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July 2016 Blog Archives

Sunday, July 31

7:26 PM Evening friends! I hope you all had a very good Lord's Day. Mine was pretty ordinary -- which I'm not complaining about! I leave for Montréal tomorrow for the week-long Society for New Testament Studies annual meeting. I well recall the last time it was held in Montréal. It was the year 2001, and Becky and I drove to Canada from the farm, stopping briefly in New York City to have our picture taken in front of the twin towers. A month later and they were no more. That will yank your heart out. But back to the SNTS meeting. On Thursday they reached down to the bottom of the barrel and asked me to read a paper in response to another scholar's paper. Suddenly this week is looking a little bit less like a vacation and more like a work trip. At any rate, I plan on seeing many old friends and making some new ones -- plus checking out the local used bookstores and maybe getting in a jog or two. As you know, I love hoofing it. I guess you could call me a pedantic pedestrian! I recall being at the foot of the Oberrothorn a couple of weeks ago, still several hours from the summit. Ahead was an abundance of the world's generosity: sky, earth, stone, rock, and snow -- all gifts inexhaustibly supplied by the Giver of every good gift. But to experience that gift -- that rich earthy texture -- you have to take a risk, the risk of going beyond what is necessary. I witnessed that same risk-taking this morning as I watched a YouTube of a stuntman skydiving to earth from 25,000 feet without using a parachute. Trekking doesn't mean getting the better of the laws of nature. As much as you may enjoy your forward progress, your bodies eventually fall back to earth, as if to take root there again. Climbing a mountain is an invitation to rediscover gravity!

As I trek, if the path is well enough laid out and not too steep, I advance almost without being aware of myself. My legs might be absorbed with the path, but my soul floats overhead. When people start to walk, the body and brain find the right balance. We begin to relax and our mind resigns itself to being part of an ambulatory body. Trekking up a mountainside thus becomes a recreational technique where we literally re-create ourselves. In order for the art of trekking to be enjoyed to the fullest, all you need is a path or a walkway, preferably in the countryside and featuring a landscape of mountains, valleys, streams, and woods. In his book The Art of Walking, Karl Schelle established that walking produces a relaxing effect on the whole body. In Switzerland two weeks ago I walked and walked and walked, stopping perhaps at a mountain hut for a drink of water, but not for long. I never stopped walking or hiking or trekking or climbing except when my exhausted body demanded rest. Otherwise, walking was my slumber. Happiness is fragile precisely because it is unrepeatable. I will never enjoy the same walks again. Each trek is unique. But the state of joy it produces is virtually incalculable. The only words remaining to the trekker are barely audible mutterings -- "There it is," "Look at that," "We're almost there." By the way, I am never alone because when I trek there is always a dialogue between the creature and the Creator. While hiking, I praise, worship, pray, sing, and adore. My body and me: walking without talking and yet in deep communion.

Ah, trekking: that deep joy that one feels when walking. And the immense complementary satisfaction of arriving at your destination -- a summit you perhaps thought unattainable.

Indeed, I am a pedantic pedestrian!  

Saturday, July 30

8:20 PM Spent the evening with my daughter Kim and her fam. This might be shocking news, but I do love to take pix.

5:06 PM Should you believe in the lesser of two evils philosophy?

7:50 AM A few "Thank You" notes:

1) For a farm where I can escape all the racket, noise, din, cacophony ("bad sounds"), and pandemonium ("all demons") of the city. (I apologize for etymologizing.)

2) For students who are self-starters. In fact, all learning is self-learning, even the learning we do during a classroom lecture.

3) For strong women leaders in the church who stand taller and laugh louder. Elizabeth Elliot was one of them. So was Becky.

4) For men who no longer talk about their "calling" as being all about "the ministry" but rather (as Scripture teaches) about God's invitation to make us part of His forever family (see Eph. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:11). We can have this "calling" even if we are uneducated and financially unstable. A called life is simply a life sharing with others the mercy and grace that God extended to us in the first place. (Pastor friend, I don't mean to minimize your sense of "calling" to the work you do. But all of us -- every Christian -- shares your desire for purpose. No future calling "into ministry" is more important than your living out the kingdom now.)

5) For those of you who use your blogs as personal journals. I see in them a history of your life. You use them to express your innermost consciousness, to give us the inside story, warts and all. Like a good conversation with an old friend, a journal-blog is a powerful learning experience. When that happens, truth radiates from every word.

Friday, July 29

8:45 PM Ishi is growing up!

An evening tradition! 


8:28 PM Ok, so I love Rom. 12:9-21. Here's how Paul explains what "sincere love" looks like. Even though I'm not on roids, I love this stuff!

Side Note: My entire Power Point may be found here.

8:10 PM Mexican food. The Fab Four. Cool students. Cloudy weather (for a change). Did I mention the guest lecturers we're having in my NT 2 class this fall?

  • Dr. Ant Greenham: "The Implications of the Book of Acts for Muslim Evangelism."

  • Dr. Chip McDaniel: "The Abrahamic Covenant and the Law in the Book of Galatians."

  • Dr. Ken Keathley: "Paul and the Historical Adam."

  • Dr. Daniel Heimbach: "Romans, 1 Corinthians 6, and Homosexuality."

  • Dr. Brent Aucoin: "Modern Race Relations."

  • Dr. Scott Hildreth: "Ecclesial Cooperation in Paul's Letter to the Philippians."

  • Dr. Denise O’Donoghue: "Discipleship of Women in Titus."

  • Dr. Tate Cockrell: "Helping Suffering Christians Find Hope from 1 Peter."

  • Dr. Maurice Robinson: "Textual Criticism of 1 John 5:7-8 et al."


6:52 PM Today, after a good long workout on my bike, I bumped and bounced across the fields with my trusty bush hog and tractor, clipping the grass and weeds (weed control is a big part of why farmers bush hog). Later we'll use the bush hog to clean the edges of all the pastures and along ditches and creek beds where trees and shrubs try to encroach upon our pastures.

Earlier today I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who liked my blog post from this morning, in which I basically argued that there is nothing inherently "Christian" about conservatism or even about the concept of political freedom. I think Vernard Eller was profoundly right about this. The politics of Jesus is very simple to describe. It simply looks and loves and serves and even dies when necessary just like Jesus and thus contrasts with all earthly political systems. Not that I don't think that freedom is a good thing. What concerns me most is pretending that the secular concept of freedom is rooted in Christianity. If that were the case, then indeed we could talk (as they do in Europe) about our "Christian" political organizations as representing "the politics of Jesus." Since this isn't the case, citizens of Christ's kingdom will always be wary of participating too much (or placing too much confidence in) the nation-state. (The Anabaptists saw this, big time.) In the earliest church, Christian baptism was the "pledge of allegiance" if you will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is why water baptism is such a big deal in the book of Acts. It is intended for people who pledge their lives to Christ precisely because it cost Christ everything to initiate this relationship. I encourage you to honor the sign. It's a really YUUGE deal! Let's all run toward the vision of the kingdom the earliest Christians embraced.

Blessings on you!


7:50 AM Finally, the conventions are over. I am wearied and not a little irritated. We are not a two-party system!

