May 2014 Blog Archives
Saturday, May 31
2:22 PM Whoever invented Airborne deserves a medal. I came down with a head cold yesterday afternoon, but after two doses of that stuff I felt as good as new when I woke up this morning. So I got to work! First off, a trip to the bank in South Boston for some important business. Then back home to work on our peach trees.
No, it's not Sherfy's Peach Orchard (at Gettysburg) but it's plenty big enough for little ol' me. A little bit of pruning and mowing and -- voila! -- the orchard in all her majesty.
Got lots of emails to get caught up with. Some big prayer items. But I just have to leave you with this magnolia I discovered hiding in the yard. A beaut, don't you think?
8:33 AM Ever heard the old saying, "Beauty crowds us all our life"? Everywhere we turn, there are sights and sounds that are a thrilling reminder of God's creative genius. For what it's worth, I've jotted down "My Twelve Favorite Things about the Farm." Here goes:
1. A baby goat leaping into the air as if it had built-in springs.
2. The smell of freshly-cut wood.
3. The mystery of a snowflake.
4. The song of a whippoorwill.
5. The taste of fresh tomatoes.
6. The exuberance of dogs running full out.
7. The eloquence of a cat's tail.
8. A field recently washed by rain.
9. The sound of dry leaves as you trod on them.
10. A sunset hugging the pines.
11. Wild geese sailing overhead.
12. The tranquil charm of a front porch.
Care to join me?
8:18 AM "Christian" and "Republican" are no longer synonymous. I think that's a very good thing. We should never have gotten on the bandwagon in the first place.
You heard it here first, folks.
Friday, May 30
7:35 PM Was honored to participate in a brief celebration today in the office of Maurice Robinson, who received a Festschrift in his honor. The title is Digging for the Truth.
The seminary is working up a major news story replete with photos, but I have permission to "jump the gun" and thus you are seeing the happy recipient with his tome in hand. There is, of course, an age-long debate over the place of the Byzantine text type in textual criticism, and no one has worked harder to make a case for Byzantine Priority than my esteemed colleague. So here's a tip of the kepi and a hearty "Huzzah!" Can' t wait to get my own copy and begin reading.
7:02 PM Needless to say, I've been pondering Becky's death these days. Mind if I share a few thoughts with you? There's a tiny part of me that says I shouldn't do this, that my readers are well-nigh saturated with thoughts about death and grief. I just talked myself out of listening to those voices, however :)
So how am I doing? In Psalm 84, the Palmist writes that when you go through the Valley of Baca, you just make the best of it. You go "from strength to strength." That pretty much describes Dave Black these days. It's like my flight home from Asia a few months ago. As a standby passenger you sit wherever you can get a seat. I was given the very last seat in the very last row. I tried to fill my long legs into the window seat. I was traveling alone again, a widower. As we flew I recalled the soft hands that in yesteryear would have held mine for the long hours of the flight. The woman they belonged to has been gone seven months now. I curled my body into the cramped seat and tried to sleep but to no avail. Fourteen hours later we arrived at our destination in America and I caught my connecting flight to Raleigh. During the entire trip, I missed her.
When one has lost a spouse, there is a loneliness, even in a crowd. Few seem to notice, thank God, least of all my students and colleagues. This is exactly how I think it should be. I do not want them to see an ungrateful whiner. When I weep uncontrollably, they will not witness it. It has been said that those whose loss is greatest receive the greatest share of grace and mercy and peace and joy. I have found this to be so. If I am upbeat on campus, genuinely enthusiastic about the classroom, it's only because I am being borne up as if on strong wings. I am lonely, yes, but there is no sense of desperation -- the kind you might find in your email spam ("Looking for the perfect mate?"). Everyone eventually experiences the pain of loneliness. Imagine yourself standing at the Banzai Pipeline at 5:30 in the morning, long before sunrise. You got there early in order to beat the crowds. The waves are breaking about 25 feet that day. They sound like a roaring thunderstorm. The noise can be comforting or terrifying depending on your relation to the sea. For a surfer, even for one who once had his board snapped in two at the Pipe, the sounds awaken an impatience to paddle out and get the dance going. Even when you wipe out (and everyone wipes out at the Pipeline), you're never really afraid. You're a powerful swimmer. You can hold your breath. Gashes from the coral below -- well, that's to be expected when you're surfing Banzai. Somehow you know you are not alone. Someone Else is out there. He is the Creator of those waves you are trying to ride. The most awesome display of nature's power reveals a Father who is actually tender.
So that's where things stand as of today, May 30. My fair one, my bright one, is gone. What to do? Give back my life to the One who took her from me. That means surrender, which can only come from blind trust. Our marriage was but a flickering torch. Snuffed out, I now find that God has provided a "sunshine blaze" to take its place. This is the response of a broken heart, a man who admits his poverty of spirit and who recognizes the gentle Love that waits for him on the other side. In the meantime, he desires to keep on paddling out to face the waves with the eyes of faith. Because through the mist there awaits a rainbow. Grief is not forever. The Father of Lights will see to that. He alone is the source of my joy these days. Out of a cramped airline seat and a busy classroom there has sprung up what can only be called a miracle.
1:55 PM It's finally here! The book we've all been waiting for!
The autobiography of the century! The saga of the ages! How a beach bum became a Pulitzer Prize losing author! How a handsome surfer was transformed into a decrepit old geezer! The reading public has never anticipated the publication of a book with greater excitement! You're gettin' the real deal here folks! The author even tried to get the publisher to Photoshop his biceps but he refused. No fluff, no falsehoods!
And to think: this literary masterpiece sells for a mere 4 bucks! Preorder here and help a poor old battered skiff sail into the sunset!
Wednesday, May 28
6:46 PM Had a lot of fun last February in California on Don Stewart's program Pastor's Perspective and maybe you'd like to watch.
We talked about how words in Greek have meaning, about exegetical fallacies, and about translation problems. Few things are more enjoyable to talk about than Greek and how it is used by the New Testament authors. Anyway, have a look-see if you have nothing else to do tonight. Don is a fantastic interviewer. He even made me look good.
1:58 PM Hi folks,
I decided it was too hot to mow today, but the heat did nothing to prevent me from having lunch with Nate, Jess, and the boys in South Boston.
Quite a neat looking family, eh?
I am blessed beyond belief. Graham says "Amen!"
6:55 AM Two things about me, just so you know. I won't sign your Bible. (I only sign books I've written.) And don't bother to ask me to help you spell your latest Greek tattoo. Most turn out to be total disasters.
6:50 AM "There is nothing that makes us love a person so much as praying for him." William Law.
6:44 AM For Rod Decker's funeral and memorial service arrangements, please go to his website. I can still find no announcement of his passing at his school's website, nor a testimonial book. Unfortunately, his service is mid-week, so I will not be able to fly up and attend. As you know, Rod's beginning Greek grammar is due out in November. I wish it well. Very well indeed.
Tuesday, May 27
9:08 PM Was listening to Fresh Air with Terri Gross on NPR tonight and heard a fascinating interview with the author of a new book called China's Second Continent. Already at least a million Chinese live in Africa, many of them (as I can personally attest) in Ethiopia, where they are building the nation's infrastructure. I also ordered a brand new biography of Robert E. Lee called Clouds of Glory, hoping against hope that it isn't just another run-of-the-mill hagiography. At 832 pages it should made for a good, long read.
As for China and Ethiopia, obviously there is a crying need for Chinese Christians to begin serious efforts at planting churches there, at the very least in the capital city of Addis Ababa. I personally know of not a single Chinese congregation there, but I may be wrong. I hope so.
5:58 PM Just booked my flights to Baltimore to speak at a Bible conference at the Middle Creek Retreat Center in Gettysburg, PA, Aug. 30-31. Decided to go up a day early to make my fourth walk from the Virginia Monument on Seminary Ridge to the Bloody Angle atop Cemetery Ridge (think "Pickett's Charge"). There is nothing like it. What, you ask, is Civil War reenacting? Only a great family hobby. Would you like to visit one briefly? Here's an event we did several years ago at Snow Camp, NC. We drove up on Friday and stayed until Sunday afternoon. The weather could not have been better for doing an outdoor living history. Here's the scene that greeted us on Saturday morning in the Confederate encampment.
We try to keep as period as possible, from the brogans we wear on our feet to our tentage. That tall fellar in the black hat (center, below) is me.
Becky's cooking was always stellar during these events. We fell in with the 1st Kentucky Regiment and Becky became camp cook. Here she is slicing some of the homemade bread she had baked a day before. Our meals were sumptuous fares, and all cooked over an open fire. Becky loved to bless us in this way.
In the photo below my son Nathan is playing period hymns on his 1850-era reed organ. This is not a reproduction and was undoubtedly played during the war. How anyone can operate the keyboard with his hands and pump the bellows with his feet at the same time is beyond me.
