up to it easily and quickly if you're disciplined. 5Ks are for everyone -- beginner or veteran, fast or slow. And they can fit into any training plan.
Can't wait to run my next race next Saturday, Lord willing. It's called "Run for Nepal" and it will provide desperately needed assistance for food, shelter, and funding to rebuild homes after the devastating Nepal earthquake this spring. You will recall that some 9,000 lives were lost and nearly 600,000 homes were destroyed at that time.
The race will start at 8:00 am at the Cedar Fork Community Center in Morrisville (near Cary). I ran this course several weeks ago and I can tell you that I am VERY thankful that the course is flat!
5:52 AM Off to the races. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!
Friday, August 21
5:42 PM So tomorrow is my seventh 5K run in as many weeks. It's the Raleigh Run for Life. (Memo to potential racers: This course is my Everest. It's wonky that I've decided to try and run it again. You're probably thinking I'm crazy. Duly noted.)
The course is a wild one. You finish and you'll get a fist bump for sure. I'm not expecting to make a very good time. But I'm determined to run my race as ably as possible. Doing 5Ks is so neat. It allows you to maintain the façade that you are cool and smart. Thank you, Cary, for giving people like me an excuse to dart around in circles until we're panting. I don't care a whit about winning my age group. But if you're 60 or older I'm warning you: I'm gonna have it in high gear. It's like, Christians were made to run, man (Heb. 12:1).
So let the whippersnappers duke it out for the honors. I'm just gonna smell the roses and enjoy myself. Probably about halfway through the race I'll ask myself, "What in the world do you think you're doing, you idiot?" There really is no answer to this question other than, "I have no idea."
This is going to be so fun.
4:38 PM These came today from Baker Academic -- 30 copies of my books (5 each).
I'm expecting to pass out a lot of free books this semester to the 110 Award recipients who get a perfect score on their exams.
4:32 PM While working around the house today I listened to my favorite songs of the 70s. Here's what my "top 20" play list looks like:
Comfortably Numb contains the world's greatest guitar solo. Ever. Period. End of discussion.
11:44 AM Today I finished limbing all the trees on the farm and bush hogging all the "whiskers" left over after haying. Now I can finally see the farm sign again. Hooray!
9:12 AM Travel note: In two weeks I'll leave for Pensacola, FL, to tape several interviews with Energion Publications. While there, I'll also be privileged to speak in the 9:00 am and 10:00 am services at Chumuckla Community Church on Sunday, Sept. 6. I had the joy of speaking there several years ago on a previous trip to Pensacola (thank you brother Tom!). For the church website, go here. Pensacola is an interesting place. I'm eager to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum as well as historic Fort Pickens. I love combining teaching and sightseeing.
8:26 AM Spending the morning working on family finances while listening to Pandora live stream Gregorian chants. How awesome is that?
8:14 AM Greek students, are you enjoying the ride yet?
Remember: Next week we'll have 10 extra credit points on our first quiz. Raise your hand if you're gonna try for a 110. Yay!
7:58 AM Like everyone else, I have pet peeves. For my whole Christian life I've listened to boring sermons. The speakers were obviously "pumping sunshine" (as we would say in California). I mean, like it was obvious. No depth. Same old same old. Nothing memorable. Last night I watched Donald Trump's New Hampshire speech and he nailed it when he said, "We ought to outlaw teleprompters" during campaign speeches. Like, I love this. I mean, We the People are obviously not stupid. We can tell if you know your subject. We can see whether or not you're really passionate about what you're saying or just reading a lecture someone else wrote for you. I'm about 100 percent positive that public speakers would make a 100 percent greater impact on their audiences if they simply got rid of their notes. Pay attention to the people you're trying to reach. Look them in the eye. "Read" their reactions. And do it authentically. You say, "How is that done?" Watch a good TED Talk and you'll see. Oh my, you will see. They are the most popular lectures on the web. They've been called "spectacles for smart people." Their motto is "Spreading ideas worth spreading." Which means, when you're done speaking, I want to feel a very strong felt need to share what I just heard with others. Their audiences are hooked. Speakers are "talking" -- not lecturing or scolding or shouting. Their content is great. The information is not coming from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of knowledge and expertise. TED Talks take the audience on a journey. I've enjoyed a good many excursions myself -- which is why I'm pretty much a hopeless TED Head.
When I was at Biola my CE prof once told me, "Dave, there are no boring teachers. If they're boring, they're not teachers." Ask yourself, "How can I inspire when I teach the word?" "What can I do to present the best and boldest ideas the Bible contains?" If you're familiar with TED Talks, then you're probably familiar with their Ten Commandments:
I'll add an eleventh if I may: Make your sermon relevant, interesting, enjoyable, and exegetically deep or don't waste our time. Give us a reason to focus. Give us something to chew on afterwards. Show us some passion (and compassion).
Thursday, August 20
7:20 PM Had dinner tonight with Nate, Jess, and the boys. Now I don't mean to sound biased, but my grandkids are so cute it hurts. Here's Peyton -- now weighing in at a whopping 11 pounds.
Of course, Nolan and Bradford wanted in on the photographic action.
Graham still thinks Papa B is a pretty cool gadget to play hide and seek with.
It was a delight to be with the family again.
I am blessed!
10:46 AM I just finished one of the best workouts at the Y that I've ever had. I am gradually making my muscles work harder than they are used to working. Today I reached a goal of 75 pounds for the bench press, which for me is an Olympian accomplishment. I'm also discovering that one of the most important factors in weight training is intensity. Raising the intensity of your workouts makes your muscles work harder. So my workout today was shorter but more intense than all of my previous workouts. Afterwards I walked/jogged 5Ks at the track. The one thing I am absolutely sure about is that I have weak knees. I've let them atrophy over the years simply by not using them (except while surfing and riding horses, but I've haven't ridden horses regularly in a while). Thus I am very very very gradually building up my strength in my knees. I am so excited because today I discovered a new way (at least new for me) of running. My form looks like I'm jogging but actually my feet barely leave the ground -- hence the absence of that "pounding" sensation one gets when one runs. And get this: whereas my walking pace is 14 minutes per mile, my new pace (using this "hybrid" walk-jog method) is 12.5. Man am I jazzed to say the least. I'll try this method out this Saturday at the Run for Life race in Cary and see if I can keep up that pace for the entire race. (Bummer: the venue is the same cross-country course that practically killed me a couple of weeks ago because of all the hills).
So what do I do now in terms of exercising? Two things:
1) Rest. In fact, I will do no exercising (whether weights or cardio) between now and Saturday. When you work out your body needs lots of time to recuperate and repair itself from your workout. In other words, non-training days are just as important as training days, if not more important. My current habit is to rest for at least 48 hours between workouts. "Rest is not idleness," said John Lubbock. He was right.
2) Eat properly. We are what we eat. What is proper nutrition? Don't ask me! I'm just a beginner. But I do know it's better to eat 4-6 small meals daily spaced every 2-3 hours apart than to pig out twice a day. One of my daughters reminded me yesterday to stop by the local farmer's market to buy fresh vegetables. Just now I had a small steak and some fresh corn. I also want to eat more apples, bananas, and melons. We'll see. I'm not very good at this bachelor thing yet and tend to be indifferent about meal preparation.
So where are you on this journey of getting fit? Find your own path. Don't dare be afraid to follow it. You don't need others to tell you that you need to get into shape or anything else in life. Listen to your heart (and conscience) and you won't go wrong.
7:38 AM My kids tell me I should eat healthier. Like this perhaps?
7:28 AM Sad news for anyone who travels: The 747 is flying into the sunset. The jumbo jet's first commercial flight was on January 22, 1970. For me, I recall boarding a 747 at Honolulu Airport in 1971 as I was leaving Hawaii to attend Biola. In those days the aircraft had a cozy lounge and plenty of leg room. The flight is still etched in my memory. The 747's normal capacity was 350-400 people but a single 747 once carried 1,087 Ethiopians to Israel in 1991. It's a beautiful machine, wouldn't you agree?
The good news? If you're an eccentric person they might sell you the frame as scrap metal. What a cool house that would make!
7:14 AM So you just started a Greek class this week. The day I began learning Greek was the day my life was changed forever. This will be a very exciting time for you. Yet one thing never changes: you will not learn Greek without mastering the fundamental basics you must know before you can begin using Greek in your ministries. So as you begin your lifelong pursuit of excellence in Greek, allow me to offer you a few words of encouragement:
1) Enjoy yourself and have fun. Enjoy our pace in class (one lesson per week). Enjoy your textbook. It's a book you'll keep for a very long time and something you'll refer back to again and again when you have questions or when you need motivation.
2) You can't build a house without a strong foundation. I'm talking about mastering each new lesson before you go on to the next one. Our textbook has 26 lessons, which means that we will cover 13 chapters each semester with ample time for review. I know it's a pace you can live with. So take the time to build a strong foundation. No exceptions to this! None!
3) Don't compare! Forget your image of the ideal Greek student. You are you. Do your best and work at your level of aptitude. Comparison is nothing but a recipe for frustration and unhappiness. But if you do your dead level best in the strength of the Lord, God will be pleased with you -- and so will your prof.
