December 2017 Blog Archives
Friday, December 29
6:48 AM The marathon has been called "Every Man's Everest." Almost anyone with a modicum of health can train themselves to run/walk 26.2 miles in 6 hours or less. It helps if you can check your ego at the door and learn from your mistakes. I'm just not built to run marathons. Yet the marathon is one of my top life experiences, right up there with surfing Sunset Beach or climbing the Breithorn. I savor each step, amazed at how far I've come. And the finish line is just the beginning.
Weather on race day in north Dallas? Not looking as bad as it looked a few days ago. They're now calling for partly cloudy skies with a high of 30. The wind will be out of the northeast at 13 mph (oy!), and the humidity will be a pleasant 37 percent. At the start of the race we can expect temps hovering around 20 degrees. So that's what they call a tease!
The course is pancake flat but I'm not expecting to set a PR or anything like that. The strategy is to maintain a fairly even pace if possible. I rarely set specific time goals but I do hope to finish around 6 hours. It all depends on how the old bod holds up under the strain of the cold. Anyway, the race needs volunteers to staff the packet pickup stations, so I've volunteered for tomorrow night from 3:00 - 6:30 pm. Granted, I should have been volunteering years ago, but it's not too late to get caught up I reckon. One of the good things about keeping a blog is that you can go back and review the races you did in the past. I remember my first marathon in Cincy last May as being cold and windy. Plus you had to cross the mighty Ohio twice. There are some days when I think I'm too old to worry about such things. Maybe I should just stay in good enough condition to get out there and not worry about times. However, something invariably happens when I get to the starting line. When I put on a race number, I'm ready to rumble. I may not look like a gladiator, but I feel like one.
The spirit of competition is buried deep inside the human psyche. If I can come in 699th out of 700 runners, I'm going to give it my best shot. At my age, being victorious is largely a matter of making peace with my limitations. I simply try to do my best. But once I'm on the course, I'm not looking back. I'm a long distance ace.
In the end, my race matters only to me. Running, almost as much as the Bible, has taught me how to live. My own two feet have taught me the meaning of triumph and failure, pleasure and pain. As a runner you have to dig deep within yourself. There you discover that you are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. Maybe it's time you signed up for your first 5K, as I did three years ago. I promise you: You won't have any regrets. Look for a charity race in your area and get started. Who knows? You might become a regular on the running circuit. We're never too old to push ourselves to excel, no matter how crazy it may seem or how small the rewards may be.
I won't be running between now and my race on New Years Day, so I thought I'd gander over to my Map My Run app and see how many miles I did this year. Including walking, running, hiking, and cycling, these legs of mine took me exactly 1136.2 miles. That's the distance from Washington DC to Oklahoma City. My weekly averages were 19 miles, 4 hours, and 4 workouts. Calories burned totaled 2,569. In 2017 I also started seeing a physical therapist/personal trainer. She's great. She tells me how awesome I am and sends me on my way until our next visit. She tells me about foot turnover rate and the like. (Makes me sound like a pro, eh?) Happily for me, she treats me like the science dummy I am and puts everything on the bottom shelf.
Well, this ends the year 2017 blogging-wise. I've enjoyed the ride with you. See you in 2018, Lord willing.
Happy Newness Year (Rom. 6:4),
Thursday, December 28
6:48 PM I nearly did a back flip when I went to the mailbox this evening and got this report from UNC.
The leading essay featured the cutting-edge research Dr. Vickie Bae-Jump is doing on endometrial cancer and the $25,000.00 donation to her research that many of you helped make possible.
Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women and has been on the increase globally. The number of women dying from this form of cancer has also been increasing disproportionately to its rise in incidents. Vickie, I'm so proud of the work you're doing. My prayer is that the Lord will grant you success in all your endeavors. And to everyone who donated to the Becky Black Memorial Fund I established when I climbed the Alps, I am so grateful for you. I can never thank you enough.
8:55 AM Of all the things I'm thankful for right now, a love of Bible study ranks first and foremost. Perhaps I should have rusted out by now. I started teaching in 1976. That's before most of my students were born. But our minds are more elastic than we think. Humans are resilient beings. We bounce back from hardship and grow in ways we never thought imaginable.
A full life is not the same as a full calendar. You can be very busy and still lose your first love (Rev. 3:1-7). In my life, I'm struggling to make a change. I want to notice, really notice, what the Lord is trying to teach His people through His word, and that includes my study of the short epistle of 1 Thessalonians. I have so many things to do on my schedule that I lose the ability to listen, to connect. So today, let me try to share with you a few truths I'm learning from chapter 1 of this letter. I'm ravenous for truth -- truth that changes lives, my own first and foremost. So here goes nothin'.
1) Paul had no orphans. Paul was into disciple-making big time, just as His Lord had commanded. I have no hesitation whatsoever in regarding this as the main ingredient in my own life. I believe that careful nurture made the difference between a Dave Black who was content with an overt, one time commitment and a Dave Black who sought after an experiential Christianity. Several months after founding the church at Thessalonica, Paul engages in "after-care" of the first magnitude. Our shallow, slap-happy form of Christianity will not change unless we do the same.
2) After-care shows itself in a myriad of ways. If Christianity is to attract anybody to its Master, it must have a faith that works, a love that labors, and a hope that remains steadfast through persecution. I imagine the Thessalonian believers were quite the talk of the town. I imagine their congregation was well-known for the way it joyfully cared for the needs all around them. A Christian congregation was never intended to be a private hobby. The gathering exists only for the going. I bet the Thessalonian community was a friendly place. Evangelism was in their life blood. They had a radical openness to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was allowed to have His way.
3) There's another characteristic of the Thessalonian community I find attractive. They took example seriously. They realized that following a good example -- and setting one -- is a vital part of Christian living. I can see warmth and lightness of touch emanating from the congregation. They were eager to follow Paul's gentleness and his commitment to sharing the love of Jesus with others. They were Christians (little Christs), not Baptists or Methodists. If Paul believed in personal evangelism, sure as shooting they were going to as well. The atoning work of Christ on the cross was taken with all seriousness, as was the utter sufficiency of His death for our salvation. Mission was a central tenet of their philosophy of living. In this they were merely following the example of Paul -- and Jesus.
4) Did you notice how Paul calls his readers "brothers and sisters"? (Yes, the term is inclusive.) This seems to me to be one of the main emphases of the congregations I've had the privilege of visiting in Asia. What matters is not their social status but that they are spiritually alive, sons and daughters of the same Father. Wherever I go, I'm called "Brother Dave." All they want to do is understand and apply, without addition or subtraction, the teaching of Jesus in Mathew 23. I have to confess I'd like to see this happening more in the States.
5) Finally, the Thessalonian believers were eager for their Savior's return. Were they pre-, mid-, or post-? I doubt this question was even raised. Here's what I think they did know: The bride of Christ is undeniably a sign of the coming kingdom. It's a significant but small manifestation of the way God meant human beings to act and relate. But this old world is merely a proving ground for the real deal. The kingdoms of this world have not become His but they will. One day the meek will indeed inherit the earth and the saints will indeed judge the world. Meanwhile, we are living for a coming kingdom. We are merely pilgrims and strangers on this earth. As a result, we are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds. Eugene Peterson puts it this way:
Christian friend, beware of any deals with the devil to get the kingdoms of the world by a short-cut. The way -- the only way -- is by the cross, and we travel this road with our Lord, bidding farewell to the wisdom of the world and "eagerly expecting the coming of God's Son from heaven."
Wednesday, December 27
6:38 PM 18 things I'd like to do in 18:
Okay. So that's more than 18. What can I say. I got on a roll. Now it's time to cook supper. Korean bulgogi.
1:45 PM Been bench pressing all morning. Now it's time to rest before my afternoon run. But first a few "Thank You" notes:
1) Thank you, Amazon Prime, for free shipping.
2) Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful lunch of cream of chicken soup with garlic and a salad of green cabbage, romaine lettuce, kale, and carrots. (Wow, Dave is such a health freak.)
3) Thank you, Google, for online recipes for raisin muffins. (Well, I guess he isn't such a health freak after all.)
4) Thank you, Jesus, for a New Year!
9:40 AM Morning, folks. Here's my analysis of 1 Thess. 1:6-10.
In doing a colon analysis like this one, the first step is identifying all of the independent finite verbs. You'll notice that although this paragraph has 7 finite verbs, only 3 of them are independent verbs -- the ones marked in blue. The 4 dependent finite verbs are colored green (because they're all envious of the blue verbs). There are 3 Greek conjunctions that move the paragraph along; these are marked in red because they are such hot items and should never be neglected. There you have it, folks. The Dark Ages are past. Fiat lux and all that.
And hey, if you're wondering why anybody should go through all the time and trouble of doing this ...
It's obvious that there are 3 main colons in this paragraph. Each contains a major idea. Now I have to tell you something, and it's bad. The verses in our English translations can hide all of this. By breaking paragraphs down into individual verses, our Bibles leave the impression that every verse can stand on its own. This is how most of us memorize Scripture, right? Fact is: You can't automatically follow the verse divisions in your Bible. I'm sorry, okay? I told you I'm the type to look for connections between clauses rather than verses. Now, as we inventory our analysis, we're back to the 3 colons and what they might be emphasizing. Perhaps I could summarize the paragraph this way:
1) Imitation is the highest form of flattery. In other words, Christian education is likeness education. Be like Paul, who was like Jesus!
2) Keeping the Good News to ourselves is not very appropriate when we can choose to do the opposite: trumpet it forth.
3) Are you weird? I mean, in a good sort of way? I really, really like how this paragraph ends. The message is clear: Until our Savior returns, we are to joyfully and scandalously serve King Jesus.
As I write this I ask myself: Are you ready to adopt this way of thinking, Dave old boy? I mean, adopt Jesus' version of "kingdom," "rich," "blessed," strong," "generous"? I'm starting to see 1 Thessalonians with fresh eyes. I hope you will too as you read and meditate on it.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
8:45 AM My favorite German chorale:
"Außer dir soll mir auf Erden/Nichts sonst Liebers werden." Exactly!
Tuesday, December 26
8:12 PM Somebody please hit me with the stupid stick. Yo blogger's so dumb. I drove all the way to Raleigh only to find out that all of the showings for Darkest Hour were sold out for the entire day. Of course, it never occurred to me that the day after Christmas might be a whopper of a shopping fiasco. I'm probably not one who is susceptible to fits of disgust, but even I blurted out "Bleurgh!" So what, you ask, did I do today? I drove home and frenzied myself about class preparations. I took the doggie for a walk. I fed the animals. I cooked supper: Szechuan pork over rice. (When my mojo goes down the drain, I eat.) Sorry. This has been a totally uneventful blog post. But you know me. I write about my day as it happened, not necessarily as I planned for it to happen.
Looking ahead, Monday's marathon in Texas will be an exciting event for sure. You run for 6 hours. You give your body a beating. A chunk of metal is placed around your neck and you're given a popsicle. You waddle to the car and drive home in pain. You take off your shoes and admire your black and blue toenails. You take a hot shower and send texts and pictures to your friends and family. You nap. Then you go out and celebrate with family. You are sore. You are stiff. And you are enjoying every minute of it. The marathon is the race of races for an old fossil like me. It's the ultimate challenge. But it's worth every hard-earned mile. I can't imagine my life any other way. I knew I was hooked when I finished my first marathon in May. Now it's number 7. I run because I'm a runner. Because I feel good about those days when I'm engaged in physical activity. Because running allows my body to rebuild itself over and again into a body that will be stronger and healthier for the Lord's service. Because I can.
The high on race day is predicted to be 18 degrees. Yes, I said "high." That will feel warm compared to the low of 8 degrees during the night. Oh, wind gusts of up to 17 mph are also being forecast for race day. WAH. Oh, but there's good news. No snow in the forecast. Not a flake. Always something to be grateful for. But hey -- what do you expect when you run on New Years Day? There's only one thing to do during a cold weather race. Well, three things. Stop your whining, suck it up, and remember that you get to this do. Amazon's delivering this to me on Thursday.
No, not the gorgeous head of hair. The fleece neck and face warmer. Praise the Lord. A Noble Prize for whoever invented the thing.
It will be a very interesting race, to say the least.
Back to my warm fireplace, my dog, and The Killer Angels, my book about the wo-ah.
7:35 AM My daughter Matthea has begun working with a ministry called Freegrance (a play on "fragrance"). The whole idea is to fight human trafficking in Asia and elsewhere. According to their website:
They offer both soap products and apparel. (Thanks for the idea, Jesus!)
This is precious, of course. If discipleship doesn't include any sacrifices, then it's not discipleship. Even a pagan writer, Lucian (130-200 C.E.), could write of Christians:
I know, I know. This isn't easy. I'm trying to reduce consumption so that I can give a bigger chunk of my money to ministries like this one. Plus -- I love sudsy soap! (I'll pass on the earrings, however.) I have some sweet memories of the girl my wife and I helped take off the streets of Addis many years ago. When all the talk today in our culture is about bank accounts and tax savings and the rising stock market, the church takes on the same gluttonous attitudes. That's not only not Christian, it's boring. Words move me. "Our vision is to help women vulnerable to human trafficking by helping them start businesses and bring their products to market under the Freegrance brand." We each decide where our dollars go, and I'm not trying to be preachy here. But please do take a look at their website and, if you can, buy a bar of soap. If each of us did just one act of kindness every day it would unleash a torrent of justice in this world of ours.
Meanwhile, you all know I've been working on doing colon analyses. Here's 1 Thess 1:2-5. It's only a rough draft.
But as you can see, the paragraph is amazingly simple. First of all, you have your typical "head" -- "We give thanks."