The two show battles we put on for the public were great fun, but to me the highlight of the weekend was the period church service held under the main tent on sutler row. Before the service, Nathan gave an organ concert to an appreciative crowd of reenactors, including Generals Lee and Jackson (center).
I had the joy of sharing a simple Gospel message (no play-acting here!) and was very ably assisted by fellow-reenactors.
I'm often asked, "What rank are you? General? Colonel? Major?" The answer is that in 20 years of reenacting I have never aspired to a higher rank than the one I currently possess: private. I am the extension of a musket, nothing more and nothing less. But battles were won or lost because of the private soldier.
Here's a good shot of our worthy opponents just before battle on Saturday. The older gentleman (center of photo) took dead aim at me during the contest and down I went. The cry went up from the Federal ranks: "You killed Dr. Black!"
Reenacting is a wonderful hobby. It's also an enormous mission field. Just like people everywhere, reenactors are not immune to the heartbreaks of life. My greatest desire is to see our dear friends experience the "full" reality of the Civil War, which for many meant coming into a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the midst of the harsh realities of war.
1:40 PM Ella lo hizo! Lesly passed her naturalization exam today with flying colors. She will officially be sworn in on July 4. If Mr. Obama can't make it, I'd be happy to volunteer to do the swearing-in. After all, we're both from the same state and have birth certificates to prove it. Below: the happy couple.
They were kind enough to stop by my Wake Forest office today to share the good news with me. Thank you, and God bless you!
En otros noticias:
1) Today I'm pouring over the proofs of my academic autobiography called It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic. Tell it not in Gath, but I'm actually enjoying it.
2) The BBC asks What language would Jesus have spoken? Why all of them, naturally. He's God. (That's the snarky answer, of course. Jesus no doubt could speak Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek.)
3) My colleague Chuck Lawless writes an excellent piece called 10 Ways to Recognize Our Arrogance.
His post is truly profound, and also very convicting.
4) This just out today: Christianity's Five Most Important Theologians. Nice try but not even close. Jacques Ellul is not even mentioned. Nor is Vernard Eller. On Ellul and Eller, see my Christian Archy.
Monday, May 26
7:36 AM Bored? Read Interview with David Alan Black by the King's Evangelical Divinity School, UK.
7:23 AM Introducing Marcos.
Hola amigo. Bienvenidos a nuestra iglesia. Me alegro de que estés aquí. Mi Español es pobre. Pero tengo ganas de practicar con usted. Que Dios los bendiga ricamente. Hermano Dave.
Sunday, May 25
8:34 PM God has blessed us with a beautiful campus. Care to see it from the air?
8:11 PM What is the church? Ordinary people doing ordinary things with Gospel intentionality. That's Doctor Rick for sure. He and his wife and son went on a medical mission trip to the Philippines this summer and Rick gave his post-trip report today.
What is really going on here? Simply this. People like you and me are taking their vacations and investing them in the Great Commission. If we were truly to commit our time to the will of the Lord, how would our lives differ? Who is the Lord of our vacations? We find in the lives of Jesus and Paul -- and in a large number of Jesus followers today -- that every minute is submitted to doing the will of God.
Rick and Karen, thank you for showing us the way. Thank for leading your family in ministry. Thank you for showing us how we too can submit our so-called private worlds to the Lordship of Christ. I myself still have to learn how to do this in so many areas of my own life. The beautiful thing is this. Once you get started, once you take even a tiny step of obedience, God is right there to help you take another one.
Below: Rick in 2000 ministering among the Gujis in Southern Ethiopia.
6:32 PM I feel strangely moved and affected by the news of Rod Decker's Home going. We were both born in 1952. I did not know him well but I had the utmost respect for the work he did in New Testament Greek.
His prayers for Becky and me meant far more to us than you can ever know. Likewise, for the past several months I have been praying for Rod knowing that he had entered hospice, unshaken in his confidence in the steadfast love and unyielding faithfulness of his God. Although he cannot hear me now, I would simply say to Rod, "Thank you so much for both your prayers and your friendship. You had your own trial to endure, and you endured it well, till the very end. To your family I would say that my prayers will be with them as they begin the process of grieving your loss. I pray that they will never let others rush them through this process. There is no right and wrong way of grieving. God will be with them, Rod, and He will see them through."
And to the rest of us:
Rod's faithfulness to His Lord enabled him to complete the difficult race he faced and capture the extravagant rewards God promised him. Now it's our turn. Get on with it. Just do it.
Saturday, May 24
1:34 PM Sound the trumpet in Zion! I have finally finished a garden bed. So, to all my daughters, I hereby invited you to take advantage of this offer and plant your summer garden at your leisure, the only proviso being that you do the weeding. If you'd like more than one bed, I am happy to accommodate you. After all, charity begins at home. I've also got plenty of Black Kow if you need it. :)
This weekend, we welcome Chris van Allsburg and his family to the farm for a weekend retreat.
They are on their way back to Ethiopia in a few weeks, where he will a teach a philosophy class at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis. Chris and his wife Monika home school their three precious daughters. Right now it's nap time for the girls, and then it's off to Mexican food for dinner. Chris, by the way, publishes a very interesting blog. You can check it out here. Chris is a philosopher of religion. I love philosophers of religion. I can't understand a word they say but I'm so glad they're on our side.
Well, it's been an amazing year already. I am so glad to be back in the classroom. I'm also eager to see the girls again, with their dark Hawaiian tans. They leave Oahu today. I want to sit here and write for hours, but there's a time to write and a time to chillax.
Friday, May 23
7:16 AM "Jesus is irregular."
I made that odd statement in Greek class yesterday.
Of course, context is key. What I meant was that the noun "Jesus" in Greek is declined irregularly: Iesous, Iesou, Iesou, Iesoun. (The third form "should" be Ieso). But in a greater sense, perhaps we could say that Jesus was irregular, even radical. I tried to point this out in my book The Jesus Paradigm. How different are our lifestyles today from the instructions of Christ to the first disciples! In this light I ask, "Since when did God change His requirements?" I believe that God's ways are still the same. There is still a path of suffering and sacrifice for each one of us. In another book of mine, Paul, Apostle of Weakness, I tried to show how Paul used sacrifice and suffering to authenticate, verify, and validate his ministry.
He does not rest his case on the things we value so highly today: ordination, membership in such and such a group, educational degrees, accreditation. To Paul, suffering is the proof of his discipleship -- not the symbols of success accepted by his culture.
That's why we need to ask the test question of every decision we make in life: Is this really going to build the kingdom of God? Does this mean that we will no longer send expat missionaries into foreign lands? Of course not. But it does mean that there is only harvest and one Lord of the harvest, and that we are to work together and support each other in the work. Loving means sharing -- sharing our goods and resources with the churches in foreign lands, churches that are eager to do the work of evangelism and church planting but need a little assistance from the West. In India there are thousands of missionaries waiting to go right now to the unreached people groups in hidden villages. Today, this very day, you could help sponsor a native missionary for as little as one dollar a day. Finishing the task of world evangelization in our generation will involve intentional cooperation with churches in these nations. I have heard that 500,000 fulltime pioneer missionaries are needed in India alone. The need is outstripped only by the opportunity.
John Wesley said, "To lay up treasure on earth is as plainly forbidden by our Master as adultery and murder." Please reconsider your philosophy of missions. Even if you cannot go to the nations yourself, you can support the work of evangelism from your living room at home.
Thursday, May 22
6:45 PM On a whim, I did something different today. After I got back to the farm from Wake Forest, I walked 7.8 miles. Actually, "marched" would be a better term. This was the distance that Hood's Division (of Longstreet's Corp) had to march from Seminary Ridge on the second day at Gettysburg to get into position on the Union left near Little Round Top. For fun, I thought I would see how long it took me. Pausing to rest twice for two minutes each time, the trip took exactly 2 hours. That means I averaged 3.48 miles per hour, which is what I suppose the troops under Hood's command also averaged on that hot July day. Of course, I made my walk without donning my wool uniform and knowing full well that at the end of my little jaunt there awaited me an air-conditioned house and a long drink of well water. Hood's troops had little water and no time to rest when they arrived on site; they went straight into the fight. To be perfectly honest, marching 7.8 miles wasn't easy for me. About half way through I wanted to quit. But I couldn't -- how would I ever get home if I just sat down and stopped? Perseverance is what it took for me to finish my walk, and lots of it. I kept thinking, "You're almost home, Dave, you're almost home." Deep breaths. One step at a time. Focus on the goal.
