September 2016 Blog Archives
Thursday, September 29
5:40 AM Off to the mountains.
Wednesday, September 28
4:02 PM Well, the call is in the wind again, beckoning me westward. Yet another journey to another state in pursuit of another adventure in sorting out my life, including questions of self-worth and how best to be used by God in my remaining years as a man, a teacher, and a father/grandfather. I believe my life, like yours, is a proclamation. We Christians are a prophetic community. By our words and deeds we seek to embody what Christ meant when He called us to a life of abundance. Everything we do, from washing dishes to teaching classes to climbing mountains, testifies to the grace of God in our lives, if we let it. God saved us because He longs to rescue us from ourselves, to see us become fully human. He wants us to dare to expect Him to move in our lives in miraculous ways. But we need to learn from each other. Our lives are intertwined. Part of my own journey has been to finally admit I need others. Over the years I've learned to put myself in the posture of teachability. For me, there will always be more questions than answers. Even if the subject is Greek. I said as much in Andreas Köstenberger's hermeneutics seminar today, where I was honored to be a guest.
The subject was Greek linguistics, and how biblical exegesis is as much a spiritual discipline as is prayer and fasting. But you have to prepare. You have to study like the dickens, and then you have to put into practice what you've studied. Greek 1 is only a beginning point. I so deeply crave that my students use what they acquire. Not doing so is utterly deplorable. Yet it happens to all of us, even the best of us. In last night's doctoral seminar I simply wanted to remind my Greek students of the well-worn paths that other grammarians have carved out for us.
Strangely enough, we found Jesus in translating Greek and reading the Didache and composing sentences in Greek from English, every activity helping us to find a way toward the future, to our born-again selves all over again. This focus on the text (and texture) of Scripture, this personal encounter with the New Testament (kissing our bride on the lips rather than through the veil, as Luther put it), not only reorients our faith but draws us right back to the tools we need to grow in our faith. A lot of pastors of my generation have given up on Greek. They fail to wrestle with the text. I hope this changes. I hope we can push back against ignorance and biblical illiteracy and breathe into the kingdom to come. I'm not saying the Bible is the Fourth Member of the Godhead. But Bible study is not optional for followers of Jesus. It's a game where everyone gets to play. You, my friend, get to read and study and be challenged every bit as much as I do. To know God is to know His word. "Let God transform you into a new person by changing what you think" (Rom. 12:2, NLT). Yes, I know the Bible seems too big to manage, so confusing at times, so difficult to understand. Set out anyway, pilgrim. Don't walk away from the only Light on the path you can depend on. I've been teaching Greek for 40 years and still struggle both in terms of knowledge and obedience. So what? Life is complex. Arbitrary proof-texts that once worked don't work anymore. Yet He still speaks. And His words illuminate the way forward.
I hope and pray my students get this. Less hero worship. Less Christian superstardomism. Less celebrity. More embodiment. More incarnational ministry. More intimacy with our Maker.
As I leave for the Rockies, I am both thrilled and terrified of this great Creator. Two and a half years later, I'm still aching, still asking questions, still numb. The mountains are places I am drawn into, wept into, born again into, broken into. I'm under no illusions that I've arrived spiritually. But I'm resting in the tenderness of Jesus. I hope we can all live this experience. Jesus is as good as it gets. And I'm incredibly thankful that I labor alongside such faithful colleagues and students, as together we walk into the great unknown.
Tuesday, September 27
8:52 AM Scanning the schedule for Advanced Greek Grammar tonight I noticed that we are discussing syntax. When I was in seminary it was implied (in so many words) that using Greek meant doing word studies. Period. You know, Vincent, Robertson, Wuest, Kittel, and Colin Brown. That is a fib. Lexical analysis (word study) is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. The savviest Greek student knows better than to stop with words. "But words preach so well!" I've always loved (Not!) the evangelical obsession with "The word in the Greek means ...." Dear one, there is no rule that says you have to even mention the Greek word in your message. Hear me on this: words are merely building blocks. It's the whole building we're after. And the plain truth is that you don't even need to know much Greek today to do word studies, what with the ubiquitous online helps. But to see "Wie der Text spielt" (How the text plays out), you'll need to move on to syntactical analysis. At first blush this sounds really simple. Except this is actually one of the most difficult things you will ever do. And it has everything to do with exegesis, this study of syntax. So what say we push through boundaries and beyond fatigue and get the job done? It's our job, for crying out loud.
P.S. Yes, we will be diagramming sentences tonight. Clauses in particular. As in that great warning passage in Heb. 6:4-6, where syntax perhaps (I said perhaps) holds the key to understanding this difficult text.
Monday, September 26
1:22 PM This fine morning I spent working out at the Y then biking 5 miles at a pretty good clip (13 MPH). Afterwards I was invited out to lunch by Nate and Jess and the kids.
Yes, I am completely spoiled.
8:15 AM This and that ....
1) Just signed up for the annual UNC Lineberger 5K. Yep, the same Lineberger that our memorial fund went to. The race starts at 7:30 at the North Hills Shopping Center in Raleigh. The date is October 8. I've run this course before and it is awsum. What a grand finale to my week in Colorado!
2) Amazon now lists the Kindle version of Running My Race. From the publisher's blurb:
3) Terrorism and Immigration: Just the facts, ma'am.
