June 2018 Blog Archives
Saturday, June 30
9:45 PM Another busy but rewarding day of farming.
6:44 AM Today I want to run another 5 miles. Today I'm glad my 66-year old body can still run. Today I am glad I can run another marathon this year. Today I am glad I will never qualify for Boston (keeps one humble). Today.
Dear God, Giver of life and Author of love, the gifts You have given me have really made a difference. Today, I'd just like to publicly say, "Thank You."
Friday, June 29
5:58 PM It's a lot of work to maintain a whole bunch of acres and two homes. But the work goes a lot easier when one of your daughters and two of your grandkids help.
I mowed while they spiffied up the houses. What a blessing. Tomorrow I'll finish my yard work in the early morning before it gets too hot and then go for a run and swim. My next tri is only 9 days away in Garner, NC. The clock is ticking. Monday I leave for Dallas, where I see the temperature is a mere 100 degrees. Made today's high of 95 seem nice and cool.
I'm still glad I'm farming. I'm still glad I'm running and biking and swimming and climbing. I'm still glad I'm teaching and writing. Did I mention that I love life? It's not perfect of course. But it's the best I could have hoped for.
May today you find the blessings around you.
8:26 AM In one of my essays, I likened the composition of Hebrews to Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel. Grandeur. Symmetry. Sublimity. Architectural precision. This is obvious from the very first paragraph of Hebrews, which Lightfoot once called "the most beautifully constructed and expressive sentence in the New Testament." Paul's momentous theme called for a literary style unparalleled in its beauty and form. Here's the outline we'll be using in my Hebrews class this fall.
It's taken from the work of Albert Vanhoye. As Vanhoye notes, the exact center of the book -- its rhetorical "high water mark" if you will -- is the anarthrous Christos in 9:11.
Χριστὸς δὲ παραγενόμενος ἀρχιερεὺς τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν διὰ τῆς μείζονος καὶ τελειοτέρας σκηνῆς οὐ χειροποιήτου....
I keep telling myself I should spend more time in the book of Hebrews. But then again, the message of Hebrews is that through Christ we have constant access to and fellowship with the Father, not only when we are praying or reading the Scriptures, but throughout the day. Brother Lawrence once wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He said that some of his closest times with God were not spent on his knees or in Bible study but "in the noise and chatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things." I wonder where you are right now as you read my words. Try practicing God's presence amid the nasty noise and chaotic confusion of your world. Jesus opened that door for us. How ironic if we Bible readers do not walk through it.
7:20 AM I want to thank brother Mammen Joseph for sending me this picture of the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra, India.
Becky organized and funded the school before she passed away. So much love to all these wonderful children and teachers. I get choked up when I see this picture, because I love these people so much. I hardly know what to say. Yes, I miss Becky, but I could not be more grateful for her vision and faithfulness to the Gospel Commission.
The magnum opus of Becky's life isn't this building project, however. Nor is it any of the other works she did for Christ. It's the way she lived. Likewise, our greatest work will not be seen in the spectacular but in the impact of our ordinary daily lives faithfully lived in extraordinary ways. Becky made a difference in this world because she was always seeking out ways she could help her brothers and sisters in foreign lands. If you will, Becky had a robust theology of Christian vocation, and her life inspired others to embrace common grace for the common good. Having herself embraced the Gospel, she then lived it in humble deeds of service to people small and great. Like the apostle Paul, she didn't view her work as a tentmaker a distraction but instead saw it as a conduit for Gospel incarnation. Christian discipleship was woven seamlessly into all aspects of her life. Her well-lived life now lives on in this building and the ministries it houses. I am so proud of her.
Thank you, Becky. Thank you, Lord.
Thursday, June 28
7:28 PM So I've done 3 sprint triathlons. No biggie. Lots of people have done that -- and much much more than that. But each race has taught me lessons, and so without further ado, here are 7 things to remember if you ever want to try a tri:
1) The swim is always the first part of the race. This is because if they were to put the swim last, everybody would drown.
2) Even if you are fast on your bike, others will be faster. Much faster. Get used to it.
3) Always concentrate on your own form and abilities. Ultimately, you're racing against yourself.
4) Don't skip the awards ceremony. You want to applaud the winners -- and spy out the competition for your next race.
5) Need gear? Don't feel like you have to break the bank. You're not trying to win the silly thing, just finish it.
6) Never worry about "looking" like a triathlete. (Some guys actually shave their legs before a race. Yuk.)
7) Dress comfortably.
The sprint triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. The beauty of the tri is that you don't have to be an expert in any of the three sports to take part in it and enjoy it. At least you won't be bored.
7:35 AM Here's a connection I hadn't seen before. It's between Heb. 1:3 and Heb. 6:1. Note the words highlighted in green.
Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι’ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας· ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων.
Διὸ ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα, μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν, ἀναστάσεώς τε νεκρῶν καὶ κρίματος αἰωνίου. καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσομεν, ἐάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός.
In 1:3 the Son is said to carry the universe by His powerful word. In 6:1, believers are described as being "carried along to maturity." I had always assumed that the Carry-er in 6:1 was the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21, where the same verb phero is used in the passive to describe how the writers of Scripture were "carried along by the Holy Spirit"). However, I wonder if the agent in 6:1 isn't Christ Himself. After all, He carries "all things" (Greek: ta panta) by His powerful word.
How practical is the book of Hebrews! The purpose of this book is not only to demonstrate the finality of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. It is also to strengthen and encourage the weary members of a house church to respond to their trials with the resources that God has lavished on them, including the presence of the One who sustains them (and all things) through the word of His power. This is why so many commentators have concluded that the dominant motif in Hebrews is parenetic -- that is, the book was not written merely to inform but to shore up the readers' sagging faith.
This is a word I often need. The amazing thing is that it's often within our power to decide which way we will go. Ignore Jesus, and we can create horrors. Trust Him to work miracles, and He can heal a multitude of hurts. My friend, what do you need to entrust to Him today? What do I? Who in our lives right now needs an encouraging word? A pat on the back? A touch on the shoulder?
5:55 AM This interview on the authorship of Hebrews just came out and I thought you might be interested in it. The interviewer is none other than Abidan Shah, one of our doctoral students in textual criticism at SEBTS.
Wednesday, June 27
6:10 PM Hey there guys! My 20 mile run is done. As in dun, dun, DUN, DUNNN!!!!!!! When I finished, I went through my post-run check list:
As you can see, I ran at a very slow pace.
Since I didn't want to walk, I chose to combine a jog and a walk. It's what one famous world-class athlete (me) has dubbed a "wog." So I wogged until I could wog no more. My wog started out nice and cloudy.
This was the easy part. I guess I averaged about 5.2 mph during this part of my run. Later, the sun came out in all of its force, and my pace slowed to a crawl.
Maybe 4.2 mph max. But I got 'er done, folks. Thumbs up! The one thing I did forget to do today was apply anti-chafing cream to those places that are most sensitive to chafing. (You runners know exactly what I'm talking about.) I also underestimated how much water I would need today. I took three liters of water with me plus one liter of Gatorade and believe me, I could have used more. Otherwise, I felt good about today's training run. Running for 20 miles gives me confidence going into the marathon in October. When I run nowadays, it's like reading Greek. I feel the joy. It's the same as when you make a brand new friend. "Dave, meet running. Running, meet Dave." The joy is in the magical moment of watching the world as you pass it. When I pound the pavement (or, as I did today, pound the crushed gravel), I know that I'm truly alive. It's being a runner that matters, not how far or how fast I can run. I have to laugh, by the way, when I think that my "new" shoes already need replacing. I have to do that every 300 miles. It's already been 300 miles? Yep.
When I got home this book awaited me.
I read it in less than an hour. It's great. The five core habits the author speaks about are:
Actually, I'm already doing many of these things, but I can still make significant improvement. I try and eat "everything" (that is, meals made from the six basic categories of natural whole foods -- vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds/healthy oils, unprocessed meat, seafood, and dairy. My problem is, rather than eating high-quality foods, my diet is still skewed toward eating low-quality foods. Tonight, for example, I made stir-fry and used mostly all fresh vegetables, though I did add some frozen peas and frozen corn to the mix. I want to change that. By "eating enough," the author notes that fit people neither mindlessly overeat nor consciously restrict the amount of food they eat by enforcing inflexible calorie-cutting "diets." Finally, he says we are to "eat individually." Each of us is a unique person and has different eating patterns and diets. We therefore have to develop our own version of the endurance diet. While I don't agree with everything the author says, I do recommend reading his book.
I'm not a vegetarian, and I've raised Angus, but I really don't eat an awful lot of red meat anymore. What I want to do is increase my intake of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. I want to eat my veggies as raw as possible (the broccoli in my stir-fry tonight was nice and crunchy). I want to eat whole foods instead of processed foods (hard to do where I live, where the only grocery store is Food Lion). I want to stop eating off of "freezer food." I know, I know. I'm stating the obvious. You probably know a lot more about a healthy diet than I do. My hugest, biggest goal? Try some new vegetarian recipes. Yes, I, the ultimate meatasaurous, actually said that. Woo ... the pressure is on!
Pray for me.
6:15 AM Happy Wednesday, everybody! I'll start off this blog post with a disclosure: I think Hebrews is the perfect book to teach novice Greek students. Challenging, but do-able. If you know anything about me, then you know that I've defended the Pauline authorship of Hebrews -- in print, no less. Thus Hebrews is just another Pauline letter. Did you know that Hebrews has some of the best Greek in the entire New Testament? Did you know that it also contains numerous Septuagintalisms? Did you know that I brushed Sheba yesterday? You get all of this and more if you read my blog. You are welcome.