So it was a big day for me and a good reminder of what the Christian life is like: a long, rugged, endurance march rather than a quick jog. Every day, a page of your life is being written, my friend. God is carefully arranging the events in your life so that He will get the glory and you will become more like His Son. It's all part of His perfect plan of love and healing/salvation. Perseverance. An undeserved blessing. Sometimes it's all I can do to stop my mind from racing to this book I'm writing or to that problem I'm trying to figure out and simply reflect on the grace of God. Tonight's not one of those nights. My life is filled with undeserved blessings, not least the ability to go on a walk and then to reflect on the miracle that walking is. My dogs are killing me, but that's a small price to pay for such a wonderful lesson.
Oh, the girls' trip to Hawaii remains an incredible experience. Today they went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, while yesterday they visited the Arizona Memorial, drove to the North Shore to see the beaches where I used to surf, and then stopped at Kailua to take pictures of the houses I used to live it. As far as memorable experiences go, I imagine that this was one for the books. Unfortunately, I can't post all of their pictures here, so you'll have to be content with just a couple. Meanwhile, I'm gonna put my feet up and enjoy my book on Gettysburg and do my best to stay out of contact with the rest of civilization. Ciao!
1) Kailua Beach, where I lived from 1954 to 1971. Rachael snapped this beautiful photo.
2) The house in Kailua where we lived when I was born again at the age of 8.
3) Here I am in front of the same picture window exactly 53 years ago, dressed up for church.
4) The girls at the Pali Lookout. I remember when there weren't any tunnels and we had to drive literally OVER the mountain on a dirt road to get from Honolulu to Kailua.
Wednesday, May 21
6:47 AM Here are the Ten Best Books for Studying New Testament Greek.
6:33 AM Read Why Four Gospels? How come I didn't know? In case I've piqued your curiosity, here's more on my obscurantist views:
Tuesday, May 20
4:38 PM Excited to be speaking, Lord willing, at all three morning services at 412 Church in Southern California on Sunday, Sept. 14. It's part of a larger apologetics conference to be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12-13, at the same venue. I've been asked to speak on the trustworthiness of the New Testament vis-à-vis textual variants and a multiplicity of English Bible translations. Should be gobs of fun. In August I'll be teaching in Gettysburg, and in July I'll be speaking in Hawaii. Of course, in September and December I'll also be back in Asia. Lots of good, God things going on right now. How dare I ever complain about anything!
4:30 PM See the surfer going right on that wave? He's at Hatteras Island. A friend sent me the pic today. Eat your heart out, Hawaii!
2:18 PM Six indicators that you might succeed in my beginning Greek class.
1:40 PM A little pulpit humor:
6:58 AM Quote of the day (Phil. 4:6-7):
6:53 AM From chapter 7 of my forthcoming Seven Marks of a New Testament Church:
Monday, May 19
5:05 PM The last few months have been pretty intense, so it was good to get back into the classroom and begin a new Greek class. I seem to have been able to pick up right where I left off. (For those of you who have never taken a full sabbatical, believe me, you can get a bit rusty.) Tomorrow in class, everyone has to sing the Greek Alphabet Song or else! When I came home I had to get some farm chores done, including some more spiffying up around the yards. I spent 3 hours doing nothing but mowing in the most perfect weather imaginable. Here's the front yard of Bradford Hall.
And the yard next to Maple Ridge.
And the approach to Maple Ridge from my house.
Yep, I feel right at home. However, my mind is exactly 4,743 miles away in Waikiki Beach on Oahu.
Truth is, I wish I was there with them. But they are going so hard I would probably slow them down. Today it was to the top of Diamond Head. Here's proof.
Unless you've been up there, you've never seen anything like it. It's just another small sip of the intoxicating nectar called The Islands. When my high school friend and I would sail his 35-foot yacht from Lahaina (on Maui) to Honolulu, the islands would disappear as soon as you entered the Molokai Channel. But if you kept looking and looking and looking, eventually there appeared a tiny brown speck on the horizon -- Diamond Head. Keep abeam of that piece of rock, and you knew you would soon be home. Sailing was Heaven bending over me, moving the waves and blowing the sails and -- in the evening -- spinning the stars. I'm brought to me knees when I think about just how creative our Creator is. But enough is enough. We all know I'm hopelessly nostalgic. But you would be too if you were hatched and raised in such a beautiful place.
I have no idea what the girls' plans are for the rest of day. But I'm so glad they're there.
6:36 AM Well, it's Monday morning, and I'm sitting comfortably at the farm desk mulling over the events of the week. My heart is full of unexpected things. Like teaching summer school Greek. (Faculty on sabbatical normally have to wait to the fall before teaching again.) Can you say God is good? Then there are the hay fields. I have never seen them more ripe for harvest. This place never gets old. I've been here for 12 years, and today I still feel like it's all brand new. And then there's my writing. So many new books are coming out this summer that I can't keep up with them all. I'm laughing to myself -- this kid from Kailua Beach publishing books? I really should stop saying things like that. God can do whatever He wants with anyone He wants. Still, it makes you at least smile.
Oh, how are the beachgoers doing? They sent me this pic from their dinner cruise last night.
A bit overcast but still a gorgeous view of the world's most famous landmark. I'm told they're going to hike to its top today. So today it's back to school for me, and it's back to the beach for them. It's hard to say who's having more fun. Thank you all for your prayers as I head back to campus -- a big part of the reason I've been able to keep my sanity with all that's gone on in these past 6 months. I trust it will be a week filled with the Spirit -- and much laughter.
Sunday, May 18
8:54 PM My projet de la semaine? Work on the page proofs of my next book, It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic. And how boring it will be!
8:40 PM "Dat guy ova deah, he one good surfa." Yep, in Hawaiian Pidgin we often use "one" instead of the indefinite article "a" or "an." Here's why. (I knew you would want to know.)
8:24 PM Students often wonder how they should address me. So for you newbies out there, here goes. I received my doctorate from a prestigious German-speaking university, which, of course, means that my full title should be something like "Sehr Geehrter Herr Professor Doktor Black." This makes impeccably good logic, of course. I am at once a male, a professor, a doctor and a very esteemed one at that. Why would anyone seek to rob me of any of these attributes?
8:10 PM I'm going to spend a lot more time in the garden and the yard spiffying up the farm for our summer guests. Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos I took today that remind me of just how beautiful a place Rosewood is.
Mainly though, I post them here to make my "Hawaiian" daughters just a little bit homesick for the farm. Hawaii is not the only drop-dead gorgeous place on this planet!
(I know; I'm not likely to succeed. Tonight they're off on a sunset dinner cruise a few hundred yards off the shore of Waikiki. It's going to be really tough to beat that.)
7:53 PM Greek students! Tomorrow we begin chapter 1 of our book Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Please note that the following helps are available to you:
The first is a PowerPoint flashcard program using Bible Works vocabulary links. The vocabulary for my grammar is ready for download as .pdf and .ppt files.
The second resource is Jacob Cerone's Quizlet page, which has a set of flash cards for my beginning Greek grammar. The files for my book appear at the top of the section titled “Sets.”
The third resource is a complete list of vocabulary for all my Greek classes developed by Jacob Cerone. This includes the vocabulary for my Learn to Read New Testament Greek (Greek 1 & 2), Metzger's vocabulary (Greek Syntax and Exegesis), Philippians (Intermediate Exegesis), and LXX. Click here for the .zip file. These flashcards can be loaded onto the Vocab Pro application for iPod, iPhone, iPad. For a detailed explanation on how to install the vocabulary files to your Apple device and additional vocabulary files, go here.
The fourth resource is Danny Zacharias' Greek Flash Black Edition flashcard app (Mac).
For more, check out our New Testament Greek Portal.
See you in the morning!
3:24 PM Went to Clement Baptist Church this morning to be with Kim and the family. (Of course, her wonderful husband Joel also happens to be the pastor.)
Actually, the real reason I went was to spend time with the Fabulous Five.
I remember so vividly sitting in church as a child and having "adopted" grandparents smother me with affection. Now it's my turn, and I'm loving it. Joel brought an excellent message from Eph. 1:3-13 about what glorifying God really looks like. I took two full pages of notes. I haven't really written anything on that subject lately, but somehow I feel a blog post coming on. Joel was so right on to tie God's glory to our obedience. After the services I took Nigusse for his last visit to Mexico Viejo.
Hearing that the owner got married yesterday, we jumped on the opportunity to bring him and Irena a couple of wedding gifts and a card. The rest of the time we spent diving into the best Mexican food in town. Nigu, the carnivore that he is, had beef fajitas.
Finally, the gals snapped this pic of Waikiki Beach at 6:00 this morning while jogging.
I had to smile when I saw it. You can count at least 40 surfers out there, and it's barely dawn. I told the girls, "45 years ago, that would have been your dad out there." During the summer months we would leave Kailua well before dark to get to Waikiki in time to beat the crowds. Back then, of course, we all knew each other, but surfing today has become much more territorial.
