February 2018 Blog Archives
Wednesday, February 28
6:45 PM Goodbye February and hello March, aka National Celery Month, National Sleep Awareness Month, National Kidney Month, National Noodle Month, National Umbrella Month, National Peanut Month, and, of course, National Trisomy Awareness Month. (I have no idea what trisomy is.) It's also a month of travel for me -- Houston this weekend, DC next weekend, and Raleigh for the Tobacco Road Marathon the following weekend. Right now I hate being so busy. Yesterday I started to sniffle -- badly. There's lots of folks on campus with colds these days. Today my doc somehow managed to squeeze me into her busy schedule. A Z Pac and nasal spray for yours truly. Yes, I could use about two weeks of rest but that's not gonna happen and, okay, it's my own fault. So I venture out. Again and again and again. I give myself the same pep talk every time. You really do love your life, Dave. Funny thing is, I mean that. I really do love my life. I love my classes because I get to teach the best students who ever graced a seminary campus. I love my running because in my old age I've turned out to be a crazy passionate guy involved in a crazy passionate sport filled with fun characters. I love my life because I write blog posts and journal articles and lectures and books that everyone knows will make the world a better place. (That's a joke, folks.) I love the stamina and determination it takes to live the life of Dave Black. I love goals that stare you in the face and push you to become the person God meant for you to be. Life is all about perspective. And attitude. And always about seeking the best for yourself and for others. When I struggle with direction in my life, or with fatigue, or with fear of the unknown, or when the pain of loss rises up out of the ashes of my heart and screams "So I'm supposed to lean into this?", then I simply reclaim Truth. I'm grateful for the extremes of life -- and for all the moments in between. So many people expect perfect and always want more, more, more. We all need to slow down and appreciate each day we get. We all have our hurdles. It's up to us how we get past them. Right now I'm going to cook me a super healthy supper, read some Scripture, scratch my doggy's tummy, and then finish watching the movie I started last night on Amazon Prime. My body might be tired, but my spirit is jacked up. Even my body, thank the Lord, is not TIRED tired, if you know what I mean. Like the kind of tired you feel when you have -- um -- Ebola (or something like that). Tomorrow I'm sleeping in. I've found that I'm at my worst mentally when I have been physically worn down. So it's time to chillax a bit and I'm sure I'll start feeling normal again in no time. I've got so much good stuff to blog about. Even if nobody reads what I write I finding blogging so cathartic. Yesterday's chapel message really hit home and I really do need to talk about it with yall. Then there's my growing anxiety over the ultra I've signed up for in April. I'm still laughing over that one. I used to enter 5Ks and jog behind the strollers. Now I'm training for a 31-mile race. I dropped out of my first Greek class in college. Now I get to teach the language. I used to eat Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms and now I eat broccoli and carrots. I used to think that the grass was greener on the other side, but now I'm content with who I am and where I'm at. The life I have is exactly the one meant for me, and if I live it with gratitude and dependence on the Giver of all good gifts, it can be the greatest life of all. Life never goes exactly as you planned. So what? "God knows," as Becky would say. The best things in life are scary. But so worth it.
This week's been a crash course in gratitude, perseverance, and patience. I may not be the brightest light in the box or the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am tenacious and stubborn. The satisfaction of knowing that, by the sheer grace of God, you pushed yourself way, way, way farther than you ever thought possible is way more valuable than any external reward.
Monday, February 26
6:55 AM I clearly remember the day that changed my life forever. My daughter Karen was making a huge lunge forward in her racing by competing in the prestigious Marine Corps Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA. The date was May 17, 2015, just a year and a half after my wife Becky died from cancer. I was just shy of my 63rd birthday. When Karen told me how far she would have to run that day -- 13.1 miles -- I was dumbfounded. How can anyone run that far? I can't even walk a mile! I drove up to the race to cheer her on. She nailed it, finishing in just under two and a half hours. Before I knew it, she was saying to me, "Dad, it would be so much fun to run a 5K together!" "What's a 5K?" I asked. I'm not kidding. I had no earthly idea what a 5K race was. That was just over 3 years ago. Since then I've finished dozens of 5Ks and 10Ks, two 10-milers, two triathlons, eleven half marathons, and seven full marathons, plus I've registered for my first ultramarathon in April.
Running never appealed to me growing up. I am a Hawaiian, born and bred. Not a native Hawaiian, mind you, but a kama'aina haole, a "local boy" you might say. My dad was born in Honolulu in 1918 and, after marrying my mother in Ohio just after the war (1945), he brought her to live with him in his home state. Although I too was born in Honolulu, us kids grew up just over the Ko'olau mountain range in a town called Kailua (famous today as former President Obama's winter white house). There I attended school -- Kainalu Elementary, Kailua Intermediate, and Kailua High. When I wasn't surfing, that is. I must have been 7 or 8 when I bought my first surfboard. It was a 10-foot long Hobie whose nose had been snapped off. Those ugly shards of exposed fiberglass didn't slow me down in the least. I knew I'd be fine as long as I remembered not to hang ten on this particular board. It cost me all of 5 bucks. Kailua is noted mostly for its splendid shore break, but there were also point breaks, a reef break, and an awesome break at the Mokulu'a Islands. Kailua was a place where every kid surfed. So much so, that our high school's nickname was the Kailua Surfriders. (Go Blue and White!) When I wasn't playing in the ocean, I was playing basketball or volleyball.
I did no running while growing up, except when I was trying to get away from the mokes on Kill Haole Day (the last day of school every year). So when Karen ask me to run a 5K with her, I had no idea what she was talking about. "It's only 3.1 miles," she said. It still sounded like a crazy idea to me. That's what public transportation or a car is for, I thought to myself. Especially since you end up where you started anyway. Over time, I came to realize the motivation behind Karen's suggestion. After Becky died, if there was one thing my kids kept telling me over and over again, it was that I needed to "keep active." So I began walking a mile every day, then two miles, then three. Occasionally I would break into a slow jog for part of that distance, but I couldn't run for very long. I kept running out of breath. I'll never forget when I ran my first mile without stopping to take a walk break. It was a month after Karen had completed her half marathon. I was vacationing in Hawaii (I had started going home to surf twice a year after Becky's death) and set out to conquer my worst fears on a sunny morning in Kailua. I knew that the distance from my beach cottage on Ulupa St. to Kainalu School (which I attended from kindergarten to sixth grade) was about a mile. Although I arrived at my former elementary school huffing and puffing, I had done so without doing any walking. When I came to a standstill, I was completely out of breath. But none of that mattered. I had run a mile! I had become an adult onset runner! The sad truth was that I didn't know the first thing about running. When I texted Karen a picture of me after the run, she said "Congrats, Dad!" and then added, "And be sure to ditch those Wal-Mart sneakers and get some real running shoes."
I spent the rest of my Hawaiian vacation surfing during the day but running every morning and evening. It took me two months of training before I was ready for my first 5K, but I knew I was getting closer and closer to my goal. The date was July 11, and the race was called the Barefoot for Kelly 5K Run. Kelly suffers from Transverse Myelitis, a debilitating condition that's left her paralyzed.
The event was sponsored by her home church to assist with providing her a handicap-accessible bathroom so that she could regain some of her independence. A portion of the proceeds was also slated to help fund the research of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The race was located at the Dorothea Dix campus in downtown Raleigh. I came in dead last in my age group (6th out of 6) with a time of 36:51. An 80-year old beat me by 4 minutes. No matter. I was elated. As Dick Beardsley has said many times, when you cross that finish line for the first time, no matter how fast or how slow, it will change your life forever. My goal that day was a simple one. I wanted to complete the race under my own power without requiring mouth to mouth resuscitation when I was done. And I had done it -- barely. I knew from my very first race that running would be a humbling experience. But I also knew that it offered an enormous sense of pride. I can do this! That day I knew that even though I wasn't the fastest runner in the pack, running would embrace me anyway. When I finally got back to my farm in Virginia, I was tired, sweaty, and inordinately happy. So I immediately began planning for my next race.
To be continued ....
Sunday, February 25
3:36 PM Hey, here's something to think about from 1 Thess. 2:17-20 (our passage for this week in Greek 4). The word usually translated as "crown" is a metaphor drawn from the Greek athletic contests.
It "alludes to the wreath which was awarded to the victor in an athletic contest: victory in such a contest afforded the victor and all associated with him ample grounds for ... ('boasting')" (Bruce, p. 56).
Paul "looks forward to the occasion of final review and reward, when he will present his converts to the Lord who commissioned him, as evidence of the manner in which he has discharged his commission."
Have you ever thought of the people you influenced for Christ as a "wreath of victory" in whom you could rejoice? It's astonishing to me that Paul actually considered people as his reward. He's so utterly identified with his converts that he calls them his glory. I can well imagine Rudy Ulrich sitting in heaven wearing the wreath of Dave Black, whom he led to the Savior in 1960. We are the body of Christ. God uses us to reach others with His love. The good news is that He uses us in spite of ourselves. Truth is, there are some people who will never hear about Jesus unless I tell them. All that we touch, everything we bump up against in our lives, is to be offered to Him for the work of salvation. God calls us, pleads with us, to be involved. Our world is starved to see Christ's love modeled somewhere. All we need is a willingness for whatever. Paul was always moving "with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead" (phil. 3:14). But he did that with open hands -- a total stripping from all this world has to offer. The Thessalonian believers were living proof that Paul had done just that. May God show us every thread of self that still needs stripping away.
2:25 PM One of my book publishers has posted a very helpful note on how languages work, especially when it comes to lexical analysis and verbal aspect. Read Notes on Terms and Language Teaching.
9:20 AM I love this quote by F. F. Bruce in his commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. It's his summary of 1 Thess. 5:14-22 (pp. 126-127):
1) The church is, essentially, a "community" -- a Jesus community if you will.
2) The idea of separating spiritual from social hardly occurred to these earliest Christians. They made the outworking of the love of God in their midst a top priority.
3) Early believers knew nothing of a clergy-laity distinction. Each member of the body had a part to play in the service of God. As Brunner puts it in his magisterial work The Misunderstanding of the Church (p. 50):
4) Finally, we can never be too patient with one another. It's not easy to grow in long-suffering, but patience makes us all more Christ-like.
8:30 AM I was up early again today, sitting on the front porch with Sheba and enjoying the 70-degree temps. Nature, I think, is confused. Buds adorn every hardwood, and yesterday on my drive home from Richmond I actually saw a Redbud in full bloom. I fully expect another snow storm before winter bids us a fond adieu, but for now I'm enjoying the respite from the cold. Once again, this morning I read the book of 1 Thessalonians and when I came to 5:14 I had to pause. When Paul says "Admonish the idlers," he says this not to the church leaders (whom he's just described in vv. 12-13) but to the "brothers and sisters." Paul clearly understood the body of Christ to be a pluralistic entity. All of the members have both rights and privileges. Paul's body motif cuts deeply into the hierarchal structures so prevalent in his day, as well as its symbols (e.g., Roman dress). In 1 Corinthians, Paul assumes that in the gathered community all will be allowed to speak, subject only to practical guidelines. Likewise, here in 1 Thessalonians, much of what Paul writes is nothing less than a plea for mutual edification and constructive treatment. There's no reason to think that the Jesus community in Thessalonica differed from the one in Corinth on this score.