How do I view this election? On the one hand, I reject totally any escape to spirituality that disdains the things of this earth. I am a very earthy man, for God has put me (and you) on this earth for a purpose and has given us a charge we can't refuse. On the other hand, Christians can hardly become pom-pom waving politicos because this notion runs contrary to the command of the apostle Paul not to be conformed to the ideas of the present world system. In its history, the church has thrived under monarchists and dictators and republicans and imperialists. Hence the need for writers like Eller and Ellul whose writings form a very happy and much-needed counterbalance to conformism. Whether the state is republican or democrat makes no difference to the pilgrim and stranger, for whom no political party can ever be Christianized. Nor would I adopt a lesser of two evils philosophy to justify my vote. Jesus' way bypasses conflict and provocation. He says that if anyone takes our coat we are to give him our cloak as well. I can't condemn those who look to political power, but I think their revolt is ineffective as real revolution. The Way is the only Revolution that matters. During the age of Constantine, when the church became the official state religion, political power became a final court. But Phil. 3:20 remains in the Bible. I know how scandalous for non-Christians is a God who demands our ultimate and undivided allegiance. Our responsibility as Christians is to pray for the authorities including those in high public office. We pray for their conversion (obviously) but also that they may become truthful, renounce saber-rattling, etc. We realize that they have obtained their power only through God. Authorities are also people, deserving of the same understanding and sympathy that we would extend to any human being. But for the Christian, the starting point will always be non-conformism (Rom. 12:1-2), that is, we begin with the word of God and the will of God and the love of God. It might seem completely crazy, but Paul is calling the church to "unhypocritical love" (Rom. 12:9-21), which includes love among Christians, love for all people, and even love for enemies. We are to live peaceably with all. I have written a detailed exegesis of this "love passage" (Rom. 12:9-21) in case you're interested. The curious thing is to see how Christian pastors have (to their embarrassment) fared when they have offered their services to candidates. The point of Revelation 18 is clear enough, I think: Political power always makes alliances with the power of money. And violence only begets further violence. Ultimately, the beast unites all the kings of the earth and wages war on God and is finally crushed when his representative is destroyed. In the meantime, the church is setting up a marginal society that is only tangentially interested in political matters and in which there is no power, authority, or hierarchy save that of King Jesus. As Ellul often reminds us, Jesus is not against earthly power, but He treats it with disdain or indifference. His kingdom is not of this world. And there is still plenty of room on the road that leads to this kingdom, but the gate is small and the road is narrow. Those who find it seem to be few indeed. 

Thursday, July 28

6:14 PM Today I did a Trifecta: I lifted, I ran, and I swam laps.

This is a good time of the year to get back into my exercise routine. Unfortunately, it's also hot, filled with school preparations, and loaded with all the other things that get in the way of sticking to a training plan. The key, for me at least, is holding myself accountable. I love swimming, which I've been doing all my life. It provides an excellent aerobic workout while taking the load off your joints and preventing injury. Your entire body is engaged -- lungs, legs, hips, shoulders, glutes. I also think it's a great exercise to help tone the abs. It's good to swim after doing weight training because you're in a better fat-burning mode. Swimming is really good for your overall health as well.

And what am I training for? 

Alpine climbing is highly dependent on general aerobic fitness, as I discovered two weeks ago. So you've got to balance strength and endurance. That's why I consider basic weight training and basic aerobic training as the two cornerstones of my training program. Before next summer I need to get in the best possible condition my genes, environment, and age will allow. If you are planning on a big range for a bucket-list climb, you will need to train all year long. I'm trying to move from "random acts of exercise" to a program of exercise based on the actual physiology of physical fitness training.

My main goal next summer is to complete my second 4,000-meter summit, this time the Allalinhorn -- one of the 82 mountains above 4,000 meters in the Alps and a very popular objective for beginners like myself. The Allalinhorn was first summited in 1856. It's part of the Mischabel Ridge between the Saas Valley and the Matterhorn. My guide and I plan to take the "normal route" along glaciated terrain. Our starting point will be Saas Fee. If we're able to make it all the way to the summit, we'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and the Mont Blanc Massif. (Mont Blanc is on my bucket list for 2018.) I'm told most of the route is straightforward cramponing (like the Breithorn), though there are a few steeper sections when good footwork is required. Climbers need to be fit and have good endurance.

Hence my training program!

P.S. Below I'm pointing to the Breithorn, which will always be my "favorite" Alp simply because it introduced me to the sport of alpinism.

7:24 AM I am almost done editing two projects:

1) The syllabus for my NT 2 class this fall.

2) My paper for SNTS next week in Montreal.  

A sense of completion makes me so HAPPY.

Wednesday, July 27

8:32 PM I promised you more GoPro videos and here's one I think you'll enjoy. The weather wasn't cooperating for a major climb that day so Walter and I decided to trek up to the summit of the Oberrothorn ("Upper Red Peak"). From Zermatt we took the Sunnegga funicular to the Blauherd, riding up through a dark tunnel, and from there we took a gondola up to the Unterrothorn ("Under Red Peak"). Here we were met with spectacular views of the Matterhorn and other nearby peaks. From there we employed standing hiking gear to make it to the summit in about 3 hours. Even though I was already partly acclimatized due to an earlier summit of the Breithorn, I did feel the change in elevation. Once we made it to the top we took pictures of Becky's banner, had a quick snack, and waited around for the clouds to clear. At 11,204 feet, the Oberrothorn is Switzerland's highest peak with a marked path to its summit. It felt really really great to have accomplished my second summit of the trip after the Breithorn at 13,661 feet. Plus, the view of Zermatt (6,000 feet below you) is spectacular! 


5:52 PM This is my final "official" Alps Update and I want to dedicate it to You, Jesus, for interrupting my life when I was 8 years old. You have loved me beyond measure, and there is no one else I would rather run my race with. I love You with every step I make and every breath I take. I travel quite a bit, but this trip to the Alps overshadows everything. I am not the same. As never before I was drawn to Your heart. I am so confident in You and through Your Gospel in Your ability to change humanity. You have completely changed the trajectory of my life. Reality no longer comes simply from a book I read or from a lecture I listen to but from deep within, through a spiritual stirring I haven't experienced in years. Church will never again be the goal of the Gospel for me. The church exists for the world. Your body was given for others. Christianity is a life of love, and it's so much bigger than any of us can imagine. John 13 has become my "business model" -- humble mercy to the needy, help to the helpless, and love for our enemies. Scripture applied within community -- this is what I've been seeking after all these years. I am completely unashamed that I have one foot in Scripture and the other in culture. I can worship You as easily on a mountaintop as when I gather with the saints to sing Your praises. You created the beauty of nature. For 10 days I was lost in the splendor of the Alps on the one side and the forested valleys on the other. This was a sacred place for me. I drank in the magnitude of Your creation all day and much of the night. It was a vacation I'll remember for a very long time. Joshua Heschel put it so well in his book I Asked for Wonder when he said that by "standing between earth and sky, we are silenced by the sight." As I stood on the Breithorn or the Oberrothorn or the Klettersteig or the Matterhorn I sensed what Heschel was talking about. I shouted with the Psalmist, "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name." Thomas Merton was right: "Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God creating our own life, our own identity, our own destiny." If that be so, should we Your creatures not pause long enough to join the chorus of angels in singing Your praises?

Today I give thanks for the clouds that float overhead and for the trees on the hillsides and for the distant mountain peaks. Like the birds described in Matthew 6, I am "careless in the care of God." How amazing that we should mean more to You than birds! I can honestly say that my life is richer -- so much richer -- because I have seen with my own eyes and touched with my own hands and feet these mountains You have made with Your own hands. I have to share my wonderment with everyone I meet. Both Scripture and Creation teach me that I am in very good hands. I pray that God will bless your own journey, dear friend, through the seasons of your life, and that you will be drawn ever closer to the Maker of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, July 26

8:40 PM Another work day draws to a close. Grateful.

11:52 AM Clarkesville ("my fair city") has the cutest little farmer's market.

Here's my stash for the day.

8:53 AM This and that ...

1) Meeting this week to put the final touches on my NT 2 syllabus. To use or not to use data-based exams? In my experience, re-deriving data carries with it a very short-term retention rate. I would argue that essay exams are far more effective. I don't think data-based exams are completely useless. If I do use them in my NT class they will be weighted far less than essays. As a seminary student, almost all of my exams were data-based. I did fine because I have a very good memory. But the retention curve was abysmal. After the exam, I simply did I care to store all that data. More to come. 

2) Here's an outline of Hebrews from the Bible Project. See anything amiss with it? To be fair, I've published a good deal on the book of Hebrews, including an essay on the book's literary structure. Book outlining is no place to be inordinately sensitive. We can't haggle over every little thing. But then again, this outline seems counterintuitive in so many ways. I'll comment later if I have the time.

3) My guide's perspective on the Klettersteig in Zermatt.

Monday, July 25

8:04 PM Boy was it hot today.

7:08 AM Aphorisms for an election cycle:

  • We are not called to be served but to serve.

  • We can't serve two masters.

