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Saturday, April 23

5:50 AM It's time to return to the Islands for a few days -- to mourn my lost youth, bury the child I once was, and dream boldly about what the future holds. In the seventh inning of life I am all that the past has taught me. I'm here to report that excitement and anticipation and the rewards of life are still around, raised to the nth degree in fact, the game still going on, the player still engaged forever, no longer as a rookie but as an experienced veteran. I'll surf and swim and snorkel and climb and run and paddle and teach. You say, "At 63?" Yep. 63 is the new 62, in case you didn't know. Besides ...

  • At 66, Noah Webster completed his dictionary.

  • At 69, Ed Whitlock ran a marathon in under 3 hours.

  • At 71, Katsusuka Yanagisawa climbed Mount Everest.

  • At 75, Barbara Hillary reached the North Pole.

  • At 77, John Glenn returned to space.

  • At 81, Bill Painter summited Mount Rainier.

  • At 89, Arthur Rubenstein performed at Carnegie Hall.

  • At 99, Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mount Fuji.

Now, if I could only find my socks ....

Aloha!

Dave

Friday, April 22

3:58 PM Best hiking trails in Hawaii. Here's my favorite.

10:28 AM Heavy rain starting at the farm. Praise the Lord!

10:14 AM Somebody please hit me with the stupid stick.

This morning I was biking the Tobacco Heritage Trail near the Dan River when a huge storm came up after about 4 miles. Thank God I was able to get back to the car before the lightening struck, but I had to peddle like I really meant it.

Note to Dave: Check the radar every time you ride.

8:22 AM Odds and sods ....

1) Exactly 30 days to go until my first half marathon in Cary, NC. The occasion is Becky's 63rd birthday, and the goal is to raise funds for uterine cancer. More later.

2) Only us farmers are praying for rain this weekend.

3) Here's the weather outlook for Windward Oahu for next week.

If the sunny weather holds up I will attempt to summit Mount Olomana. I've done it three times already but my last climb was when I was 40. In the past 4 years there have been 3 fatalities on Olomana. The key is to hike in dry conditions.

4) Greek students, as you prepare for our final exam (which includes a comprehensive review of all of the vocabulary you have learned this year), please don't forget the helpful vocab tools found on this page. Each is tied to my beginning grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek.

5) The 2016 season at Gettysburg is gearing up. I'm planning on a visit myself.

Thursday, April 21

6:02 PM Today I pushed through exhaustion, past fatigue, and beyond boundaries to finish my book Running My Race. Well, the penultimate draft.

Will make for good reading on board the long flight from Denver to Honolulu. There are 99 chapters. Count 'em. While on Oahu I plan to give away lots of books, including these:

Otherwise I'm going to take it easy and draw all kinds of tight boundaries around "ministry" while I'm there. Yes, I'm learning how to say no. I'll continue to work out, especially with my journal, which is the thinking person's workout. When I run or surf or hike I'll be having a conversation with my self, wondering what kind of writing ideas will arise spontaneously, unexpectedly from my subconscious. Maybe, as Robert Frost once said, I'll remember things I never knew.

But that's for later. Right now my frazzled mind tells me I deserve the largest rib eye this side of the Mississippi.

12:06 PM Reader, brace yourself: Dave's got more pix for you.

1) This morning I took my own advice and walked a 5K.

2) Prior to that I biked for 5 miles. #CoolestGreekProfEver

3) As you can see, haying has begun. I love it.

4) Have you ever seen better-looking orchard grass? Almost ready to cut. The nation's horses can't wait to chomp some down.

Side note: Time to work on a manuscript that I am never going to finish. Ugh!

8:02 AM Hey guys and gals! Have you ever thought about ...

1) Walking? Don't spend all your time in the gym or on the bike or climbing (or on the sofa). Walking should remain a priority in our lives. Psychologists tell us that walking is good exercise, helps to clear our minds, reduces stress, gives us quiet time for reflection, and increases our feelings of energy, sometimes for hours. Walking is a far more effective energy-booster than a protein bar. When you get my age you must walk every day.

Why not take a long walk today?

2) Joining the David Grief Club? There were two times in Kind David's life when he showed his grief -- at the loss of his infant son and when Absalom died. Some of us still have a lot of grief work to do. Our culture tells us to be brave and push on through. I think I'm a pretty brave person, but I know that grieving is both helpful and healthy. Every child knows that "Jesus wept."

How long has it been since you expressed your feelings and grieved over your personal losses? Healthy people do not block their grief, and neither should we.

3) Thanking God for the ability to live in your own home? For many older people the day will come when they will face going into a nursing home. Jesus predicted that one day Peter would be taken where he did not want to go, yet God's strength would still be with him. The day will come when I will not be able to put on my own shoes and go wherever I like. Until then, may the Lord make me grateful every day for the physical strength He's given me.

Pray this prayer: "Lord Jesus, I pray that whatever life brings me, my faith in You will not fail."

4) Being vulnerable? We think vulnerability is a trait of weakness. But neediness is a sign of faith. Vulnerability binds us together as humans. And it is vulnerability that binds the church of Jesus Christ together in love. It really is simple -- an upside kingdom lived in ordinary ways by broken people. Also? The church can be safe even when her leaders are transparent. Humble leaders refuse to foist unrealistic expectations on themselves.