I have to wonder if we're really paying attention when so little of our theology and praxis shifts and changes as we better understand God's teaching on this subject. Let's be honest: rethinking one's ecclesiology can be terrifying. There are consequence for Bible study. But the Spirit sometimes uses terror when He breathes into us the very changes He wants. I think this is also true as we Jesus followers engage the broader culture. Jacque Ellul once wrote (Violence, p. 160):
Now that is powerful! But Ellul's words do not apply only to heads of state. Eugene Peterson says it perfectly:
If we're going to call politicians to "well-formed maturity," don't we need to evince some of that quality ourselves? As we witness derision and hubris, men and women of state walking around with their nose in the air, we can easily get tired of engaging in the swimming-upstream work of the kingdom. Yet only Christ can deal with the root of the sin that started it all, and that work has to begin in our own lives. That's the work of the Gospel, isn't it? Not others' immaturity first, but our own. Psychologists often refer to a thing called projection: someone calls others "losers" because deep down inside they believe they are too. Maybe we evangelicals are so put off with power politics because we have forgotten in our own circles that true leadership never flows from platform or celebrity or position or prestige or stardom. In Christ's kingdom, the nobodies are loved and respected. The first are last, and the last first. Brothers and sisters admonish each other. All of our efforts are misguided unless we get this "kingdom-reversal" thing right.
It's a scary thing to confront our own evils and not just the evils of others. But, as Ellul said, we are to draw the consequences of our faith. So I say, let's be done abdicating our souls for a seat at the table. "The kingdom is where we belong," wrote Frederick Buechner. "It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all homesick for it."
Saturday, February 24
5:45 PM I'm back on the farm after a superlative day. Ran one of my best 5K races ever. Not that it was my fastest 5K. It wasn't. But you know, it's possible to achieve a big hairy audacious goal without breaking any records. Looking back on today's race, I only have good feelings about it. One, I achieved the goals I had set for this race: run at least an 11/min. mile pace and at least 5.5. mph (I ended up running a 10:43 min./mile pace and 5.6 mph). Woohoo!
Two, I had so much fun participating in the "Keep Virginia Beautiful" campaign. And three, I got to meet a lot of nice people. I left the farm at about 7:30. When I arrived in Richmond I was directed to a parking deck that cost me only 5 bucks. I was relieved to find a parking space in Richmond, where parking is a blood sport. It was clearly in downtown, as you can see.
A 10 minute walk later and I arrived at the race venue: the historic Tredegar Iron Works.
There were gobs of people running the race today. Many of us were also there to pick up trash for two hours.
Here's the post-pickup group photo. Can you find Waldo?
At 11:45 it was time to line up for the race. Of course, the fastest (or at least the youngest) lined up in front.
I staked out my territory about a third of the way from the front and awaited the announcer's "Go!"
Then we were off. There were a lot of people running today. Throughout the race I was lapping them pretty regularly.
I was maintaining my pace without ever feeling tired. About the halfway point, the crowd thinned out considerably.
I was encouraged that I was able to keep up a good pace. Soon we crossed the bridge over the James.
I was running the entire time without taking any walk breaks, just as I planned to.
Then "it" happened. Out of nowhere, a stairway appeared. I kid you not. A set of stairs that we were supposed to climb.
For crying out loud! Tell me it's not so! Am I on an obstacle course or what? Nobody told me there would be stairs! The mass of runners was reduced to a slow shuffle as we made our way up -- and then down -- those stairs.
We all stared at those stairs with unbelief. (I will not apologize for that pun.) Seriously, do the race organizers know this happened? Of course, we all survived and went through to the other side, where we encountered -- get this! -- two-way traffic!
Soon, however, everyone was happy again. We we were crossing the James back into Richmond and the sun was even shining!
I was bound and determined to finish strong. I lathered my way past several runners. Then I scrambled past a few others.
Then, for the second time today, the unthinkable happened. I got passed by
... a dog!
Man alive, they were flying! I watched indignantly as this four-footed beast ambled past me as though I was a lamppost. At least he didn't stop and do his business. And I always thought dogs loved me. Traitor. My resolve began to melt away. This was the height of indignity. A new low. Soon thereafter, I had an anticlimactic end of the event, except for having a cheesy picture taken with a couple of ersatz dinosaurs.
Even though I felt cheated out of a better time, I did love this race. It was so worth it. Even being passed by a dog was worth it. After I crossed the finish line, I hung around to watch the other runners finish their race. Running offers you so many inspiring moments. I watched overweight people finish. I watched disabled people finish. I watched more dogs finish with their masters. (Ha-ha, I beat you!) I watched people who really struggled to finish. (You guys rocked!) Friend, never let the fear of struggling through a race hold you back. We all have to start somewhere. Whenever I felt tired out there on the course it was so good to look up and see other runners being strong and supportive. I want to thank everyone who ran beside me today. You are the greatest.
Next time, though, could you please leave your pooches at home?
6:58 AM Yo folks,
It promises to get up to about 70 degrees today so I'm planning on spending a good deal of my time today outdoors. I'm feeling 100 percent (all praise to Jesus) so I've decided to participate in the Shiver in the River 5K in Richmond today. It's a pretty neat event. It's held at the historic Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond adjacent to the James River. The first two hours are called "Community Cleanup" when we collect trash along the banks of the James and adjacent neighborhoods. This is the perfect time of the year to do this because the low vegetation leaves trash and recyclables clearly visible. Then at noon we get to enjoy the beauty of the James River with a 5K that includes views of downtown and crosses the brand new Potterfield Memorial Bridge. Finally there's the "James River Jump" -- which is exactly what it sounds like: a jump into the chilly James River. (I'll pass on this part of the event.)
So what to yak about before I need to leave for Richmond? I am super excited to announce that my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church will be translated into Farsi.
It's already available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin, so, hey, what's one more language? I have so much to say about this but so little time, so let me just share with you one page from the book.
As you can see, whenever I talk about every-member ministry and a "fellowship of leadership" I am in heaven. It all started in seminary when I began to rethink the wineskins, and a huge part of my pilgrimage was due to the writings of a certain Brethren scholar named Elton Trueblood. Who's he? Only one of the most powerful intellects of the twentieth century, right up there with Jacque Ellul and Vernard Eller. Whew, what a book this is!
I reread it in one sitting on my front porch last night and I just have to share with you a couple of pull quotes. Hope you don't mind.
Oh that's good! Here's another one.
Then there's this:
Yeah, and if the church down the road can put on a better show, I'm outta here! Finally:
Or, as I've often said, the gathering exists for the going. The bottom line? Every one of us has a voice. Every one of us has a necessary part to play in what God is doing in this world.
Genius. That's what the Bible is. It nails it every time. I mean, this is a layup. Folks, we could get this right if we really wanted to. Our current concept of church focuses on performance and encourages busy-ness and constant activity on the part of our leaders. But the heart of the equipping pastor is to release others into ministry -- a ministry that is just as "fulltime" as theirs is. Evangelicalism has become shallow. We are happy but not deep. We've become soft and flabby despite all the work that is yet to be done.
As part of my equipping ministry I spend time walking my students through such critical passages as Eph. 4:11-12 and Matt. 28:19-20. Christianity is superficial because it is so often founded on books about the Bible rather than on the Bible itself. But our Lord speaks plainly. His is no hot tub religion (to cite the title of one of James Packer's books). Perhaps a good place to change this would be to send people overseas to work alongside national leaders and be their servants. At home, leaders can begin to do the hard work of equipping servants. The truth is that significant ministry in the church and the world can only come by sacrifice.
Off to the races (and cleanup)!
Friday, February 23
9:46 AM I hope you saw our announcement about our linguistics conference, slated for April, 2019. I've always found it interesting to watch how different minds tackle the same problem. Someday, praise God, we'll no longer have the need to study languages – any language. The one thing all of us teachers of Greek have in common is a love for the language and an irrepressible joy when we see our students "get it." But none of us would claim that we have the last word when it comes to grammar or even pedagogy. In the midst of all this, I'm still mulling over the matter of verbal aspect. What in the world shall we call the three (or two) aspects? This morning I want to share a few comments in the hopes of nudging the conversation forward.
First, as I reread Joshua Covert's summary of recent approaches to the problem – and the wide variety of terms used to describe the aspects – I'm more convinced than ever that this is a real problem for Greek scholars and students alike, and it's frankly beautiful to watch the discussion proceed. For our students' sake (at the very least), we need to work towards some kind of agreement or standardization, don't you think?
Secondly, I think the elephant in the room has yet to be discussed. It seems to me that a major part of the problem, if not the biggest challenge we face, is the fact that Greek teachers and linguists are often talking past each other. Each of us approaches the problem from a different set of perspectives. For the Greek teacher, for example, pedagogy is paramount. Moreover, most of us have little or no formal training in the science of linguistics. This doesn't mean that we aren't interested in what linguists are saying. We are. It's just that we don't always feel that we necessarily have to follow their explanations or terminology. Perhaps a classic example of this is what we encountered in our Greek 4 class on Tuesday night. Both of our commentaries (by Fee and Weima) expressed puzzlement over the fact that Paul used the adverb pantote ("always") with an aorist infinitive. How in the world can something that's "punctiliar" (both commentators used that word) be continual? This will not do. Ever since Frank Stagg published his essay "The Abused Aorist" in JBL (followed up later by Charles Smith's "Errant Aorist Interpreters" in GTJ), teachers have been cautioning their Greek students not to view the aorist as referring to a "punctiliar" action. Yet still today one hears statements, in both sermon and commentary, such as "The aorist here shows that Paul had in mind a once-for-all-action." Much of this confusion stems (I believe) from A. T. Robertson’s use of "punctiliar" to describe the aorist tense. Of course, Robertson never meant us to understand a "once-for-all action," yet the term "punctiliar" was easily misunderstood to mean that very thing. After all, something that is "punctiliar" has one single "Punkt" or "point," doesn't it? My point here (no pun meant) is simply this: While Greek scholars are obliged to learn as much as they can from linguists (and I, a non-linguist, have even published two books on the subject), they are not obligated to follow linguistic science blindly.
Thirdly, I’m not sure we New Testament teachers are as far apart as the evidence may seem to point. I prefer "aoristic" instead of "punctiliar" because of the way the latter term has been abused by preachers and commentators. "Aoristic" works because its very meaning is "undefined." In other words, by choosing aoristic aspect, an author is intentionally refraining from trying to describe how an action occurred. The action is a-oristos – "unlimited" or "undefined" in terms of its kind of action. This is precisely the point that was made by both Stagg and Smith in their journal articles.
Finally, let me say why I still prefer my terms. Think about how easy we make it for our students when we say that the imperfect tense has "imperfective" aspect, and that the perfect tense has "perfective" aspect, and that the aorist tense has "aoristic aspect." Now don't get me wrong. I'm willing to change my nomenclature if I can be convinced to do so. Indeed, Robert Picirilli, in a JETS essay, makes a suggestion I am almost happy with. Addressing the "issue of terminology," he writes:
"Wholistic" may well work better than "aoristic," and I'm open to using that language, though I still feel it's too confusing, from a pedagogical standpoint, to use "stative" for "perfective." Anyways, I hope you're enjoying this discussion as much as I am. I've held conferences at SEBTS to discuss the synoptic problem, textual criticism, the authorship of Hebrews, the ending of Mark, and the story of the adulteress, and I'm hoping that our gathering in 2019 will shed more light than heat on the topic of verbal aspect. As with so many other matters, "Let the discussion continue!"
8:55 AM Here are some great marathons for first time runners.
7:40 AM Morning all! I'm feeling much better this morning after taking Airborne and getting a really good night's sleep. There's a 5K in Richmond tomorrow that I'm praying about. Might not run it though, just volunteer. We'll see how I'm feeling today. Speaking of races, my son and daughter in Birmingham sent me this video of us finishing the half marathon with our hands raised over our heads like we had just won the race.