4) Finally, thank God for blessing your life with opportunities to study His word, including the original languages. I travel to many foreign countries where this is just not possible. Think of it this way: Greek gives you a toolbox with tools you'll need to transform yourself and unleash God's power inside of you. All you have to do is use them. There are so many works that are worth reading in Greek. I'll never forget my first encounter with Paul's letter to the Philippians in Greek. The beauty and precision of Paul's prose struck me as something valuable beyond words. It was like glimpsing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Another moment engrained in my mind was reading the church father Origen in Greek for the first time. I read Luther in German and Kuyper in Dutch and Collange in French and Calvin in Latin. Likewise, Greek works should be read in Greek if at all possible.
So welcome to Greek, my friend. You've arrived at a road in your life where incredible things are about to happen. May this class help you accomplish them!
Below: Yours truly when he took his first Greek class at Biola. And no, I did not Photoshop this picture.
Wednesday, August 19
4:42 PM Convocation was yesterday. It was great. Quite a crowd, eh?
I'm delighted with all three of my classes. My baby Greek sections got off to a superb start. That's because I have superb students. And last night, our Mark class went 20 minutes over time before anybody noticed. Too much fun! In the meantime I've had students stop by to pick up their free book for completing the "Five Minute Greek Club" this summer. Here's a couple of pix:
I'm so proud of these students. They would hate the tag, but they are great role models of what a good student of Greek should look like for all of us. As for me, last night I started reading Dave Croteau's latest book called Urban Legends of the New Testament. So far I love it.
I'm feeling great. I've faced down 63 candles on my birthday cake and am just now discovering that everything I knew about aging is false. My life has been far too sedentary, I've been indifferent about my diet, and I allowed myself to develop "love handles." In short, I had refused to take control of my body. Folks, fitness isn't automatic. You can't recoup your mistakes over the years but you can take control of your life. At the very least, I owe it to my children and grandchildren to stay in good shape as long as God allows me health and strength. Friend, even if you've never picked up a dumbbell in your life it's never too late to get started. I guarantee you'll feel and look 10 years younger. I'm learning this journey and you can too. I love being energetic and fit. Forget the past. Forget what you should or shouldn't have done. It doesn't matter one iota. Right now, today, you can get a fresh new start.
Tonight I'm devoting to grading student papers and scheduling a trip to Southern California. Then tomorrow (D.v.) it's back to the gym and the pool before cleaning up the farm with the bush hog. In keeping with my present obsession with all things Latin, I'm spending a lot of time reading the Vulgate and listening to Gregorian chants. I delight in the somewhat bizarre harmonies of this period of music. Which means you probably think I'm nuts to be spending so much of my time living in the 15th century. But I'm fine with that. How about you? Time, is it, for a little extravagant pleasure?
Blessings to ya'll!
Tuesday, August 18
6:34 AM To all of my students: Hope you score big this semester, to the glory of God!
6:30 AM "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." -- William Arthur Ward.
Monday, August 17
7:32 PM Becky's roses have come back! Yahoo! They remind me of my Rose of Texas!
5:44 PM Just published: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark: A Bibliography.
4:30 PM This morning I worked out and then swam laps. Afterwards, as I lazed at pool's edge, I thought to myself, "Maybe this is a good time to review Con Campbell's Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament.
Campbell's new book is a shameless plea for sanity. The author, a keen observer of all things Greekish, is writing for people who love New Testament Greek (as I do) and who are willing to change their minds (as I am). The book is a victory dance on the fresh graves of apathy and mindless rationalism. Here's a comment or two on each chapter:
Chapter 1 (A Short History of Greek Studies). The key word here is "short" but, happily, the author does give credit where credit is due. I am glad to see that A. T. Robertson's big grammar is given the praise it so rightly deserves. Indeed, "... Robertson handles Greek in a way that is not (on the whole) overturned by modern linguistic principles and methodology" (pp. 34-35). James Barr (The Semantics of Biblical Literature) exposed "problems" that "have taken decades to rectify within biblical studies." I could go on and on. For some reason the author failed to mention either of my "seminal" contributions during this period (Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek and Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation), but I forgive him for the oversights.
Chapter 2 (Linguistic Theories) is the best written chapter in the book and includes an excellent discussion of generative, functional, and systemic linguistics.
Chapter 3 (Lexical Semantics and Lexicography) largely repeats what Moisés Silva and I said in our books Biblical Words and Their Meaning and Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. The chapter includes an exceptionally clear and unambiguous discussion of ambiguity, including "intentional" ambiguity.
Chapter 4 (Deponency and the Middle Voice) -- did Dr. Campbell actually say the "d" word? -- is a very balanced discussion of a hotly debated topic. I'm glad the author agrees that Neva Miller "has provided a good starting point for improving our capacity with the middle voice" (p. 102). Indeed, my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek makes ample use of Neva's categories in my chapter on the middle voice.
Chapter 5 (Verbal Aspect and Aktionsart) is a highly technical chapter that concludes: "The issue of whether Greek verbs are tenses remains unresolved" (p. 130). Well, not in my mind!
Chapter 6 (Idiolect, Genre, and Register) breaks new ground. It was my favorite chapter in the book and a reminder that I need to be a lot more intentional in my classes to help my students discover and appreciate each New Testament author's style and diction.
Chapter 7 (Discourse Analysis I: Hallidayan Approaches) and Chapter 8 (Discourse Analysis: Levinsohn and Runge) are tedious but important. I have always found the best way of introducing students to discourse analysis is by providing them with an actual example (e.g., my Novum Testamentum essay, The Discourse Structure of Philippians: A Study in Textlinguistics).
Chapter 9 (Pronunciation) will bring you up to speed on yet another controversial topic. For me, pedagogy trumps all at this point -- hence my continued use of the Erasmian system. (When in Greece I use, of course, the modern pronunciation.)
Chapter 10 (Teaching and Learning Greek) is a reminder that teaching doesn't take place unless learning occurs, and perhaps no one is more qualified to issue this reminder than the author of Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People.
Campbell concludes, "The study of New Testament Greek is probably more exciting now than at any time since the discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri in 1897." The author may be forgiven his use of hyperbole -- he's a Greek prof after all -- but if Greek is not more exciting today than in yesteryears it is certainly more demanding, interesting, controversial, and relevant to a church that is rapidly losing its adherence to sola scriptura. We Greek teachers are indeed an interesting lot. We all love our "baby" so much we endure (it seems) endless controversy and debate ("discussion" is perhaps too polite a word to use in view of some of the SBL meetings I've attended). If I had edited this book, I might have written a note to the author along the lines of, "Hey, Con, I absolutely love your book! It's the best thing on Greek since Robertson published his Weightlifting 301 volume! But could you please make it a bit more readable, maybe even include a few dumb jokes and anecdotes just for fun -- you know, like that guy named Black did when he wrote It's Still Greek to Me?"
No worries, though, folks. You'll still learn tons from reading this excellent book. And when you're done reading it, pass it on to someone else who could use a refresher course in all things Greek.
7:08 AM Greek starts this week you say?
Well, it's really not as bad as that. Come to class tomorrow and see for yourself!
Sunday, August 16
5:50 PM Eagle versus drone. Guess who wins?
5:38 PM All I can promise you is this. Afterwards you'll be soaking wet and tired. But you'll have a huge smile on your face because you've helped out a very worthy cause.
So why not join me next Saturday -- all you "former" 5K racers? This is what community looks like. Acting out God's love for other people in tangible ways. Imagine that! By running a silly foot face we remind each other of who God is.
See you there, blokes and blokesses!
8:45 AM Good morning! In just two and a half weeks my travels pick up again. Between now and the end of the year, Lord willing, I'll be in Florida, Hawaii, New York, South Carolina, Asia, and Texas. I have to admit that I've always had what the Germans call Wanderlust. It's pretty easy to fall in love with Switzerland, but Switzerland was just the beginning for me. I love Vienna and London and Madrid and Athens and Odessa and Amsterdam. I love the dumplings of Shanghai and the rice pilaf of Bucharest and the injera b'wat of Addis and the dog meat of Seoul and the humus of Cairo and the pastries of Denmark. It's strange, this Wanderlust is, but I feel that I belong to the world as much as I belong to the U.S.
When I think of how God made us part of a world community, I think of the wonderful places I've been privileged to visit. Traveling has exposed me to many different peoples and cultures. They have taught me far more than I ever taught them, and the best thing they taught me is the permission to love other people with impartiality. Right now, with so many ethnic and racial tensions in the U.S., this feels like a rare gift I carry with me. The world we live in is sacred and beautiful but also fallen and ugly. But it's the only world we've got. I think traveling makes you believe in God because there's something just beyond understanding about the variety and freshness of different cultures that only God could be responsible for. His creativity is amazing. I am stunned by the beauty and the evil that is in this world, a world that one day will be made brand new. All of life is lived in the interim between creation and new creation, and if we're honest with ourselves we feel the ache that Paul describes in Romans 8. Thank God there's another reality, that there's a better world to come, that there's a world in which hope and change are real and eternal. I love this world. "Christians" are a dime a dozen, but lovers are harder to come by.