  • We cannot operate in two opposing kingdoms.

  • Be you.

  • Be kind.

  • Love Jesus.  

7:04 AM A week ago I was in Geneva, basking in its bright sunshine and enjoying its historical (and culinary) delights. Below are a few pix (including St. Peter's, where Calvin served), the Monument to the Reformation (can you name all four men without asking Dr. Google?), the University of Geneva, and two of my favorite dishes (Ethiopian kai wat and Persian leg of lamb smothered with rice).

Sunday, July 24

8:50 PM My completely unbiased review of Dinesh D'Souza's Hillary's America:

  • D'Souza: The Democratic Party and the Clintons are evil and corrupt. They will thoroughly destroy America. Our only hope is the Republican Party.

  • Dave: Yawn.

In other news ...

I snapped these photos exactly one week ago today. This is the famous "Climbers' Cemetary" in Zermatt.

I had not allowed myself to view these tombs until after I had completed my own climbs. This 30-year old died on the Matterhorn.

These four men perished on the Breithorn, which I summited a mere two weeks ago.

And here lies yet another victim of the Breithorn.

I sat in the cemetery for a good while, contemplating the Scripture that says that we do not "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Tombstones, in a sense, are celebrations -- visible signs in the midst of mortal remains of the glorious realities that we believe with all our hearts as Christians. I came away from that place with the somber reminder of the frightening truth that we are all mortal, made of dust. In the end, we all die. Hence all the more reason to take God seriously now, while we still can. "Die before you die," wrote the great C. S. Lewis. "There is no chance after." Despite the fact that I have known the Lord for a good many years, I came away from Zermatt with a renewed confidence in God as Creator, Sustainer, and Giver and Taker of life. He has become a living reality to me as never before. My own loss has helped me to understand the loss experienced by the families whose loved ones are buried in the Climbers' Cemetery in Zermatt. Until loss strikes us, up close and personal, we are able somehow to hold the truth of our own mortality at bay. But in the end, death comes. And when death strikes, you will feel both sorrow and hope. You will end up believing with greater depth than ever before.

I'm glad I visited that cemetery Sunday last. Graveyards provide us with perspective. They touch our emotions and help us decide what matters most in life.

Recuiescant in pace.

3:12 PM Enough is enough. Sitting on my duff, that is. It's time to get back into training consistently and eating cleanly. So this morning I got up early, drove to Farmville, and rode 10 miles on the High River Bridge Trail. It was awesome.

Even at 8:00 am it was horrifically humid.

But the scenery was out of this world, including this view of the mighty Appomattox.

It is my hope that you will join me on this fitness journey, which is supported by hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies. If you are willing to take charge of your health needs and create lifestyle changes that will work in a program tailored just for you, I know you'll enter a dimension of fitness and well-being you never knew existed. This is my high calling: to live on mission for Christ as an adopted son of God. And if He calls on me to travel in His service, then I suppose I had better take good care of the temple He's given me.

Speaking of travels, I've been lured back into accepting speaking engagements. Here's August's schedule  -- and I hope you can join me at one of these venues.

  • Sunday, August 14, Calvary Chapel Signal Hill, Los Angeles, CA.

  • Friday, August 19, Ethiopian Evangelical Church, Dallas, Texas.

  • Sunday, August 21, Grace Bible Church, Dallas, TX.

  • Sunday, August 28, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, North Wilkesboro, NC.

Off to see Hillary's America.


Saturday, July 23

5:22 PM Wow! Love American music! And Leonard Slatkin's conducting is simply marvelous.

Absolutely awesome and professional performance. Copland's music brings such joy and happiness -- moves me to tears sometimes. Thank God for the gift of music is all I can say. Check out the flutist at the end. Here's a musician who is clearly connecting with his music. Bravo!

P.S. I'll be seeing this live at the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh on November 5.

4:10 PM Yo folks!

I'm calling this post "Mountain Climbing in 3G." (I know it sounds strange -- sorry, Dave.) But if you're going to climb the Alps someday, you'd better have these three "Gs." They are:

1) A great goal. You need to think big when you climb. Ask yourself: What is my personal Everest? Of course, make sure your goal is physically possible. Otherwise, now is not the time for small goals. Life is way too short for that. Go for it!

2) A great God. It's time to go from afraid to courageous. Make a list of all your climbing fears, write a big "X" over them, and then crumple the paper up and throw it away. Behind all fear is the question: "Can I really depend on God's unconditional love?" The answer? Of course you can! If you are a Christian, didn't you trust in Jesus as the one who died for your sins and rose again? And by trusting in Him (rather than in your own "righteousness"), didn't God give you the greatest gift of all -- Himself? When we live in fear, we limit the impact of what God wants to do through us. God created each and every one of us to do something unique for His glory. So don't put Him in a box. The more we focus on the bigness of God, the smaller our fears will become.

3) A great guide. I once met a couple who had tried to summit a very tall mountain. They tried and tried but kept getting lost on the giant peak. When I suggested to them that they might want to consider hiring a certified mountain guide, they scoured, "We don't need a guide!" Friend, when you're climbing a peak like the Matterhorn, you have to be über-prepared. For me, an essential element of preparedness was hiring a professional mountain guide. But be careful who you get. In my book, a great guide is someone who:

  • Cares more for you than for himself or his business.

  • Knows when to push and when to hold back.

  • Makes safety his number one priority.

  • Gives more when others give up.

  • Shares your dogged resolve to accomplish big goals.

  • Rolls with the punches (that is, is flexible and resilient).

  • Is personable and outgoing.

My mountain guide, Walter Rossini, was all of the above -- and much much more! I can't recommended him highly enough. (His website is Rossini Guiding.)

So there you have it -- the 3Gs of mountaineering: A great goal, a great God, and a great guide. 

Above the gates at Delphi, Greece, stands a brief inscription:

Know thyself.

Before attempting to climb the Alps, my friend, you have to understand yourself. Your dreams. Your strengths. Your weaknesses. This is your life, not somebody else's. Live it with a purpose. Be bold with it. On each of my climbs in the Alps I felt God's presence with me in a supernatural way. I was in tune with myself. I was in tune with the mountain. And I was in tune with the one who created the mountain. I found myself exploring my personal limits -- and loving it. William Blake once wrote:

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling on the street.

And the greatest mountain you will ever face is the mountain of the mind.

Climb on!


11:52 AM You never know what you'll find when you read the signs in Switzerland. 

Credit: Thomas Hudgins.  

11:44 AM In keeping with my new mug's logo, I decided to do a 5K today in a place called Ridgeway -- smack dab in the middle of the tobacco fields of Warren County, NC. (Don't blink!) It was their annual cantaloupe festival and what better way to celebrate than to hold a race in 100 degree temps. I had to laugh out loud. Last week this time I was freezing my tail off ascending the Matterhorn. This week I'm withering in the sweltering heat. Still, I didn't do so bad: 31:24 for 3.1 miles. At least it earned me a third place medallion in the Methuselah Division. You can see I'm as skinny as a bean pole thanks to last week's exertions.

The first place winners. Great job you two!

Next 5K: The Raleigh Run for Life on Saturday, August 13. Great cause!

6:02 AM Last Sunday we hiked to the Stellisee -- one of the most photographed places in the world.

The weather was perfect for displaying Becky's banner one last time.

We took our pictures and, predictably, I got teary-eyed. Walter gave me a compassionate hug and then left me to my thoughts. I wept for a good 10 minutes. My tears were not so much tears of sorrow as tears of joy as I remembered the life God had given Becky and me for 40 years and the higher life she is now enjoying in heaven. I collected myself, rejoined Walter, and we continued our trek. But just as we were leaving the Stellisee I came upon this plaque.

I truly believe God placed it there just for me. It reads:

Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever. My eye beholds what God has built for His honor and to teach us how mighty and huge His power is.

The next day I left Zermatt, a new man in body and spirit, eager to face new challenges and run new races.

Isn't God gooooood???!!!!

Friday, July 22

9:30 PM "Repeatedly voting for the lesser of two evils is what has brought us to the ridiculous evil we have today." Gary Johnson.

9:25 PM One of my kids just gave me this mug. Love it!