4) Jeff Hardin asks, Is Science "Awe"some for Christians? I'd like to think the answer is yes, but what do I know. As the essay notes, "science and faith are not enemies." I suppose this means I can't publish books with a recently-minted publishing house that requires its authors to abstain from the use of "higher-critical" methodologies. I've spent the better portion of the past 40 years as a teacher doing just the opposite. Oh sure, there will always be evangelicals who take the methodologies too far (as in radical redaction criticism). But let's not forget about scholars like F. F. Bruce or Howard Marshall to name just two. And let's not squander the natural revelation that comes from the hand of God every bit as much as the special revelation we find in His word.
5) Love is a verb.
Sunday, September 25
7:10 PM As you all know, Becky and I have used the restored 1811 farm house on the farm for guests, and mighty busy it will be for the next 6-8 weeks while a couple of out-of-state friends of mine do a major job at the local power plant.
That would make Becky Lynn very happy. I, of course, have to take care of most everything nowadays by my lonesome. Please act impressed, because I am a moron and still manage to keep the farm from falling apart. Tomorrow night these guys will be risking their digestion on my Chinese stir-fry (why eat at the Chinese restaurant when you can have my Ersatz special?). A foodie I am not, but I do enjoy cooking Chinese food, with my special (secret) ingredient, of course (*wink*).
(Tonight, by the way, I'm watching The Magnificent Seven on Amazon -- the old version with Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, et al. I have a crazy passion for ancient movies, and I really don't like remakes so I won't be seeing the newer version.)
10:06 AM Vickie Bae-Jump, whose cutting-edge cancer research at UNC the Becky Black Memorial Fund supported, has recently co-authored a significant study about the relationship of obesity to endometrial cancer. The results boggle the mind: obese women have a 2-5 fold higher incidence of endometrial cancer than non-obese women. In addition, 62 percent of American women are overweight or obese. The study concludes:
I don't want to make anyone feel guilty. Everyone struggles with weight issues. As you might have deduced from reading this blog, I have. That's why fit people inspire me. When I run a 5K, I'm honored to be in their presence. I don't want fitness to become a self-obsession. On the other hand, God does want us to care of our temples. At any rate, I thought Vickie's essay was worth mentioning. Becky had no predisposing symptoms of uterine cancer. Not one. And she was certainly not overweight. Can't say for sure, but my guess is that Jesus never over-indulged in garbage food. However, I won't point the finger at anyone but myself. Only the Holy Spirit can point us to the good paths God has planned for us. And you'll be the one who hears Him, not your spouse or children or some blogger out there somewhere.
9:12 AM Got up early this morning to enjoy the sunrise, get my personal finances done, and anticipate next weekend. I serve a Savior who finds ways to get old men up tall mountains. When I arrive in Golden, Colorado this Thursday my goal is to hike to the summits of both Grays Peak and Torreys Peak (called "Front Range" on this map) on the next day.
This will be a rite of passage for me, I guess you could say -- my first 14ers in the Rockies. In the grand scheme of things, the Alps are starting to look, well, average. Grays and Torreys involve 3,600 feet of elevation gain, and the round trip length is 8.5 miles. The highest you can go is 14,270 feet.
So evidently, it's a pretty rigorous hike. I'm expecting to be on the trail for a 6-8 hours. Currently the conditions are good but all of that can change on a dime. It'll be what it'll be when I get there. I'm told I need to take the essentials: lots of water, TP (of course), sunscreen, a first aid kit, my trekking poles, warm clothes and wool cap, my GoPro, and plenty of trail mix and jerky (hopefully the kind that doesn't taste like tree bark). I think hiking is like reading a book: what you get out of a book depends entirely on what you bring to it. Conversely, the author makes all the difference for me. In fact, I'd say I don't read books, I read authors. These are writers I return to again and again. That's one of the reasons my library is so limited. When I ask my students today how many of them have reader Schaeffer or Ellul or Kierkegaard, the answer is practically nobody. We all have our personal favorites I suppose. I have tried to read today's "popular" authors, well-loved by the students on campus, but for me the spark is just not there. That said, it's impossible to grow without reading. Likewise, it's impossible to enjoy God's creation without going outside. The reader and the hiker find no problem with fatigue. The mind gladly reflects, the body gladly puts itself into motion. Thus no hike is trivial to me. Perhaps that's why I share the details of my climbs with you (although you do get to choose whether or not you'll read what I have to say).
Saturday, September 24
5:54 PM Quick note: Just heard from my mountain guide in Switzerland. My program for next July is now set in -- well, Jell-O. But it's a start (subject to change). It includes bagging three 4,000-meter peaks. Here's what I'd like to do.
Day 1: Riffelhorn (9,603 feet; rock scrambling; practice for Matterhorn).
Day 2: Pollux (13,425 feet).
Day 3: Hohsaas (10,164 feet).
Day 4: Allalinhorn (13,212 feet).
Day 5: Riffelhorn (more rock scrambling).
Day 6: Hike to Hornli Hut (10,696 feet) on the Matterhorn.
Day 7: Matterhorn (14,692 feet; as far as I can go!).