Are you a lover of the world for which Christ died? The transformation begins with us. The Donald Trumps of this world will not lead us into peace. The true peacemakers are those who follow the Prince of Peace and who whisper hope in the ears of hope-hungry people around the world. A hope-whisperer -- that's what I'd like to be known as while I enter old age. During even the darkest eras of human civilization there have been hope-whisperers. Everywhere I travel I meet them. Over and over again I meet people who no longer feel alone in their dreams for another world -- this "Godworld" I will be describing in my book by that title.
Do you think we could learn to love this world again?
P.S. This morning I received several pictures of the "Becky Black Building" in Bagdogra, India that many of you helped to fund. Here the students are lining up before school.
The principal addresses them at the start of each new day.
Your typical classroom.
"Your" building houses both the Hebron School and the North East Theological Seminary, which uses the facility in the afternoon. I'm told that the seminary currently has 80 students and the enrollment is constantly increasing. Praise God! If you'd like to teach a class there write me and let me know. As the Head of the church, Jesus invites us all to get involved in what He is doing in this old world. He died for us, and He doesn't want us to forget that act of pure love.
Saturday, August 15
7:24 PM Who needs TV when you've a got a dog.
7:14 PM Reading Greek in bed. Yes, I am officially a "lazy bum."
7:14 PM The HBU Theology Conference will be held in Houston Feb. 25-27. The theme is "Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus' Bible and the Impact of Scripture." For details go here.
12:25 PM Hey there folks! This morning I took a (much needed) break from working on my Mark class preparations to run my sixth 5K in as many weeks, this time just outside of Petersburg, VA. I had to get up at 5:00 am to make it work but it was for a very good cause. This is just a small part of the crowd that raced today in search of a cure for cancer.
And here I am just after crossing the finish line.
I'm smiling because I knew I had just topped my personal best race time in a 5K. As I drove home today I apologized to my body. "Body," I said, " I'm sorry for the millions of times I've abused you, stuffed you with all kinds of trash food, tried to hide you, and on occasion even hated you. Thank you for always wanting to look different and hanging in there until my delinquent brain finally got with the program. Thank you for carrying me through the race today and for all the races that are yet to come. I really do like you. Dave."
I'm going to spend the afternoon resting up and working on a book project. Not surprisingly, I'm a super huge fan of the Gospels and so I plan on spending lots of time this weekend in According to Mark. At the same time, I got Con Campbell's new book Advances in the Study of Greek in today's mail, and I'm eager to see what he has to say.
Friday, August 14
7:35 PM I think I may have finally discovered my favorite New Testament word for a "Christian." It's a term that's used in the New Testament as a synonym for commitment. The term is suzugos, which is usually rendered "yokefellow." It's found in Paul's description of one of his co-laborers and friends in Phil. 4:3. The allusion to Matt. 11:29 is obvious. Christ calls each of us to "Take My yoke upon you." Imagine an Amish farm for a moment. Look into the fields and there you will see an untrained horse hitched with an already well trained one. Or imagine a man on horseback. He has trained his animal to be praus -- another fantastic Greek term filled with theological implications. A horse that is praus ("meek") has been trained to work with humans. The horse retains all of its original wildness of course. We should never try to "break" horses of that. (I emphatically dislike the idea of "breaking" a horse.) I've owned and trained two horses -- a purebred Arabian and a Thoroughbred. I can guarantee you there was nothing weak or spiritless about them. They were tamed but not tame. Meek but not weak. Their power had simply been put into the service of their rider and friend.
As we will see in our Mark class this semester, meekness is a quality Jesus wishes to foster in us. Disciples of Christ do not lose their natural powers or prowess or interests or hobbies or aptitudes. These have, however, been put into service to Christ, even at the price of temporary inconvenience and perhaps even opposition. We know something important about this kind of meekness when we look at a New Testament man named Epaphroditus. That Epaphroditus should have "gambled" with his life for the sake of the Gospel is shocking to our generation because it goes directly against the grain of some of our most cherished ideas. Living a radical, scandalous life is expected for followers of Jesus. And I would add this: Theology that is not based on testimony is to be viewed with very great suspicion. It is one thing for us to hold our Bible conferences but it is quite another thing to back up our faith by serving in a soup kitchen or evangelizing a murderous tribe in Africa or giving away one's wealth without reservation. As I see it, this is the fundamental weakness of the modern evangelical church in North America. Attending church faithfully, participating in "worship," singing praise hymns -- if this is all we do, the result is bound to be superficiality. After all, when Jesus said He would build His church, He wasn't referring to a building. For Christ, worship was never a matter of place. Nor can it be for followers of Christ. Let those who malign the church ponder the book of Acts! The early Christians were known for certain marks. (I have recounted seven of them here.) They were not satisfied with observing the sacraments or exercising church discipline or conjuring up a thousand new "plans" for discipleship. Their strategy was simple: penetration. Their goal was to penetrate concentric circles to the farthest reaches of the world (Acts 1:8). The marks of a true church, contrary to many of our expectations and spurious publications, go far beyond mere theatergoing. As Christ envisaged it, the church is His body that He gave for the world. Of course, loyalty to Christ does not mean that we neglect the assembling of ourselves together. What we must always oppose is the idea that we gather for the gathering. Nope. Wrong again. We gather not for the gathering. We gather for the going.
Nothing could be more effective in the effort to discover "simple church" today than a serious acceptance of these marks of the early church. In the New Testament, Christ already has a plan worked out for His church. He knows the solution. He always does. What may seem impossible to us is possible with God.
7:48 AM What I'm clicking:
1) Stanley Hauerwas is interviewed about his new book The Work of Theology. My stars! So this is what retirement looks like? Not bad.
2) The top 10 cities in America with the most evangelicals.
3) McMaster University announces an opening in New Testament.
4) Surfing on fire.
5) Praying for Jimmy Carter.
Thursday, August 13
6:40 PM I'm so glad to be teaching an elective on one of the Gospels again this semester. Most of us are familiar with the Gospels. We're familiar with Jesus. But is it a love story?
I recall when I was dating Becky in college (yes, Josh Harris, I dated). One year I decided to take a semester off from Biola and go home and surf. Becky and I continued to correspond with each other by letter. Mostly we talked about superficial things. I usually signed my letters, "Regards, Dave." Later on, after I had returned to Biola, things began to change. I started to send her cards on special occasions. And one day I noticed that my "Regards, Dave" had become "Love, Dave." There was no doubt about it. I was in love with Becky Lynn Lapsley. The change was total and radical.
This semester I'm teaching three classes. Each of them has something to do with Greek -- but only tangentially. Should any of my students have a strictly long-distance relationship with Jesus, I'm hoping all that will change this school year, totally and radically. It's not that our relationship with the Lord will always be sunshine and roses. Some days I feel acutely, voraciously in love with Him. I feel more sensitive to His person, find it easy to talk with Him. I find myself moving toward -- rather than away from -- the relationship. Yet even on the best of days I know that my relationship with Christ isn't what it's supposed to be. The apostle John once leaned his head on Jesus' chest. That word picture shocks me. Jesus and John, sharing an audible heartbeat. These days I'm realizing that neither trust nor obedience is simple. Some days I'm filled with restlessness and anxiety. Now, especially with Becky gone, I want to live out this season of life with my whole heart and mind. I keep thinking of how Jesus "set His eyes toward Jerusalem." Jesus knew what He could expect when He got there, but He went forward to meet it anyway. I love life. But to be honest, sometimes I fear the future. Will my health fail me? Will I become too old to travel? Will I experience rejection by those I love? What will my children remember about me when I'm gone? Grief still ebbs and flows. Sometimes I weather it. More than anything, I think it's love that keeps me going.
Whatever you're facing today, friend, let love detoxify it. You can't simply drive grief and pain away. It is something that has to be borne and released as soon as possible. What helps me the most, when I can do it, is to simply relax on Jesus' chest and relinquish everything to Him. The words "I love You" tend to come more easily during those moments of intimacy. Tonight, my prayer for myself, for my students this semester, and for you is that you may know yourself to be the object of Jesus' unconditional love, and might hear His heart beating close to yours as you lay your weary head on Him.
4:58 PM Right now I'm writing a pop quiz for Tuesday's Mark class. It won't count for a grade. Instead, the person with the highest score will receive a free book. I kinda like that.
4:42 PM As I finished my 5K this morning, my Map Your Run app brought up this outrageously silly add:
Surf Huntington Beach.
Discover why Huntington Beach is called the "Center of the Surf Universe."
Balderdash! I lived in La Mirada, CA for 27 years and I can tell you with complete objectivity that this is the zaniest thing I've ever read. I've surfed Huntington a zillion times and I've surfed Sunset Beach a zillion times and there's no comparison folks because it's all contrast.
California versus Hawaii? You've got to be kidding. That's like preferring Coke over Pepsi. Or Star Trek over Star Wars. Or Microsoft over Apple. Or saying that cats are better than dogs. Man, everyone knows that the world's best surf towns are all on Oahu: Ala Moana, Diamond Head, Queens, Makaha, Haleiwa, Sunset, Pupukea (my favorite), Waimea Bay, Pipeline, Velzeyland, Kailua, Makapuu, Sandy Beach. Like totally, dude. The problem with Hawaii is that the cost of living is absurd and if you work for a living you'll have very little time to surf. If I lived there again, after about three weeks I'd begin to hate it because by then I'd have to get three jobs to pay for my $750,000 studio apartment in Kailua. But then again, you can always do what I do: Take a surfing vacation there every year and get it out of your system all in one fell swoop.