This is followed by three Greek participles that explain the "when," "what," and "why" of Paul's prayer. You don't have to understand Pythagorean Theorem to see this:
On the "prominence" side of things, I think it's pretty clear that Paul's moving from "The Thessalonians and who they are" to "The missionaries and who they are." This is called a "shift in expectancy." (I think. I'm technically not a linguist.) So while you are there at home quietly sipping your coffee and eating a healthy breakfast, I've been producing a colon analysis of every paragraph in the book of 1 Thessalonians. I'm having so much fun, almost as much fun as I'll have when I go to see Darkest Hour in the theater this afternoon.
May Jesus continue to be the bright spot in your dark days,
Monday, December 25
7:48 PM I love me a bike ride. Especially when the weather is cold. This was the toughest part: going over the High Bridge in Farmville.
You're 250 feet above the Appomattox and the wind is gusting, making for a wind-chill factor of 25 degrees. By mile 10 of my half marathon ride, my hands and feet were freezing.
Frostbite!!! My goodness, have I become a stotan?
Did you know it's cold and rainy in Dallas this week? Race day on Monday is supposed to be iffy. Most marathons are run rain or shine, and I suppose that's how it should be. A year or so ago I did a 10K in Dallas that was run during a thunderstorm. The race director almost cancelled the race, but radar showed the lightening moving out of the area by gun time, so run we did. I hope I don't get cold feet (figuratively speaking) a week from today. One of the biggest mistakes new runners (like moi) make is forgetting to put a new set of dry clothes in the car on race day. I have a feeling, though, that I'll need at least a new jersey and sweat shirt once the race is over, if only from the sweat. Also, I'm hoping against hope that I won't forget to take my body glide with me like I did when I ran the Dallas Marathon a couple of weeks ago. Chafing is the worst of evils because it sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug and you don't realize you have it until the race is done. Hey, why run if you don't make a few mistakes along the way?
Today I began writing a complete colon analysis of every paragraph in the book of 1 Thessalonians. No, I am not a medical doctor, and "colon" does not mean what you think it means. This is not a colon:
This is a colon:
Actually, I did this about 20 years ago and even typed everything out, but I feel it's time to do it all over again without peeking at my previous work. Overall I'm feeling really good about what I've done so far. I've stopped for the day, because I'm the kind of guy who likes doing hard things and then being really lazy. (I grew up in Hawaii, remember?) My puppy and I are going to curl up in front of the fireplace in the library and read a book. Yep, it's back to The Killer Angels. Can't seem to put that thing down. I reread it at least three times a year, mostly for its impeccable prose. Michael Shaara, the author, was a sailor, prizefighter, paratrooper, and policeman before he became a professor of English. The Killer Angels earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and later became the basis for the movie Gettysburg. The only book I've received an award for is my Pullet Surprise winning Black's Encyclopedia of Surfing and Skateboarding. Gotten your copy yet?
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
10:24 AM This was my breakfast this morning.
As you know, in 2018 I'm really really trying to eat clean and not fall back into the convenience trap. I want to do better. I know I can do better. I still eat tons of processed food. Oh well. Baby steps ... But I've already come a long way. I am trying to eliminate almost all processed food from my diet. I'm hoping to be greener and buy more organic food, especially if it's locally grown. When I eat well I actually feel more satisfied and healthier. I plan on watching Forks over Knives tonight. I hear it's a pretty good documentary. My head is exploding just thinking about this stuff. Pray for me!
8:22 AM Feliz Navidad, mis amigos! When we needed a rescue, there came a Deliverer. Praise the Lord! Now our supreme goal is to follow Him in obedience and love. My years are now His years. To me, life is Christ. "It is I who can help you. I will take care of everything. Your sin. Your guilt. Your shame. Your needs. Your eternity. Forgiveness freely offered to all, the price paid in full by My blood." Today I thank God for blessing me with these precious gifts. I also thank Him for giving me such a loving family (and blog readership). May this day bring you and yours bucket loads of joy and happiness in Jesus.
As you know, I was planning on leaving this morning to do some serious rock climbing, but my plans are shut down due to bad weather in the West Virginia mountains. They're calling for snow with a high temp of 28 degrees. Not very good climbing weather. There's only one thing to do now, and that's go with the flow. This means back to the gym and the track for me, hanging out at my favorite coffee shop, prepping my lectures on 1 Thessalonians, and taking Sheba for long walks on the farm. Believe me, I'm not complaining. This year we had almost perfect weather with great temps and practically pristine conditions for running and climbing. It's still hard for me to believe that my next marathon is only one week from today. Meanwhile, I've been reading a piece in the New York Times that has me scratching me ol' head. It's called Plodders Have a Place, But Is It in a Marathon? One "hard core" runner who was interviewed said:
Hmm. Just a bit censorious maybe? What do you say to this guy?
John "The Penguin" Bingham, the "slow" marathoner who is the current world record holder in perfect-comeuppances, posted this brilliant response:
First of all, to the elitist runners who complain about us penguins "walking every other mile," I want you to know that I have actually managed to walk two miles during a marathon. So there. Second, who am I to say how fast you should run your marathon? You see, unlike football or basketball, what makes running such a unique sport is that both first-timers and elite runners compete on the very same playing field. In the third place, there's a huge difference between pace and effort. I really don't care what anybody's pace is as long as they are pushing themselves to accomplish their personal goals. Finally, there's no one "correct" way of doing anything in life. Where I work, all of us Greek teachers use different beginning grammars. Our teaching styles are also radically different. Viva la difference! As long as we get the job done, we're good to go.
The bottom line? Once you cross that finish line at the marathon, you become a marathoner. Period. The elite runner's goal might be to win the race. My goal might be to get to the next mile marker without dropping dead. As far as I'm concerned, we've both accomplished something pretty monumental. I will never be more than a very average recreational runner. I run for the fun of it and because I enjoy a good challenge. I've seen mortals of every age, size, and shape cross the finish line. I'm one of them. I'm racing the clock just like everyone else is, and I'm right proud of it. I've read that some runners who were once 3:30 finishers now take 6 hours to finish a marathon. Eventually that will happen to all of us. It's called aging. So can we all just be grateful for the gift of running? As long as we train hard and respect the distance, I think the sport is big enough to embrace us all.
Finally (for now), as promised yesterday, here are a few thoughts about Will Varner's new commentary called Philippians: A Linguistic Commentary. First, it seems strange not to find any mention of the publisher in the book. Maybe it's there and I missed it. If you go online, however, you will see that the book is a "CreateSpace" product. Not saying this is good or bad. Second, there is no table of contents. Third, the book has four major chapters. Each begins as follows: "Analysis of Philippians One," "Analysis of Philippians Two," etc. This approach seems to contradict the author's "most distinguishing principle" in writing (p. 6):
He adds (p. 6):
I love this emphasis on discourse analysis. Student, don't skip this step! But you have to put the meat on the right bones. No discourse analysis (or even rhetorical analysis) of Philippians that I'm aware of sees a major break between chapters 1 and 2. On the other hand, I'm impressed with the way the author handles such matters as ....
Textual variation. This seems to be a real strength of this commentary, more so than its "linguistic" approach. See especially the discussion of 1:1, where we're actually treated to a useful photo of Codex Vaticanus.
Clause structure. See the excellent diagram of 1:3-6.
Verbal aspect. See the discussion of present versus aorist infinitive in 1:21.
Certain discourse features. An example is the prominence the author gives to 2:1-4.
At the same time, each of these strengths seems to have its own built-in weaknesses.
Textual variation. How is the itacism of "Timothy" in 1:1 relevant?
Clause structure. A diagram would have been helpful in several passages where one is missing, not least in 2:5-11. For what it's worth, my own understanding of "Wie der Text spielt" here would look like this:
Verbal aspect. I think there's some inconsistency here. If you're going to translate katergazesthe in 2:12 as "continue working out," why not translate the politeuesthe of 1:27 as "Continue to [or Make it your habit to] conduct yourselves..."? Both imperatives are in the present tense.
Certain discourse features. We read that monon in 1:27 "marks off a new unit" (p. 47). I agree! This is why commentaries begin a new section of the letter here rather than in 2:1.
It's really difficult for me to place this book within the spectrum of commentaries on Philippians. I think it will make an excellent aid for people with rusty Greek skills. They will, of course, use it in conjunction with other books on Philippians as well as the major lexica. From an initial reading of this commentary, I'd have to say it's overall helpful but not as much as I hoped for in a work claiming to be "linguistic." I would view linguistics as incorporating so much more than words, phrases, and clauses. The author admits as much in his opening introduction. It's just that I don't see this philosophy played out very consistently in the commentary proper. In other words, to me the book promises more than it delivers. That said, I want to end this mini-review with a number of quotes from the book that will (hopefully) show you just how practical it is.
These are the words of a gentle pastor who obviously cares about the spiritual development of his readers. I'm reminded of an old Scottish proverb: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it's not at the head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ." This commentary is a good treatment of a wonderful letter. Anyone desiring a careful navigation of Philippians needs to read it.
Sunday, December 24
5:58 PM Today I joined my daughter and her family for a wonderful Christmas eve dinner since they had to be back in Birmingham tomorrow.
Of course, I couldn't wait to sit next to little Miss Karis Lynn, who's already eating big people food. What a a cutie pie!
This week my hope is to do some major rock climbing in West Virginia before leaving for Dallas on Friday. Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all and thanks for putting up with this techno-challenged blogger for so long. I'm in the process of critically reviewing a new "linguistic" commentary on Philippians. My aim is to see if the author has reached his goals of producing a linguistically sound approach to the letter. Till then, let's keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We are all co-rulers with Him. Politics (whether from the left or the right) doesn't have the last word!
7:35 AM The new Google Translate is very impressive. After I finished typing "Do we want to converse in German?" I glanced over to the right, where this German rendering appeared: "Wollen wir uns auf Deutsch unterhalten?" The German is perfect -- both idiomatic and natural. Sure, GT isn't perfect. I like the following example. Here's what you get when Google fails you:
Or when you get lazy:
(They could probably also use a translator.)
Since I know Latin, this morning I decided to listen to the original vision of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" on YouTube. But wait a minute. This looks weird.
The Latin actually says, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall be born to you, O Israel." It certainly seems like somebody dropped the ball here. "Drop the ball," did I say? Hmm, let's try that in Google Translate:
Okay, I'll give this one to GT. How could a machine know I was referring to the idiom "fail to do one's part," in which case the German would read something like "etwas versäumen"?
In the end, maybe it's better just to keep things un-translated.
Back to my Christmas music.
Saturday, December 23
7:34 PM The New Years Double Marathon in Allen, TX is only a week away. As you can see, it's a smallish race.
In fact, the 5K is limited to 600 participants and the half/full marathon is limited to 700. Sounds cozy. It will be the first time I've run an entire marathon on concrete rather than on asphalt or crushed gravel. (I've yet to run one on grass.) Concrete is said to be 10 times as hard as asphalt and therefore delivers the most shock to your legs when you're running. As you can see, however, the course is lined with a grassy surface and I hope against hope I'll be able to do at least a portion of my running on the grass.
No runner wants to have an injury, least of all an injury caused by a running surface. I just hope I will emerge a wiser and stronger runner from the race. I may be biting off a bit more than I can chew, however. Thankfully there's a 7-hour time limit, which is almost unheard of for a complete marathon but one I'll gladly accept.
Ever heard of the "Blue Zones"? Neither had I, until today. While browsing books on Amazon I saw a book called The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest. The author argues that longevity is a combination of lifestyle, community, and spirituality. Since the book sounded interesting (and was cheap), I ordered it. It outlines how the author traveled the world in search of places where people seemed to enjoy remarkably long and happy lives. I also took the author's "Happiness Test." The response was, "Congratulations! You scored high in pride, purpose and pleasure. You have a great balance in your happiness." You can take the test here. I do think I am basically a happy person -- though I definitely have my "moments." I love where I live, I love to teach and meet new people, and I love helping others. I've learned that people come and go in our lives, and I'm at peace with that. That said, I have to admit to having a pretty serious case of Wanderlust. I'm always searching for new horizons, it seems. My home is everyplace. I know that sounds crazy. Sooner or later in every marathon I've ever run, I start laughing out loud. It seems utterly absurd that a normal guy like me could be on the same course as a 2:20 marathoner. Real success in life comes from being willing to take risks. This world is a big place. When asked for His name, the Creator simply uttered, "I AM." He is a God who likes to pop up in some surprising places -- burning bushes, fish bellies, Pacific island beaches, remote villages in India and Ethiopia, even marathon race courses. One of my favorite sayings is by Dorothy Day: "Don't call us saints; we don't want to be dismissed that easily."
Jesus interrupts our lives. We can't, therefore, settle for comfort. He's paving the way ahead, and all we have to do is follow, even when the surface is a concrete one.
1:46 PM Ok, folks. Let me start by saying I never thought (or said) that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is easy. I just want to be clear about that. This morning, after I lifted weights for 30 minutes and ran a 5K at the track, I went grocery shopping. I will never look at a grocery aisle the same way again. That's because I watched the movie Fed Up on Netflix while running.
Food documentaries aren't anything new, but this one grabbed my attention. It easily deserves 5 out of 5 stars. Please don't watch this movie if you're satisfied with your dietary status quo. It really shook me up. Here's an aisle in my local grocery store. I snapped it about an hour ago.