Such happy memories. Last night I was reading Hal Higdon's book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, and on p. 44 he lists the top 11 reasons why people sign up for marathons. I found the list interesting and thought you might too.
1) Have been running shorter distances; moving up
2) For motivation: "If I can do this, I can do anything"
3) Inspired by others who ran marathons
4) To get in shape for health reasons
5) To lose weight
6) To cope with divorce or other traumatic lifestyle change
7) For the love of running
8) In memory of someone
9) Bucket list: something I always wanted to do
10) For mental health
11) To challenge myself
It's surprising that "raising money for charity" isn't on the list because that's one of the main reasons I ran my first marathon last May. By God's grace I was able to raise $7,000.00 for the hospital in Chapel Hill where Becky was treated. I think races also give us a chance to satisfy our God-given desire for wild adventure. If nothing else, races bring people together, even if it's only through sweat and a sense of shared desperation to finish.
Right now, however, I'm focused on 1 Thessalonians. I want to complete my colon analysis of 2:17-20 this morning and then work on the paper I'm reading at the ETS Southwest Region meeting in Houston a week from today. The theme is "New in the Old and Old in the New," with a plenary paper given by Greg Beale of Westminster Seminary. Here's the schedule. My paper will cover the opening paragraph of Hebrews, where God's speaking to the forefathers through the prophets is contrasted with His speaking directly to us through One who's status is Son. This topic is as accidental as my discovery of linguistics back in the early 80s. Had I never dabbled in discourse analysis I would have never even thought of writing an essay for the Westminster Theological Journal on Heb. 1:1-4. As it turned out, that essay was the first of several forays into text-linguistics. At the same time, I also stumbled across the idea of challenging the modern (really, Old Testament) conception of pastors as some kind of Protestant priests. I became possessed by the idea that pastors are not called primarily to do the work of serving others but to prepare God's people for serving others. I have become convinced that liberating the so-called laity is not merely an afterthought in the New Testament but one of its central themes. It's much like runners do when we are helping less experienced runners get ready for a race. We watch for underdeveloped powers in these novice runners, draw them out of their self-limitations, and then help them to bring potentiality into reality. That this is a self-validating task should be obvious but it isn't in many of our churches. Today is a time for radical transformation of the whole people (laos) of God into a ministering army. But only the Lord Himself can accomplish this. It is He who makes ministers. They can be developed by training but never created by it. Lord, do it today. Do it in my church and in my classrooms. First, do it in my own heart.
Thanks for reading,
Thursday, February 22
8:35 PM If you were thinking about doing the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati this May, I'm afraid it's too late to register. The Pig Pen is packed!
The full marathon has sold out, though there is a waiting list. Other races, including the half marathon, are nearing capacity. One of the best parts of racing is the comradery and the chance to spend time with other awesome runners. Runners are a very forgiving group of people. Even with our gross toenails and snot shooting from our nostrils like rockets, runners enjoy each other's company. I have gotten so much encouragement, advice, and good vibes from my fellow runners and it's meant the world to me. It'll be good to get back to Cincy. Sure, the elevation climb from mile 5 to mile 8 is intimidating, but it isn't all that bad. After that there are a lot of downhills. And the crowd support is nonstop from start to finish. Most important of all, there are aid stations every mile and so water is never an issue. It's a tough race for sure but one I'll never forget.
7:10 PM With only 16 days to go before a 10K race in Washington, DC (which I'm running with my daughter's husband), I've started to sneeze and sniffle. Today was supposed to be a training day, but instead I've found myself confined to the house except for a few walks on the farm with Sheba. Thankfully, it's not a full-blown head cold yet and maybe I still have time to nip it in the bud. I'm hoping this means that I still get in a couple of runs next week. As usual, I'm being impatient with myself. But the Lord apparently has other plans for me right now. Anyway, I just finished reading Cory Reese's book Nowhere Near First and just have to share with you what he writes in chapter 23, which is called "The Tale of the Three Unwise Men." After telling a story about going out too fast in a race, he offers his readers some tips about racing, whether you're a beginner running your first 5K or someone who's running their tenth 100-miler. I pass them on to you but I'm really listing them here for my own edification. Now if I can only heed what he says!
Here are his 9 tips:
1) Pace yourself. Cory says you have to train yourself to move at an uncomfortably slow pace at the beginning of a race so that you have enough juice to finish. He likens this to spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. Go too fast and you'll run out before reaching the end of the slice of bread. Go too slow and you'll have a big clump of peanut butter at the end. "If you're running a perfect race, your energy and effort should be spread evenly throughout the entire race."
2) Be aware of where you are at in the race. A 5K race isn't run the same way as an ultra marathon. Pace yourself and never let yourself become impatient.
3) Bank energy, not time. I think this was the tip I enjoyed the most. Again, you can't go out too fast or you'll end up doing the death shuffle at the end.
4) Be smart at aid stations. He means, when you arrive at an aid station, decide ahead of time what you'll need and grab it quickly and purposefully. "Beware the chair," he says. Amen to that. Sitting down during a long race rarely if ever makes anything better. I know. I've tried it.
5) Treat each training run and each race as an experiment. Learn from your mistakes and make needed changes for the next time around. There's always something to learn from every run and every race. Even experienced racers are always trying to figure out new things.
6) Our bodies are incredible pieces of machinery. But we need to take care of them. (Read: Dave, it's okay to rest when you have the sniffles.) He especially says we need to take care of our feet. Treating foot issues before they rear their ugly head is the key.
7) Give your pacers and crew explicit instructions before you race. Obviously this tip doesn't apply to a short race like a 5K. His point is that if you have people pacing for you, make sure you discuss with them beforehand what kind of motivation works best for you. Should they go ahead of you or behind you? Do you want to avoid conversations or to engage in them while running? Make sure they understand that dropping out is not an option for you unless there's a risk of injury.
8) Stay focused on nutrition and hydration. Again, this is something I've had to learn the hard way. It's so easy to forget about drinking during a race. Then there's the temptation of trying a new Goo at an aid station. You need to figure out what works for you and stick with that plan.
9) You (yes, YOU!), are capable of doing so much more than you know. "Go out and do something awesome," he writes. "Take a step beyond that line of what is comfortable." Yep. That's exactly right. Nothing like running a long distance race to see what you're made of. We'll never experience the depth of living without taking risks. I just hope and pray that when I jump over that proverbial cliff, I'll soar rather than fall flat.
I will say that I really enjoyed this book. Most of what I read I already knew. Still, it's always an encouragement when a running moron like me is challenged to become a better runner. Maybe I should just stop complaining about not feeling good and appreciate that I'm able to run at all. I love what running has become in my life. I love the joy at watching what I can make this old body do. Thank you, Lord!
5:45 PM I've often told my students, "A great preacher is simple without being simplistic." No one exemplified this truth more than Billy Graham. Watch his message, "Who Is Jesus?"
12:40 PM Hey there! This morning I was reading an interesting study documenting why so many teenagers are inactive.
It only makes sense. Children love playing outdoors. But by the time we reach junior high school, facts become more important than activity. Now we have supervised physical activity called PE. Play is replaced by calisthenics. When I was in intermediate school, the ocean was my playground. Surfing was non-rational. Fitness, for me, was fun. Which is why I thought my PE classes were such a waste of time.
Today, all kinds of adults are rediscovering the playfulness of their childhood. Running, hiking, mountain climbing, surfing, swimming, cycling, tennis, skiing, rowing -- all are gaining adherents who never look back. I'm one of them. Today I'm as physically active as I was when I was a child. The reason is simple: I found something I love doing. Unlike PE, which was pure drudgery, running is fun. The main thing is to keep experimenting until you find an activity you love. Maybe it will be a form of activity that never occurred to you before. The ancient Romans referred to the homo ludens -- "the human who plays." The happiest adults are those who are still children. They become a seamless union of mind, spirit, and body.
My philosophy of running? Don't do it unless you absolutely can't help it!
8:18 AM Odds and ends ....
1) 24 days to my next marathon. I can't even guesstimate how I'm going to do. I guess I'll find out. I'm trying to get my mind focused on the big race. I want to do 10 miles either today or tomorrow but that will depend on how quickly I recover from spending 3 days performing brain surgery (well, that's how teaching feels like sometimes).
2) Got a huge dose of inspiration today from reading a blog post called 8 Wake Up Calls You Need to Receive. The passing of Billy Graham reminded me that we never know when life will change and your loved one will be gone forever. If Becky were still here, I'd go over to her and give her a big hug and tell her much I love her. Friend, don't miss a chance to tell someone you love how wonderful they are and how beautiful they are inside and out. Another point the article makes is that we don't need to be afraid to fail. Even if I never finish the ultra marathon I'm running in April, I will forever be grateful (and astonished!) that I tried. "Swallow your pride; it's not fattening," someone has said. I couldn't agree more.
3) It occurred to me that I'm turning 66 this year. What's different? Not much. I feel like I'm 40, have felt like this for years. 66 is merely a number. I am at peace with myself. I know I will never qualify for Boston. I know I've reached the peak of my writing powers. Of course, I wish I could run in Boston and I wish I could writer better, but what matters even more to me is that I'm running the race of life with all my might. The person who wins the race and the person who finishes dead last are making the same effort. My goal is never happiness. Happiness is at best the by-product of striving to achieve all that God wants us to achieve in this life. There's no time for dilly-dallying, folks. Whatever is necessary, do it now. So you're getting old. So what? "There are no specific sensations of old age," wrote E. M. Glasser in the British Medical Journal. "If you are well, you are just yourself, as you have always been." I am, as far as I can tell, the same person who surfed the Pipeline when he was 16 and the same person who dated a tall Texan when he was 24 and the same person who wept at her funeral and the same person who enjoys teaching today as much as he did when he entered the classroom 42 years ago. If I cannot stay young, I can at least stay fresh. And that is my thought this day about aging.
4) The goal of our linguistics conference (see yesterday's blog) is to jumpstart a conversation. What began with a few publications (my 1988 book on linguistics included) has become something that clatters, consumes, and confuses. So let the discussion continue. I see that the conference has already generated some online discussion. Honestly, I'm not surprised. We all desire a better understanding of what this "new perspective" is all about. In one post I read, somebody wondered out loud whether the conference papers would be published. I can assure you: that is exactly the intent of Dr. Merkle and myself. In fact, we discussed this yesterday before our faculty meeting and will begin very shortly contacting a potential publisher for the book. Fast forward a few years and, Lord willing, Greek teachers will have a book they can use in their Greek classes. Incidentally, I'm overwhelmed by God's goodness, which seems to know no bounds. He is worthy of our adoration every single second of every single day. I'm hoping the conference will be a feast, a time to celebrate how the Creator made languages to work, an unmistakable shout out to the Lord of all.
5) Finally, here's a Graham quote from Jonathan Merritt's essay at the New York Times:
Then there's this:
Merritt concludes his essay with these words:
Have a blessed day,
Wednesday, February 21
8:54 PM I ran 4 miles yesterday in the fog at our local park in Wake Forest. I really wanted to run again this morning but my schedule was chockablock full. This is what the park looked like yesterday.
Afterwards I showered, got dressed, and went to the office to meet a student for lunch.
Briggs is one of the best American-style restaurants in town, and their sandwiches are out of this world. Like you, I have certain favorite places I like to eat. Briggs is my go-to place when I want a quiet conversation without television sets blaring.
So what else to report? This week we experienced a milestone in my Greek 2 classes. We began translating verses from the Greek New Testament instead of my made-up sentences. We sight-read in class and the students nailed verse after verse. I am so proud of them.
What else shall I mention? The registration page for our linguistics conference on campus went live this week. The link is found here.
