Tuesday, March 11
3:10 PM Nice lunch in Oxford today with Jon and Matthea. What a great couple. Missed seeing the grandkids of course.
We ate at an all-you-can-eat place. I feel very virtuous that I only had firsts. (See my halo?)
10:40 AM Some good friends of mine will be attending an elders' conference shortly. For what it's worth, here are a few musings for anyone contemplating their ecclesiology:
1) The church has a head. He is Jesus Christ. None other. Not you or me. Not your "senior pastor." All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth.
2) The Holy Spirit has sovereignly placed each member in the Body of Christ.
3) Every member of the Body has a special gift. All members of the Body (male and female) are to exercise their gifts, and all gifts are to be exercised for the glory of the Head and for the witness and ministry of the Body (evangelism and edification).
4) Elders (undershepherds) are gifted to help the members discover and use their gifts. The biblical pattern is for a plurality of co-equal male elders who have been raised up from among those whom they serve.
5) Together these ministers -- leaders and led alike -- comprise the sum total of the activity of the Body. All members of the Body are "ministers."
6) For the Body to function properly, there must be a system of fellowship that permits intimate relationships to develop. This cannot take place during a depersonalized meeting. In the early church the Agape meal offered this type of fellowship.
7) Each member of Christ's Body has a solemn responsibility to serve the other members. The gifts of the Holy Spirit require us to live interdependently, serving together in the corporate life of the Body.
10:02 PM A good word from the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 4:8-11):
Dave, as you teach, teach as though God Himself were speaking through you! Dave, as you give of your substance to help others, do it with all the strength that God the Holy Spirit supplies! Manage His gifts well, Dave. Manage them well.
9:16 AM Now this is an impressive report from Time Magazine: The Top of America. The new World Trade Center is almost complete.
What struck me the most about the report? They had to build down to build up. I think there's a spiritual lesson there. Let's say you're having a marital problem. The problem is usually deeper than "marital." I recall reading about a skyscraper that had just been opened when a crack was discovered on the 72nd story. They called the engineers, who took the elevator to the third subbasement, where they found the problem. What we think is a mere crack on the 72nd story might well turn out to be a much deeper problem. Marital problems often reveal significant spiritual issues. Sometimes it's a lordship issue. At other times it might be a salvation issue. Marriage involves a death. Death to independence, to privacy, to one's childhood home and family, to unilateral decision-making. Married couples must die a thousand little deaths daily. That is what the Christian life is all about. It is the crucified life. God brings life out of death, gain from loss. Husband, wife -- have you died to yourself today? If not, your marriage will suffer for it. But when we accept the little deaths of marriage, a new joy and satisfaction is inevitable.
My counseling office is now closed for the day.
8:30 AM The sun shines brightly. I am wearing shorts if you can believe it. I just finished my morning devotionals. The Spirit led me to 1 Cor. 15:58. Here Dave is being told to do three things: Be steadfast, be immovable, and always abound in the work of the Lord. Here are my takeaways:
1) I am to keep on keeping on. I am not to be shaken by the circumstances of my life. I am firm and solid in Christ.
2) I am to have rock-like faith. "I trust You" must be the continual expression of my lips toward God.
3) I must keep on advancing God's kingdom and promoting His glory. I must not only work for Christ, but my work must be of exceptional quality. I must overflow with good works for His sake.
Here's the paraphrase I wrote for myself:
As all of you know, since Becky's death, life has begun a new chapter for me. I must learn to find my satisfaction in God, without her. And I am doing that. By God's grace, I am doing that. Yes, I am lonely, terribly lonely. Yes, I still grieve. But the peace of God comes, not through the removal of the pain, but by acceptance. My house on earth is a little emptier, but He is still here to sustain me and even use me if I will let Him. For each day's challenges, I find comfort in an old saying inscribed in an ancient church in England: Doe the Nexte Thinge.
Right now, the next thing is to love on my in-laws in Dallas. At the same time, I will get some much-needed R & R in their quiet home. And today? I will diligently and ungrudgingly do the work of my life, which, after all, is really His work, longing for that glorious day when I will see Him face to face.
Whenever I ask myself, "What to do with my pain?", I know the answer. Express it. Sit and weep and reflect on the God of all comfort. Say to yourself, "I'm not unusual. This is the way of loss. Share your grief with others, Dave, so that they can understand. It may help them with their own pain and sorrow." Thank you, Jody, for sharing. Your journey has encouraged many others who now must walk the same path.
7:46 AM Did you know that 68 percent of all Japanese students learn German? I've never been to Japan, but I look forward to using my German should I ever visit there. I did try out my German once in a suburb near Paris (mon Français parlé est horrible), but it didn't go over too well. I didn't realize that the château I was staying in had been occupied during WWII.