Let me tell you something. I'm pretty excited. Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you with the details. (I'll save that for later.) Admittedly, I feel a little anxious. That last climb is a real doozy. Which reminds me: I'm doing this for a reason. My routine needs a serious shake-up, and has ever since Becky died. What will God will do with all of this? Um, I haven't the foggiest idea. I'm not going to project my goals onto His plans. But He's given me this love for the Alps so -- hey -- let's do it. Whenever I climb, remarkable people surround me. So much to learn from them. Sometimes I feel too old and feeble for anything. Climbing reminds me I am neither.
4:14 PM Very emotional funeral service today on campus. Loss keeps you teetering on the edge of faith. But Jesus keeps on drawing us close. There's just no escaping Him. Honestly, He's our Hero, not some politician. So while we're fighting each other -- "Don't vote for Trump!" -- "Don't vote for Clinton!" -- Jesus is waging war against all the things we hate -- injustice, racism, division, hubris. I don't want to be known for what I'm against. I'm simply for Jesus and the massive movement He's started. The world's problems are amazingly complex. God's word is embarrassingly simple. Love is not sex. Wealth is not money. Relationship is not religion. Faithfulness is not success. You gain by losing. When we're weak we're strong. Joy and hope at a funeral. I'm so grateful for my friend. I don't know how he was able to stand there and give his testimony at the funeral of his son. His words of faith and hope stunned me into silence. I walked outside Binkley Chapel and turned to face the bright sun, blinked my tears away, and offered a prayer of thanks for God's unfathomable grace. "The Lord comforts His people and has compassion on His afflicted ones." That includes a 64-year old who still trusts Him to work the common, everyday miracles he needs to keep going. Without question I know this is His will for me -- this following Jesus in servanthood, this loving the world like Jesus does, this sitting silently in an empty house shouldering the suffering of my friends. I couldn't say a word after the funeral. Words weren't necessary. There is something powerful about just being there, sharing the darkness and the hope. You really think I'm going to read emails filled with hate for Hillary (or Trump)? Oh lawd. I think there's a better way. We can do better than hate.
By the way, I began reading a really good book today about creation. It's birthed in me a renewed interest in science and theology. I've been gobbling it up. Folks, ain't we got some Creator? The One who made the heavens and the earth designed 60,000 miles of blood vessels in our bodies. I'm smart about a few things (maybe), but science isn't one of them. But the pressure is on to get savvy. I'm just wired that way. I like understanding this world I live in. Ignorance is not appropriate when God has created brains. Plus this book is suuuuuper interesting. Thank you, Jesus.
Time to mow....
7:52 AM BIG NEWS! Ishi almost ate her first carrot.
1) With the Glasses at a local eatery.
2) Time to feed the donks.
3) Go Ishi!
Friday, September 23
5:38 PM I arrived back at Rosewood today, a little weary from the travel but glad for the time spent in the great outdoors and especially with Dad. I ended up doing a 13.2-mile half marathon yesterday at the High River Bridge Trail in Farmville. My goal was to finish in under 3 hours. Then this morning I did some biking at the Appomattox River Trail near Petersburg. We had a bit of rain yesterday, but today was a beautiful day in Southside Virginia, about 75 degrees with clear skies. As you know, I used this time for special prayer needs. I've been praying especially for a good friend of mine whose 18-year old son passed away suddenly on Tuesday. The funeral is tomorrow. I've also been praying for two good friends whose families are facing cancer -- in one case it's the wife, in another it's their young son. I told them I'm going to "dig in" and pray for them that God might see fit to grant them healing in the fullest sense of the term, whether medically or miraculously. "The Christian life is not a playground; it's a battlefield." I forget who uttered those words but boy are they true. The good news is that all of heaven is open to hear our prayers. If you've ever experienced a big loss, you can feel for these families. Wordsworth's simple words about his own loss come to me: "But she is in her grave, and oh, the difference to me!" Tomorrow, after the service, everyone will go their separate ways. The funeral will be over for most of us. Not for the family ("Oh, the difference!"), and not for God. Sometimes I think I need to talk less and pray more -- for guidance, for strength, for healing, for all those who are active in civil government, and especially for those who are working directly for the coming of the kingdom here and around the world. The ancient Romans coined the expression, "Sic transit gloria mundi," and I for one couldn't agree more: "Thus passes away the glory of the world." The only thing that really matters is that God's glory be clearly seen in this world, and if that means that our own glory needs to fade away, so be it, because it's fading away anyhow.
So it was a good time of prayer. And of exercise. By the way, year-to-date I've chocked up a total of 140 workout hours with a weekly average of 16.6 miles. My "All Time" stats include 211 hours of workouts with a distance of 1,098 miles plus 153,486 calories burned since I joined Map My Run in April of 2015. That's the distance from Washington DC to Dallas, Texas. And I'm not done yet. It's crazy to think that in one week I'll be leaving for the Rockies. I'm sure you've got your own personal goals too. I'll admit it: I'm a huge dreamer. If you were to look at my travel schedule you'd think I was either stoned or crazy. But if there is something God is leading you to do, commit to radical obedience to the very best of your abilities. He will honor that. The apostle Paul is a shining example of that. Despite all of his hardships he just kept on trucking. It's a beautiful place to stand: in the center of God's will for your life, on the verge of a hundred adventures He has planned for you. Guys and gals, we must ask the Spirit to help us release any fear that stands in the way. Let's allow sweet submission to rule in our hearts and allow the Living Water to saturate our thirsty souls. And you know why, right? That's what God created us for! The Enemy can bend us but he can't break us. And even if he could, God is in the business of turning ashes into beautiful things.