10:46 AM Sorry but I'm in a video mood today! Here's a GoPro clip of one of the most exciting and meaningful moments of my trip. Like anyone who suffers loss, for a long time I wanted to reverse my circumstances and bring Becky back again. But we cannot have it that way. Besides, who would really want her to be experiencing anything other than what she is experiencing in heaven. So we do the second best thing and try to gain a new perspective on loss. Unless Jesus returns soon, generations of women will face endometrial cancer. And so I find reason and courage to keep going and to continue the good fight. Loss is sweet as well as bitter. While we will always experience sorrow in our soul, we wake up every morning anticipating what the new day will bring. But the day when you're able to summit a 4,000-meter peak and then have the privilege of displaying a banner honoring the memory of your wife -- well, let's just say that's a mountaintop experience that's sure hard to beat. In many ways, this day was the summit experience of my stay in the Alps. I'm glad you can enjoy it with me. Praise the Lord for His goodness!


8:44 AM Thomas Kidd gets it right: The term "evangelical" is now useless.

8:40 AM Just received a paid advertisement from Patheos in my inbox. Somehow it wasn't caught in spam (where it most certainly belongs). It was, of all things, an advert for "mobile giving" so that your church can experience a 31 percent increase in giving. Oh really. Come on, Patheos, this is just pathetic.

7:38 AM "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party but they say nothing. And if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them silently away" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). This sign on a storefront in Zermatt reads: "Don't you feel it too? Adventure lies on the other side of the well-known paths."

I'm a firm adherent of this perspective. Yes, even at my age (64). In case you haven't noticed, there's an "Age Game" out there. People over 60 are being groomed for senility. We're being killed with kindness when others allow us to take it easy. Medicine has made great strides to keep us alive, but little or nothing encourages us to really live. The best way to win the Age Game is to attack it head on. It's so easy to die in effect before we die physically. If we want to live a joyful life, we have no choice but to exercise and be active. I'm told I have a life expectation of at least another 15 years. But it's an active life experience that counts. How to do it? Get active. Start doing. Go for a walk. Or a swim. Or a bike ride. Climb a mountain. We are all capable of staying young -- or at least we can reduce the aging process. Be so busy that you never have time to notice you're getting older. Try to keep your experiences varied. On this trip I walked, hiked, rock scrambled, trekked, and climbed. All in the great outdoors, often above the clouds.

In Zermatt I was usually done with that day's activities by 4:00 pm. Was it hard? Yes! But it was not impossible. All it took was sweat and a bit of old-fashioned guts.

Here's the point: Whatever you find pleasing as an exercise is the activity you'll adopt. The obverse is also true. The obverse is called exercise deficiency. Many people suffer from exercise deficiency but are unaware that they have it. They think being inactive is normal, especially after they get to a certain age or a certain weight. ("I'm too old. I could never take that weight off.") But no one is too old or too heavy to be fit. Our bodies need to be fit whether we are 17 or 70. Allowing ourselves to become unfit not only dishonors our Creator but amounts to settling for far less than our best. It's a classic symptom of exercise deficiency. I was surprised to see so many Japanese tourists in Zermatt. They may not have been climbing mountains, but they sure were active --  trekking hither, thither, and yon. I give them lots of credit.

On this trip I was reminded that exercise is a pure gift of God. You are a child who's been given a bike for Christmas. Learn to be a good cyclist. Enjoy your bike. Or your walk. Or your Klettersteig. View your preoccupation with fitness as humility and appreciation, not vanity.

So ... how best not to grow old? Do something with that body of yours. If you're growing old against your will, don't merely complain about it. When your body says to you, "I'm too old for this," say, "Nonsense!"

Below: The summit of the Oberrothorn.

Thursday, July 21

8:15 PM This is the first of several GoPro videos of my trip I hope to publish. This is going to be so much fun.


11:55 AM Craving satisfied!

8:48 AM Good morning one and all!

As dreamy as a Whistler watercolor in the golden glow of fall, the town of Zermatt is hypnotic. In winter it's a fancy ski resort. In summer, mountaineers from as far away as Japan head towards its elusive peaks. Zermatt is alpine heaven, a climber's paradise, with 4,000-meter peaks staring down at you from every direction. I stayed at the Hotel Bahnhof, where Edward Whymper and his team planned the first successful assault of the Matterhorn in 1865.

The large bed and piping hot showers were godsends after a day of climbing or trekking. Advance reservations are essential, but I'd rather stay nowhere else in Zermatt. It cost me less than $1000 for 8 nights -- a fraction of the price at most any other hotel. So what if it doesn't have a restaurant? Cross the street and the eating joints line up like shoppers on Black Friday. Oh, they say Zermatt is a car-free city but it's a lie. Electric vehicles of every size are just waiting to mow you down if you're not vigilant. (Cross the street at your own risk!) Still, there is no better place to explore the unfathomable Matterhorn region than Zermatt.

I came to Zermatt in search of a summit or two -- and, like Terry Fox, the Canadian who ran thousands of miles on one leg to raise money for cancer research, I wanted to give a nod to the Becky Black Memorial Fund, which I started a few weeks ago. (To date, 650 million Canadian dollars have been raised in Terry's name. I'm trying to raise $25,000.) I decided I'd display a banner with Becky's name on it every time I summited one of Zermatt's peaks. You ask, "Weren't you even a little bit afraid?" Oh yeah. For the first hundred yards or so I always had butterflies in my stomach. But as Helen Keller once said, "It's okay to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation." (A heartfelt thanks, by the way, to everyone like Helen Keller who has been an inspiration to me.) To climb my first 4,000-meter peak (that is, anything over 13,123 feet), I drew on less than a year of experience climbing the hills of Virginia and North Carolina. After a lot of looking back at the past year, I asked myself a big question: "Are you really up to it?" Charles Dickens once said that it was focus that made him such an accomplished writer. "I could never have done what I have done," he said, "without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time." Coming to Zermatt I think was the Lord's way of saying to me, "Dave, I want you to concentrate yourself one more time."

In climbing I've discovered something I love -- a thing that really turns me on and excites me. Passion is what enabled Aimee Mullins to set records for running even though she's missing two legs. I care passionately about what I do in life. I really want to do them. I don't know where these passions come from (other than from the Lord), but I've got them. I love teaching. I can't imagine doing anything else. I think being irrationally passionate about what you do is enormously healthy. I'm what psychologists refer to as a "striver." Strivers are people who know what they want and run straight toward it. There's something in me that pushes me to challenge myself as a climber, and I just have to go with it. Exploring your passions doesn't mean you have to go all the way. I have no interest in climbing anything much over 15,000 feet. And yes, it's hard work, but that's part of the fun. (By the way, I've never known anyone who has accomplished anything in life who didn't work hard at it. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Before leaving for Switzerland I trained 100 miles a month not to mention the hours I spent in the gym lifting. Still, it's not about the hours. It's about enjoying what you do.)

Here's my message for you today, good friend. (Yes, I'm in a preachy mood.) Be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your God-given goals. I believe that climbing not only brings me satisfaction but also a sense of confidence. We become confident when we meet a challenge head-on and overcome it. I'll never forget the day my guide Walter took me to Zermatt's famous Klettersteig -- a vertical rock wall on very exposed terrain. A long metal ladder is the key point in the entire climb. It took us 4 hours to climb 1,800 vertical feet. Focus was absolutely critical.

Many people work hard but they're not focused. They're Dabblers and not Doers. I realized as soon as I began climbing the Klettersteig that I had to focus. The focus paid off and I completed the course.

When Bill Gates started Microsoft he focused on one thing and only one thing. "Microsoft is designed to write great software," he said. "We are not designed to be good at other things." Being able to focus will help you regardless of what you're doing. My formula for climbing is simple: training and concentration, and then more training and concentration. The truth is that we all find it easy to focus on what we love doing. When people are lazy, they're usually lazy about things that don't interest them. To climb you've got to love the sport -- and then you're got to push, push, push yourself, mentally and physically. Mostly I've had to push through self-doubt. In climbing there are plenty of opportunities for second-guessing yourself: Will my body adjust to the elevation, will my legs be strong enough to carry me, will I tire out before the climb is over? On this trip there were many moments when I said, "Oh man, I can't believe I got this far!" The trick is to keep pushing yourself, even when you think you can't persevere.