7:42 AM "There is not an inch of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, 'Mine.'" Abraham Kuyper.
7:36 AM The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
7:30 AM Two obvious questions in light of the disappearance of the Malaysian jet: Why don't airplanes have GPS trackers (instead of relying on radar), and why isn't the cockpit voice recorder transmitted live to a ground station?
Monday, March 10
5:44 PM The loss of a loved one is disruptive. You lose your equilibrium. I thought about this when Kim arrived at the farm today. Almost immediately after she sat down I began to weep on her shoulder. It brought untold comfort to me as daughter and father connected, shared, and talked to each other. I am finding that life has become stressful. It goes either too fast or too slow. Some decide not to share their grief with others. Silence doesn't work for me. I have never had to ask, "Where are my daughters when I need to talk to them?" They are always available. In a sense, they are one of my mainstays. Even before Becky died, life was busy. Now it is crazy busy. I'm concerned about writing and grading and reading dissertations and editing books and teaching and preaching and travelling and banking and animal care and taking care of a (large) family. Faith is required every step of the way. God's ways are not our ways. When we want Him to speak, He is silent. When we prefer not to hear from Him, He speaks. He is, however, "always near to the brokenhearted" (Psa. 34:18). Tears do not bother Him, not one whit. For me, tears are not just acceptable; they are necessary. Through them I can grieve over my loss. Through them I make a mockery of stoic tearlessness. I give myself permission for them to exist, knowing that they will diminish in time. This too I know: I am not alone. I will always have a shoulder to cry on, including His.
Friend, whatever loss you are facing today, remember the promise of Jesus: "I tell you the truth. You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:20).
5:28 PM Question: Can "young men" be elders? Should they be?
5:22 PM One more thought: Two years ago (as you know), Bec and I attended Danny Akin's marriage conference at the seminary. And we had already been married for 35 years! You never, ever outgrow your need to, well, grow. So, my dear pastor friend, the next time you lead a marriage conference, why not follow that up by taking a few of your couples to attend someone else's marriage seminar? Now that might be a teachable moment!
4:32 PM Another thought on didaktikon. If an elder/pastor/overseer must be "teachable," how much more the rest of the believers? You see, the role of leaders is not to undertake specialist activities from which the rest of the saints are excluded. Their task is to pioneer the work that the whole church is to be doing. If pastors, then, are to be teachable, that is, eager to be taught (and not just to teach) and even corrected (and not just to correct others), how much more the rest of us? Ordination, whatever else it might mean, must not be conceived as an act of setting apart a person from the priesthood of the entire congregation.
4:26 PM Travel update: Next Monday at 1:30 I will (Lord willing) be speaking in Roy Mett's Advanced Greek class at The Criswell College in Dallas. Eager to see all my friends at TCC.
4:22 PM So blessed. Daughter Kim stopped by to clean the house today. I was also able to get some more banking done. Then this appeared in my inbox:
God is good.
7:24 AM Had a wonderful dinner with daughter Rachael last night, at which I gave her a copy of mom's book and a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts -- the exact same brand I offered Becky 40 years ago in that cafeteria line at Biola.
What happy memories. Then we watched Gravity for the second time. I feel like I've been fooling myself (and you) into thinking that this movie made no impact on me when I'd be flat out lying if I told you that. When George Clooney said "You gotta let go" to Sandra Bullock, I almost lost it, choking on the fact that I will never again see my beloved this side of eternity. Rachael asked me what I missed most about Becky. "Her touch," I said. Even a simple hand hold. We would just sit on the front porch holding hands, looking at our circumstances through God's eyes, realizing that we were loved and lovely in His sight, precious to Him beyond all belief. There's something so wonderful about memories. It breaks my heart to go back in time, but all my memories are, strangely, positive. The hurts and disappointments are all forgotten. Four months ago my world quietly crumbled. As I sat numb with shock and grief, I was not alone, however. He was with me. And not only Him. I've spent the past four months being loved on and cared for and talked to and scolded ("Go see the doctor, dad!") and even pampered by my daughters. I'm now, even as I type these words, thankful beyond belief. Yes, I'm still hurting, if I'm being totally honest. Because I can't help thinking about her. But then His voice speaks into the silence of my pain. The strange thing is that His voice sounds an awful like one of my daughter's. And somehow, after that, the nights don't seem so long any more.