Huntington better than Hawaii? Huntington the "Center of the Surf Universe"? Even the thought of it is enough to drive a person nuts.
3:34 PM As you would expect from someone who uncompromisingly keeps his word, I've just changed my mind again. I told you I wouldn't be doing a 5K this weekend but I found a race in Colonial Heights, VA, that's only an hour and a half away from the farm. It's called Race for the Cause 5K and it only makes sense that I would want to participate in it since all of the proceeds go to cancer education, detection, and treatment. How cool is that? Here I am just before last week's race in Cary got started.
Man was I pumped. (I won't show you the "after" picture.) Later on I reflected on 5Ks and jotted down some of the zany ideas that go through your mind during a race.
1) Did I remember to lock the car?
2) Relax, Dave!
3) Push harder, you old duffer!
4) Man, I feel great.
5) Man, I feel terrible.
6) Why does Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" keep playing in my mind?
7) Oh oh, I think I drank too much coffee this morning.
8) So that's why they say to stretch first.
9) Since when did a kilometer get so long?
10) Water. Pleeeease!
11) Never again! (Until next Saturday, that is).
Say, if you live in the greater Richmond-Petersburg area come on out and join us on Saturday. Race kicks off at 8:00.
7:34 AM This is interesting. Just accepted an invitation to speak at a hunter's "Wild Game Dinner" in South Carolina in November and I don't hunt. But I do know what a wild turkey looks like. Does that count?
Wednesday, August 12
6:32 PM My emails and texts and phone haven't stopped since about noon. Each a different request or need or question or report of suffering and pain. So much to pray for today. Let's call a spade a spade. The Christian life is tough. Yet Paul's "If God is for us, who can be against us?" stands as an everlasting rebuke to us. There can be no higher assurance than that. Lean, weary one, upon His breast. Prayers with all of you who wrote.
11:12 AM I want to talk to you for a minute about three words: Motivation, Commitment, and Enjoyment. But before I start ....
Everyone knows I think I've got the best job in the world. Not having studied at all in high school, God mercifully intervened in my academic life and now I get to give lectures and write books and teach classes and speak in chapel services and talk in churches and travel the world. I even get paid for it. Education is, for me, a way of life. How about you? What is a "way of life" for you? What is something in your life you are motivated to do, committed to performing with excellence, and are enjoying beyond practically anything else?
I've had several of these "passions" in my 63 years on this earth. Surfing was one of them. It still is. Greek is another (you knew I'd say that). Some of you have taken Greek but hardly use it all. You probably lack one (or more) of three things: motivation, commitment, and enjoyment. I love Greek. I can't stand to be a day away from my Greek New Testament. I know a few of you who feel the same way. I visit an online chat group fairly regularly. They call themselves "The Seven Minute Greek Club." They read and translate two verses every day from their Greek New Testaments and then hold each other accountable. It's so funny -- everyone seems to want to be the first one to say "Done!" What passion!
My latest passion, as you know, is physical fitness. Really, it's become a way of life. I work out 6 days a week. Today, along with my friends Abraham, Colin, Ken, and Chris, I lifted weights for an hour at the Y.
Then I did a 5K walk at the local high school track.
Normally I lift 3 days a week and walk 3 days a week -- including a Saturday 5K. I'm taking this Saturday off simply because there aren't any 5Ks being run in the Raleigh area this weekend. But the following weekend (Aug. 22) is already on my calendar: the 21st Annual Run for Life in Cary. What a great cause for sure. You might say I'm motivated, I'm committed, and I enjoy what I do. So, whether you are trying to get (back) into shape or trying to learn a foreign language like Greek, you need three things: motivation, commitment, and enjoyment. I have plenty of friends who want to lose their belly. They are motivated but lack commitment. Commitment, to me, boils down to two things: self-discipline, and time management skills. You may want to get into shape but you lack either the discipline to do it or you fail to manage your time in such a way as to make it happen. Then again, I know plenty of pastors who were motivated to study Greek and who you might say are even committed to a knowledge of the language, but who (frankly) don't enjoy it. I don't blame them at all for not keeping up with their Greek. I don't do things I don't enjoy either.
"Okay, wait" (you say, with eyes rolling). "If I don't have motivation, commitment, or enjoyment, how do I get them?" That's the easy part. You ask God for them. It's as simple as that. Everything that comes to us in the Christian life comes to us in the name of grace and not works. So let's say you lack wisdom about a decision you need to make. Whatcha gonna do? Ask God of course (James 1:5)! You don't love your wife as you know you should? Ask God to give you the love you need. You're lousy at time management (like me). It's a discipline that God can and will give you. Getting into shape is as shocking as it is thrilling to me. I feel better and more energetic right now than I did before I worked out this morning. Life for a 63-year old can be physically demanding, but there's really no excuse for not helping the old bod out so that it can function like it's supposed to function. Today I get the same pleasure by working out as I used to get by opening a huge bag of Doritos. Our bodies are like clay in our hands. I can't blame anyone but myself for being out of shape.
So ... there's motivation, commitment, and don't forget the third factor: enjoyment. Jesus may be invisible, but evidences of His greatness are everywhere. When you needed salvation, He was there. When you needed healing, He was there. When you needed to do the impossible, He was there. If you need anything today, He is still there. Is there anything more we could ask for in life?
Take good care,
6:35 AM What do you do when you make a mistake? You correct it.
Newspaper editors aren't the only ones who need to make course corrections from time to time. Let's face it, ordinary men and women like John Mark, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Bartholomew, Euodia, Phoebe, and Syntyche would feel out of place in today's church. The church of the first century church had no superstars. What it did have were ordinary men and women who were used by the Spirit according to their gifts. In an article published on Monday called All Hands on Deck, David Platt makes a similar point:
Platt's point? It's time to go back to the New Testament to find a biblical concept of the church compatible with the new stirrings of the Spirit in our day. Praise God for the well-known leaders of Christianity we have today! But the church can't operate on the strength of the few. I'm praying that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up ministers and missionaries in every congregation, each going about his or her own proper function in the body. But for this to happen, our churches must provide structures and platforms that are sufficiently informal to permit freedom of the Spirit. We must foster conditions in our churches in which every-member ministry is not just talked about but practiced. Let it begin with our elders. Why can't they be home-grown? To incarnate the mind of Christ in our churches, as David Platt is suggesting, will require some clear thinking about local church eldership and some rethinking of the whole matter of spiritual gifts. Every true member of the local church is a minister of the Gospel in the fullest sense of the word. And when the gifts of all are affirmed under the leadership of the Spirit, we can be sure that God will give to each local church the gifts necessary for its own upbuilding.
"All hands on deck!" writes Platt. "This is God’s design for His Church. Disciples of Jesus must not settle for anything less. Your life on mission really does matter." As I've said before (The Future of Southern Baptist Missions), it's time to stop outsourcing missions to professionals. That method is simply not getting the job done. Thankfully, it's never too late for a course correction.
Tuesday, August 11
5:52 PM FYI: The Spring 2015 issue of the Journal of Baptist Theology and Ministry has some excellent articles and book reviews. (Thanks to Jacob Cerone for the link.)
5:44 PM I have my moments when, frankly, God startles me. We just had a huge downpour. It was a deep, soaking rain. I say I'm "startled" because we just fertilized all the fields hoping for a good rain today. It could have been sunny all day. Instead, God's grandeur was funneled into the plain package of an ordinary rain storm. God is so like that. He delights to reveal Himself in normal-sized glimpses. Aren't you glad?
God in heaven, You are my life, the source of all adventure. Thank You for opening the clouds of heaven on my behalf. You once said, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" I've been pretty good lately at not trusting You very well. But in these rain drops I'm reminded again that I am being met and reassured by Your love, that I don't travel this lonely path alone, and that I can dwell in Your presence with complete trust. Thank You. Dave
4:48 PM The final day of our 2015 faculty workshop is now history. Lots of good stuff today. Heath Thomas, for example, spoke on the topic of "Effective Doctoral Supervision."
It was classic Thomas. I jotted down plenty of takeaways, such as :
I couldn't agree more! My heartfelt thanks to Danny Akin and Bruce Ashford for putting together such an outstanding workshop. I'd blog some more but I've got the kitchen to clean and my clothes to wash and dry. A bachelor's work is never done I guess. But one thing I will say: As clowns yearn to play Hamlet, so I love to teach.
Stay centered in Christ's peace,
Monday, August 10
5:50 PM Another great faculty workshop. Here Ken Coley is leading us. I love my faculty colleagues -- all 70 of them!
5:58 AM "I am not a teacher, but an awakener." ― Robert Frost
5:54 AM Mother Theresa:
5:48 AM Read Ten Best Books for Studying New Testament Greek.