Today my goal is to get in a 20 mile "long run" at the High Bridge Trail. (Whenever I type "Trail," it almost always comes out "Trial." Hmmm.) Yes, I'm telling you this even though I know most people don't really care. Telling others what we're doing -- ad nauseum -- is just what runners do. While I'm running I'm going to try and visualize crossing the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. I'll be listening to Chicago as I do so. Why, there's even talk about the group doing one final grand tour with Danny back on drums and Peter singing lead vocals again. Danny would sound great, but poor Peter seems to be struggling these days hitting the high notes. The dude is getting old. Believe me, Peter, I know how you feel.
So what are your big plans for the day? Whatever they are, get up, take care of business, drink your coffee, and get on with it. 20 miles is a long way to go, but the last 5 miles aren't so bad when you spend them planning your post-run meal. What's your biggest challenge today? Think of the rewards. A fatty pastry. A long hot shower. Starbucks. (They could use our business right now.) And if you should have a mental meltdown? Keep going anyway. One tip: If you visualize where you're going ahead of time, getting there is so much easier.
Okay. I'm off. I'll let you know how it goes.
Tuesday, June 26
8:58 PM Hey guys. Just for fun, here's the course map for the Marine Corps Marathon:
As I prepare for race day, I've been studying this map and watching as many YouTubes as I can about the race. My goals for race day remain undefined. I may want to try for a new PR. Or I may simply lace up my shoes and run as leisurely as I care to. But you have to have a goal going into your races. And, once you set such goals, you accept the risk of failing to meet them. Unlike a daily jog, during a race you put everything on the line. You're willing to find out what you're made of. Once you pin that number on your shirt, you're a racer!
Let me take another look at that map. I noticed the following:
1) The course is marked out for the runners. It is intended to be a track or path kept by them. Runners don't design the race course. And they don't have the luxury of going off course either. Their job is to run within the boundaries. That's their duty.
2) One look at a course map and you quickly realize just how much effort is going to be required of you on race day. You can already see your muscles straining, your body kicking it into high gear. Nothing can be accomplished unless you give it your best shot. Running a race requires concentration and vigorous effort. Nothing less will do on race day.
3) The course by its very nature is progressive. You don't cross the finish line immediately. You finish mile 1, then mile 2, then mile 3, until you reach the 26.2 mile marker.
The image of a race is a common one in the New Testament, and so I can't help applying these observations to my own Christian life. First of all, God has a very specific plan for my life. It's been marked out by Him, and He intends for me to finish it. To diverge from it would be foolish and perilous. I have to constantly ask myself before beginning my day, "What is God's appointed task for me today? At what stage of the course am I on?" Obligation is laid upon me to finish my course! Secondly, continual effort is required if I am to finish my race. Anything worth doing in life requires effort. The Christian life demands constant concentration and the utmost energy. Finally, is my Christian life one of continual advance? Am I a more faithful follower of Jesus this year than I was last year? Am I making progress? Of course, our progress will be marred by failures and imperfections. One can be blameless without being perfect. Racing is all about putting forth an honest effort. And, one day, I'll answer for my choices.
Believers, let's oppose the temptation to become lazy in the Christian life. Let's challenge the laissez-faire mentality that says "It's never been done that way before." Let's stop lying about ourselves and using our weaknesses and imperfections to keep us from pursuing wholeheartedly the downward path of Jesus. But be prepared for a struggle. We've invented a thousand excuses to take the easy way out. According to Scripture, no real disciple is content with the level of spirituality to which they have attained. Time and again, the apostle Paul spoke of the need to run with endurance the race set before him. "I'm not beating the air. I'm not running around in circles. I'm giving life all I've got. I'm getting the most out of myself. I am determined to finish all that God intends for me to do. Nothing will move me, so that I might finish my course with joy." Friend, no one can run your race for you. But be sure of this: The Author and Perfecter of faith will enable you to finish your course, meet faithfully every duty, and overcome every trial.
Oh my stars, what a great way to live life!
5:36 PM Today I had a great workout at the gym. If I could only be 1/25th as disciplined as some of the people I see working out. So naturally I overdid it. That's just me. Go all out. Thankfully, it wasn't anything a long nap couldn't solve. Now, feeling fully refreshed, I am about to bore you silly with a few mantras about exercise (no need to thank me):
1) If you want to be happy, don't rely on the horizontal. Good health is a blessing, but real peace and joy come only from above, from the Father of Lights.
2) Share your knowledge. We all have something to give to others. When I need to learn a new exercise, I ask a more experienced lifting buddy. When I was in seminary, I took my professors out for lunch. And guess what? They were approachable, each and every one of them. They were more than willing to counsel a young married man with stars in his eyes about the academy. They were sharers. Nice trait.
3) Travel to a place where you've never been before. Like I did yesterday. You see, I've lived in Virginia for 18 years but only yesterday visited one of the most historic sites on the planet (Jamestown). As far as exercise is concerned, try running or walking or biking on a new trail. Mix things up. Don't get stuck in a rut.
4) Remember that there is risk in everything we do with our bodies. Try climbing the Alps. You will quickly reach your limits as an athlete. Risk it my friend. Risk running your first 5K. Risk ugly toenails. Risk getting sweaty. The payoff may well be a new you.
5) When working out at the gym, try not to sing out loud while listening to music. I caught myself doing that today. Not a good idea. You never sound as good to others as you do to yourself. So stop singing. Lip-sync instead. Your gym-mates will love you for it. And stop tripping you.
6) Be prepared for some pretty awesome events that will change your life forever. Learning to run is like giving birth or publishing your first book. It's amazing, for example, what a marathon will do for you. After months and months of preparation, and miles and miles of training, it all boils down to a single step when you cross that finish line for the first time. That experience will change your life forever.
7) Live in the moment. The past is past. You will never be able to relive it. And the future is future. Living in the moment means concentrating on this time in your life. For me, that looks a lot like being content to let time march on without becoming complacent about getting older. Truly enjoy each moment of your life, my friend. It's a pure gift from God.
8) Be yourself. Always. I get passed in races. A lot. That's because I'm slow. It's just who I am. By giving myself permission to be myself, I accept the body God has given me. So if you see me running in a race, don't be surprised at the sight of my persistent and stubborn style. But don't expect the smile to come off my face either.
9) Keep moving. Motion is the proof that you're still living. When I feel the breeze of a bike ride, when I feel the heat of a road race, when I feel a pouring rain as I walk, I know that I'm alive.
10) There is no secret. To anything, least of all diet and exercise. And don't let anybody tell you there is.
4:34 PM Welcome back everybody. How's the weather where you are? It's been raining constantly here -- a nice, slow "farmer's rain." Which got my somewhat addled (quasi-theologian's) brain to thinking: The Bible often speaks about God sending rain upon the earth. In Hebrews, in fact, the author is very clear: richly watered fields produce useful crops instead of worthless weeds (Heb. 6:7-8). These two verses are what I often refer to as the forgotten verses in this famous warning passage. The principle seems obvious: Where there is fruit on the tree, there is life in the tree. This is why the author can be so confident about his hearers' "salvation" (see 6:9-12). The basis for his confidence is in the work that God is doing in and through them, as seen primarily in their love for one another. Not only did they show practical concern for each other in the past but they continue to do so. (Note the shift from the aorist participle "having ministered" to the present participle "ministering." See, I told you Greek was useful!). Love is always the first mark of a genuine Christian community. So is progress and growth. Apathy is a sure sign that we are drifting away from our biblical and spiritual moorings (2:1-4). How ironic it would be for, say, students to take a year of Greek and then neglect all of their learning. That would be like a field that was well watered and cultivated producing thorns and thistles. Unthinkable! Growth in knowledge and love are indisputable evidences of God's blessing and work in us. The issue is not merely facts. It is obedience. Or, as the author of Hebrews suggests in 6:1-3, a foundation exists for only one reason -- to build a superstructure on top of it.
If you're a Greek student -- seasoned or unseasoned -- it's worth reflecting for a moment on how you plan to continue your Greek studies. Years ago I wrote A Letter to My Greek Students. If we are going to get better at our Greek, then we're going to have to participate. The good news is that there are plenty of helps out there to assist us on our way. Why not teach Greek in your local church? I spent a year doing this in my local church and it paid huge dividends. God bless those students of mine. They worked so hard. And for what? The study of Greek has a goal, which is not the careful study of Greek. The object is to discover Jesus and allow Him to wreck our lives (in a good sort of way). Show me a Greek teacher (or student) off mission, and I will show you someone with no concept of what it means to follow Jesus.
To all of my summer Greek students: You are my heart's delight. It's been a privilege to truth-seek and rabble-rouse with all of you. I hope and pray, even in a small way, Jesus is wrecking your life. We're in this together. Let's do this together.
6:15 AM Hey guys, and a very happy Tuesday morning to you. Here's a brief update for you as I continue to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Today I'm giving my legs a much-deserved day off and spending most of my time at the gym working on my upper body. My plan for tomorrow (Lord willing and weather permitting) is to get in a long run (maybe as many as 20 miles) at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, where my ultra will take place (also in October). Last Sunday, when I listed my upcoming races, I forgot to mention that I'm scheduled to do a 10K (6.2 mile) race in Dallas next Wednesday while visiting mom and dad. As you can see, by running so regularly, I'm trying to build up my "base." The idea is to try and convince your legs/heart/lungs that running 26.2 miles (or, in the case of the ultra, 31 miles) is not that big of a deal. Training is all about maintaining an overall consistency. Having a training schedule is important, but it's even more important to be out there doing it. You don't have to be super-regimented, either. Just a bit self-disciplined. And you need to remember to always have fun! (I believe in the "work hard, play hard" philosophy of life.) By the way, the same idea applies to the study of Greek. I was thrilled to see a post about this on Nerdy Language Majors this morning. How can I keep up with my Greek? What tools/apps are there to help me? Is there a Greek reading group I can join? If I can throw my hat into the ring ...