There is nothing here that hasn't been processed. Not one thing. According to the movie, of the 600,000 food products sold in the U.S., over 80 percent have sugar added to them. As a farmer, I was shocked and disturbed to discover that our federal government subsidizes farmers (to the tune of 8 billion dollars a year) to grow corn in order to produce fructose intended to make everything we eat taste great. My only regret is that I didn't watch this movie 4 years ago. Here is the truth: Type 2 diabetes statistics among our children are stunning. Can't we at least help our kids break the soda habit? What most of us don't understand (or if we do understand it, we do nothing about it) is that the sugar in our diet is driving our diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease epidemics. My biggest complaint is not about the movie. It's about me. I've heard all of this a million times before. So have you. We know our food industry is a joke. But do we make any changes in our food purchases?
See this picture?
This is the scene that greets you when you land in the Geneva airport, as I did two summers ago. Bread in Europe is baked fresh daily. Most Europeans I know refuse to eat packaged foods. That's why they go grocery shopping daily. That's what Becky and I did when we lived in Switzerland. Somehow I have to learn how to cook that way again. I can't believe that after Becky died I actually bought Hamburger Helper thinking that it would be an easy and healthy meal for me to prepare!
So what did I buy today? Tangerines. Avocados. Salmon. Pork. Bananas. I actually passed by the Doritos without blinking an eye. I just had a tuna sandwich for lunch, with whole milk. When I assess my recent blessings, becoming health conscious is one of the uppermost. Who knew disgust with the food industry could create such community?
So what does healthy eating look like? Don't ask me. I'm just starting out. But I'm taking baby steps. Our nation is in a nutritional crisis of our own making. Why cook when you can heat up a TV dinner? It's been a devil of a bargain. Not since Becky was alive have I smelt the aroma of warm bread rising. I'm hoping for a way to return to those olden days.
9:15 AM We hear it every day. Diets don't work. I can't loose weight. I had 2 years of Greek in seminary but I couldn't use it today if my life depended on it. I've jogged for three months now but it seems I've lost all interest (and self-discipline). Remember the P90 exercise fad?
It was all the rage on campus a few years ago. Now you never hear about it. Many people I talk to think I took up running to lose weight. Running can indeed help you lose unwanted pounds. You burn tons of calories in a very short period of time. But running (or any form of regular exercise) needs to be balanced with a proper diet and proper rest.
Obviously, this is a complicated topic. I for sure don't have a handle on it. All I can do is live up to the light God has granted me to this point. The truth is, to preserve your vitality and to prevent disease, you need to do two things, as I pointed out in my essay Taking Care of Your Temple:
1) Carefully select everything you put in your mouth.
2) Do some form of exercise regularly.
That's it. Do this and everything else will fall into place, including your weight. You will NEVER hear me say I count calories. You will NEVER hear me say I weigh myself every day. I haven't stood on the bathroom scale in weeks. You know when you're healthy: It's when you're (1) feeling good and (2) looking good. Just look in the mirror. I'll have to admit it: I've never been overly prone toward obesity. I was as skinny as a bean pole in high school. That all changed in my 50s. But I've lost dozens of unwanted pounds simple by exercising regularly and trying to be more careful about what I eat.
Still, I struggle with my relationship with food. First of all, I enjoy eating. Secondly, I don't like to cook. Finally, I hate shopping, whether it's grocery shopping or shopping for clothes. I don't know what the answer is. Yesterday one of my daughters and I went through my pantry. We cleaned out the refrigerator. That was an eye-opener. My hugest, biggest, most gignormous goal for 2018? Learn how to cook healthy food at home and eat out less. This will obviously involve some major dietary and culinary changes. But I'm ready to face the challenge. Let's face it: the ordinary American diet is atrocious! We eat at fast food restaurants, and when we eat at home we eat food that was prepared for us. So change is on the way for this surfer dude. Here are some proto-thoughts (very much still in the distillation phase):
I've ordered Color Me Vegan. This book is NOT just for vegans. It explains the health benefits of a plant-based diet and teaches ways we can make vegetables taste good in a hundred different ways. (Keep in mind: I am not saying I agree with or condone everything in the vegan philosophy.) I appreciate the people in my family who are helping me and giving me advice. I'm going to start with small but achievable goals in the New Year and thus (hopefully) set myself up for success. Remember, friends, you can't embrace the nutrition without the exercise, and vice versa.
Thanks to all who have inspired me with their blogs and notes of encouragement. I'd like to think it's the Lord who's leading me to make these changes in my lifestyle. I know without any doubt that He was the one who prompted me to become physically active after Becky passed away. I think of exercise as a healthy addiction. It's been three years since I threw in the towel on my sedentary, unhealthy way of life. I've completed 5Ks, 10Ks, sprint triathlons, half marathons, and marathons, In 2018 I hope to do an ultra. (Can I get an Amen!) The key, for me at least, is learning how to cook my own meals and how to shop for groceries. I know I can fail in this. How many times in the past have I said "Lord, Lord" and not followed through? But I feel ready. I'm motivated. I'm committed. In the end, it's all about treating our bodies with the respect and care they deserve. Health is a lifestyle, not a passing fad.
So what's your next move?
Friday, December 22
8:35 PM Superb meal tonight in Henderson with the Black family. (Family meals make me SO happy.)
Earlier today one of my grandkids wanted to see all of my racing medals. She took this picture. Now that's a lot of scrap metal.
8:46 AM Salutations to all my cyber-friends on this Friday before Christmas. I'm sufficiently caffeinated to begin blogging, though I have no idea what I'm going to say. Let's start with this morning's sunrise. Yes, even though the weather has turned cold, nothing can stop me from doing my Bible reading on the front porch unless it's a snow storm.
Before there was air conditioning, there were porches. A house without a porch is, well, not a house. I'm actually seriously contemplating joining my local chapter of the Professional Porch Sitters Union. The nice thing about it is that anybody can call a meeting at any time and there are no dues. Anyways, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, here's the cartoon of the day:
Maybe these guys needed more caffeine too.
So what did I ponder anew on my front porch on this cold but clear Friday morning? Nothing other than ... Dun Dun DUN ... Paul's triad in 1 Thess. 1:3. You know: faith, love, and hope. Each word is in the genitive case in Greek, which makes all of them modifiers of the nouns that precede them. Maybe we could bring out Paul's meaning as follows: "We remember how you put your faith into practice (=work of faith), how your love made you work so hard (= labor of love), and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ has been so steadfast (=perseverance of hope)."
(A word or two. One. I don't prefer literal translations. Why bother with Greek if all you're going to is give me the ESV? Two. I love words in the genitive case, but if you feel overwhelmed about them, just skip. But honestly, genitives deserve more love than they get.)
Now, I'm not 100 percent positive about what I'm about to write, but a thought occurred to me this morning. Since I'm looking for connections between various parts of the same letter, could 1:3 be an anticipation of what Paul's going to write later on in 4:3-5:11? There we have three main sections: 4:3-8 dealing with proper behavior; 4:9-12 dealing with proper love; and 5:1-11 dealing with proper preparation for the Parousia of Jesus. Visualize it this way:
I know this is a "quirky" proposition, but it's not the first (or last) one I've made. Way back in ye olden days, I would have never bothered to even ask such questions of the text. The NASB was good enough for me. Now in the new world, I've become a full-blown exegesis junkie. I won't lie. I love doing what I do for a living. Even more, I love asking my students to do the hard work of exegesis despite their lack of sleep and their missing brain cells due to taking too many classes at once. We'll talk about all of this in class, of course. Why, for example, does Paul use so many triads in 1 Thessalonians? (A student will cover this topic on our first day of class.) There seems to be something inherently satisfying about the number 3, don't you think?
Dun, Dun, DUN. (No one would ever say, "Dun, Dun, Dun, DUN.")
Vini, vidi, vici.
Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son.
Three blind mice.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Three little pigs.
Three ring circus.
Three French hens.
Three-point sermons. (2 seems too few; 4 seems too many.)
And my favorite ....
The Three Stooges.
Think about it ....
Well, that's it for now. Today I'm cleaning house. All day. Some of my kids and grandkids are coming over to help me because, frankly, I have no idea what I'm doing. I am so excited to watch them work.
Thursday, December 21
7:44 PM My thanks to Running USA for posting a really informative report about the state of running in the good old U.S. of A. Check out this chart:
What a crazy road trip! First of all, the 5K race remains the most popular event in the U.S., which doesn't surprise anyone because most of us started out by running a 5K at the prodding (nagging) of a friend or loved one. Secondly, although 20- and 30-somethings comprise the largest group of runners, take a look at the percentage of 55-65-year-olds-plus who've been released from a life of sedentary confinement.
We Methuselahs comprise about 12 percent of the running population. See, it doesn't matter how old you are. It doesn't even matter how far or how fast you go.
In many ways, my blog is an invitation for you to discover the athlete in yourself. Today I am stronger than I ever imagined I could be. As a runner, you learn to dig deep, where you discover a mighty reservoir of God-given strength. When I did my 5K training run today, there were good patches and bad patches. In the final analysis, running is teaching me how to think and live and feel like an athlete -- someone who takes risks, reaches for something beyond their immediate grasp, and accepts failure just as much as success. What's most surprising of all is that this beach bum from Hawaii is willing to do the work and put in the miles. Each race that I participate in is a pure gift from God, not an entitlement. I love to run because I know that each step is a step in the right direction, taking me closer and closer to who I want to be mentally, physically, even spiritually. If, just if, I could help you embrace this same outlook on life in 2018, I think it would be the greatest present I could give you this holiday season.
I haven't lived my last best day. Neither have you, my friend.
6:55 PM The term is being bandied about nowadays so we might as well try to define it. It actually comes from a Greek word:
This might be rendered, based on its etymology alone, as "a revealer of figs." Here, however, context and usage serve us better than etymology (as is so often the case with words of Greek origin). A sycophant is someone who bows down and gives praise when they don't mean it. They shamelessly gush over someone they probably intensely dislike. When I was much, much younger, I briefly worked for a man who was mega-rich, crude, and pathologically vain. The moment he began to require obeisance from his employees, I was outta there. This kind of a situation sets leaders and followers up for failure. Again, I come back to the apostle Paul. If there was any trait he was known for, it was his modesty. Only when backed into a corner -- and especially when he felt the truth of the Gospel was at stake -- would he engage in "foolish speech" -- i.e., boasting. Contrariwise, we often find him lavishing praise on his co-workers out of a heart of pure love, as Ellis points out in his essay. Postmoderns will not accept hubris. They will not follow a leader without a limp. The irony is that my generation seems to miss this point. So guess what, millennials? It's up to you to turn things around. Respect your leaders. Show honor wherever honor is due. Fight the instinct to always be right. This is your calling -- not sycophancy. And leaders, earn the right to be heard and followed. You're way more human than you're likely to admit. Young people respect vulnerability. Hold your authority with tender hands.
6:05 PM Among the dozens of essays I'm asking my Greek 4 students to read next semester is this one:
Earle Ellis was a professor of New Testament and Greek at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader of leaders among Southern Baptist New Testament scholars. His Ph.D. was from the University of Edinburgh.
So there you have it. What an acute assessment of what is awry with our views of church leadership today. How profoundly biblical his conclusions. Let's not overcomplicate this, friends. The shepherds are not only sheep themselves; they delight in identifying with the flock. I guess I'd prefer something a bit more like this in our churches today. As I argue in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, a shared table is the supreme expression of Christian equality and unity in the New Testament. Leader friend: Don't fear receding into the team, into the group, into the community. It's your best offering to your one and only Boss/Leader/Lord/Master. So here is my invitation to form your own team of co-workers. I'm cheering you on from the sidelines.
(Side note: We can't go a mile wide and an inch deep when we study a book like 1 Thessalonians. The fact that in 1:1 Paul includes the names of Silvanus and Timothy alongside his own is shockingly disconnected with the "senior pastor"/"associate pastors" model we are familiar with today. Students, brace yourselves. It's going to be one whirlwind of a ride.)
8:58 AM Bwaaaaaaa!!!!!
8:22 AM Happy Thursday everybody! I'm sitting here at my desk when I'd rather be outdoors roughhousing with nature, enjoying the art and play that's called running. All in due course ....
I've been an exegete of the New Testament for 41 years and I'm still trying to explain this self-renewing inner compulsion. The more I study the Bible, the more I want to study it. The more I study the Bible, the more my life has the chance of being influenced and fashioned by my study. At the minimum, I begin with the text. This is where things happen. Reading the text of, say, 1 Thessalonians -- the book we're studying in Greek 4 this coming semester -- provides the meditative setting. Like everyone else, I like to be challenged. I want to find out whether or not I can do this. I want to see how much effort I'm willing to put out ... what I can endure ... if I can measure up to the challenging task ahead of me. But mostly I study the Bible because I'm a child of God, and these are His words to me. The Greek text of 1 Thessalonians consists of 18 paragraphs. Together they merge to communicate Paul's life-changing message. These paragraphs are: 1:1; 1:2-10; 2:1-12; 2:13-16; 2:17-20; 3:1-5; 3:6-10; 3:11-13; 4:1-2; 4:3-8; 4:9-12; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 5:12-22; 5:23-24; 5:25; 5:26-27; 5:28. These, my friends, are the basic building blocks of 1 Thessalonians. There are perfectly good reasons for these individual paragraphs. Every New Testament writing is a sum of its parts. I know of no better way to discover the theme of a book of the New Testament than putting it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It's sort of like being involved in a difficult kind of marathon, a long road of discovery. The aim is accuracy. How well the exegete knows this. At first it appears we are fighting against heat and humidity, hills and challenging terrain. But soon it becomes apparent that my real opponent is me -- the true self who all too often is willing to settle for "nice try." We see again and again the importance of exegesis. As we study the Scriptures, there will never be a day when we don't need guidance from above, energy, dedication, discipline, and the assurance that true knowledge changes lives.