The conference kicks off in April 2019. Friday's speakers include Porter, Levinsohn, Hudgins, Buth, Halcomb, and Plummer.
Saturday features Campbell, Pennington, Aubrey, Runge, and Ellis.
You can sign up any time.
Finally, Billy Graham is now in heaven. What a great soul. Everything for him was wrapped up in the Gospel. Sin, he said, is our problem, and when that problem is solved, everything else comes with it. It takes no talent to locate God's men and women. Their hearts are perfect toward Him. This doesn't mean they're sinless. But their hearts are set on pleasing God. There's nothing between their soul and the Savior. Here are two quotes by Billy Graham I just absolutely love.
Billy Graham bore the loss of his precious Ruthie with grace and nobleness. He aged well. His was not a Pollyanna life. But he met every trial with Christ. Everyone knew here was no ordinary man. Wherever he went, he left a trail of blessing. His "business" was to glorify God, and glorify Him he did. That's what we're here for as Christians. In body and in spirit, in sickness or health, by what we do and what we don't do, by life or by death, our business is to glorify God, whatever it takes. When Graham spoke in Honolulu in 1965, I sang in the choir. I was 13 years old. "I love the music that you have out here," he said. "The spirit of aloha seems to be in your music. It seems to be in your expression, in your smile. I've never been to a state or a place where everyone seems to have a certain amount of happiness." Happy or not, Hawaiians were going to hear the Gospel preached to them. Graham called for his audience to submit in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of their lives.
Like the apostle Paul, Billy Graham had something to forget -- "things behind." He had things to reach toward -- "things before." There was something to press toward -- "the mark." And there was something to work for -- "the prize" -- and he worked for it (Phil. 3:13). He was kept going by Jesus. He labored in the strength of Another. This strength is not just for preachers. He will keep us going as well. "My sinful self my only shame; my glory all the cross." I'm sure Billy Graham sung that many times. He gloried in Christ's cross. He had died with Him there. And today he saw Christ face to face. Even in his death, Billy Graham is drawing people to the Savior. He knew that along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required. The Christian looks unto Jesus for salvation and for every need. All other "looking up" is vain. When our loved ones die, God is still on His throne. Indeed, the passing of Billy Graham is but a prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout eternity. Thanks be to God.
Giver of peace, we work daily at the job of practicing what Paul said to the Philippians: "I've learned in whatever state I'm in to be content" (Phil. 4:11). When Your saints die, that attitude helps us to accept what cannot be changed. O God the Spirit, fill our minds at this moment with the memory of a life well lived, of a man whose witness and service for You we recall with gratitude and humility. Lord, even if we're old clay, we can still be reworked. What we pray is that we may remain faithful as long as we last. Loving Savior, for the genuine encouragement You offer us by the faithful servants of the past, we thank You. Now help us to run our race with perseverance, so that one day we too may join the community of saints. Amen.
Monday, February 19
7:34 AM Vituperation. Noun meaning abusive language, a sustained and bitter condemnation. Synonyms include invective, disparagement, vilification, scolding, condemnation, opprobrium, obloquy, castigation, attack, censure, vitriol, venom. From Latin vituperatio, from the past participle of vituperare, "disparage." Examples include:
A more negative and ungodly human trait can scarcely be imagined. I once worked for a man in California who used abusive language constantly. It was a well-paying job so I overlooked his fault until one day he turned his opprobrium on me. The next day he had my resignation on his desk. (I'm ashamed it took me so long.) We humans tend to vilify others when we disagree with them. We revel in other people's humiliation. Some of us vilify others by talking behind their backs. Others are happy to use abusive language in public. Nazi propaganda even published children's books that vilified Jews. Last year Facebook and Twitter spent much of their time cataloguing Russia-backed ad spending on their sites to vilify certain presidential candidates in the 2016 election. Someone has said, "To bake a vilification cake, just add ignorance and stir." All wrong recoils upon the vilifier. He or she finds ugliness attractive. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, "To vilify a great man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness." If I were to call someone "very insecure," "lightweight," "totally unhinged," "dishonest," "totally biased," "a total loser," or "sick" in public, odds are that I'd only be describing myself.
People seem to vilify others more in politics than other fields of endeavor. John Ehrlichman, a key player in the Watergate scandal, once famously said:
Ehrlichman was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy and sent to prison.
The reason I'm bringing this up? In our passage for the week, 1 Thess. 2:13-16, Paul is said by some scholars to be using vituperation/invective. One commentator, for example, refers to Paul's "attack on the Jewish people." He says that Paul and other New Testament writers used "vituperation directed at the Jewish people as a tool in the struggle," never dreaming "of the consequences of their statements on subsequent generations." Well, I'm not buying it. As Willi Marxsen has shown, an anti-Semitic interpretation of 1 Thess. 2:13-16 can be held only when these verses are disconnected from their context (Einleitung in das Neue Testament, pp. 48ff.). I've already blogged about the punctuation at the end of verse 14. The difference is between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. So if you punctuate the text as is commonly done ("... the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus..."), I think you're missing Paul's point big time. A more accurate rendering, in my view, would be:
It's clear that Paul's words are directed at only those Jews who were hostile towards the Gospel and, indeed, his words aren't aimed at Jewish opponents alone, insofar as the readers' own countrymen (who were Gentiles) were attempting to thwart Paul's evangelistic efforts. In class Tuesday night we'll talk about this subject. We have to. A large part of exegesis comes down to observing carefully the details of a passage. It requires us to disabuse ourselves of our attachment to modern marks of punctuation (which for the most part are merely the contributions of editors). It all boils down to a close reading of the text, a willingness to consider the context, and an ability to read commentaries discerningly and even suspiciously.
Is vituperation a characteristic of the world's most loving and selfless apostle? I think not. Such a character flaw is only descriptive of small people. Very small people.
Sunday, February 18
6:45 PM So what am I doing tonight? I can tell you what I'm not doing. Reading a certain man's Twitter account filled with misspellings and profanity. Let's see. I watched a fabulous interview with Gov. John Kasich about gun laws. I perused several websites on textual criticism. And most important of all, I've been listening to the fabulous music of Gabrieli, including my all-time favorite composition of Andrea called Aria della Battaglia.
How beautiful these wind instruments! Great intonation, and I speak as a (former) trumpet player. This music is paradise. Chills all over. All I hear is the beauty of each individual's musicianship collectively playing together in an unforgettable moment in time. Would that our nation could do the same.
3:54 PM When I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be a perfect day for training. After enjoying a hearty breakfast and making sure the animals were fed and watered, I drove an hour to one of my favorite spots on Planet Earth, historic Farmville, VA. As you can see, Southside Virginia was as beautiful as ever.
First up on my agenda was to attend a Jesus community in Farmville that I've come to know and love ever since I first started training in that town for my 2015 climb in the Alps. The message today focused on Paul's arduous trip to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 20-21).
More on that later. Eventually I arrived at the start of my workout.
I knew I would either be doing a 10K run or a 13.1 mile bike ride. I decided to do the half marathon distance in honor of the race I did with my kiddos exactly a week ago in Birmingham. (Wow! Was that only a week ago? Tempest fidgets, as the Romans would say!) The trail was practically deserted for a Sunday afternoon.
The Olympics you think? I did eventually bump into an older couple out for a walk and they graciously agreed to snap my photo for prosperity.
As you can witness, it took me an hour and 14 minutes to cycle 13.1 miles at an average speed of 10.6 mph -- which sounds fast until you realize that elite marathoners run 26.2 miles at a speed of 12 mph. Egads.
Then I pigged out on a wonderful Reuben's Sandwich at the local hole in the wall. Pure deliciousness!
As for today's sermon, the verse that stuck out to me during the message was Acts 20:13.
Here we read that Paul's companions sailed from Troas to Assos while Paul decided to hoof it. Paul's motives for wanting to walk to Assos while the others sailed are unknown, but my guess is that he was glad to have a couple of days of solitude. Incidentally -- and I found this factlet most interesting! -- the distance between Troas and Assos is 20 miles, which we all know is the exact distance marathoners run before tapering in preparation for race day -- which obviously means that Paul was a marathoner. Little wonder I enjoy the sport so much! Anyhoo, I'm so grateful to God for granting us such a gorgeous day after a fairly rainy week. I love where I live. I love training on deserted trails. I love the solitude, miles from the maddening crowds. No traffic. No shopping centers. Just wide open spaces. The bottom line is that cycling perfectly complements your running routine and weight training program. Without the stress of impact, you can train your cardiovascular system and bring it up to speed.
Time to dust off that old bike of yours?
7:56 AM If you're into running (even a 5K), you need to check out Strava's Running Pace Calculator. So I've got 8 hours to complete a 50K race (31 miles). If I run/walk at a 4 mph pace (= 15 min./mile), I can finish in 7:46:02 -- which is a relief, because I suspect that I'll be doing a lot of walking, especially on the hills.
Love these gadgets!
7:34 AM Phillip Long continues his two-part discussion of the warning passage in Hebrews 6 here. He argues that the passage "... is a rhetorical strategy, to describe the worst case imaginable, then show how the reader has not gone quite that far yet." That's a possible interpretation for sure. But then he uses an analogy that, I think, overstates his case:
Here's where I agree and disagree with this analogy. I'm sure all of us Greek teachers do our very best to equip our students to pass their exams. But does that guarantee they will all pass? How can we know that "none of them will fail the exam" for certain? We simply can't. There are no guarantees, despite our best efforts. I might put it this way: Learning doesn't always occur even when good teaching takes place. I'm sure my high school Algebra 2 teacher was a fantastic instructor, but I failed the class anyway. Each of us, I'm sure, would eagerly love to have a handle on this passage. But the debate is a shifting debate. This shouldn't surprise us. This is how scholarship works. Scholars put forth their arguments (with their analogies) and receive counterarguments in return. I've read both of Phillip's essays and have benefited and been enriched by them. This invites all of us, myself included, to approach this passage humbly and charitably.
7:15 AM A few quotes from Cory Reese's Nowhere Near First: Ultramarathon Adventures from the Back of the Pack.
Even if you're not a runner, I think you would enjoy this book.
6:58 AM Love unselfishly and sacrificially. Even if you get nothing in return. That's genuine love. That's Christ's love.
Love is very patient,
Nor is she conceited,
She never is resentful,
She bears up under everything,
(For more New Testament poetry, go here.)
Saturday, February 17
7:18 PM Back to our discussion of 1 Thess. 2:13-16 for a minute. Verse 13 is a real hoot in the Greek.
I confess to being a complete fanatic when it comes to rhetorical devices in the Greek New Testament. A complete weirdo, in fact. Take a look at verse 13. Here Paul writes, in effect, "when you received the word of hearing from us of God." I told you it was a hoot. I once wrote an essay called Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There I noted several instances of what's called hyperbaton. Hyperbaton involves the separation of words that naturally belong together. Here are a few examples from Hebrews:
That's just crazy cool. Here in 1 Thess. 2:13 we're stuck with a conundrum. Does "of God" belong with "word" or with "hearing"? And why does Paul separate "of God" from its noun phrase? Some scholars think that the words "of God" are redundant if they refer to "word." Isn't every word preached by the apostle Paul the word "of God"? Or is "of God" being set apart for the sake of emphasis? (I tend to think so.)
I am no expert in rhetorical criticism, but boy the difference a simple rhetorical device can make!