Sunday, March 9
8:38 AM Aah, the very first day of a brand new week. I feel like I'm trying to cover too much acreage for an old Massie-Ferguson 135. The wretched clock keeps chiming out the hours, and it seems that the law of diminishing returns is kicking in earlier than normal. This morning I'm busy answering emails while recovering my physical strength. I am beginning to feel less of a corpse, thank God. It is enormously reviving to see the pine trees free of ice and to hear the dogs barking in hopeful tones. The weather this week promises to be warm and nice. Meanwhile I'm busy with my writing, though inefficiently as usual. I often feel like a third-rate sophomore writing a college term paper, combining technical ineptitude with a total lack of common sense. In book writing, alas, I have to be more than usually solemn. And so I tend to put it off sometimes. This is what I call structured procrastination, which is an amazing strategy to postpone doing all kinds of things you may find less interesting or appreciable in life. It all catches up with you one day, however. I've also been perusing a couple of the latest English Bible versions -- one of them extremely popular momentarily on campus, especially among the Reform-minded students. They are all too literary for my taste, full of that exquisitely good writing that is, one feels instinctively, only another kind of bad writing. Otherwise, I have been sticking to my big fat Greek New Testament, which really takes the lid off and shows you the works. Very entertaining too (dare I say it?), that is, when one encounters the wonderful rhetorical devices in the text. It contains a bit of everything, and I never find it dull, boring, or pedantic. By the way, yesterday in the car we were discussing English pronunciation. As we all know, English pronunciation is an utter absurdity (cf. heard/beard, five/give, low/how, paid/said). I'm told that there is even a word to describe the science of English pronunciation: orthoepy. And get this: the word orthoepy itself can be pronounced in two ways. How anyone can learn English as a second language and pronounce it correctly escapes me entirely.
Today it's off to The Hill then out to dinner with Nigusse and his friend before taking him to the airport. Then I will get some work done at the office and take one of my daughters out to dinner. I'm told I will be interviewed again on the Pastor's Perspective radio show (KWVE) tomorrow at 6:00 pm EST. Seems they want my take on the adjective didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 -- "able to teach" or "teachable"? If you can't tune in, I'll give it away.
Happy Resurrection Day.
Saturday, March 8
7:52 AM I dedicate this cartoon to the doctoral student who turned in his dissertation to me today:
7:30 AM So proud of Katy Isaacs, now a published author. Parents, check out what she says about dating and marriage. Teens, learn from her experience. I am sure that God honors an obedient faith. Thanks, Katy, for helping us see the Way.
7:22 AM Seen this note?
Good thing this duffer never met Becky. I always enjoyed watching men with insecure egos bristle in Becky's presence. She was the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman. If it needed to get done, she would do it, and do it well. Once, when Bec and I were landing at RDU in a severe thunderstorm, our jet had to make a go around. We landed safely on the second try, but it took some pretty skilled flying to do so. After we landed I made a beeline for the pilot to thank him. It was a her. Becky was a woman's woman. Just read her autobiography to see that. But a wall flower she was not. Becky was a Phoebe. In Rom. 16:2, Paul describes Phoebe as "a helper of many, myself included." The Greek term for "helper" (prostatis) is defined by Doug Moo as "one who came to the aid of others, especially foreigners, by providing housing and financial aid and by representing their interests before the local authorities." Moo thinks Phoebe was "a woman of high social standing and some wealth, who put her status, resources, and time at the service of traveling Christians, like Paul, who needed help and support" (Romans, p. 916). Becky's income from her employment as a registered nurse went almost exclusively to help finance our work in Ethiopia, much as Jesus and the apostles had certain women who "were contributing to their support out of their private means" (Luke 8:3). Becky and I were glad to be a team (though a frail and imperfect one) in the work to which the Lord appointed us. Together we sought to serve both in the practical ministry of meeting the physical and material needs of people as well as in the ministry of the Word. Together we were involved in church planting. Together we hosted visitors in our home on a regular basis. The key word is together. We were "co-workers" for Christ – and that without any diminution of our masculinity or femininity.
6:52 AM Off to Appomattox Court House later today with Nigusse and his friend from Omaha. They met in Israel when Becky and I sent Nigu to study at Jerusalem University College. It's a perfect day for sightseeing -- the ice is gone and the temps will be in the mid 60s. We lost our power yesterday when a fallen tree snapped two electrical lines on our farm. You gotta hand it to Dominion Virginia Power -- they worked until 1:00 am this morning to repair it. Thanks, guy, for a job well done.
Friday, March 7
8:12 AM Heartiest congratulations to my assistant Jacob Cerone, who has just accepted an invitation to work with Steven Runge of Logos Bible Software on their new Greek discourse handbooks. He and his family will relocate to Washington state this summer. Please take a minute and wish him well.
Thursday, March 6
1:45 PM Well, I survived the marathon at the bank. I feel like I'm rounding first base and heading toward second. Great feeling indeed. Afterwards, three of my grandsons (Nolan, Bradford, and Graham) invited me out to lunch.
They were kind enough to bring their mom and dad with them. Good time had by all. The Chinese cuisine was okay, but the coup de grâce was the bubble gum machine, for sure.