Whenever I check out a new commentary on some book of the New Testament, I always turn immediately to its outline of the book. My experience has convinced me that even the best commentary can have significant blind spots. I just Googled "Sermons on Heb. 1:1-3" and found a very long list. If the sermon is in a series, the next message begins with verse 4. This, of course, is an utter impossibility. The reader of the Greek text realizes immediately that Heb. 1:1-4 is one long sentence. In other words, the first four verses of the letter comprise a paragraph, a basic unit of thought. Suddenly, preaching from verses 1-3 seems much less attractive to me. An inquiring mind doesn't want to get it "almost right."
1 Thessalonians itself has not been immune from a sort of slipshod approach to jigsaw-puzzling. As you know, I'm requiring my Greek 4 students to acquire a copy of Fee's outstanding commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians in the NICNT series. Fee's exegesis is normally impeccable. But his outline of chapter 1 befuddles me.
Here's the Greek text of 1 Thess. 1:2-5. You'll notice that it's a single sentence.
The one disagreement I have with Fee is the way he begins a major new thought unit with a dependent clause (Greek: εἰδότες). How can a section of a Greek letter begin in the middle of a sentence? My approach to such matters has been to go back to the fundamentals. By the way, technology does not spare me the effort. Online aids are not, as they might first appear, energy-saving innovations. Don't believe for a movement that computer software will make things easier. All too often, we abdicate our souls to the gatekeepers. Self-involvement changes something boring into something quite exciting.
Exegesis is a good kind of "hard." But it's not intended to be an end in itself. We evangelicals are inundated with information from blogs and books and sermons. Such is the ridiculous American life. I don't want to study 1 Thessalonians unless I'm prepared to allow God to use my study to change my life. I once read about a university in Oregon that offered a fitness course. Students weight trained one day and ran the next. You might think this repetition got boring. Not so in this class. Why? Because the daily activities were part of a course that prepared the students to climb Mount Mood. That goal transformed the mundane daily workouts into a new and exciting experience.
Each of us must have a mountain (or maybe a hill) to climb. We need a meaningful goal in life. We need something we believe we are incapable of doing. You'd be surprised how many mountains are out there waiting to be climbed, how many 5Ks are waiting to be run, how many courses at your local community college are ready for you to enroll in. All that matters is doing wherever it takes, with God's strength, to achieve one's personal best. That's my prayer for my Greek 4 students this coming semester. A challenging task lies ahead of us. I hope it will provide something sufficiently difficult to increase our knowledge and obedience. Things will change if we put a mountain at the end of our program.
Wednesday, December 20
2:42 PM While driving home from the Y today, on iTunes I listened to what is probably the greatest rock classic of all time, a song we used to listen to over and over again as we drove from Biola to surf at Huntington Beach in the 70s. The guitar solo is absolutely unforgettable. I'm reelin' in the years, or at least trying to. Hope you are too!
9:20 AM Morning everybody! So today it's raining, which means it's the perfect day to set my running goals for 2018. My first and foremost goal is to be realistic. Three years ago I couldn't walk a mile let alone run one. My caveat is to be myself and don't let anything other than personal enjoyment determine my goals. Despite what some of you might think, I don't view the marathon as the pinnacle of running. If you're planning on running a hard 5K, that's just as impressive as a marathon. Running is only as important as we, the runners, make it. That said, I'm hoping 2018 will be another good year for pursuing my marathon goals. Actually, I hope to be able to run my 70th marathon on my 70th birthday, which means a pace of one marathon every month from here to eternity!
Speaking about goals, did you know there's a list of the world's most popular goals? Neither did I. Here's the link. Go #21! The list toppers?
#1 -- Blog
#2 -- Lose weight
#3 -- Write a book
Honestly, I can't believe that "eating more Doritos" and "learning Greek" aren't contenders on the list. What is this world coming to? And can someone please tell me the difference between #3 and #27? By the way, I'm seriously contemplating #100. Now wouldn't that make for an interesting 2018? "Grow long hair and bungee jump with it." Awesome! But back to my running goals .... There are six marathons I have on my bucket list. If the Lord is willing, I do hope to be able to run in each of them before I'm confined to my front porch rocker. They are, in order of importance:
#1 -- The Boston Marathon (as a fund raiser)
#2 -- The Chicago Marathon
#3 -- The New York City Marathon
#4 -- The Honolulu Marathon
#5 -- The Marine Corps Marathon
#6 -- The Athens Marathon
Other people I know have a list that looks quite different from mine. But speaking personally, I have zero interesting in the Marrakech Marathon or the Kilimanjaro Marathon or the Great Wall Marathon or the Reykjavik Marathon of the Cayman Islands Marathon.
As for my eating goals for 2018, I need to make some changes. For the most part I have a good relationship with food. I don't calorie count. I don't gauge how good I'm feeling by what my bathroom scale says. I have a vague notion of what "clean" eating ought to look like. I want healthy eating to enhance my life but not BE my life. I cannot ever imagine becoming obsessed with getting all the right nutrients into my body. That said, I really do need to lay off certain foods (like a snack that begins with the letter "D"). When I first started running a couple of years ago, I lost 45 pounds even though I never set out to lose weight. I'm at a healthy BMI so I don't need to freak out over my diet. Bottom line: My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I want to feed it right. I hope to encourage people who are obese or overweight to take up regular exercise. That being said I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I have my eating act together. I need advice and I'm hoping to get it from a few people I trust. Even though I struggle with food at times, I continue to educate myself. All that matters is that I am active and I am happy, and that I give God all the glory for it.
So that's where my running and dietary "gaols" stand for now. I want to feel good, look good, and live healthy. I'm more concerned about the quality than the quantity of the food I eat. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a ton of red meat. My greatest desire -- O Lord help me to do this! -- is to learn how to cook my meals by scratch and, when I do use meat, to make sure it's organic. What do you think? Are you a clean eater? Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Would you encourage people to follow a plant-based diet? I don't expect to have a perfect body. I'm getting older. I'm plagued with minor aches and pains. But I'm a firm believer that being active gets things moving -- your heart, your blood, your oxygen, your bowels. It gives your mental health a genuine boost. I have yet to meet an "older" runner who's worse off for running than better. Excuses like "I wish I could do what you do" just don't cut it with me. Yes, learning to exercise is hard. But only at the beginning. You must ease into it. The biggest risk of regular exercise is doing too much too soon. Just exercise good wisdom and you'll be fine. Try your hardest to listen to your body. Speaking of which, it's time to mosey on over to the gym....
Happy running, all.
Tuesday, December 19
6:10 PM When ya got a hankerin' for the mountains, it can't be denied. The essence of hiking is leaving your normal life behind, if even for only a few hours. You want to explore the world around you, the world your Creator made. When I left the house this morning I was greeted by this magnificent view.
Two hours later, I arrived at the base of the Peaks of Otter.
As you can see, the place was packed with visitors.
I left the house thinking I was going to climb Flat Top again, but when I realized that I had never done the Harkening Hill Loop Trail I changed my mind.
Hiking is a sport unto itself. And anybody can do it. Literally. Any. Body. The number one health problem in the United States is our sedentary lifestyle. Just going for a walk (you can call it a hike if you like) helps to alleviate that problem.
As you can see, I was treated to an eye-boggling mixture of hardwoods -- from white oak to yellow poplar to red maple to American beech to mountain laurel.
All of these varieties and more thrive in central Virginia. The trail does a lot of meandering. Along the way I encountered some incredible natural rock formations, like this one.
Nature always amazes me! It took me 45 minutes to reach the summit and another 45 minutes to descend, for a total hike time of 1:27:45 for a distance of 3.37 miles.
There's nothing like taking a selfie from the top of a mountain you've just climbed!
Afterwards I pigged out at the local Mexican eatery before heading home to get up hay.
This, by the way, is our last trailer load for 2017.
Can you believe it? It's Dec. 19 and we're just now finishing the harvest! Here's a prayer I ran across today. I just have to share it with you.
This, of course, is Psalm 65:9-13 (NLT). Just more words from a poet? Hardly. They perfectly express the gratitude in my heart today. Go outdoors today or tomorrow, my friend. God is there -- He "whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere" (St. Bonaventure). My time spent on the mountains and in the fields helps me center my life in Him. When I'm enjoying God's creation, I return to my normal life with a renewed game plan, once more on compass to reach my goals in living. In facing life, no one knows exactly what is going to happen or when. The best we can do is be prepared. Being active makes us athletes in all areas of our lives, trained in the basics of living and ready, therefore, for whatever comes.
5:55 AM Baime's The Accidental President has got me hooked. It's informative as well as entertaining.
Truman's middle initial was "S." It literally stood for -- nothing. You see, his parents couldn't agree on a middle name (they went back and forth between Solomon and Shipp) so they ended up with the initial only. Reminds me of the scene in North by Northwest where Eve Kendall asks Roger O. Thornhill what the "O" in his name stands for. "Nothing," came the reply.
One last bit of name trivia then I'm off to the mountains. What does the "S" in Ulysses S. Grant stand for?
His birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, though he usually went by "Ulysses." However, when Grant was applying to West Point, an absentminded congressman wrote the name "Ulysses S. Grant" on the application, and the name stuck. You might say that the meaningless "S" later took a fortuitous turn. After the Confederate surrender at Fort Donelson, Grant's initials "U.S." were said to stand for "Unconditional Surrender."
"There are no handles upon a language...." (Carl Sandburg).
Monday, December 18
4:50 PM We've been busy. This includes a follow-up visit today with my PT (physical therapist/sports trainer). She gave me two thumbs up for my marathon in two weeks. I also realized that I can climb again, which means tomorrow I'm going to try an ascent in the Blue Ridge as part of my training schedule for Mont Blanc. No, I haven't definitely decided to climb MB yet, but if I do end up heading for France this summer I can't wait until the last minute to train. Life never stands still still. We're either moving forward or we're backsliding. Thanks go out to all the first ascentionists who paved the way for the rest of us, and all the climbers who've blogged about their ascent of the highest Alp. Inclement weather is headed our way on Wednesday, so I'll need to make my attempt tomorrow. I'm thinking of doing either Flat Top or McAfee Knob, both of which I've already climbed numerous times. Wherever I climb, I need to remember to keep my focus on God and my gaze upward. I truly believe we better understand the inner workings of our faith when we literally experience mountains and valleys. It's when we're up and down that we develop a deeper reliance on God. When I call out from a mountain pass I sometimes think I can hear God calling back to me in an echo. At times like that I am never alone. He is there. "Life is one mountain after the other," says the Haitian proverb. For years I would stare at the mountains but couldn't imagine actually climbing one. I could only imagine the sense of accomplishment when one reaches the top. God has mountains for all of us to climb. He can handle any size mountain that we face. When I climb I see glimpses of how God is leading my life. Perhaps it's from the vantage point of a mountain peak that we can better see the tapestries of our lives coming together. I'm not a professional mountaineer. But I share their passion humbly. I don't ever want to be removed from a mountain God is asking me to climb if He is using it to grow me. I know He will always be several steps ahead of me, always calling back with words of love and encouragement. So for now, as He grants me strength, I will keep climbing and will praise Him on the mountain. I will search out His ways in the midst of the clouds. I will tell others about my mountains and how I scaled them with my Lord.
Below: The Gouter Refuge on the way to the summit of Mont Blanc.
6:56 AM It's been a wonderful 2017. Like usual, it ran the gamut of experiences and emotions. My life these days pretty much revolves around the Lord, family, teaching, writing, farming, and athletics (many of the photos below are running related). We hear it so often it's almost a cliché: Live each day as though it were your last. The end of a year brings tender thoughts. Seeing just how faithful God has been melts our hearts and dampens our eyes. Just as bankers have to invest their money all the more carefully when they have less of it, so I need to invest wisely what remains of my days. It was a wise Psalmist who asked God not to forsake him when he was old and gray (Psa. 71:18). Paul wanted to finish his course with joy (Acts 20:24). But with prospect comes retrospect. There is a new year to be greeted, but not before rejoicing in the blessings of the past year. I could talk about problems. There were plenty of those. But today, Lord, I want to say thanks for all the things I've listed below (and You know I could have added many more). I've grateful for every one of these memories from 2017.
1) I attended 2 convocations and 2 commencements.
2) I totally destroyed my toenails.
3) I ran my first marathon.
4) I saw another book translated into Spanish.
5) I was endlessly entertained by politicians.
6) I enjoyed a beautiful winter.
7) I biked over 300 miles.
8) I surfed in Hawaii.
9) I finished my sixth half marathon.
10 I hiked Bryce Canyon.
12) I came home to a surprise 65th birthday party, Hawaiian-themed no less.
13) I gave lectures.
14) I dined out with multiple friends.
15) I got up countless bales of hay.
16) I competed in 2 sprint triathlons.
17) I enjoyed grandkids.
For these and easily a hundred thousand others, I offer this prayer of gratitude, Lord. In 2018, I know You will neither fail me nor abandon me. You are with me now and through eternity. I needn't to be afraid or discouraged. I only need to follow You.
Dear friend, are you ready for the new year? The Bible begins with God. Creation begins with God. We can never get off to a good start without Him. Let's bring every new undertaking under His all-seeing eye. If it's time to deal with something, deal with it. Throw off whatever is holding you down or back. Forgive and release those who have hurt you. You can do this. So can I. We will together. Despite our messy lives, God loves us anyway. Let Him use your normal life to minister to your normal neighbors. Just be real. We are capable of a Spirit-filled life in 2018. Cherish what has gone on before, but don't spend your days by the casket of the past. There's a new year to be greeted. Welcome it with open arms. It's but the prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout eternity.