6:28 PM Two quick thoughts about the Florida shooting:
1) In a world where a fatally wounded Devil is still active, I'm not sure there can be any easy answers. As Jacque Ellul often pointed out in his various writings, Christian participation in the political process depends on a myriad of factors and is a continuum from political engagement on the one hand to countercultural disengagement on the other. These are the two poles I personally struggle with since they allow for a broad range of roles for the church. Either way, the church should never be seen as disinterested in social justice issues, even as it doggedly refuses to define "success" as political power.
2) "Thoughts and prayers" are certainly not enough when a community is suffering. But the opposite danger is also true. To view prayer as a cop-out is simply unbiblical. As Paul often reminded his readers, prayer is action. As the very least, we can pray for the families of the dead, for those who were wounded, and for those who are suffering from PTSD. We can pray for wisdom for our government officials as we are commanded to do in the New Testament. We can pray for wisdom as our nation begins yet another gun debate. (One of the greatest acts of vulnerability and courage is to listen with the exact same amount of passion with which we want to be heard.) But pray we must. Nothing opens a window into our personal walk with Jesus quite like the role that prayer plays in our lives. So when we say that thoughts and prayers are not enough, that our nation must act, let's not think that action is a substitute for prayer, because it's not.
I just watched the powerful video of survivor Emma Gonzalez. Those teens are on a mission. It reminded me of the passion I had in high school when my surfing buddies and I spoke out against the paving of Paradise. "Save Our Surf" (SOS) can't compare, of course, to what just happened in Florida. Are we listening? I'm reminded of the words of Alvin Tofler:
I, for one, am listening to you, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am praying for you and for our nation. I feel your pain and sorrow. May God grant you healing, and may He grant us all wisdom, for He is indeed concerned about justice, shalom, and social-cultural transformation.
12:12 PM One of my favorite things about the sport of running is not running. This morning I woke up at 5:00 am tired and, besides, the weather was just plain too lousy for me to drive all the way to Chapel Hill for a 30-minute run in the cold and rain. I don't mind missing this race. My money was already paid up front, and for a great cause too. Rest days are just as important as workout days. They allow your body to grow stronger. By resting, you give yourself permission to recover from the stress and impact of the training cycle. Running is all about listening to your body. No training or running program needs to be followed slavishly. So today I'm allowing my body to rejuvenate and grow stronger. I'm kicking my feet up and just chillaxing.
My new motto is: Work hard ... but don't forget to rest.
8:58 AM This week in Greek 4 we're going through 1 Thess. 2:13-16. What a fascinating passage!
What I find incredibly interesting about this paragraph is the way Paul switches from aorist tense participles to present tense participles.
I've seen this pattern elsewhere, except in reverse order. Here the switch is extremely important exegetically.
One of the continuing hotbeds of discussion in Pauline studies is whether or not this passage can be used to suggest that Paul was in some way anti-Semitic. I've striven hard to consider the evidence with evenhanded fairness, but I really don't think there's any way this text shows that Paul had an animus against his Jewish brethren. This debate is one of the most volatile in the church today and will merit in-depth discussion on Tuesday. I love the emphasis in 1 Thessalonians on apologetics and evangelism. I like the way students are being exposed to Paul's philosophy of ministry. I especially love exploring with them the implications of the text for teaching and praxis. Any course in exegesis that fails to do this is doomed to irrelevance.
8:06 AM From The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul:
Today, I'm intrigued to note how often exegetical arguments are based upon subjective internal evidence. Arguably, this is not the best way to approach exegetical conundrums when there is an abundance of external evidence to be considered. I would prefer that our students be exposed to all of the evidence, even data that are contrary to the consensus opinio. I fear that much of the trouble goes back to the way we do theological training. Thus one will rarely (if ever) hear that "there is strong (although not probative) internal evidence and solid external evidence for the Paulinity of the epistle [to the Hebrews]." Now, I can see some force in arguments to the contrary, but to ignore the primary data is beyond comprehension.
Friday, February 16
7:20 PM I still can't believe I'm running my first ultra marathon in only 7 weeks. If I succeed, it will be like knocking off the peak of Everest. I used to read about ultra runners, about how they would use marathons as training runs for their ultras, and now I'm doing that very thing. I just hope and pray I can get to the starting line injury-free. My first ultra. Life sure is a crazy journey and we keep learning along the way. Perhaps the greatest wisdom of all is realizing just how much wisdom you lack. Maybe the thing that's surprised me the most is how welcoming the running community is. Back in the 60s, running used to be a "member's only" club. Now a runner is someone who runs -- no matter how fast, how long, how far. We run because we love it. It's about the journey, not the end.
Run gently out there,
6:10 PM From Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek:
An organized whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That's why discourse analysis is so important in New Testament studies!
1:20 PM What a great morning it's been! Got my 5K in. Watched Nate spread fertilizer. (You know the saying: "I love work. I can watch it all day.")
Visited with my Person County grandkids.
They are so sweet!
Last but not least, what do yall think of this church sign I saw on my drive today?
Don't you love it? Reminds me of a great book Joe Hellerman wrote called When the Church Was a Family. One of the things we're trying to do in our NT 1 class is to study carefully the biblical nature of the church. My own thinking about the church has benefited immeasurably by books like Joe's. The church is a family where everyone has a role to play. But when we insist on a clergy-laity division, we exclude 90 or 95 percent of all followers of Jesus. By the way, I think I've come up with the perfect replacement for "churches." I want to start calling them Jesus communities. I know this must appear like a frivolous suggestion. But the way we talk about the church -- the speech patterns we use -- reflect and reinforce our concepts about the church, be they biblical or unbiblical. If, for example, we banned "layperson" from our vocabulary, this might force us to rethink how "ministry" should take place in our Jesus communities. Each member of the family of God is involved in "the work of the ministry" in some way or another. These small steps toward renewal don't mean that we have to reject the institutional church. But they might just help us to be honest and open to rethinking the wineskins. "The Family of God." Should this not be a mark of evangelicalism's "unity in truth"? Hope so!
7:55 AM Odds and ends ....
1) Anthony Zurcher of the BBC is correct: One side wants to talk about nothing but mental health. The other side wants to talk about nothing but gun control. And Washington will do nothing. Again. Read One Shooting, two Americas. I'm well-armed, as is everyone who operates a farm. But I see no reason whatsoever to allow a 19-year old to purchase a semiautomatic rifle when he can't even buy a can of beer. I'm horrified at the deaf ears of our leaders. To those who say that semi-automatic assault rifles should be made illegal nationwide, I say more power to you. By the way, this is simply my personal opinion. It's not a "Christian" position. And I know there is no absolute political answer to the problem. I'm just baffled when godly and sincere people are even against background checks. Our leaders can and should do better.
2) MacDonald's is taking cheeseburgers out of Happy Meals? What is this world coming to? I guess we'll have to call it an Unhappy Meal from now on.
Fact of the matter is: Eating an occasional cheeseburger won't affect your health in the least. Good health depends on your overall lifestyle and eating habits. And this is where we fail as a society. We can all do better. One step at a time. One meal at a time.
3) For you Bible geeks out there, I just posted a new Power Point called The Great Commission. It's a quasi-argument against the view that "nations" in the Gospel Commission of Jesus is referring to "people groups." (For the Power Point to work properly, be sure to download and open it before viewing.) I've also posted a collection of sermon outlines of 1 Thess. 1:6-10. There's always something new at our Greek Portal!
4) The best running apps. Yes, Map My Run is included.
5) Paul Himes asks, Can Christians eat sushi? I sure hope so!
Thursday, February 15
9:46 PM Oh. Almost forgot. Nate and Jess came over today to load up some hay. Which meant that I got to see my boys. Here I am helping Graham.
Nolan, of course, insisted on moving the bales himself.
Bradford discovered that bales could just as easily be pushed as carried.
Meanwhile, Peyton thought the goats should get the leftovers. How cute!
And Chesley? He was the supervisor.
Love them boys!
9:14 PM There are so many good, God things going on right now I hardly know where to start. First off, my daughter Matthea has been blogging again. If you've ever experienced major loss and deep, inconsolable grief, you definitely HAVE to read the essay she posted today. It's called Does God love me? A few years ago, Jon and Matthea lost their full term baby named Kai. Just writing that sentence brings tears to my eyes. I was at the hospital and held baby Kai in my arms. This was about a year after Becky had passed away. Together, Jon and Matthea and I discovered something through our pain: That it's virtually impossible to handle grief through human strength alone. Now, years later, we are able to look back on our experiences and see that the struggle in our souls was only resolved by what Matthea calls submission to truth, especially the truth that nothing, NOTHING, can separate us from the love of God. I thank God every night that He answered our prayers for spiritual healing, for giving us the assurance that He is in control even though He also assigns to us the ability to use our freedom to make good choices about how we handle grief and to remain faithful to Him even when the world all around us is screaming at us to forsake Him. Matthea's essay is a stark reminder that while God covets our love, He will never coerce us into a relationship. It's something we must choose. And we have. We have chosen to see our good God for who He is, even though we will never comprehend His sovereignty. I have made peace with the past. So have Jon and Matthea. So must you, my friend. If God is there to welcome our precious loved ones into heaven, He's also there to give us reason and courage to keep going and to continue believing.
One way people handle their grief and loss is by leveraging it for something good. This Saturday I'm registered to run in the Carolina Fever Fight Cancer 5K in Chapel Hill, on the same campus where Becky was treated for 4 long years. I've done this event twice already. I love this race. It's a way I can pay back the fine people at UNC for their tender care and aggressive treatment of Becky's endometrial cancer, which is the most common form of cancer that attacks a woman's reproductive organs. This year alone, over 63,000 new cases of endometrial cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., and over 11,000 women will die from that disease. Becky was a woman of incomparable courage. She had a spirit of prayer far beyond the ordinary for our times. She challenged so many (me included) to serve a world that often languishes under misery. I will run this race for her and for every woman who suffers or will suffer from this terrible disease. Becky loved the people at UNC. So do I. It will be fun being back there again.
As for my "streak" running, today I got in a 5K at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston. I know that streak running has its pros and cons. But right now this is where I'm at. It doesn't mean that I'll stop cross training. Why, today I lifted at the Y for a good 45 minutes. Nor does it mean I'll go all out every day. The run streak, by the way, seems to have arisen from, basically, boredom. Marathoning is now old hat for many runners. For others who have gone on to run in ultra races, even super-long-distance races can lose their fizzle. For them, running every day gives them a good challenge to put their mind to. It's sort of like reading your Greek New Testament every day. It's actually quite fun to see whether you can keep up that pace. My goal is to mix up my running styles so that I don't grow bored of running. There are 8 basic types of running. They're called:
Today I did a tempo run where you perform at the fastest pace you can sustain for a certain period of time. At one point I was able to get up to 9 mph for a quarter of a mile -- a first for me. I did this several times, interspersing walking in between. Tomorrow I think I'll try a base run, which you do at your natural pace and which is not meant to be overly challenging. Then Saturday is race day. I really want to place in my age group but there aren't any group awards this time around. That won't stop me, of course, from running hard (I tend to overdo things in 5K races). Not gonna lie, I'm becoming quite competitive in my old age!
Finally (for now), here's a link to Tuesday's powerful and prophetic chapel message by Thabiti Anyabwile.
He asks, "Why isn't there more preaching about justice in our churches?" I agree completely. Passages such as Rom. 13:1-7 and 13:8-14 make it clear that political ethics can't be separated from the ethics of love and justice. True ethics demands charismatic responsibility. Thabiti considers it a very dangerous thing when we flatten the word "justice" to refer only to justification and imputation. He suspects that not one in a 100 pastors gets this right. "Preachers preach doctrine where the Bible is preaching duty." Duty and doctrine can't substitute one for the other, he says. Both are important. "It's like giving birth to twins and saying to the doctor, 'I only want to leave with one.'" Beginning at 48:08 he turns to the "current evangelical attachment to our president." Don't miss this part, folks. Principle, he says, has been abandoned for political power and pragmatism. I have rarely heard words so powerful. Thabiti approached his topic with wisdom, pastoral sensitivity, and love. His message is one all of us could profit from.