Pastor friend, you are so terrible flawed, just like the rest of us. Being a pastor does not excuse you from being honest. Toss the pedestal aside, and your people will love you for it.

5) Showing up? Woody Allen once said, "Showing up is eighty percent of life." Indeed. It isn't enough just to show up physically, by the way. Put your heart and soul into your work or whatever God is calling you to do in that moment. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Even doctoral students are often late for class. I'm not sure that bodes very well for their careers. Then too, their work is sometimes shoddy. "Holy shoddy is still shoddy" said the late great Elton Trueblood. The culture of comfort makes us think only of ourselves. We can do better.

What are you doing today? Give it your best. It may not be much (that's okay). But it's your ALL.

Blessings!

Dave

Wednesday, April 20

6:04 PM This and that ...

1) How hiking improves our brains.

2) Climbing goals for next week: Mount Olomana (again), Diamond Head (again), Makapuu Point (first time), Kuliouou Ridge (first time), Hawaii Loa Ridge (first time), Lanikai Ridge (again). Here's a short video I made last year from the Lanikai pillboxes. 

 

3) Guess which state has the highest life expectancy for people over 65?

4) Lunch this week with a good friend from Guyana.

5) Yesterday's commissioning service in chapel. What a blessing.

6) Having read practically everything ever written about the disaster on K2 in 2008, I am really looking forward to digging my teeth into this book co-authored by one of the Sherpas who was there. (Pemba is one of the true heroes of that day.)

Most books leave the reader with few answers and lots of questions.

  • Why wasn't there better crowd control on the day of the summit?

  • The weather was almost too perfect for climbing -- it was too hot and therefore extremely susceptible to the kinds of avalanches that occurred on the mountain. Was this fact discussed beforehand?

  • What exactly was Ger's part in the rescue operations surrounding the Korean climbers?

  • Why did the Pakistani climber who was responsible for placing the final ropes at the Bottleneck and the Traverse not communicate his alternative plans with the other team members when he got sick and had to descend just before summit day?

  • Why did so many climbers seem so hesitant to climb down the mountain in the absence of fixed ropes?

  • Was there or was there not a specific turnaround time?

  • How exactly did Nessa and Skog get down?

  • Why wasn't anyone assigned to bring extra rope to the summit in case of a disaster?

  • It's clear that not all climbers had the same abilities or were as technically accomplished. One of them had never been over 6,200 meters before. Why were less-experienced climbers allowed to climb with more experienced climbers?

I get the clear impression from reading books about this subject that there is a real attempt to deflect blame. Preparation was the key to a successful summit, yet preparations broke down and no one seemed to know why. My heart goes out to all of the families who lost their loved ones that day. I am not a high altitude mountain climber and never will be one. The highest I hope to ascend this summer in the Alps is 15,000 feet. (K2 is 28,251.) Yet I do understand the desire to climb high and to challenge one's body and mind. I also realize that though I will never set foot on Everest or K2 there's a lot I can learn from those who have tried to climb them.

Stay tuned for my book review....

Tuesday, April 19

8:05 AM Speaking about vacationing in Hawaii ....

7:52 AM Good morning folks! Last night I watched the movie Farther Than the Eye Can See. It tells the story of a blind man named Erick Weihenmayer and his successful summit of Mount Everest. Unfortunately, the movie had its share of platitudes about overcoming the obstacles that life throws at you. But the clichés were more than offset by the amazing cinematography and the incredible courage of Erik and his team. Several scenes brought tears to my eyes.

What impressed me the most about Erik was his modesty and optimism. As humbly as he knew how, he was going to conquest Mount Everest. I have always been a soul that seeks adventure, driven by some unexplained urge to challenge the parameters of my world and to overcome past tragedies, including my parents' divorce when I was three. I suppose my attitude toward mountain climbing is the same attitude I had toward surfing big waves when I was younger. You must learn to face danger and to be responsible for yourself. Everything in mountaineering is ultimately your decision. When I come back home from a climb or from a 5K, I feel totally renewed as a human being – stronger and more capable of facing life's unpredictable terms. By climbing the Alps this summer I hope to inspire my children and grandchildren to take a closer look at their own lives and to consider whether God might still have some dreams for them to live.

Each person faces a choice in life. When we face grief or loss, we can quit or we can have the courage to persevere, even if in the end we fail to reach our goal. In Erik's story I found inspiration to continue to test my own limits. If we never test our limits, we will never know what they are. I know that my choice to climb tall mountains this summer will have a price. I just don't know what that price will be yet. But I do know that the experience will show me what I'm made of. I would like to believe that the roads in life we choose depend less on external circumstances and more on internal longings that compel us as humans to reach the heights of whatever mountains we are facing in life. Successful people take what they have and make something of it. But you can't be passive. You have to grasp the opportunities as they come along and, through hard work, stir up that tiny ember that burns within you.