This morning the ladies attended Hope Chapel in Waikiki. I'm hoping for a full report. Until then, they had better send me lots of pictures!
9:02 AM To every student who earned an academic doctorate from SEBTS. Can you translate this sign that just appeared in Switzerland? I saw it on BBC news today.
Yep, this is a test. An educated person who cannot translate simple French? That's an oxymoron.
(P.S. A word to my current doctoral students. Please know that you will be expected to use your French and German long after you have graduated.)
8:25 AM Well, they are now as far away from North Carolina as you can get and still be in the United States. The girls got a fantastic aerial view of Oahu while landing. They took this selfie after receiving their welcome lei at the airport.
That is so totally maikai nui. It sounds really cheesy to say it, but Hawaii is just as beautiful as everyone says it is. Mark Twain once called it "The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean." Honeymooned there in 1976. I like to say my body lives in Virginia but my heart resides in Hawaii. I grew up surfing and playing the ukulele, like every other kid in Kailua. If nothing else, Hawaii is a celebration of passionate colors and sounds. The Hawaiian language is soft and pleasant. Karen is already using her Hawaiian name (Kalena -- isn't it lovely?). I'm sure they'll use up 99 percent of their trip out-of-doors. Can you imagine a place where people spend a good amount of their time with their face under the water looking at the fish and with the fish looking back at them? Crazy!
I hope they enjoy the Hawaiian music as much as I do. One thing they will notice. There is a standard way to end every traditional Hawaiian song, and that is with the words "Ha'ina ia mai ana ka puana," which roughly means "Tell the story again" or "Repeat the refrain." This is followed by the first stanza of the song again. This is a way of repeating the theme of the song to remind the listener. For me, Hawaii is like that refrain. It's a constant reminder of the goodness of God in my life. The happy memories of weeks spent there with Becky will never be forgotten. The girls' trip is making me super nostalgic! I'm already surf crazy again and yet I won't get back there until July (cue the violins). Oh well, in the meantime I'm happy to share "my" island with others :)
Hawaii no ka oi!
Me ke aloha (with love),
P.S. Since this post was about Karen and Rachael, I almost apologized for posting the following pix but, hey, I'm only doing what any self-respecting Hawaiian island boy would do. I tell you, that wife of mine was loved and lovely, precious beyond belief. I post these photos more for myself than for you, as a reminder than even in the darkness a light is shining, that hope and healing are coming back to this man's heart, and because pictures like these constantly remind me of God's unwavering love. Thanks for indulging me!
Saturday, May 17
2:30 PM Today's a day for cutting. Nigu gets his last haircut with his good friend Wayne ...
... and I get to cut grass.
The weather is purr-fect! 70 degrees, partly cloudy, with a slight breeze.
The girls, by the way, have caught an earlier flight to Oahu. They will arrive at 2:30 (Hawaii time) instead of 5:30. I imagine they'll head for the beach as soon as they've unpacked. The weather in Waikiki is 84 degrees and sun-bathing sunny. The latest surf report has Waikiki breaking at 4-5 feet with perfect conditions. Oh, to be back surfing on the South Shore!
9:50 AM I love Flight Tracker. The girls are now over Missouri. Their flight had to make a detour because of a huge storm over Arkansas and Tennessee. They have 3 hours to go (in a 5 hour flight to LAX). Bon voyage!
9:42 AM So here are my thoughts on 1 Cor. 3 (in response to yesterday's chapel message):
I see nothing here about motivation ("Do it for God's glory and it will be gold, silver, and costly stones"). Paul is talking about the quality of our work. We ought to work as God works, i.e., as Paul himself worked. There ought to be self-sacrifice, weariness, utter devotion to our task, and excellence in all we do. Those who work hardest will succeed best. When I first starting teaching 38 years ago, I read a classic work by the great Elton Trueblood. It was called The Idea of a College. In it he made this unforgettable statement: "Holy shoddy in still shoddy." I am a Greek teacher. I can either do my work sloppily or with excellence. I am a farmer. I must work so that I do not labor in vain. For me, there is no higher honor than doing what God has given me to do, in His strength, with excellence. Jim Elliott put it this way: "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." Remember: the church does not build itself. It requires workers to build, just as we spent three years building Bradford Hall. Let's offer Christ our very best in whatever He asks us to do.
8:12 AM Almost forgot. I am greatly indebted to brother Gary Shogren for the Spanish essay mentioned below. Gary serves in Costa Rica and blogs here.
7:56 AM Speaking of Greek, yesterday I received this card from a group of people in Wisconsin who are using my grammar and Greek DVDs on their own.
Made my day! The leader (who once took Greek with me in California) wrote: "Your teaching has inspired and motivated them and they are really excited to see God's word being opened up to them week by week."
Which got me thinking: Maybe it's time I offered Greek again in my own local church.
Friday, May 16
8:36 PM It's hard to sit down and try to quantify just what makes an evening good or great. I'd say, though, that this evening was simply fabulous. We met up with Jon and Matthea Glass (and the Glass-lets) at The Queen, where we were treated to the best food in town. Our conversation took many twists ands turns. I even tried my hand at suggesting a name for their soon-to-be-born son. Matthea got out her iPhone and sure enough, there are oodles of Hawaiian boys' names that begin with a "k." Not that I'm trying to interfere or anything :).
Hard to believe that Katharine will turn 10 tomorrow. And those boys -- they are the greatest! The family is really looking forward to camping out with Papa B in two weeks on the front porch of Bradford Hall. Who knows what adventures await us???
On the way home, Nigu and I listened to WUNC's radio program called "Back Porch Music." You know, the kind of music one hears at Civil War reenactment dances. You'll forgive me, but I came close to crying. I wish you could have seen my Becky Lynn in her ball gown as we danced the Virginia Reel or waltzed to the sound of a good-ol' Irish sonnet. In my mind, she will always be my beautiful Southern belle. The Evil One is working hard tonight trying to get me to have a pity party, but I'm refusing. Because I am a very blessed man. And because I had a wonderful wife. And because nothing can take these happy memories away from me.
Tomorrow I'm sending Karen and Rachael off to Hawaii for a week of down time. They leave RDU early and should arrive in Waikiki right about sunset. And let's be honest: who doesn't want to see the sun setting at Waikiki Beach? It's going to be an amazing summer, that's for sure. And to think : I get to teach Greek again on Monday. But that's for next week. Tonight I think I'll just revel in the quietude of the farm and read my book about Gettysburg. After all, Day Two of The Greatest Battle awaits me.
2:44 PM There's something magical about commencements on brisk summer days. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for our graduation today. And yes, topping off the list of M.Div. grads was our very own Nigusse.
For those of you who have completed grad school, you know just how much work goes into getting that diploma. So here's a shout out to Nigu and a huge "Thank you!" to the Lord for getting him through. As you can see, the chapel was packed to the gills.
The whole service was fantastic, from beginning to end, and Andy Davis (of FBC Durham) brought a stirring challenge to all of us to build with gold, silver, and costly stones (which has really got me thinking -- warning: blog post ahead!).
Tonight it's off to the Queen of Sheba for some Ethiopian cuisine. I am feeling so grateful for all of you. Thanks for praying for Nigusse throughout his time of studying here (3 years). Really, these past 6 months have not been easy on him having lost his mom. But he persevered, and that is cause for great rejoicing. If you happen to be in Chapel Hill this evening at around 5:30, you're welcome to drop in and join the celebration!
7:52 AM Last night I really had to face my loneliness. But being alone has its advantages. It's an opportunity to be still and listen -- listen to God and listen to yourself. It forces your fears out into the open where you have to face them, front and center. It loosens your grip on all of this world's goods. You begin to ask yourself, "What really matters in life?" Hubert van Zeller once said, "Loneliness is really a homesickness for God." As such, being lonely is a good thing. It's reminding yourself that life's pleasures are but for a season. In other words, if you're lonely today, just accept it for what it is -- a good gift from God. Take your loneliness to Him. Be brutally honest about it. "Lying to God is like sawing the branch you're sitting on," said Frederick Buechner. "The better you do it, the harder you fall." No, God is not shocked by your loneliness. He has united you with Jesus Christ so that you are never, ever ALONE. And that is something worth thanking Him for.
Thursday, May 15
5:20 PM Now here's a memorable graduation ceremony indeed! Well done, Robert, well done!