A final serendipity: I arrived at my Airbnb yesterday in Colonial Heights only to find that Les's headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg was located next door to where I was staying. The house is called Violet Bank and, to be truthful, you'd never know it was there unless you accidentally ran across it, as I did. If you have time, check it out. I enjoyed my hour-long tour of the house and was impressed by its ornate Federal architecture, from the intricate crown moldings to the hand-crafted wainscoting to the original hardwood flooring.
Onward we go -- still trusting!
1) The site of my personal half marathon.
2) I barely came in under 3 hours!
3) My Airbnb room. Sweet!
4) Violet Bank.
5) Impressive architecture.
Thursday, September 22
9:40 AM Grandsons are awesome.
9:28 AM Later today I'm starting a two-day prayer retreat, praying while walking. "We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books," wrote Frederich Nietzsche. "It is our habit to think outdoors -- walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful." For me, walking is more than an activity. It's a chance to forget the pressures of life for a time, throw off the burden of cares, escape the constraints of work, and focus your mind on spiritual things and the needs of others. To those who don't walk, this simple description of walking appears as an absurdity, a form of enslavement. Well then, I am a slave to something I guess. A human being is a moving two-legged creature. We are meant to walk. After Becky's death I became a walking machine, in need of intense solicitude. When I wasn't climbing in the Alps I was walking everywhere in Zermatt.
When you walk vertically (i.e., when you climb), you look down on the world and your fellow human beings. It's an amazing perspective. There is a quest for a different Light. Think of an author who composes while walking or a musician who thinks up tunes while ambulating. The body on a walk rests in a swirling meander of wide open spaces. I think I could walk all day long. There is a sudden happiness, a sense of magnificent health. When you go "outside" you pass from one "inside" to another "inside." You transition from domestic concerns and breathe in the lively freshness of a fall breeze. (Yes, fall started yesterday.) You live in the landscape, flourish in the fauna, luxuriate in the life all around you. Speed doesn't matter. Time stretches into space. When we are walking, the body has time to absorb God's magnificent creation.
This is how I walk, saying without pause a prayer to the One who is dearer to me than all else in the world.
9:22 AM Scattershooting:
1) Henry Neufeld publishes his final post about Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
2) Thomas Hudgins asks Does Jesus Hate Titles?
3) Roger Olson notes what's wrong with #Some Lives Matter.
4) Scott Burson discusses his new book on Brian McLaren.
5) Here's how to highlight Greek sentences.
Wednesday, September 21
8:18 PM I still can't believe this book is nearing completion.
I think I've aged 40 years in writing it! Then again, I am the same Dave I was 10 or 20 years ago. Erik Erickson's eight ages of man are present at every stage, every characteristic operating though one is dominant at any given stage. Now in my 60s I realize that I have unused capabilities resident in my body and mind. The real contest of life is within you. I am becoming a person I can be proud of, but the process is agonizingly slow. The philosophy of running is the philosophy of Christianity. We make gradual progress in holiness -- in Christlikeness if you will. The normal Christian life is one of continual expansion and growth. I am preoccupied these days with maximizing what is latent within me. Goodness knows, but I don't have that many years left. To do that one has to become a good chooser. We have to make choices that lead to more and more wholeness in our lives -- which often means cutting out certain habits and even relationships that have gone sour or that are depleting us of our energy and life force. The good news is that life is a sum game. Everyone -- from the first place finisher to the person who comes in dead last -- can rejoice in a personal victory. Our society seems to worship youth and prowess. But I am content to grow old. Older people have a wealth of wisdom to offer. Our churches would be wise to consult them more often. As we saw in our NT class today, there's no substitute for experience. Thus in this book I have given you the results of my life experiences, at least up to the present. Dejunking life has great value. "Travel light," said Jesus. "Don't be encumbered with possessions and things." True life consists of who we are, our character, even if we are broken. There is a time to be young and there is a time to be old. Let's not feel guilty but, instead, enjoy those moments.
7:28 PM I've often likened Scripture to a great cathedral. It doesn't take an expert in art history to recognize the beauty of a cathedral and its grand architecture. What drove people to construct such magnificent edifices? Amazing. And yet the Scriptures -- ah yes, the Scriptures. How sublime, how precise, how magnificent, how grand! Here's a sampling from 2 Corinthians that we looked at in our Ph.D. seminar last night.
Paul's list of his sufferings is not accidental. The list betrays a pattern that is clearly discernable in the Greek. Paul writes beautifully with no imperfections. And what's more, he is not trying to be "ornamental" but rather has his readers in mind, as all good writers do. For my Power Point of this text, click here -- and be prepared to be blown away. Notice, too, how hard the ISV and The Message labored at trying to bring out these patterns in their renderings of this passage. Other than one or two infelicitous renderings, Eugene Peterson hits the ball out of the park. Leads one to ask the delicious question: "How many other passages contain such exquisite architecture?" Are there other "Notre Dames" yet to be discovered in the Bible? I'll admit it: I am a syncretist. I love to integrate Greek with linguistics. Bible study is a very personal matter. But it can never be done in a vacuum. For those seeking to read the Bible as great literature, the study of Greek will most certainly not be a waste of time.