Well, gotta go and spend some time with Sheba. She is aging before my very eyes and some day I won't have her bark welcoming me home. "Live each day as if it were your last." What, my friend, are you doing, if anything, to make your life what you want it to become? Make each day count. I'll try to as well.
7:55 AM Last night I was so tired I couldn't blog about everything I wanted to. So I'm going to make up for it this morning before heading off to the Y. We'll call this post "potpourri."
1) The spirit of volunteerism was out in full force during Sunday's race. I loved seeing so many church groups literally passing out cups of cold water in Jesus' name. This sign stood in front of one of these church buildings.
Inspiring! By the way, I've been collecting my humble thoughts about running in a little book I've started writing. I think I'm going to call it From Side Line to Finish Line: How the Sport of Running Changed My Life Forever.
2) While in BH I had the joy of visiting Matthea's new booth at one of the local malls. She sells jewelry and natural soap made by women escaping poverty and human trafficking. Please check out Freegrance and support this fantastic ministry if you can.
3) Here is Jon and Matthea's Sheltie named Galana. She's my Sheba's daughter. Ain't she sweet?
4) Karis Lynn is almost walking. Unbelievable.
Reminds me of this quote by Mitch Alborn:
5) The owner of the Ethiopian restaurant in BH loved Becky's book.
So grateful she could finish writing it before she passed away. It continues to minister to so many! Blessed be His name.
6) One thing I've learned about running is that there's no one-to-one correlation between your finish time and the joy you experience out on the course. As you can see, I came in dead last in my age group (65-69) and am right proud of it.
I think I probably could have finished the race with a time of around 2:45, but nothing was going to keep me from running with my kids. The main differences between the three of us and the top finishers are related to genetics and priorities. Otherwise, our accomplishments were identical!
7) It may sound trite to say it, but no race can be successful without an army of volunteers and a whole host of uniformed officers keeping the streets safe for us runners. Every chance I got I tried to say a hearty "Thank you" to every volunteer I saw and to give a high five to the people standing between me and the traffic. No one who has ever run a race is ungrateful to these men and women.
8) Speaking of races, yesterday I purchased my plane tickets for my trip to Cincy in May for the Flying Pig Extravaganza.
This will mark the anniversary of my first marathon. Right now, as you read this post, there are millions of Americans who want to run a marathon but they're only dreaming. They aren't doing it. When I stood at the start of last year's race, I realized that I was trying something that 99 percent of the population has never tried. You don't dream your way into the marathon club. You earn it. Once they place that medal around your neck, it becomes a symbol of your willingness to not only dream big to act on your dream. Some people compete in marathons. Others complete marathons. But the sport is big enough to embrace us all.
9) Yesterday I started streaking. No, not that kind of streaking. I'm going to try and run every day until my marathon on March 18. I need to get more miles on these legs of mine before I attempt another long-distance race. Plus, there's my first ultra marathon to prepare for on April 8. Since I'm such a sucker for books about running, I decided to get this volume with what I thought was a super duper title. Hopefully I can pick up some good ideas about running my first 50K race.
10) This could go on forever! One more pic and I'm done! I just want to give a shout out to God for the amazing work He did in getting my Greek grammar into Spanish and now Mandarin.
To think that my beginning textbook is now available in the world's three most-widely spoken languages -- well, it blows my mind. My prayer is that God would somehow use these books to demystify Greek and show readers how mere mortals like me can learn to master a foreign language.
Wednesday, February 14
6:48 PM Hey everybody, and Happy Valentine's Day to you. As you know, last Sunday was RACE DAY! It was my 11th half marathon and Jon and Matthea's first.
Here's a brief recap:
I arrived in Birmingham on Thursday. Since I was going to be in Alabama for the race on Sunday, I wanted to spend as much time with the Glasses as possible. We even found an Ethiopian restaurant in town and had a marvelous meal together.
On Friday, Jon and I did a 5K run through a local subdivision adjacent to a gorgeous park.
The day was sunny and even a little on the warm side.
All that was about to change, however. The weekend turned out to be cloudy and rainy, but nothing could dampen our spirits. We were running a HALF MARATHON!!! We made our way to the expo in downtown Birmingham. The drive there only took half an hour. There we got our race numbers and Jon and Matthea got new stickers for their cars.
Time to replace their 10K stickers with ones that read 13.1!
The expo was on the smallish side but exciting nonetheless. On Sunday morning we woke up incredibly early because we wanted plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and find parking at the venue. The food at the Waffle House was just what the doctor ordered.
When we arrived in downtown Birmingham, we had about an hour to wait before the race began. I don't know about Matthea and Jon, but I was a bit nervous. I'm always nervous before a race. You never know how those last 3 or 4 miles will go. Eventually we found our way to the back of the pack and waited for the race to begin.
Step by step we slowly shuffled forward, a sense of excitement filling our hearts, and suddenly we were off.
We were feeling good. Our running pace was a manageable one, and we often took walk breaks to keep our legs fresh.
I didn't think the hills were all that bad. We seemed to chug up those hills just fine. As we neared the 12-mile marker the excitement began to build. We decided to run the last 100 yards or so and join hands as we finished the race. I can tell you, we put whatever power we had left in our legs to cross that finish line. There we hugged and celebrated the end of the race. "You did it!" I said to Jon and Matthea. "You really did it!" We got our medals and then I asked someone to snap our picture.
We broke no records on Sunday. In fact, we finished at the very back of the pack. Did that matter? Not in the least. We had set out to slay the Mercedes Half Marathon dragon and we had done it -- together.
After the race we went inside to the post-race party. Jon and Matthea were radiant with joy, as well they should have been. The half marathon is the most popular race in America save for the 5K. I can certainly see why. Just look at the smiles on Jon and Matthea's faces.
We ate barbeque and chips and then drove back home to shower and nap, still glowing in our runners' "high." As I rested that afternoon, it occurred to me why we ran that day. It wasn't to escape from reality. It wasn't to win a prize. It wasn't even for the gorgeous medal. We ran because we love the sport. Running has become a part of our lives. For me, the best part of the race was watching the determination on Jon and Matthea's faces as they approached the finish line. By this time, many people were walking, but not Jon and Matthea. They were going to fly across that finish line even it killed them.
"Go, go, go!" a spectator yelled. "You're almost there!" The race may have been slow and agonizing, but they kept moving forward. As is often said, running a race is a parable about life. You just keep on taking step after step after step as your legs weep quietly. Even when you begin walking, you never stop. Jon and Matthea had both gone farther than they had ever gone in training. They ran into uncharted territory like a bulldog chasing a rabbit. They stuck to their race plan, and it worked. They crossed the finish line with their heads held high and with praise in their hearts to the God who gave them the strength to run that day. The race was a gauntlet testing their bodies, their minds, and even their souls. And that's the lesson from participating in a long-distance race. You learn that life is lived in exactly the same way. One step at a time. In the end, the experience was more than any of us could have ever hoped for it to be.
Such a happy race and such a happy day in Birmingham! Jon and Matthea, I am so very very proud of you!
Thursday, February 8
7:56 AM The high in Birmingham on race day will be 67, with a 57 percent chance of rain. Yes, runners race in the rain. Raining or not, most people can run a half marathon in about 2 hours. My PR is 2:27 (Petersburg, VA). I usually finish in a little less than 3 hours. But there's 3 of us running and we'll probably want to stick together. I hope when we cross the finish line that our form will be a little bit better than this.
Whatever our finish time, it will be an incredible experience. This afternoon Jon and I will be driving the course. There are some "hills" I'm told along the route. If these "hills" are anything thing like the ones I experienced in the Cincy marathon last May, we had better hire a Sherpa. I hope we can get to the race venue early on Sunday morning. If you've never been to a big race before, it will be an awesome experience. There's so much to take in. You can feel the anticipation the moment you arrive. As you make your way to the starting line and the horn sounds, you can't help but let out out a primordial scream of excitement. You're actually running a half marathon! I still have to talk with Jon and Matthea about our pace. 13.1 miles is no joke. When I first started running half marathons, I went out of the starting block like it was the Kentucky Derby. I would hitch up with a pace team that I knew was going to run faster than I was capable of sustaining over the entire distance of the race. These days I start out much slower, usually at the back of the pack so that I'm not jostled about too much. If I can turn it up a notch as the race proceeds, I'll do it. If not, I'm happy to settle into my usual (slow) pace. The main thing to remember is not to try anything new on race day -- a rule I am sorely tempted to break since I just picked up my new running shoes in Raleigh on Tuesday. Don't worry. I'm leaving them at home. A half marathon is no place to break in new shoes. Or to try something new for breakfast. Or to try a new brand of socks. As for hydration and fueling, I usually just depend on the water stations to have everything I need. I like to run light, though I will often carry a candy bar with me just in case. My policy is to eat something nutritious about mile 8. I don't plan to run between now and race day. My goal right now is to hang up the running shoes for a couple of days and be well rested for the race.
I want to thank my family for their support of my running. In fact, they put up with every weird thing that I do. Thank you so much for being there for me. You guys rock! I especially want to thank my daughter who, 3 years ago, told me I needed to start running. See what you started, girl? Running, like love, is very simply yet very mysterious. When I finally discovered that I would run for the rest of my life, everything changed. This weekend I'll only be adding to the mosaic of my life as a runner. And every month, every weekend, every day that I run, I'm closer to heaven. I am unapologetically an advocate of running. And to think that I can run this weekend with two of my kids? The very thought makes me giddy.
For everyone looking to discover themselves, this sport is for you. More and more people are jumping on this band wagon. Maybe it's time you did too?
Wednesday, February 7
7:14 PM I'm sill ALIVE! Was another lovely but hectic stay on campus. Taught my four classes and otherwise tried to get some significant writing done. On Monday I took our visiting scholar, John Meade, out for Mexican food. He teaches Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary and is here working on a book on the Hexapla.
We debated whether California or Arizona has better Mexican cuisine and ended up agreeing it's pretty much a wash. What a great guy and what an honor to have him on campus for the semester. Also, hat's off to my Greek students for doing so well on their quiz over chapter 15 this week. I sent them home with their first exam -- a review of the entire indicative mood. Congrats, y'all, for arriving at this important juncture in your studies. I'm so proud of you!
This weekend, as you know, I'll be traveling to Birmingham to race on Sunday. My kids tell me we'll be eating Ethiopian food one night while I'm there. You heard me right. BH has more than one Ethiopian restaurant if you can believe it. Jon and Matthea are awesome, but I'm really going there to spoil my five grandkids. By the way, I have to say I feel like I'm back at the University of Hawaii in 1973 taking my two required American history courses while living through the Watergate hearings (live and direct from DC). I can't help but sense that another showdown at the OK Corral is right around the bend, pardner. Worried? Nope. Concerned? Yep. When the Ephesians turned to God from idols, the makers of the images started a riot. Today, the shrine makers to Diana are so little troubled by our "Christianity" that they stage no protest. "Go along to get along." Have we made a pact with the "Christianity" of this godless generation and agreed not to arouse its antagonism? Maybe we need more Ephesians and Philippians-like awakenings even if they land Paul and Silas in jail. As we saw in our 1 Thessalonians study this week, when Paul led a person to Christ, the devil lost a customer. Friends, it's not our main business, as Christians, to denounce this or that political party or administration official, although that certainly has its place (and I'm sorely tempted to do more of it in these pages). The fact is, we are all politicians more or less, in a mad scramble for the top seats of power and prestige in this world of ours. Jesus says, "Want the highest seats? Then be prepared for a demotion." It is a humiliating time in our history when American evangelicals should be red-faced with shame for our glory-seeking.