Setting goals can help us push through our manmade barriers. I wanted to bag two summits on this trip, and I got them both. So even though I'm not a very experienced climber, I realized my dreams, thanks (1) to the grace of God and (2) to pushing. In life it is always important to have goals, no matter what those goals are. My goals for next summer are to summit my second 4000-meter peak and to scramble up the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn. On each trip to the Alps I want to set for myself titanic challenges and try to rise above them. As I've mentioned, I'm not necessarily cut out to be a climber. Walking and trekking come much more naturally to me. But I enjoy new challenges and I think climbing pushes me. Summiting the Breithorn at 13,661 feet was a real challenge for me, but I think I took on that challenge to propel myself forward in life.

I find that being pushed for a climb (or a half marathon) actually helps my teaching and writing. Pushing is absolutely necessary in a creative environment. As a youth I wasn't very self-disciplined, but now I'm very self-disciplined and I think it keeps me in top shape. Thankfully, I had Walter to push me along. I need people in my life who keep telling me, "You can do it, Dave." I really need that support system. Not that I will ever be in the same league as Walter, who has summited the Matterhorn 17 times. But watching him excel at his job helps me dig down deep and push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I love pushing myself to the limit. And it's a lot easier when you have a guy like Walter as your mentor. (Or is that tor-mentor?)

In my day I've seen a lot of good teachers sort of get to a certain point and then just take it easy. And that's where they stay for the rest of their careers. My philosophy is simple: If I can say, on December 31, that I'm a better athlete or teacher or dad than I was on January 1 of the same year, then I've been successful. Not for the sake of being better than someone else, but just because it's so satisfying to be improving at something.

In the coming days I'll be sharing with you a few pictures, videos, and stories about my Alpine Adventure. Nothing I say will be new to you. But it's good to hear these truths over and over again. "We need to be reminded more than we need to be instructed," said the great thinker G. K. Chesterton. I think that one thing all of my posts will have in common is the fact that I'm always challenging myself to be better, to strive for a difficult goal. I'm really never satisfied where I am in life. I'm always trying to push myself to the next level. But I'm not a person who's unhappy if he isn't perfect. I just want to keep improving. Friend, be the best that you can be. Work as hard as you possibly can to get it right. Instead of focusing on getting to the top, focusing on doing your best. Whatever you are doing with your life, do it to the very best of your God-given ability. You gotta keep pushing yourself.

As I said, it's easier to push yourself if you actually love what you're doing. Forget about your weaknesses. Find something you're good at and go for it with gusto. From the moment I summited the Breithorn I knew I could accomplish a big goal. So I'd say, do what you love to do and everything else will fall into place. And no matter what you do, the secret to accomplishing your goals is plain old tenacity. Don't be discouraged if it takes time. It takes a long time to become really good at something. On this trip I failed to summit the Matterhorn. I did climb to over 10,000 feet, but that doesn't really count. So what? When you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Gerry Schwartz, CEO of Onex, said "Failing doesn't stop you. Quitting stops you." So persist through your failures and disappointments. I've learned that if I can put just put one foot in front of the other, things generally work out well. Sure, setbacks will come. The problem is when we give up on ourselves. Adopt a "Don't look back" attitude. Actually, climbing is the hardest thing I've ever done besides burying Becky. But in climbing I've discovered something I really love. What is it that gets you excited? Nothing is more important in life than being passionate about what God has created you to do, whatever that is. Said Martin Luther King, Jr.: "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

As for age, age is merely a state of mind. It's a label people use to pigeonhole others and place limits on what they can be. I choose not to be governed by labels. And doing what I love to do is one of the ways I stay so young at heart. For years now I've left age at the door when I've walked into the different rooms of my life, being far more concerned about doing fantastic work, supporting my colleagues, and showing leadership without having some lofty title on my office door. Be an original, friend. There's only one of you in the whole world. And no one else can be as good a you as you.



Thursday, July 7

6:20 PM "Under construction." That's my theme as I leave for the Alps tomorrow. If I look back two and a half years I see little but darkness and feel nothing but sorrow and anguish. Yes, God was still there with me, but His presence was, let's say, a bit "disguised" by the pain I was experiencing. Now, as I look back, I see His grace a little bit more clearly. I see how, for example, He was transforming Becky and me from saplings into weathered and mature trees that might be able to bless others. And now, as I look forward, the "good life" for me is not a place or an experience or a mountaintop but rather the completion of what I too am experiencing in this life under the gracious hand of God. I carry with me the vivid memory of Becky, Nathan, and me working on finishing Bradford Hall, wondering if we would ever complete this project. Eventually the house got built and life assumed a certain "normalcy." Likewise, since Becky's death I am learning how to make life "work" again. In some ways I am actually thriving. Yet in other ways I realize that I am still in the process of being redeemed by the Holy Spirit's ongoing work in my life. What, I ask myself, does it really mean to believe in a sovereign and wise and good God? How is it possible for His grace to be disguised in an accident or in an illness or in the death of a loved one? I am not beyond asking such questions -- not now, not ever. Perhaps that's why I'm attracted to the Alps so much. They are truly beautiful in a way that perhaps only ancient places can be -- strong and seasoned, full of years and memories. I guess that's how I would like to be one of these years. The Alps symbolize to me what I believe God still wants to accomplish in my life. He wants to take the harsh conditions and the threat of dazzling heights and the challenge to persevere to shape me into something just as strong and beautiful as those mountains. Let me ask you a question. When you experienced a devastating loss in your life, how did you survive? How did you fend off the darkness and cope with the "dark night of the soul?" How might you, who has experienced such loss, counsel others who are experiencing a similar loss? In what ways has death and loss deepened your understanding of God's grace? Has loss ever driven you to unhealthy extremes? In what ways have your emotions changed as a result of your loss? Have you come to the point where you can see your loss as "good" -- good in a way you never hoped for or imagined? I'm asking you these questions because I have no earthly idea how I would go about answering them!

I have to laugh out loud when I think about what I'm embarking on next week. The irony of it -- a surfer from Hawaii trying to climb an alpine peak. I can think of nothing more comical. You know, my climbing the Alps has nothing to do with my skill or ability or virtue or goodness. I find myself overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. I can only say that I'm willing to face the challenge and take the risk for THE CAUSE. I may be silly for thinking it, but I believe God wants me to take this trip in order to become a voice for cancer research, helping others to think about uterine cancer research so that maybe, just maybe, one less family has to go through what our family went through for four long years. From the beginning, Becky and I decided that we needed to use our cancer journey to offer encouragement to others. Just as God brought me face to face with cancer, so He has brought me to these mountains and will be with me on them. The way through pain is to use our experiences to call back to others further down the mountain to "Keep on going!" God, you will recall, is a God of Comfort, who comforts us for our climb and never wants us to waste our experiences but rather uses them to help and love someone else through us. Thus with Paul we can say, "I thank Christ Jesus my Lord, who has given me strength" (1 Tim. 1:12). So off I go!

My thanks to so many:

  • To Nathan and Jessie for keeping a close watch over the farm while I'm gone.

  • To my children, who have given me permission and grace to make this trip. I am so honored to be your dad and the granddad to your kids.

  • To all my close friends who have written me with words of encouragement.

  • To readers of my blog who have fueled me to keep writing.

  • To my wife in heaven who was my greatest encourager and who walked beside me and supported me through all of my educational and vocational experiences. It was quite an adventure, wasn't it honey?

  • And finally to the God who is carrying me through this journey. It is amazing to look back and see how You were working through my afflictions and using me despite my weaknesses and doubts. I am humbled and honored that You have chosen me to be part of Your work. 

Joy, my friends, is found only in Jesus, independent of circumstances (and elevation), even when the climb is exhilarating! It is my hope that this trip will help some to "rise to the heights, and go to the place where once God hath spoken" (Augustine).

Pray for me, that on this trip I would be able to see everything through God's eyes.

Auf Wiedersehen!