P.S. A thousand thanks to Dan Heimbach for his lucid, compelling, and deeply important lecture in our NT class today.
Tuesday, September 20
8:36 AM Last week's NT class featured my colleague Ken Keathley. For his essay, "Confessions of a Disappointed Young Earther," go here. (I love writers who are smart enough to be cynical but who choose not to be.) This week's class will host yet another of my colleagues, Dan Heimbach, whose topic will be homosexuality. Dan has written an excellent book on the subject called Why Not Same-Sex Marriage. This is a gutsy-book and an absolute must read. In our Advanced Greek Grammar Ph.D. seminar we're celebrating Greek morphology this week, if such a thing can be "celebrated." I believe it can, as we will see in tonight's class. Finally, in our Greek 1 class we will introduce adjectives of the first and second declensions, words such as agathos and kalos, and show how Jesus called Himself the "good-looking" shepherd.
Thanks to all of my students this semester. You're the greatest. It's fun truth-seeking and rabble-rousing with all of you.
8:22 AM So the mission of God is for all of us. It's for you and it's for me. But it's not our mission. It's His. "God is a fountain of sending love" (David Bosch). So there's no other option but to go. "Go, send, or disobey." No. All of us must be going. All of us must be intentional about the gospel. More demands await us. Even when you're dog tired, as I was this weekend. Older people can still be active for the kingdom. We also need time for renewal and reflection. That's a lesson I learned this weekend. Or should I say, re-learned. We pray, "Take from our souls our strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace" (words from that great old hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.) Anna and Simeon may have served God in the temple but they also took time for prayer as they waited for the Messiah.
Source of all peace, I am the biggest klutz when it comes to resting. You know that. Help me to find that creative balance between being and doing, between being active and being quiet. Let me never be so old as to cling to outmoded habits. Help me make the final innings the best ones of the game. Let me work hard daily at practicing the words of Paul: "I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content." Thank You for the gift of this day. Help me to make it count for You. Amen.
Monday, September 19
8:28 PM This was absolutely the strangest weekend. I left for the airport on Friday morning in two pieces. Half of me was excited to be seeing my daughter Matthea and her family again and speaking in their church in Birmingham -- at their first ever missions conference no less. The other half of me was totally spent both physically and spiritually, the tears welling up every time I thought about Becky. I pondered: How in the world am I going to keep these two halves together this weekend? It was the Perfect Storm, a Trifecta no less. First, there was my anniversary last Sunday. Then there was the UNC presentation on Thursday. Finally, my manuscript hung over my head like the Sword of Damocles. All of these put me into a dance where I didn't know the steps. I arrived in Birmingham and checked into a hotel where I slept for 48 hours. It was wonderful, just sleeping and sleeping and sleeping and sitting and then sleeping again, doing absolutely nothing and talking to absolutely nobody because I so wanted to be in top form on the Lord's Day. I woke up Sunday morning with a headache and a cough, feet dragging, and drove to the church and spoke twice with all my tenuous strength, then went back to my hotel room and crashed and burned a second time. When I woke up, I had run out of legitimate excuses for postponing my editing work, so I sat myself down, said a prayer, and then -- pushed through. All of a sudden I was finished. Every chapter was edited. Suddenly everything was right with my world again. How have I been blessed like this? What caused my headache and fatigue to suddenly disappear? What gave me back my appetite? The sun set and I went out and ate a delicious supper, took a long walk, and prayed a Hebrew blessing, the Shehecheyanu: "Blessed are You, our Lord God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion." I know this doesn't make sense, this feeling of being so exhausted one day and so relieved and exhilarated the next, this reluctance to edit when the results promise so much, this storming the gates of heaven on behalf of the lost, the poor, the billions who will never hear about the love of Christ unless we become fulltime missionaries and tell them of a victory that was won two thousand years ago on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. I am by no means a wise man, but I think I'm beginning to discover that God's power is best seen in our weaknesses, and that if we wait upon the Lord we will not grow weary. (Thanks, Matt, for the reminder.) Over the past two and a half years I've seen this truth played out time and time again, have taken massive double-takes, have realized repeatedly that I'm an image-bearer of a beautiful God, a God I saw so clearly in the solo my granddaughter sang in church yesterday in memory of her Mama B, and in the testimony of Sarah who teaches English to Chinese students, and in the passion of normal everyday believers who can't wait to build their next church in Brazil, and in the average church members who are convinced that gospeling is not just the job of professionals. All of this is what makes my life so worthwhile, this not knowing what my tangled existence will look like from day to day, this adventure God has me on. And even in my darkest hours I can still see Christ clearly, and my Daddy makes sense to me, and His Spirit sustains me.
Strength and weakness. They go together, to me. It's just who I am, I guess.
How about you?
1) Here was the venue for the conference.
2) My precious granddaughter Katherine sang "In Christ Alone." She wasn't the only person to get choked up by the words "Till He returns, or calls me home ...." Thank you, sweetheart, for so honoring your Mama B!
3) My topic was the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia (aka, discipleship is always costly).
4) Here's Matthea and Jon along with Katherine, Carter, Caleb, and Christian. Love this family!
5) Here Sarah reminds us that the mission of God is not limited by geographical boundaries.
6) Her summer English camp is what some might call "missions in reverse" as she shares the Gospel with visiting students from China.
