January 2017 Blog Archives
Tuesday, January 31
7:45 AM Vital information:
1) Full text of the executive order.
2) Current vetting procedures for refugees.
3) Contact numbers for your Senators.
Stay informed, my fellow Americans! Let your views be heard!
Let's not forget, too, that the New Testament sets forth a pattern of crisis and conduct:
1) Rom. 13:11-14
2) 1 Cor. 7:29-31
3) Tit. 2:11-14
4) 1 Pet. 4:7-19
5) 2 Pet. 3:10-12
There is no doubt about the crisis, but is our conduct rising to the occasion?
Monday, January 30
5:58 PM Only 14 weeks to go until the mother of all marathons (slight exaggeration -- but it's a big deal for me), and only 7 to my half. I am truly motivated. I dropped a lot of weight through training and I plan to keep it off. Right now I'm cleaning the house. I might be messy but I'm a thankful messy. I am freaked out about the scale of everything I've got on my plate, but faith in God means obedience with no thought of consequences, right? Even a fish's stomach (think Jonah) can become a place of spiritual renewal (heehee). My emails need to be cleaned out. So do my room trashes. Meanwhile I'm still trying to raise money for my UNC fundraiser, so if you're a corporate type, watch out because I'm after you. In a way it's sad to have someone to dedicate your marathon to, but in another sense I try to remember that I'm running for a really good cause. I am terribly sorry for not posting essays on my website any more but, honestly, I simply haven't got the time. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to exercise this weekend (other than the race on Saturday) but I've been dragging (again) and don't have the strength. I'm feeling really good today, though, so watch out Wake Forest -- the crazy jogger is returning. Folks, I'm gonna keep on running the race Jesus has set before me. But whatever. You just take one day at a time.
Tomorrow's a big day -- gastrointestinally. I've got a lunch engagement PLUS a dinner appointment. Just call me "Mr. Sociable" if you like. Otherwise, my days are filled with classes, back-to-back meetings, student appointments, and chapel. Do you ever struggle mentally just to keep everything straight? It's great to be on this journey with you. However iffy life becomes, I am beyond thankful for my friends and family who stick with me rain or shine. I'm even thankful for all that's going in our nation, because I think it has the potential to purify us as a people and help all of us rethink our priorities. Despite all the shards of broken bottles that puncture and divide us, we're still one nation. I just wish we could all listen to each other better. I mean, I am obviously not a difficult person, but there are some people who are. I'll pray for you (heehee again). Can we all try and demonstrate the love of God without any strings attached? You soften hearts, you open minds. Or, as I once heard one of my professors at Biola say, in order for people to hear the words you have to play the music. (Or something like that.) I'm not saying that this will resolve the controversies of the day, but I think it will go some ways toward it.
Finally, for no particular reason, I'm gonna post this great old tune by Orleans. Bec and I loved it. Honestly, Becky is "still the one" for me. I know that sounds really lame, but hey -- I'm really lame! Anyhoo, see if you don't tap your feet when you listen to these dudes performing one of their hits from the 70s. Gives an old guy like me hope. The guitar duet in the middle of the song still gives me goose bumps.
11:44 AM When we accuse others of being fakes, it may because we know, deep down inside, that we are too. But projecting our low self-esteem on others is a psychological defense that creates more problems than it solves. The sense of self-empowerment that it offers is usually very short-lived. Say that someone has just attacked one of your business proposals. Instead of offering a rational response you find something to attack them for. You hurt them back. This response to act out of a compulsion to get even is blatantly childish behavior. I'm bringing this up because our topic in our Gospels class on Wednesday will be anger (Matt. 5:22), and anger is often motivated by a desire not to feel guilty but instead to pass our emotional pain on to others. Anger almost always masks emotional suffering. The solution is to see ourselves as God sees us -- as lost sinners -- and then, trusting Christ, seeing ourselves as not our own but as bought with a price and the personal property of the Lord whom we now willingly love and seek to honor. It is only then that we can be properly related to ourselves and not live an inner war in our souls. We acquire true self-respect. Friction and anger disappear when we are right with ourselves because we are first right with God. This, in fact, is the message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in a nutshell. Seek first His kingdom, and all the other things we need will be added unto us.
Should be an interesting discussion.
9:25 AM Here's a helpful spreadsheet telling you where your senators stand on the immigration ban. Below I cite one Republican's comments as an illustration of the issues involved.
Agree with Senator Graham? Disagree? Why? Stay informed! In the meantime, who are we serving and caring for today in our communities? God has already brought the nations to us. Let's "work hard to show the results of our salvation" (Phil. 2:12). According to the Pew Research Center:
Christian or Muslim, we need to be Jesus to these people. In the 33 years He lived on this earth, Jesus loved the unlovable, healed the sick, and pointed people toward the Father. Then He died for them and said, "It is finished." Christ had no unfinished business. Do we? Last year North Carolina alone took in approximately 4,000 refugees from places like the DRC, Sudan, Somalia, and Myanmar. World Relief Durham (NC) has a helpful list of ways we can build relationships with these refugees, including links on dealing with culture shock, language barriers, and friendship activities. Their mission is to help local churches serve the most vulnerable. If you know of other organizations that you feel are assisting refugees in a helpful way, please link to them on your blog or Facebook page. The future of the immigration ban is important, but we don't have to wait for the stranger to arrive on our shores.
Sunday, January 29
6:36 PM I had to laugh out loud when I read this today in the book of Ecclesiastes: "The fastest runner doesn't always win the race" (Eccl. 9:11). Amen to that! Today was a time for this runner to just slow down a bit. My life (like yours) is so hectic that I've got a pressure-cooker list of things to do that I never seem to be able to finish. Well, this afternoon I settled in and took time to gather some perspective in my life. I wanted to be still and just meditate on God. When Jesus retreated to a place of quiet, I imagine He did so partly because He needed to release His heavy load of care to the Father. That's what I did today. Right now I have nothing else to say but a word of thanks to God. No matter what's happening in my life, He is always there, giving me chance after chance after chance to run my race no matter how slow I am. The game isn't over for me yet. Or for you. And that's why I keep on singing.
Looking forward to this week, we're covering textual criticism in Wednesday's "Jesus and the Gospels" class, and I'll be tackling for the umpteenth time with my students the textual variant in Matt. 5:22, where Jesus either condemns all anger or only anger "without a cause" (eike). Maybe you've struggled with anger in your life. It's a habit that nags at your heart. I am awestruck that Jesus would so honest about anger. And James too (James 1:19-20). There's something so very touching -- and, well, human -- about reading the Gospels. You get the idea that human emotions really meant something to Jesus.
In our LXX seminar this week, my colleague Chip Hardy will be leading the class in a discussion of biblical Hebrew, so for once I get to keep my mouth shut. In the meantime, I've been rereading two great books on the Septuagint, shown below.
The one on the right is, in fact, one of the required textbooks for our class. Exasperating as it is at times, language study can be oh, so rewarding. It helps us to ask really tough questions of Scripture. Pause a few minutes right now. Think back to that special day when you fell in love with the Bible (in whatever language) for the first time. Still have your ear cocked to hear His voice? Yep. So do I. That's the way it is with being a Christian. If we love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind, there's really no room to ignore what He's trying to say to us. If He is truly Lord, then His throne can't be shared -- not with any cause, and not with any philosophy or political party or human author. When it comes right down to it, we're all pretty biblically illiterate. There's always so much more to know, let alone obey. Perhaps that's mostly due to the fact that we just love ourselves too much. The solution isn't necessarily to love ourselves any less. It's to love God more. That's why I teach Greek, I reckon. Can't love someone you don't know.
Finally, like you, I've been watching the news. Honestly, I'm tired of the daily battles going on in our world. Of course, like you, I have opinions as to what course of action our nation should take as far as the pressing issues of the day are concerned. And like you, I still have lots of personal goals and ambitions and dreams. That said, I'm tired of Satan's messing with our planet. It feels like falling, trying to make sense of everything. Jesus urged us to live in anticipation of His second coming. So often I fail to do this. Since Becky's passing, however, I've had an intense desire to meet Christ face to face. It could happen tomorrow. Not that the date is important. What's important is that I should be ready. I believe we'd all be better off if we thought that way. Maranatha. Come soon, Lord Jesus. That said, this weekend the world, with its billions of people and problems, suddenly came into focus. Immigration is no longer too far away to think about. I don't have a solution to the problem. In fact, I wonder if there is a "Christian" solution to any of the world's problems other than the Gospel. But I do know this: Maybe if we'd all practice love of the stranger more at home, our world would improve. If our homes improved, so would our neighborhoods. If our neighborhoods improved, so would our cities. If our cities improved, so would our states. And if our states improved, so would our country, and better countries make for a better world. I love our nation. We all generally get along, except when we don't. It's just like a family. We'll always have our share of differences. Sometimes big differences. As for God's people, I think He has provided a peek into what He expects of us. "The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them. But we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions" (Deut. 29:29). Jesus, I believe, understood more than anyone the tendency of the human heart to marginalize people who are "different" from us. He also could have given us a point-by-point explanation of what governments should do in such circumstances. But He didn't. The answers are met by silence in the Bible. His follower Paul did, however, tell us what we can do, and that is to intercede for all those in authority. At times, perhaps, it will also be necessary to take a position like Peter and John did in Acts 5 by standing up for our biblical convictions (as we each understand them), even to the point of asserting that "We must obey God rather than man." God won't make your decisions for you. They are yours alone to make, and you alone must live with their consequences. But once you make the decision, God will be at your side every step of the way. Let's just be sure our only motive is love for God and love for others. May God grant all of us the grace, wisdom, and mercy we need to follow Christ in today's confusing world.
P. S. For what it's worth, I think this declaration strikes a healthy balance between national security needs, the needs of refugees, and the responsibility of the body of Christ to be His loving hands and feet in the world. It reads, in part:
Okay. My brain is fried. Time to read my novel!
9:15 AM Sean Spicer's failure to provide any evidence for voter fraud, emphasizing instead that the "belief" it happened was enough to make it so, made me think of the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s. It used colored beads to determine the historicity of Jesus' sayings. It believed that the Gospel of Thomas may have had more authentic sayings of Jesus than the canonical Gospels. In John's Gospel, for example, almost all of the sayings attributed to Jesus were judged inauthentic. The result was a portrayal of Jesus as a Jewish rabbi who never died for our sins but instead taught a social gospel of compassion and humility.
The Gospels, as I said in class last Wednesday, remain a battleground in New Testament studies. That's why it's important for us to study, among other topics, the synoptic problem. I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to affirm the priority of Matthew as to defend the historicity, apostolicity, and trustworthiness of these accounts of the life of Jesus. I also emphasized in class last week the need to reject any notion that the "Jesus of history" was transformed into the "Christ of Christianity" by the apostles John and Paul, as is sometimes asserted. We are told that "the word was God" (John 1:1) was John's personal "belief" and nothing more. Indeed, even if he believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, that doesn't mean that we have to believe that today. Christianity (it is asserted) is a matter of faith, not history.
With all this I disagree, obviously. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the best-attested facts of history. Just ask Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard skeptic who came to faith in Christ while trying to debunk Christianity. I've heard some students say, "I believe that Jesus is God, and that's good enough for me." That makes a good point, but there is also a subtle danger hidden within it. We need to know something of our intellectual adversaries because the Holy Spirit has given us plenty of information on the subject. Satan is never happier than when God's people resort to simple fideism. "I believe it, so it's true." Yes, I believe it too, but there are reasons why it's true. We've got to get over the idea that a leap of faith is required to become a Christian. Christianity is a historical faith -- as Francis Schaeffer insisted in his many apologetic works on the subject. Men and women have come out of schools with honors and straight A's and yet miss this point. Have you ever thought through your faith? Or will you succumb to a Jesus Seminar approach to reality: What we like is genuine; what we don't like is false.
Just because someone tells me I have the biggest biceps and the straightest teeth doesn't mean it's true. To see reality, all I have to do is look into a mirror. It's time to beware of people (politicians, theologians, or otherwise) who don't believe in objective reality.
8:54 AM Just back from feeding the animals. Loved this reflection.
Earlier I hit the local lakeside restaurant for a working breakfast.
Was able to finish refereeing an article for a journal.
Love my work.
7:14 AM Ronald Reagan: Liberty is of foreign birth. Inspiring. My maternal grandparents who came through Ellis Island from Romania would have agreed!
Saturday, January 28
4:08 PM Hey folks. I'm still alive here, the last time I checked, that is. First order of business: Give you a brief overview of today's 5 miler at Harris Lake. When I arrived at the venue it was 32 degrees and coooold. Thankfully I remembered to wear my red hoodie that I use on my higher climbs as well as my ski cap. Gloves were definitely not optional on a day like today.
I got to the site an hour early so I had plenty of time to mill around and chat with some of my fellow runners. Most had run this course before, some several times. I was pretty jazzed to be doing a trail run since I had heard that they were so much fun.
Let's do a run-down of the race itself. The course used the park's "Peninsula Trail" that skirted the lake.
As you can see, it was very circuitous.
I have hiked a thousand trails just like this one but running it was a bit frightening. You went up and down and left and right and over muddy creek beds, all the while watching out for low-hanging tree branches. About a mile into the race everyone had pretty much gotten into their racing groove and there was very little passing, which would have been difficult because for the last 4 miles of the race the trail was reduced to a single track. I found myself running behind a guy who was going about my pace so I trailed him for about 10 minutes. When he asked me if wanted to pass I told him I liked his pace and asked him if I could just sorta tag along to the finish line. His name was Chuck and he'd competed in this race 3 times already, so he definitely knew where to go. We chatted as we ran -- talking is always a good sign that you're still aerobic! -- and I came to find that he had completed his first marathon last year. He's 46 and I'm 64 (I had to chuckle at the numerical inversion) and we're both avid runners. So finish we did!