Sunday, August 9
8:18 PM I hope every student of mine will read this essay by Roger Olson: Whatever Happened to the Christian Mind? People speak of the "gift" of learning, and now I think I know why. I want to learn to accept that gift, improve upon it, never let it languish because I've "arrived" as a scholar in my field. Never! But how to turn things around? For most would agree that our educational system is broken. We may have degrees, but have we learned anything? Especially to think for ourselves? Writes Olson:
I remember my last trip to Hawaii. I was at church on Sunday morning when the pastor told me about the Lay Bible Institute they had begun in order to disciple the believers in their community. I'll be teaching there, Lord willing, this October. I want you to know how much I cherish this task, this privilege of teaching a class to Islanders whose access to any form of higher Christian education is extremely limited. Dig out your high school yearbook sometime today and ask yourself, "Who were the teachers that had the greatest influence on me?" In my high school yearbook I can think of two -- only two -- but they made all the difference in my life and future trajectory. Their classes stretched my mind, and I soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Such simple things are the very things that matter to educators ... and make a good teacher stand out from the crowd. You want extravagance? I'll give you extravagance. Walk into a classroom that is alive with learning. Inhale deeply the fragrance of thoughts and wisdom. A good classroom can be a place where time intersects eternity, where God bridges heaven and earth. There is nothing like it in the world.
Olson concludes his post with these words:
Of course, Olson asks much of his readers. But so does the Gospel. Christianity is not an anti-intellectual faith. Quite the contrary. Or so I was told by Francis Schaeffer when I heard him speak in Switzerland. Or by Markus Barth in his Basel seminars. Or by Harry Sturz in his Greek classes at Biola. I just thank God that each of us, regardless of the world's standards, stand equal before Him. He has given each of us a mind, and soon, perhaps very soon, we will all be asked to give an account for our use of it.
7:28 PM The faculty workshop this week focuses on pedagogy. I am looking forward to learning a lot. My favorite approach to teaching is called the maieutic method (deriving from the Greek adjective maieutikos, from maieuesthai, "to act as a midwife"). I loved learning from this method when I was in seminary (though not many teachers used it). It is unique in that (1) it is based on asking and answering questions, and (2) it often involves discussions in which the consensus opinio is challenged, and (3) it seeks to determine truth by a method of hypothesis elimination. The goal is to have participants working together to arrive at an answer. I was taught this method by the great and good Dr. Bill Bynum, who headed Biola University's education department for many years. Unfortunately, today many educators assume that there is only one way to learn, and that is through the lecture method. My preference is to have the students read the material (in a book or online) beforehand to free up valuable class time for discussion. My role as an educator is solely to coach the learners. This is true even in my beginning Greek classes. My primary goal there is not to disseminate information (which can be acquired in one fourth the time by reading the textbook) but to remove distractions, overcome fears, and set the scene for self-learning through motivating my students. I am a teacher at heart, yet if I care about teaching I must care not only about my subject but also about the best conditions in which my students can learn. Underlying all teaching is an aspiration towards self-learning.
At any rate, lots to learn. Eager to hear from my colleagues. More tomorrow.
2:56 PM What are these animals thinking?
2:42 PM Our message this morning was on marriage from Ephesians 5. It forced me to ponder yet again the magnificent mystery of marriage -- the love, the leadership, the submission, the intimacy, the vows, the sex, the death to self it requires, even the goofiness.
I was married once. Our marriage was a love song filled with ugly warts and indescribable delight and unspeakable pain and majestic awe. I can't verbalize it but Paul sure can. Check this out (The Message):
What a perceptive, insightful, witty, beautiful translation! Years ago in my Greek New Testament I jotted down this line from one of I. Howard Marshall's essays:
This is so right on! The wife is to submit herself to her husband (note, gentlemen, the middle voice here: the husband is never commanded to place his wife in submission to him; it is her decision). For his part, the husband loves his wife and does nothing considered to be harsh, which means at least that he will not make decisions that cause her pain or grief or bitterness (see Col. 3:19!) unless there is mutual agreement between them. Listen again to Paul:
In other words, we husbands are to treat our wives just like we treat our own bodies: with great care. Paul says that the husband "feeds and pampers" his body. That is, he is concerned about proper nutrition and nourishment and resists the temptation to be constantly stuffing junk food into his mouth. Paul also says that the husband "pampers" his body -- an unfortunate mistranslation, in my view. The Greek here simply implies that he takes very good and proper care of his body. He keeps himself in good physical condition. He is "fit." (By the way, that's why I would find it so difficult to give a message about marriage if I did not take care of my own body. We Baptists are the worst!) At any rate, I love Ephesians 5. What a script! What lessons! Jill Briscoe once said that she and Stuart were incompatible. "And we live with incompatible children and an incompatible dog and an incompatible cat." Her point? We all need lots of grace to make a marriage work. But God is anxious to supply us with endless grace -- if we are willing to receive it.
So, bride of Christ. Got a question for ya. Are you being submissive to your loving Head? The church always faces the danger of being polluted by the thinking of the world. It then begins to choose unbiblical traditions over Scripture. It does things for the sake of expedience and convenience rather than because it's right. But whenever a church takes this daring step of disobedience there is always a risk and there's always a high price to pay.
Are we as congregations submissive to Christ?
That is the question.
That is the only relevant question.
2:08 PM A blogger lists the 25 books he wants in his library (and, by implication, the 25 books you should have in your library, including two of his). Not that it matters much, but here are my recommendations for elders/pastors (assuming we are not talking about e-resources):
1) A Greek New Testament.
2) A Hebrew Old Testament.
3) A Greek Old Testament.
4) A Hebrew New Testament (I have two versions).
5) A concordance to the Greek New Testament.
6) A concordance to the Hebrew Old Testament.
7) A concordance to the Septuagint.
8) A good beginning Greek grammar (notice I said "good" -- wink wink).
9) A beginning Hebrew grammar.
10) An intermediate Greek grammar.
11) An intermediate Hebrew grammar.
12) A primer on New Testament textual criticism (I like Metzger's the best).
13) A primer on Old Testament textual criticism (I prefer Brotzman's).
14) An English Bible.
15) A standard New Testament lexicon (such as Bauer).
16) A theological dictionary (I prefer Brown's New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology to Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament).
17) Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.
18) Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels.
19) The Anchor Bible Dictionary.
20) Hendriksen's New Testament Commentaries.
21) Stuart's Old Testament Exegesis.
22) Fee's New Testament Exegesis.
23) Beale's Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.
24) Harris' Prepositions and Theology in the New Testament.
25) Silva's Biblical Words and Their Meaning.
Notice that (1) I did not include any of my own books (I am so humble!), (2) I am a firm believer in ad fontes, and (3) no list like this one can ever be considered exhaustive.
6:42 AM It has been a great time of prayer thus far. The other day I mentioned that Christians are in an armed struggle against the world system, our "arms" being completely spiritual in nature. According to Eph. 6:18-20 they consist only of (1) prayer and (2) our participation in spreading the Gospel of peace. In particular, Paul emphasizes "praying in the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). Prayer is the ultimate (and only) antidote for anxiety (Phil. 4:6). In every situation we are to make our requests known to God. This involves any number of "acts" of prayer: adoration, confession, petition, requests, entreaties, intercessions, thanksgivings, and general communing with God. If there are to be any specific, definite requests, these must all be first prompted by the Spirit. Hence "praying in the Spirit" means, for me at least, a willingness to be silent before the Lord and allow Him to lead me every step of the way in my prayer time. In Paul, prayer is always linked with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 6:18). Moreover, prayer is always linked with the presumption that our Heavenly Father is eager to give to His children good gifts/the Spirit (Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 11:11-13).
The simple fact is that we can (and should) pray anytime and anywhere. But if we are to set aside a separate season for prayer, let it be prayer in the Spirit. We deceive ourselves if we think we can pray as we ought or if we claim to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes: the word. Hence, whenever I set aside a special time for prayer I always have three items at hand: my Bible, my notepad, and my iPhone. As Scripture brings to mind a need -- whether confession, worship, petition -- I respond. The notepad is necessary because I tend to forget the lessons the Lord is teaching me unless I write them down. Finally, the iPhone is there should the Lord impress upon me the need to share a word of edification, encouragement, or consolation with another. I sent out several such texts last night.
Prayer, then, is first and foremost listening to God. It is allowing the Spirit to direct your thoughts. Praying in the Spirit is when prayer stops being a do-it-yourself activity. Ultimately, then, prayer is an inter-Trinitarian process: God speaking to God through us (read Rom. 8:26-27). If I don't know what to pray for people whom I haven't heard from in a while, I will often use the prayers of the New Testament, such as Eph. 3:17-18 or Col. 1:11. In recent months I've been thinking about prayer as a calling to share the pain that others are experiencing. We who have experienced deep loss share something with each other that others just don't have. Even as we grieve, others are grieving. During my times of prayer I want to find ways to reach out to these fellow-sufferers and give them a word of encouragement. It's the least I can offer. I don't pray that God would take away their pain necessarily. I pray that God would help them welcome each day that He gives them. Sometimes, like last night, I simply weep for (and with) them. I don't like to cry, but the gift of tears has become a very special gift to me. Tears are our "Yes" to God's will. They stretch our faith and wash away our denial and resistance. Through my tears I have a chance to reach a new level of honesty with God. In fact, my entire body -- tear ducts included -- was given to me as a gift and an instrument of grace.
Are our prayers effective? I have every confidence that God hears the groans of His children. "Do not be afraid," say the angels of Scripture over and over again. And I'm not. Not when I have a Daddy like the One I've got.