I realize that whether or not I'm able to summit a mountain this summer, the battle is won or lost through my weekly training program – those unglamorous times in the morning when you don't want to get out of your warm bed to participate in a 5K or work out at the gym. It's just another one of the universe's hidden truths: without training, there can be no success. Tentative doesn't cut it. When I climb Mount Olomana in Hawaii next week, I've got to go for it 100 percent.

Total commitment. All in. Heart and soul. So I'm learning to embrace the hard work of preparation. Without it, there can be no meaningful achievement.

If anything, Erik's story is a reminder that summits in life don't come easy. You have to be willing to go through pain to reach your goal. As Erik proves, never underestimate the power of perseverance. Pick your goal carefully, think clearly about it – then act decisively, suppressing your fears. I see these qualities in Erik and, to a much lesser degree, in my own soul. But the more I do with the little I have, the more opportunities will gravitate towards me.

Cheers!

Dave

Monday, April 18

1:34 PM Thank you, say the donks, for deep cleaning our water trough! 

10:58 AM This and that ...

1) Lifted. Biked. Miles to date for 2016: 427.1.

2) If you live on Oahu I want to personally invite you to attend an informational meeting one week from tonight at Windward Baptist Church in Kahuluu about our forthcoming New Testament Greek class. The time is 6:30 pm. I'm calling the class "Greek for Everyone" -- and the class in indeed open to anyone who is interested in being able to read the Greek Testament with the use of a dictionary. Please email me for more information if you're interested at dblack@sebts.edu.

3) If you live "on the land" like I do, you don't worship the soil but you sure do enjoy caring for God's creation. I heard this song on the "Thistle and Shamrock" program yesterday and just had to pass it on to you. As I say, there's a bit of Mother-Earth worship going on here (drats!), but enjoying nature is a bit non-rational anyways.

4) Off to work on the farm.

7:45 AM Notes to self in an election year:

1) Pledge your allegiance to the Lord Jesus alone -- to His kingdom and the values for which it stands: one archy, under God, with salvation and blessing for all who repent and call upon His name.

2) Remember what you heard Francis Schaeffer say in Switzerland: You can be a co-belligerent but not an ally with any political party. At times you'll think and feel and speak and write the same thing as the liberal left or the religious right, but that parallel is not intentional, so don't align yourself with either camp. The church of Jesus Christ can never be an ally of a political party or a political movement for that matter.

3) The students you teach can be divided into two camps. Some will seek status believing that their "call" is to a specific ministry rather than to Christ. Others will be eager -- too eager perhaps -- to reject church culture because they are sick of those who talk about an upside-down kingdom but don't practice it.

4) Embrace a basin ministry that points people not to yourself or to your church but to Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

5) Constantly remind your students that Jesus will never embrace pyramids of power. Never.

7:30 AM Lord willing I'll be here in just one week. I'm ready.

Sunday, April 17

8:15 PM Hey peeps! Not much news here. I'm back on the farm after putting 535 miles on the car. I will be 64 this year and I still love to travel, not to mention bike, surf, climb, run, and write. (I added that last item to salve my academic conscience, which I have to live with all the time.) Keeping active and keeping busy can't hurt and may even improve one's health. So off I went to DC this weekend to help my daughter Karen celebrate her birthday. As always, I took the back roads in order to enjoy God's great Cathedral, worshipping all the while. I was very blessed to have great weather, and when I got back to the farm who did I see but Nathan with a trailer load of hay. Too funny! (See video.) Here are a few pix to keep you nice and bored, after which I'll post a GoPro of the sights and sounds of DC during its annual Cherry Blossom Festival and Parade. 

1) On the drive north I got in a 10-mile mountain bike sprint at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. Man did that feel good. The more I engage in strenuous exercise the better I feel. I'm not doing it to prove anything to anyone but because I enjoy it -- though I can see it in people's eyes: "There goes another one of those fitness nuts."

2) Airbnb is the only way to go nowadays. I had a private room and bath in Chevy Chase, MD, for two nights for only $79.00 per night.

3) Arrived late on Friday so dined locally. I didn't realize that Silver Spring had so many Ethiopian restaurants. I "just happened" to have a copy of Becky's autobiography to give away to her Ethiopian sisters.

4) The birthday girl herself!

5) The memorial to our 1st president.

6) And to our 16th.

7) The (in)famous Watergate Complex.

8) South Korean dignitaries laying a wreath at the Korean War Memorial.

9) Get down and boogie!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Friday, April 15

7:58 AM This and that ...

1) Yes, you actually have till the 18th to file.

2) Henry Neufeld wondered what it would be like to read different Greek New Testaments. Here are his thoughts.

3) Quote of the day:

I’m afraid we (in the U.S.) have settled for too many “fast-food” sermons. “I’ll have a John Ortberg with special sauce, with a side of Stuart Briscoe, and a double gulp of Rachel Held Evans. No Fries.” No communicator is so ugly and unprepared as the one who parrots another’s work.

(Side note: The Elephant in the Room, of course, is the sermon itself. A healthy church begins with the Bible itself, not the words of people who are terribly human and who battle the same temptations we are battling. After 40 years of listening to (and preaching) sermons, I am more convinced than ever that we want more than a sermon can provide, and our unreasonable expectations are placing a gignormous burden that leaves pastors exhausted and people disappointed. As an athlete, I find that the more people take responsibility for their own bodies the less reliant they are on other's diet fads -- and less resentful of people who seem to be healthier. Yes, pastors should teach (and teach well), but they can also empower more and validate more and allow more of the flock to share a "word." This could have profoundly good implications for the gathered body.)