I just checked the race results and I see that it took me exactly 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 56 seconds to run 5 miles on a really difficult course. Mine was about a 12.5 minute-mile pace. I tried not to take off too fast. The good thing is that I had remembered to warm up for 20 minutes straight before the gun sounded, so I was raring to go and didn't need to slow down or walk at any point along the course. I came in 4th in my age group -- dead last, as a matter of fact. A 60-year old beat me by a whopping 13 minutes. No fair! When I got home I took a hot shower and pooped out for an hour. As I said, I'm a bit tired, but I had a really great time and I'm pleased with my results. A thousand thanks to Chuck for allowing me to dog his heels. The Lord knew I needed a pace-setter and Chuck was the perfect racer to perform that function.
And that's it. Another race in the history books. My next race is February 12 (5K) and my next half marathon (13.1 miles) is March 19. I'm feeling great. A few minor aches and pains, but nothing serious. No feet pain -- which is always a huge relief. I'm very serious about running but I'm definitely not someone who can tell you what it's like to win a race. But what I can tell you is that I love the spirit of running. I love getting sweaty and conquering my weaknesses and working hard on achieving a goal that seems sooooo unattainable. The point is: Three years ago I wasn't running or doing any training at all. Now I can actually run 5 miles without dropping dead at the finish line. This is absolutely amazing and I owe it all to my Trainer and His awesome ability to take jars of clay and empower them to do "more than they could ever ask or imagine."
I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend. I'm thinking of chowing down some prime rib for dinner tonight. I think my body deserves it!
Friday, January 27
6:10 PM Did you know that George Orwell's 1984 is now #1 at Amazon? It's been a while since I've read it but that is about to change. Sadly, a citizenry motivated by fear is easier to govern.
5:12 PM Here's the race roster for tomorrow's 5 mile trail run (just the over 60 crowd) at Harris Lake. I know who you'll be rooting for. My bib number is 158.
I still can't believe I'm running a race in January. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm dreading running in 35-degree weather. But the sun will be shining and the trail will be gorgeous. You work different muscles on dirt/gravel tracks than when you're running on asphalt. You also run on average 3 miles per hour slower than normal mainly because you are always concentrating on where you're going. It will be a nice break for body and mind.
4:45 PM This and that ....
1) Dined here today.
It's on 501 in Roxboro. The food is real Mexican. No fajitas served (which are a U.S. creation).
2) There I met my daughter Kim and her family for lunch.
3) Gabriel is now 8 months old.
I have the cutest grandkids, n'est-ce pas?
4) One of my grandsons built this today. (Thanks, Nate, for sending it along.)
How awesome is that. Looks like a Massie-Ferguson if you ask me.
5) I heard our baby donkey bray for the first time today.
Looks like he's becoming an extrovert like his mommy and daddy. Go Ishi!
6) Did you know that the Theological German website is back? Just wait for someone to ask you to pronounce:
7) Thomas Hudgins announces a new book series in Spanish. I predict it will overtake Harry Potter in no time.
8) Eager to hear the North Carolina Symphony tomorrow night at the Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. The program celebrates Mozart's 260th birthday. It features his Symphony No. 39 in E Flat Major. Mozart was all of 32 when he composed it.
Who are your favorite classical composers? Mine are (in order of importance) Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, and Schubert.
9:05 AM Good Morning, America. From one day to the next the news just keeps getting stranger. Bouncing around the internet I found a story I somehow missed last weekend. In case you didn't know it, a week ago today you awoke on National Day of Patriotic Devotion. No one can blame you for not knowing about it since it happened before it was even declared. If you guessed that the Day was inauguration day, you guessed right. The declaration celebrates our nation's unity and patriotism. On another sunrise, in fact only one day later, America's streets were filled with people protesting the events of the day before. Unity? Hmm. Perhaps we've never been more divided as a nation. Patriotism? Yes indeed, if you define patriotism as I do: Allegiance to the law of the land (the Constitution) and not necessarily to any man or political party. The problem I have with the declaration is the word "devotion." I don't know, but that sounds a little irreverent to me. With apologies to Upton Sinclair, if and when fascism ever comes to America it will be cloaked in a Bible and and wrapped in patriotic "devotion." I recall Obama being excoriated at one time for his use of executive orders, bypassing the Congress and the democratic system. It was either his way or no way. Now congressional Republicans are giving the president everything he wants even as his staff provides "alternative facts" to the press. That's kinda weird. I think the point for us followers of King Jesus is this: Our Lord came to set the world on fire, not only by His example and teachings but through His death and resurrection. His "Way" (thus Christianity was first called in Acts) brought about a new order, a new life, a new way of thinking about the world system, a new conduit for the Spirit whose fire and flame would burn throughout the world. Anyone who wants to bypass Calvary and set the world on fire merely by the "influence" of Jesus is far from His program. There is a better path. Missionary Jim Elliot was martyred in the jungles of Ecuador because he "didn't count his life dear to himself" (Acts 20:24). His killers saw only a mangled body, but his wife saw a soul that had gone home through gates of splendor. Life is dear in God's sight. All life. The lives of unborn children. The lives of women. The lives of immigrants. The lives of religious and ethnic minorities. The lives of the disabled among us. Your own life is precious to Him. Life is His gift to you and to me. But we must give an account to Him for the way we live that life. We can spend it selfishly through acts of self-aggrandizement, or we can "lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose." Our Lord Himself taught us that in the last days many will cry "Peace" when there is no peace, talking security when sudden destruction looms. Yet all the while there is One who knows what the future holds. We are His, bought and paid for by His blood. "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe." He reigns here and now not because He is an earthly sovereign but because He is the eternal Son of God and the resurrected, ruling, and returning Lord of Glory. Thus my times are not really mine but His. I am merely the steward of my days on earth, and I had better number them so that I can apply my heart to wisdom. I want to use my time to witness to the Timeless One by doing what He has told His followers to do: go everywhere and tell everyone that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and then backing up that message with Calvary-style deeds of love -- caring for orphans and widows in their need, giving water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, nursing the sick back to health, clothing the naked, befriending the strangers in our midst, and visiting the imprisoned. To the extent that we do these things probably says more about us and our understanding of Christianity than anything else.
P.S. Speaking of patriotism, you have simply got to watch the ending of this YouTube called Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing. Start at 1:35:46. It tells the story of one survivor who returns to run the marathon on one leg and a prosthesis. Believe me, you will sit there in open-mouthed astonishment. Kleenex required.
P.P.S. This morning I'm feeling great. I feel like crying when I think that God just stepped into my little universe and brought healing to my tired and aching body. I want to tell the world, and I want to thank everyone who prayed for me.
Thursday, January 26
6:02 PM I have one peak in the Rockies left on my bucket list and it just happens to be the tallest of the 14ers in Colorado, namely Mount Elbert. Isn't it a beaut?
It stands 14,440 feet above sea level. The route is 11.2 miles round trip, which makes for a very long day. I know, because this is the time it took me to climb Huron Peak last year. I know exactly what to anticipate: thin air, endless walking, and tons of rocks and boulders. An early start is essential if you want to avoid the electrical storms that seem to pop up every afternoon. But the experience is worth it. The pics from the summit of a 14er are priceless. Next year I want to try for Rainier or Grand Teton. Maybe. I dunno. I never have trouble with high altitude but climbs always leave me panting. I plan to do Elbert in late September so as to enjoy better weather conditions (fewer storms) before the winter snow begins falling. We'll see. It's all in the Lord's hands. But I would love to try.
5:32 PM I've signed up for the Run for the Roses 5K in Raleigh on February 12. (All lady finishers receive a rose. Aww.) The goal is to raise money for Canines for Service, which trains service dogs for people with limited mobility. The field of participants looks huge. The course is a challenging one that I've run maybe 5 times already. Very hilly. The race is held on the property of a former psychiatric clinic. (No jokes, please.) The race will be a lot of fun. The one thing I really miss, though, is climbing. I need to get in a climb in the near future or I will go bonkers. Of course, there are limits to what I can do. I've got to be picky and choosy with my time and energy. Speaking of being choosy, this week I need to replace my iPhone 5. It's been acting up and besides, I've had it for over two years. I spoke with the folks at Verizon in Wake Forest and I hope to get an update next week when I'm back on campus. The new iPhone 7 is considerably bigger than my 5s, but I'm told I can still manage it with one hand, plus a Mophie battery recharger is available for it. Now I'm asking myself if I should also buy a Garmin watch to help me clock my races, since even with the Mophie I don't think my phone can last a full 26.2 miles. I also need to consider getting some accessories such as a fuel belt and compression stockings. Oh, and a good anti-chafe product. Any insights or recommendations are greatly appreciated.
4:12 PM Yesterday I heard someone say, I think it was me, that Christian baptism is one of the 7 marks of a New Testament church. The topic came up in our Gospels class because we had been looking at the participles "baptizing" and "teaching" in Matt. 28:19. Clearly Jesus intended for water to come before wisdom. In the New Testament book of Acts, if you got saved, you got wet, in that order and often without much of a pause between the two events. Of course, my human logic tells me that Jesus has things backwards here. Shouldn't we instruct new coverts in the faith and test the genuineness of their conversion before we allow them to be baptized? Makes good sense to me. And indeed, in places like East Africa, baptism is postponed for months, sometimes even up to a year, before converts are allowed to enter the waters of baptism. The only problem with this is that Jesus' order is baptism then teaching, and we have no right to amend the Master's priorities. We can't simple ignore what our Lord taught and indeed what the early church practiced.
The reason I called my chapter on baptism "Christian Baptism" in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is because the earliest believers were mostly Jews who were well acquainted with daily ablutions and ceremonial washings. But Christian baptism is unique in that (1) it is no longer self-administered and (2) it is unrepeatable. Converts don't baptize themselves and, when they are baptized, they don't ever have to repeat the act. I also suggest in my book that baptism in the book of Acts was a public act whenever possible. Here I am at the ripe old age of 8 being baptized at Kailua Beach the same week I was saved. (Hush up, now, about those silly white robes. It was a 60s thing.)
This was the same beach I surfed at and swam in almost every day -- a very public setting indeed. I recall once reading about a church in Africa that baptizes new converts in the ocean. The candidate is literally thrown into a wave "in the name of the Father," at which point he or she is washed back to shore. (Can't you just picture that?) But it gets even better. The church leaders quickly pick up the now drenched convert and throw him or her into another wave "in the name of the Son." This is repeated a third time, "in the name of the Spirit." (Interestingly, as a lifelong surfer I've noticed that waves often come in sets of three.) The point apparently is not simply to emphasize the name of the Triune God. In baptizing people this way, converts are given a tactile baptismal experience that initiates them into the struggle of the Christian faith. "Hey, follow Jesus if you want to, but man, it's going to cost you!" I'm reminded of Paul's famous "encouraging message" to the believers in Asia Minor. After urging them to stick with their new-found faith and not give up, he said, "Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through hard times" (Acts 14:22). A thousand apologies for doing it, but here I can't resist the temptation to draw yet another analogy to running in a race. In many ways, that first race was your easiest. After all, that's where you got your very first PR (Personal Record). Now that you are a "runner," however, the real struggle begins. Some days you just can't get out of bed to do it. You struggle with willpower, with sore feet, with aching quads, with lack of motivation. I'm not proud to admit it, but I have these struggles almost every day. As Unknown once said, "My sweat pants smell like give up." Life can be hard. Shoot, it IS hard. On race day my legs often feel like they weigh 200 pounds each. You have to learn to push the doubts aside and just keep on going. And I will. Because I'm hooked. Even with all my self-doubts and infirmities, I am a dedicated runner. My race times might not make salacious headlines, but for me they are symbols of victory. I'm overwhelmed by the joy of it all, despite all the "hard times." Forgive me if I ever flaunt an attitude of self-sufficiently here on my blog. Who am I fooling? Racing, like life, is just plain tough work. But the task is made easier when I consider that everything I have is a gift from God, freely bestowed, so I should freely give it back in return (Matt. 10:8). I never want to back off from doing something because it looks too hard or because I don't want to "fail." That is to say, Jesus helps us in our Christian walk, and He there's always there to pick us up should we fall.
Baptism means death. It means, "Hello! Ready for a fight? Ready to face temptations that blitz you daily? Ready to be a Christian in a non-Christian world? Ready to love your neighbor as you love yourself? Ready to exercise love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control -- the marks of a true Christian?" No one is ever ready to do that. But you gotta start somewhere. You get saved, you get wet. Baptism is your public pledge of total and complete allegiance to your Lord and Master and Savior and Redeemer and Best Friend. And as a Spirit-filled Christian, you should be able to keep on running your race to the glory of God.
1:24 PM Today I'm taking the day off from running. Just feeling a bit ragged. If I can get some good rest today and tomorrow I'm still hopeful I can wake up at a ridiculously early hour on Saturday morning for my race in Raleigh. I've never done a 5-miler before and my goals are very simple: 1) finish, and 2) finish before my Map My Run app runs out of batteries. 5 miles is still a loooong way to run in a competition. Admittedly a big hairy audacious goal. So I'm off from the track today and off from the Y tomorrow. I hate these sorts of decisions. You keep mulling over pros and cons but eventually you have to make a decision. Okay, enough whining already. But if you could say a prayer for me -- that I'd get over whatever I seem to be coming down with -- it would be greatly appreciated.