Saturday, August 8
6:16 PM Today and tomorrow I'm taking a personal prayer retreat to focus on five areas:
Open my heart, O Lord, as I meet with You these days. May You know Yourself to be the object of my everlasting love. Deepen my hunger for the spiritual food of Your word, and help all I know to keep listening, wondering, and opening their hearts and minds to what You are seeking to teach them. Author of salvation, keep SEBTS a Great Commission seminary. I also pray for Your body that is suffering. I ask for patience and faith and trust in this trying time. May they rest in Your great love. Amen.
12:18 PM Making decisions has never been very easy for me. But the decision to participate in 5K races was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. Today's race was no exception, though it was very grueling. The race was called the "Bella Rose Strides for Babies" 5K and was sponsored by the Carolina Family and Sports Medicine in Cary, NC. The race is named in honor of Bella Rose who passed away four years ago from SIDS. Here I am with Bella's precious parents and sister.
I shudder to think what they've gone through these past four years but I was glad I could help their cause today. I suppose whenever you experience loss you want to make sense out of it. You at least want to leverage it for a greater good if you possibly can. I'm glad Bella's mom and dad decided to take their cause public. I expect to be back next year in even better shape Lord willing.
Today, as you know, I was committed to running or jogging -- not walking -- the entire race, which I barely managed. It was a very rugged course and I wasn't expecting so many hills. The downhill sections were great, but the uphill sections were torturous, and at times my pace was reduced almost to a walk (think: jogging in place!). Still, I was pleased with my overall time and pace.
In the end, of course, none of this matters in the least. What matters is the cause and the people and the fellowship. For a brief moment in time a sudden, faraway picture clouded my eyes, and it wasn't an innocent baby I was thinking of, but Becky. Maybe, just maybe, I would have made her proud today.
This award is for you, Bella and Becky.
Friday, August 7
6:08 PM James Horner's magnificent "Take Her to the Sea." Speakers up!
11:24 AM It's been 38 years since I began teaching Greek and I find it really hard to believe that things kick off again next Monday with our faculty workshop. It is an undeniable fact that I am the most blessed man on planet Earth. I am grateful beyond words for the privilege of teaching at SEBTS amidst such great administrators, students, and colleagues, one of whom will be sorely missed as he takes a deanship at Oklahoma Baptist University. Heath, I've enjoyed the years we've known each other and though I'm sorry to see you go I have no doubt God will use you mightily in your new post at one of North America's great Christian liberal arts universities. Folks, whenever I speak with potential Ph.D. students I ask them if they would ever consider earning their degree abroad. I often bring up the name of Heath Thomas as a scholar whose academic pilgrimage I find to be both interesting and inspirational. If you're interested, you can read all about it in an interview I did with Heath several years ago when his book on Lamentations had just come out. At any rate, wishing you the best, Heath, as you begin this new chapter in your academic life.
So it's back to school for me and I feel as happy as this sweet little Sheltie:
10:58 AM Showed up an hour early for my oil change and they took me right in. Love country living.
8:18 AM Hello thoughtful internet friends. Well, I'll just start by saying I thought the so-called "debate" was completely underwhelming, all the way from the predictable one-liners to the gotcha questions. I suspect, though, that many Christians were happy to hear that all God's candidates are Republicans. Actually, the movement Jesus came to establish can't be identified with any religious or political party. We who have pledged our lives to follow Jesus are called to mimic His love to all others, including our political enemies. We're not called to pretend we have any superior wisdom when it comes to politics. As understandable as it is to get angry about Planned Parenthood, I honestly think it's a mistake to point our finger at government while we as the church are so eager to relinquish our responsibility for caring for the poor to Big Brother. I would add that I think inviting political disagreements into our fellowships is a certain recipe for disaster. This doesn't mean that I or anyone else can't pass judgment on this or that politician's views. But neither can I with integrity claim to be able to reconcile worldly politics with the teachings of the New Testament. Kingdom people should remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the forces of evil in the heavenly places. We are not called to fight this battle "as the world does" or "with the weapons of the world" (2 Cor. 10:3-4) but rather by manifesting the beauty of God's saving design for humanity.
Okay, that's about it for the "debate." I wish all of the candidates the best with their campaigns and encourage those of us who are interested in debating their policies to be respectful and informed. In the meantime, the world is being held hostage to cosmic forces but thankfully this situation will not last forever. I think we would all agree that commitment is of the first importance, but there may be many different objects of our commitment. Millions today are committed to politics whether Democrat or Republican. Other thousands today are committed to killing in the name of religion. Christians have no monopoly on commitment. We simply have chosen a different object. A Christian is one who follows Jesus in lowly obedience and who imitates God as He is revealed in Christ (Eph. 5:1-2). Once we have made this primary commitment, the Voice of Christ will be heard above all of the confusing and self-contradictory voices heard in the world. An example of this may well be the full out testimony to the power of the Gospel in one's life and family as we heard last night in one of the candidate's responses.
Thursday, August 6
7:50 PM This amazing storm video will blow you away.
5:28 PM "We're gonna have a good time tonight." In less than 4 hours it will be 9:00 pm and time to PARTY!!! Go here to watch live.
11:55 AM Hey all of you runners out there! What's a good split time for a 5K for a 63-year old male who is in good physical condition but whose knees are a little bit on the weak side? Being a swimmer, I'm big into splits. My average walking pace is 14 minutes per mile. That's without straining too much (I'm tall). Do you think a 10 minute per mile jogging pace is unrealistic for me? I've jogged a little in all of my races thus far. Last week I jogged the last half of the 5K and felt really great afterwards with no resultant knee pain or discomfort at all. Are even splits the best way to go during the race? Any other advice for a novice? I'd really like to see if I can finish under 30 minutes but won't push myself to do it if it means injury. Thanks!
FYI: My last four races were:
Barefoot for Kelly:
Run with Heart 5K:
Java Jive 5K:
11:30 AM Last day of training before Saturday's race. Wish me well!
9:10 AM Jon Stewart bemoans the futility of his 16-year run as host of The Daily Show. "The world is demonstrably worse than when I started. Have I caused this?"
If you will, here's my take. We are a living at the close of one age and the beginning of another. It is a momentous hour in world history. The tragedy of our times is that we are failing to get to the bottom of our troubles. Nothing is so popular today as the intoxications of Satan. The unregenerate try to remedy the condition with temporary palliatives such as comedy and entertainment. It's like trying to cure cancer with an aspirin pill. Even in the church, modern religious fads such as the prosperity gospel only further the deception. In his final show tonight, Jon Stewart wants to come across as the neurotic pessimist whose "rousements" sadly failed to improve our lot as human beings. He is unaware that God has provided a true stimulant. All the well-meaning comedians in the world cannot make us equal to the opportunity. Sin is our problem, and nothing less than the divine cure will alleviate it. There can be no revival in the land until we turn from amusement to amazement. We will first have to ask in wonder, "What must I do to be saved?" Chase fleeting fame and you have your momentary reward. Just ask Johnny Carson or Jay Leno or, now, Jon Stewart. If you want to outlive yourself, you must first come to Christ. Dead with Him, you live to walk in newness of life. There is no other way.
Stewart ends his show on a depressing note. As the studio goes dark, he will pick up a skull and, in his best Hamlet voice, ask, "Hath my efforts all be for naught?" It is our task as Christians to answer this question. We must think critically about culture and about the world views our kids are formulating by watching TV. "If anyone is thirsty, let them come to Me and drink," says Jesus. Not only is Jesus the cure to our spiritual cancer, He transforms us into people with living water flowing in our innermost beings. As individuals, this is the only way forward. Even as churches and congregations, the solution is no different. Might I suggest that the next time your church has a business meeting someone make the following motion: "I move that we call as our senior pastor Jesus Christ." Folks, we need Someone greater than ourselves to forge a new sense of unity in our midst. Robert's Rules of Order will not cut it. Until that happens -- until Jesus Christ is given His rightful place as Head of the church, the only Senior Pastor, He will not have preeminence in all things (Col. 1:18). Until then, our religious enthusiasms will only exhaust us more.
This morning I was trying to envision God on His heavenly throne. What is He thinking about all this? Is He laughing? Is He weeping? "It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live," said Nicholas Wolterstorff. "I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it means that no one could see his sorrow and live." When Jesus arrived at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, John records that He "burst into tears" (John 11:35, ISV). There are indeed serious implications in evil's advance in our day and in our nation. "A sword, a sword is sharpened. Should we then make mirth?" (Ezek. 21:9). Yet there is hope. Jesus can breathe life into death. And the good news is that He is yet willing to do so.
8:02 AM Quote of the day:
Wednesday, August 5
12:12 PM While working out today at the gym, my mind was fixated on the Christology of Mark's Gospel. In 1950 Oscar Cullmann published his now famous Christ and Time in which he argued that the New Testament is primarily interested in "functional Christology" rather than mere abstract ideas. I can recall discussing this perspective with Professor Cullmann many times in his apartment in Basel in the early 1980s. He was then in retirement but always seemed to find time to open his home to fledgling scholars. I came away from these discussions with the firm conviction that New Testament theology must be done from a starting point that is biblical-historical in orientation. For all the diversity in the New Testament writings, there remains a genuine unity about the person and work of Christ. Jesus' mission of salvation involves His incarnation, humiliation, and death. He is the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies ... and bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus was fully conscious of this mission, too. He knew Himself to be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and His earthly career focused dramatically on His fateful "hour." Good shepherds don't merely lead sheep. They die for them. Thus, in According to Mark, suffering is the normal experience for Christians because for them the world is an utterly alien place. But with the suffering comes blessing, particularly the blessing of bearing up under suffering with patience and steadfastness. If I might make a practical application for today, Christian living is not so much the condemning of the world as it is living lives of goodness and kindness in contrast to pagan sinfulness. It is our "good works" (the Greek can also be rendered "attractive works") that are a witness to unbelievers of Christ's love for them. Such love toward the enemies of God frustrates their hostility and even possibly wins them to the Savior.