You probably know that I have a summer "Five Minute Greek Club" for my students. When you join, you agree to translate, unless providentially hindered, any two verses from your Greek New Testament daily, Monday to Friday, until the beginning of the next semester (which is Aug. 16 at Southeastern). If you do this, you get one of my books for free. Today I'm going to make this offer public. The first five people to sign up for the club and who complete their translation work by Aug. 16 will receive a gratis copy of my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. This offer is valid only today, and only to the first five people who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want a free book? Enter today!
Okay, back to my training plan. After logging 180 miles in the past 30 days, it's time to focus on proper nutrition. Yes, one's digestive system is every bit as important as one's exercise routine. Of course, the goal is not to get thin but to get fit, so I'm not that concerned about standing on the scales every day. In fact, I haven't weighed myself in probably three months. I know when I'm feeling/looking good and when I'm not. What I would like to do -- and need to do -- is learn about how my body uses the food I put into it and to make choices that foster good health. I want to focus on balanced meals -- and more of them at less frequent intervals. I need to begin by eating at least three meals a day. I also want to eat several smaller meals a day rather than three humongous ones. I want to make better choices about what I put into my mouth. The key is to work with my body. I have to trust it -- and myself. I've got to strike the right balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Like a car engine, my body requires the proper fuel.
I hate writing about diet. I am not a nutritionist. Bottom line, my body type is large, and there's very little I can do about that. But what I can do is eat balanced meals and move my body in a way that makes me happy. I actually don't think my diet is too bad, but (as with every area of life) I know I can do better. How about you? Do you struggle (as I do) to treat your body with respect and fuel it accordingly? What's your eating philosophy?
All the best!
Monday, June 25
6:40 PM This morning I awoke at 5:00 with an insatiable case of Wanderlust. Where to go today? Preferably a place I'd never been before. But where? An idea had been forming in my sub-consciousness, and now I let it surface and examined it. The Virginia Capital Trail. You know, the one that connects Virginia's first capital (Jamestown) with its current capital (Richmond). 52 miles of pristine bike trails. 400 years of history. Historic plantation homes by the bucketful. So off I went, enjoying the sunrise over the bridge at "my fair city" of Clarksville ...
... before stopping at the Cracker Barrel in South Hill for some scrumptious hotcakes. Now I was ready for a ride!
I started my bike about 20 miles east of Richmond. Which meant that I ended up biking about 30 miles today. (Yes, I'm saddle sore.)
But it was biking through some of the prettiest countryside in Old Dominion. There were cornfields galore.
And wheat fields.
And plantation homes. Here's Berkeley.
Eventually you arrive at Jamestown.
Talk about history! You pass historical marker ...
... after historical marker ...
... after historical marker.
And in the middle of it all -- smack dab in the center of the trail in the town of Charles City -- is the cutest little restaurant you will ever find.
The food was out of this world. I couldn't even finish my meal, the portions were so large. I brought half of it home with me.
I've had a love affair with travelling for many years. Wanderlust, the very strong desire to travel, is in my blood. I imagine we adopted the word from German without change because it can't be improved on. (The Germans actually have a "Tag des Wanderns," an annual Hiking Day.) Becky and I travelled all over Europe together. I still laugh whenever I recall how we once got lost in Lamorlaye, France. And where hadn't we gone in Ethiopia?
What will you do with the rest of the year? Where will you go? What are your goals, and what should they be? Do some people have a Wanderlust gene? I think I do. Well, wherever you go and whatever you do, may God be with you.
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, June 24
7:58 PM My upcoming races (a reminder, more for myself than for you):
I don't know about you, but I find goal-setting something to help me stay dedicated. Most of us would agree that when we don't plan for something, nothing is likely to happen. What are your exercise goals for the remainder of 2018? Remember: Your goals must be your goals. Judge yourself only by your own standards. If you do, the rewards will be yours as well.
Happy running everybody!
7:44 PM The race staff wrote my age on my leg. I gave them explicit instructions NOT to add another 6.
5:42 PM Hey guys! Today I conquered my third triathlon. It couldn't have been more different from the first two I did last year. This might be the first time I really felt like a triathlete. I loved everything about today's race. Right now I'm feeling a bit tired but great. Here's a brief race report.
The setting: The course is set in the beautiful suburbs of Wake Forest, NC. The swim takes place at the Heritage Swim Club pool with a 250-meter swim. You are told to put down 99.99 for your swim time if you want to be placed last in the group. I did so, and was seeded at the end of the line. The bike is a relatively flat 12 miles with police officers and volunteers at every turn. The route does NOT close to traffic so you have to be extra vigilant while riding. Thankfully, the traffic seemed extra sparse today. The run is a simple out-and-back 5K (3.1 miles) and takes you through the neighborhood subdivisions. As I recall, there were water stations at the half mile point as well as at the 1.5 mile turnaround. At about mile 1.4 somebody had their water sprinkler out, which was most refreshing.
I woke up at 4:00 this morning and headed out of the driveway at about 4:45. This put me in Wake Forest around sunrise. It also put me there in plenty of time to find some coffee and pick up my race kit, bike and helmet stickers, timing chip, t-shirt, and a pair of free socks.
I also got my race number written on my arms and my age written on the back of my right calf. Then, as with most of the other participants, I attended the pre-race briefing. I had lots of time to set up in transition, use the porta-potty, put on sunscreen (sorely needed today), and get wet before the race.
The swim: I used to be a very strong swimmer. You had to be a good swimmer if you surfed in Hawaii. But nowadays I rarely swim, so I started at the back of the pack in order to avoid the tangle of swimmers at the start and in the middle sections of the course. (Sidebar: I left my goggles at the pool yesterday and so I arrived at the race venue goggle-less. Thankfully, one of the race vendors had a pair for sale. My new pair is even nicer than my old pair, so everything worked out in the end. I can't imagine swimming 250 meters without swim goggles!) As in the past, this year the race officials were starting the swimmers out with a rolling start. Presumably, this results in fewer swimmers making contact with each other. My goal today was to continue at a steady pace, using the crawl stroke exclusively. (Last year I had to do the breast stroke when I got tired.) The water was calm and, by starting out at the back of the back, I had absolutely no contact with my fellow swimmers along the way.
Transition 1: I exited the pool and ran to the transition area, where my bike, helmet, and sunglasses awaited me. I think I wasted a few precious seconds putting on my socks and shoes. (I need to work on this.) I also hydrated (simple water, no Gatorade yet) but didn't feel I needed nutrition.
The bike: In my first two triathlons, I rode my mountain bike. That was a huge mistake. A lot of people passed me. I have to admit: I was so discouraged after those first two races that I seriously thought I would never do another triathlon -- until I purchased my road bike. Today I actually passed a few riders. I was pretty happy with my 15.2 mph average speed on the bike course.
Time: 48:37. (Last year it was a whopping one hour and two minutes!!!)
Transition 2: Back at the transition area, I racked my bike, swapped a hat for my helmet, drank some water, and took off.
The run: When I came off my bike, my legs were feeling pretty shot. I was breathing heavily and knew I had to slow down. It was a very hot day. I took water at every aid station and also poured cups of water down my neck and back. The run went fairly well, I think, considering that my legs were dead.
Overall: I had a PR today. My overall time this year was 1:37:35. Last year, at the same event, my overall time was 1:50:02. The best part of the race was the bike. The hardest part was the run due to the heat. However, I wasn't alone. There were many fellow athletes to commiserate with! My favorite memory from the race? The water sprinkler at mile 1.4. (Suggestion for the race directors: Next year please have the fire department bring their hoses.) Afterwards I stayed for the awards while munching on post-race pizza. I earned second place in my age group this year, as opposed to seventh (and last) place in 2017. Clearly I should do triathlons more often (*wink*).
I highly recommend the Smile Train Triathlon in Wake Forest, especially for any newbies out there. It's a blast -- and an awesome way to spend your hard-earned dollars (all proceeds go to provide cleft lip and palate surgery to children in the Majority World).
With that-- thanks for reading!
Saturday, June 23
7:44 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to:
COUNTDOWN TO THE MCM!
I'm sitting here digesting a plate load of carbs in preparation for tomorrow's tri. After all, my body has to swim/bike/run over 15 miles tomorrow. Although I'm trying to train myself to eat several small meals each day rather than two gigantic ones, I fell off the wagon big time today. For breakfast I had eggs, toast, and a large serving of corned beef hash. Then I pigged out on seafood and hush puppies tonight. Habits are hard to break sometimes. My biggest problem is learning to view food as fuel rather than as a weight management problem. And, where I live, food is all too often a provider of comfort and companionship rather than something we use to fuel our bodies. You know: faith, hope, love, truth, justice, the American Way, and key lime pie. Running is a whole being activity. Ditto for cycling and swimming, I imagine. (I wouldn't really know since I'm not a very consistent cyclist or swimmer.) It's much easier to make poor food choices than to get fit. The good news is that I was able to get both a bike and a swim in today.