12:22 PM Hey folks. As I was driving back from South Hill today I happened upon Elizabeth Elliott on the radio talking about some of her favorite hymns. I had to smile at that word -- "hymn." My students, I dare say, might not even know what the word refers to. Many of them are growing up completely bereft of the music Elizabeth Elliott is referring to. Cut to my college years. I attended Biola, and while there I was a member of the College Church of La Mirada. It was a beautiful experience, and I learned much from Pastor and Mrs. Hakes about living the Christian life, about how to love genuinely, compassionately, and without patronization or pity. Like most of my generation that was raised in the church, my lifestyle was shaped not only by the frequent reading of the word of God but also by what used to be called "the great hymns of the faith." I began to look for kingdom opportunities, and I found plenty of them at the College Church. One of them was leading the hymn singing during our Sunday evening services, and so I got to know the "great hymns" quite intimately, including the two hymns Elizabeth talked about today: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and Loved with Everlasting Love. Today the church gets so caught up in national politics. But that's not what Jesus taught. Jesus never gave us the keys to the political system. He handed over the keys to His kingdom. How thankful I am for a man named Martin Luther, who penned the words of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Read them and see if they do not bring a renewed sense of divine peace in your life:
A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark
Did we in our own strength confide, Our
striving would be losing;
And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
That word above all earthly pow’rs — No
thanks to them — abideth:
Friends, if we are going to expect our voices to be heard in a post-Christian culture, we had better learn how to live the Gospel as a people who no longer occupy the center of society. His kingdom is forever -- regardless of the current political situation. We can't be kingdom people while injuring and offending the marginalized with our words. As I told my "Jesus and the Gospels" students yesterday, I am being lured back to the simple ways of Jesus. He is the Senior Pastor everyone is looking for. I'm on a journey like never before. God's word is "above all earthly powers." Period. Our God is a mighty fortress. He's the real deal. That's why it's so dangerous to study the Gospels. We are forced to wrestle with our addiction to celebrity and church size. We begin to painfully overhaul our priority system. It's embarrassing to admit that I have to do this as much as anyone else. I want to say out loud that no one is more aware of his pride than I am. I guess that's why I enjoy teaching the Gospels so much. The reality of the Jesus-way-of-life begins to sink in. "His kingdom is forever," and that's the only kingdom that matters. This is not a perspective I would have identified with in my earlier years when I was establishing my reputation as a "Greek scholar." It's a different kind of reality -- far removed from degrees and publications and head knowledge. The kingdom-Jesus punches you right in the guts. If somehow we could find our way back to the life of the kingdom and Jesus' community. This is by no means an anti-church perspective. It's as pro-church as you can get. A frustrating trait of God is His divine impartiality. He does not "receive faces" (to be overly literal with the Greek). He opens our eyes to the human suffering all around us. The least among us is now the greatest (Luke 9:48). We begin reading books like Piper's Don't Waste Your Life or Rohr's Simplicity or Nouwen's My Sister, My Brother. So let me make this as clear as I can as I begin a new semester with you, my dear students. I don't want to be known as a Greek scholar. I don't want to be admired for the books I've written. I don't want to be recognized for the mission trips I've made. I don't want to be applauded for my degrees. My version of great would look something like this: "Wow. Dave Black is really trying to follow Jesus." Jesus is our gold standard. And it's most clearly in the Gospels that we see His life, plain and simple. As we gaze into His image, guess what? We begin to be transformed from glory unto glory into that same image. All we have to do is obey the word we've heard in our heart. All we have to do is make Him our Lead Pastor. We almost have to become marginalized to become His true followers. "Let goods and kindred go," said Luther. "This mortal life also." You are so right, Martin. I believe that perhaps the single reason you were not reduced to a pile of Carbon 14 (like so many of your predecessors who were burned at the stake) is to remind us that "God's truth abideth still" for all who will take the time and make the effort to accept it. Of course, as a professor, all I can do is make a small ripple in the ocean of church reform. But together. Ahh, together we can make a difference. We can change the world.
Viva the revolution!
Wednesday, January 25
6:38 PM Having been teaching for 40 years you'd think I'd be burned out by now. You'd be wrong. Yesterday and today it felt as exciting to enter the classroom as it did when I first taught Greek way back in 1976 at Biola. Someone has said that great teachers are passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge and passion with others. I had some great teachers when I was in college and seminary. What set them apart was their ability to find new and creative ways to make their point. They also loved their students and it showed. Someday I want to become that kind of a teacher. My students are the greatest and they deserve good teaching. They work so hard it is amazing. Here's my first year Greek class working in small groups on their translation exercises.
And here's my LXX class working on English to Greek composition this morning.
Finally, here's my NT 1 class as today as they took their first "fun" quiz.
Nothing better than to see people eager to learn something new. I want this year to be my best year of teaching ever. I want to leave behind methods and attitudes that are less than helpful or edifying. I want to get back in touch with the desires of my heart and not only my mind. If I can turn my attention to these things, I think it can be a year of great growth both for me and for my students. In the meantime, it's an absolute pleasure for me to share with you snippets of my classroom life. May the message of Christ dwell among all of us richly as we admonish and teach one another with all wisdom (Col. 3:16).
Next order of business: Finish my weekly training. I got a 5K run in last night after teaching Greek 2, and tomorrow I'd like to get in another long run before getting back to the Y on Friday for some much-needed weight training. Saturday, of course, is the big race. I've given up on any goal for what will be my first ever trail run. I do know that I need to get a whole lot stronger in my legs before I attempt 26.2 miles. The main thing is to maintain a steady diet of training. Which reminds me of the joke David Letterman once told. "I pulled a hamstring during the New York City marathon," he said. "An hour into the race, I jumped off the couch." It's ridiculous sometimes when I think of all the lame excuses I give myself not to run. AARGH. Stephen Covey once said that "the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions." I need to remember that. I'm pretty pumped to see where the journey this year is going to take me.
Oh, had this for dinner last night. Too hungry to cook anything.
And this came in today's mail.
Watching Patriot's Day inspired me to get it. As you know, I'm a sucker for books about heroism.
Well, that's all I got for now. Until tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 24
9:10 AM I am a runner. It doesn't matter how untalented I am. I am a runner. It doesn't matter how un-divine my running skills are. I am a runner. It doesn't matter that I'm old and gray. I am a runner. The fact is, many people today are experiencing the joy of running miles they once thought they could never run. I'm one of them. I wasn't always. Running was always for other people. Now, for me, nothing matches the feeling of standing at the starting line with a few hundred or even a few thousand other runners with nothing better to do that day except to make our way to the finish line. The best thing of all is knowing that I'm running with people who share my goals and values and who are all going in the same direction. You don't have to be a professional to run. You don't have to be a 10-minute miler. Old or young, fast or slow, professional or amateur, heavy or slim, "abled" or disabled, you, like me, can bask in the glory of race day success.
What about you?
8:56 AM Like many of you perhaps, I've been trying to figure out what God is up to these days in our nation. His plan is inscrutable. He raises up. He puts down. He starts. He stops. He says yes and He says no to our desires. He gives and He takes away. He delights and He disappoints. "The meanest soul in heaven knows more of God than the greatest saint on earth," wrote Spurgeon. It's all beyond me. I'm having to practice saying, "I will trust," "I release it all," "It's for the better." I'm trying to let the "all things" of Rom. 8:28 mean "all things." If it's for our good, and the glory of God, we don't have to explain it. As John Piper reminded us this weekend in his essay How to Live Under an Unqualified President:
"When I played tennis, I never prayed for victory in a match," wrote tennis superstar Arthur Ashe. "God's will alone matters, not my personal wants or needs." Thus, despite a feeling of 1984, every American has his or her everyday work in which they can feel they have a niche and even at times indispensability. Life, for most of us, provides the same frenetic outlets, fatuous and vulnerable, for human energy. Something primeval in us watches in horror and fascination as the restless force of human ingenuity, responsible alike for comedy and tragedy, beauty and ugliness, finds its own level in society. It's easy to feel disillusioned and discouraged if you feel the "wrong side" won. That said, the longer I live and the closer I walk with the Lord, the more I trust Him. Republican? Democrat? Either is God's prerogative. Back away, Dave. Accept it. No. Go further. Rejoice in what God is doing, in what truly makes America great regardless of who is in the White House. America has always stood for the right to be wrong and stupid, and the right to be less wrong and less stupid if you want to; the right to complain whenever you feel like it; the right to vote and the right not to vote; the right to attend a presidential inauguration and the right to boycott it; the right to say that because of this election "the best days of the United States are ahead of us" and the right to say that our current president "is the least qualified person ever elected to the highest office in our land and to the concomitant position of being the most powerful man in the world."
America never was and never will be the cloud-nine utopia our politicians promise us. It can, however, be a better place in which to live. But only if each of us does our part. "When the oak tree is felled," wrote Thomas Carlyle, "the whole forest echoes it; but a hundred acorns are planted by some unnoticed breeze." If we are ultimately linked with the God of the universe, we won't need to worry about what the king -- or the crowd -- is doing. The same God who created the heavens and the earth is enacting a plan I'll never be able to explain but one in which I can still participate. The only real security we have is in Jesus Christ and in living His way by imitating God as He is revealed in Jesus (Eph. 5:2).
I guess I'm with Augustine on this one: "Entrust the past to God's mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence."
Monday, January 23
7:28 PM Guess what? I've signed up for my first-ever trail run for this Saturday at Harris Lake Park just south of Raleigh. It's a 5-mile race that starts at 9:00 am, which hopefully will give me enough time to drive there. Maybe it's because I live on a farm, but I think I'll feel right at home running in the woods. I just hope the course isn't too taxing. I like hiking through root systems and along slippery slopes, but running? Sounds like a big-time ouch if you lose your footing. You can also race for 10 miles if you like, but I'm going to be content with the shorter distance. When I was in Birmingham this weekend I ran twice in the neighborhood where Jon and Matthea live. On Saturday I did a 5K, and on Sunday a 10K. Their neighborhood boasts a killer hill, let me tell you. "I'm a gazelle!" was definitely not going through my mind as I ran. Okay, that's a little dramatic, but I really did suffer running up that crazy hill all those times.
Here's the race website for this weekend in case you're interested. My long run this week is going to be 7 miles, which I plan to do either in Raleigh, Farmville, or locally.
5:40 PM Hey folks. It's a little after 5:30 and I just got back from my daughter's house in the great state of Alabama. Here's my latest grandbaby, the one and only Miss Karis Lynn Glass. Woohoo!!!
I had a blast with the Glasses even though our 5K on Saturday was rained out.
I return with my emotional batteries completely charged and raring to get back to school for WEEK ONE. I count myself blessed among men to have Jon and Matthea as part of my family. You have no idea idea what family means to me in the absence of my Becky. My heart is full of hope and light. Had a lot to write about the inauguration but I'm too tired to type out my thoughts and besides I've got to prepare my meals for the week. Hopefully, back tomorrow.
Friday, January 20
7:40 AM Last night on Amazon Prime I watched a movie about extreme sports called The World's Highest Race. It takes place in Northern India. The idea is to run 222 km in under 60 hours at an average altitude of 14,000 feet. Everyone participating in the race -- runners, coaches, crew members, cameramen -- are required to acclimatize for 10 days prior to the race. Three people died of altitude sickness the day they arrived on site. It's incredible what the human body can do when pushed to its limits. When I was training for the Alps last year I was told by my guide that I needed to be in the best shape of my life if I was to summit a 4,000 meter peak. There's no doubt you have to push yourself to climb at high altitude. I averaged 100 hours of training each month before I left for Switzerland. The biggest issue you have to deal with is the altitude. Somehow, at high altitude, your heart and lungs need to get oxygen to your muscles. Mental toughness is also important. As with long distance running, mountain climbing involves reaching your goal (the summit) but only through hours of boredom and repetition. Step after step. Breath after breath. Occasionally you pause for a rest, as I did on my two 14,000 foot climbs in the Rockies. In the Alps, not only do you have the altitude to deal with but ice and snow. I was incredibly pleased and surprised at my performance at altitude. Obviously my training made a big difference. I was able to summit every mountain I attempted to climb save one. Thanks to the advice of my mountain guide, I learned that I needed to conserve my energy by taking frequent, small steps. This was critical in every climb I attempted. This was really hard for someone like me who likes to go all out all the time. I always push myself. Obviously, however, you can't push yourself too hard. Right now, in preparing for my marathon, I'm trying to slow my pace down and focus on a manageable stride so that I don't wear myself out before the finish line. At least I won't have altitude to worry about in Cincinnati. Although I won't be competing against other runners I will be competing against the clock -- a 7 hour time limit -- which is actually quite generous. There's no doubt in my mind that any reasonably healthy person should be able to finish a marathon if he or she trains for it. At least that's my hope. Anyway, check out this movie if you have the chance. It will positively inspire you to climb that peak near your home. But please -- never underestimate any mountain for the dangers involved.
Speaking of challenges, I'm super eager for our LXX class to get started next Wednesday. Chip Hardy and I are team teaching it. I get to talk about Greek next week while Chip talks about Hebrew the following week. Then we'll begin to wade through the book of Amos in both Hebrew and Greek. Chip and I rarely see eye to eye, and that's a good thing. Students will get to hear both of our perspectives. They'll see where we agree and where we disagree. (Think of us as the Click and Clack of the teaching world.) I think this in and of itself is a very useful pedagogical tool. Rarely if ever is there only one perspective on an issue. And in some cases. there are no clear answers. Students won't find any trite formulas in our class. We will, however, offer them time-tested tools and lots of hints that hopefully will help them find their own way in the text. One thing we will definitely not neglect is the reading of actual texts.