Wednesday, July 6

6:15 PM Hi friends! I woke up early today, checked the weather, then dashed into the car to see if I could get one last climb in before heading to the Alps. I succeeded. I summited Sharp Top (it's on the left in the picture below) for the fourth time in the past two years. The elevation of Sharp Top is 3,875 feet. You might call it the "baby brother" (as in really baby brother) of the Breithorn (13,658 feet), which will be my first alpine challenge next week. 

The total distance is 3 and a half miles out and back, and the highest elevation change you'll experience is 1,340 feet. The climb started out well enough but I ended up descending in the rain.

The trail begins at mile marker 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the village of Bedford. The trail winds over rocks, roots, and (sometimes fallen) trees.

Eventually you encounter some pretty large boulders near the summit.  

Reach the top and you'll enjoy a 360 degree view of the surrounding farms and fields of Central Virginia.

Below is a GoPro of today's mini-adventure.


You can see that I used my arms (i.e., trekking poles) every bit as much as I used my legs in climbing today. I really pushed myself too. It took me 53 minutes to climb 1,340 feet, which equals 1.70 miles. That's only a 2 mile-per-hour pace but, hey, it was great cardio! The next few weeks are going to pretty nutty with traveling to Switzerland and then back home again and everything in between. Then I get a week off before heading to Montreal to attend the SNTS meeting there. Then another week off before I head to Dallas, then two weeks off and I head back home to Hawaii. On July 23rd I'm running in the 3rd annual Cantaloupe 5K in Ridgeway, NC, then on August 13 I'm headed back to Raleigh for the Run for Life 5K. I'm doing all of this in honor and memory of my wife Becky and to raise support for cancer research. Isn't life awesome? Just take a few small steps forward every day to become a better version of yourself.

Have a wonderful Thursday!

Tuesday, July 5

5:28 PM Today was farm work day and I was able to get my mowing done before the rain started up again. Right now I'm having leftover Mexican food for supper along with my dessert: vanilla ice cream with blueberries that I picked today. Love the farm!

It's more than an irony that this book came today via FedEx.

So our national security wasn't endangered? Oh well....

Half of 2016 is now ancient history and I'm very proud of my stats for the first 6 months of the year.

673 miles is like going from Washington DC to Memphis. And I don't even feel tired!

This evening is last minute prep for my trip. I hate to leave things till the last day, so I'll be "packing" my suitcase this evening. Still not sure how much weight I can carry. Guess I need to call Lufthansa about that. My guess is that all of my pop tart boxes and candy bars will consume at least half of the space in my suitcase!

Well, that's all for now. Consider this inane post my "Facebook" update for the day.

1:12 PM Happy Fifth of July friends! Workouts are a huge part of my life right now. This includes strength training at the local Y.

Let's talk reps for a minute. No, not Congress. When I weight train I usually do three sets of 12 reps, and at a pretty brisk pace too. For me, a good workout takes no longer than 25 minutes. Today I worked my deltoids and thighs mostly.

I like to do my weight training when the gym isn't very crowded. Otherwise you have to wait too long for the dumbbells you're wanting to use. I also like to work out in the morning rather in the afternoon. That's just a personal preference. When he was in the White House, Ronald Reagan worked out 25 minutes each and every day. He would work out in the evening, usually just before dinner. He found that exercising at that time dissipated his frustrations, tensions, and aggravations of the work day. The message of course is simple: Do what works for you. All it takes is sweat!

9:16 AM This is becoming surreal folks. I'm praying for clear, sunny days. Here's the Breithorn.

And the Allalinhorn.

And the Hörnlihütte at the Matterhorn.

I suppose climbing a mountain is the farthest thing from easy. But even summiting a mountain like Mount Olomana is amazing. You feel like you've reached a goal, achieved a dream, and even perhaps figured out that you can do almost anything when you set your mind to it (and if God gives grace -- it's all grace in the end). Mountains are magical. I'll never forget seeing the Grand Tetons for the first time. Or the Rockies. Or Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. They make you feel so small. Even if you never climb them they call to you. Ultimately, you climb for yourself. Most of the climbs I've done are just basic walking on trails. You do it for the cost of the gas money driving to the trail head. They were definitely hard climbs though: MacAfee Knob, Sharp Top, Olomana. But I've come back from every climb a leaner, more confident man. Plus, I've got stories to share!

Okay, I'll stop. I'm beginning to sound silly.


Monday, July 4

8:22 PM Hey hey hey! I have so much random stuff I want to write about but I'll spare you. It felt so good to share another meal with the Bradshers tonight in Roxboro.

That little Gabriel is a-growin'.

I love you, Gabe!

Been getting so many kind emails from complete strangers and from many old friends too. Words of encouragement and blessing in view of the upcoming CLIMB. I have been doing tons of thinking. So much on my mind. I want to play the game of life well. I want to do more than just go through the motions. Each of us is an experiment of one. We must find what works for us. Will becoming active give you the motivation to make your life a work of art? You'll never know until you try.

Try. Attempt. Go for it. Take risks. Dream big. Audaciously. The Roman philosopher Cicero said that he expected old age to do great deeds. Just more words from a philosopher? Maybe. But exercise has in fact centered my life. It is the attempt to be myself. I see the challenge, I take the risk, I invite the pain. Truly, mountain climbing is no more and no less than being true to yourself.

Time to wash the dishes :)

5:20 PM Did a 5K at the high school track between rain showers. Nice.

Then I worked on my NT Intro 2 syllabus for the fall. I can't wait to teach this course again. Take the Pauline epistles for example. They remind us that Paul the theologian was first and foremost Paul the church planter, using his theology not for its own sake but in the service of the church. Man, that is inspiring! In fact, all 14 of Paul's letters throb with life and love. I want to stimulate my students to examine for themselves what Paul taught about this or that matter. His letters cover a vast array of topics -- sex, giving, love, worship, body life, the Lord's Supper, prophecy -- and he handled every issue with tact, clarity, and authority. I see one thread weaving its way through the Pauline correspondence, and that is the fact that we Christians live at the crossroads -- "between the ages," so to speak. At once we are heirs to the powers and life of the age to come and heirs to the suffering and fallennness of this age. Alas, the church today is far more triumphant than it ought to be. Paul and his companions were considered "scum." God does not share His glory with anyone, not even our beloved "senior" staff members. Hence a truly New Testament church will always concentrate on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, for Paul, Christ-centeredness is the hallmark of a New Testament church (Col. 1:18). Such a church seeks to magnify Christ through its priorities, its other-centeredness, its refusal to be narrowly exclusive, its care for the needy, even in its use (or non-use) of titles. Paul is very clear about the essence of effective teaching/preaching. It is not based on eloquence or a course in homiletics, as important as those can be. Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with seminary degrees or publications. Christian teaching centers on Christ and Him crucified, demonstrating not any human skill but the power of God's Holy Spirit. When that happens, the church becomes healthy, for people then put their faith not in the oratorical prowess of their leaders but in the power of God. Yet that is something that we, like the Corinthians, seem very reluctant to accept.

More to come ...

11:04 AM Okay, folks, the countdown has started. Obviously this week will be about as hectic as it can be so I will be MIA for the most part (somehow I can't stop blogging, though!). It's a little weird thinking that I am actually going to be climbing the Alps in just a few days. Thank goodness I'm doing this at the ripe young age of 64. I'd hate to have to try it at 65! I do have to say that I really love the prospect of returning to my old stomping grounds in Switzerland. On the one hand, part of me says I can do anything I tell my body to do. But another part of me says, "You're a novice, baby, so don't get your hopes up too high." You never know until you try, I guess. There are a bazillion things I love about the Alps, including, well, them being the Alps. You don't even have to step on one to enjoy their knock-dead gorgeousness.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ....

Here are some of the clothes I've bought in preparation for the climb.