The only real truth is in Christ and the only way to be different is to be a real Christian. Run-of-the-mill church membership just won't cut it. A true follower of Jesus is neither conformed to this world nor merely non-conformed to this world, but is transformed by the renewing of his or her mind to prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. True Christianity is the real revolution going on in the world today, my friends. The only allegiance followers of Jesus have is to, well, Jesus. This isn't to say we can't be involved in political debates or translate our values into politics. But I'm not to be worried about any of this. As a follower of Christ, I'm commissioned to manifest the reign of God in every area of life. Our call as Christians is to be in the present what the entire world will look like in the future, when the reign of God comes to complete fruition. In the meantime, this means translating the word of God into living epistles known and read by all. No Bible translation is quite as effective as the flesh and blood edition. May we all be true translations in letter and in spirit. Faithfulness is our motivation, faithfulness in even such mundane details as taking care of farm animals and making sure they have food and water. (My forthcoming book Godworld will explore this theme in greater detail.) I take animal care seriously because I'm a follower of King Jesus, if that makes any sense. He is Lord of all creation.
Well, its time to run and do my household chores. I'm a bit behind, as usual.
Stay centered in the King!
Monday, February 5
5:55 AM Guess what? In April I'm going to try something brand spanking new. I'm "ultra" excited about it, too. Get the hint? Yessiree. I took the plunge and signed up for my first ever 50K run. It's called the Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12M and 50K Challenge and will be held on Sunday, April 8. The course follows a single track through the woods around Falls Lake in North Raleigh. Now, if this were a 50K road race on concrete, you could count me out. But a hiking trail? What's to worry about -- except logs, roots, low-hanging branches, quick turns, and water. The course has a VERY generous time limit of 8 hours. A marathon is 42.2 kilometers, and my average marathon time (based on the 7 marathons I've done) is about 6:00 hours. According to some smart doohickey I found online called Strava, I can actually calculate my potential finish time for a 50K race by inputting my average pace. If I run a 14-minute mile pace, I can expect to finish the race in about 7:15 hours. That's a 4.3 mph pace. If, on the other hand, I have to slow down to a 15-minute mile pace, my finish time should be around 7:46 at a 4 mph pace. Being the geek that I am, I decided to go online and check out last year's finishers' stats. A guy named Shan came in first place with a time of 4:16:21. (Awesome, dude!) The last place finisher's time was 8:35:02. (Good for you for hanging in there to the end!) Every runner in last year's event was under the age of 60 except for someone named David, who finished with a time of 6:58:15. (Nice, going, David!) The top female finisher had a time of 5:04:43. My goals for this race? Have fun. Don't get hurt. Finish. In that order. It would also be nice if I can stay injury free between now and then. I'm not going into this event with my eyes closed, or at least I don't think I am. I know it's going to be the hardest thing I've ever done. But actually, it's just the logical "next step" when someone becomes a runner. You go from a 5K to a 10K to a 10-Miler to a half then a full and eventually you ask yourself, "So what's next?" For me the answer is an ultra. The great thing about this event is that it's close to home and the course is fairly flat (no big mountains to climb). I know I'm being a bit hard on myself, but that's how I've always been. The toughest challenge for me will be to remain strong mentally and to give the race the respect it deserves by taking it slow and easy. Knowing me, I'll probably miss a turn somewhere on the course and get a DQ. (Ugh.) If so, I hope from that failure will come the strength and wisdom to do better the next time. I define real success as the willingness to fail. I could have DNF'd my first half or my first full. You just have no idea how well you'll do going into a long distance race. Real success is looking at yourself honestly and knowing that there are never any certainties in life. I've come to realize that, by the grace of God, I'm having the time of my life right now. The worst day I've ever had as a runner is better than the best day I had as a couch potato. So if you're still enjoying the sport, why not go for bigger challenges? Just makes sense to me. So ... why did I sign up for this race? Ultimately, to see if I can do it.
Again, this will be my first "ultra" but don't let that word fool you. As far as ultra races are concerned, this is like a 5K in comparison to all the other ultras you can run, the ultimate one probably being the Hardrock Endurance Run in Colorado. It's "only" 100 miles long. Yes, I said miles, not kilometers. (Think: 161K. Ouch.) Not only that, the average elevation is 11,000 feet. I'll post a picture of the Hardrock Run here because that's the closest I'll ever come to participating in the crazy thing. Looks beautiful, eh?
As for training, I'll need to get in at least one really long run before the ultra in April. This is already on my calendar: the Tobacco Road Marathon in Raleigh on March 18. In the meantime, I'll try and get in at least few miles on the actual course since it's not far from Wake Forest.
Am I nervous? You bet I am. Can I travel 50K in less than 8 hours on a hiking trail? We'll find out, I guess. It's like everything else in life, folks. You set a goal and then commit not to quit. An ambivalent attitude will practically guarantee a DNF.
Hmm. I kinda love it that boredom hasn't become an issue in my life.
Sunday, February 4
5:05 PM Here are a few of my Cliff Notes from Charles Wanamaker's discussion of 1 Thess. 1:6-10 in his Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians.
Wanamaker, who has taught in South Africa, has produced a solid work on 1-2 Thessalonians. I never come to class without having first consulted it.
9:30 AM Sheba and I sat on the front porch for about an hour waiting for the snow to arrive. She busied herself with marking her territory on the grass while I read and recited 1 Thess. 1:6-10, our passage for the week.
The text raises all sorts of questions in my mind:
Questions, questions, questions! This is called "listening to the text." Our awareness is totally on the surface structure of the text at this stage. We notice what is said as well as how it is said. Then we go on to stage 2: we notice what is not being said or what is being said below the surface structure. It is when we can clearly articulate in our own words what a text is saying that we have arrived at the goal of exegesis.
Fellow student of the word: Asking good questions is so important. Read, recite, study, learn, solve exegetical problems, make decisions -- all these depend on asking the right questions. Framing questions of the text is not only a crucial first step in the exegetical process. It's something we need to do repeatedly. The questions we ask shape all of our conclusions. This is a large topic but one I hope to develop with my Greek students this semester.
7:15 AM Well hello there. The snow is heading our way again.
It's already in Lynchburg, where I ran yesterday. Looks like I'll have to postpone the 10 mile training run I had hoped to do this afternoon. The Birmingham Half Marathon is a only week from today. Do you know how far 13.1 miles is? It's a long way. There's no way I'd be doing this unless I had prepped myself on shorter courses -- 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-Milers, etc. The half is no marathon, for sure. As someone has said, "The reason why the half is so popular is that you can run a half marathon and walk the next day." Most of us who run for fun can train ourselves to run a half without too much difficulty. A half is also the perfect challenge for someone who's been running for a year and wants to step it up a bit. I know this graphic is a bit dated, but it clearly shows the rise in popularity of the half marathon in the past few years.
My first half was in 2013. I've now done a total of 10. It's a great experience with the added benefit of health. This year my daughter and son are running the race with me next weekend. They live in BH so it only makes sense. They've been training consistently for the race. The nice thing about training for a half is that you get to do long runs that aren't "too long." In March, my daughter's husband who lives in DC will be running the Four Courts Four Miler in Arlington, VA, with me. That should be a hoot. I love running in groups. And to run with family is even better. The other nice thing in running a half is that there's very little pressure to finish with a fast time. Usually you're given a very generous time limit of at least three and a half hours. Which means that the half marathon allows you to feel great about yourself without pushing yourself into aerobic distress. This may account for the fact that the average pace for the half marathon is slower than the average pace for the full marathon. Most of us who run the half are simply trying to complete the distance and have lots of fun while doing it. Many people who participate in half marathons follow Galloway's walk/run method. You'll see a lot of walk-runners in a half, including me (I've run the complete 13.1 mile distance only once). Running a half is a bucket list sort of thing for many people. For me, it only got me hooked on long-distance running. In fact, I'm hoping to do my first ultra this year -- nothing too major, perhaps a 50K race somewhere close to home. First, we'll see how I do in the marathons I've got scheduled for Raleigh in March, Arlington (TX) in April, and Cincinnati in May. One of my sons might be running the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon with me. How cool is that?
Running is a great sport. It's so satisfying and affirming. It gives you an opportunity to test how much grit you have and is literally a breath of fresh air when your work begins to suffocate you. But it can also be challenging. One of the things I'm trying to work really hard on this year is my form while running, especially my upper body position. Running form is very serious business. I've been discovering that proper arm action helps me to maintain my form, cadence, and posture when I'm beginning to feel fatigued (usually around the 9 mile mark during a half marathon). Coach Matt Rush from The Running Factory has a great video explaining correct arm motion while running.
The main areas to watch for are:
The point is: To be a good runner you have to worry about more than your leg motion. A proper arm swing balances out the momentum caused by your legs. A good arm swing balanced by a solid contact with the ground near center of mass should correct a weak core.
I know there's a spiritual lesson in there somewhere but I'm too lazy to look.
Saturday, February 3
7:02 PM Dolores Keane, Frances Black, and Sharon Shannon perform Solid Ground. Ireland's treasures. Awesome.
12:58 PM Just back from the Arctic 5K. I'm a real fan of this race. Many think it's a tough course and I'd have to concur. It doesn't help when you arrive onsite barely in time to get your bib number. As you can see below, I was the last person to cross the starting line. You all know that trail running is way out of my comfort zone. Especially the uphill portion. Eventually I ended up walking a good deal of it, though even then I was able to pass a number of people if only because I have longer legs than they do. Don't worry: they made up for it on the downhill portion! Anyway, despite the rigor of the course, I ABSOLUTELY loved it. The real challenge was on the downhill portion. I kept wanting to speed up even though leaves covered much of the course and I knew I was prone to slipping and sliding. I think my center of gravity is just way too high to be able to go any faster than 5 mph on the downhill leg. I kept asking myself, "When will this race ever end?" Then sure enough, I crossed the finish line with arms raised high. The awesome news is that aside from a few minor aches and pains, my body feels fantastic. I stiffened up a bit on the long drive home but right now I feel fully recovered. I came in 77th out of a total of 109 runners. The winner's time was an unbelievable 23:09. The last place finisher's was 1:26:47. I managed to squeak out a 45:02. Throughout the run I never forgot why I was there. To do my very best. It was as simple and as complicated as that. That's my goal in every race I run. I'm not competing against anybody except myself. A race always tests your body, mind, spirit, and endurance. That's a test I always hope to pass. I was very impressed with the organization of this race, from the registration to the course support to the after-race party (pizza, bananas, cookies, and lots more) to the awards ceremony. LU is to be commended. My day was crazy. So awesomely crazy. I've never had more fun on a run. Can't wait to run Birmingham next weekend!
5:45 AM Good (early) morning! I was up at 5:00 am today, eager and anxious for today's trail run. It will be good to get back to Camp Hydaway, the venue for today's event. The trails have some pretty funny names: Split Decision, Great Escape, Idiot's Run, Killer Bees, Dirty Ridge, and (my favorite) Psycho Path. I love running in cold weather and harsh trail conditions because it makes me a better runner. The key is having the right gear. First of all, you put on about 1,000 layers. Then you have to make sure you keep your noggin warm. And gloves? Don't leave home without 'em. Something happens to you psychologically when you run in severe conditions. You start out the race thinking you're absolutely bonkers, but after 5 minutes or so you usually want to keep on going. By the time you reach the finish line you are on cloud 9. As long as there's no lightening or ice, I'll run. Right now Nature is being seriously bipolar. We get snow and then we have a heat wave. Today, the temp at race time in Lynchburg will be a mere 21 degrees. But you warm up quickly during the race. The trail is either going up or down, giving your body a chance to vary muscle usage. I've read a ton about how to do a trail run, but nothing can beat just getting out there and doing it. For me, a difficult trail run is symbolic of hard work, determination, and just plain gratitude to God for the ability to get out there and be active.