On the first day of class we'll go through several handouts I've prepared that involve reading and composition in Greek.
I have yet to find a Greek student who couldn't complete these exercises if they really trained hard beforehand.
Success depends a lot more on tenacity than on talent. But what good is it to read Jobes and Silva and not be able to actually read texts? Do you read Greek? Have you read your LXX lately? Why not get back into it?
Thursday, January 19
5:58 PM I just registered for another 5K race, this time in Carrolton, TX, on April 1. It's a fundraiser, of all things, for the Creekview High School band to ensure that "no student is turned away from being a part of this award winning band." Bands are super big deals in Texas. And I've always been a super big fan of high school bands. In Hawaii I played trumpet from the 5th grade through high school. Lord willing, while I'm there I'll visit with mom and dad in Murphy and attend the ETS southwest regional meeting in Fort Worth.
In the meantime, here's to marathon day getting here on May 7. It can't get here quickly enough as far as I'm concerned. Only 108 days to go!
4:20 PM Yesterday I wanted sooooo bad to get in at least 8 miles, but before I knew it dusk had set in and I refuse to risk my life by running in the dark. So I settled for a 7-mile run which took me 1 hour and 23 minutes to complete at an 11:54 average pace.
Later today I plan to get my motion "fix" (without the orthopedic stress) on my bike. So yay, it was another great week of training, thanks be to God. I also got a new pair of running shoes in the mail today. My other shoes had already exceeded their 300 mile limit.
It's an indescribable feeling to be comfortable when running. And to be eating "clean."
I actually don't remember not being a runner. It's amazing how much a financial commitment can keep you going. Speaking of the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure, I got this note yesterday, along with 26 dollars in cash:
I was more than speechless. What can you say in the face of such undeserved kindness? I spent hours at Becky's bedside, my hands touching her hands, like so many husbands, thinking that somehow my holding her hand would make everything better. I prayed for a miracle, for a sudden rush of the healing Spirit to flow through her broken body. Did God hear me? I know He heard me. His heart was breaking along with mine and so many others'. Yesterday I cried and laughed and prayed and thanked the Lord for His goodness to me and for the goodness of people who take pity on lost wretches like me and say to themselves, "If Dave can run 26 miles, maybe I can give 26 dollars to hopefully spare some woman's husband and family what Dave went through." Sorry to bother you with all this talk of Becky and funds and cancer and prayer and fitness. Especially fitness. But I think you'd love it if you gave exercise a try. The hardest part early on is just getting used to doing some activity every day and building up that thing called momentum. Walk for 10 minutes. Run a mile. Bike around the block. It all counts. Find an activity you enjoy and stick with it. It took me two years to get into running shape and now I can't live without it. Set a goal for yourself. A 5K race is a good place to start. Don't let everyone else have all the fun. Jump in! The water's fine!
Anyhoo, I'm gearing up for a fantastic trip to Alabama this weekend to visit one of my daughters and her husband and their five beautiful children. I'm feeling super blessed – health, friends, family, work I love doing, hope, Jesus (and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface). On top of everything else, I had a great lunch yesterday with my assistant and his family.
I even got to dress up in my monkey suit for convocation today.
I feel like a kid at Christmas. It's like making it to the gas station on "E." My life is great and I really have no complaints. A big part of it is that you care enough to follow my rantings. Now that is amazing!
Wednesday, January 18
6:40 AM As all runners know, you tend to collect a lot of "stuff" the longer you're involved in the sport. My stuff is strewn around everywhere in the house. Medallions are here, race t-shirts are there, race hats/jackets/gloves are who knows where.
The story of my life. It's all adding up at a ferocious rate. So this week I've decided to try and organize my life. I love this medal display rack, don't you?
As for my race bibs, I'm just gonna throw them out. The t-shirts I'll save, though. Maybe one of my daughters will make a quilt for me out of them. Today is my long run, by the way, so wish me well. The weather is supposed to be fantastic.
Tuesday, January 17
4:48 PM As I noted yesterday, many people liken running a marathon to climbing Mount Everest. I guess it's like the ultimate feat.
Which got me thinking ….
Summiting Everest requires four basic stages: climbing to Camp 1, then to Camp 2, then to Camp 3, and finally to Camp 4 (the South Col) before beginning your summit push. From the South Col you have a view of the balcony, the South Summit, and the true summit. It's an incredible journey to the top of the world.
Yesterday I implemented my new running "strategy" (or is it "tragedy"?) for summiting my "Everest" – my marathon in Cincy. When you're running a marathon, there's one thing you simply must avoid doing. Everyone agrees about this. You must never think of all 26.2 miles all at once. That's way too intimidating. It's a prescription for defeat. Instead, the best way to approach the race is to break it down into more manageable segments. Some runners I've read about view every 3-mile segment as a "lap." I'm going to use 5-mile segments because much of my training is done at that distance. So here's the plan. See what you think. I'll divide the 26.2 miles into four separate "camps" before my "summit push."
If and when I reach the 20-mile mark, I'll worry about making it to the summit/finish line. Yesterday I practiced this strategy in a very quiet Wake Forest neighborhood.
The subdivision is hilly though there's nothing too steep. I used Jeff Galloway's Run-Walk method at a 3:1 ratio. This means that I ran 3 quarters of a mile and then I walked 1 quarter of a mile, and I repeated this until I had gone 5 miles. As you can see, my finishing time wasn't too bad:
It took me 1:04:52 to run-walk 5.02 miles. Which means that I could conceivably run 20 miles (to our imaginary "Camp 4") in 4 hours and 20 minutes. The best thing of all was that when I was done I wasn't feeling achy or tired at all. Taking regular breaks allowed my legs to rest. Folks, I think I'm finally beginning to build up a solid base for run-walking, and my half marathon on March 19 will be a good to test to see how I do on an actual chip-timed course. Crosstraining and rest days will complement my running days. I think I'll continue to use the 3:1 run-walk ratio, knowing that I can always adjust it the closer I get to marathon race day. Some first-time marathoners run for 1 or 2 miles and then walk for 5 or 6 minutes. To each his own I guess. But I believe Jeff when he says that continuous use of a muscle results in quicker fatigue. The longer the run, the greater the fatigue. I am CONVINCED (with God's help!) that I can finish a marathon IF I manage my resources in an economical manner. By taking frequent walk breaks, I'll not only have a better chance of completing the race, but I should enjoy a quicker recovery. After all, I do have to get on a plane the next day and fly home, right?
So watchya think? Like my plan? Personally, I'm pretty jazzed. I tell you folks, I'm beginning to love running. I mean, in what other sport do you get to spend 5 days a week training, endure chafing, blisters, blue toes, and sore parts of your upper torso, expose yourself to "overuse" injuries like shin splints and stress fractures, and wake up on race day having coughed up a few hundred bucks to put yourself through sheer torture?
By the way, despite all this talk about finishing, I'm trying to stay focused on the process and not the goal. And for now, I'm going to stick with what's working. I mean, climbing Everest seems so unbelievable. I hope I make it but there are no guarantees. So I'm filling my mind with grateful thoughts about being healthy and injury-free. Every day I get to run is pure joy. I grow daily in my understanding (and respect) for what the human body can do when it is cared for properly. "Stay in the moment, Dave, and you'll be fine."
Thanks for reading!
4:10 PM Odds and ends ....
1) My indispensable assistant Noah Kelly has an excellent website called Earthen Vessel. Me-o my-o, there's some good stuff here, from the new perspective on Paul, to resources for learning German, to "Is God a Male?" Check 'im out, matey!
2) My Greek students getting ready to enter the Great Tribulation, aka Greek 2.
It starts next Tuesday. May The Force Be With You.
3) I don't have or want lots of doctoral students. Just the best ones. Here's one of them. Yesterday we enjoyed some Mexican food and translated from English into Greek together. What fun!
4) My stats from the past 30 days. 97.9 miles. Yes, I'm serious about training.
5) I practically puked with I read this piece about three young ladies whose restaurant receipt referred to them as "fat girls." For the love of all that is good and decent! At least the store owner was willing to personally apologize to his customers, as he should have. You make a mistake, own up to it, rather than rationalize it away. You mock a disabled reporter, you apologize. Publicly. It's as simple (and as right) as that. Until then, you will have no credibility with me. Zilch. As the great Jacque Ellul once put it (Violence, p. 160):
6) Just started reading this book.
8) Finally, pictures from last Saturday's race in Cary have now appeared on Facebook. Most were taken at or near the finish line. Here's yours truly. What a pathetic looking figure.
And here's someone who is -- let's just say -- a wee bit younger than the guy shown above.
Talk about a contrast. To be fair, I was actually doing a back flip at the finish line. In my mind.
Monday, January 16
7:12 AM Here's a crazy good list of marathon movies. I watched Spirit of the Marathon last night.
Loved these quotes:
26 miles and 285 yards. An inconceivable distance. No other competition is like it. Basically, it's up to you. How dedicated you are. How willing you are to work. If your body can take it. Plus the sheer grace of God. I am more than a little freaked out but I've decided I want to try it. Hoping to run 5 miles after work today, wooooop.
Sunday, January 15
5:20 PM My race this Saturday in Birmingham is called the Red Shoe Run. It's a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama. 41 families in Birmingham call the Ronald McDonald House home each and every night of the week. Running is all about accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly. But nothing beats the runner's high that you get when you're competing for a great charity. I'm such a huge fan of "causes." One of my favorite races is the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. Running in charity races is the perfect way to combine your passion for running, fitness, and doing something good for others. Whenever I feel complacent about training, I remember why I'm running. Right now my main goal is to come up with a plan that will get me ready for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy and help me avoid injury during training. Lots of running. Lots of crosstraining. Lots of rest in between workouts. Gradually increasing my mileage. You've got to take a positive approach to this or you're a goner. I'm allowing myself to run up to three times a week and that's it. I'm doing tons of crosstraining too, mostly on my trusty mountain bike. I am so excited. I wish all of you could come to Ohio and run the race with me. I suppose people run for all kinds of reasons. The t-shirts. (Hehe.) Recovering from an emotional trauma like a divorce and the death of a spouse. I love the challenge of it all. I'm a sap when it comes to books and movies that offer inspiration to people who set out to accomplish a goal that requires tons of determination. Running long distances is both a mental and a physical struggle. You keep saying to yourself, "Wow, this is really hard." Still, more than a million people enter marathons each year. The goal is to win over adversity. That's what running is all about. And what life is all about too. I am nervous, scared, and filled with self-doubt. But I also have the Lord and I know He can get me through anything. Holy cow. I am a marathoner. For realsies. And for a great cause too. How crazy is that?
Oh, it's back-to-school week. Commencement kicks off Thursday. Until then we have three more days of J-term Greek. On Tuesday we'll cover the middle and passive voices in Greek for the first time. We'll also cover deponency -- which is no big deal, since I've always taught that these forms can be understood as true middles. (I first heard this from Neva Miller at a two-week conference on Greek at the Summer Institute of Linguistics campus in Dallas way back in the Dark Ages.) I've got 11 students in my LXX class (team-taught with one of my OT colleagues), 25 in my NT 1 class, and 38 in my Greek 2 class. I remember teaching my first class at Biola 40 years ago. Seems like 4 years ago. My passion for teaching hasn't changed a bit. A person can learn a lot, even from dogs. But all learning is self-learning. "I never teach my pupils," wrote Albert Einstein, "I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." Besides, teaching is much more than cognition. Coach John Wooden once said, "Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference." Finally, I love this quote: "The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence" (Amos Alcott). Indoctrination? A thousand times no. Inspiration? A million times yes. I am still cracking up that this boy from Kailua Beach is a professor of Greek -- or of anything for that matter.
God is good!
9:45 AM Miscellany ....
1) I'm beyond grateful that my legs aren't feeling any soreness at all today. Really looking forward to two short runs and one long run this week. I see the winner of yesterday's race is a 29-year old named Glen who finished in 17:33. Now that's impressive. Getting more and more excited about my half marathon coming up on March 19.
2) Really thankful for bloggers who've been so kind to link to my upcoming marathon in memory of Becky. Go here and here for examples. The race is on May 7, and Becky's birthday is on May 12. This year she would have been 64. I'm still trying to absorb all the life-changing lessons God wants me to learn through this experience. Thank you again for your prayers and emails. You validated my pain and gave me hope in the midst of confusion. I miss you, Becky!
3) Dogs are just the best. Sheba has finally adjusted to life without Dayda I think. If she could talk I do believe she would tell me she's doing fine. So grateful.
4) Today I'm cooking supper for 6. Also been washing clothes and vacuuming. No threat to my manhood!
5) Got caught up with the news. What a week it's been! The next 4 years are going to be a WILD ride.