Sunday, December 17
8:10 PM Let's hear it for Larry Macon who just finished his 2,000th marathon at the Rock N Roll San Antonio. So glad for you sir!
If you're tired of the news (fake or otherwise) and could use a smile, go out and watch a marathon sometime.
7:38 PM Aaaah, my library, the coziest room in the house, especially on a cold winter's night. Sheba enjoys it too.
I'm finishing my book about Everest. Then tomorrow I'll be up early again as I have of tons of errands to run and appointments to keep. Should be a busy and pleasant day. I will work out this week but they will be very light days and I'll go very very slowly. I'm feeling strong. I think I may have found my happy place with marathoning. Can you believe how fast things change?
6:45 AM Random musings on a Sunday morning (and I mean random):
1) I was asked to participate in the SNTS meeting this August in Athens in 2018. I decided I'd have to pass because I'm planning on attending the 2019 meeting in Marburg and can't attend both. As for Athens, my hope is to one day run the Athens Marathon, which is normally held in early November. The course begins (of course) on the coast in the town of Marathon, passes the tombs of the Athenian soldiers, and then follows the coast until reaching the city of Athens. The Pathaninaiko Stadium is where the race finishes -- the site of both the 1896 and 2004 Olympic marathons. This year's men's overall winner was Samuel Kalalei of Kenya. The women's overall winner was Bedatu Hirpa of Ethiopia. Each year the course attracts some 40,000 competitors. In 2016, a group of refugees (many from Syria) participated in the 5K event. One of them wrote:
2) The latest about my feet? They are doing great. Even my blister has healed up completely. There are only 15 days before the marathon in Allen, TX. This week my goal is to walk 10 miles, and then begin running again, gradually moving from a 5K to a 10K and then finishing with a long run of 15 miles before tapering. Famous last words I know, but I've got to set goals or else I'll get nowhere fast. The cold weather has just begun in the Dallas area, and the weather on New Years Day is anything but predictable. Running in cold weather requires a different kind of preparation than running in warmer climes. You dress warmer, you layer, and you take extra time to warm up in order to get those molecules inside you going. I've begun paying attention to Hal Higdon's method of training for long distance events. His suggestions include:
If and when I do show up at the starting line in Dallas, there will probably be only one thought going through my feeble mind: complete the 26.2 miles any way you can. Every step takes you a little closer to where you want to be. Man, if that doesn't sound like sanctification -- one step at a time -- what does?
This post includes the word "I" more than a Trump speech, so it's time to move on to my next subject ....
3) It's prep time for my 1 Thessalonians class. Yay! Gordon Fee's bibliography is a rich repository of journal articles on this letter, and I've begun to cull the most important ones for my students to read.
Checked here are Stein's essay on Pauline eschatology and Tuckett's article asking whether or not Paul was familiar with the Synoptic Gospels when he wrote 1 Thessalonians. My own view is that we one can indeed make a distinction between "early" Pauline thinking about the Parousia and his "later" thinking on the subject. As for Paul and the synoptic tradition, I've argued in my book Why Four Gospels: The Historical Origins of the Gospels that Paul in fact had a copy of the scroll of Matthew with him on his first and second missionary journeys, since in my view Matthew was produced by the church in Jerusalem within 10 years of the resurrection. Not all of these essays are in English by the way. I have some students who can read French and German as well. This class will be way too much fun.
4) This evening at 5:00 pm, the Duke Chapel is featuring Organ Music for Advent and Christmas. The program features music by Marchand, Vierne, Conte, Dupré, and Bach of course. Would could be better at advent than listening to "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"? Tickets are free but it'll cost you 5 bucks to park.
5) Last weekend in Dallas, Meb Keflezighi formally retired from the marathon race circuit. On Twitter he wrote, "Competitively racing at the 26.2 mile distance is behind me. Now I run for the love of the sport and have fun at this pace." Welcome to the wonderful world of amateur running, Meb! His "easy pace,'" by the way, is 6.18, and his average speed is 9.5 miles per hour. In other words, he still runs twice as fast as I can. I can't even do my fastest mile at his slowest. But the neatest thing is that Meb gives all the glory to God for his abilities.
Keep running, Meb. You're awesome.
Saturday, December 16
6:42 PM For the past three hours I've been listening to the purr of a Massie Ferguson tractor, the sweetest sound in the universe. I also tried my hand at some photography.
Off to cook supper for Sheba and me. (She loves Chinese.)
12:40 PM The Jolly Elf Run was a smashing success. I got to work in packet pickup. I wish you could have seen the faces of the runners.
They are faces of people who've discovered, as I have, that running is about finding the God-given best in yourself and the best in each other. Tons of money was raised for a good cause too. Plus I discovered today the joy of volunteering. Volunteers make it all happen. They are the heart and soul of the sport.
Exercise is always compelled by something we want to attain. To make a change in your lifestyle, you've got to set goals. Our only excuse is ignorance or apathy. Anyone so inclined can get involved at some level in exercise. I once had a prof say to me, "Never take things easy, Dave. Always take things hard." That's why I picked perhaps one of the most challenging (and rewarding) doctoral programs in the world. Running in races has made all of this plain to me. I am running the race of my life, and I couldn't be happier.
Which race has the Lord called you to? Keep "Running On"!
4:50 AM I woke up at 4:00 this morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Right now the temp is 27 and going down to a warm and peasant 26 degrees at race time. At this moment I'm reading 1 Thessalonians (sort of my daily habit nowadays) and this thought struck me:
All theology is autobiographical.
I see this clearly in the first two chapters of 1 Thessalonians. I also saw it when I was studying Philippians. The order of Paul's experiences in Phil. 3:10 -- knowing Christ, resurrection, suffering -- parallels Paul's personal experiences as described in Acts 9. This thought isn't unique to me. Joseph Hellerman makes the same observation in his fine commentary on Philippians (p. 190). When I wrote my dissertation in Basel -- Paul, Apostle of Weakness -- little did I know then what that book would come to mean to me later in life. I didn't grow up with a "theology of suffering." The theology of the cross was an unfamiliar concept in my happy clappy Jesus Freak circles. When you grow up in a culture that pioneered the concept of beach bumming, theology of any kind doesn't come easily. Then "real" life kicked in. I like to think of those times as pearls. Pearls start out as a grain of sand -- an irritant that imbeds itself in the soft lining of an oyster, which tries to soothe the irritant by secreting a fluid that eventually forms a pearl. The Bible is filled with pearl-producing lives. Job, Joseph, Daniel, and Paul are clear examples. Ah Paul, always turning his biggest irritants into priceless gems. "You know that suffering is part of God's will for us," he writes in 1 Thess. 3:5 -- perhaps the locus classicus on Christian suffering in the New Testament. Hence Paul not only endured his sufferings, he endured them joyfully, knowing full well that the difficulties he faced helped him to grow spiritually.
In my 57 years of walking with Jesus, I've had to rethink and relearn about a gazillion things. The theology of the cross is one of them. In the words of Paul, whom I love and with whom I sometimes feel like I'm a close personal friend, it's all about knowing Christ by experiencing the power that is displayed only in the midst of our weaknesses. About 90 percent of the reason I write this blog is for what it does on the inside of me. (What I lack in maturity, I make up in verbiage.) I believe God because I have to. I am stunned by my intimacy with Him. With God, it's not about a title or a business card. Even if your life is in a freefall, He's there waiting to catch you. He died for us, and He wants us to never forget that act.
My relationship with God, your relationship with God -- it's all autobiographical. It's truly the world's greatest love story, perhaps not the greatest story ever written about but the greatest ever seen.
Friday, December 15
1:55 PM It's freezing out there! Had to do chores and then run errands and I've never been colder in my life it seems. Also got my annual flu shot.
Been rereading my books about Everest, including the autobiography of Sir Edmund Hilary. Mountaineering has a zany attraction for me. Obviously climbing mountains includes physical endurance, strength, and climbing skills. But even more important than any of those things is the ability to exercise good judgment. The weekend I climbed the Matterhorn, two 67-year-old Brits perished on the mountain, having gotten "caught out" overnight without warm clothes. They literally froze to death. Neither of them had hired a mountain guide and had simply gotten lost. Climbers who've had a zillion years of climbing many big summits can still be reckless and irresponsible. Just a day or two before Hillary and Tenzing summited Mount Everest for the first time in history, two climbers from the same expedition, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, had reached the South Summit, only 300 vertical feet below the summit. One of them snapped this photo. No person had ever stood higher on Planet Earth.
Can you imagine how strong the temptation must have been for them to push ahead? Fame and glory awaited them. But they concluded that the risks of climbing any higher were just too great. They knew they didn't have enough time or oxygen to get back down to the South Col before dark. Good decision-making on their part. It saved their lives.
Virtually every day of our lives we're called upon to exercise judgment and discernment. Living out the kingdom of God in the right-now is scary. But I'm learning to take one day at a time and to make one decision before making the next one. Somehow, God holds me together, just like He does the universe. He is always with us, you and me, hiding in plain sight. "The Lord is near" is the way Paul puts it in Philippians. And, because He is so close to us, sometimes the best thing to do is to say no, to back off, to refuse to climb any higher until God gives us more light. And don't forget. You're not the only one worried about your future. God's got a lot at stake in the outcome too. He can use our lives in very extraordinary ways if we'll only trust Him in the very ordinary ways.
So here I am, trying to discern His will about so many things, not the least of which is whether or not to attempt to climb Mont Blanc next July. A large part of my indecision is just trying to figure out who I am. Am I capable enough? Strong enough? Am I being irresponsible? Is it too risky? I feel like I'm caught in massive tug-of-war. I need to decide soon. Flight reservations have to be made. My guide needs to be hired. I need to book our mountain hut. And yet I have no sense of peace. I've been here before. So have you. Thankfully, our limitations aren't handicaps to God.
One step at a time, Dave. Keep your head down and your chin up. Live moment by moment. And be sure to say no if you need to.
10:02 AM Have you enjoyed a "first" lately? As in ... first date, first kiss, first baby, first home purchase, first job offer, first time travelling outside of the country, first sermon, first trip to Disneyworld. Well, tomorrow I'm having a "first." Ill be volunteering at a 5K race in Cary. That's right, not running in the race, but being a grunt. You know, the spirit of volunteerism and all that. When I think back to all the races I've participated in, each event had an army of volunteers to make things happen. These dear people rarely get the thanks they deserve. I think it's high time I began to pay off my debt to these fine folks. The race, incidentally, is called the Jolly Elf Trail Run and here's the website is case you'd like to run --
-- or volunteer. :-)
8:44 AM Today I'm continuing my study of 1 Thessalonians. I'm so in love with this letter. For better, for worse, the Christian life requires bucketloads of perseverance. Our hope in Christ needs to remain steadfast until the end, no matter what the Evil One throws at us (1 Thess. 1:3). Hardship brings about perseverance (Rom. 5:4). And when we persevere under trial, we're blessed (James 1:12). Once we're approved, we'll receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Hence we "rejoice in hope" and "persevere in trouble" (Rom. 12:12).
I can remember saying my "I do's" to Becky on Sept. 11, 1976. On that Saturday afternoon in Dallas, neither us had an inkling of just how much perseverance would be required in our marriage. Last weekend, as I stood on the exact spot where I proposed to Becky 41 years ago, I thought about the vows we exchanged 6 weeks later.
I, David, take you, Becky, to be my lawfully wedded wife.
You know the words ....
To have and to hold.
When we spoke those words to each other, it felt like a rare gift. Others around us were thrilled for this new family, so full of possibility and life. Through 37 years of marriage Becky and I clung to each other.
From this day forward.
Becky and I looked forward to celebrating many anniversaries, to growing old together and watching our grandkids grow up and get married. Life was an endless highway, or so it seemed at the time.
For better, for worse.
As I said, God tests His children. Marriage taught us, over and over, that God is waiting to be found, even when things go wrong, even when people fail us, even when we play hide and seek with Him.
For richer, for poorer.
I don't know if there was a happier time in our marriage than when we lived in Switzerland. We were as poor as church mice and as joyful as larks.
We tap danced through life as though we had hardly a care or a concern.
In sickness and in health.
Marriage is a place of unimaginable beauty and promise. It's also a place of unfathomable suffering and disease and despair. God delights in using broken jars of clay. Like you, during our married life together Becky and I had made the usual number of trips to CVS. But neither of us were prepared for the chaotic journey into cancer the Lord planned for us. Just when we thought we had life all knitted together, one string seemed to unravel the whole ball and left us with a mountain of new questions.
To love and to cherish.
Four years after her diagnosis, even at the end, we still loved each other, perhaps more than we had loved each other before. It was time -- time to make all things right, to leave no leaf unturned, to perform a task that was both enormously daunting and shockingly simple: say our goodbyes.
Till death do us part.
We had a plan, and the plan was gone. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed is Your name, O Lord. The day Becky died, I felt powerless, but even then I knew that although I may be powerless there is always power, and the One who holds that power is both sovereign and good. Because of that power I have learned to say, "I know You are good. I know I can make it."
Each anniversary of Becky's passing, each monument to her memory -- even a grassy knoll alongside a Dallas lake -- feels sacred and beautiful, imbued with something heavy and yet joyful. The present has become the past. I've been transported back to a place and time where I stood 41 years ago -- a wonderful vista brimming over with beauty and color and light.