I am so, so, so excited about tomorrow's race. I'm eager to see how I do. Can I top last year's time? I hope so. But rather than just focusing on the destination, I want to enjoy the journey to the finish line. I'm so glad that the pool is located outdoors. I absolutely detest indoor swimming pools, like the one we had to swim in last year during the Rex Wellness Triathlon. Heated water -- along with about 500 swimmers expending their body heat -- make for cauldron-like conditions when you're enclosed in a swimming hall. As for the 12-mile bike ride, we'll see how things go. Having a road bike should make a difference in my time for this leg of the race, but then again, I'm a complete novice when it comes to cycling. The easiest leg for me should be the 5K run, mainly because I've learned to accept my own limitations as a runner. As always, I will do my best, not someone else's best. In my mind, equating "second place" with "first loser" is just plain idiotic. The difference between a win and a victory is huge. Racing meets a need in my life. It's the need you and I and every other person has -- the need to rise up and face a challenge. This need, as with every other need in life, challenges us to meet our greatest need: learning how to love and serve our Abba Father with every fiber of our being.
Tomorrow, I will lose the race. That's a given. But I can be victorious if I know what I'm striving for.
8:20 AM I'm preparing my initial lecture on Hebrews. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:
1) Is Hebrews a letter that lacks the customary opening or a sermon to which an epistolary conclusion was added? The latter seems more likely. Here's Heb. 1:1:
Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις....
And here's Heb. 13:18-25:
Προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν, πειθόμεθα γὰρ ὅτι καλὴν συνείδησιν ἔχομεν, ἐν πᾶσιν καλῶς θέλοντες ἀναστρέφεσθαι. περισσοτέρως δὲ παρακαλῶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι ἵνα τάχιον ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν. Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, ὁ ἀναγαγὼν ἐκ νεκρῶν τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν, καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς ἐν παντὶ ἀγαθῷ εἰς τὸ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ, ποιῶν ἐν ἡμῖν τὸ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν. Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν. γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον, μεθʼ οὗ ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς. ἀσπάσασθε πάντας τοὺς ἡγουμένους ὑμῶν καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας. ἡ χάρις μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.
Clearly, Hebrews is a "word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22):
Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν.
2) Such exhortations were common in the Jewish synagogues of the day (see Acts 13:15):
μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν ἀπέστειλαν οἱ ἀρχισυνάγωγοι πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγοντες· Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν λόγος παρακλήσεως πρὸς τὸν λαόν, λέγετε.
Here Paul gives a sermon in response to an invitation to do so by the officials of the synagogue in Antioch on his first missionary journey.
3) Now note 1 Tim 4:13:
ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ.
This verse establishes the pattern of reading from Scripture followed by an exhortation in the earliest Christian assemblies.
4) Finally, note how Paul expects his first letter to the Thessalonians to be read aloud to the entire congregation (1 Thess 5:27):
ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς.
Hebrews therefore seems to be a homily, intended to be read aloud. Approaching Hebrews from this perspective allows us to see how the book does not neatly fit into the category of "epistle."
This is so much fun!
6:45 AM A few random reflections on a cloudy Saturday morning:
1) Yesterday I sent the editors of Filologia Neotestamentaria my review of Paul Danove's latest book called New Testament Verbs of Communication: A Case Frame and Exegetical Study (LNTS 520; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).
I concluded with this statement, which I hope will challenge all of my students to pursue a study of Greek linguistics:
2) Here are three brief comments based on my reading of the Orthodox Prayer Book this morning. First, I noticed how similar chrestos ("good," "kind") is to Christos (see line 7).
In fact, some have argued that Jesus was originally known as Chrestos and His followers were called Chrestians instead of Christians. I seem to recall F. F. Bruce suggesting somewhere that the earliest believers may have been derided as being "Goodie-goodies" (Chrestianoi) because of their high moral character in contrast to the pagan culture of the day. At any rate, the two terms are very similar indeed, and there may even be a word play between chrestos and Christos in 1 Pet. 2:3 (where p72 actually reads Christos).
3) The last line of this famous prayer reminded me that the optative (instead of the indicative) was commonly used in Greek prayer-wishes.
This helps me when I run across Paul's opening greetings, in which the Greek verb is elided (left out), as in Phil. 1:2: "Grace to you and peace ...." Here the likeliest rendering is "May grace be yours and peace ...." rather than "Grace is yours and peace ...."
4) Even though I don't see a clergy-laity division in the New Testament, I still think this is an awesome prayer.
5) Finally, "One pearl is better than a whole necklace of potatoes" (Etienne Decroux). There is some awful good prose in Bill Lane's Hebrews commentary.
Friday, June 22
6:34 PM Good Friday evening, fellow bloggers! I have so much to be thankful for this week.
1) I enjoyed a Father's Day celebration on Wednesday with my daughter and her sweet family.
2) I began rereading this fine work on Hebrews.
I admired Bill Lane enormously. I got to know him when he was teaching at Seattle Pacific and I was guest lecturing at Fuller Northwest in Seattle for two summers. Almost all great scholarship involves being intellectually rigorous without being rude. Bill was a scholar's scholar. I strongly recommend that you check out his commentary on Hebrews. There's a simplicity and elegance to everything he writes. Bill retired in 1999 and passed away only two years later. He is greatly missed but his ideas live on through his writings.
3) Since summer school has ended, and because I got in a solid 10-mile bike ride today, I decided to treat myself to some Ethiopian food at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. Thank you, Tegegne, for the great food and fellowship. As usual, I got kai wat in memory of Becky (that was her favorite dish).
4) Finally, I laughed out loud when I saw this.
For this weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest, yours truly has been seeded #313 out of 314 participants. I'll start the swim a good 50 minutes after the first swimmer begins at 8:00 am. Looks like I'm quickly becoming the patron saint of the back of the pack! My philosophy is: Have fun with it, or why do it?
Next week my summer vacation begins in earnest. I plan to bike two trails this summer: The Virginia Capital Trail from Jamestown to Richmond, and the Virginia Creeper Trail from White Top to Damascus. Weather permitting, I hope to begin my cycling adventure next week. Overall, I'm feeling real good about my training workouts. The marathon can't get here quickly enough. I think the chances are about 50/50 that I'll complete the race the same day that I start!!
Tomorrow I'd like to get in a workout at the Y, a run, and a swim. I'm also behind on my farm projects and hope to knock out a couple of major projects.
Happy training wherever you are!
Thursday, June 21
6:12 AM Well, today we take the quiz over chapter 25 of our beginning Greek grammar. Only one chapter to go. There it is -- the finish line! Only one more mile to go in your 26-chapter "marathon"! You've done it. You've finished your first race. It's fantastic.
When I ran my first marathon, someone told me, "When you cross the finish line, don't stop. You have to keep moving through the finish area. If you stop, your legs will freeze up on you. You've got to keep on moving." Greek 1-2 is only the first step in a lifetime of using Greek in your lives and ministries. Most of us will use it on an occasionally basis at best. Others will go on to become "elite" Greek athletes, even earning a Ph.D. in the subject. What it's all said and done, the only question any of us needs to ask is, "Did I do my best?"
Greek students, thank you for all of your hard this summer. I mean that: Thank you! I'm so proud of you. This is your moment of victory. Savor it!
Wednesday, June 20
7:15 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to DBO. I just wanted to update you on my training log for my marathon in October. This week I got in two runs, two bikes, and two swims. That's right. I finally found a swimming pool where I can do lap swimming any time of the day or evening.
It's in a town called Knightdale, which is about a 35-minute drive southeast of Wake Forest. But it's well worth the drive. I'm able to get in as many laps as I want to without anybody disturbing me. And the best news of all is that it's a YMCA, which means that my Virginia Y membership is valid there -- hence no cost to me at all. In addition, I've also gotten back into cycling big time. The main reason for this is that I've decided to do another triathlon this weekend. It will be my third tri. It's called the Smile Train TRI and all proceeds will go to the world's largest cleft lip and palate charity called "Smile Train."
I did this tri last year at this same time and came in almost dead last. I was pretty good at both the swim and the running legs of the race, but because I only had my mountain bike for the cycling portion, everyone else was racing past me at speeds exceeding 25 miles per hour. All of that has changed as of yesterday, when I visited The Bike Guy in Wake Forest and purchased a brand new road bike. It's called the Marin Argenta Elite and is as light as a feather.
I tested it twice yesterday at the Neuse Rover Greenway and now I'm the one blowing by slower riders. What an adrenalin rush! This means that I now have two bikes, my Marin for road races and for concrete or asphalt paths, and my Fuji mountain bike for crushed gravel. Best of all, I won't feel like I'm kicking against the goads every time I do a triathlon. This weekend's race is a fairly short affair: a 250-meter pool swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and an out-and-back 5K run. The weather on race day will be hot and muggy, but what do you expect for June in North Carolina? Last year, as I said, I was doing my very first tri and I can remember how difficult and challenging I found this event to be. The swim and the run were relatively uneventful, but by the end of the bike segment I was so discouraged. As I settled into the run part of the race, I thought of the utter futility of trying to do a road race with a mountain bike. It was clear that if I was going to continue to do triathlons I would eventually need to get a road bike. Thankfully, the Bike Guy had exactly what I needed. Incidentally, as Rob (the owner) and I got to talking, he suddenly blurted out, "Are you Dr. Black? Why, I had you for New Testament at Southeastern!" It's a small world, folks! Right now I'm filled with trepidation, expectation, and a desperate lack of preparation. As I said, I've been getting in some good rides and laps at the pool but not nearly enough training to feel that I'm ready for the race this weekend. But I've paid my entry fee and I'm not turning back now. I figure I can at least expect to do a little bit better on the bike leg this time around. But I'm not going to push myself too much. I still need to get used to how my new bike handles before I go full bore. Besides -- perspective, Dave, perspective! These races I'm doing now are really only training events for my 26.2 mile marathon and my 31-mile ultra in October. I often think to myself, "Is this really happening to me? Am I really going to run in the Marine Corps Marathon?" It all seems like a big dream. Can you imagine standing at the start of the MCM with 25,000 other runners who share a common goal and a common dream? I have to laugh, mostly at my own lack of talent. But what I lack in talent I make up in raw dedication. At the starting line, all runners are equal. All of us are alone, and yet each of us is part of a larger group. The thousands of people standing next to you are both companions and competitors. Each of us has a gnawing need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and yet each of us maintains the integrity of who we are as individuals. I can't imagine another sport where this happens. Tomorrow I hope to get in another long bike ride as well as some lap swimming at the pool in Knightdale. Then Friday, with the end of summer school Greek, I return to the farm for some much needed R & R before this weekend's race. As always, I'm struggling with balance. Somewhere, all athletes have to find that equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. When I climbed the Alps two summers ago, I recall Walter, my mountain guide, telling me, "Dave, you should climb with as little effort as possible. If you become restless, speed up. If you become tired, slow down. Above all, enjoy each step you take. Tho goal is not just the summit. The goal is to enjoy each footstep to the top and back."