I share them with you because it makes me feel better about buying them (haha). My equipment list includes:

  • Backpack

  • Headlamp and spare batteries

  • 1 water bottle

  • Sunscreen and lip protection

  • First aid kit

  • Synthetic top

  • Fleece jacket

  • Insulated jacket

  • Hard shell jacket

  • Sun hat or baseball cap

  • Wool hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Light gloves

  • Warm gloves

  • Wind pants

  • Socks

  • Gaiters

  • Snacks

  • Sleeping bag liner

  • Trekking poles

  • Cramponable boots

  • Crampons

  • 1 ice axe

  • Climbing harness

  • Climbing helmet

Some of these (crampons, helmet) my guide will provide. (He is so nice!) Otherwise, I'm pretty much set to go, having purchased both evacuation insurance from Switzerland as well as mountain helicopter evacuation insurance from Air Zermatt. As you can probably tell, I'm a little nervous about this trip. Life is good, and I'm enjoying living in the moment, so it's not like I define myself by success or goals or really by anything external. But then again, what's not to love about adventure? You might recall that this whole crazy journey began with a desire to climb Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet -- a climb designed for rank amateurs like me. But then I read all of the horror stories of those who made it to the top, puking most of the way. It was up and down and "Glad that's over with." The Alps are a different story. So why not just enjoy them from a safe distance? For us humans, action is always impelled by some good we want to achieve. The only question is: which good is that? My fitness program follows that train of thought. The reason for getting fit is the realization that life is motion -- and a body in motion stays in motion, even after 60. And so it goes. Exercise is something we add to our lives. It doesn't come naturally. The easiest way to preserve health is to exercise well. Exercise now regulates my life, every bit as much as Bible study and prayer. I eat when I am hungry and I drink when I am thirsty. I eat whatever I like and the exercise takes care of it. So mountain climbing just seems to me to be a natural fit with my lifestyle. It's also a laboratory where I'm learning such things as sacrifice and self-discipline, courage and cooperation, success and defeat. Climbing has been described as the thinking person's sport. It requires extensive study of the workings of the human body. Knowledge of exercise physiology and nutrition is necessary. So are basic climbing skills. Add to this the opportunity to honor the memory of Becky, and voila!

Folks, life isn't very complicated. It consists of doing and making and suffering and creating. All of that is there in a mountain climb. The stage on which this drama plays out is often bigger than life. To summit the Breithorn et al. will take determination, courage, discipline, willpower, a good mountain guide and just plain luck -- "luck" in the sense that, in the end, many of the circumstances of success are beyond my control. God may send a rainstorm the entire week I'm there. The sights and sounds, the pains and pleasures of climbing a tall peak will then elude me. This is a risk I am prepared to take, of course. The climb outside may be ended, but the climb inside will never be. The major campaigns in my life are not over. But today holds the opportunity to be better and become more. William James said, "Effort is the measure of a man." I may not have the oxygen capacity of a 30-year old, but I am willing to pay the price to achieve my goal. And if I don't summit? It won't matter. A race is a race is a race. Time and place are incidental.

I'm so glad I'm making this trip. It's a serious thing and I'm so ready to be part of it.

P.S. Like my new glasses?

It's the Chris Pine look. I'm SO cool.

9:32 AM I will never forget reading Night by Elie Wiesel, who died Saturday at the age of 87. I must have been 16 at the time but the book has haunted me ever since.  Wiesel endured the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and lived to tell about it. His parents and sister did not. Here, in 112 pages, we see evil at its absolute. Can finite men and women even begin to understand what he experienced? This book came as a hard slap in the face of my clap-happy teenage Christianity. Here was a young man from Europe who at the age of 16 lost faith in himself -- and in his God. This is a book every follower of Jesus needs to read whatever their age or nationality. It paints a picture of pure hell.

There are two books about the holocaust that I always recommend people to read. Night is one of them. The other is Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place. Like Wiesel, Corrie experienced the tragic and horrifying behavior of her fellow human beings. Corrie and her family were leaders in the Dutch underground. After they were arrested and imprisoned, Corrie was the only one in her family to leave the concentration camp alive. Her story is an inspiration to courage and self-sacrifice. Her love for God and others was deeply connected with her faith in Christ. Thanking God for the fleas that are eating your flesh? Praying for the guards that are beating you? How is this even possible? My favorite quote in the book is this one:

Corrie... do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel. God loves Karel--even more than you do--and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.

I recall hearing Corrie speak in a chapel service at Biola. She told the story of meeting one of her S.S. guards years later. He stretched out his hand and, writes Corrie,

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

That love was Jesus' love, of course.

As we raise our kids, as we teach our classes, as we preach our sermons, the best thing we can do for people is to give them Jesus. Not rules. Not "Christian" entertainment." Not even the "right" answers. Jesus is the only one who can lead us through the hells of our lives and will lead us Home when our work here is done. Because no matter what changing situations we face in this life, Jesus will remain the same.

Both of these are amazingly inspiring books. They approach the same tragedy from two different perspectives. We should understand and appreciate both of them. One thing both books seem to have in common: Their authors never spent much time engaging in self-pity. They went on with life, They went on and did what they had to do. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Buy both books. Read them.

I leave you with the words of Corrie ten Boom:

We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.

Sunday, July 3

7:50 PM Evening, pards! Enjoyed a great hike this afternoon at the Occoneechee State Park.

I was drenched by the time I finished (it was sprinkling most of the time).

It was a good day to wear my new mountaineering boots and use my trekking poles.

This is where I love to rest and replenish.

Then, this evening I met Nate and the family at the Great Round Up in Roxboro.

Love my family!

And wait! Here's Mr. Sociability himself!

I'm hoping to climb Sharp Top tomorrow but more rain is in the forecast. We'll see.... 

Blessings on you all,


10:05 AM I refuse to be ashamed of this fact: I love watching people climb tall peaks. Week after week I sit on my couch watching YouTubes of Denali or K2 or Everest. The videos are exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking. But I am proud of each and every one of those climbers. I have always been inspired by people doing what they love to do. Even if, in some instances, it is certified insanity. As Beck Weathers (whose passion for climbing nearly cost him his life and his marriage) put it:

If you don't have anyone who cares about you or is dependent on you, if you have no friends or colleagues, and if you're willing to put a single round in the chamber of a revolver and put it in your mouth and pull the trigger, then yeah, it's a pretty good idea to climb Everest.

Whoa! There's a fine difference between pursuing your passion and taking crazy risks in life. I don't like it when people act stupidly. Think of your families, for crying out loud. Still, do we teach our kids to think that there is no place for risk in their lives? If we have any passions, they have been given to us by God. Everyone He made is good at something, I mean, really good at something. Know what else? I am just as passionate about studying my Bible as I am about climbing. Just this morning, for example, I wrote an exegesis of that great warning passage in Hebrews -- 6:4-6 -- inspired by watching this webinar.

Some of you are like me. You can't get enough of Greek. Don't bury that talent. God designed you this way, for a purpose. Your interest in Greek isn't a fluke and it isn't fake. It's just you being you. Well, me being me produced a few pages of notes and here are a couple of them:

It's clear (at least to me) that the key to interpreting this passage is the author's shift from the 5 aorist tense participles in this passage to the 2 present tense participles. These 7 participles are underscored below.

It might not seem like much, but the shift practically shouts at me. I do not plan on going into detail here (though I will when I lecture over the topic in NT 2 this fall) so let's just stay in the area of generalities. My summary reads like this: "It's impossible for apostates to repent as long as they persist in living as though Jesus is as good as dead and letting everyone know about it!"

Remember: These people were guilty of both a personal and a public repudiation of Christ. They had fizzled and bombed big time. But so did Peter, who both personally AND publically repudiated his Master. Did he persist? Not at all. The Scriptures say that he went out and wept bitterly.

Now, you don't have to agree with my interpretation here. But be sure to frame your choices though this lens: Greek. Sure, your mind will get whacked big time. But who ever told you that exegesis would be easy? Not little ol' moi! This brings me to another matter I wanted to deal with, another issue I am sometimes asked to pontificate on: "Why can't I just use the Greek tools that are available online?" Ah yes, the "Tools." Here's the trouble. How can you judge the accuracy of your "tools" if you yourself don't have a working knowledge of the language? Listen. Those of us who are called to the work of exegesis need to step up to the plate. This is rarely big or famous work. But this is often how the kingdom works: invisibly, in the quietness of our studies or libraries. Believe it or not, people crave depth in their Bible studies. They are absolutely capable of spiritual meat. Let's put the hard stuff in front of them. No, not necessarily the Greek. But the fruit of our own study of the text. Dear Greek student, nothing would make me happier than your own labor in the text. At times this is so difficult you will shed tears. But the result is so beautiful and it tastes so good.