But I quite agree with the author's point: Speaker, be thyself. You have permission not to shout, or wiggle constantly when you talk, or read from your well-prepared (typed-out) notes. And please, for crying out loud, keep us in the text.

4) Jacob Cerone (who is on his way to Deutschland) shows us how to read modern German in LOGOS. Ph.D. student, pleeeease don't fake it. KNOW thy German backwards and forwards before using it in a term paper or in your dissertation. For be thee aware: there are professors who will read every word of it. Believe it not, passing the test in theological German is only the beginning.

5) Happy birthday to Leonardo da Vinci.

What he did with his drawings, the apostle Paul did with his epistles.

Thursday, April 14

9:08 PM Photo update:

1) Donating books to the library of the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary. Believe me, they can use them more than I ever could.

2) Here's one of the slides I used this week to introduce my Greek students to the structure and theme of 1 John.

If you'd like to see the entire power point, just go here. 1 John is all about what glues us together as believers, because if we're too busy to love each other, we're too busy, period.

3) Larry Hurtado chimes in on my latest book.

4) This morning I spoke in the Greek class at the Iron Academy in Raleigh. Here I've got 'em working on an assignment.

Sheeesh. Who'd of thunk that 9th-graders could study Greek? The truth is, they're plenty capable, especially when they have such a great teacher as David Miller.

5) Then I had the privilege of addressing the entire student body in chapel.

6) Here's my daughter Kim and her husband Joel and their new baby Gabriel, who arrived a week ago. 9 pounds, 14 ounces!

7) By golly, I've got the cutest grandkids in the world. Every time I visit my kids and their families it seems the very doors of heaven open and God Himself fills the house with laughter, chaos, and life at its best. 

8) Even Papa P got to hold Gabe. Ain't he a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e?

9) This afternoon I read all of Diana Rehm's new book in one sitting.

Thank you, Diane, for your humility, transparency, and integrity. Yes, I had tears in my eyes.

10) Oh, I've been biking again. (Cue: Roll eyes.) On Tuesday I biked (make that sprinted) the equivalent of a half marathon. Pheeeeewww! That was a workout. Yessiree. Dave Black: nacho average athlete!

11) Reading this tonight.

Hasta mañana!

Tuesday, April 12

6:25 AM On the Diane Rehm Show yesterday author David Kessler was interviewed about his new book Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering.

The idea behind the word "capture" is that our brains can be commandeered by forces outside our control. Habits and/or addictions are the usual results. I'm drawn to Kessler's theory of capture. It seems to resonate with what James writes in James 1:15, which shows how temptation passes into sin. But first the will must yield to desire. It allows itself to be "captured" and, through a fatal embrace, sin is then generated. The only way to escape this vicious cycle, argues Kessler, is to be "captured" by someone or something more powerful than the initial temptation. Being a Christian doesn't mean the absence of temptation. It helps to know that God cares about our struggles and has in fact made a "way of escape" through an ever-increasing intimacy with Jesus, who then becomes prominent in every part of our lives: mental, social, physical, as well as spiritual. Trouble is, we often live as though we are helpless because we are held captive by things other than Christ. Christianity then becomes for us "religiosity" and "churchianity." We learn to speak fluent Christianese ("Praise the Lawd!") and we go through the outward motions while disregarding the daily struggle of being a Christian. I know I do. But God is not fooled. He knows those times when I'm only pretending to love, to care, to be selfless.

Listen to the interview if you can. I think the man is on to something profound. The Christian life means hand-to-hand combat with hypocritical love. We want to be Christian, but not too Christian. And because of that temptation, I have to relinquish my devotion to myself and to my desires and dreams on a daily basis. God demands complete devotion -- not a part of it and not even the biggest part of it but all of it.

Oh my. Here we go again. Impossible standards. But a God of all possibility!

Monday, April 11

5:02 PM Just ordered from Amazon:

Diane Rehm tells us "I don't believe in closure, some part of me will grieve forever." In the first year of grief, after her husband, John, died, Diane Rehm shares with us her personal loss. A lifetime of memories, the good and the bad, the times of her life. Down the path of grief, loss and finding oneself alone and moving on.

She and her husband John had been married for 54 years. Should be quite a story.

4:12 PM Ta-daa ...., yeah I worked out today. Lifted then biked 5 miles. I'll post a video below for anyone crazy enough to want to watch it. Boy was it a blast. But that's my life these days. Since Becky's death I've discovered that exercise has tons of benefits, and not all of them are physical. We are body, soul, and spirit. So, with that profound thought floating around my brain, I thought I'd offer a few random ideas about the connection between weight training (which I do 2-3 days a week) and one's spiritual health. Please take what I write with a grain of salt. I'm a complete novice at this business, after all. If you can come up with your owns reasons, so much the better.