5:14 PM Enjoying Guelzo's Gettysburg. So the first day at Gettysburg finally comes to a close. You may recall the scene in the movie when a Confederate messenger comes galloping up to General Lee with the news, "They're running, they're running!" But really, when you think about it, Day One was no victory for the South. I've got to give a lot of credit to Oliver Howard and the 11th Union Corp just north of the town on that fateful day. Yes, his troops were sent scampering back through Gettysburg but not before they had, for all intents and purposes, stopped the attack. Had they not been there that day, darkness would have fallen with Ewell in control of Cemetery Hill and a quarter of the Union Army destroyed in detail. Perhaps the whole war was decided on that first day. Who knows? But it's fun to speculate!
Up next: Day Two....
4:35 PM More from chapter 7. In case anyone's interested :)
3:58 PM Enjoying a long, soaking rain. Love sitting on the porch watching it. God has been real good to us farmers this year.
11:04 AM Interesting chart here:
In Virginia (where I live), Korean is the number three language. Uh-mazing! And to all of my Tagalog-speaking friends in Hawaii, "Kumusta!"
10:32 AM Just prayed this for our graduates (Heb. 13:21):
10:22 AM In Basel you would sometimes see this sign on a two-story building: "Workshop below, residence above." What a great perspective for Christians!
9:13 AM Here is one pastor's ecclesiology. What I love the most about this blog post is that the author doesn't just list his views but helps us to see how he personally tries to flesh them out. Check him out if you can, especially if you are in church leadership.
8:34 AM So A1 Steak Sauce is changing its name. (It will now be called A1 Sauce.) Have you ever rebranded yourself? One minute you're a diehard Calvinist, and the next you're an Anabaptist. In this aspirin age of ours, we want instant solutions to all of our problems and questions, and the easiest thing to do sometimes is to jump on a bandwagon. If one man's theological system can't provide them, we'll hop to another system. There's a better way folks. Put your faith in action by getting involved in other people's lives. Don't just theologize; roll up your sleeves and help them. Anyone can say they're Reformed. But how many are willing, for example, to spend time at the local soup kitchen or serve in a place that others ignore? Our faith in God and love for Christ ought to motivate us to love others actively and practically.
Sermon ended :)
Today I'm working in the yard and then getting the oil changed in my van. Tomorrow, of course, is commencement, and I will be attending for sure. I am really eager to see how the Lord uses our graduates. The goal is to allow God enough elbow room in our lives so that He can do what He's best at doing: help us face impossible and sometimes unbelievable situations that, like mountains, need to be moved. Don't try to move mountains on your own. You can't do the job by yourself. But if you trust God to do it, He can and will do it. The only prerequisite is simply that we believe that Christ can turn our "impossibilities" into a possibility. Graduate, Be Like Jesus! Follow Him wholeheartedly in love and obedient service, wherever in this old world He leads you. Put your roots down into Christ and let your lives be built on Him so that your faith will grow strong. Ask any farmer -- corn doesn't grow overnight. If it's true and healthy, it must be fertilized and watered and nurtured. Remember: God expects instant saints of none of us. But He does want us to draw closer to Him.
A final thought. Just because you may have earned a "Master of Divinity" doesn't mean that you have mastered divinity. "Don't just listen to God's word", says James. "Do what it says." That is not just an idle suggestion. Obedience is the only truly God-honoring way of living.
God bless all of our graduates, especially those who survived my Greek classes!
Below: At Talbot after receiving my M.Div. The maile lei was from Hawaii. That summer we would move to Basel. What an adventure our life was!
Wednesday, May 14
8:48 PM Met up with the Blacks in Henderson tonight at the 220 Seafood Restaurant. The trout special is my favorite.
Got to hold Graham for much of the time. That boy is just way too cute.
Back home now, chillaxing, as my daughters would call it. I've been rereading a super great book on the battle of Gettysburg. Reynolds has just arrived on the scene, much to the relief of Buford. Meanwhile, Archer's brigade is about to get itself in one huge pickle. Oh, the vicissitudes of life!
11:32 AM Studying Titus 3:14 this morning. Here's the Greek:
It's interesting to me that Paul refers to meeting the urgent needs of others. Not all "needs" are true needs. They are often simply "wants." Paul is referring to actual necessities. One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is discernment. Generosity must always be tempered by wisdom. For me, it's usually enough to just pray about it. Then the Holy Spirit either gives me a green light or He doesn't. But please know that I may not see your "need" in quite the same light that you do.
9:27 AM With the mere click of the mouse, I just sent a completed Seven Marks of a New Testament Church to the publisher. Please don't shout too loud.
8:42 AM Kyle White said these words after receiving the Medal of Honor yesterday:
Anyone who has been traumatized could probably say the same thing. I often replay the events of Nov. 2 at 7:52 am in my mind. In a flash, it's like you leave the present and travel back in time to the original place. You see it, you feel it, you smell it even. Here's what you need to remember: You are not abnormal. To be sure, the event was, but your God-given ability to cope kicks in and "it gets easier," as Sergeant White put it. The dark clouds change, and there are eventually more smiles than frowns. Today the event may be shouting in your ears, but someday it will be nothing but a mere whisper. This is the process. It can't be shortcutted. But hearing Sergeant White's words somehow makes it a bit more tolerable.
Tuesday, May 13
5:55 PM Cooked supper. Ate. Washed dishes. Walked dogs. Checked mail. Snapped this pic of the blackberry bushes.
Think I'm a man of habit?
5:23 PM The Great Librarian was really with me today. Yep, I finished the first draft of the final chapter in my Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
The chapter is called "Sacrificial Living." Here's the first paragraph:
Today, as I was dictating this chapter to my assistant on the phone, all I could think of was the word grace. Today was a day filled with God's grace. It is He who allowed me to finish this chapter. It is He who gets all the glory. And it is He who now calls upon all of us to extend to others the same grace we have been shown. That's it in a nutshell. The Christian life. The Christian life is nothing other than being faithful to display the character of God in our daily relationships. I want to learn how to do that. I have a long ways to go. But baby steps are A-okay with Him.
12:16 PM I love writing. But would someone please empty my waste paper basket?
8:12 AM I've got a lot of pots on the fire today. Still hoping to weed the garden beds today, but it's already getting hot. Then there's that book .... Yep, I do plan on writing today. (Do you have any idea how much work it takes to write a book? For crying out loud!) But before anything else, I want to share some really good news with you. The other day we were in our favorite Mexican restaurant in South Boston (Mexico Viejo) when I gave a copy of Becky's autobiography, My Life Story, to the management. I inscribed the book to all the pleasant personnel and especially the wonderful servers that always treated Becky and me like we were royalty. The book caused quite a stir among the restaurant folk, and before long the whole staff was at our table, reminiscing about the days when Becky and I would eat there. To a person, they remembered Becky as a smiling, happy woman who freely shared a word of encouragement with all who stopped by our table. The staff left, but within five minutes the manager came back with a plea. "Can we please have this book in Spanish. Half of our staff cannot read it otherwise!"
Su deseo es mi comando.
The book is now being translated into Spanish and will be published, with the same full color photos as the original, in October of this year Lord willing. Not sure how all of this happened so quickly, but it happened -- and I couldn't be more pleased. The working title is La Historia de mi Vida, but we might come up with something a bit more interesting. Hope some of you out there can use a Spanish edition!
By the way, last night I was thinking about wedding costs in the U.S. and saw this excellent essay over at Slate: The Wedding Industry's Pricey Little Secret. You really ought to read it. Most couples spend more on their weddings than they would have liked to, primarily because of societal pressure to "keep up with the Joneses." The fact is, however, that the Joneses are not paying what you think for their weddings! Here's the pull quote:
"If you've got the means." That's the crux of the matter. No sense starting your married life in debt if you can avoid it. And you CAN avoid it by not bowing to the pressures of the wedding industry!
Keeping life simple,
Monday, May 12
7:02 PM This is awesome!
6:53 PM "If a care is too small to be turned into a prayer, it is too small to be made into a burden. " Corrie ten Boom.
3:52 PM My thanks to Karen and Rachael for helping me celebrate B's birthday at Fiesta Mexicana in Wake Forest today. We talked mostly about their trip to Waikiki Beach starting this Saturday (graduation present from dad). They will have surfing lessons and take an outrigger canoe ride and enjoy a sunset sail and snorkel at Hanauma Bay and see the infamous North Shore and visit the Arizona Memorial and, of course, see all the various houses in which their dear old dad once lived in Kailua. They are even contemplating a hike up Mount Olomana, where the view of the fluted Koolau Range is simply spectacular.
I could go on and on. Enjoy the beauty of the isles, gals. God worked over-time when He created Hawaii.
As for me, I am working diligently on my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church -- still. Writing is recreation for me. That's why it's so hard for me to labor so arduously over a book that should have been competed months ago. But I believe God answers prayer, and so I keep plodding away. Thank you, Henry Neufeld (my publisher), for being so patient with me and for giving me this chance to contrast the church of the New Testament with the monstrous, politicized Jesus of far too much of American evangelicalism. That, after all, is what Luke was getting at in Acts 2:37-47.