Saturday, January 14
6:54 PM Today I completed my 30th 5K. I have to admit that this one was a very tough cookie. I believe this course is the hilliest you'll find in Raleigh. After all, it's the official cross country course for Wake County. The race itself started near the stadium. There was a good crowd on hand. I lined up and was feeling pretty good as the race got underway. The route was level and it went downhill for about a half mile. Then the real hills began, so I backed off a little. I felt great but my pace was inching slower and slower. We ran up and down hills, past the parking lot, alongside a road, and then up a steep incline. By this time my legs were feeling like rubber, though my feet felt great. There is no way I can praise New Balance shoes enough. I felt like I was walking on air the entire time. I finally crossed the finish line. By my Map My Run app, I finished in 32:50, which amounted to about a 10:17 pace. Since this course was such a struggle for me, I was really hoping I could keep my finish time under 33 minutes. So it was something of a shock that the official results showed that I had finished in 32:26. I had missed coming in first place in the 60-69 age division by 45 seconds. I didn't think I was racing that good. My thanks to all the cheerleaders for lining the field at the end to cheer the racers on to the finish line. One thing I left out of this recap is the weather. The race was a lot colder than I'd prefer and, because of the rain we had this morning, a lot muddier as well. I'm really looking forward to racing in warmer weather again. After the race, I stopped by the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh and ordered some kai wat. Hoo boy was that good. I asked them to make a take-out order for the Black family since they've been under the weather of late. Money well spent! From there I made a beeline to Nate and Jessie's farm, dropped off the food, hung out with the boys a little, then drove home and crashed. I looked like this before the race began.
Here's the starting line-up.
There's nothing like Ethiopian food to warm the cockles of the heart.
The boy's "hay fortress."
Finally, here's a brief video I made at the finish line after I ground out a really grueling race. To say I felt like I finished on a high note is an understatement.
7:34 AM Last night I saw Patriot's Day. It felt good to set aside politics and remember what makes our nation so great -- our people. If I sound like I'm being sappy and patriotic, I am. I've never said I'm not proud to be an American. At the same time, I don't feel like I'm being inconsistent with my Anabaptist convictions that delineate a strict separation between the two kingdoms. The great thing about this movie is that you can enjoy it regardless of what your politics are.
The movie tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombing through the eyes of the first responders. I thought it was much more compelling than other movies of the same genre -- World Trade Center, for example. Patriot's Day is more like United 83 -- a movie that refuses to wallow in needless sentimentality. What struck me most while watching the film was just what producers, directors, and actors can accomplish these days through the art of cinematography. I can't convey how deeply this movie touched me. I will caution you, however. There are some intense scenes in this movie, so if you're unable to deal with the events of that day you may not want to see the film. The acting was superb, and the music really added to the film's mysterious quality. There were some great shots of the Boston skyline as well as some breathtaking aerials. The movie was meant to tell the story of some brave individuals and their families during this terrible episode in our national history, and it accomplished it very well. It brought back a lot of memories of that day for me and makes my own attempt at a marathon all that more poignant. When the movie ended, the audience sat in awed silence. Nobody got up to leave. There was no applause. For myself, I sat there mulling over what is best about America and the fact that good can always come from tragedy. For those who died that day, we cannot -- we should not -- ever forget.
This is an incredibly realistic and powerful film. Expect it to win some major awards.
Friday, January 13
4:46 PM Hello everybody! Ann Lamott once said the three basic prayers are "Help," "Thanks," and "Wow." When I think of the United States of America today, I pray "Help!" Remember the classic book 1984? War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. How can anyone reason in a society in which everything is a fabrication? All information is now propaganda. The masses live in constant fear and confusion. Isaac Asimov's review of 1984 contained these prophetic words: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine stomping on a human face – forever." What a nightmare. At the same time, it's such an undeserved blessing to be part of a special community called the kingdom of heaven. I decided a long time ago to put no trust whatsoever in the power or wealth or politics of America. My prayer is that the church will be uncompromising on all matters that are central to this kingdom. Amen?
Then there was "Thanks!" The weather has turned warm again. On Wednesday I had a fabulous 6-mile run in Wake Forest. I left my hotel room at around 3:30 and got back just before dark. I had a couple of sub-12-minute miles but most of my pace was at the 13-minute mile mark. Not bad for an old geezer. Then yesterday I drove a few miles to the Neuse River Greenway and got in a 12-mile bike ride in 70 degree weather. This place is awesome! It is arguably the best biking trail in all of Greater Raleigh. The best part is that there is little or no stopping for cyclists, and the trail is very hilly, which is great on the quads. I really pushed myself – did 13 miles per hour for the entire distance. Today I'm taking the day off. Tomorrow is my 5K in Cary and I need to be refreshed for that. It's obvious I’m loving my running life, and it's really good to be pain free. As long as I listen to my body I think I'll be okay. The BIG ONE will be here before you know it. Don't forget to pledge a little support if you can.
Finally, "Wow!" Week 2 of J-Term Greek ended today and the class is doing exceptionally well despite all of the rabbit trails their teacher insists on taking them down. I did a pronunciation quiz with them today. (I'm a big fan of reading Greek out loud.) Next week we'll have only 3 days to complete Greek 1 because our new semester starts on Thursday. I'm eager for my classes to begin. As always, I'll be my radically traditional self. It's a blessing to be able to do something you love. I owe a great deal of appreciation to the One who's made it all possible.
On another note, I see that SBTS is holding a conference on Greek this weekend. It sounds like it will be fantastic and I wish it well. I do hope videos will be published for those of us who couldn't attend. I see that one of the speakers is Steve Runge, whose topic is preaching from the book of Philippians. Now you've got my attention! As an avid reader of Paul's letter to the Philippians, I will be very interested to see what tack Runge takes. I can't help but be a bit disappointed with Runge's High Definition Commentary on this book. For starters, the Table of Contents took me by complete surprise:
This reminded me of F. F. Bruce's classic commentary on Hebrews, which basically does the same thing -- examines the book of Hebrews according to the traditional chapter divisions. Discourse analysis, I would like to think, can offer us so much more. For what it's worth, my own Novum Testamentum study has revealed a structure more along these lines:
I. Letter opening(1:1-2).
II. Letter body (1:3-4:20).
III. Letter closing (4:21-23).
The body of the letter can be divided into four main parts:
I. Body opening (1:3-11).
II. Body head (1:12-2:30, an exhortation to unity in the cause of the Gospel).
III. Body subpart (3:1-4:9, a warning against pride in human achievement).
IV. Body closing (4:10-20).
I've argued that the "linguistic macrostructure" (i.e., theme) of the letter is "Ecclesial Unity in the Cause of the Gospel," and that this theme is most clearly stated by Paul in 1:27-30, where in essence he says: "The only thing in life that really matters is that you live as good citizens of heaven in a manner required of the Gospel, working together, as one team, to advance a kingdom agenda and not your own."
Dear reader, nothing would make me happier than if you did your own discourse analysis of every book of the New Testament, including Philippians. My suggestion is that, first of all, you ignore the traditional chapter divisions. Epistles can rarely be understood along those lines. I love Bruce, but I just don't see how anyone can truly understand Hebrews by a using a chapter-by-chapter analysis. This would apply to Philippians as well. I'm also surprised that Runge failed to say anything about what I consider to be one of the letter's major metaphors -- that of our heavenly citizenship. The verb Paul uses in 1:27 (normally rendered "live" or "conduct yourselves") is politeuesthe. If you don't see anything about citizenship in the word, fine. But at least that view deserves recognition. If you'd like to see why I think politeuesthe is vitally important to Paul's argument in Philippians, you can consult one of my PowerPoints and scroll down to the end, where I quote Bob Mulholland's essay on "Sociological Criticism" that I asked him to write for my book Interpreting the New Testament. I love what he says! Of course, my study of Philippians is no doubt an imperfect analysis. Thank goodness. This means that no one will rely too heavily on it. They will have to study the book for themselves, using what Runge or Black or others have written as a springboard (and nothing more) for their own personally-enriching research. You can run the risk analysis and decide if exegesis is worth relying too heavily on any one interpreter. I suggest it is not.
To wrap up this ridiculously long post, I hope to see the movie Patriot's Day this weekend. I mean, what could be more nefarious and heinous than the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers? But the American people are, as they say, resilient. I'm told you'll go through the full gamut of emotions while watching the movie and that, yes, you will need Kleenex.
Before I go, a few pix. See ya!
1) Had lunch on Wednesday with my outstanding assistant Noah Kelly.
2) The temperature was 70 degrees when I snapped this photo in Raleigh yesterday. Amazing.
3) Following the gorgeous Neuse River.
4) Tomorrow's 5K course map in Cary. I think I'm already lost.
Wednesday, January 11
6:30 AM Last night I was lured into watching yet another movie about Everest, this one called Mount Everest: Into the Death Zone. It's the story of a 33-year old Canadian woman named Shriya Shah-Klorfine who died on descent in 2012.
My sincere condolences go out to her husband and family. The movie seems to pin the blame on her guide company, Utmost Adventure Trekking. She was assigned their most inexperienced guides for the climb. Others blame the climber herself. The most reputable guiding companies on the mountain require their clients to have summited at least one other 8,000 meter peak before attempting Everest. She had no experience whatsoever in climbing tall mountains. She was warned to turn around, strongly. Everest is no joke to even the most experienced climbers. It's 5 miles above the earth's surface, for crying out loud.
So what goes wrong when we push ourselves beyond our limits? The game of life requires physical energy. Lots of it. But it requires other energies as well. It means learning how to work with and not against the facts. It's the ability to set aside selfish interests and think of others -- your spouse, your family, your friends. There is a place for risk-taking in life. There's also a place for gratification denied. Life is an adventure into the limits of the self.
In facing life, no one knows when they will be tested to the utmost like Shriya Shah-Klorfine was that day. We never know where the holy grail will lead. The best and wisest thing we can do is to be prepared. Our lives depend on it. We runners have a saying: "Listen to your body." What this means is that your body will tell you things that sophisticated machines can't. Only a well-trained body can measure up to a grueling 26.2-mile race. For a marathoner, running is much more than a mystical experience. It's tough and tedious, tiring and painful. One has to have a "peak performance" to accomplish it. Otherwise, it might be best to stay at home. (Yes, I'm preaching to myself!)
Tuesday, January 10
5:22 PM You may not realize it, but I was once an artist. I say "was" because I have neither the time nor interest to continue to draw and paint. But I used to be an avid hobbyist. I also used to read the works of Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was, you could say, edgy. He pushed the limits of what was safe and acceptable. He was called crazy and fanatical by some. But so were a lot of other amazing people in church history. He didn't let other people's opinions define him. He was himself. I noticed he was very intentional. (I had to chance to hear him twice when I lived in Switzerland.) He wanted to impact the lives of others. He invested in the greatness of people. That's why I read everything I could get my hands on if the author was Francis Schaeffer. I wanted to a better version of myself. I wanted to strike a balance between humanitas and pietas. Even then, as a student in Basel, I knew I wanted to write books like Schaeffer wrote, books that connected with average people. When Becky and I purchased our Virginia farm, we had Francis and Edith Schaeffer's L'Abri in mind for our retreat ministry. People, we need to start stopping. We need to slow down and think.
Come near, then, and listen to what William Edgar has to say about Francis Schaeffer. His essay is a huge breath of fresh air, a call to action, an invitation to slow down and consider the world around us, including the arts. This essay will have you laughing and crying. It may even get you to draw portraits again.
4:30 PM Language is not a list of rules. And, of course, nothing in language is ever black and white. This is true of Greek as much as it's true of any other language. Moreover, we all interpret Scripture though our own lens of culture, history, education, context, etc. So it's inevitable that biblical scholars will disagree on matters of interpretation. A case in point is the authorship of Hebrews. In particular, I'd like to ask: What did Origen mean, in referring to Hebrews, by "Who wrote [Greek: ho grapsas] the epistle, only God knows"?
As you may know, I've argued in print that Origen believed Paul was the ultimate author of Hebrews even if he wasn't necessarily convinced that Paul was the writer/penman. This is most definitely not what I was taught in Bible college and seminary. And it remains a minority view today. But when I examined the evidence for myself, the cracks in the traditional consensus view that Paul could not have authored Hebrews began ricocheting around in my mind. For the first time in my life I read Origen for myself. And that changed everything. Clearly -- at least to me -- Origen was agnostic not about authorship but only about penmanship. That is, he pondered the question, "Who is responsible for the final form of this letter? Well, the answer is probably known only to God." Origen himself was aware of two conjectures as to who the penman could have been: Luke, and Clement (of Rome). But that really didn't matter much to him. The ultimate author was Paul, and so the question of who wrote the letter was of secondary importance.
Yesterday I was reading Tom Schreiner's excellent Hebrews commentary. In his brief section on authorship he writes (p. 2), "Black's interpretation of Origen should be rejected. It has been shown that when Origen speaks of who wrote the epistle he was referring to the author, not merely the secretary." Tom cites at this point David Allen's magisterial Hebrews commentary in the NAC, so my assistant was kind enough to copy that page for me and email it to me (since I'm stranded here on the farm). David argues that ho grapsas ("who wrote") has to refer to authorship and not to penmanship based on context and usage. He cites A. C. Mitchell's Hebrews commentary as follows (p. 32):
So how should one respond to Dr. Black's untenable views? My brain has some ideas. May I share them with you?
1) I will grant Tom and David that ho grapsas can refer to direct authorship. What I will not grant is that the expression must refer to direct authorship. If you want to argue that ho grapsas can't refer to the penman, what do you do with Rom. 16:22?
Clearly, Paul is the author of Romans, and just as clearly, Tertius is the writer/penman/amanuensis/stenographer. I mean, isn't this pretty clear? If so, can't we see a parallel between Rom. 16:22 and Origen's statement that only God knows the one "who wrote" the letter?
2) David argues (p. 32):
Likewise, Tom concludes:
Suffice it say that, if you want to plead agnosticism on the authorship issue based on the writings of Origen, you will have to explain how Origen regularly introduces quotations from Hebrews with language like:
3) Finally, I'd like to see someone discuss this statement by Origen:
That seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?
I'm not going to go into detail here about what Origen did or did not mean when he wrote ho grapsas. In my little book on the subject I've listed my source material for these quotes (and many more like them). I'm not insisting that I'm right and my friends Tom and David are wrong. But I do hope to provide you with a lens through which to read Origen in context and set you off on a new journey through this issue on your own.