Hence we find in According to Mark an explication of the theology of discipleship. The point is that Jesus' followers have a duty to display to an evil world the value of the kingdom of God. Many scholars see in Mark an excellent example of a primitive Christian theology, recognizing strict parallels between According to Mark and Peter's sermons in Acts. Thus Peter, like Jesus, desires his readers to face persecution and suffering not with stoic pessimism but rather with rejoicing -- a response that proves the validity and reality of the Christian faith.
Folks, Greek exegesis has everything to do with discipleship, because the kind of student of the Scripture that I am determines the kind of person that I am, the kind of father that I am, the kind of missionary that I am, etc. So my work in this Mark class is so much more than Greek. My work is to present my students to Jesus as single-minded disciples who are fully committed to living out their mission. My job is to send my students into this world as disciples who will contend for God's glory because they understand what their mission is.
How exciting is that?
11:50 AM This morning I forget to mention that my book on textual criticism is also available in Mandarin, in case any of you are interested.
Go here for ordering information. I anticipate that within the next year four more of my books will appear in a Chinese edition (nice work, U.S. publishers).
Isn't this crazy?
11:32 AM Greek and Weight Training Part 2:
7:26 AM "Mark's gospel is a puzzling gospel" (F. Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, p. 57). The "final mysterious stroke," of course, is the absence of the mention of any post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Moreover, the "puzzling nature of Mark's gospel ... may be one reason why Matthew and Luke both made use of Mark to write gospels of their own."
Is According to Mark really all that puzzling? I think not. Come to our Mark class on the 18th and find out why!
7:14 AM Interested in the subject of New Testament Textual Criticism? So am I! Abidan Shah recently interviewed me about my book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, and you can listen to it here. The relevance of textual criticism is not limited to the seminary classroom. As we try to show in the interview, New Testament Textual Criticism is relevant for our practical lives, including the question of whether it is ever proper to get angry. So listen in and then share the interview with a friend.
Tuesday, August 4
4:33 PM Heading out to have Mexican food with a good friend and brother. Esta noche yo quiero un enchilada de queso y arroz. Nada más.
It will be the perfect capper to a great day of exercising, swimming, writing, and prepping for the new semester. The Y has a very nice oval track that sure beats the tread mill.
Earlier, my son sent me this picture with the words, "The only time my truck will have the date on the odometer!"
How cool is that? Gives an old clunker like me hope!
8:30 AM Vote now for the Wipeout of the Year Award. Warning: Not for the faint of heart.
8:18 AM Here's a great quote for my students in our Mark class (Richard Rohr, Simplicity, pp. 56-57):
Believer, your life is too precious to God and too essential to the kingdom to waste on greed or ladder-climbing. Let's follow the downward path of Jesus. It's a great adventure to be sure and requires nothing less than becoming "poor" in Him. But it's the real deal. There's a party going on at the bottom. Believe me, nothing can hold a candle to it.
Monday, August 3
6:08 PM My thanks to Abraham Paniagua for his endorsement of our Greek grammar in Spanish.
5:36 PM I know someone who is about to homeschool her kids Greek. If there is one TED TALK she should watch, it's this one by Ken Robinson. He is a master teacher and you can be one too, if you take his advice to heart. Bravo, Ken!
5:18 PM Eight similarities between studying Greek and running a 5K:
1) Neither is an end in itself. I study Greek to know the Word better and eventually to know its great Author and Subject better. I run 5Ks to take part in charity races for some goal that I think is worthwhile. (Some goals are more worthwhile than others of course). When you feel like quitting you just keep saying to yourself, "I'm running for cancer or for SIDs or for some other cause." That usually does the trick!
2) Beginners are always nervous. I was scared to death when I entered the Greek classroom at Biola for the first time. When I ran my first-ever 5K four weeks I had some butterflies. Can I finish? Can I meet my personal goals? What will other people think of me? Nervousness is normal.
3) You've got to pace yourself. I tell my students it will take them about 9 months of constant practice before they will be able to read their Greek New Testament with the use of a dictionary. As for 5Ks, I am a rank beginner -- and right proud of it. I know myself, and I pace myself. No need to start out with the front runners only to fall way behind.
4) There is no shame in walking or even stopping if you need to. Get your heart rate down to a safe level, and then get walking or running again.
5) Everyone started from scratch. Even the winners.
6) You've got to set personal goals for yourself. I repeat: for yourself. Not to please your mom or dad or your kids. You know what you want to accomplish. Set your sights as high as you can make them. My goal with Greek is to be able to read anything I can get my hands on without the use of a dictionary. My goal for running is to maintain good health for the glory of God and for the sake of the ministry He's called me to.
7) Enjoy your fellow competitors. Look to your right and left and you will see some really fine people.
8) Expect setbacks. Maybe the event will be rained out. Or you'll get an injury. Or you'll have to miss a day of class. If you mess up or get behind, just get back on the beaten path and -- boom! -- you're on your way again.
In short, a 5K race is the best race for beginners. Each time I run I want to make it my best race ever. And it will be -- if I give it my very best. And just think: running can burn up to 700 calories per hour. Likewise, an introductory course in New Testament Greek is something any Christian can master given you have enough time, energy, and motivation.
So what's holding you back?
4:35 PM In exactly one month I leave for Florida. In exactly two months I leave for Hawaii. Lots of surfing on the schedule. Or maybe I should change to this sport?
10:02 AM Special 5K announcement:
More information here. Come on out and support this worthy fundraiser!
6:58 AM Hi folks,
As a 10-year old boy growing up in Hawaii, I clearly remember the day our pastor was fired. He was a gentle, elderly saint -- an exceptional shepherd and a good Bible expositor. And then he suffered a stroke. His willingness to persevere in the midst of his weaknesses and debilities left me gasping. What an example of power-in-weakness, I thought to myself, little knowing that 20 years later I would write my doctoral dissertation in Basel on the very same topic (Paul, Apostle of Weakness). Suddenly, he was gone. The adults kept saying, "It's too hard listening to him talk," or "He was ready for retirement anyway," or "We were losing our youth because of him." "Merciful heavens!" I cried out. "Is this how the church is to treat its pastors?"
Jesus faced a similar struggle with His new disciples. From the experts in the Jewish law, they had learned a distorted view of leadership. Knowing this, Jesus redefined their concepts of power and spiritual leadership. That redefinition was so profound that we are still talking about it 2,000 years later. As I begin to teach through According to Mark in 2 weeks. it's my job to make sure my students get it.
It is generally agreed that According to Mark is our earliest Gospel. There are many reasons for questioning this conclusion (see my Why Four Gospels?). Mark's Gospel is really comprised of the eye-witness testimony of the apostle Peter, an "elder" who witnessed the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 5:1). Mark is his "son" in the faith (5:13), and the patristic evidence is clear that Peter used Mark as his stenographer in composing According to Mark just as He used Silvanus as his amanuensis in writing 1 Peter (5:12).
Recent scholarship has suggested that According to Mark is a "passion narrative with an extended introduction" -- a witty yet accurate description. As I have attempted to show in Why Four Gospels?, According to Mark directs our attention to two major themes, one dealing with Christology, the other dealing with ecclesiology. Of primary importance is the Christological theme. According to Mark introduces Jesus as the Son of God who accepts suffering and death at the hands of the same Jewish leaders who were responsible for the death of Jesus' predecessor, John the Baptist. (There are actually two "passion narratives" in According to Mark: John's and Jesus'.) Thus Mark's Gospel is a Gospel of paradox from the very beginning. Jesus, the Son of God, not only commended but exemplified the lowly attitude that contrasts with the world's sense of self-importance. Jesus' mission was not to rule in earthly triumph but to suffer and be rejected by His own. Some scholars (most notable Ralph Martin in his book Mark: Evangelist and Theologian) have suggested that According to Mark was written for a church that faced the danger of misunderstanding Paul's message, particularly the latter's theologia crucis, his "theology of the cross." For both Peter (=Mark) and Paul, Jesus achieved glory only by way of rejection and the cross -- cf. the divine parabola in Phil. 2:5-11, about which I have written considerably in my book The Jesus Paradigm.