7) The Brazil team. Happy looking bunch, eh?
8) Sisters reaching out to their sisters with simple deeds of love. Wow. Go WMU!
How I wish I could have hung around to hear the other three speakers this week. I know that those who can attend will grow in God's grace, in their knowledge of biblical truth, and in their compassion for the nations, including our own. Thanks to pastor Jon and his staff for organizing such a marvelous conference. I trust it will be the first of many catalytic events in the life of their church. Meanwhile, I will continue to pray for a mighty missionary movement among all God's people and that each of us would be an instrument in His hands, not only locally but internationally and cross-culturally!
Friday, September 16
6:58 AM I'll be speaking in Birmingham this weekend. My message? Every Christian is a missionary -- God's representative -- in his or her own corner of the world. In our school, in our home, in our job, we meet people no other Christian can. Some of my sub-points:
It's game time, folks. And guess what? Jesus does not play the game for us. We have to carry the ball. And we carry it best when each and every one of us steps up and meets our personal responsibility of living with gospel intentionality. But remember: He's right at our side, encouraging and challenging and directing and rooting us on. We needn't be afraid or discouraged. We need only follow the Leader.
My thanks to Nate for keeping a close eye on the farm while I'm gone. And thanks to all of you for your prayers. During this trip I have to complete my final reading of Running My Race, but every time I try I start crying. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I never realized what an emotional toll writing this book would have on me. It's an old fear of mine, this I-can't-do-it mentality. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see only what I lack. So if I get through the manuscript it will be a miracle. But it will be enough. I've got to believe that He's not going to let me down now.
Thursday, September 15
7:56 PM Those of you who've been reading this blog for any length of time know that I have tried to share freely about God's hand and purposes in our suffering as human beings. In many ways cancer is a blessing. Once your life is touched by this disease, you see life as a gift, and every day of your life becomes precious. Cancer puts an urgency into your life. Cancer makes the everyday unique, the ordinary magical, the commonplace one-of-a-kind. Once you can see death plainly, you begin to live.
God has continued to encourage me through my journey with cancer. One way He has done this is through the Becky Black Memorial Fund He inspired me to set up several months ago. It seemed only appropriate to start this fund as a way to honor Becky's memory and to thank UNC in Chapel Hill for their excellent care of Becky for four and a half years. Well, it is with great joy and excitement that I can announce that we have finished our task. Today the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center received a check for $25,000, earmarked for the cutting-edge research on endometrial cancer that Vickie Bae-Jump is doing in her lab.
I love these people. Yes, UNC is a functioning hospital where cancer patients are treated. But it's the people that make it the special place it is. Look at your own life. The most satisfying parts of your story have always involved people. And so I want to say "thank you" to all the people who have meant so much to me over the past few months.
I once saw a sign that said, "Things go better with Jesus." It was a takeoff on the old Coke ads. But Jesus isn't the coke that complements our hamburger and fries. He is the meal. I don't know how to say this without sounding like a nut case, but Becky's going to heaven makes me want to go there too. Her death lifted my eyes from this world and set them on the life that is to come. Heaven has become my passion. I know many of you feel the same way.
Until then, folks, let's love God and follow Jesus. Really, nothing else matters. If you ever doubt what to do, just love others like Jesus loved them. And maybe, just maybe, our faith and love can motivate people to love others actively and practically. A Christian faith like that speaks louder than words.
11:30 AM I love a good hole in the wall restaurant and none is better than the Packhouse in Halifax, VA, located on Hwy. 501. It's definitely worth visiting for its delicious food and country ambiance. I met there this morning with one of my doctoral candidates who lives in Lynchburg.
It's all part of the mentorship I do with my students. We chatted over our excellent breakfasts in a relaxed atmosphere. Check out the Packhouse the next time you're in the area. As far as I'm concerned, "hole in the wall" is a total compliment!
Wednesday, September 14
6:52 PM This and that ...
1) Lunch with one of my fine doctoral students yesterday.
2) The latest pic of Peyton ("Mr. Blue Eyes"). He's growing up!
3) My thanks to my colleague and friend Ken Keathley for his guest lecture today in our NT class on the subject, "Why Adam and Eve Matter."
It was a fine talk. It's incredible to think just how many people deny that Adam even existed let alone that there was a fall. Ken, by the way, is the co-author (with Mark Rooker) of an excellent book on human origins (and other topics) called 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution.
Gotta boogey. Time to wash clothes and cook supper!
Tuesday, September 13
7:14 AM Just took this pic from my front porch. Every bit as spectacular as the sunrises I saw all last week in Hawaii.
6:54 AM Yesterday I was reminded: I climb because I love it. That's a really good feeling. It's something I do where I get exactly what I want in return. For some climbs it takes less than an hour. With other climbs, I prefer the longer haul. And the height doesn't really matter. Last July I climbed the Zermatt Klettersteig (Via Ferrata).