What a wonderful thought. Equilibrium is so important in every area of life, isn't it? Nearly all of us find a healthy balance between work and leisure to be an unattainable goal. But we keep striving for that balance anyway. We have to. By not striving for that goal we actually prevent ourselves from improving.
Well, I see I've begun to ramble again. Let me close this post with pictures of two websites I told my Greek students about today. The Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page is a real winner.
I hope many of my students will consider applying for membership in this group. As for Rob Plummer's Daily Dose of Greek, it's a solid resource to keep you in your Greek for years to come.
When I started running three years ago, my goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping. At the time, that seemed like an unattainable distance. The first time I achieved that goal -- it was in Hawaii where I had gone to surf -- I couldn't wait to text my kids and let them know. I wanted them to celebrate with me, not just because I had finally covered that distance, but because I had overcome my self-imposed limitations. Greek student, don't underestimate your ability to do sound biblical exegesis based on the original languages of the Bible. If you persist in making progress, sooner or later the unthinkable happens. In time, reading a passage of your Greek New Testament that you once thought was way beyond your ability becomes routine. At that point, you'll begin to set new goals for yourself. What that next step is, you will have to choose, not me. And the greatest joy comes in being enough of a student to make that choice wisely.
Thanks for stopping by!
Monday, June 18
6:12 AM Greetings, fellow athletes, and welcome to another episode of:
COUNTDOWN TO MCM!
I can't believe it's only 4 months to the Marine Corps Marathon. And frankly, I don't really know why I'm so excited about this event. Maybe because it will be in DC and I'll get to see all of the monuments up close and personal. Maybe because this will be the first "major" marathon I've done. Maybe I'm going crazy. Honestly, when I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati 13 months ago, I had no plans to run another one. And here I am running my 10th! Surely my motivation would have tanked by now, you'd think. The "inspiration muscle" is always the hardest one to use. Most of us who say we need motivation to get into shape are just dreaming. Dreams are very illusive things. A dream without regular action will get you nowhere fast. So let's talk about motivation for a second. Here are some reasons that come to my mind this morning of why I think I've been able to stay motivated for so long. I'm listing them here for my sake more than yours!
It's really no more complicated than that. To stay motivated, you simply have to have good reasons to do what you're doing. When I took Greek, I fell in love with the language. Yes, it was challenging. After all, it was my very first foreign language. But when Greek clicked, everything else seemed to click along with it. I found my "niche" in life, so to speak. And, 42 years later, I am enjoying the classroom as much today as I did when I first entered it.
Today, I am an adult-onset athlete. I believe that having an active lifestyle is the only responsible course of action for a 66-year old who takes Rom. 12:1 seriously. I owe it to my family to stay in shape for as long as possible. Moreover, I've found the running community to be one of the most compassionate, supportive, giving, and understanding communities I've ever been involved with. Had I known how rich my life would have been as a runner, I would have put my running shoes on much earlier. Staying active is really a matter of faith. It's part of our stewardship responsibility before our Creator. The people you see running 5Ks on the weekend aren't any more talented or gifted than you are. They haven't suddenly discovered the secret to happiness. They aren't any different from you and me. They're just normal, everyday people who've discovered that running is a whole-being activity. It nourishes your mind, your body, and your spirit. Anyone can be more active!
When you stand at the starting line of a marathon, your goal that day is to complete 26.2 miles. The difference between success and failure is as simple as taking the next step. I imagine that's how all of life is. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt what you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Jim Elliott did just that, and entered heaven "through gates of splendor." The truth is, every step in life is important. Every step takes us a little bit closer to who we want to become. Every step reveals some new God-given potential. My hope and dream is that you will find your "niche" in life and then pursue it with all the gusto you can.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, June 17
8:55 AM Good morning, guys, and Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there. This morning I thought I'd continue blogging about the book of Hebrews, which is my favorite New Testament writing outside of the Gospels. This morning I'm meditating on the opening verses of the book. I used to spend a lot of time in the prologue of Hebrews when I was writing my journal article on the subject. What moved me greatly was to see the absolute beauty of the passage. At the time, I profited eminently from the work of Johannes Louw on discourse analysis, and so I called my essay "Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis," which appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal and can be accessed, free of charge, here. My study of this text was invaluable. It set a trajectory for me in my subsequent studies in Greek discourse analysis. In this opening paragraph of Hebrews, the exalted Christ is found, front and center. And the Greek of this text? It's perhaps the most exalted Greek in the entire New Testament, which is what you'd expect when the theme of the book is "Christianity Is Christ." I often tell my students to look for issues of style in a New Testament book every bit as much as matters of theology. The way something is said can enhance its effectiveness. Today I simply want to note the opening two adverbs of the letter. Here the author uses a figure of speech called alliteration in introducing how God spoke in the Old Testament -- "in many parts and in many ways" (Greek: polumeros kai polutropos). Note the initial "p" sound. This was designed to make the audience attentive and receptive to the speaker's message. God, he says, spoke in many parts and in many ways through His spokesmen the prophets. Here the words polumeros and polutropos have to do with the varied and manifold nature of Old Testament revelation. It helps, then, when studying the Old Testament, that we at least try and understand how all of these parts fit together. Likewise -- and here's the main point I'm trying to make this morning (cf. Heb. 8:1!), I believe we can apply these same two adverbs to the letter to the Hebrews. Has not our author (1) used a great variety of parts in order to communicate a single message, and (2) used any number of rhetorical devices (alliteration, assonance, anaphora, asyndeton, metonymy, hyperbole, etc.) in order to increase the impact and appeal of his message, the "hitting" and the "drawing" of his letter on his audience? What this means, at least to me, is that if we are to understand the book of Hebrews aright, we have to begin by understanding at least two things:
Its discourse structure (that is, how all the parts fit the whole), and
Its literary devices (that is, how the message is enhanced by the style of the writing).
What an achievement if we could even begin to understand these two components of meaning! For this reason, I'd like to call your attention to two essays of mine that might help us do just that. They are both accessible online, free of charge:
"The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews" available here, and
"Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews," found here.
At one time, as you can see, Hebrews occupied a good deal of my study time. I do hope you will not find these essays to be "scholarship for the sake of scholarship." I well recall in the 1980s having to come to grips with a serious academic issue. Would I write for the academy, or would I try to ensure that what I wrote (both my essays and books) would be of some use to the church at large? I have suffered from that schizophrenia ever since. But ultimately I decided that my writings would, hopefully, be useful to more than scholars. Hence my essays and books have tended to be, not less scholarly necessarily (at least I hope not!), but more geared for a broader reading audience. I've never had occasion to regret that decision.
Please read these essays if you can. I'm a little embarrassed to call attention to my own essays. Writing is, in fact, at best a supplement to what I do in the classroom. But since most of you can't attend class with me, I suppose the next best thing is to put my thoughts into words. God has called me to write, and I have tried to obey that calling, but others will have to decide how effective I've been.
Below: Heb. 1:1-7 in p46.
Saturday, June 16
8:45 PM We were able to get up two trailer loads of hay tonight.
We worked until dark, per usual. What a gorgeous evening.
It was so much fun working with my son on this Father's Day weekend.
As if that wasn't blessing enough, I just found out today that one of my former doctoral students edited this book.
Mel, what an honor. I am so humbled and grateful, not to mention surprised! Thank you for your kindness to me. And to all of my fellow New Testament scholars: You will never know just how you, your friendship, and your prayers have meant to me at the time of my own greatest loss and confusion. I am so humbled to belong to the guild of New Testament academics. Thank you all so very much.
Time to wash clothes and cook supper. Pork stir fry over rice. Ono-licious!
2:18 PM Hey guys. I thought I'd update you again on my marathon training. Today my goal was to work out for 45 minutes at the Y, run for 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston, and then swim laps at the public pool. Mission accomplished! -- all except for the swimming. By the time I got to the pool it was way too crowded for lap swimming, so I just grabbed one of the lawn chairs and read for an hour or so. Here's a video of today's workout. Thanks for sharing my journey to the Marine Corps Marathon with me. I'm still feeling super motivated!
7:25 AM I spent the early morning hours on the front porch sipping coffee and reading Hebrews. Paul made this statement in 2 Tim. 3:16:
"All Scripture is God-breathed."