1) In the first place, since I've begun weight lifting I've noticed an increase in my energy levels, not also physically but emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually. My mind seems clearer, focusing has become easier, and I realize that God is pleased when His children take care of their temples. I find it so much easier to be productive when I look and feel good.

2) Another aspect to having a regular regiment of weight training is the way it teaches us self-discipline. This is not a complicated matter, folks. Taking care of your body requires consistency and persistence. Today I would no sooner miss a workout than skip supper. Perseverance is part and parcel of Christian living. With every exercise I thank God for the grace to press on even when things are hard.

3) Thirdly, a healthy body helps old people like me regain at least a measure of agility. Since I've begun lifting weights I've found it easier to climb stairs and lift hay bales. It's a medical fact that regular exercise helps our bodies by removing harmful toxins that clog our organs and make us tired.

4) A fourth takeaway from regular workouts is that it frees up time for other pursuits. Body building exists as its own own sport, of course, but my purpose in lifting is much broader than that. After all, strong muscles are needed for running, climbing, surfing, hiking, and biking.

5) Finally, I thrive on relationships, as do many of you. I need to be in community. I live in rural Virginia where men are expected to be tough and self-sufficient. And to a degree I am just that. But none of us is an island. Hence I've sought out various "communities" since Becky's passing. I've joined the Raleigh Civil War Round Table. I'm attending ETS and SNTS meetings again. I've joined the Windward Kai Canoe Club. I'm a member of the local Y. I love pushing my body to live up to its potential, all the while remembering the words of Paul, "I worked hard, yet it was not I but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). Whenever I go to the Y I ask myself, "Should I be here? But if not, how am I to learn?" Thankfully the gym is filled with people who offer their experience and don't mind sharing their knowledge.

So my question for you is this: Have you ever considered joining the local Y or fitness center? It's much more than a place to work out. It's a social venue, much like Starbucks, and a really good place to make new friends, Christian and non-Christian alike. Moreover, lifters help each other, and thus you'll develop a sense of teamwork.

There are too many benefits of weight training for me to list them all here -- social, mental, psychological, physical, and spiritual. At the very least, weight lifting (or any form of intense exercise for that matter) will increase your stamina, energy, muscle strength, bone density, motor skills, flexibility, coordination, balance, and concentration -- as well as improve your immune system and mental health. It can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, asthma, osteoporosis, falls, and injuries. It can also lead to improved moods, sleep, weight management, cognitive function, and long-term health.

Get on with it.

Just do it. 

8:48 AM New aerial view of the campus. Wowsers.

Photo by Luke Reynolds.

8:40 AM À la carte ...

1) My taxes are DUN!

2) Here's yet another fine essay by Allan Bevere, who reminds us that "...when we engage in interpretation, we engage ourselves."  Read It's About the Interpreter ... And More. (Side note: I suppose New Testament interpretation goes through phases. I recall when people were saying that the Holy Spirit was the most neglected Person of the Godhead. Not any more. I remember when being a conservative evangelical meant being against social engagement. All that has changed, and for the better. The issues that divided evangelicalism when I was young are not the same issues that are polarizing young people today. Human nature is what it is. Our interpretation is always the objective one.)

3) Looking forward to reading this new book.

Anything with the word "Christoscopic" in its title merits at least a quick perusal.

4) One of my kids sent me this disturbing link: White Doctors In Training Believe Some Disturbing Stuff About Black Patients. And these are educated people?

5) Pope Francis' new encyclical on marriage and the family is raising quite a kerfuffle. The whole matter is explained in easy laypeople's terms here

Sunday, April 10

5:05 PM Here's a brief GoPro of my ride today:

10:18 AM Last night at 8:00 pm McGregor Hall in Henderson, NC, was the venue for another extravagantly performed concert by the North Carolina Symphony under the direction of David Glover. As you can see, it was mostly us geriatrics in attendance.

The program featured:

Rossini: Overture to William Tell
Johann Strauss, Jr.: On the Beautiful Blue Danube
Tchaikovsky: Overture from Romeo and Juliet

I enjoyed all three immensely.

1) Who among us growing up in the 60s can't remember the TV show The Lone Ranger and its theme from William Tell?

The lone ranger was a Robin-Hood-style Western hero. Johnny Depp sought to revive Tonto's role (and the whole Lone Ranger mythology) in the stereotypical 2013 movie The Lone Ranger. It went down in flames.

2) 2001: A Space Odyssey was a popular film when I was in high school. (If you're in your 60s you can remember the 60s.) It was famous for its soundtrack, which featured classical pieces such as Johann Strauss's Blue Danube and Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra.

I bought the LP when I was 15. At that time, 2001 seemed a long ways off.

3) The love theme from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet occurs in gobs of old movies where two people are running toward each other (e.g., The Jazz Singer, Wayne's World, Pinky and the Brain, Road Rovers, Tiny Toons, Scrubs, Seeing Double, South Park, Clueless, A Christmas Story, Moonraker, Pushing Daisies, Sesame Street, The Sims, etc.). It's also in all the old cartoons. Remember how it goes?