Nap time ....
8:10 AM Ah, the Banzai Pipeline. I once broke a board in half here. Enjoy.
8:02 AM Just a quick note to let you know I'm heading back to the bank for another marathon meeting this morning. For those of you who have lost a spouse, it's probably not news to you that settling your late spouse's affairs demands a good deal of time and effort. Here are my "stacks."
Each represents a different project I need to complete this year. My project du jour? The stack at the far left. I'm hoping to considerably reduce its size before this afternoon. To be honest, the hardest part is not the financial side of things. It's the emotional side. For example, one form I had to fill out yesterday asked for my marital status: single, married, divorced, or widowed. It felt so nether-worldly to check the latter box for the first time in my life. So here I am, more than a little emotional about a silly little box, yet at the same time filled with peace that I am exactly where God wants me to be at this stage in my life. I'm fairly sure this won't be the last time I'll be asked the marital status question. Health-wise, I'm not sure I have the energy to handle all of these demands today. I'm still feeling pretty rough and have an appointment to see the doctor in the morning (bronchitis again?). Time will tell how much I can accomplish this weekend, but my goal is to hack away at the stack. If you feel led to email me, please be prepared with words of love and encouragement because I'm a bit over my head right now. I've always been "good" at doing life. I've met and conquered a good many obstacles. This one is a bit trickier. Because, as I am slowly learning, grief is no respecter of persons, and it certainly doesn't care whether or not you're investment-savvy. It doesn't pause to ask how you're feeling or if there are other worries and cares in your life. Grief brooks no excuses. It's just something you have to push through. Thank goodness for the Gospel. Thank goodness for Jesus. So here's to all of you widowers out there. Here's to many more nights of filling out forms and emailing attorneys. And to little boxes that remind you that although you are now widowed, you were once married to a fantastic woman.
Wednesday, March 5
8:13 AM Can't wait to get back to SoCal and hit the beach with my new surfing buddy, Don Stewart.
Tuesday, March 4
7:55 PM The weather here in Virginia is bi-polar. One day it's snowing, the next day the sun is shining. One day it's cold, the next day it's hot. One day we get five inches of snow, and a week later the temperatures are in the 70s. Of course, I'm never that way. I'm always even-keeled. Never up and down. Never hot then cold. I wish it were true. Caught up in the crossfire of circumstances, I sometimes become as unpredictable as the weather in southern Virginia. I suffer from a crippling disease: being a human. I have known despair – a life that Thomas Hobbes once referred to as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." I have also known extreme elation. Most days I'm striving to find a balance between the two extremes. Life is a psychic infirmity brought on by the reality of the struggle between darkness and light, flesh and Spirit. So I'm always grateful when I read how Jesus had compassion on people experiencing this kind of distress. The phrase "dark night of the soul" was coined by St. John of the Cross, one of the church's greatest theologians. I imagine that I struggle where many of you struggle – being preoccupied with the things I've done (or failed to do) in the past. So I run the film backwards, and misery ensues. Then I look into the face of the One who took the brunt of Martha's mocking words at the tomb of Lazarus: "Well, I see you finally made it. Don't you think it's a bit late to do anything about it now?” The Rabbi is not defensive. His face mirrors her own grief. The past is tragic, He seems to say. But there's hope. "I am the resurrection and the life." Through all the vicissitudes of my life I have discovered that the only answer to despair is hope. Hope made David get dressed and begin to act like a king again after his son died. Hope made Simon Peter a rock after he had denied his Lord. Life is impossible without hope. Jesus frustrates me. He will frustrate anybody who tries to live in the past. "It is finished," He says. "It's all under the blood."
12:38 PM Don't forget to "spring forward" this Sunday.
12:32 PM Teaching update: I'm eager to get back into the classroom. If you're a SEBTS student and still need to take beginning Greek, I hope you will consider joining me for 6 weeks this summer. Greek 1-2 will meet from May 19 to June 27, five days a week. We will work through all 26 chapters of my beginning grammar Learn to Read New Testament Greek, which currently sells for only $19.00 at Amazon. Thanks and God bless.
11:52 AM Texting while flying? I'm okay with that. But please, no voice calls.
9:56 AM Good to see that Rod Decker's book on Mark is now listed at Amazon. I wish it well. I always find Rod's materials useful and informative (see this page). His 2009 ETS paper called Markan Idiolect is required reading in my Advanced Greek Grammar courses. Rod discusses such features as Markan parataxis, redundancies, multiple negatives, periphrasis, and indefinite plurals. A feature I usually discuss with my classes is Mark's use of prepositional prefix morphemes with what appear to be an intensifying function. Examples include sullupeomai in 3:5, diarpazo in 3:27, diegeiro in 4:39, parakouo in 5:36, kateulogeo in 10:16, and (perhaps the most difficult one of all) kataphileo in 14:45. Perhaps Rod discusses these lexemes in his eagerly anticipated Mark Handbook. I would be very interested in his take.