3:44 PM An observant reader reminded me that I had left out the letter "f" in my acrostic this morning -- yet another remainder that while my website is impeccable it is hardly infallible. What "f" would you have added? Fabled, fabulous, factual, fair, forthright, frank, funky? I, of course, had written "faithful" in my notes but had overlooked it. It's there now :)
7:45 AM Waiting. Most of us hate doing it. I know I do. But the day I've been waiting for is almost here. A week from today I will return to the classroom after a year-long sabbatical. I have never taken more than a one semester sabbatical in my entire 37-year career as a teacher, simply because I love the classroom too much to stay out of it for that long. But this year was different, and the Lord knew I needed to take a whole year off. The students will take center stage as we begin Greek 1 on Monday morning. And I am HAPPY.
On a completely different note, yesterday Jason brought a wonderful message from Proverbs 31:10-31 and noted that the passage is an acrostic, with each verse beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, from "A" to "Z" as it were. I put together a list of my own based on the English alphabet and thought I'd share it with you this morning.
Here it goes: Becky Black from A to Z:
Feel free to make your own list and present it to your wife. It's funny, but certain of these qualities just seem to go with people we know. "Organized"? I think of Jon Glass:) "Nurturing"? I think of our daughters. "Generous"? I think of Ethiopia. I am thankful for each and every one of these qualities God gave my wife. Thanksgiving is a profoundly Christian virtue in that it focuses us on God as the true source of every blessing. So thank you, Lord, for creating Becky. I wish I could have wished her "Happy Mother's Day" in person but you had other plans for her yesterday. I'm sure she had a marvelous day!
Anyway, like I said, I am excited to be going back into the classroom. And I'd appreciate your prayers ... I'm not naive. I'm still very much in the grieving process, so keep me covered, okay?
And be sure to praise your wife!
Sunday, May 11
6:28 PM Hi folks. It's been a wonderful Mother's Day. Here's the lady of honor with her flowers and cards.
When we arrived at Bethel Hill, we decided to have a brief flower laying ceremony at Becky's grave.
I suspect Becky knew nothing about it but it was a good opportunity for us to gather round and offer the Lord a prayer of thanksgiving. We met up with Nathan, Jessie, and the boys at The Hill.
Needless to say, Graham stole the show.
He has 6 toofies already. Egads! Then it was off to Raleigh to meet with Becky's brother Ben and his sweet family for lunch.
Mom will stay with them in Cary tonight and then fly home tomorrow. Again, I just want to say a big "thank you" to mom for taking the time to be with us this weekend. It meant a whole lot to me.
Well, I feel like I've already blogged enough for one day, so I'm gonna shut up and just chill out this evening. Tomorrow is Becky's birthday and I think a couple of my daughters are conniving to have a small celebration. Folks, this is just one of the joys of being a dad and a granddad. You've always got family in collusion one way or another!
8:05 AM Sitting here at the computer, filled with happy memories of yesterday, not really knowing what to say about the great fellowship, the hail storm, the laughter, the tearful sharing. It's not helpful that my mind is 365 days away thinking about my last Mother's Day with Becky. This photo was taken exactly a year ago.
Now, one might argue that I'm being a bit too nostalgic. You'd be very nearly right, except for the fact that one day in the future she will go from presence to memory then back to presence again -- permanently. That being the case, I think I'm allowed a bit of self-indulgence on this Mother's Day, don't you?
Yesterday was just what the doctor ordered. Do I need the company of my family? Absolutely! I am, after all, thirsty for healing. Thank goodness I don't have to pass through these waters alone. I wish you could have heard the testimonies about the goodness of the Lord in Becky's life. Somehow, it sounded not the least bit strange. So here's to another 6 months of adjustments until we have our one year anniversary dinner. Here's to more grieving and more rejoicing as I continue on this crazy adventure with God. But as for this morning, I just feel downright happy. I'm in a good place in life. I'm surrounded by love, constantly bombarded with encouraging emails, and learning again how to love deeply and without reservation, especially my kids and grandkids. Which is why I am so excited for the rest of this year. Because I am, more than ever, convinced of His love.
Pix (of course):
Saturday, May 10
8:04 AM Today we gather to celebrate the life of a great woman and the faithful, fruitful life she lived. So... what did she teach us?
Even though the wisdom of God flowed through her, I am sure Becky is totally amazed at her new surroundings in heaven and is busy introducing herself to every Bible character she can think of. Her 61st birthday is on Monday. How marvelous it will be and in what magnificent company! She lived well and loved well. She loved the nations passionately. Her insights were invaluable. Her kindness was disarming. She could tease you mercilessly but always in love. Every conversation with her was a smorgasbord of Scripture and homespun wisdom. No matter what you talked about with her, she always brought you back to the cross. She valued her rich family heritage but never worshipped it. She lived in the present and always planned for the future. She knew Jesus, and that is where her generous heart came from. Does anyone ever remember Becky complaining? She stood on the Rock and everybody knew it.
I'm crying my eyes out as I type these words. I miss her. No one has looked into her eyes as I have. No one has seen her real beauty as her husband has. The house in which we lived is now empty and lonely. Little did we know, when we said our "I dos" 37 years ago, that marriage is a kind of death. How could we have imagined that it would turn out "for poorer and sicker"? When Christ allows us to marry, He asks for everything. There can be no escape clauses or secret disclaimers. You simply count the cost and jump in with both feet. And oh, the joys and pleasures! But the price is outrageous, like dining at Ruth's Chris. You cannot enter marriage without surrendering the right to self. Your only recourse is on your knees, praying for understanding and direction. And He will give it. He will give it. I loved her, but it is time to move on with only her memory. To do otherwise would be to dishonor my Lord who allowed me the privilege of knowing Becky for 40 years. I must press on because in that perseverance is the soil where God can plant the seed of His strength.
There will never be another Becky Black. How many times did we hear those words from her lips, "I am praying for you all the time." Being married to Becky profoundly changed my life. I think those of you who had the privilege of walking a few steps in this life with her would agree. We miss her smile, her prayers, her tenderness, her humor, and mostly her example of what a follower of Jesus looks like. May her life continue to inspire us to be faithful men and women who serve Jesus with everything we have and are.
"Well done, good and faithful servant." We are all better servants because of your service. It is not "Goodbye" but "Until we meet again!"
Friday, May 9
8:26 PM Howsit, friends? Nigusse graduates exactly one week from today, so we are on his final eatery tour of the states.
Tonight he dined on ribs at his favorite haunt in Henderson. I insisted that he add the Cajun shrimp and boy was he not disappointed! We've got a long list of household to-dos but we're both too tired to work on them tonight, so they will have to wait for the morning. See, I've got lots of things going on right now. Don't feel sorry for me, though -- I love everything I do -- but there's always something that just has to get done immediately. I think my problem is that I am way too passionate about life in general. Plus I grew up where? My life story has been coping with my innate hang-loose-braddah personality, which puts me in good stead in Hawaii but not many other places. Adding to all the work, I keep getting these ideas for books and more books. Nuts, isn't it?
Here's hoping that you all sleep as well as I will tonight!
12:20 PM Hey folks, this is my first ever selfie.
How'd I do? I think that calls for at least a polite golf clap, don't you? (Sneeze!) I took it for my good friend Down Under who loves gardening as much as I do, maybe more. (Sneeze!) Mark, don't you just wish you were as hot, sticky, dirty, and sweaty as I am right now? Yes, folks, I've been working on the garden beds. (Sneeze!) And judging from this photo, they sure needed some help. (I hate hay fever.)
This is as far as I got before it turned 90 degrees and I decided to call it quits for today.
My goal is to have every garden bed ready within two weeks in case any of my daughters would like to use one this summer. Here's the tradeoff, though: I will roto-till it; you will weed it. Nasty, aren't I? And just look at Becky's rose bushes.
Oh, how I wish she were here to see them herself. But then again, it's all contrast and no comparison when you're in the presence of the Rose of Sharon.
And that's your official garden report from Rosewood Farm.
10:28 AM Two more posts for you to consider as you work through the Continuationist/Cessasionist debate:
10:03 AM "A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day." André Maurois.
8:02 AM Think about this. Becky's missionary parents traveled to Ethiopia for the first time in 1954. Their trip by freighter took 6 weeks. Today we can fly from Washington DC to Addis Ababa in less than 20 hours. Moreover, wherever you're going in the world, there's probably a job skill God can use. Working in a secular job while actually being a fulltime missionary may sound rather routine and dull. But these jobs often pay well, and you have a natural venue for establishing relationships with a view toward sharing the Good News. In addition, biblical education is possible as never before. It's is no longer campus-centered, and you can easily educate yourself -- even in Greek and Hebrew -- online. When Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, his goal was to provide every individual "IAYF" -- information at your fingertips. His success is obvious. The global information revolution has impacted missions and Christian education. The world is now connected, and it seems that nothing will stop the digital representation of practically everything. Back when my in-laws were working in Ethiopia, this infrastructure was missing. Now everyone is online -- writing, blogging, tweeting, studying. Personally, I believe HTML is the greatest invention of the twentieth century, since it has allowed average people like me to author web pages with ease and to benefit from the work of others.