Thursday, December 14
5:24 PM This evening, with the help of my teaching assistant, I finished writing the syllabus for my Greek 4 class -- a study of 1 Thessalonians and other literature from the Koine period (including the Didache), plus a reading of A. T. Robertson's "Weight Lifting 302" textbook. Our textbooks will be the commentaries by Fee and Weima. The road we'll travel together will be both broad and narrow. Above all, it will (as I write in the syllabus) pursue a learner-centered method in which the teacher (me) is not so much a disseminator of information but a facilitator who stands on the side and leads the class in interactive learning. In other words, I'll employ a flipped classroom model that encourages students to prepare their lessons beforehand so that the class becomes a dynamic environment in which they elaborate on what they've already studied. In short, the class will involve a student-centered approach to learning in which teacher and students play an equally important role in the learning process. You have the keys, guys and gals! My primary role will be (as someone with 41 years of experience) to coach and facilitate your learning and comprehension of the subject matter. Your learning will be measured and assessed by a comprehensive oral exam (privately with me) at the end of the semester. (Brits will be familiar with this practice.) A wise teacher at Biola once said to me, "Dave, all learning is self-learning." Hence a high premium will be placed on a student's ability to read and read well, to translate assigned passages ahead of time, to lead the class in discussion when called upon, and to intelligently discuss various aspects of the text and/or assigned readings. I'm asking them to (1) keep their interpretive translation and/or paraphrase of the book of 1 Thessalonians in a course notebook, and (2) bring to class their completed translations and parsing along with any interpretive and exegetical notes gained from reading their commentaries and other exegetical and homiletical resources. In preparing their translations they're allowed to use any helps available to them, but their final translation must be their own. There will be no quizzes over weekly translation assignments and/or other reading. I expect everyone to be a self-starter. Each student will lead (at least once) the classroom discussion over a section of 1 Thessalonians and/or other assigned materials. A final oral exam covering mostly translation and parsing from anywhere in the book of 1 Thessalonians (without the use of any helps), plus any additional topics pertaining to grammatical/exegetical points we have studied, will be given on the last day of class.
Am I am expert in pedagogy? Hardly. But I think this plan is do-able. Like sitting around a fire pit, the keys are good questions and good listening (to the text and to each other). Obviously, I can't make anybody learn. But at this level, it makes little sense to me to force students to memorize large amounts of information that will either be begrudgingly regurgitated on a quiz or instantaneously forgotten. When we're faced with multiple options, the best course of action is to listen to each other and arrive at an answer that promotes both unity and maturity. As teachers, we are only marker-makers. We leave our mark by being more committed to the message than our methods. If we're arrogant and judgmental, guess what our students will become? Jesus never simply enforced the "rules." He showed others the kingdom. As faculty, we can't shrug this duty off because we are teaching the next generation of the church. Good teaching may involve lecturing or it may not. It may include traditional components or it may not. Thank goodness we all have access to the same Holy Spirit who can fill us not only with knowledge but with passion and power -- and humility.
Can't wait to get started.
12:50 PM Scanning my bookshelves I see nothing on the life of Harry S. Truman. Well, I just rectified that. Today on 1A (NPR) Joshua Johnson interview the author of this new book.
It's already been ordered. Before that I worked out at the Y and then walked for 5K (at a 3.6 mile per hour pace) at the local track.
Finally, I stopped by Food Lion to see if they were finally shelving my favoritest drink in the world. They were!
Right now it's back to writing and then going for a long walk on the farm. It's too pretty a day to stay indoors for very long.
8:12 AM My farm chores are done, so I've been reading the Byzantine Text Theory website and I noticed that someone linked to an essay by Jonathan Borland on Matt. 5:22, where he defends the reading "without cause" (Greek: eike). Jonathan cites my own Novum Testamentum article at the end of his piece, but without linking to the PDF that's available here. This important variant has everything to do with whether or not a Christian has the right to get angry. I'd argue that Jesus is hardly prohibiting all anger. Then why would a scribe want to omit the word eike? If you read my essay you might be surprised at the answer.
Off to the gym.
6:45 AM Hey there folks! Wow, I can't believe it's Thursday already. How has your week been? Mine has been fantastic. I'm still enjoying a total runner's high. I was shocked at how good I felt throughout Sunday's race. This was a hard marathon but I'm pretty pleased with the results. Here's yet another boring picture from the race. (I purchased them from Marathon Photo and I'm determined to get my money's worth out of them.)
A few post-race thoughts ....
1) I've been asking myself, "Will I ever PR again in the marathon"? Is that even possible? I think I know the answer: I need accept that I am a 6-hour (or so) marathoner and be happy with that. I need to learn contentment and move on with my running goals.
2) I was thinking yesterday about how much the little things in life mean to me. A text from a friend. A photo sent to me by one of my kids. A warm house. A puppy who is as faithful as faithful can be. The little things keep a smile on my face when the days are dark.
3) I am nervous and excited about the upcoming marathon in Allen, TX. I expect the weekend to be full of fun. Between now and then I'll be working hard to prepare for the race, including more stretching of course. I'm meeting with my PT again next week, and she's going to teach me more stretching exercises that I can do at home or anywhere for that matter. I'm like a sponge in that I can't seem to get enough instruction. I have 18 days until race day. So the official countdown is on. This week, however, will be one of rest and relaxation.
4) I am thankful for being able to run. Betcha didn't know that! Running has brought me new friends, a new mission field (everyone needs the Lord, including runners), and relief from stress. I have the best family, who form a great support team. They are funny, caring, and provide unconditional love. Without these wonderful people in my life, I wouldn't be where I am today. Although I don't say it out loud every day: "Thank you."
5) Life is all about balance. I'm a firm believer that you can't overdo anything in life. Yes, I run, yes, I train, but I also teach and write and bike and climb and lift weights and blog and spend time with the fam and sleep. I try to eat "clean" but I'm not an über-freak about my diet and will never eat food only from the local whole foods store. I don't believe in the "perfect" life. That's one problem I have with so much modern worship music. It's so often just happy-happy-happy, Jesus-Jesus-Jesus. There's so little nuance. It's all white without any gray or black. As a musician, I'll add that, in my opinion, modern worship music has plenty of light (truth) but very little salt (attractiveness, beauty, artistry, musicality). Once again, the whole Christian music industry seems to be out of kilter, out of "balance" if you will. Look at nature. After every fall comes winter, and every winter leads to spring and summer. It's an annual reminder that a similar dance awaits you and me. Light is balanced with darkness, fruitfulness with periods of barrenness. It's all a part of the natural life cycle. And the best news of all is that one day, maybe soon, the spring of springs will burst forth and we'll finally stand before our Lord, our Savior, the King of kings. But for now, let's accept the good with the bad, the sorrow along with the joy, the happy days with the not-so happy days.
6) Finally, I've been thinking about New Years resolutions. Here are a few I'm working on.
Wishing you a terrific Thursday and a fabulous Friday,
Wednesday, December 13
9:40 AM I am officially a marathoner x 6!
I left for Dallas right after graduation on Friday. I arrived at DFW, picked up my rental car, and then drove 40 minutes to mom and dad's home in Murphy, just northeast of Dallas.
On Saturday I was up bright and early. 5:00 am is a good wake up time on vacation, right? Since the expo in downtown Dallas didn't open until 9:00 am, I decided to get some grub at the local Denny's and then drive to White Rock Lake, where I was sooooo happy to be able to find the spot where Becky said "I do."
The expo on Saturday was pretty cool. I found this massage thingamabob that is out of this world.
I actually bought one to bring home with me.
I also made a contribution in the name of the Black family to the memorial fund in honor of the 5 slain Dallas police officers who were killed last year. They gave me this cool hat in return.
At the expo you could sign your name on the race banner.
Yes, girl, this one was for you!
Since the race was sponsored by BMW, I decided I'd purchase one of their new convertibles. Well, at least I did buy this pair of sunglasses. They make me look hardcore and I'm sure they will make me a faster runner in the future.
After the expo I got a pedicure since my toenails are too thick for me to cut myself. I was trying to get as ready as possible for the race on Sunday. My feet, thank the Lord, were feeling good. Mark it down to all the stretching I've been doing. 26 miles is a long way to run, in case you didn't know. It's actually a long way to drive if you're stuck in traffic or riding in an Amish buggy. Everything's relative I guess.
For supper on Saturday we all went out for Ethiopian and then I got to bed early. Race day dawned cold but clear. I was up at 5:00 (again) and drove to the Dallas City Hall, where the race was scheduled to begin. I had 3 plans going into the race: plan A, plan B, and plan C. Plan A was to finish under the six and a half hour time limit feeling good. Plan B was to finish under the six and a half time limit feeling lousy. And plan C was to finish under the six and a half hour time limit without croaking, like Pheidippedes (the first marathoner) did a couple of millennia ago. The race was pretty normal for me:
I got to my corral at about 7:40 for an 8:10 start. Before I knew it, the countdown began. The horn sounded, the fireworks went off, and we were running.
I was feeling good even though almost immediately I began to develop shin splints in my right leg.
Thankfully, by mile 3 they were gone. I got on pace and stayed there. By mile 10 I was struggling. That's pretty normal for me. My mind was completely on the finish line. I knew I couldn't possibly PR so I just kept focused on moving forward as hard as I could. The "hump" came as we started running around White Rock Lake. I took this picture flying home yesterday. It gives you a pretty good idea of the distances we ran from downtown Dallas (upper right) to the lake (lower left) and back.
At first I enjoyed the gorgeous scenery (and it is a beautiful lake), but after several miles of seeing nothing but water you eventually tire of the lake and keep wondering if you'll ever get around it.
Again and again, you push past your fatigue.
Once you've passed the lake, you begin to run back into the downtown area. At about mile 24 I passed the Criswell College building, where I've been privileged to lecture several times. Classic architecture for sure.
Eventually you begin to hear the crowds at the finish line. The relief I felt in crossing it was indescribable.
I was so happy to be done and so proud of myself for finishing. Then I looked at the race results. Not only had I finished the race before the six and a half hour time limit, I had finished with a time of 6:02:56!
I didn't PR, in fact I didn't even come close (5:44). But I had done it. My sixth marathon! The race medal is super cool.
It even stands up.
And the race shirt? O man, it's the softest piece of fabric I've ever had on my bod. You likie?
By the way, the Dallas Marathon is a bit unique for being such a large race (25,000 or so runners). It doesn't have any world-class elite runners from places like Kenya and Ethiopia because there's no big-dollar payoff. We're all serious athletes but proud to be amateurs. The origin of the word amateur is the Latin word for "love." By definition, we run just for the love of the sport. I run about 99.9 percent of all of my races alone, but I'm beginning to talk some of my kids into running with me in 2018. Now, I'm not complaining. I love that I'm embracing a really challenging hobby and that I haven't given up (yet). But it will be fun to run with family members, and we all know that being family is really, really, REALLY vital.
As I said, my feet felt great during the race, but that's not to say I didn't have any problems. At about mile 18 one of the decrepit toenails on my right foot decided to press into my shoe. The pain was so excruciating that I had to stop and retie the laces on that shoe. Eventually the toe pain subsided, but the adjustment I had to make to my shoe gave me this beauty of a blister.
One thing I can say about marathoning is that it makes you tough, and not just physically. As I get older, I care less and less about what people think about me. I will run my race. So what if I'm tired? So what if I hurt? Running is an amazing experience. I will never take for granted how blessed and privileged I am to be able to run at all. My advice? If you have even the slightest desire to get outdoors and do a 5K, do it. I promise it will make you a richer person and will instill within you an attitude of "Yes, I can."
Right now I've got plenty of recovery time planned into my schedule. On Monday I slept practically the entire day. Resting actually makes me rest-less, so I have to force myself to take a break if I'm going to get my running legs back. Lord willing, for my seventh marathon I'll be back in the great state of Texas. The event is called the New Years Double and the venue is Allen, TX, only a 10-minute drive from mom and dad's. As you may recall, I had planned to do the Charleston Marathon as my January race but I changed my mind after reading all the negative reviews about the course. Plus, Dallas is an easy non-stop flight from RDU. The only negative about the Allen race is that it's a loop, meaning that you basically run a circular course 4 times. I'm not a fan of loop courses, but just like anything in life you accept the good with the bad, settle into a rhythm, and forget about the negatives while focusing on the positives. If you live in the Dallas area and haven't heard about the Allen race, here's the link. You have the option of running on New Years Eve or New Years Day. I hope to run on January 1st and usher in the New Year with a bang.
Oh, I almost forgot. You've just got to watch this video showing the winner of the women's marathon on Sunday as she (barely) crosses the finish line.
Oh my goodness. It's the marathon finish that makes us all feel like winners. We've all got physical issues when we run, but this woman is my H-E-R-O, as is the high school relay runner who helped her to cross the finish line. Know someone who's down today? Why not pick 'em up so that they can keep on going?
So now it's on to my first race of the New Year. Time to see what this dude's got left.
Thanks for visiting!
Friday, December 8
6:26 AM Well, that's all the blogging there is around here for a few days. You're welcome! I'll make you wait until next week to find out how I did in the marathon. (I know that's all you'll be thinking about.)
Have a great weekend. Make each minute count. Drive to excel in all you do for the Lord. I'm going to try to.
5:58 AM Gather around, dear readers, so I can offer both leadership and a confession to a serious matter. Today is graduation day. For many of my Greek students, their seminary education comes to an end. Exams may be over, but questions remain. How will you fare, student? How will I? It all depends on our "maturity."
The Greek term for maturity is teleios. It can refer to physical maturity, spiritual maturity, and even mental maturity. Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician, said he had two kinds of disciples: those he called "babies" (nepioi), and those he called "mature" (teleioi). The mature students not only had a mastery of the rudimentary elements of the subject; unlike the babies, they also went on to put their knowledge to good use. "What kind of a student am I?"