9:45 AM Couldn't resist posting this pic of us when we were students at Jerusalem University College back in the 80s. "From Dan to Beersheba" was their motto. What a happy memory.
9:28 AM The schedule for this month's eastern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society has now been posted. I've marked at least two of them as must-hears:
Wesley is a current Ph.D. student of mine, and Jacob is my assistant and also my Th.M. student. Proud of you gentlemen!
9:02 AM Ben Witherington reviews the movie Son of God. Of interest to me is the inclusion of the woman taken in adultery passage (John 7:53-8:11), which most scholars do not believe is original (though I do). I am toying with the idea of seeing the flick myself and writing my own thoughts.
8:55 AM So I've been asking the question, "What does a healthy, biblical church look like?" I don't claim to have found the only answer to this question. The one thing I have tried to do is allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. I've asked my question of the New Testament itself; and it seems to me that the New Testament has provided us with an extraordinarily clear answer. The more I ponder the book of Acts, the more convinced I am that the wonderful chapter describing the birth of the church makes a fitting starting point for the study of New Testament ecclesiology, in 11 brief verses no less. I am speaking of Acts 2:37-47, verses that describe at least seven basic characteristics of the newly-formed church in Jerusalem. Hence the title: Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. In case you're wondering, the seven characteristics I'll be discussing are:
All over the globe there is a beautiful but powerful grassroots movement in the church asking the question, "What does a healthy congregation look like?" Many are looking for a simple, biblical definition of "church." Perhaps The First Church of Jerusalem can provide us with some answers. I hope so!
8:42 AM Danny Akin's Family Life Conference at SEBTS is fast approaching. Becky and I attended two years ago and even took six other couples from church with us. It was splendid. Danny spoke with great candor. His 6 one-hour talks were non-technical, believable, realistic, positive, and free from legalistic demands. He frequently mentioned his own marriage (warts and all) and showed us how he and Charlotte have managed to survive and thrive through 33 years of marriage. His talks were accompanied by amazing stories and moving devotional thoughts.
As for me, I came home battered and bleeding. My only hope is God's amazing grace that enables men like me to change almost every day into the image of Christ. Above all, we were immersed in the Word. Marriage is God's plan, not ours. He holds the patent on it, and all is in vain unless we seek His counsel first and foremost. If nothing else, the conference engendered a lot of biblical discussion about marriage among the seven couples that went from Bethel Hill. Thank you, Danny, for blowing the dust off of God's original blueprint for marriage and reminding us that He can restore and indeed improve any marriage.
8:24 AM Quote of the day (Jody Neufeld):
God is with us like the air we breath. We need Him to hold us when our hearts are breaking. How do you need to be touched today? Tell Him.
Monday, March 3
7:53 PM So Ellen's live selfie-tweet is now the most tweeted tweet ever tweeted (over 2.6 million re-tweets).
Samsung, of course, loved it. But so did I. It's just another reminder of the power of social media. We live in an instant-message society. Twitter is just another tool that brings together the contributions of millions of people and makes them matter. The small guy is beating the TV moguls at their own game. Social media is not a bad word. In fact, I'm almost to the point of inviting people to "scroll down" to the passage I'm teaching from whenever I speak to a congregation. I never attend church without my iPad. And I love reading my colleagues' tweets during our seminary chapel services. Sometimes I am even introduced to my audience as a blogger (in addition to professor, writer, missionary, or farmer). The name of the game is using social media for good -- that is, for the Gospel. There's even a book called The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. My friend and colleague, Alvin Reid, is an expert at this. Okay, so he only has 11,000 followers, compared to Ellen's 27.2 million. But it's a start. I strongly encourage all of my students to blog. Many have followed my advice. They are honing their writing and thinking skills even as they are taking exams and reading thousands of pages for class.
Blog and tweet for Jesus? Why not?