Let's say you desire to become an elder in your local church but lack formal biblical training. Have you considered on-line education? The problem with relocating sometimes hundreds of miles away for a formal degree is threefold: expense, extraction, and elitism. But if you stay put and keep your secular job, you can remain involved both in your local church and in the unsaved world you are ostensibly being trained to reach with the Gospel. SEBTS offers an excellent M.Div. fully online, as do most other seminaries. Even without a diploma, you can still become qualified for leadership through self-training. God is not impressed with our degrees and the length of our resumes. He can and will use you if you are committed to digging deep into His word and acquiring the basic tools needed for exegesis.
Oh, that God would raise up local churches that would train their elders from within! The internet stands ready to help.
7:40 AM Yesterday, Kevin Brown published his most powerful essay ever, I think. It's called Passing Along Mercy. In it, Kevin reflects on the death of yet another cancer patient, this time a sweet lady in his congregation. He writes:
What should you do when you come to face to face with cancer? Allow me to list five truths I am facing more fully as I pursue God in the midst of my own cancer journey with Becky.
1. Panic. That's right. I said panic. Your initial gut reaction to hearing the "C" word is probably going to be fear and alarm. And that's okay. More than anything else, you need to be honest with yourself. After all, you are learning one of life's greatest lessons: There is no escape from pain and suffering in this world. You can live obediently, you can pray every day, you can read your Bible, you can claim the promises of God, but problems will still come. The only difference this time is that your problems now include cancer.
2. Realize that the pain of cancer will never go away. The rhetoric we're all used too – just trust God, rest in His sovereignty, depend on His never-failing grace – must give way to a deeper reality, the reality of God's "severe mercy" (as C. S. Lewis, who once lost his wife to cancer, put it). A firm belief in the sovereignty of God and the truthfulness of God's Word does not mean that we look away from the ugly pain and pretend it isn't there. Come to Jesus just as you are, admitting your sorrow and accepting the ache in your soul that will never go away. He, the Man of Sorrows, understands you perfectly.
3. Allow the cancer to draw you closer to God so that you can know Him better. There is no other reason for living. Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). We are placed on this earth to get to know God intimately. And He uses discouragement and disappointment to get our attention. He is under no pressure to make our lives easier. He has no obligation to take the pain away, no matter how many times we may recite the "prayer of Jabez." We need to remember that the point of Christianity is not us or our need to feel loved and valued. We exist for God, and not the other way around. He cares about our pain, but He matters more.
4. Walk with God. I mean, like Enoch walked with God, consciously and intimately. It's our choice as to whether we will allow cancer to draw us closer to God. It's what I'm trying to do day by day a full six months after Becky's death. God's agenda for the pain is to bring us and Him together so that we are walking together and not moving in separate directions. By walking with God I mean surrendering our lives to His purposes, fully aware that He does not guarantee the comfort of His children. Our relationship with Him must be on His terms. Somehow His presence must penetrate our lives in the same way that cancer spreads through a body. The question we need to ask is this: Are we merely fighting cancer, or are we walking with God? Are we willing to cooperate with Him as His beloved children in a plan bigger than ourselves?
5. Finally, focus on living out your heavenly citizenship. All of our sinful passions spring from a desire to make our lives happier in the here and now. Like a thirsty deer, we chase after the water this world offers. The self, full of urges for its own welfare, actually prevents us from living fulfilled and happy lives. God has told us that we are citizens of another world, yet we live as though our citizenship were here. If our deepest goal in life is personal comfort and joy, we will be miserable. The way to break out of a self-oriented approach to life is to allow Him to stir up in our hearts a desire for Christ and His eternal kingdom, an all-consuming passion that eclipses all lesser passions. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be faked or self-produced. Only God can enable us to face the terrifying truth about cancer and cause us to turn away from this-worldliness and develop a vision for kingdom living until He calls us home.
Here, then, are five truths I am learning from cancer. We cannot learn these truths merely by reading about them. We learn them by experiencing them. As you face the "C" word honestly, perhaps God will use these truths to point you forward. We are called to live by kingdom standards, rather than by the values determined by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, or even the Cancer Hospital. We no longer live for ourselves but for God – and for others. If the "leading edge" of cancer is the discovery of pain, the "trailing edge" of cancer is experiencing the power of God acting through our lives and ministries. We rediscover our identity as pilgrims and strangers on earth whose purpose is to love and serve other people as Jesus loves and serves us.
A personal note to brother Kevin. Thank you, Sir, for being there for me. Not only through your numerous emails but through your presence when I really needed you (like at Becky's graveside service). You are closer than a brother to me. What you say and how you say it communicate both deep truth and genuine compassion. God must love Mount Pleasant Baptist Church very much to have blessed it with an elder of your caliber. Thank you for sharing the story of Miss Geraldine with the world. May her testimony ("she never complained") both encourage and convict the rest of us.
Thursday, May 8
5:56 PM This year, as with every year, the birds built a nest in the corner of the front porch.
They remind me that after every cold and dreary winter there comes the spring time, and every spring brings the miracle of new life. It's an annual reminder that a similar miracle awaits me and every Christian. The old will be no more; suffering and disease will be gone forever; our bodies will be made as new; and our tears will be dried forever. Thank you, you sweet little birdies with your mouths wide open waiting for your mommy, for reminding me of the magnificent, glorious, long-awaited day when I will stand face to face with Jesus -- and then see my Becky again. Thank you!
5:42 PM Really enjoying my new ride mower.
Great turning radius, and super clean cut. Now if I can only keep the blades sharp (no mowing over rocks, Dave!).
12:44 PM Work, work, work!
12:34 PM "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley.
8:12 AM "The world needs young men and women who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond; who put character above wealth; who possess opinions and a will; who are larger than their vocations; who do not hesitate to take chances." Josiah Gilbert Holland.
7:20 AM God delights in diversity, thank goodness. Don't let anyone tell you there is only one Christian position on disputed issues.
Wednesday, May 7
6:45 PM The day has finally cooled down and so I must do what every able-bodied adult male has to do during the summer months: attack the pollen scourge on his front porch!
6:40 PM My sweet daughter Liz sent this to me today:
And so ... I am announcing here for the very first time: "The First World Congress on Wave Measurement Theory (California vs. Hawaii)" to be held in Costa Mesa, CA, September 2014. Details forthcoming (dude).
6:28 PM Working hard on Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Richard Baxter, the great Puritan author, penned 140 books in his lifetime. I am struggling to complete my 25th. Still, I feel exactly the same way he felt about his writing:
Please pray for me. Concentration is difficult these days. This is what grief does. It's like working the night shift when you have already put in a grinding 8-hour shift during the day. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me "with groans that words cannot express." This too shall pass, and I will once again publish another Pulitzer-Prize-losing book, to the glory of God.
6:17 PM We are all representatives of Christ. The only question is: How well do we represent Him?
5:37 PM To those who, like me, have recently suffered great loss: Do you remember Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress? When Christian strayed off the King's Highway he was imprisoned by Giant Despair in Doubting Castle. When he had almost given up all hope of ever getting out of there, he remembered that he possessed a key that would fit the lock, a key called "Promise." My friend, let us cling to the promises of Christ today. Doubting Castle need not be our permanent abode.
4:50 PM "Never put a question mark where God has put a period." John R. Rice.
12:48 PM Just back from Staples with my new printer. Reminded of the old adage: "Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake every time you repeat it."
10:05 AM I'm trying to write down a few thoughts to share this Saturday at Becky's memorial dinner. Words fail. What in the world can one say about a person whose life made such an eternal impact on the lives of so many others? She simply cannot be replaced. Our family will forever have her fingerprints on our hearts. She was witty and had a sharp mind. But she wasn't afraid to show you her heart. She called a spade a spade but always with tears in her eyes. So many of us love Becky and look forward to a reunion in heaven. Praise God for the faithfulness so exemplified in the life of Becky Lynn Black! She was one of the greatest women I have ever met. My heart breaks to lose her, yet I envy her as she gazes on the face of the one she served so faithfully and so well. Thank you, Becky, for spending a lifetime making disciples of Jesus Christ. We love you and miss you. See you soon!
A blast from the past: With friends in Basel.