As I listened to another exquisite performance by the NC Symphony (and wondering to myself: how in the world do we deserve such a talented orchestra?), I couldn't help but reflect that the story of Romeo and Juliet was one of heartbreak and loss (two teenagers fall in love and then kill themselves). For 37 years I knew something about the mystery of this thing called marriage. To use an analogy from 2001: A Space Odyssey, spouses are like daring astronauts who are irreversibly caught up in a giant exploration of the fringes of human existence. They live in a dangerous and often dreary world where life is so "daily" and where there are so few glamorous rewards. Two people have made impossible promises to each other which they cannot even contemplate without retreating into the grace and mercy of God. As with Romeo and Juliet, marriage finds its deepest resonance in fidelity and self-sacrifice. In that way, marriage is a barometer of one's spiritual life. In marriage, as in Christianity, we learn that true love is totally inexhaustible. It has to be for the relationship to survive let alone thrive. Marriage was never intended to be a comfort zone for lazy, self-centered people. It's rather God's means of absolutely breaking us down, so that, after many years, we begin to learn to perfect the game of "one-downsmanship" as we refuse to be the winner of our marital struggles. Whatever else may be said about marriage (and I'm no expert), marriage will definitely, forcibly, begin an inexorable process in which two very different people become more and more like one another. In a restaurant, Bec and I could easily order for each other. We both had gotten beyond holding our many imperfections against each other. (Well, most of the time.) We accepted each other (sometimes gritting our teeth) and served Jesus. See? As simple as that is this marriage business. Of course, marriage also intensifies the darkness of death's shadow. You know this going in, but you also know that "It will never happen to me."

I guess that's why I loved this concert so much. There I saw Becky and me: Holding hands, heroes (at least in other's eyes), reaching for the stars, always relying on the goodness of God who had granted us so many wonderful, difficult years together. To live in a marriage is to walk on the edge of outer space, yet never being afraid of slipping into eternity. How appropriate, then, that the concert seemed to combine all of these themes. It made me wonder whether Someone had planned it that way.

Saturday, April 9

5:02 PM My world is a happy place again. My dogs just got groomed :)

2:50 PM Today I visited with my Mexican neighbors. Never have empanadas tasted better.

Here's a huge shout-out to Myrna and Margarito and a gigantic "Gracias" for having me over to your place for lunch today.

They are the parents of one of my favorite servers at the local Mexican eatery, Los Banditos. César, it was a joy and delight to meet your parents and son. And to my readers: I love being thrown into situations where I'm forced to speak Spanish, even though the first thing out of my mouth is usually something like, "Por favor, discúlpame, mi español es horrible," or "Mi español es muy básico." After that: no more excuses. Do your best and let the chips fall where they may.

12:06 PM Great bike ride. Now time to write!

9:02 AM Weekend meanderings ....

1) Doctors often talk about the "widower effect" -- the fact a spouse has a higher chance of dying when their spouse is either hospitalized for a long period of time or dies. It's also called the "bereavement effect." They observe that watching a spouse grow and die is much more complicated than most people notice. The good news is that's there no direct line between caring for your loved one and your own death. Hence the importance of social networks, as seen in this TED Talk by Nicholas Christakis. What he says applies to widowers, yes, but also to anyone who is facing loss of any kind -- a friendship, a job, an apartment, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Networks, he says, are a kind of social capital. They are necessary to sustain and nurture us. For our part, we need to be intentional about opening up again. About getting back into the mainstream of society. I realize there is a line between people that we cannot cross. I can never truly feel your pain or know your emotional needs perfectly. All I can do is listen to you, and listen well. Not only to your words. But to your emotions, your gestures, even your silence when you fail to communicate. Every action. Every inaction.

One day I hope to be able to love this well. 

2) Read Will I Be Single Forever?

Perhaps if you’re a single person, your identity as a “single” has moved to the center of how you think about yourself. But it appears from Jesus’s teaching that in eternity we’ll all be single. There won’t be marriage in the new creation. What will define us forever will not be our marital status, but our enjoyment of the perfect presence of Christ.

(Fist bump!)

3) Paul Himes loves his new Romans commentary.

4) Greek students, we're in a new age of textual criticism.

5) Just booked my room at the Hotel Bahnhof in Zermatt. Ain't fancy but it's -- well -- conveniently near the railway station. :-) 

6) A. W. Tozer:

I think unlovely orthodoxy, unbeautiful Christianity is a tragedy. We have pugilistic Christians; we have acrobatic Christians; we have athletic Christians; we have big-domed, learned Christians. We have all kinds of Christians, but where are the beautiful ones, those who shine with inner beauty? I am looking for them, and I pray that God will send us a revival, not of noise and nonsense, but of beauty with God dwelling in us.

Friday, April 8

10:38 AM Yesterday and today are "errand" days. I always group my errands into manageable batches. That saves me tons of time and frustration. I always do my errands at quiet times during the week -- trying to avoid the weekends like the plague. I keep an "errand center" in my library/study where I have a constant visual reminder of what needs to be done. Finally, I try to incorporate a bit of fun into all of my errands. Yesterday, for example, after going to the post office and the bank and the grocery store, I treated my myself to Mexican food. Today I made sure I got a bike ride in before having the truck's state inspection renewed. As you can see, the day is perfect for riding. I biked, of course, only after I had been to the Y for a workout.