Let's dig in, shall we?
9:22 AM This morning I thought I'd go online to one of those, you know, calculator thingies to see how long it would take me to finish my 26.2 mile race in May. I plugged in my age, my half marathon time of 2:48, my sex, and the answer it spit out was 5 hours and 50 minutes, with a pace of 13:22 per mile. This is only an estimate so I'm taking it with a grain of salt. As I've already mentioned a thousand times on this blog, my goal is to finish the race, pure and simple. For what it's worth, the average time for men in U.S. marathons is 4:19 at a 9:54 pace. That is WAY beyond my ability. But still, it's fun to dream. I've decided that the best thing for me to do right now is take the 5:50 time and add one hour to it. That means there's a possibility -- depending on all kinds of factors including weather conditions, course difficulty, hydration and nutrition issues, and how I'm feeling that day -- that I could finish the race in under the 7 hour time limit. That's the plan at least!
P.S. I guess by now you're pretty tired of me talking about the fund raiser I'm doing in conjunction with my marathon. But hey -- that's a big reason I'm putting my body through all this. It would be fantastic if you would a take a minute and pledge $26.00 (one dollar per mile) to my Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund at UNC. Thank you so much!
8:40 AM Today a strange thought occurred to me while working on my JETS review of The Synoptic Problem: Four Views by Stan Porter and Bryan Dyer.
I don't ever recall reading "Four Views" books written by non-biblical scholars. I'm not aware of Four Views on Hinduism or Four Views on Atheism. But when it comes to questions about the Bible, my oh my. We've got four views on hell, the historical Adam, the millennium, the nature of the atonement, divine providence, the book of Revelation, women in ministry, eternal security, the Sabbath, the doctrine of God, the end times, baptism, the Lord's Supper, divine foreknowledge, tithing, free will, the warning passages in Hebrews, the church, the ending of Mark, and the pericope about the woman taken in adultery. I edited these last two books so I'm obviously not against the genre.
What's going on? I suspect nothing too nefarious. I think most of us who have strong convictions about this or that topic are motivated to defend our positions based on the notion that good scholarship is about convincing others to espouse our view instead of merely asking them to do so. Every successful product on the market today is concerned about one thing: convincing consumers that somehow their product advantages them. The makers of V8 had only a smattering of customers until they focused on how the drink provided the required daily servings of vegetables. V8 now competes nicely with soft drinks and Gatorade.
Some people I know rather dismissively call into question the place, say, of prophecy in the modern church. This won't do. Even if one disagrees with Grudem on the nature of New Testament prophecy, his views can't be ignored (The Gift of Prophecy: In the New Testament and Today). In discussing the synoptic problem with my students later this month I'll not only expose them to my own view of synoptic origins (Why Four Gospels?) but to the views held by Craig Evans, Mark Goodacre, David Peabody, and Rainer Riesner -- the very contributors to the book I'm currently reviewing. I'll also toss in the so-called "independence theory" held by scholars such as Eta Linnemann (Is There a Synoptic Problem?). It is noble and necessary work to try and be as objective as is humanly possible about an issue and let students make up their own minds. Of course, I am convinced that my personal view about the Gospels is the best one out there and that it deserves a hearing. But the truth is, good people disagree. Could the highest level of scholarship involve equipping rather than indoctrinating? As in any family, the family of God has matters to work out. We must teach each other, and it must be loving work between people who've earned the right to speak. If you've never worked through your view of women in leadership or eldership or baptism or the ending of Mark, then deal with these issues head on. That's why I agreed to review Porter and Dyer's book, even though my own view wasn't represented and even though I rather strongly disagree with each of the four views I'm going to be writing about. Trust me, no one wants to hear only what I think.
Don't fear thinking. Debate and discussion is good work.
7:45 AM I know posting yet another picture of the farm is the cheesiest of all cheese out there but I couldn't help it. Isn't our God great?
Monday, January 9
5:28 PM This and that ....
1) Held a worship service tonight. Here's my sanctuary. What a glorious Creator we serve.
2) I've been reviewing my travel schedule for 2017. Lord willing I'll be in Birmingham this month, Dallas in March, Cincinnati in May, Switzerland in July, Hawaii in August, Colorado in September, and Asia in October. I just did some rough calculations and figured out that I will travel 41,213 miles by air this year. Please pray for me that God would make my paths straight and that He would use me to be an encouragement to others wherever I go.
3) The roads around here are a skating rink so my assistant will sub for me in Greek class tomorrow. He will do a great job as always.
4) Only 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 13 hours until my first marathon.
5) I am proud of myself because I've been striving to make good eating choices. Tonight I had home-made spaghetti, and tomorrow I plan to have lentil soup. I need to restock my kitchen with bananas, avocadoes, yogurt, and cheese. I'm drinking 5 glasses of water every day. I could drink more but I feel like I'm swishing all day long.
12:52 PM If you follow this blog you know I love taking pictures and posting them here. I also guess you must get awfully tired of seeing all of these photos. So these are the last pics of the snow I'm going to post for a while. Promise. (Psst. You know I'm fibbing. Right?).
As you can see, the day was gorgeous. I felt like I was back in Switzerland.
Of course, the donks were expecting a carrot or two. I didn't disappoint them.
My faithful friend. She's always by my side. When she's not off chasing rabbits, that is.
Finally, I just had to show you the view overhead. Ain't it beautiful?
O well. You could handle 4 pix, right?
12:04 PM I've purposely neglected showing you my big toes because they look so gross but I decided you can handle it.
When I started mountaineering my toe nails began turning purple. Climbing two 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado was the straw that broke the camel's back. Eventually the nails on my big toes just fell off so I'm left with this "recovering" photo. It's taken a long time for it to sink in and for me to appreciate it, but constant running, walking, and hiking takes a huge toll on your feet. My point is not to brag about how active I am. My point is that I'm on my feet all the time and I guess this is the price I'm going to have to pay. I make no bones about my love for New Balance shoes because they fit my 13-wide feet perfectly. Happily for me, my feet don't hurt at all and I never feel like my shoes are too tight or too loose. I have no intention of slowing down at all just because I have ugly toes. As long as my doctor says I'm okay (and as long as there's no infection or fungus), I'm good to go as far as I'm concerned. Here's the deal about running in races or climbing mountains. You try to find a balance between what you can do and what you'd like to do perfectly. You don't want the challenge to be too easy but you also don't want it to be too difficult. You want to push your body in a way that makes the effort itself the greatest reward for all you do. When I run I feel myself "in the moment." My sense of time and place melt away. Doing a 5K race is more than just a thing to cross off on my bucket list. Races are crazy fun. Plus you get a t-shirt (wink). On that note, it's time to cook lunch and then get outdoors and take a long WALK. Hope you're enjoying the snow!
9:50 AM Odds and ends ....
1) How can "dumpster fire" be the Word of the Year? Isn't it two words?
2) In praise of old-fashioned hospitality.
3) Books are to be loved.
4) Why you should study your Bible in English.
5) Interesting book about evangelicalism here.
8:22 AM Update: It's now MINUS 1 degrees. Hey. You're going in the wrong direction.
7:55 AM Wowza, wowza, wowza, it's cold. We almost hit zero degrees last night. It will take an entire calendar year for me to recover.
For the past few days I haven't run at all. No walking. No cycling. No workouts at the Y. I think I need therapy. What I would give to climb a mountain. But God knows best. I definitely needed the rest. And I enjoyed the chance to do other things. Right now I'm working on a book review for a journal. Then I'll prep some lectures for the spring semester. School is closed today, which gives my Greek students another day to work on their take-home exams. Like I said, there was no running, so I spent a lot of time getting caught up on the news. Like the latest Twitter war. Good night. Listen, I understand ego. I have to live with mine all the time. But in my opinion, someone needs to ratchet it down. Okay, Dave. Calm down. Take a breath. Sometimes you're too much of an underdog supporter. But sheesh, you wrote your dissertation on weakness. For Paul, his "disabilities" were badges of honor. God's strength was perfected in his imperfections. Remember that. You're not the best athlete out there. You never will be. Just stay focused on being you. The key is to just stick with it. I'm pretty sure you can't lose much fitness in five days.
I'll be back later. Gotta fold the clothes. Wash the dinner dishes from last night. Feed the animals. I'll take a long walk when it warms up to 32 degrees. And try to stay away from the "news."
Sunday, January 8
4:54 PM I want to keep this post short and happy, so here's what you can expect: a vote in favor of using inclusive language, including in our Bible translations. You see, earlier today our power went out and so I texted friends and family to tell them about the situation (freezing cold temps, danger of water pipes bursting, etc.). About 2 hours later the power came back on (which has NEVER happened before so quickly). In thanking one of my daughters for praying for the power to be restored, I quoted the beginning of James 5:16 ("The effectual fervent prayer ....") to which she responded, "Does the Greek include ladies too?" Oooh. Snarky snarky. (I love it!) She, like I, cut her eye teeth on "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man ...." Ain't nothin' wrong with that rendering, of course. As Mark Strauss points out, however, nowadays it's probably a good idea to avoid using masculine language when the original text of Scripture is referring to members of both sexes. I do this in all of my writings and have done so for years. One of the first topics I discuss with my doctoral students is: Will you use inclusive language in your dissertation? But get this: It is their decision, not mine. I once published a book with a major U.S. publishing house and was going to submit another manuscript to them when I discovered that they had instituted a policy requiring inclusive language of all their authors. For what it's worth, I think that was a mistake. I think that should be an author's prerogative. As for James 5:16, the Greek simply has dikaiou -- "a righteous ...." The masculine gender of the adjective permits two renderings: "righteous man" or "righteous person." The latter sense is obviously in view, as my daughter nicely "wink winked" at. Note the ESV: "The prayer of a righteous person ...." Ditto for the HCSB: "The urgent request of a righteous person ...."
Bible translation is mind-numbingly hard, but some things just seem obvious to me.
4:12 PM Scattershooting ....
1) How to choose a beginning Greek grammar.
2) Bible reading plans for 2017.
3) What will become of evangelicalism in the age of Trump?
4) Why we need to bring our pets indoors during cold weather.
5) CT's 2017 book awards.
10:20 AM Woke up to find the snow thawing a bit even though the temps aren't going above 25 today (real feel of 16) and will get down to zero tonight. I snapped a few pictures (see below). The animals seem to be coping quite well. They have a warm barn to stay in at night, and during the day they'll have plenty of sunshine and hay. Sheba thoroughly enjoyed being outdoors and tracked down every deer trail she could find. I see the snow plow has gone by, but my humble country road is nothing but a sheet of ice. Thus far the snow has had no effect on me getting my work done here. A little bit of writing. A ton of reading. Cooking my meals for the week. I even enjoy getting dressed in layers of clothing to go outdoors. What I hate is driving on icy roads. Well, here are the pics I promised. Welcome to the tundra.
9:10 AM Imagine the scenario: You're studying adjectives for the first time in Greek class, and your professor just announces to you that when John recorded Jesus' words "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11), he literally wrote "I am the shepherd, the good one," language that might imply that not all shepherds are "good." Then your beloved professor goes on to show you two words in your vocabulary that can be translated "good": agathos and kalos. You notice that agathos is rendered "good" in your textbook, while kalos is rendered both "good" and "beautiful." Your professor then proceeds to tell you that the latter adjective is the one used in John 10:11. "Jesus wasn't only a good shepherd but a good-looking one," he quips. At this point your mind begins conjuring up images of a man who is tall, dark, and handsome. Why, your prof even says that people claim to know exactly what Jesus looked like because of the "Shroud." Now you're really confused. Exasperated, you strike back (silently, of course): "How in the world can anybody know what Jesus looked like? Are you, like, serious?"
Suddenly your professor begins a discourse about something he calls "synonymy." One hour ago you were happily eating a Krispy Kreme donut, and now you're completely baffled. Your prof continues, "Just because kalos can denote external beauty, that doesn't mean the word has that significance here. Context is always the final arbiter of meaning." He then goes on to discuss the assignments for the day, but you're already Googling "I am the good shepherd." One article you find says that kalos refers to Jesus' "beauty." Another essay takes a different tack altogether: kalos, it argues, is normally set in opposition to "evil," not "ugliness." Hence kalos in John 10:1 points to Jesus' "essential goodness as nobly realized." You leave class totally bewildered. Why bother with Greek? Why I can't I just use my ESV?