5:36 PM My trip to the West Coast was a huge blessing but it did have a downside. I left my wedding ring at home. I feel like I somehow betrayed Becky. I felt naked and exposed without it. Because it is tight on my ring ringer, I have been taking it off at night and leaving it on my bed stand. The morning I left for California, I had to arise at 3:00 am. In the early morning "fog" of life, I simply forgot to put it back on. I think I've said it before, but I'm still in love in Becky. If someone asks me if I'm going to remarry, I look at them as though they have ten heads. Becky's death has rocked my emotional equilibrium to the core. But one thing it hasn't done is take away my love for her. I know that this feeling may leave me one day. Sometimes I say to myself, "I'm losing who I am." As my identity changes, confusion is the result. Is love an emotion? If it is, it's an unpredictable one. You become acutely aware of just how much of your identity was bound up in the fact of your husbandness. The companionship, the secret understanding, the intimacy -- all these are but fading memories. At times I struggle with unfinished business between me and Becky. How often I should have told her "I love you" and yet failed to do so. Thankfully there were never any harsh words between us. What can be done? I suppose there is only one thing to do. Keep on loving her. But it hurts. Differently. The loss of Becky brought with it the loss of so many other things. But it also brought a closeness with God and with my family. They seem to understand when I need to retreat and withdraw, and when I need a human voice, a touch on my arm, a phone call. Death is a terrain so vast and rugged that it's easy to lose all sense of perspective, like when you're driving across the vast deserts of the American West. But still, I have one recognizable landmark. She placed it on my finger 37 years ago. If I ever take it off for good, it will not be because I did not love her.
7:06 AM "Evangelism is something intrinsic to the identity of the Church -- not an optional extra, but something part and parcel of its very being." Alistair McGrath.
7:02 AM Despite the violence, God is at work in Ukraine.
6:54 AM Forbes ranks pastor as fifth most difficult job. I loved this line:
6:50 AM Program note: This month (March 30) I will have the privilege of speaking at the annual missions conference at Clement Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC. Service times are 11:00 am and 6:00 pm.
Sunday, March 2
2:32 PM I think Sandra will get the top honors. I loved her interpretation. Her character overcame the odds, outlasting the death of her daughter. Grieving is not an act but a process. You must move through several levels of denial. You deal with it a little bit at a time. You may try to deflect or ignore the pain, but it stalks you -- until a George Clooney gets in your face and tells you to get on with your life.
Gravity is a parable of human existence. Often, when we least expect it, life comes crashing in on us. The loss is devastating. And the grief can't be shared with anyone. It's yours to deal with. But deal with it you must. Barbara Baumgartner put it famously: "Grief is a statement -- a statement that you loved someone." So your 4-year old daughter dies. Or your 60-year old wife. You just have to go on. And going on will change you as a person forever.
2:02 PM Spent a few minutes at Becky's grave after church. It's been exactly four months since she died. I'm still finding it difficult to grieve. It still weighs me down. But I can say this: the wind is subsiding. The dust is beginning to settle. All praise to the God of All Comfort. The gray sky that veils the sun is finally turning blue again. Becky, I said to myself, I miss you. Thank you for filling my heart with song for 37 years. I'm not going to pretend that I don't miss you. I do. Our marriage was so incredibly challenging and yet so incredibly satisfying. I do believe I'm getting over losing you to cancer. I just wish our marriage didn't seem so -- unfinished. But there's no way I'm going to let self-pity color my emotions, honey. I can tell you right now, God has always been faithful to us, even after your Homegoing. Last week in California I remembered so vividly our life together there. We saw God do many great things in our lives and ministries. And He is still doing great things. It's just starting to sink in that I will have to serve Him alone for a while. But I am now more convinced than ever that He is a good God, and that nothing can separate me from His love. Grief and weariness have no power over Him. So I am grateful, honey. Grateful for you. Grateful for the love He gave us for each other. And grateful for all the happy memories. Life is but a vapor. I'll be Home soon. Until then, I will do my best to honor your memory with my life.
9:25 AM Good read here: Arminianism and Providence.
9:12 AM If the things we do at church aren't intentionally missional, then why are we doing them?
9:08 AM Here's His Most Honorable Excellency Sehr Geehrter Professor Doktor Pfarrer Don in front of the Logos Building in Costa Mesa.
The KWVE offices are on the top floor with an incredible view. And to think: this is where Brother Don has to suffer for Jesus every Monday through Thursday.
8:56 AM Still flying high over my trip to Southern California. What's not to like about it? The weather was perfect (note the t-short I'm wearing), and the food -- well, you can find any cuisine you want, including German Jägerschnitzel -- a cut of lean pork that has been pounded thin, breaded, fried, and then smothered with a delicious sour cream mushroom gravy.
This was my favorite noontime meal when I lived in Germany and Switzerland. The restaurant was located, of course, in Anaheim ("Ana's Home").
8:54 AM Just got this pic from Karen, who is visiting Liz and the Rondeaus in upstate New York this week. What fun!
Can you find the deer in the picture?
8:35 AM During Wednesday's radio interview on KWVE, Don Stewart asked me about the poetry of the International Standard Version. Here's a link to an essay I wrote called On the Reading of Poetry. You'll also notice a list on the left side of page that features several other essays I wrote during my time as the New Testament editor, including Mustering the Mystery out of Musterion. Enjoy!
8:24 AM Grateful for this announcement of our Pericope Adulterae Conference on campus next month. And yes, the papers will be collected and published (yours truly serving as editor).