Speaking of workouts, my total miles year-to-date are now 378.4. That's based on a total of 73 workouts since January 1 lasting a total of 78.4 hours and costing me 53,800 calories. Just trying to blaze a path for -- me!

Thursday, April 7

10:28 PM I'm one who likes to do everything fast. That includes eating and writing and riding waves and riding horses. I bike fast, walk fast, climb fast, and lecture fast. I hate waiting in lines. It's time just wasted. So I've become very good at balking. I see a long line at the restaurant and I won't even try. Or if I'm in a line and it's not moving fast enough I renege. I have a type-A personality with a hurry-up syndrome. And now, at the age of 63, I am about to participate in what for me has got to be the slowest type of road race for someone who likes to get things done fast. That's right: the die is cast, and the date and the venue have been set:

This race is in its 18th year and some consider it to be the area's most prestigious half marathon. I have no basis for an opinion. This will be my first one. I'm told there will be well over 1,000 runners participating that day, which kicks off at 7:00 am sharp. I'll have exactly three and a half hours to complete the race. The USATF-certified course is an out and back that takes you through Umstead State Park. More details here. Like all of my other races, it will have age-group divisions. Mine is the 60-64 age group. So far only 4 men over 60 have signed up for the race: a 61-year old, a 67-year old, a 73-year old, and yours truly (63). It will feel good to be in a race where the competition is keenly felt, even among us old-timers. In every one of my races, I'm always aware of where I am in the sea of runners and never quite sure where my 60-ish fellow racers are. The only time you find out is at the award ceremony.

I'll be running for charity -- in this case, uterine cancer research (which is what Becky had). More details on that will be forthcoming. In the meantime I have to keep training. Exercise now regulates much of my life. I recommend it to you. But not at the exclusion of other interests, hobbies, and avocations. In 16 days I leave for Oahu to surf, hike, and climb. Next week I'm speaking at a private Christian high school. Next weekend I'm heading up to DC for a couple of days to do some biking and visit one of my daughters. I am the man in the broken mirror. Not sure I like what I see, but it's all I've got to work with. And nature. Emerson once called the sky the daily bread of the eyes. And beauty is best accompanied by fitness.

So we'll see how I do on May 22. It'll be for a great cause for sure. The only thing I cannot abide is being a mere spectator leading a vicarious existence.

9:40 PM I just joined the North Carolina Symphony as a supporter. I also purchased 5 season concert tickets (for two people) for the new concert year that begins in July. My selections include

  • Dvořák's Symphony No.5

  • Copland Classics

  • Mozart's Birthday

  • Britten's War Requiem

  • Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

The Copland Classics program includes the phenomenal work "Fanfare for the Common Man," seen here as performed by the New York Philharmonic. It's one of the single greatest pieces of music ever composed.


 

8:05 PM Plenty of new entries at our New Testament Greek Portal. See the What's New page.

7:58 PM Last night I picked up William Dear's O. J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It and couldn't put it down. I'm really surprised that Dear hasn't been able to get the LAPD to reopen the case. I came into this book a skeptic and left a believer. The fact is, some people don't want the truth to come out. It makes me really ask why somebody didn't question Dear's leading suspect at the time. This is a compelling book and even a convincing one to many. But you'll have to see the evidence for yourself. If you do read it, be prepared to spend an entire evening in your study; you simply can't put it down.

Tonight I'm finishing Allen Guelzo's exquisitely written Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. This book deserves the 5 stars it's often given. Rarely has a historian produced such delightful prose (he uses alliteration, assonance, etc. splendidly). Having walked the battlefield many times, no book has helped me to visualized what took place there 150 years ago like this one has. If the author's prose is exquisite it is also dense, so this is one book you can't hurry through. I would recommend it not only to the Civil War aficionados among us but also to the armchair historian who wants an overview of the battle without endless footnotes and interruptions. It makes me want to go back to Gettysburg very soon.

10:14 AM This can't be true. The NC Symphony is playing a concert on Saturday night in nearby Henderson, NC. Check out the program:

Rossini: Overture to William Tell
Johann Strauss, Jr.: On the Beautiful Blue Danube (The "Blue Danube Waltz")
Tchaikovsky: Overture from Romeo and Juliet
Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Smetana: Sárka
Bizet: Selections from
Carmen

They're all faves of mine. I'm going if there are still any seats left.

9:10 AM More random reflections....

1) If you're interested in taking my Advanced Greek Grammar Ph.D. seminar in the fall, the preliminary syllabus is now ready. For a copy, simply email me at dblack@sebts.edu.

2) Love my new mountaineering boots.

They fit perfectly (13EE) and are as light as a feather. I'll have to wear universal crampons with them but my guide tells me that's okay.

3) This came from Baker Publishing Group:

Greetings! I am pleased to inform you that Solomon Publishing Company, an organization based in South Korea, has officially signed a contract for a Korean-language edition of Using New Testament Greek in Ministry.

This will make my second book in Korean. Praise the Lord! If you're interested in reading my essays in Korean, click here.

4) My new wool socks.

They aren't exactly the Rolls Royce of stockings but they'll do. They're thick, cushioned, warm, and never twist around your foot. I will never go back to cotton.