The point of the story is obvious: Greek is not the Abracadabra or Open Sesame so many think it is. Still, Greek has its value. It will tell you what it possible. It will limit your options. It may even indicate emphasis. If you take God seriously, you also ought to take His word seriously. The Bible is God's word -- his final word on how to experience life in all its abundance. It's God's way of making Himself known to us. The Bible is like an owner's manual for a car. By studying it, we can learn how to live according to His specs. If the Bible is inspired by God, we should read it. We should study it. In the original languages if possible. But we're liable to get the wrong message if we treat Scripture like a good luck charm. It takes a bit more than a hit-or-miss approach. And even if you can read the New Testament in Greek, there's no guarantee you'll get it right. To crib a thought from Mark Cortez:
That's a tall order. But it's not one-sided. God pledges to help us. The same Spirit who inspired the word is able to reveal its truths to us. Every opportunity you get, friend, add another tool to your exegetical toolbox. For some, this may involve formal education. For others, self study is the best way to go. The apostle Paul was a genius who'd earned advanced theological degrees. The apostle Peter was a backwater hayseed who could gut a fish in 3 seconds. But Christ revealed Himself to both men. Jesus won't ignore or turn away anyone who truly seeks Him with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Saturday, January 7
5:48 PM For the past two weeks I've had intermittent pain in my hip, nothing too severe, just discomfort. The weird part is that the pain is always on my right side. This concerns me because the hip is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the human body. I'm pretty sure the cause is not ill-fitting shoes. Mine work great. The bottom line is that running is a high impact sport that puts lots of stress on your body. Add to this the fact that for most runners, running is an addiction. We need our daily fix of aerobic exercise, improved circulation, and capillary stimulation. For me, I think the issue might be getting all of my joints, tendons, and ligaments used to the work. My recent pain is probably due simply to increased mileage. I need to slow down and try not to increase my distance too quickly. I'm also aware that the problem may be more serious: osteoarthritis (worn cartilage), sciatica (inflammation of the sciatic nerve that passes through the pelvis into the leg), bursitis (inflammation of the bursae as a result of overtraining), or even a stress fracture in the hip. Another thing that might come into play: running on the left side of the road facing traffic, with the camber of the road placing my right side higher than my left. So I've started running in the middle of the road whenever it's safe to do so. I also want to get a DEEP massage soon. One exercise I'm trying begins with getting down on my elbows and knees. Keeping my back straight and the rest of my body upright, I lean my hips from side to side. This has already seemed to help. Thankfully the pain dissipates after a prolonged rest.
Actually, I think I'm way too competitive with myself for my own good. You just gotta have lots of patience when you're recovering from even a mild injury to your body. It really doesn't matter how slow I go. What matters is that I am safe and healthy. I am truly grateful to God for all the things my body can do and has done over the past three years. Health is a pure gift. Hardships are never fun, but they at least give you a healthy perspective on life.
3:16 PM Life goes on even when it's snowing. The farm got 8 inches of the nicest, whitest powder I have ever seen. The power has stayed on thankfully. Shoveling the driveway awaits me (oh joy). It's a quarter of a mile to the road, and who knows what shape that road will be in when I get there. Our farm sits on a tertiary road and if I'm able to drive out on Monday morning I'll call that a win. Do be careful out there moving around and driving in the snow, peeps.
11:15 AM Hallelujah for the snow! Well, sorta. Because of today's rather inclement weather, this weekend's Hot Chocolate Run and SPCA Doggie Dash in Cary, NC, has been postponed to NEXT Saturday, which means I have added it to my race schedule for 2017. No way is my form near perfect but I'm going to use this race to work on running more efficiently by staying light on my feet and not over-striding (which is my thorn in the flesh). The goal is a short, quick stride with a midfoot strike, as shown here:
The Cary course is very hilly (I've run it at least 4 times) so I'm definitely not looking for a PR this time around. My plan is to work on consistency and strength. I guess by now you could call me an accomplished 5K racer, but this doesn't stop me from quaking in my sneakers every time I walk up to the starting line. I'm going to hold steady at the beginning and then surge at the end. Or something like that. We'll see. The hills, I mean, are brutal. Be great for sledding today!
9:24 AM So I'm sitting here rethinking my 2017 goals (NOT resolutions!) and you know me -- I write everything down. My overall motto this year is "Embrace change." Pretty smart and insightful, eh? Beyond that, here are 20 life tips for 2017. Naturally, if they don't apply to you, ignore them.
1) This year, do something you've never done before. Like attend a Chicago concert. There's one coming up later this month in Raleigh. See you there?
2) Also, go somewhere you've never been before. And you don't even need a passport if you stay stateside. I've got my eyes on Mount Elbert in the Rockies. It's the highest of the 14ers.
3) Spend some time outdoors every day. Well, maybe not if it's snowing.
4) Do something quirky. Climb a tree. Take a bubble bath. Join the handbell choir (what?). And don't forget to feed your dog a cookie.
5) Walk away from toxic relationships. Boundaries are good. On the other hand, don't allow little disputes to destroy a great relationship.
6) Mix things up. If you're a Methodist pastor, try preaching without your robe. If you're a Baptist, try preaching with one. So what if people get confused. They might also begin to think.
7) Start your own blog. Trust me, people are looking for good content. Got some good thoughts? Try us out.
8) Be real. People are starving for real people who lead real lives and have real kids and who aren't afraid of their humanity.
9) Have fun with your spouse. Take him or her to a concert. Catch a dumb movie together. Wash someone's car together. Before going to sleep, take the Bible down off the shelf.
10) Stop making excuses when you hurt other people. Apologize. And yes, that's easier said than done.
11) Engage in time travel. Like reading Michael Shaara. Or Ivan Turgenev.
12) Practice compassion. Failure is something we all experience. Be kind.
13) Strive for excellence in all you do. Mediocrity is easy. But you must work with all your might to attain excellence. (You can't be allergic to sweat, by the way.)
14) Be a risk taker. You won't achieve your dreams by playing it safe. Run the rapids without fear. After all, Jesus has mastered the river.
15) Be patient with yourself. Yes, I know you're a terrific person and all that. I'm also well aware, even if you aren't, that you don't always represent humanity at its best. Tough break chump. Welcome to the wonderful world of reality.
16) Pray. Even when it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. (Note: You can pray without actually saying anything. I know. For months after Becky died practically all I could pray was, "Dear Jesus." It was enough.)
17) No more "What ifs." So you thought you were heading toward Disneyworld and then you found yourself experiencing something resembling a nightmare. Well, the past is past. God uses even our bad decisions in a positive way. Believe that.
18) Be thankful. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to lose an arm or be confined to a wheel chair or be dirt poor or be unable to write. There's so much to be grateful for -- shoes that fit, a good cry, grandkids, long weekends, close friends, my iPhone, that morning cup of coffee, opening a present. What does your list look like?
19) Dream big. It's too easy to become content in our little ruts. If you want bigger challenges, God will give them to you. Just ask (James 4:2).
20) Accept the seasons of life. Winter is an annual reminder to me that I'm entering the home stretch. It's also a reminder that the miracle of rebirth awaits me, awaits Becky, awaits everyone who knows Jesus as Lord. One day suffering and disease will be no more. Our tears will dry up. It will be as dramatic as the first day of Spring.
7:52 AM Beautiful.
7:12 AM Well, I see that the Tenth Annual Run for Young in Raleigh has been cancelled due to the snow. The race honors the memory of a Wakefield High School senior who died as a passenger in an alcohol-related car accident. The race is no more, but the proceeds are still there and will be put to very good use. This is simply another reminder to me of just how "daily" life is. You wake up every morning wondering what will happen, what surprises are awaiting you. The New Testament has a lot to say about the "daily" aspect of life. The earliest believers continued "daily" in the temple. The Lord added "daily" to their number. Paul had to die to himself "daily." We pray, "Give us today our daily bread." We recite, "This is the day that the Lord has made." Jesus is with us "all the days."
You're probably not familiar with this last example, but it's one we discussed in Greek class this week when we learned the Greek word usually rendered "day" (hemera). I took the class to the Great Cause passage in Matt. 28:19-20. Everyone knows Jesus ends his commission with the words, "And lo, I am with you always." Here "always" actually translates three Greek words: pasas tas hemeras, "all the days." The NIV has "always" here, as do the NLT, ESV, NASB, HCSB, and the NET Bible. It's not incorrect to use "always" here, even though Greek has another word that is normally translated that way (pantote). In the ISV, we went in a slightly different direction: "And remember, I am with you each and every day." Eugene Peterson followed suit in a beautiful rendering: "I'll be with you ... day after day after day."
I like that. On days when I feel like I'm overwhelmed with the chaos of life all around me, when I'm convinced I'm going crazy, it helps me to remember that Jesus is with me "day after day after day." There is grace for the grind -- for the ordinary, run-of-the-mill experiences when I'm neither hot nor cold, up nor down, when I'm hitting neither top nor bottom. In the monotonous trudge of daily living, He's there for me. When I wake up in the morning wondering "How is my knee going to do today?" or just dealing with the itchiness of living in my own skin, I think, "He is with me each and every day." I've got His word on it.
Perhaps that's one reason I love teaching Greek so much. I would never have known Matthew wrote pasas tas hemeras by looking at the standard English translations. My days, yes even January 7, 2017, are numbered by Him. "You're kidding! I never really knew that!" a student said to me after class. Which is one reason I refuse to get involved in the Greek pedagogy debate. Slowly, I begin to notice that we're going in two different directions. I want my students to learn much more than Greek. I want them to know that God understands the desires of their heart and their uncertainties, and that He promises not to leave them stranded without hope -- ever. As Christians we can relax in the knowledge that God has a unique plan for each and every one of us, but that plan doesn't reveal itself all at once. We discover it as we draw closer to God each and every day. At some point, we need to discard today's "shopping cart" approach to the Christian life: I purchase this (book, course, seminar, Greek grammar) and God gives me happiness. To be perfectly honest, I'm more impressed on a day-to-day basis with a mountaintop or a crashing wave. These are the "true" creations of God. When I look in the mirror in the morning I don't think, "Wow, God, you really care about this old body of mine each and every day." Instead I think, "If only I could fix my crooked teeth." Everyone talks about how precious the human being is. But Jesus proves it. For 70-plus years, He is with us, offering a harbor for our storm-tossed vessels. God is indeed our refuge and strength, our only hope in time of trouble. God meets us on the heights and in the depths and every place in between. But I think He is especially present in the monotonous routine that tries even the most patient soul. His grace is sufficient for it all, and nowhere do we need Him more than in the "daily."
Friday, January 6
7:25 PM The snow is falling softly. The house is so quiet it is deafening. Winter. I begin to feel it growing inside of me as I go to the window and hold the lace aside. I feel the icy flow, the air seeping through old floorboards. A snow storm, a hard freeze, impassible roads. I see a swirl of motion, the flakes making their way to the tops of the trees, white and pure. I cross over to the warm fire, the promise of a good book. There is no use in trying not to think about her. She's been gone forever it seems. Theologians call it a theodicy. We humans wonder at our suffering, can never fully, rationally explain it to ourselves or anyone else for that matter. Yet there is hope. There is always hope. When bad things happen, something positive always comes of it. In Emerson's words, "Every evil has its good." Paul puts it like this: "We can be sure that God can make every detail in our lives turn into something beneficial." What does a lonely widower do to lessen the pain? There's no use in trying to offer a reasonable explanation of theodicy. I'm not smart enough to do that. What I do know is that evil cannot fully thwart the good or snuff out the candle of truth. I've already see the sparks in my grandchildren's curious eyes as they explore the valley field, or in the texts my kids send me about various and sundry topics (from the magnificent to the mundane), or in a student's expression of delightful discovery when he or she begins to understand what a declension is. Let the apologists for Christianity do what they do best, but I am more convinced than ever that the way God has called me to solve the problem of evil is with my hands and my feet and my resources. I owe that to Becky and to all the other women who have suffered or will suffer from the scourge of cancer. Although I am only one man, I stand in solidarity with cancer victims worldwide, celebrating courage, community, life, and victory. With joy in my heart and defiance in my soul, I know I will cross that finish line in May and I will have done my part, along with many others, perhaps you included, to accomplish our goal of taking one giant leap closer to a cure for endometrial cancer.
Until then, I'll enjoy my dog, a good book, and a warm fireplace.
12:50 PM Oh baby, it's cold outside and getting colder with every passing minute. The low tomorrow night will be 0 degrees. The snow begins this evening. I reckon the 5K in Raleigh on Sunday will be cancelled unless they rename it the Snot Icicle 5K. We'll see how the roads are. Five inches of snow in North Carolina and 5 inches in Ohio are two different things. (How do you spell "complete chaos"?) I have never run in the snow or the ice and don't plan to start now. Meanwhile I've updated my running goals for 2017 and there are three of them I'll mention here:
1) Smile and enjoy my runs. In other words, don't push yourself so hard you end up hating the sport. If I have to slow to a crawl in order to enjoy myself, I will. Fact is, I can't always run at the pace I'd like to. I want to become über-aware of what my body is telling me. Running 3 high quality "happy" miles is much better than running an 8-mile lousy run.
2) Be more like my dog. Sheba hasn't a worry in the world. She knows she is loved. She knows she'll be watered, fed, and protected. She's also a brave old girl. She's coping fine with her deafness. I want to live like that -- resting in the care of my Trainer.
3) Eat better, as in much better. When it comes to proper running nutrition, I suck. I have no idea why I simply can't get it into my head that I am what I eat. This year I'm going to try and eat more wisely and more nutritiously.
But, alas, no running this weekend, and boy will I miss it. Running makes me strong, energetic, and happy (thank you, endorphins). And a big THANK YOU to everyone who has emailed me their support. I'm on my way to 26.2! I believe I am living proof that if we live an active life we can do some amazing things even if we're "old." Please remember that I am living with the memory that endometrial cancer took the life of my wife of 37 years. My dream is that researchers can find a way to cure this dreaded disease. Please consider making a donation to the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund today. We're lagging way behind our goal of $4,000, but I just know yall will come through for me. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!
P.S. I love watching the nightly talk shows. The topic du jour is one of Trump's recent tweets:
Strange I'll say! The future commander-in-chief using quotation marks to mock the intelligence agencies he will have to rely on? Oh my, but the Trump presidency will be a linguist's paradise. Let me tell you, folks, we're going to be entertained bigly.
Thursday, January 5
4:14 PM My time on campus has been nothing short of phenomenal. Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a former doctoral student of mine for lunch at one of Wake Forest's finest Mexican places.