It was the most difficult and (I think) satisfying climb I've ever done. It took me 4 hours to ascend only 1,800 vertical feet. But climbing is not just about summiting. It's about effort, it's about flow, it's about finding your equilibrium so that you can climb higher and smarter and more efficiently the next time. So be forewarned: The first time you go climbing or rock scrambling, it might change your life. When you attack a mountain you discover all kinds of things about yourself:
Climbing is all about vertical movement. And it assumes several forms and shapes: bouldering, ice climbing, indoor climbing, and my favorite -- mountaineering. Mountaineering itself requires lots of skills that I am constantly developing: rock scrambling, downclimbing, snow climbing with crampons, safety skills, etc. Mountaineering is all about challenge and perseverance. Is it dangerous? Sure. But, like anything else in life, climbing is only as safe as the person doing it. For me, climbing begins in the parking lot and doesn't end until I'm off the summit and safely back at the car. When climbing, life is brought down to the basics: skill, experience, and lots of effort. At times you have to push through your doubts and fears (like I did on the Klettersteig). At other times you have to be willing to back off when you sense the conditions aren't right (like I did on the Matterhorn in July). At all times, you will need a guide with enough experience and training to get you through the really hard places.
That said, I really don't want to talk about climbing or even photograph it. I want to just do it. This mountain is my first goal for next summer -- the Riffelhorn (9,603 feet).
I plan to climb it with my expert guide in preparation for the rock scrambling I'll need to do on the Matterhorn. Whether or not I summit any of these mountains, one thing is sure. Climbing is a lot healthier than sitting on my okole watching other people accomplishing their goals. And I try to remember that it's not the mountain we are conquering but ourselves. Climbing is ultimately an adventure, as this sign in a store window in Zermatt reminded me:
It says, "You feel it too: Adventure lies on the other side of the known ways." Yesterday's climb was an adventure. My quads held up like champs and I never got tired. Other than a small blister on one of my toes, the climb didn't hurt at all. Most important of all, the climb was fun -- which is a pretty good feeling given all of the activities I've been involved in lately.
Sometimes I feel like I'm living an adventure movie.
Monday, September 12
5:12 PM Fair warning: This post has LOTS of pics.
Central Virginia is my absolute favorite part of the state. I'm talking about the fabulous Lynchburg-Charlottesville region, where farms abound and where there are hiking trails galore. So off I went to the Blue Ridge to commemorate my marriage to Becky 40 years ago. My destination? The Humpback Rocks Trail just outside of Afton, VA -- a hike of about one mile to the top. But you know me. I much prefer loop trails to out and backers, so I decided to piece together a custom hike that combined the best of both worlds: The Humpback Trail and the famous Appalachian Trail. All in all, the hike took me about two and a half hours from start to finish, and though I didn't rush I made the summit in less than half an hour. Please note: This is a strenuous trail. It requires good hiking boots (not just hiking shoes) and trekking poles (at least if you want to save the wear and tear on your knees). Also, be aware that the Humpback Trail is marked by blue blazes whereas the AT has white blazes (which also appear less frequently). It's really easy to get lost unless you pay attention to these markers. Once you get to the top of the mountain, there are two peaks you can scramble up. I was by myself for about 15 minutes when another hiker showed up. We chatted and then snapped each other's photos as keepsakes (and to prove our machismo). I really hope you will consider doing this hike. As I said, you could do it in less than three hours. The view from the top was superb (see video below), and the difficulty of the hike only adds to the fun.
Yesterday, on my drive north, I decided to stay at yet another Airbnb (as I did in Hawaii and Geneva). The house was in a very quiet and rural neighborhood and I had the entire upstairs to myself -- including a nice bedroom suite with a half bath and an entire bath on the same floor. The owners, Anne and Malcolm, live there with their puppy Scamp who is just adorable. They were wonderful hosts. Anne was even kind enough to make me breakfast this morning (uber-delicious natural pancakes with real butter and real syrup). And don't be surprised when Malcolm takes out his Bible and reads a chapter from the Psalms over breakfast. Delightful!
Yesterday I also paid a return visit to one of my favorite historical sites in Virginia -- Jefferson's Monticello ("Little Mountain"). As you'll see in the following pics, the weather both days was superb and perfect for photography (even if all you have is an iPhone). This region would be fantastically gorgeous when the leaves are changing their colors. (I think fall is my favorite season of the year.)
On to the pictures!
1) Here's the quiet and serene home where I stayed last night. The house is called Twin Oaks, and here is the link in case you're up this way and want a superb place to spend the night. Sure beats a hotel any day.
2) Malcolm, Anne, and the ruler of the roost.
3) My cozy upstairs room with complete privacy.
4) I snapped this pic just before taking an excellent 40-minute guided tour of this famous house. Can you believe the weather?
5) In downtown Charlottesville enjoying my anniversary dinner last night: chicken-fried steak, Bec's favorite.
6) Time to hike!
7) A bird's-eye-view.
8) I think I made pretty good time on the ascent seeing that I am an old fossil.
9) And here's my descent along the AT.
10) As I said, you have a choice of either just doing the Humpback Rocks hike or combining your hiking with a portion of the Appalachian Trail. If you've got the time, I strongly recommend doing the loop.
11) The Humpback Rocks Trail is very well marked with these blue blazes.
12) It starts out easy enough but, believe me, it gets harder.
13) As I was saying ....
14) Seems every trail I've been on lately has had steps near the summit.
15) Time for the final push.
16) Made it!
17) Enjoying the view.
18) One last peak to go.
19) Man, I think I found my mojo!
20) Enjoy the view with me.
Sunday, September 11
9:42 AM "Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary." L. R. Knost.