This verse drives everything I do as a Greek teacher. The Bible is the word of God -- every word, everywhere. Theologians call this "verbal-plenary inspiration." But not only are the words inspired by God. Inspiration includes the words, but it also involves tense, voice, mood, person, number, gender, case, source, word order, phrase order, clause order, discourse structure, rhetorical devices, and the list goes on and on. Exegesis is not something to tackle on our own. The same Spirit who inspired God's word has to illuminate its truths to our minds and hearts. At stake is a matter of life and death. There's zero chance of doing exegesis if you think you can do the job alone. But every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. He'll go with you, helping you study, teaching you what the text is saying, and showing you how you can apply its truth to your life. And, if you think the Bible is something else, look at Jesus. God's essence was funneled into the plain package of a human being. Through the incarnation Jesus proved to us that God can indeed be known. Today, my friend, harness the heavens. God's word is there to light our lives for all of eternity.
Friday, June 15
9:30 PM Hey folks. Just a barebones photo update:
1) Had a wonderful lunch yesterday at a local Chinese restaurant with several of my Greek students. They were a happy bunch.
2) My able assistant taught today's class on pronouns. As always, Noah did a superb job.
3) I'm enjoying this book.
4) Our secretaries surprised me today with a birthday card and donuts for our entire quad. Thank you, ladies!
But that wasn't the only surprise ....
5) This came today from one of my daughters.
A healthy fruit basket! Just what the doctor ordered for someone in training.
6) By the grace of God, during the past 30 days I've managed to put 170 miles on my Map My Run app.
7) Yesterday I thought I'd do some biking. A marathon on wheels, if you will.
8) Here's a time-lapse video of my ride.
I'm not a very gifted athlete. That's an understatement! But I'm tenacious and stubborn. Sometimes when out alone on the bike path I feel Becky with me. I imagine us breathing in the fresh air together and planning our next mission trip. In those moments, I feel her spirit beside me. As with athletics, so with life. And no more than athletics is life a game for rookies. It's the supreme aging game. I hope I can do a better job of it in the days and weeks ahead.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great weekend.
Wednesday, June 13
6:20 PM Hey guys. Dave here with another update. I'm back on the farm doing chores and checking up on the animals. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Greek class. We'll be reviewing chapters 17-21 in my textbook and then I'm sending the class home with their second take-home exam of the semester. I'm super excited to see how well they do with the participle and the infinitive. Grammar is never boring to me! Meanwhile, I was sent the final page proofs to Becky's book My Life Story in Chinese, and after one more pass-through, the book will go to the printer.
I still can't believe that her autobiography will now be available in the world's three most-widely spoken languages (English, Spanish, and Mandarin). God is good!
Finally, I'm on target to accomplish all of my marathon training goals for the week. Before this weekend's long run I only have a 26.2 mile bike ride left, which I hope to do tomorrow. For me, the best part about being outdoors is fellowshipping with the Creator. My running/walking/biking brings me closer to Him. Over and over again I can hear Him saying, "My grace is enough for you, Dave" (2 Cor. 12:9). At the end of the day, I know that He will be with me through thick and thin, enabling me to keep on taking one step after the other. I feel like my breakthrough moment in life came when I realized that anything we do as Jesus-followers has the potential of glorifying God, even if it's washing dishes or running a road race. (I do both of these activities quite frequently.) God helps me physically every day that I get out of bed, whether it's to do farm chores or teach my classes. I am about to say something that might sound revolutionary but I believe it's absolutely true: running is a "ministry" of mine every bit as much as teaching is. The truth is that, as Christians, we find our greatest pleasure when we are doing what God created us to be and do without ever comparing ourselves to anyone else. In Greek, the verbs "serve," minister," and "worship" are closely related. My goal in life is to serve and worship God in everything I do. This means, for one thing, that I no longer separate the "sacred" from the "secular" parts of my life. Being a Christian is not about dying to our natural gifts or God-given desires and joys. It's about living life, the life He's given us, to the max.
Every day, through my running, God is teaching me more and more about who I am in Him. It's not about running fast or about running slow. I run not because I want to but because I have to. I teach for the same reason. Yes, teaching is my "job," my "vocation," but it's oh so much more than that. I know of no other way to live than to teach. Likewise, I know of no other way to exist apart from being active, as long as God allows me to be active. Being a runner is so much like being a Christian. You begin at the starting line and then each step takes you closer to the finish line. There is always a goal in your relentless forward progress. Not only do you want to see what you're capable of accomplishing in life, in your heart of hearts you want to see how God works through your life to bless others. But here's the clincher: At some point in your race, pain becomes your companion. It becomes part of the journey. Sometimes the pain is relatively minor, and at other times it is practically unbearable. But pain always comes to us eventually. Fortunately, Christianity teaches us how to suffer. Running in the midst of pain is a crash course in perseverance and gratitude. In those moments when you are struggling, when your limits are being tested, you sense that the Lord is with you in a special way. Heaven seems to come down and touch the earth.
C. S. Lewis once put it this way: "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think that one would often want to do anything else." I love road races, not only because of the fantastic comradery, but because they remind us that we, yes WE, can do this, that we are capable of so much more than we know. It probably goes without saying, but when Becky died my life changed forever. I realized I faced a choice: I could let her death ruin me, or I could, as much as possible, learn to grow from the experience. My friend, just showing up at the starting line proves that you "dared greatly." If you make a few mistakes, learn from then and then get right back on track. Life is not supposed to be easy! You just keep plugging along. In my running life, I try not to live with regrets. "I should have done this or that." Nope. Learn from your mistakes, Dave, but don't dwell on the past. Life vacillates between peaks and valleys. Get used to it. The one constant is the Lord. Every day, God is teaching me more about who I am and who He wants me to be. It's awesome to know that while stretching or running or cooking or teaching or cleaning the house He's right there with me. He created me this way. He created me to celebrate the disciplined, physically hard-working lifestyle. I am meant to be fully alive, fully alive in Christ. I am adamant, therefore, that being a Christian doesn't mean a joyless existence. "When I run I feel His pleasure," said Eric Liddle in the movie Chariots of Fire. What are you doing to feel His pleasure, my friend? Our primary role is to find God's will for our lives and then pursue it with all we have. And this "divining" God's will for our lives is not exclusive to one denomination, gender, ethnicity, etc. Each of us can know God if we truly seek Him. After all, He's the one who both designed the race course and finished it (Heb. 12:2). Our only job is to look to Him, "the Author and Perfecter of our faith."
I'll be back, Lord willing, with another update on Friday. I hope that you enjoy your "race" this day!
Monday, June 11
6:12 AM Lessons about running (and maybe about studying Greek) from my run yesterday:
1) Never, ever try to predict the future. Stay in the moment. Focus on how you are running now, not how many more miles you still have to go.
2) Expect the race to get harder the longer you go. Before you reach the finish line you'll have to dig deeper, maybe deeper than you've ever dug before.
3) Do not listen to yourself when your mind tells you it's time to quit. You're stronger than you think you are. Unless you are injured (or have started hallucinating), you will find another level of strength to persevere.
4) Be willing to embrace hardship and suffering. It is possible to suffer and not give up.
5) Imagine how incredibly amazing it will be when you finish.
Only 2 weeks left in baby Greek. It's not always smooth sailing for sure. But don't give up. The good things in life aren't supposed to be easy.
Sunday, June 10
9:06 PM Today I tried to get in a 10-mile run in Farmville on a hot and humid day. Here's a GoPro video in case you're interested in my run.
Thanks, and God bless.
Saturday, June 9
4:55 PM Hey folks! What a busy day it's been. I had to get gas, go to two banks, visit the post office, work out at the Y, visit my favorite breakfast joint, and get to the pool. Plus pick up hay. We just finished (early) and so I'm going to upload a few pix and then chillax. Thanks for stopping by!
1) The local Amish run this place. The food is scrumptious. I had two delicious and fattening glazed donuts along with my coffee.
2) Then I picked up some treats for the donks and goats.
3) While at Tractor Supply, the Humane Society was trying to give away kittens. I made a donation but didn't take a cat home with me. They sure were adorable though.
4) My 45-minute workout at the gym today focused on upper body strength. For a Saturday, the Y seemed unusually empty.
5) Not sure who Bubba is, but I like his sign.
6) I arrived at the pool just when it opened so that I could get some lap swimming in before the crowds arrived. Yes, I'm actually thinking about doing another triathlon this year.
7) Did I mention we baled today?
8) I'll leave you with this wonderful church sign I saw in South Boston. I think they left out the word "When," but the message still comes through loud and clear.
"On Christ, the solid rock, I stand ...."
Friday, June 8
9:32 PM I turn 66 tomorrow, but you know, that's merely a number. In this respect, I am the person I was 30 or 40 years ago. I am the me I have always been. "Have I matured?" is the real question. I suppose so, in maybe a few ways. I no longer need a lot of friends. Only a few trusted people. These I call my "Garden Friends" (an allusion to the Garden of Gethsemane). I find myself craving the company of the broken. I can't seem to get too excited any more about MMMs (massive mega ministries). I tend to meet God nowadays in the small places of life: a hiking trail, a fellowship group, a quiet beach, a hay field. I've learned to thrive in the darkness. I seek to be fully human, as Jesus was fully human -- the perfect example of how we are to move through life. One thing I've come to accept is that the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. He moves, and we move. I used to think this meant that some stayed while others went (to the mission field). I'm not so sure that's the correct way to view missions. I have learned to find a mission field wherever I am. I see leaders as empowering the rest of us to be who we are, Christ's witnesses to the kingdom of God ("Godworld"). I have been many Daves throughout the years. With each phase of life, I've done my best to figure out what I should be doing, not always successfully. Instead of fearing the inevitable changes that come with aging, I've decided I would (mostly) accept them, make the most of them, but certainly not fear them. Today I cling more to the Bible than I ever did in the past. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God looks like. The Gospels don't need my books to be understood. Jesus interprets the Gospels. I have learned to challenge my own assumptions in all things. I am free to walk away from preconceived conclusions, free to push into the hard questions. I still have answers for my students, but some of them are not the same answers I had 20 or 30 years ago. My opinions don't matter so much to me anymore. I would rather equip my students with tools that will empower and equip them to study the Bible on their own. These days most of my metaphors about Christian living come from running. Aging is like a game, and to play the game well we have to become aware of the unused capabilities resident in our bodies and minds. My health, thanks be to God, has never been better. My life is so changed by running that I am restless if I don't have a chance to get outside and exercise. You don't have to be old to be out of shape or bored. "It does not do," said the philosopher Bertrand Russell, "to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead." Young or old, we must always be looking ahead to the prize that lies before us. I hope we can all become a bit more relaxed about the future. I hope we can grow and change and push back against lies and become a change agent for the kingdom.