Paul muses here. He edits a very interesting blog. He is now teaching both Hebrew and Greek at his Bible school in Wisconsin. I admire smart people like him. Yesterday I also discovered a great running course in one of Wake Forest's many subdivisions.
As you can see, the city has even made a running/biking/stroller lane, though there is so little traffic it sometimes seemed unnecessary. I got in a 10K practice run (6.2 miles) yesterday along the sloping roads of the gorgeous subdivision (houses here cost around a half mill).
The course was hilly and perfect for leg work. It felt great. The best news was what I didn't feel -- any pain in my right hip or in any part of my body for that matter. Huge relief! I was wondering if there was something structurally wrong with my hip, but everything went off without a hitch. I feel like I'm beginning to make big strides (no pun intended) in my running program. No groin pan. No knee pain. Definitely no soreness in my legs or feet for which I am sooooooooo grateful. Tomorrow it's another 10K practice run and then hopefully a timed 5K in Raleigh on Sunday, that is, if Saturday's snowfall permits travel on Sunday. What a great way to start the year -- a great Greek class, good friends, and lots of running! I've asked myself this question a thousand times in the past three days: Why do I feel so good after just pushing my body to compete in a grueling 10K over the weekend? Let's see...
1) I think my body is finally catching up to what my mind is telling it to do. After two years of running, my body is building up stamina, muscles, and the mental fortitude it takes to withstand all the miles.
2) I also believe that having shoes that fit exactly right for my feet instills strength and balance into my running routine. Just as importantly, I've learned correct form as to where to strike my feet, landing mid-foot on just about every stride. I've shortened my stride and increased my pace, which makes for a winning formula and reduces the load on my skeletal system.
3) By doing a variety of activities each week I'm able to add balance to my running through biking, climbing, surfing, and (cough cough) house work.
4) Finally, I think I'm learning to take recovery seriously. I try and always take one full day off each week and more than that after a race. Rest = Great Performance. No doubt about that.
Right now, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. In the past 30 days I exercised a distance of 93.6 miles -- running 21.2 of those miles, biking 19 of them, and walk/running the rest (53.3 miles). I'm definitely psyching myself up for my half marathon in March. Remember, I'm just an amateur with no real running expertise. In the half marathon I plan to go out easy and in control of my body. When I get to the race venue I will warm up for at least 15 minutes by walking and jogging. I always tell myself that when I get to mile ten I "only" have a 5K race to do from that point on. If and when I finish the race I'll reflect on what I could have done better, question my sanity, and then go straight into training for May's full marathon. I don't care about PRs or age group wins all that much right now. I'm just happy to be running. Every mile means something to me, just like I imagine every quiz means something to my Greek students. It marks another step forward, a goal accomplished, the payoff for hard work. Yay for my great Greek students, and for their prof too!
Here's hoping your shoes stay tied,
Wednesday, January 4
5:58 AM Can you believe it? It's supposed to be 58 degrees today. But this weekend they're calling for snow. I'm definitely missing my workouts at the Y. But because of today's nice weather I'm hoping to walk/run/cycle in Wake Forest for maybe 10 miles. The weather is definitely getting colder. If the roads are passable I'm still hoping to run in this Sunday's 5K in Raleigh at 2:00 pm. I dunno. The high that day is predicted to be only 28. Had a headache this morning like you wouldn't believe (boo). It's the usual sinus-barometric headache I get whenever the weather changes drastically. Oh well. Press on! In Greek class today we're introducing noun declensions. You know the old saying: Greek teachers never die; they just decline. Today is the so-called Second Declension -- which is simply a group of nouns that form their cases the same way. German, as you may know, also uses cases. If your article doesn't match your noun, you're in deep trouble, even if you get everything else right. This is also true of Greek. Gotta know your noun declensions, at least if you're planning on translating from English into Greek, which is how you get extra credit in this class. Cases will definitely give you a Charlie Horse between the ears if you're not careful, as even a Pope discovered.
Right now I'm training hard for my half marathon on March 19. Even though it's only half the distance of a full marathon, the last one I did knocked me out for two days. Hanging in there for 13.1 miles ain't easy. Finishing requires training and planning. This is a tough distance but I love the training, love the planning, and love the camaraderie. Sheesh, I love life!
Okay, back to school for this old teacher.
Tuesday, January 3
6:35 PM In Greek class today we discussed words and how they take on meaning. It's part of my effort to make class practical and motivational. At the same time, there's nothing easy about lexical analysis. Much of it is undoing damage. Take the well-known and much-discussed fallacy of etymologizing -- determining a word's meaning by its constituent parts (morphemes). For example, some insist that a New Testament church is "called out" from the world -- separate, if you will -- based on the etymology of the Greek word ekklesia, which is comprised of two parts -- ek, "out of," and kaleo, "I call." Hence the church is a "called out" organism. It is to be different from the world. And believers are to separate themselves from the world.
In New Testament usage, however, it seems that the word ekklesia never quite had this meaning of "called out ones." Normally it was used to describe a group of people that had something in common. At times this group met, and then it was an ekklesia. At other times it wasn't meeting per se, but even then it was an ekklesia. This term was used in contrast to ochlos -- a term that describes a group of people that have come together and yet have nothing really in common. Ochlos is often glossed as "crowd" in English, and that is indeed a very good rendering. How, then, should we translate ekklesia into English? When I posed this question to my class today, I got several excellent responses: "gathering," "assembly," "congregation," and the like. All of these are fine, but none of them in my opinion captures the essence of what a New Testament ekklesia is. I prefer the term "community." Church is not simply a group of just any people, and it is most certainly not a building. Instead, I like to think of a church as a space in which all of us are ministering, praying, preaching, teaching, singing, caring, loving -- a family if you will. Our motto might be: "We're all in this together. So let's do it together." This is the community to which we, as followers of Jesus, are giving ourselves with our whole hearts. This is our "church" -- a diverse, global, caring paean of praise to our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Lord, Master, and only true Senior Pastor.
Recently I became part of a similar community, a community known simply as the "runners' community." The similarities between this community and the "church" are legion. As soon as I began running competitively I knew I had joined the ranks of hundreds and thousands of other runners. From my very first race this sense of community became instilled deep within my psyche. Even as a novice runner, I knew I was not alone. Every experienced runner remembers when they were a beginner just like you, and so they are eager to reach out to the newbies among them. You soon have a group of running friends you look to for advice -- where to buy the best running shoes, how to train properly, how to avoid injuries, how to handle anxiety before a big race. Being part of this community helps each of us to become a better runner. As runners, we value what we can become and not simply what we look like. We are not defined by our age, our t-shirt size, our weight, or our medallions (or lack of them). We are all fiercely independent and pursue individual goals, and yet paradoxically we truly believe that we are all in this together, and it shows. Just show up to any race and observe the runners. We are a celebration of men and women, boys and girls, who are striving to be the best and healthiest versions of ourselves through running and fitness. We are forever occupied with growth, with exposing and developing what is latent with us. Each race is an enactment of a lifelong struggle for advancement and perfection.
I am not in the least surprised, therefore, to find similarities between a running community and a community that defines itself on the basis of the traditional creedal values of faith, hope, and love. Both runners and Christians have a lot in common. For one thing, we both ask silly questions. A Christian in a bookstore asks the salesperson: "I'm looking for a Bible for my mother but I'm not sure who the author is." A non-runner asks you, "How far is your next 5K race?" As you can see, both novice runners and novice Christians have a lot to learn! We are people who pursue excellence and who seek to be dedicated to something wholeheartedly and to give ourselves to some project without any reservations whatsoever. Our actions are always impelled by some good we want to attain. And to achieve our goals, we often have to endure suffering and pain. An athletic race is a place where we discover strength and faith and courage we never knew we possessed. We are runners. It doesn't matter how fast we run or or how far we run. It doesn't whether we are running in our very first race or have been running for fifty years. During a 5K race this past weekend I met an athletic-looking young man who was pushing his infant child in a stroller. We had finished the race at about the same time. I knew he could have run much faster had he not been pushing a baby carriage. He told me something I'll never forget. He said, "Sometimes having the best time at a race has nothing to do with how fast you ran." I will remember that until the day I die. I wish I could have given him "The World's Greatest Runner Award" that day.
Running metaphors occur all over the place in the New Testament. Think Heb. 12:1; Phil. 2:16; Gal. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:7; and 1 Cor. 9:24-26. Remember: this is a race we run together. It's no different in the running community. "Hey guys. I've got a hip labral tear. Anybody had any experience with this?" Or (in the church), "As a mom, I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to teach my children about truth and grace and God. Should I make my children read the Bible? What do you think?" The point is: We are there for each other.
At one time I was really struggling going uphill in 5K races. So I asked the winner of a race how I could improve. His simple answer caught me off guard. "You learn to run uphill by running uphill." Yet another reminder that "we're all in this together." Need more proof? Watch this.
So what will it be, church?
It's our choice.
Monday, January 2
5:44 AM I've got 15 signed up for my J-Term Greek course, plus a couple of audits. Kick off time is 8:00 am sharp. Of course, students could always use GTranslate instead. The main question is: What do we mean by "learn" Greek? The goal of this class is to read. Not speak. Not even think in the language. And not simply translate either. Our textbook even has the word "Read" in its title. All this to say the obvious: Education is always linked to outcomes. The main reason I studied Greek in college was that it was required. That it turned out to be fun -- plus the means of advancing a career -- was icing on the cake. (Thank you, Jesus.) Despite all the brouhaha-ing going on in Greek teachers' circles these days, there's no good reason NOT to study New Testament Greek, using whichever method you find most effective.
It's raining outside and that's a good thing because I've been running like a maniac these days and could use the time off.
Have a great week!
Sunday, January 1
5:02 PM Hey there folks, and the bestest New Years to you ever. To be honest, this weekend's 10K wasn't all that different from the other races I've done. There's really not that much to distinguish it except that it was a twofer. On the first leg in Spotsylvania yesterday, there were a couple of hills but nothing dreadful. I was anxious about it being so cold, but it was far too late to worry about the weather. I felt I ran a good race and stayed within myself. After the event I decided to get something hardy to eat and hit up O'Charleys in Fredericksburg. I was smelly and a bit underdressed for such an upstanding restaurant but didn't care and the steak was great. Then I checked into my room at the Hampton Inn but didn't get to sleep until 3:30 because of all the partying going on in the rooms next door to mine. For the second go-around today, I was expecting it to be enjoyable and it was. My legs were tired and the course had a fair amount of elevation gain. With both races I was afraid I would poop out at the end, so both times I got off to very slow starts. It paid off nicely. There's a thing in racing called kills. That's when you pass someone who's going slower than you are. Every time you do that, you tally "one." Both yesterday and today I got several kills. On the other hand, a few guys passed me with ease at the finish line so I guess that evens things out. In short, though, this 10K rocked. It was well organized, nicely attended for it being New Years Day, and competitive (in a good sort of way). One thing I'm discovering about myself is that I'm not a runner. Yes, I enjoy running. But for me, it's merely a hobby. I don't rely on it to fuel my mood. Running is a big part of my life but so is cycling, climbing, walking, surfing, and working out. What I love about these activities is that they push me to be all that I can be as a person. They test my character, will-power, dedication, resilience, even my work ethic. In my humble opinion, life is far too short to live it vicariously. I love running because I'm energized, focused, driven, and motivated when I run. Plus there is almost always a good cause involved, which means that running is a good way to do something totally and utterly unselfish. I know we all lead very busy lives and that there are gobs of things making demands on our precious time, but those of us who are trying to care for our temples still choose to exercise despite the busyness of life. I've found myself sleeping better, less stressed out, and more positive. There's nothing quite like accomplishing something you thought you could never do. Really, you are never the same. Friend, I challenge you to do something hard this year. If you can, make it a team effort (husband with wife, parent with child, friend with friend). Get outdoors and exercise. It's going to be hard, but enjoy it. Just getting to the starting line is a huge accomplishment!
1) This was the start of yesterday's race. Check out the dude in the tank top. The man is pumped!
2) Today, as you can see, it was warmer and there was even some bright sunshine, which seemed to make all the difference in the way we raced.
3) Yesterday (brrrr).
4) Today (happy happy happy!).
5) The awards ceremony after today's race was phenomenal. This 14-year old beat my time by 14 minutes. As I said yesterday, life ain't fair. (I'll give you my race times below.)
6) To my shame I admit that before yesterday I had never visited this battlefield.
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville -- a thousand times. But Spotsylvania wasn't even on my radar. Sure glad I stopped by.
7) Lots of history here, much of it tragic. Union General John Sedgwick died here during the Spotsylvania Campaign. When his troops began to duck in order to avoid being hit by Confederate sharpshooters, Sedgwick stood up and said, "Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Minutes later he was hit under the left eye and died.
8) It's impossible for me not to stop and get pictures of the architectural beauties you find while driving through Virginia. Here's one of them.
Okay, as promised, here are my stats from the races I did this weekend:
That's crazy. Today I beat my time from yesterday by a minute and a half and yet I was more tired today than I was yesterday and the course was hillier. I think the sunshine made a huge difference. Perhaps too, I'm reminded at the start of each New Year of the many reasons I try to do better than I think is possible. A New Year grants me (and you) a new start. There's no time for dilly-dallying. If we're going to improve, each day requires its own motivation. In the end, it matters little to me that I was 132rd and 52nd. Whether you are male or female., whether you are 14 or 41, whether you finish in the top 10 or the last 10, a race is a race is a race. New Years puts life and death in perspective. So does running a race or any other athletic activity. Some only think about life and ignore death. Others see life only as a preparation for death. In 2017, I'm going to try and steer a middle course.
Have a great New Year, running or otherwise!