Last week in Hawaii was amazing. My heart practically stopped at the incredible views I was privileged to witness. The past two and a half years have been like that, full of beauty and joy and smiles and laughter. The "highs" have been there -- literally.
These past two and a half years have also been filled with unspeakable pain, fear, sorrow, and doubt.
And they've been everything in between.
This is called life.
Today started out just like any other day. But it's not. It's my 40th anniversary. I'd be flat out lying to you if I told you I was okay. But when I look past the scars I see His face, the face of the One who asks me to be content in every situation and to trust Him in plenty or in want. I'm going out of town. This old house is just too big and too quiet for me on a day like this. I'll do what every self-respecting widower does and go out and climb a mountain, one I've actually never climbed before. Because amidst the darkness, a light is shining. Hope and healing are present to those who trust in God's unwavering love. So now you know how to pray. Pray that I will trust God and not only thank Him but rejoice that this is where He has led me because He loves me, wholly and unreservedly. Becky was an amazing woman. If I live to be a hundred years old I will carry her memory with me. I know God is using her death to mold me and shape me into a better Dave. He is teaching me so many lessons. There is life after death and joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing can come to even the most broken lives.
I think that's what L. R. Knost was speaking about. Life is amazing and awful and everything in between. And so anywhere I am, whether in the exhilarating climes of Hawaii or the Alps or driving along the mundane country lanes of Virginia, I should be running towards my Savior. If that's the only legacy I leave in this world, it will be enough.
P.S. Here's the other GoPro I wanted to show you. The trail was a disaster -- muddy and slippery. But the view at the top? Wow.
Saturday, September 10
5:56 PM First off, just got hay up. It was lots of fun. It threatened to rain but the storm decided to pass us to the north. Like I've mentioned before, this always amazes me -- how God keeps our hay dry when we're baling. To say I'm grateful is a huge understatement.
Second of all, as promised here's a GoPro of the Diamond Head Trail.
It's a great hike -- very crowded but very enjoyable. I set a personal best by topping out in just over 18 minutes. The trail is completely paved so even the unfittest person can do it with breaks. I hiked to the top and then jogged part of the way back down. The trail begins on a wide pathway that leads to a series of switchbacks and then to the first set of stairs. From there you climb through a tunnel and climb another set of stairs before reaching the WW2-era bunkers at the top. Once at the summit you are treated to a fabulous 360-degree view of southeastern Oahu, including Waikiki, Hawaii Kai, and Koko Head. Rails and fences make the experience as safe as possible. Be sure to try it on your next trip to the Islands!
2:26 PM Well, I've been officially on the "mainland" since 6:30 this morning. I let the beach in Kailua do what it does best -- heal. I use surfing to clear my head and quiet my mind. And the waves? Well, last weekend they were huge thanks to the two hurricanes (I forget their names) that skirted the Islands. In addition, I got two great hikes in: Diamond Head and the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. Most importantly, I helped kick off our Greek class in Kahuluu. Usually when I get back from a trip like this I want to stay home for a while, but my time in Hawaii has actually reignited my Wanderlust -- my desire to travel and see the world. It's part of the crazy microadventures the Lord has me on these days. At any rate, I'll post a few pics now and maybe a couple of GoPros later of my hikes. I am beyond stoked for my trip to the Rockies in a couple of weeks. I can't imagine a greater contrast from the beaches of Hawaii.
Bye for now!
1) Waikiki Beach from the top of Diamond Head.
2) "My" beach.
3) Korean kalbi.
4) Atop the Kuliouou Ridge.
5) Our Greek class included a homeschooling family.
6) One of a thousand sunrise photos I took at Kailua Beach.
7) Presenting a couple of my books to the Kailua Public Library.
8) "His splendor was like the sunrise. Rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden" (Hab. 3:4).
Thursday, September 1
6:36 PM Here's a book of mine.
It was open on my desk as Dr. Welty spoke about the Christian apologist yesterday. It's a book I hold very dear. It desperately needs to be rebound but I can't part with it. It's a treasured friend. It's always there when I need it to offer guidance and support. It's the best book I've ever read, and I've read a lot of books. It answers life's most important questions: who we are and why we're here. Favorite books are like favorite people. They change you. They are guides on the path. They often have a great deal of experience, much more than you do. They both awaken and cement our self-awareness. They allow us to enter other minds. Books have a critical place in my life, but no book has affected me more than this one. It's fun teaching other people how to read and understand this book. I thank God for this book.
7:52 AM Ah, September. Big month. Trips to Hawaii, Alabama, and Colorado. Celebrate my 40th anniversary. Present the Becky Black Memorial Fund check to UNC Hospital. Fall begins. (I'm ready.) Running My Race appears. (You'll love the cover.)
And good news: The blood work from my annual physical came back yesterday. Everything is good, including my PSA. Vitamins B and D are normal. Liver and kidney functions normal. Cholesterol and blood sugar normal. Late in life, I still have energy and even have new goals. I almost have to laugh, like Abraham and Sarah did when they had a child in their dotage. They named their son Isaac -- "God has made laughter for me." They probably thought it was a joke when God told them they would have a baby at their age. I've done my share of mourning in the past two years. But there's also been a lot of laughter. "A cheerful heart is good medicine" wrote Solomon. May there always be laughter in our lives. In spite of all the pain we have known.
Time to lift!