Baby Greek students rejoice that their degree program is over and passing grades have been earned; they are pleased to have Greek on their transcript; but they have forgotten the vocabulary they once memorized for quiz purposes, and they have neglected their paradigms and principal parts. "Mature" students are not content to remain at the elementary stage of instruction. They not only review what they've already learned, they apply it to the reading and study of Greek. Knowledge is important to them; but even more important is the application of that knowledge. I've had students who receive "A"s in Greek but who never open their Greek New Testaments. They fail to receive the real riches of their studies. Their unflagging effort to get a good grade has dissipated, and all is soon lost and forgotten. A year or two later, when I ask them how their Greek is doing, they admit to still being babies and no nearer to maturity than when they began their studies.
As I type this post, I look back and see how I've done this very same thing, maybe not with Greek, but with a host of other subjects. I once was really good at biblical Hebrew, but now not so much. The Spanish I once spoke in Southern California is almost history. I know I need to read more in systematic theology, but I'm too lazy to do it. I'm just saying there's no place here for finger pointing. It often happens that we defeat ourselves by starting out well on milk but never going on to meat. Arrested development is no less a disaster in one's intellectual life as in one's spiritual life. I'm not implying that we reach complete knowledge or complete maturity. But if I fail to "leave behind the elementary teachings" and allow the Holy Spirit to "carry me on to maturity" (Heb. 6:1), I can't see how that pleases God very much.
What to do then? Here are a couple of suggestions. Read a few verses of Koine Greek every day. And that includes the Septuagint as well as the church fathers (if you start with the Didache, as I recommend, you will want to use William Varner's excellent handbook as a companion volume). Do your devotions in the language. Take your Greek New Testament with you to church. Acquire and maintain a good working vocabulary. Visit Daily Dose of Greek. It's true that all these tasks are difficult. It's true that our lethargy and laziness will often get in the way. But one of the saddest sights is that of a solid foundation wasted because we have refused to build a superstructure on it. Will that happen to you? To me? The choice, I reckon, is ours.
Thank you soooooo much for all your hard work in my Greek classes through the years. You matter so much to me. Now let's take our successes and failures and keep on going. I hope the world will see in us a community that is teachable, always learning and maturing, as well as a community that is determined to build one another up, a people who show love in small and big ways. Let's take our knowledge and give it to Jesus. He can make magic with it, I assure you.
With much love and appreciation,
Your (former) teacher,
Thursday, December 7
11:28 AM Okay. Term papers are graded. I spent a couple of hours at the Local Amish bakery gettin-er done.
Afterwards I hung out at the gym. Long time readers of my blog (all 3 of you) will recall that I joined the local Y a couple of years ago. Today I did weight lifting because my new PT told me I needed to lose those "love handles" of mine. Weight training is a great idea especially when your body is carrying around extra pounds (ahem). I don't think I'd push myself so hard at the gym if I didn't have race goals out there always dangling in front of me. My plan for the race this Sunday is just to run/walk at whatever pace feels good. I'm not sure just how well my feet will be cooperating with me, so there's no sense in setting any time goals other than finishing before the 6.5-hour course time limit. Whatever happens, I will savor every second of the race and soak up the experience, good or bad. No matter how painful my feet become, I'll be grateful for every step of the way.
Since my term paper grading is done and I'm now bored, I thought I'd check the 2017 stats on my Map My Run app. Here are the numbers (rounded off to the nearest mile so you don't think I'm OCD or anything):
Calories burned: 142,900
Distance: 19 miles
Time: 4 hours
Calories burned: 2,569
Distance: 2,400 miles
Time: 485 hours
Calories burned: 326,277
For those of you who've been waiting anxiously for these stats, I guess today's your lucky day! My favorite miles this year came from running the Flying Pig Marathon. Crossing the finish line in Cincy changed my view of running and made me realize I can do -- and want -- more. My cup still overflows from that moment. I could sit here and write more on this as a ton of emotions are flowing through me right now, but I've got chores to attend to. An early "Happy New Year" and prayers that you run strong in 2018!
5:44 AM The best book about the attack on Pearl Harbor is probably At Dawn We Slept. The best movie is Tora! Tora! Tora! Did you know that the leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, became a born-again Christian after the war and traveled the world sharing the love of Jesus? You can read his incredible story here and here. Below, Fuchida is pictured with the American who led him to Christ in 1948 in Tokyo.
Listen, that war was horrific. The good that came out of it is less obvious. Moms and dads, use this day to teach your kids something about history. We don't live in a bubble today. The past is still with us and should never be forgotten. Every kid also needs to know that when society goes off the rails, Jesus will hold them fast. He is ever faithful. He is the most trustworthy Savior they could ever have, and they will never be alone.
So here's my invitation to you. Share with your children something about what transpired 77 years ago today. You can be truthful without being gory.
Then remind them of some good theology: The love of God is greater than anything, and more important too. Teach them Paul's instruction often: "If it's possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone" (Rom. 12:18). Tell them they can create a better story for their generation than we did with ours. Peace is happening all around us, but it doesn't happen automatically. It happens when we do the hard work of Shalom.
Off to grade papers....
Wednesday, December 6
5:38 PM I know this is the ultimate in cheesy cheesiness, but here's the sign I'll pin on the back of my race jersey this Sunday. I designed it myself. Like it?
Let's face it. I'm hopelessly nostalgic. Can't wait to run past "the place of places" along the course -- where I proposed to Becky Lynn Lapsley 41 years ago. Over time I've discovered something very interesting about myself. Though every day is chock full of God's amazing grace, I notice it about as much as I notice gravity or the air I breathe. That ought not to be. So what I'm going to do is pursue the future path God has for me while not forgetting to be thankful for the past blessings He's so kindly allowed me to experience. Becky was a huge part of that blessing, that grace-filled life, that provision and protection of God. Maybe the sign on my race jersey will remind another runner that they, too, are the objects of God's grace, regardless of the hard knocks they've experienced in life.
The weather in Dallas, by the way, promises to be absolutely perfect for a marathon. Sure beats the snow they're calling for in Raleigh on Friday afternoon.
Should be a very exciting race weekend. Like everyone else, I have a love/hate relationship with the sport of running. But every race brings me joy in some form or another, even if it really beats ya up. Even the "worst" run makes you feel good because you've gone out and done something really hard with your body. When I first started exercising regularly I could barely walk a mile. Now I can run for 13 miles without stopping. Even though my pace and times haven't gotten much better, I'm pleased and thankful that my overall health and energy have improved consistently. I walk when I need to, and when I'm done I feel great because I did something I didn't think I could do. When I look back at the past four years, filled with sorrow over Becky's loss, it's like there's a bright new path I've been walking on and didn't even know it. Ever felt that way? In hindsight? What gives me hope is that God is always near to grant me strength and faith to keep moving forward. I trust you're experiencing the same thing, my friend. God keeps His promises. All we have to do is see.
4:32 PM Well, classes are taught … exams are done … grading is mostly done … and (other than for commencement on Friday) the semester is finished. Aaaah. Closure. Always a good feeling. As far as my training goes, I did a 10K at Joyner Park yesterday. I also made an appointment at Breakthrough Physical Therapy in Wake Forest to see a therapist about my feet and to get someone to help me stretch my poor aching muscles. I was assigned a PT named Humeera. She was fantastic. She's got a doctorate in physical therapy from a school in Boston and really knows her stuff. Whatever also can be said about my leg muscles, they are tight, tight, TIGHT. According to Humeera, the tendonitis on my left foot was caused by tightness in my Achilles tendon, which in turn was caused by tightness in my calf muscle, which in turn was caused by tightness in my hamstring, which in turn …. You get the (sordid) picture. She also diagnosed a mild case of plantar fasciitis in my left foot. She worked on all of these issues (yes, I have "issues"), and boy did it NOT feel good. But the temporary pain was necessary. It's my own fault for not warming up before races and not stretching afterwards. Honestly, I'm just too lazy to do so. Remember: during a marathon, nature throws everything at you. The only way I can finish a 26.2 mile race is through bribery. Depending on how badly I'm feeling during the race, I promise myself either a Ben and Jerry's ice cream cone or a ribeye at the Texas Roadhouse. Thing is, you know going into every race that it's going to be sheer pain. The easiest way to overcome your negative thoughts is to distract yourself. Even if you're barely able to walk, you have to tell yourself to keep moving. I've climbed 14-thousand foot peaks that way: "Okay, just go another 10 minutes then you can quit." You keep saying that to yourself until you're on the summit. You just have to elbow, punch, round-house kick, and jab your negativity to the ground. My number one motivator, by the way, is people. People like you. Your texts. Your emails. Also, out on the course you make new friends who push you to complete the race. I'd also run with my dog but she's too old. (She's probably looking at me and saying the same thing.)
Speaking of negativity, I notice there's a discussion on the web about which beginning Greek grammar is the best one, and yours truly's has come up for appraisal. Some teachers love it, others not so much. That is to be completely expected. To each his/her own. Which got me to thinking …. (uh-oh, he's thinking again). I imagine that you and I would disagree about a whole bunch of things. See if you don't "agree." Here's a list I compiled because I have so much free time on my hands. (Not.) It's a list of things I like (and things I don't like so much). After you read my list, you can post your own on Facebook. Just pleeeeease don't say anything negative about my beginning grammar. I’m sooooo codependent.
So here's the list:
1. I like wicking shirts. I wear them all the time. All I can say is: Where have you been all my life?
2. Prolly shouldn't admit it, but I dislike cats. Can't stand 'em in fact. I know this makes me un-American, but I think cats make awful pets. Please don't hit me.
3. I like the beach. Especially "my" beach, which is Kailua Beach on Oahu. Studies have actually shown that being at the beach is good for you psychologically. I've spent a lot of time at the beach in my 65 years. Blessed.
4. I dislike announcer speak. Good night, even the new Siri voice uses it. It's totally unnatural and fake-y. I actually remember when people on TV and radio talked normally.
5. I like YouTube. These days I've been watching this amazing Chicago tribute band. I think they're actually better than the original performers.
6. I dislike dress shoes and ties. In fact, let's just throw in suits while we're at it. In short, I can't stand being uncomfortable. Also, you can forget sweaters. I've tried to wear them but they're too confining. Just give me comfortable shirts (see #1).
7. I like to walk. It's a great way to relax and exercise at the same time. It's also a time when I get my thoughts in order. I especially love it when I have interesting scenery to look at.
8. I dislike Coke. Hate it. It's a banned substance in my house. There is no gray area here.
9. I like it when friends leave nice comments on my blog. (Actually, my blog isn't enabled to do that, but I imagine that I would like it if it was.)
10. I dislike Twitter. Period. That's why I don’t use it.
11. I like anything that reminds me of pop culture from the 70s and 80s. (Think: Magnum PI.) I also like memories of growing up surfing at Sunset Beach, Pipeline, Pupukea, Ala Moana, Diamond Head, and Makaha.
12. Finally, I dislike New Year's resolutions. Why do people do such stupid things? Which is exactly why I've made my own list this year (hardy-har):
Run 12 marathons in 2018. Easy cheesy, lemon squeezy. (Yeah, right.)
Claim Sheba as a dependent on my 2017 tax returns.
Stop reading blogs. Totally over-rated.
Eat Doritos once a week instead of five times a day.
Refuel with chocolate milk. Gatorade, take a hike.
Work on my French. It's gotten so bad that I don't even remember how to say "Bonjour" when I'm in Geneva.
Stop freaking out at airports. So flying is a hassle. Deal with it.
Tell my children to stop texting me so often. (This is my attempt at reverse psychology, kiddos.)
Never do another triathlon. Not sure if it's a pride thing or a stupidity thing, but since I'm really bad at two of the three legs, why bother?
Stop waltzing out the door and not telling my kids where I'm going. If I fall off the top of McAfee Knob, who will know?
Volunteer at races. It's time I began to pay back the running community.
Learn something new. Wind surfing?
Oh, I almost forget. We have a visitor on campus these days, none other than Michael Bird from Australia.
I like him not only because he's an interesting and prolific writer but mainly cuz the Bible area faculty got a free lunch in his honor today in the Hall of the Presidents. Thank you, Mike!
Monday, December 4
6:48 AM Happy Monday yall! As a good little worker bee, my week is chockablock filled with meetings, classes, and calculating final grades. Welcome to the last week of school. It's all leading up to commencement services on Friday and then my flight to Dallas. The good news, going into this weekend's marathon, is that I've got very little pain in my feet so hopefully I'll be totally healed before Sunday. There are reasons for me to be optimistic about this race. The course is fairly flat. And the weather won't get very warm (warm weather is always a runner's nemesis). Plus, we're talking DALLAS, man. It's, like, a huge event. I've always gravitated to big races with tons of participants. It's especially cool when you get to meet celebrity runners, like Meb Keflezighi this year. Someday I'd like to meet Jeff Galloway. Lord knows I've got a billion of his books. But I'd probably have to run three yards, then walk three yards, then run three yards again to catch up to him. Folks, running is such pure joy. Even when you're hurting (and everyone is hurting). All you need is the courage to put one foot in front of the other.
But before then I've got another "race" to finish, and I hope to finish well, not least by having my students' grades posted to Moodle before I leave for Texas. I feel they deserve as much, so I work very hard at it every semester. It's one way I can say "Thank you" for all of their hard work. (As a student, you didn't like having to wait weeks for your final grades, did you?) In addition, I'm continuing my study of 1 Thessalonians, including whether the letter ends with an "amen" or not. Jonathan Borland's essay has been very helpful in this regard. He makes a fairly strong case for including "amen" in places where the UBS/NA/SBL texts omit the word. Incidentally, I ran across Jonathan's work at a Facebook page called Byzantine Text Theory. It does a good job of challenging the status quo without (I think) going overboard in its support of the Byzantine text. Some, of course, seem to be Byzantine-priorists, and that's okay in my book. I need to hem and haw here a bit before I say what I need to say, but I have found that the Byzantine text least often stands alone in places of textual variation -- which, in my opinion, attests to its good quality. But I'm not convinced that it should be rehabilitated to the "best" text. I'll have much more to say about this in our Greek 4 class next semester.