9:08 AM If you're having a lightening storm, be sure to unplug your printer or it may get zapped. (Yes, I am preaching to myself). Off to Staples ...
9:02 AM Working today on the papers from the PA conference. They will eventually be published under the title The Pericope Adulterae in Modern Research. For those of you who have nothing better to read today, here are the contents:
Publisher to be announced.
In the meantime, I've been rereading Gerry Friesen's outstanding book Decision Making and the Will of God. His main point (if I understand him correctly) is that God's will is more like a scroll that continually unfolds than like a course syllabus. We can find God's will through various "road signs," including:
I bought this book as a gift for someone very special to me who is facing a major crossroad in life. I commend it to you if you should ever find yourself in similar circumstances. As I walked outdoors today I saw a world full of optimism and hope. Blossoms have budded, birds are chirping, and spring signals new life and causes smiles to sprout on our faces. Yet it is Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, who gives hope and meaning to life. Whatever decision you are facing today my friend, you can be absolutely assured of His guidance. And whatever is holding you back from following Him with total surrender, get rid of it. For God's sake, get rid of it.
Tuesday, May 6
7:28 PM Well, tonight's the night. I'm dusting off the world's greatest surfing movie and chillaxing. I remember dragging Becky to see Five Summer Stories back in 1973 when it was playing at Huntington Beach.
Poor gal. She had to suffer through 2 hours of nothing but wave after wave after endless wave. What ever did she think of me? Here I was, with these huge surf bumps on my feet and knees, as dark as a Polynesian, and as stoked as ever about a sport she cared nothing for. Why did she do it?? Love. Pure and simple.
Did you like the movie, Becky?
Yeah, wasn't that wipeout at Waimea fantastic?
The best I've ever seen.
(Translation: I have no idea what the guy just said but I sure do like being with him.)
You'll forgive me, I know, for being so nostalgic tonight but -- hey -- I've got the world's greatest surfing fan on my mind tonight and I AM gonna celebrate the memory of that hottest of dates!
4:36 PM News and notes:
1) Greek 1-2 students, the syllabus for summer Greek has now been posted to Moodle. We will meet from May 19 - June 20. There are still a few seats left in case you're interested.
2) If you live on Oahu, plan now to attend our Myth of Adolescence Conference to be held on Saturday, July 12 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at Calvary Chapel West Oahu. I'll also be speaking in both morning services on Sunday, July 13.
3) Sept. 12-14 are the dates for a major apologetics conference to be held in scenic San Jacinto, California. I am honored to have been asked to be one of the speakers. More details shortly.
4) Today my assistant Jacob Cerone and I had a working lunch at the Olive Garden in Wake Forest to begin editing the papers from the Pericope Adulterae conference and to work on various other projects.
In two weeks Jacob will be moving to Washington state to begin working with Steve Runge this summer but will continue as my assistant until the end of August. In the fall he will step down in order to devote his complete energies to finishing his Th.M. thesis under my supervision. If you are a New Testament student at SEBTS and are working on either a Th.M. or Ph.D. and would be interested in speaking with me about becoming the part-time assistant to the chair I hold, kindly send me an email.
5) Maple Ridge will be receiving its first guests since Becky's death. We are looking forward to hosting a family of 5 on their way to Ethiopia in May and a family of 5 on home assignment from Ukraine in July. The goal is to provide a place of rest and restoration as retreatants spend time with each other and the Lord in the slower pace of the countryside. If you are in need of such a retreat/getaway, please do not hesitate to contact me. We are nestled in the southern Piedmont of the great state of Virginia, a place that I think God must have made when He wanted to show us beyond the shadow of a doubt His creative beauty. Visitors stay free of charge, of course.
8:03 AM Find a teacher and say "thank you." Go ahead and do it. After all, today is National Teacher Appreciation Day.
7:45 AM I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was simply spectacular. I spent it in cold and gloomy western New York state speaking at Faith Bible Chapel. Quite a nice crowd, eh?
It was wonderful. Here I am at the pastors' luncheon they arranged. I had the audacity to tell them they had better keep up with their Greek -- or else!
We did a lot of driving through the local countryside, where most of the people speak a dialect of German. One restaurant had a quaint carriage in it. I even got a free toy from a certain Herr Rabel because I could speak his language.
By the way, on Saturday morning before our drive through Amish country, I watched a great YouTube. Michael Gorman of St. Mary's College in Baltimore recently conducted interviews with Tom Wright about his new book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Here he moderates a conversation on Paul between Tom and Professor Richard Hays of Duke Divinity School.
They discuss Gal. 2:14 and the hypocrisy Peter displayed be denying table fellowship to fellow Christians. Paul tells him (and Barnabas) that their behavior was a contradiction of the truth of the Gospel. I love the Greek verb Paul uses here: orthopodeo. Showing prejudice is "not maintaining a straight course according to the Gospel." Note: Peter was not guilty of some great Christological heresy. He was being divisive! Remember that, those of you today who have colluded with disunity. Unity across barriers is very important to the apostle Paul. It should be to us too. Yes, we must be unified in the truth, but isn't it true that at the foundation of each of our divisions is often the conviction that "we" are better than you?
It's good to be home again. Got lots of preparations for Saturday's family reunion here at Bradford Hall. For me the most enjoyable part of the time will be playing with all of my grandkids. They are so cute it hurts! On a personal note, I made it through last Friday's 6 monthaversary of Becky's death without a hitch. Really, I was just too busy to think about it very much. I find myself increasingly introspective these days, trying to wrap my head around the paradigm shift that's struck me between the eyes. There are so many things I'd love to share with you right now but I've got to take Nigusse to campus and then meet with my assistant. Can you believe it? Not even two weeks to go till the end of the semester. Then life will take a major twist for several important people in my life. It's all part of something so much bigger than ourselves, part of His "making all things new." At some point, you just kind of throw up your hands are admit again that He is in loving control of everything, including your own life. I may not be holding barf bags any more or administering suppositories or changing Depends, but I've still got people to minister to. Let me tell you: there is not much I enjoy more than teaching for 4 days in a row and then coming home to the peace of the farm. That's the way life is. It ebbs and flows. One day I'm sharing the Word, another I'm washing my underwear, and still another I'm editing a book. It all seems so right. Yes, I weep, but I'm cheered when I look into the pages of the Gospel and see another man weeping outside the tomb of a person He was about to raise from the dead. We live on this earth in anticipation of our final salvation, our resurrection and reunion with our loved ones. In the meantime, we just keep plodding on.
So happy plodding!
Thursday, May 1
5:22 AM It's May Day already? Today is "Lei Day" in Hawaii. I'll never forget it -- the islands awash in the fragrant scent of plumeria. But no time for nostalgia -- I've got to head to the airport. But before I do ....
Calling all you Civil War history buffs out there. You know what battle began 151 years ago today? Of course you do. And, for an eyewitness account of the Battle of Chancellorsville, no better account exists than that of Union General Abner Doubleday. Remember him? He's the man who did (not) invent baseball. It's interesting to note that biblical scholars aren't the only ones who promote myths in the name of fact.
Moving on, here's something to chew on. The story is told of a father who was eager to read his newspaper but was being pestered by his small son. In order to distract the boy he took from a magazine a page on which was printed a map of the world. Then he cut out each country of the world from the map and gave the pieces to the boy to put back together again. Expecting that this would take considerable time, the father settled back in his chair. A few moments later, however, he noticed that the little boy had completed the project. When asked how he had assembled the map so quickly, the boy replied, "It was simple. On the other side of the page was the picture of a man. I just put the man together, and then the world fit together." If Christians would only look, not at their own country, but at a man – the God-Man whose kingdom unites people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation – there would be no need for displays of national patriotism in their churches. The cross of Jesus Christ is the secret of being in the world without being of it. It is the source of freedom for us to be given to the world as broken bread and poured-out wine. It is our banner, our emblem, our flag of allegiance. Thank God for the cross.
Finally, I wanted to share here a bit about an attitude the Lord has been convicting me about. It's about my joy (or, really, my lack of it). The springboard has been a passage in 1 Thessalonians: "Always be joyful, continually be prayerful, and in everything be thankful" (5:16-18). That's powerful stuff. The fact is, I am rarely always joyful, prayerful, and thankful. So, with the Spirit's help, I am going to see if I can flesh out these verses in practical ways by maintaining a more joyful attitude today (even when things go wrong), by offering short, targeted prayers throughout the day as God brings people to mind, and by saying the words "thank you" more often (to my children, my colleagues, my secretary, etc.). Really, it's not that hard to do, but it takes effort. I suppose with practice and lots of time it becomes easier, but hey – we're commanded to do it, so if we aren't, we're sinning.
Well, that's it until Monday. Peace be unto you -- unless the Lord starts convicting you that you need to be more joyful, prayerful, and thankful.