Lord, make us all worthy of Your calling.

Saturday, July 2

10:02 PM This and that ...

1) Listening to Blue Grass and reading my Bible. What a combination!

2) Giving birth in Raleigh-Durham or in the Person County area? My daughter Jessica offers a wonderful doula service. Go here for more.

3) Once again: Should we teach and preach from Mark 16:9-20?

4) I forgot to mention this earlier, but Jacob Cerone and his wife are blogging about their move to Germany.  (Thank you for doing this. Your friends praise you in the city gates.)

5) Peyton's first hat.

7:58 PM HELLOOOOOOO SUMMER! School is finally out for yours truly. Can you believe it? As I mentioned yesterday, I was finally able to make it back to the Y to get some weight training done. Lifting weights will make you sweat and raise your metabolism, but aerobic exercises are an essential part of anyone's pre-climbing training. To improve my cardiovascular fitness I've been biking, hiking, swimming, and running. After all, my heart is a muscle too. Needless to say, a good 5K will boost your cardiovascular fitness. The faster your heart beats, the harder it works, and the harder it works the more healthy benefits you will gain. I was shocked when I looked at my calendar and realized that it had been 3 long weeks since I last ran in a 5K race, so this morning I drove down to North Carolina to participate in the fourth annual Run for Liberty 5K in Cary. The profits all go to the Amputee Coalition, the nation's leading organization on limb loss. It's goal is to enhance the quality of life for amputees and their families through patient care and through raising awareness about limb loss prevention.

This is the fourth time I've competed at the Wake Med Soccer Park and I can tell you, it's a humdinger of a course. Running is always harder when a trail goes from flat to sloped. Uneven (and muddy) trails put more stress on your knees and, at least in my case, add minutes to your chip time. Because of the tension this course puts on the knees, my pace was slower than usual (I finished around the 33-minute mark). Still, I got in a great cardio workout. Hey, just because I qualify for AARP membership doesn't mean I have to slow down (much)! Friend, the key to getting off the couch is to discover what motivates you to get outside. For me, it's anything from a mountain trail to a swimming pool to a bike path. The possibilities are endless. But 5Ks are unique. They encourage a balance between speed, strength, and endurance. You can train for a 5K and still have plenty of time left over in your week for your other hobbies/avocations. Even at 64, I can run a 5K on Saturday and walk normally on Sunday. (The same thing definitely can't be said of a half marathon.) Plus, 5Ks are just plain goofy -- from the rowdiness to the smalltalk to the sportsmanship to the personal challenge. In every race I've ever been in, I've reached a point where I wanted to quit, and then somehow finished it. Satisfaction in running comes from competing against yourself. That's my motto. And that's why you simply MUST try one. A 5K is the perfect race: it's long enough to be challenging and yet short enough to be doable. I got started running in 5Ks because someone told me they are awesome. And they are. You can even start out by walking if you want to -- and nobody will bat an eye. Plus--- and here's a HUGE plus -- part of your registration fee almost always benefits a great cause that is really trying to make a difference in your community. Today's event was one of the zaniest I've ever been in. It was a "themed" race and I ran into both Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty. It's so much fun running a short race and getting back to the start line and then jawing away until the award ceremony begins.

Life is so different for me post-Becky and I'm still finding my equilibrium (in case you hadn't noticed), but I'm content with my life right now. The best things in life are the simple ones. I can't tell you how inspired I was today to see so many people with prosthetics out there running. Good golly! ANYONE who steps outside of their comfort zone to participate in a 5K fund raiser has my greatest respect, but when you're running with only one natural leg? I couldn't wait to give each one a hug and tell them how awesome they are.

Oh, while I'm at it ...

As you know, I leave on Friday to do some climbing in the Alps. I'm doing this in honor of my wife of 37 years, whom we lost to cancer 2 and a half years ago. Your donations go entirely to the fabulous research being done on endometrial cancer at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. Believe me, they are making a real difference in the fight against this horrible disease. I would love it if you could help me reach my goal of $25,000. Your contribution of any size would be greatly appreciated. Here's Becky's page at the Lineberger site.

Hope you have a wonderful Fourth!


1) Goofing off with the event DJ.

2) A long lost "uncle."

3) Meet Hunter Scott. One of my event heroes.

4) After the race the Ethiopian Restaurant beckoned. After all, I'm kinda burned out on tuna fish sandwiches!

6:20 AM Oh the irony of it (cf. Phil. 3:20).

Read the whole story here.

Friday, July 1

7:42 PM On order from Amazon. If I get rained in the whole time I'm in Zermatt at least I'll have something to read in my hotel room.

7:20 PM Just lifted at the Y and then biked on the Tobacco Heritage Trail. Time now for a tuna sandwich and an avocado for supper, then a movie on Netflix. Enjoy your holiday weekend everyone!

4:04 PM Can't wait for this one!

3:52 PM Calling all Greek nerds. Noah Kelley has just updated his Resources Page. Lots of good stuff here on Greek and other New Testament topics. 

3:30 PM Hey folks!

I am booked for several speaking engagements this year -- Birmingham, Dallas, North Wilkesboro, Greensboro, Montreal, and Williston, SC. This means more flying, which in my book has become a necessary evil. It's another one of those "disciplines" that God is trying to teach me as I grow older. Our job is not to wonder why; our task is to accept the discipline. Let's be honest. Getting older entails suffering. I'm acutely aware of this now that I'm about to board my flights for Switzerland. Taint gonna be fun. No sur-i. Goals are the reason I survive flying. In Dallas I get to speak about global missions. In Hawaii I get to start a new Greek class. In Switzerland, I'm testing my mind and body to the max. (God worked a miracle in me, a Professional Lazy Bum, so I can get out and try new things.) I'm realizing that every goal in life has its struggles. Being a "disciple" means being "disciplined." And the One who summons us to discipleship is the One who empowers it. As we give ourselves to His discipline, He gives us grace to receive it.

I want to thank my family for allowing me to take the trip of a lifetime. Their emotional support and belief in me during these past few months of planning and training have given me strength beyond measure. I have become a part of a 151-year pageant of adventure dating back to Edward Whymper, the first man to summit the Matterhorn.

A few other Thank You notes:

1) Thank you, Map My Run, for keeping track of my monthly workouts.

I'd also like to thank the Lord for helping me endure the endless ads this free app throws at you.

2) Thank you, summer Greek class, for being the ultimate proof that perseverance pays off. 19 out of 24 of you got either an A or an A+ in the course. I fervently pray that a passion to know God better has been stirred within you, perhaps a deeper passion than you've ever known before.

3) Thank you Olivia, Nathan, Jacob, and Emma for working hard enough to get a perfect 110 on your final (and a free book to go along with it).

I've always admired people like you.

4) Thank you, Jacob Cerone, for driving up from Cary to have lunch with me yesterday.

Goodness gracious. You know you're getting old when your former students are jetting off to Europe for their doctorates. As you may know, Jacob is both my former Th.M. student and my former personal assistant. He's on his way to Munich to get a Ph.D. in New Testament. Know what I've discovered about teaching, folks? Often you spend so many hours of teaching, modeling, and discipling with only invisible results. Teaching is an exercise in delayed gratification. Thus one of my favorite moments as a teacher is when I see one of my former students launching out into the deep. Thank you for your hard work, Jacob, that brought you to this stage in your journey. Your future is bright. You'll love Germany. You'll love the German language. You'll love the German people. And you'll really love the German Ph.D. program. Enjoy the Alps and the Black Forest as well as your Kaffee und Kuchen.

5) Thank you, finally, to Frederick Buechner for reminding me that "Eight year olds like eighty year olds have lots of things they'd love to do but can't because their bodies aren't up to it, so they learn to play instead. Eighty year olds might do well to take notice." (This 64-year old has.)

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