Have a great week, everyone. Remember, if you worry too much about the destination, you'll miss the journey.
Sunday, December 3
8:02 PM Tonight all creation praises Him -- the sky, the oceans, the rivers, the mountains, and even the moon.
Imagine. We worship the Creator of all things.
I once published a study of Heb. 1:1-4, where Christ is referred to as the One through whom God created the universe (see #10 below).
As Rom. 1:20 puts it, "By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God created, people have always been able to see what their eyes can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being" (The Message). Paul's point? You don't need a church building to experience the presence of God. He surrounds us 24 hours a day with the evidence of His power, love, and glory.
"Nature is the living, visible garment of God" (Goethe).
Amen and amen.
7:22 PM Been on the front porch watching the supermoon. Which is why I'm linking to this: Supermoon 2017: How to watch (and why). Do go outside tonight if you can.
6:44 PM The book of 1 Thessalonians is absolutely lovely. It's also maddingly filled with all kinds of exegetical pitfalls. Here's a list of some of them. I drew it up this morning while reading the first chapter of this marvelous letter:
I mean, seriously. These aren't simple questions. I plan on exploring them in detail in the days ahead. Exegesis is a difficult calling. God, make us worthy of our calling.
1:36 PM As you know, I've been trying to improve the esthetic quality of my photographs. I very much consider myself a rank beginner in this field. One tip I've learned is to take your camera with you everywhere you go. Also, I've been thinking about my subjects in brand new ways. What would make this an interesting picture? What's the back-story? Is there anything unique about this photo? How can I develop my own style without merely mimicking the work of others? At any rate, my creative juices have begun to flow. Hope you enjoy the following.
1) "Fog over Rosewood."
We don't get fog here very often so I thought this scene merited a photo.
2) "Carrot Tongues."
Yes, I spoil my donkeys with an occasional carrot. It just so happened that they all had their carrot ends sticking out of their mouths at the exact same time.
3) "Sheba's Ramp."
My sweet little puppy is now 13 years old, which is about 74 years old in human terms. She's as deaf as a doornail and can't walk up stairs any more. Here she's using the wheelchair ramp I built for Becky many years ago. Isn't she cute?
4) "David Go Round in Circles."
I like this pic because of its colors. (Awesome job, Garmin!) As you can see, today I did a 5K at the track. I wouldn't call it running, but I didn't walk either. "Shuffled" might be the best term. Notice my average pace: 14:17. To complete a marathon in 6.5 hours (which is the time limit for the Dallas Marathon), I'll have to average a 14:52 pace. That's just slightly faster than 4 miles per hour. Overall, I'm going to aim for 60 percent running and 40 percent walking. Of course, it all depends on how my feet and legs are working next Sunday.
P.S. I never get tired of this cartoon. It's soooo true!
8:34 AM Map My Run just sent me my averages for the month of November. Here's how things panned out:
Pretty crazy when you actually think about it. It was a great month. I had tons of laughter and I shed a few tears. 2017 is about over. 2018 is about to start. I can't wait!
6:50 AM If you're curious about what running a marathon is like or if you just need some inspiration this morning, check out this YouTube of the St. George Marathon. This is the race I ran back in October.
I was waaaaaay behind the elite runners, but I gave it all I had and that's all I ever ask of myself. As I close out my third year of being a runner, I can't help but look back at what's made this sport so enjoyable for me. Each race is its own reward. You can do more than your best on any given day. Every race frees you just a little bit more from being sedentary. As an adult-onset athlete, I don't expect to be a young man again. A victory at this stage of life mostly means getting to the starting line. Trophies and medals don't matter. It's all about finding that un-tapped, God-given source of energy within yourself. I've never won a single race I've competed in, but I've been victorious dozens of times, even if I came in 53,478th place. Running can teach us to live with the dramatic shifts in our lives. Despite the hardships, running allows you to experience moments of unspeakable joy. Those moments of joy will stay with you forever. Right now, looking back at three years of running, I know I'm not satisfied with my accomplishments. But rather than thinking only about what's left to be done, today is a day for honoring them and being grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to accomplish.
If you are graduating this Friday (as some of my students are), I hope you will do the same. Reject the obsession with what you wish you were. Instead, focus on who you are and what you are becoming in Christ. Enjoy every moment of your accomplishment. For just a day, stop trying to get somewhere else. The joy is in knowing that just as God has led you to this point, so He will continue to lead you as you write the next chapter of your life. Being a student isn't a goal or a destination. It's a way of living life. Consistency ... that's what it's all about. Runners know this well. Getting out there consistently, even if it's just for 15 minutes every other day, goes a long way. Consistency simply means not giving up and not giving in. I may not be able to run as far or as fast as I would like to, but that's okay because in the end what matters is the process of running, not the destination. Even today, I'm amused at all the things I've become -- triathlete, mountaineer, marathoner -- all because I decided to begin moving my body with my own two feet. That's what "scholarship" is like too. Don't let your self-doubts keep you from learning more. Take it slow and enjoy each step along the way. Allow your unique combination of talent and dedication to become the tools by which you build the person you most want to become. And be sure to accept whatever hardships God allows you to experience along the way. I'm sure I'm a better person today because I'm a widower than I would have been otherwise. The answer to our loneliness is not found in another person but in surrendering to the One who loves us with an everlasting love. Once we learn to love Him with all of our hearts, He will pour out His love to others through us.
Dear graduate, "May the Lord satisfy your needs and cause your light to rise like dawn out of darkness. May He give you strength of limb. May He cause you to be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isa. 58:9-11).
May you always move in the direction of God's will.
Saturday, December 2
6:35 PM Heard the one about the teenager who had a Chinese character for "love" tattooed on her shoulder? She had no idea that the character actually meant "soy sauce." It's the craziest thing, but I find people getting Greek or Latin tattoos who don't check them out first. What's the point of showing off gibberish to your friends? You say, "You don't really notice those things, do you, Dave?" Yes, I do. Like this afternoon, for instance.
I really enjoyed the Christmas concert. The singers were in good form, and the musical selections were on point. But two of the songs were in Latin -- with, of course, English "translations" provided in the concert program. That's when my left brain started revolting even as my right brain was delighting in the music. Can someone please tell me how you can get "Savior Jesus Christ" from "Dominum Jesum Christum"? Or "the incarnation of the Father" from "Dei Filio"? Or "gatherer of all nations" from "rex gentium"? Or "separateness" from "peccati"? Sometimes I think knowing foreign languages is more a curse than a blessing. The subtitles in the movie The Longest Day? The German and the English are like two ships passing in the night. (I like the movie anyway.) I'm ashamed to say it, but the "small wrongs" that people commit every day are not that different from the ones I so often ignore or rationalize away in my own life. Like the typos on my blog. (Aaaaargh!) Or leaving the dishes unwashed for days on end. (At least they're soaking in the sink.) The opportunities to improve are pretty common for each of us. They're before us every day. It's the people who know how to seize them who are rare. Thankfully, love covers a multitude of sins. In the middle of the concert, I forced my left brain to shut down so that I could relax and "smell the roses." In the end, I left singing "Silent Night" -- with a big smile on my lips.
Even in this age of fuzzified thinking, there's still a lot to enjoy in life.
10:20 AM Ya gotta love living in the rural South. This was my view at 8:30 this morning on my way to the local Y.
Keep in mind: Hwy. 58 is the busiest east-west corridor in all of Southside Virginia. Love it.
Today I mostly worked on my biceps and pects. The Gouter Route on Mont Blanc has some difficult vertical sections that will require some pretty hefty upper body strength. Who knows. Maybe I'm too old for this. We'll see. I didn't walk today as I'm resting my feet. I'm definitely in the waning days of training for the marathon in the Big D (only a week from tomorrow). I'm just trying to maintain my overall fitness and then see how my feet do on race day. The actual race goes through some pretty cool areas of Dallas, including downtown, the Santa Fe Trail, Deep Ellum, the famous "Dolly Parton Hills," and White Rock Lake (where I proposed to Becky). I think I know which part of the course will be my favorite. I'm hoping to get outside again this week for a couple of slow walks. I cannot thank New Balance enough for the great shoes they make. I leave a trail of fire whenever I run in them. (Not.) Right now Accuweather is calling for cloudy skies and a high of 63 on race day. Here's hoping the weatherman gets it right. Either way, it'll be nice to be back in Dallas.
This afternoon I'm going to take advantage of the proximity of the big city of Durham to take in a Christmas concert. It's the Durham Community Chorale's annual Holiday Concert featuring Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and -- get this! -- O Magnum Mysterium. Is it just me, or is this one of the best choral pieces ever written? To listen to it is to be transported to heaven. I thank Morten Lauridsen for composing this incomparable musical work.
Well. I've got my chores to do, so I'll leave you with the best Christmas flash mob video. Ever.
6:10 AM Neologisms are nothing new to students of New Testament Greek. One of the more famous neologisms in the Pauline letters is theodidaktoi (1 Thess. 4:9), meaning something like "God-taught." So when I recently ran across an English word I had never seen before -- nomophobia -- I make the mistake of thinking that it too was based on Greek morphology, assigning it the meaning "fear of the law." Boy was I wrong, as this study in Scientific American reminded me. I'll admit it. I experience "iPhone separation anxiety" (no-mobile phobia) from time to time. When I wake up in the morning I put on my Garmin -- and grab my phone from the recharger. What ever would I do without it? I need to check the weather. I need to answer emails and texts. I need to check the news. When I was a child in Hawaii, time seemed to move along at a snail's pace. Today, life is careening at warp speed. I closed my eyes as a 17-year-old and opened them as a 65-year-old. Putting down my iPhone is an extravagant pleasure. I need to do it more often. Thankfully, the little pleasures of life haven't escaped me altogether. A morning sunrise. The look on Sheba's face when she gets a tummy rub. An old-fashioned workout at the Y. Freshly mown hay. Belching in public. Paying a stranger's restaurant bill. All of these are more magical than anything Apple can provide. The Bible recommends having fun (Eccl. 8:15). It also says to be ready for Jesus' return (Matt. 24:36-39). Maybe there's a balance between those two perspectives. I ought to enjoy God's good blessings while they last. I also ought to be prepared for Christ's long-heralded second coming. It could happen today. Is my heart ready? Is my life in order? Siri doesn't know the answer to those kinds of questions. Only my soul does.
Friday, December 1
7:16 PM I love photography even though I'm not very good at it. But I thought this shot turned out pretty good.
I took it while we were getting up hay and the moon was rising. Of course, there's no possible way I can convey the sheer scope of the scene I witnessed this evening. If there's anything wrong with this photo it's that it has too many details -- always a distraction. I prefer simpler compositions. Oh well, I do hope you like it!
12:05 PM Read 21 science-backed reasons you should take a nap. I'm a believer!
11:46 AM Hey folks! Just finished farm chores with Nate. Had to feed the animals, put up hay, and cut up a dead fruit tree.
Earlier I did a 5K (3.1 miles) at the track. It's just too beautiful of a day to stay indoors. Nature is my number one stress killer. Today people spend 25 percent less time outdoors than people did just 20 years ago, according to a report called Stop and Smell the Weeds. Whether I'm outdoors exercising or working, I keep thinking to myself, "Through Him all things were made. Apart from Him, nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:3). What a great Creator we serve. Don't let your iPhone keep you from noticing that.
Right now, it's time to do some grading and then rest a bit before getting up hay this afternoon. "Productivity is never an accident," wrote Paul Meyer. "It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." Amen to that!
6:48 AM This and that ...
1) Hay there!
We worked late into the night getting up two trailer loads yesterday.
I still can't believe we're haying in December and it's not over yet.
2) Here's an outline of Philippians I found somewhere online.
Philippians in 12 messages? It can be done. I think the outline is pretty creative. I might have made "Partner" plural in #1 but, hey, this isn't my outline. The alliteration is helpful without being annoying. I think the author nails it in what I'm calling the "heart" of the epistle:
I've always had a hard time making decisions. Even in restaurants. Shall I order the same old same old or is it time to try something new? But Philippians teaches us there's one decision that's especially difficult to make. It's the painful process of saying yes to God, which means we have to comparatively say no to everything else. Living for the Gospel (i.e., living for others) is indeed "The Bottom Line" of the Christian life. God demands our complete devotion to His cause. Not a part of it and not even the biggest part of it. He won't share His throne with anyone.
3) A takeaway from Ray Collins' book on 1 Thessalonians:
4) I get a rash just thinking about running marathons. But the Dallas Marathon is coming up in only 9 days. My mind is already turning to Jell-O. It's obvious I'll never have a runner's body. But a runner's soul? Hmm. Maybe. Just maybe.
5) I've purchased 4 front row seats for the NC Symphony's Jan. 13th performance of Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." Mussorgsky wrote this suite after the loss of a close friend. The music is heartbreaking in that context. I have loved this piece since I first heard it performed by the NC Symphony a few weeks after Becky's death. This has actually become my favorite classical piece of all time. You feel like you're walking through the exhibition yourself and looking at all the wonderful paintings. The final movement ("The Gates of Kiev") is unparalleled.
Music has been wonderfully therapeutic for me. I'm experiencing what Jesus meant when He promised, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:2). Praise God!