Yes, I am turning 66, but I'm not too old to learn new tricks. Above all, I can grow old, as can you, without living out my years in joyless existence. Sure, people will look at you as an oddity, but we are all capable of staying young (in heart at least), spiritually lithe and supple, remembering that for every disadvantage to growing older there is an advantage. I sometimes long for the past, but I would never want to relive it. There is something exhilarating about another birthday, something wondrous about flinging yourself on the mercy of God, anxious though you may be. We are never alone. We have constant company for the journey. God doesn't shift or change over a lifetime. He never has a birthday. So bring it on, Birthday Genie. Clinging to Jesus, my Hope, I'm ready to tumble headlong into the future.
6:22 AM I read very little fiction, but when I saw that Hal Higdon -- yes, that Hal Higdon -- had written a novel about a big city marathon, I just had to get a copy.
I started reading it last night. The book covers the 72 hours preceding the race and then the marathon itself. But like I said, I usually stick with non-fiction. There's enough interesting stories that really did happen that I don't feel a strong need to read about stories that never happened in real life. Different brains think differently I guess.
Back to school ....
Thursday, June 7
9:39 PM We just finished picking up hay.
We worked long after the sun set.
I enjoyed the work except for the mosquitoes, who are out in full force these days. We would have gotten more hay baled tonight but a part on the baler broke and that delayed us for about an hour. We'll finish up this field tomorrow and Saturday, Lord willing.
Off to put my rice on. Stuck in a rut much, Dave?
2:20 PM Hey guys, and welcome back. I'm back home trying to get caught up on my farm work ("trying" being the operative word here). What a week! Sometimes I think things can't get any weirder, and then they do. Here's my list. I bet you have your own.
1) Just agreed to do 10 book reviews this summer. 10! I think I'm having commitment issues again.
2) The frames to my reading glasses broke. Just fell apart. A replacement is on order, but I look awfully strange/nerdy wearing the remains.
3) I tried to find a pool for lap swimming in the Wake Forest/North Raleigh area that didn't cost me an arm and a leg to use. Failed.
4) I had an awesome week of training for my first ultra in October. My goals were to bike 26.2 miles on Monday, run 10 miles on Tuesday, and walk 6 miles yesterday. By God's grace, I did all three. The best news of all: I have absolutely no leg or feet pain.
5) I've taken the week off from reading the news. They call that being "unplugged" I think. Never been happier.
6) I watched an amazing video about the 2018 Boston Marathon (aka the Bout in the Blizzard). It was your typical message: Shut up and get 'er done, push through your pain, never quit, etc. The best part was that the runner wasn't trying to be preachy or anything. He was just being honest and real, and let you derive your own inspiration. Which I did.
7) I finally ordered a hand-held water bottle for my training runs in the heat and humidity. I never, ever, thought I would carry a hand-held during a run.
8) This online article was food for thought: One Running Shoe in the Grave. It's subtitled, "New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits." I'm not sure what to make of it. My philosophy has always been, regular exercise is good for me, and running is actually better than sitting around all day doing nothing. The study argues that running faster than a 7:30 minute/mile pace could make you die quicker. Well, no worries there. I couldn't run at that pace if a pit bull were chasing me. My advice is: do try and be reasonable. Always check with your doctor first. (I did, and even had a stress test. I was told my heart is good to go.) Rest between workouts. Eat clean. Listen to your body. But hey: Everything we do carries risks with it. You can kill yourself by running. You can kill yourself by not running. But almost everyone in North America is on the "too little" side of the exercise equation. I'll take exercise over a sedentary lifestyle any day. But one thing I won't do is obsess over my health. I eat well, train hard, rest all I can, and try to be the healthiest 65 year-old (66 on Saturday) I can be.
9) Pet peeve: People who walk four abreast during a race. This happened several times last weekend during my half marathon in Raleigh. For crying out loud, move to the right. Otherwise, YOU ARE IN THE WAY.
10) Finally, tomorrow we finish week one of Greek 2 (and week four of Greek 1-2). I get more out of teaching than I put into it. To see these students study so hard in the midst of trying to balance school, home, jobs, church, etc. is an amazing blessing. They remind me to be thankful for all I have. I'm grateful for my health, my job, my family, my friends, my farm, and so much more. Instead of worrying about all the things that are heavy on our hearts, why don't we start each day with gratitude and end it with expressing our thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gifts, eh?
That's it for now. Time to mow the lawns and then get up hay. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm not sure why I started this blog way back in the Dark Ages (2003). I guess I felt it would be something fun to do. But ever since Becky died, the blog has become my therapy. So thank you for reading and being my blogging tribe on bright and cloudy days.
Monday, June 4
6:10 AM Greek 2 starts today. Yay! My students will continue their "marathon" of 26 chapters. Praying for you guys! Do well in the Lord's strength! See you at the finish line! As for me, I'm seriously training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October as well as for this 50K monster:
I've already begun training at the actual site: The High Bridge Trail in Farmville.
I'll put in a total of hundreds of miles before race day. But a big part of running is drumming up enough courage to start. You can't force a race. You can't predict it. But when running becomes a part of who you are, you find a way not to be afraid. This is easier said than done. The greatest temptation in running is to either train too little or train too much. To be successful, you have to find that elusive balance between activity and rest. I often joke with my Greek students when they're leaving class: "Study hard, but not too hard." Only we can decide where that balance is in our lives. Greek is important, but so are our families, our jobs, our ministries. Yes, we want to challenge ourselves. Yes, we want to feel the satisfaction of accomplishing our goals. No one is satisfied by doing nothing. But resting (or taking a break from studying) is not doing nothing. And let me tell you: When you find that equilibrium between rest and exhaustion, that is sweet. Thankfully, in every race, as in every Greek class, there is a finish line. And, my friend, with courage and persistence, you can cross it.
Bye for now!
Sunday, June 3
6:30 PM Have you seen this new book yet?
Probably not, seeing that I've checked out the library's only copy. "Proto-Mark" is the theory that all three synoptic evangelists used a document similar to, but earlier than, the Gospel of Mark. Hence it's not a theory of Markan Priority at all, since Matthew and Luke didn't use Mark's Gospel as a source. I'm not buying into it, though this book has numerous salutary features, not the least being the author's rejection of Markan Priority based on "corrections" or "improvements" of Mark by Matthew and Luke. "Markan priorists have made the mistake of regarding these features as signs of Mark's relative primitivity," writes the author (p. 93), adding, "Markan priorists have in many cases presented an overly negative view of Mark's Greek." And note this: "Markan priorists have often selectively presented only the data that supports their theory" (p. 94).
I like this book. After all, the author cites two of my publications: "Some Dissenting Notes on R. Stein's The Synoptic Problem and Markan 'Errors,'" and "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations."
How can I disagree with that? In other words, the question isn't a linguistic one after all. It's a socio-linguistic one. Ultimately, people determine "correctness" and "incorrectness" in language, not grammar books. If everyone says "It's me," then "It's me" is correct. Hence arguing that Mark must be earlier than Matthew and Luke on the basis of grammar is like arguing the use of "shall" over "will" or "like" over "as" today. It just don't work.
Check this book out when you can. I'm returning it tomorrow :-)
5:10 PM I won't bore you with all the details, but today I somehow managed to jam my toe on the rocking chair on the front porch. Now I have a purple toe to go with my ugly black toenails.
Lovely. Oh well. Adjust and move on. As if to counterbalance my little klutzy encounter with a rocking chair, the Lord allowed me to hear a wonderful message this morning. I define "wonderful" as a message that is simple without being simplistic. As Haddon Robinson put it in his classic book Biblical Preaching, "Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!" And this was one doozy of a clear message. The passage? One of my faves: Eph. 5:15-21. I was so caught up in the message that I took two pages of notes.
The speaker did what so few speakers seem to be able to do nowadays: State biblical truths in ways that aren't trite and platitudinal (I just made that word up, and I'm already feeling proud of it). First, he taught the passage in context. Second, his outline was faithful to the text. (I tell my students that the best sermon outlines are those that are derived directly from the passage you're teaching. I know, a novel idea.) The rhetorical exigence behind his message was: How can we live a life of wisdom in the midst of our foolish and godless culture? Three thoughts came charging into our consciousness as he spoke:
1) We need to utilize our God-given time for kingdom purposes.
2) We need to understand our God-given purpose in life.
3) And we need to submit our lives to the conforming work of the Spirit.
And just what does a Spirit-filled life look like? It's when we :
1) Edify one another.
2) Give God praise for all of His work in our lives, i.e., for the good as well as for the not-so-good.