This theme of suffering and rejection is then carried forward in According to Mark by means of a magnificent rhetorical ploy. If the Messiah will experience suffering rather than triumph and rejection rather than popularity, how much more will His followers expect the same treatment (8:34-38; 13:9-13)? "Mark campaigns against balcony-type Christians who are too high for the mission and discipleship that in Mark's terms necessarily involves cross-bearing and self-sacrifice" (H. Anderson, The Gospel of Mark, p. 55). Therefore, any person or thing or human tie or affection that might stand in the way of a disciple's commitment to the kingdom of God must be dealt with decisively and be broken. The cross is not a religious symbol but an instrument of death. And "taking it up" requires the death of self, all personal ambition, and any form of selfish attainment, no matter how noble it may seem to others. True discipleship is a treasure worth more than all other earthy possessions. It is a pearl of great price and will cost a person everything he or she has. Moreover, According to Mark makes it absolutely clear that discipleship cannot be carried out in the abstract. Words must be matched by deeds, and because this is true, According to Mark strikes the reader as a Gospel of action, not of speculative theology. Likewise, in our day and time there is no possibility of a genuine renewal of the life of the church unless the principle of suffering is accepted without reservation.
Here, then, is the fundamental message of According to Mark as I see it. It is the message of personal involvement and it applies to all persons, male and female, clerical and lay, old and young. All Christians must be in the business of cross-bearing whatever their occupations might be, because the non-obedient follower of Christ is a contradiction in terms. Millions of back-seat and back-slidden Christians are content to be willing observers of a performance staged by professionals, and not a few of our clergy class are content to glory in the contrast between their exalted status and the lowly status of the ordinary Christian. Their attitude seems a far cry from that of Jesus when He washed the feet of His disciples.
So you see, our task in studying According to Mark is far more than exegetical. It is to try and see the entire problem of ministry in biblical perspective. "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." The only kind of exegesis that is worth encouraging is that which makes a radical difference in the entire Christian enterprise. We may as well face the fact that the message of According to Mark -- this theologia crucis -- is bound to be an unwelcome word in a church that fails to understand the concept of commitment. But what Jesus sought to produce is not a fellowship of the self-righteous but a fellowship of men and women who, though recognizing themselves as inadequate and unworthy, nevertheless are absolutely committed to becoming personally involved in the effort to "go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to every creature" (16:15). The churches that are succeeding best at this are are those in which every-member ministry is most nearly complete. The sooner you and I acknowledge the role we play in this universal task, the quicker the forces arrayed against Christianity in the modern world will realize that Christ's cause is something worth paying attention to.
Sunday, August 2
7:44 PM Hmm. I wonder. What would happen if I shaved my beard?
7:08 AM I am one developmental stage ahead of most of you, dear readers. I'm also single again. Here's a slice of my morning: woke up early to enjoy the 58 degree temps, a gorgeous sunrise, and the wisdom of Paul about singleness (1 Cor. 7):
You might not see a single thing here that is applicable to your own life. But the kingdom thinking embedded in these verses is remarkable. In my immature moments when I think I know God's will for my life better than He does, I squirm under His teaching in this chapter. And then it occurs to me: Paul wrote this chapter for me. And he was right (and so was Jesus): Singleness is truly a gift of God. It's the work of His mercy and compassion. Because life is not about us but about the work of caring and sharing and loving, regardless of what our marital status might be.
So thanks, Paul. I always appreciate wise words coming from a guy who's been there and done that. And thank you, God. The sunrise you allowed me to enjoy this morning was a blessing.
Saturday, August 1
7:25 PM Concert note:
More info here. Just think -- Rutter himself! And the Edenton Street Church is a fabulous venue for great sacred music. I know; I've been there many times. Woohoo!
7:06 PM 37.55. That was my world-record shattering time from today's 5K in Cary. [Lie detector blinking!!!!!] Ok, so it wasn't anything special -- except to me. This was my fourth 5K in as many weeks and when it was over I felt really good about myself because (1) I decided to race even though I had some pain in my left knee, (2) I worked through the pain, and (3) I was able to run (and not just walk) the last half of the competition completely pain free.
Actually, I felt stronger and more refreshed after the race than before it. Moreover, I think my brain actually told me something like this today: "I get this." I felt something new in my legs. I could literally feel it for the first time. They want to run. That is so cool. So we'll see what happens during next week's race (also in Cary). I'm praying about running the entire 3.1 miles this time around, going as slowly as necessary. My goal is to eventually enter the elusive under-30 minute club. At any rate, it was a fun race with a cool and shady course and plenty of fun and food afterwards. A huge shout out to Small Hands Big Hearts United for organizing such a fantastic event. Here I am with Anita Pease, executive director.
I also want to thank Young and Associates who have organized all four of these races and have done an uber-professional job, so much so that I'm thinking of organizing a race with them in Becky's memory next year in the Raleigh area. I'll call it "Run for Your Cancer Hero" (or something like that) and the proceeds would go to women's cancer research. In the meantime, you can check out their race schedule here and maybe even come out to an event.
6:24 PM Well, tomorrow it will be exactly 20 months since Becky died and I haven't given you an update in a while. I'll start with the basics. I miss Becky more today than the day she passed away. I still love her. I still wear the wedding band she placed on my finger 39 years ago come September. I miss her tons and tons and tons. Her absence has introduced me to several big changes.
1) Becky was the link to certain important relationships we enjoyed together. Now that the link is gone, it's only natural that some of these relationships have begun to fade. Even though I mourn the loss of these relationships, I'm good with that. It's to be expected. Oddly enough, though, some of these relationships are even closer than before. Either way, I'm enormously grateful to all of you who stood by me during the period right after Becky's death. I could not have made it as well as I did without your compassion and understanding.
2) Occasionally I still live in the past, thinking about what Becky and I would be doing on a nice day like today, or what countries we'd be visiting, or what new adventures we sensed the Lord was taking us on together. But mostly I live in the present with a deep sense of gratitude not only to God but also for the grief, which is a great teacher. I'm still madly in love with my profession and its variety -- teaching, mentoring, writing, publishing, blogging, traveling, and speaking in churches. Who knows, one day I may get good at it. I never in a million years anticipated closing out my teaching career without Becky. When I married her in 1976, I made this very clear to her when I proposed with these words: "Honey, I'm teaching at Biola in the fall and I don't want to begin my career without you by my side." Becky was absolutely thrilled that I found so much fulfillment in my profession. How many people on this planet can say that they absolutely love their jobs? It's a rare blessing to wake up each morning eager to engage my mind and soul in something as satisfying as teaching. It is wonderful to contemplate that in heaven Becky is meeting all the great teachers of the faith, from Paul to Peter to James and to moderns like James Boice (who also studied for his doctorate at Basel).
3) The Lord has been so tender to me through this entire ordeal. It wasn't too long ago when I felt like the solid footing I had before Becky died was completely gone. Yet the instability of yesterday's emotions have begun to give way to feelings of settledness, peace, and trust. You can't make your grief get better, but God can.
4) It has helped to deal with my pain a little bit at a time. At first I tried to accomplished too much. I allowed grief to get in the way of making good decisions and to cloud some relationships. At the same time, I found myself tolerating criticism and behaviors from certain quarters that can only be described as abusive. I don't know how many times I've had to ask God to give me a clear mind and the wisdom to know which relationships to invest in with openness, trust, vulnerability, and warmth. I cannot begin to guess what Becky would think of all of this. Oh how I wish she were here to share her insights and woman's intuition with me! I am so naive; she could cut through a person with a knife. But I do know that if she were here she would be touched beyond words at the lavish outpouring of love I've experienced from my church family to my seminary administration and colleagues to my students and to my children and even to complete strangers who have cried with me.
5) I guess you could say that my life has settled into a "new" routine. Like most of you, I work fulltime (two jobs in fact), stay involved in the lives of my kids and grandkids, and continue to pursue the crazy, adventurous role God has for me this side of heaven. Part of my new normal is something I've brought over from my old normal, and I'm referring to this blog of course. I thank you for reading DBO up to this point, and I hope you will continue to benefit from reading the sequel too. I am so thankful that God allowed Becky to complete her autobiography, which, by the way, is now available in the world's three most widely spoken languages (English, Spanish, and Chinese). I continue to write, and people have been very kind to get my books into print. I feel I am the most blessed man on the planet. I still have significant and satisfying work to do. I still enjoy thinking outside the box. I'm in better physical shape today than I have been in a very long time. I'm dreaming new dreams and setting new goals. Becky's death remains now, as it has always been, a painful memory that follows me day after day after day. That fateful morning in November 2013 will remain a traumatic chapter in my life story for as long as I live. But on the whole, hope has returned to replace despair, and more often than not there is a smile instead of a frown, there is calmness instead of panic, trust instead of doubt. The ache in my heart is gradually going away and I'm beginning to discover new personal growth through my loss.
6) In short, I still miss Becky. I miss her singing in the morning and her joy as she gardened and the days we traveled together and the songs we cherished and the delights of marriage we enjoyed and the relationships we nurtured together. I mourn these losses deeply but not in such a way as to interfere with the new life of singleness to which God has graciously called me. Thank you for traveling this road with me. Time and again I've read and reread your emails and texts and I simply will never be able to thank you enough for your love and support.
Sorry about the length of this update. I'll stop here and pray that as you consider your own departed loved ones, God might enable you to adjust to life without them, working through your pain, renewing your emotional energy, glorying in God's "new normal" for you, and successfully transforming the relationship with your departed loved one from joyful presence to happy memory.
To God alone be all the glory.
"For All the Saints Who from Their Labors Rest"
the saints who from their labors rest,
wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
communion, fellowship divine,
the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
there breaks a yet more glorious day;