8:20 AM There was a lot of interest in California about my Greek DVDs. If you'd like more information, please go here.
8:16 AM The bulls are now history. I'm selling them today. Yesterday, for the umpteenth time, they broke down a fence and got into a neighbor's pasture. Well, fellas, that was the proverbial straw that broke this here camel's back. Sayonara and Auf Wiedersehen.
8:13 AM How can your iPhone help you learn Greek? iTunes has the answer.
8:07 AM I'm scheduled to be back in Ukraine in November to teach hermeneutics and to train teachers. Let's be praying for the Ukrainians -- as well as for the Russians and the Crimeneans. They are all on the brink.
Saturday, March 1
3:53 PM Who says it never rains in Southern California? I mean, the place has been inundated. This is today's national weather map:
Really been praying for my friends out there. Los Angeles has gotten more rain in one day than it has during the entire rainy season so far.
12:52 PM Travel update: Lord willing, I'll be back in Hawaii in July. I am scheduled to do a Myth of Adolescence Conference on Oahu on Saturday July 12. More details later. Also, if you live in western New York, I will be holding a Bible Conference May 2-4. Check back for more. Finally, if you live near Baltimore, I'll be attending the regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society meeting March 22-23. I'll be traveling there with my assistant, Jacob Cerone, who will be presenting a paper on Origen and the authorship of Hebrews. Lots of good, God things happening.
11:48 AM Are you ready for more from the pen of Kevin Brown? Ready or not, here he comes!
Oh, the privilege of writing books. What an undeserved blessing from God.
11:44 AM Randy Fouts gave me a CD with some pix he took while I was in Tustin. I just uploaded them to my computer.
I think I forgot to mention that Randy lost his wife Janice to cancer several years ago. He's been a prayer partner with me as Becky and I went through our own cancer journey. Well, I promised good old Randy I'd post some of his pix on my blog, so here goes. You will see that he has a "real" camera, and that he is quite a good photographer. By the way, heartfelt thanks to pastor Barry at CCT for allowing me to address the congregation "from the floor." I loved every minute of it.
8:52 AM I hold in my non-nicotine-stained hands Becky's book. Today I'll deliver copies to the staff at the local CVS Pharmacy, the Post Office, and the bank -- people who truly cared for Becky during her final days on earth.
8:40 AM Thomas Hudgins sent me this link about "Simon the Black" in Acts 13:1. Please read it, friends. The quality of fellowship in the early church absolutely amazes me. The church in Antioch had Barnabas (a Cyprian landowner and Levite), Lucius (from Cyrene in North Africa), Manaen (an aristocrat and an intimate of the Herodian family), and a fiery intellectual from Tarsus named Saul. But there was also a Simeon "the Black." If Lucius was also black (as seems probable), we are talking here about a good deal of ethnic diversity in the church at Antioch. And why should there not be? Fellowship was a deep reality in the early church. It transcended all barriers, including that of race and education. Today, if the world is to believe anything we have to say about reconciliation, this same quality of fellowship has to be seen among us. Calvary Chapel West Oahu was also the same way: Hawaiians, Samoans, Haoles, Filipinos, Chinese, African-Americans -- all worshipping our color-blind God. I sensed a welcoming spirit among them -- and why should I not, this being the Land of Aloha? They even use dance (the hula) as a vehicle of worship.
The church in Antioch believed in ethnic diversity. And they practiced it. They loved one another despite their differences -- and boy were there differences! It costs a lot, this diversity we are talking about. The main price is humility. I have a lot to learn from my Hispanic, Asian, and African-American brothers and sisters. I would never choose a monochrome when I could have diversity!
Below: After I spoke in chapel at the Los Angeles Bible Training School on Monday night, professor Brad Pixley invited me to address his New Testament Survey class. I spoke on marriage, of course :)
8:18 AM A shout out to my new friends at the Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant in Anaheim.
Great food, excellent service. This was Don's first time eating injera b'wat. He loved it Folks, check it out. Betam turuno!
Friday, February 28
5:14 PM Excited to see that my friend David Dockery has been elected the new president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. David and I co-edited two books together, one for Zondervan (New Testament Criticism and Interpretation) and one for B & H (Interpreting the New Testament).
3:28 PM Hi folks! Sorry it's been a few days since I've blogged. How about a pictorial tour of my trip to California? Let's start with the reason for my trip -- my radio interviews with Don Stewart.