5) The latest issue of JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society) has at least two must-read essays in it:

  • "The Greek Verbal System and Aspectual Prominence: Revising Our Taxonomy"

  • "Revisiting the Clarity of Scripture in 1 Timothy 2:12"

The astringency of some of the recent publications on verbal aspect in Greek should not keep us from reading really worthwhile works. As for 1 Tim. 2:12, the author's point is that we must always interpret unclear texts by clear ones. I hope very much that you feel inclined to explore these essays yourselves.

Wednesday, April 6

6:14 PM Odds and ends ....

1) Great to see Dr. Mike Arcieri again, who was visiting the campus this week to spend time with my colleague Maurice Robinson. I last saw Mike about 15 years ago at the SNTS meeting that was held in Montréal, where he teaches. Hope to see him this August when Montréal again hosts this year's annual meeting.

2) Yesterday I was interviewed by Dr. Michael Brown on his radio show The Line of Fire. You can listen to the broadcast here. My portion of the program begins at the 101.28 mark. The topic was New Testament Greek.

3) This arrived today:

4) Ever heard of the Neuse River Greenway Trail? Neither had I. But it's only a 15-minute drive from the seminary. This is an awesome biking trail with clear mile markers and immaculately-kept paving. Yesterday I rode the section from Old Falls of the Neuse Rd. to Capital Blvd. and back. I crossed quite a few bridges on this part of the trail and saw tons of wildlife. My favorite part was coming around a curve and seeing a deer family grazing peacefully. (Check out the video below if you'd like to see them.) This morning I hiked for several miles on the greenway. This is a superb trail for biking, hiking, bird watching, and just general nature observing. As soon as it warms up a bit I plan to do the whole thing (it's 28 miles). If you're a cyclist, be sure to put this on your bucket list, but be prepared to shift gears. Enjoy!

 

Tuesday, April 5

8:24 AM 6 reasons to register for a 5K right now even if you're not a runner.

  • They'll let you in, really.

  • At some races you don't actually have to run.

  • But participating in a 5K will probably make you want to.

  • You'll get a free shirt.

  • That New Year's resolution you've probably broken.

  • They're the most fun you can have on two legs.

There's lots of hyperbole here but it's all in fun. Try a 5K. You'll like it!

Monday, April 4

7:28 PM Yo net friends! I'm back from another great trip to Dallas. (There are so many things I love about Texas.) I started out on Friday with my little talk at DTS (such fun!), and then on Saturday I did a 5K. I even drove by the spot where I proposed to Becky 39 years ago. (Even more fun!) So how was my lecture received?

Overall, I think the audience reaction was positive judging from the nature of the questions and my interaction with a number of people afterwards. But through the years I've discovered that two people can read the same book, watch the same movie, and even hear the exact same words and yet read and watch and hear something different. A lot plays into this -- one's personal bias, of course, as well as personal preferences, likes, dislikes, experience, etc. I don't think it's fair to say that the rhetorical level of language is "unimportant" to most students of the New Testament, or that New Testament scholarship is devoid of interest in the subject. You'd have to do your own due diligence to come to those conclusions. But I do think that, on the whole, those of us who study the New Testament can do a much better job and pay much closer attention to the rhetorical dimensions of texts when we read our Greek New Testaments. If, by the way, you'd like a copy of my Power Point, just email me and I'll see that you get it. My email address is dblack@sebts.edu.

Of course, ETS meetings are always fun because you get to see old friends you haven't seen for a while. Here's Boyd Luter (we go back to our Biola days) reading one of my slides during my presentation. He's in the front row.

I especially enjoyed meeting and greeting all of the Ph.D. students that attended this year's meeting. I tell you, the future of biblical studies is in very good hands. Then on Saturday, as I said, I participated in a 5K race.

And guess who broke the 30-minute barrier for the first time? I had trained hard for this day but frankly doubted that it would ever come. ("O ye of little faith.") I feel very virtuous for not screaming out loud and doing back flips in public, but I was of course elated to have finished with an official time of 28:45. I almost didn't run because I felt so drained after all of Friday's activities, but I decided to go anyway and I'm glad I did. So was the race director Valerie.

So now that I've reached one of my running goals, what's next? Three things:

1) Come in under 3 hours in my first half marathon in May.

2) Continue to train hard every month. Here's March's results.

3) Summit both the Breithorn and the Allalinhorn and climb as high as 11,000 feet on the Matterhorn this July.

I am trying, in short, to be the best Dave Black I can possibly be. Win or lose, come in under 3 hours or over 3 hours, make it to the summit or not, that's the only trophy I want or hope for. How about you? What are your goals? Aim HIGH. You'll never reach higher. Perhaps you could even aim for what you think is impossible, and then get on with your life -- get on with becoming the best you, achieving the lifelong task of becoming an athlete both physically and spiritually and achieving your God-given potential.

And so I'm very grateful to God for such a great trip. As always, I loved being with mom and dad.

Mom reminds me so much of Becky.

Today, as I rejoice over Bec's healing through her home-going, I speak her name and I remember her face, my lovely bride from Ethiopia and Texas.

Cheers!

Dave

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