3) Possess a heart of thanksgiving.
4) And practice Christlike humility.
As I said: simple without being simplistic. No, the speaker never used the words "present active imperative" or "series of modal participles." But my oh my, he told it exactly like it is. I know because I had my Greek text open in front of me.
The Bible is God's Word. It's His final word on how to experience a rich, full life. It guides us through the maze of life. And when it is taught as well as it was this morning, well, you almost die of a heart attack, you are so refreshed and challenged. Of course, if the Bible is God's Word, we have to do more than read and teach it. We must let its truths permeate our lives to the point that we act on it. Like being thankful even when you bruise your toe, knowing full well that you could have broken it. Being a "doer of the Word" (James 1:22) isn't just an idle suggestion. It's God's plan for a truly inspiring way of life.
6:12 AM Good morning everyone. There's really no purpose for this blog post except that I like to write. Sheba and I were on the front porch this morning at 5:00 to watch the sunrise, which I'm sure happened though we didn't see the sun.
Today's another rainy day here in Southside Virginia, but we need the rain, so no one is complaining. I keep thinking to myself, "Dave, someday about all you will be able to do is sit on the front porch." But that day is not yet. I feel like I still have so much to do, and that includes the book I'm writing about the kingdom, or "should" be writing (I say "should" because I'm unpredictable at best). Right now, however, my mind is still on yesterday's race, which, of course, I lost. I know I lost because some guy named Brian Flynn won it with a time of 1:14:07. He also finished 700 places in front of me. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I came in 701st out of 879 runners. I was even more disappointed to discover that I came in 6th out of 6 in my age group. The winner in this category beat me by a "mere" 37 minutes. (That was sarcasm.) What's my point here? I'm not sure. Maybe it's just to remind myself that a guy my age can still complete a half marathon. If 700 people were faster than me, 178 people were slower. Trust me, I'm not bragging. I just want you to find inspiration from my running stories. There were 11 of us men over 65 who ran in the half marathon yesterday. Only 11. Whatever the reason, the old-timers are still out there, giving it their all. I suppose that's the other reason I'm talking about this. Do your best, and you can go through life with your head held high. Every semester I give out tons of A plusses. But I also give out Bs and an occasional C or even D. I tell my students, if you think you have to get an A in this class to please your professor, you're in the wrong class. In college I got Bs in several classes, especially if they had anything to do with philosophy, math, or logic. I stink at those subjects. But I tried as hard as I could. I am incredibly blessed to have finished a masters degree, not to speak of a doctorate. It's not like I studied or anything in high school. (You wouldn't either if you lived in Kailua.) Deciding to become a real student (i.e., somebody who actually studies) was the first step toward me becoming a teacher. I had completely run out of excuses not to study. Likewise, a couple of years ago, I decided to take up the sport of running. Without perhaps being fully aware of it at the time, I realize now that Becky's passing was a reminder of my own mortality and made me a little more health conscious. There are, of course, many reasons for running. For elite runners, it's their bread and butter. For me, it's a hobby. They'll do their thing and I'll do mine, much, much slower of course. Either way, running is a great sport. Today, there are well over 100 marathons in the U.S. alone. I'll pass on most of them, but before I end up permanently affixed to my front porch, I'd still like to do some of the majors, including Chicago, New York, and Honolulu. These are known as World Marathon Majors, but to me they're just races that have oodles of runners in them, and I like running in crowds. By the way, the average finishing time for a marathon is about 4 hours and 22 minutes. I'm happy if I come in under 6 hours. "No one ever drowned in sweat," wrote legendary football coach Lou Holtz. It's obvious that Mr. Holtz never met me.
So take courage, my friend. "The glory of God," wrote Irenaeus (an early church father), "is man fully functioning." That's true whether you're trying your hardest to get a good grade in Greek or just trying to finish a road race. For now, I simply rejoice at being healthy and of (relatively) sane mind. All of that will change one day, of course, but even then I suppose that one can still find the peace that passeth all understanding.
Saturday, June 2
5:16 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. It's been a busy week and I'm feeling super tired but also super motivated. Greek 1 ended yesterday. Yay! You guys did it! Just think: you're halfway there! I can't wait for Greek 2 to begin on Monday. It was a great three weeks. I felt like the Lord worked overtime to help us. We mastered most of the indicative mood, as well as nouns and adjectives of the first and second declensions. This semester we get to cover the other moods (including those wonderful participles) and the third declension, plus we'll read Using New Testament Greek in Ministry (my intro to exegesis) and New Testament Textual Criticism (my intro to how to read the bottom half of your Greek New Testament). We'll also be taking a look at the structure and theme of Philippians (serving others in Jesus' name) and I plan to show my slides of Ethiopia. Right now my mind is a mishmash of random musings, so let me try and list some additional thoughts for you below as they come to me:
1) As you know, the month of May was a difficult time for me emotionally. I celebrated both Mother's Day and Becky's birthday. Now, in June, not only do we have Father's Day coming up, but the conclusion of my 65th year is staring me in the face. Not that I'm expecting to celebrate my birthday in any gigantic way this year. That was for last year, when I turned 65 and my kids threw a surprise Hawaiian beach party for me at the farm. I'm not going to apologize for my age. It is what it is. And let's face it – you're only as old as you feel. Besides, I'm in pretty good company in turning 66: Sting, Mark Hamell, Anjelica Huston, John Kasich, and so on. Still, I've been having some déjà vu moments. Wasn't it just yesterday I graduated from Kailua High School? Wasn't it just yesterday I went to Biola and met Becky? Wasn't it just yesterday I began teaching Greek? Or married that beautiful Texan? I'm SO grateful for all of these things and for so much more. Yet I'll have to admit: I never expected to grow old without Becky by my side. In the blink of an eye, my life was changed unalterably. That said, I have 37 years to celebrate. OH MY GOODNESS, DO I. She was a wonderful woman, so full of life, an incredible mentor to so many, a passionate missionary, and a superb wife. Yes, I know that June is gonna be another tough month but I'll make it. God's grace!
2) Hebrews, Hebrews, Hebrews! That's about all that's been on mind lately. I hope to have the course syllabus posted next week. If there's one book in the New Testament that can speak into today's stormy situation in our churches, it's the letter to the Hebrews. It has a special message for a day marked by spiritual drift. It addresses believers who are facing unbelief, disobedience, apostasy, and the temptation to be religious without being right with God. There's a lot of theology here, for sure, but I'm just as impressed with the author's deep concern and pastoral heart for his readers. Reading the admonitions that comprise a huge part of the letter are a great encouragement to me:
The author teaches, but he also exhorts. The message is clear: Keep the faith. Obey the Word. Keep running your race. Come humbly yet boldly to God. Claim your salvation. Hebrews, if it is anything, is a book of pastoral concern. Its message, I think, is sorely needed today, mostly by me. And I get to teach it this fall! Right now I'm pouring over all of these journal articles trying to decide which ones to use in the class. Help!
3) Last week I was able to donate some books to the new theological library at the North Carolina state prison, where the seminary has begun teaching classes.
I’m told Biblical Hebrew is being offered this fall, and maybe Greek next year. Isn't that amazing?
4) Added to my summer writing schedule: 3 book reviews for Filologia Neotestamentaria. They are:
Back in the day I used to write dozens of book reviews for publication. I think I'm going to get back into that habit.
5) This week I got caught up with my journal reading. Man do we have a great library!
6) Yesterday I received the final copy of this dissertation.
David's work will eventually be published in book form. Greek teachers who participated in his survey include Alan Bandy (Oklahoma Baptist University), Ken Berding (Talbot School of Theology), Jeannine Brown (Bethel University), Randall Buth (University of the Holy Land), Con Campbell (TEDS), David Croteau (Columbia International University), David Farnell (The Master's Seminary), Karen Jobes (Wheaton College), Ben Merkle (SEBTS), Rob Plummer (SBTS), Stan Porter (McMaster Divinity College), Chuck Quarles (SEBTS), Maurice Robinson (SEBTS), Gary Shogren (Seminario ESEPA, Mark Strauss (Bethel University), William Varner (The Master's Seminary), James Voeltz (Concordia Seminary), Dan Wallace (DTS), and Danny Zacharias (Acadia Divinity School). That's quite a list of names!
7) A mere two weeks after running the Marine Corps Half I ran another half in Raleigh today. Let's just take a closer look at this gem of a race:
Yep, the course was mostly flat, except for the much-dreaded Lassiter Hill at the end. That meant one thing: a much-needed break from running up and down hills. I'm bad at hills. I mean, getting-passed-by-hundreds-of-runners bad at hills. I'm just not built for running hills. So I was very relieved to finish today's course. I think I had a pretty good race. I'm elated with a time of well under 3:00 hours. I trained hard for this race last week: 10 miles on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, and 5 on Thursday (I took yesterday off). I did all of my training at the Neuse River Greenway. The Greenway was gorgeous, per usual. This little fellow even stopped by to say hello.
Happy to report that my feet are doing great today, even my black toenails. But it was humid!
I was so glad to be part of the race today. I was glad I was part of a race that pushes us so hard to be better people, to learn how to push through when the storms of life come. I'm so thankful for that day in 2014 when my daughter said to me, "Hey dad, why don't we do a 5K together?" That was 14 half marathons and 9 marathons ago. These past 3 years hold a lot of happy memories. Running has changed me, for the better I think. I'm thankful I have had this opportunity. Thanks to all of the volunteers out there on the course today. You were the real heroes of the race. And XXXOOO to Becky. But mostly, thanks be to God, who gives me the strength to run. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."
Thanks for reading.