Don and I were in Greek class together at Biola about a million years ago. Somehow he got both the brains and the looks. I will also add this: He is one fantastic interviewer. He sure knows how to make his guests look good! I rarely do radio interviews, so I had no idea what to expect. But honestly, I don't think I've ever enjoyed myself more. This morning I stumbled across a blog post called 5 ways to rock a radio interview. The post describes 5 things that great radio guests do: They're calming, they're energetic, they give short but full answers, they express complex information simply, and they're friendly. You can judge for yourself whether or not we succeeded. (Here's the link: KWVE Radio. Just click on Podcasts, then click on Pastor's Perspective. I was interviewed on Monday Feb. 24 and Wednesday Feb. 26.) I listened to both interviews this morning while stuck in DC. Man, them guys seem to be having a goooood time.
Well, since I was going to be in Southern California, Don got me a speaking gig at Calvary Chapel Tustin, where I "thought out loud" about Jesus and His age 30 transition (Luke 3:23).
A lot of people loved my argument. Others not so much. But it's clear that this little "factlet" (Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His public ministry) is in the Bible for a reason. Then in the evening service I shared pix of Ethiopia and talked about the glory of sacrifice. As you know, Becky was a good example of sacrificial living. The basic point is that the Bible doesn't allow us to outsource missions to professionals. God told all of us to go, and I invited my audience to chew on that perspective. If we don't go, who will? I gotta tell ya, I really loved this congregation. I sensed they were not afraid to tackle difficult issues head on. Again, my thanks to Don for arranging all of this for me.
Monday night saw me at the Los Angeles Bible Training School in South Central Los Angeles. This is one tough neighborhood. I remember it well from my Biola days. Every Saturday I would go to South Central as part of the "Christian Service Assignment" that all Biolans were required to perform every semester. The assignment I chose was to play basketball with the street kids in Watts with a view to sharing with them the love of Jesus. So it was really cool to get back there again.
Mike (to my right) and Craig from Calvary Tustin were kind enough to drive me there.
Mike is a cop (can you tell?) and Craig is a retired Los Angeles fire fighter whose fire station was in the same neighborhood. Thanks, guys, for the sacrifice of your time and effort! Anyway, I spoke from Matt. 1:3-6 on "The Gospel According to Four Women" to a student body that was at least 90 percent non-Anglo. Oh, how I love that. Go LABTS!
And here's a nice serendipity. At church on Sunday who should I run across but the husband of Janice, Becky's former roommate at Biola! It was so cool seeing Randy Fouts again after all these years.
He even had a couple of pictures of his wedding for me. And guess what? Becky was one of Janice's bridesmaids. Ain't these some pretty gals?
And look who "just happened" to catch Janice's bouquet. (I think the whole thing was staged. Randy agrees -- LOL.)
Finally, Don and I ended up touring La Mirada, where Bec and I lived for 27 years before moving east. Here's the Biola Pool.
When it opened in 1976 I was the first lifeguard and swimming instructor Biola hired. And here's our former house on Stamy Road.
One might suppose that everything looked the same, but not true! The area looked much smaller than I remember it -- and much more run down. And here's where I used to ride Cody and Traveller.
Can you believe it -- La Mirada maintained a horse arena and a bridle path, and I was the only one who rode in those days!
Hey, I could go on and on but you're already bored. This trip far exceeded my expectations in every way. And to see the old haunts again -- well, that was an extra blessing. They triggered many happy memories, and some negative ones too. I relived many emotions I hadn't felt in a very long time. But the main emotion was joy and gratitude for the goodness of our God in allowing me to make this trip even though I was recovering from a nasty cold. One thing is for certain: You can never go back "home" again, for the simple reason that it never really is home after you leave it.
Two final pictures. Don and I really enjoyed each other's company. And we ate out -- a lot. Korean. Ethiopian. Greek. Even German.
I gotta tell you, it is to so refreshing to be with a guy who not only knows Greek and Hebrew, but who can also speak German and French as well as you can. Don, you da man!
Finally, here's the Prayer Chapel at Biola. I spent hours in this building seeking God's face.
Should I or shouldn't I marry Becky? Oh, did I agonize! To look at that building today and realize that I ended up spending 37 years with Becky Lynn Lapsley is almost too much to fathom. I can tell you -- prayer was work for me in those days. I didn't know then how prayer works, and I still don't know today. If I drop my cell phone, it will fall to the ground. That is a law of the universe. And if I pray, spiritual power is released. Paul talked about "wrestling" in prayer, borrowing an image from the Olympics. Prayer is the opposite of fun and games. It costs a great deal. The Bible often describes it as incense. And God likes the smell.
Infinite Love, You answered my prayers for a wife some four decades ago, and I cannot thank You enough. I asked for bread and an egg, and not only did You not give me a stone or a serpent, You gave me a giant of a woman, a mysterious complement to my masculinity. We made a good team. We shared many happy moments together. I sit in tears in front of my computer screen. Thank You. Life is so much more than I could have dreamed it to be. All because of Your great love.
Thanks for stopping by again.