So it's off for an hour and a half drive to suffer, er, do something I love doing. Thanks for following these ramblings about my journey and how it keeps evolving. May today you be able to find the blessings all around you.
Friday, February 2
6:58 PM Breaking News! An animal saw its shadow today, so I guess we're all stuck with six more weeks of winter. What is it about Groundhog Day that makes the news? I think it's because, if you're like me, we feel stuck in Winter and can't wait for it to be over with. Everywhere we look we see signs of death -- dried brown thickets, shriveled rose bushes, naked tree branches. Our weary eyes gaze steadily ahead, as if Spring can't arrive early enough. Everything in life can become a sort of wintry interlude. Even marriage is a death of sorts -- a launching out into deep and uncharted waters, with no escape clauses. Of course, in marriage there's also sunlight and flowers to go along with the gusts of wind and peals of thunder. It's often only after our marriages go through times of testing -- through a Winter if you will -- that we experience the wondrous beauty of the married state. Everything in life seems to go through this same dying-and-living-again cycle. The flower dies to produce fruit. The fruit dies to produce seed. The seed dies and then -- Springtime! Existence is a constant death-and-life cycle. Death is the mercy of God, though we struggle with that truth. "Can these bones live again?" "Can You please give me living water?" "Who will roll the stone away?" We add our own questions: Will I ever get over my grief? Why did You take my baby away from me? Will I ever overcome my loneliness? After Becky died, many people came to visit me. But no one person could be with me all of the time. I had entered the Winter of my soul. And yet today I can look back and see that God was doing a quiet work in my heart. My assignment was simply to keep on walking, one step at a time, left, right, left, right. This is what a cruciform life is all about. Only heaven will take away all of our tears and pain, but the possibility of heaven on earth, of Spring smack dab in the middle of Winter, remains, as the Risen Christ walks with us. Of course, the roads remain rugged, the precipices steep. But that's only because God requires of us perseverance, and it's in that perseverance that He plants the seed of His strength. Because of Becky's death, I've not only felt pain as never before, but I've also discovered the pain that God suffered for me. "Unfolding every hour;/The bud may have a bitter taste,/But sweet will be the flower" wrote William Cowper, an 18th century poet who suffered from severe mental illness. My plea, as we face the Winters of our own lives, is that we give the Divine Creator-Gardner a hearing, that we start with theology and not our circumstances, that we give the Word a first hearing, and a second and a third if need be. If we do this, our ability to endure the Winters of our lives will arise out of our life with Christ Jesus. We can't do this ourselves. He can, and He will enable us.
1:14 PM I love family!
7:45 AM Hey folks. Are there any comparisons between running a marathon and learning how to read New Testament Greek? Much, in every way.
1) Don't start anything without first examining your motives. It all begins with desire. I took Greek in college because it was required for graduation. I had no idea that I would fall in love with the language. I sort of stumbled into my career, if you will. Some of you may be like me. You were shocked when you took Greek, only to discover that you really love what you're doing. So make sure you're motivated or you'll never get past square one.
2) You need to plan and prepare. Because sooner or later it will happen. A 5K becomes routine. So does a 10K and even a half. You begin to think the unthinkable. A marathon? Am I really up to it? You can't simply go from a 5K to a marathon. A marathon is, by definition, a race that requires a training program. So it is with Greek. Are you ready to tackle a really difficult subject like Greek? Can you devote sufficient time each week for study? Have you carefully chosen your "trainer" and your "training program" -- that is, a teacher and a textbook? Not all textbooks are created equal. Teachers can be helpful but they can also get in the way. You can't be half-hearted with your planning and preparation.
3) You won't get anywhere without self-discipline. Nearly all of us find that running requires more effort than we ever thought possible. With Greek, it's easy to burn out after a couple of chapters. Some days you feel like you just can't go on. On those days the real test is not in your mind but in your soul. All you can do on those days is just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Both running and learning Greek will teach you something about yourself. Some days you're convinced that the world should make allowances for you. You want everything to be easy. You want all the traffic lights to be green. You want to be in the fastest line at the grocery store. But life doesn't always work that way. Being a runner often means going to the very edges of your ability and strength. Greek students find that small victories make all the difference in the world. You master one chapter and then the next one. You know that somewhere out there is a finish line. As you keep your eyes on the goal, somehow you're able to keep those arms pumping and legs churning.
4) Remember that you're not alone. The running community is just that -- a community of fellow runners of all sizes, shapes, and abilities who are more than willing to help you get to the finish line. In my Greek classes, students are encouraged to ask for personal tutoring if they feel they need it. Some students enjoy studying with a study partner. Having someone to share the load with you builds confidence. My story as a runner is largely a story about the people I've met along the way, people who have shared their joys with me, laughed with me, and tutored me. This is not just true of me but of everyone who runs. Even if you are studying Greek on your own, you can always reach out to the author of your textbook by email. Most Greek teachers I know would be more than happy to respond.
5) Finally, be aware of the risks. Simply having the desire to run a marathon doesn't guarantee that you'll be successful. Simply wanting to take Greek doesn't mean that you will finish the class or master the textbook. We are often "interrupted" by life. I remember when I was teaching Greek every Monday night in my local church. Becky was one of my best students. She was acing all the quizzes and exams. She had always wanted to take Greek with me and now was her chance. Then chemo kicked in and she became too weak to continue her studies. One thing I admired so much about Becky was that she never looked back at what might have been. When I first enrolled in Greek at Biola, I lasted exactly three weeks before dropping. Then I discovered that Moody Bible Institute had a Greek course that was taught on my level, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you've had a false start, that's okay. Take a break, then get back in line. If you see me running a marathon, you'll probably smile. Don't be surprised at the sight of my plodding style and persistence. And don't expect me to ever stop smiling.
I love what I do. I love my running life. I love my life as a Greek student. As slow and silly as I may look, I'm having the time of my life. Day by day, moment by moment, I'm adding to the mosaic of who I am and who I want to be. Every day I am closer to becoming the person my Creator wants me to be.
May God bless your journey!
Thursday, February 1
8:18 PM Tonight on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Garrett Graff, author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror. You can listen to her interview here.
The interview was an eye-opener. I had no idea that Mueller took over the reigns of the FBI just before the events of 9-11. Nor did I realize that he had led a platoon in Vietnam as a Marine officer and received the Purple Heart. I just ordered the book from Amazon. It should get here on Saturday.
I'll tell you one thing: I wouldn't want to mess with a man named Robert S. Mueller III.
6:28 PM What I'm reading ....
These are for next Tuesday's Greek 4 class as we cover 1 Thess. 1:6-10. Each essay speaks to how Paul and his missionary friends had influenced the Thessalonians. The paragraph has three colons and so makes three points:
The Second Coming is a doctrine we can stake our life on. One day we'll be face to face with Jesus. Between now and then, Jesus has entrusted us with an assignment. For three and a half years, He showed people what God looked like. Now it's our turn to do that. He asks us to serve for Him, love for Him, and speak for Him. The Thessalonians seemed to have excelled in doing all three. Now, as then, you and I are Jesus' heart and hands. Everything we do ought to mirror His character. If we're successful at this, people will recognize God in us and will want to know Him. If they fail to recognize Him, it's because we've failed to do our job.
"You imitated us and the Lord," writes Paul. Jesus has many imitators today, some good, others not so good. A celestial circus? Perhaps. The good news is that God can take every one of us common sinners and convey His message to the world through us. But we've got to be willing to turn from our idols. Go ahead and think for a moment about those people who've had the greatest impact of your life. What do you think of when you think of them? Imitation is serious business with God. Find someone who truly loves you for who you are, someone you can look up to, someone who imitates Christ (imperfectly, of course), and your life will never be the same. In a sense, Paul was in the business of making somebodies out of nobodies. In his eyes, there were no ordinary people, just people -- people like the Thessalonian believers who couldn't wait to share their newfound faith with their neighbors and friends. This is the challenge we each must face individually.
P.S. Korean bulgogi for supper. Sheba says, "It was great!"
10:42 AM On Monday one of our students from Korea and I enjoyed a wonderful meal together at the Seoul Garden Restaurant in Raleigh. Joseph is in my beginning Greek class.
Then on Tuesday, I discovered a Korean market in Cary and was finally able to purchase some much-sought-after items for my kitchen, including fresh Kimchi.
Korean food and I are old friends, stemming from all those trips I made to Korea when I lived in Southern California. Their idea of a meal is that it should be something to be enjoyed, something that will fuel the body, and something that is nourishing. To be honest, I could eat Korean food every day of the week. My ultimate goal is to learn how to cook it fresh. For the most part, I'm enjoying a healthy relationship with food these days. I feel thinner, look thinner, and can say that I've embraced the whole concept of healthy eating. I still love my puffed Cheetos and sodas, but you won't find me indulging myself in those cravings more than once or twice a month. I can't ever imagine going back to my fast food days. I know it sounds crazy, but it's a fact that you get fit in the gym but lose weight in the kitchen. I eat to live instead of live to eat now. I don't use my scales because I know that healthy eating and exercise will balance themselves out. My body is a temple and I want to fuel it right. I'm no doctor, but I mean, how hard is it to eat healthy? I advocate for this slippery slope and hope to encourage people to take up running as a great way to get into shape. But exercise will do nothing for us if we're eating junk food all the time. That being said, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I have all of this figured out. When I overeat or eat something that's really unhealthy, I can feel guilty about it. It's just a reminder that I need to keep on educating myself about diet and exercise. It's sort of like learning to read New Testament Greek: you just take it one chapter at a time, one lesson at a time, and try not to fall behind too much.
We all have unhealthy tendencies at times. What are you doing to overcome them?
8:48 AM Morning, blog. I just registered for the 7th annual Arctic 5K Trail Race this Saturday morning in Lynchburg, VA. The course is a single track trail intermixed with some forest roads.
I ran this 5K last year and I can tell you: it is brutal. Total elevation gain exceeds 450 feet.
Coming down isn't any easier, either, because you have to watch out for limbs and roots. Last year I placed 79 out of 127 runners. The next oldest racer was 56 years old. Most of the participants are college students attending nearby Liberty University. I have to admit that I've kinda lost interest in 5ks. Some people think they're too easy. I think they're too challenging. The temptation for me is to push myself too hard, whereas in any race longer than a 10K, I feel I can just be my (slow) self and take my time. My time last year was 42:51. The winner finished in 22:52, and the last place finisher's time was 1:06:46. This only confirms my semi-official status as a racer: a mid- to back-of-the-pack runner. Last year when I finished I was just glad I survived without stumbling over a root. It was a good race, a fun time, and I told myself I would definitely do it again if I felt up to it. At any rate, I think it will be a good prep run for next weekend's half in Alabama. Trail runs are cruel because they make you run, and run hard, the whole way. 3.1 miles is a long ways to race on a narrow track. And the result is what it is. You have no idea how well you'll do until you begin racing. As long I run inside of my comfort zone, I think I'll be okay.
So ... on to my first race of February. And to think -- a month ago today I was running the Allen Marathon in Texas. Wow. Life, moving at warp speed.