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July 2018 Blog Archives      

Tuesday, July 31   

7:40 PM It felt really good to get in a 10-mile run today. Feeling super motivated. Love, love, love it. Here's a short YouTube in case you're interested.

Time to cook dinner. Hope your day went well!

Monday, July 30   

4:50 PM Just got back from a 5-mile bike and found these waiting for me.

Fresh off the farm. Thank you Nate, Jess, and boys!!

11:26 AM I just finished an amazing 1-hour workout at the Y. I focused on the incline bench press, dumbbell curls, lateral raises, and regular bench press. I mostly tried to work my pectorals, biceps, triceps, and deltoids. I tried to pick weights that made it difficult to finish all my reps with clean form. I'm not a real heavy lifter. I just concentrate on going slow with good form. Afterwards I had planned to get a run in but it was still raining. I could have opted for the treadmill but I simply can't bring myself to run indoors. It's so much fun working up to my races. Training is a great test of one's overall fitness but I want to train smarter and harder than ever before. In this sport, you live and learn, that's for sure.

7:22 AM Hey guys. A brief update:

1) Today I was up at 5:00 reviewing some of the essays I'm having my Hebrews students read for our class. I thought I'd share with you a few of the titles:

  • F. F. Bruce, "Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews."

  • Michael Cosby, "The Rhetorical Composition of Hebrews 11."

  • David daSilva, "Entering God's Rest: Eschatology and the Socio-Rhetorcial Strategy of Hebrews."

  • Dwight Gingrich, "Giving Account for Our Use of Hebrews 13:17."

  • George Guthrie, "The Case for Apollos as the Author of Hebrews."

  • Scot McKnight, "The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal Analysis and Theological Conclusions."

  • Roger Omanson, "A Superior Covenant: Hebrews 8:1-10:18."

  • Victor Rhee, "Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 12:1-29."

As is obvious, Hebrews contains a bagful of topics that beg for discussion. I believe all of these issues are crucial for the church today.

2) In case you were wondering, Ben Merkle and I will be editing for publication the papers from our Linguistics and New Testament Greek conference next April. (Yes, we've already signed the contract. I'll announce the publisher later. Both Ben and I have published numerous times with this well-known publishing house.) This morning I began writing my part of the introduction. I'll begin by suggesting that if we students of the Bible are to have a robust integration of linguistics and Greek, we need to start with a robust doctrine of revelation. We biblical students tend to forget that God is the God of science as well as Scripture, the secular as well as the sacred. In fact, as John Stott was careful to point in many of his writings, nothing is secular in the sense that God is excluded from it, and everything is sacred in the sense that it belongs to and originates from God. This, in our view, would include the "secular" science of linguistics. Ben and I are of the persuasion that we evangelicals should be more grateful than we usually are for the good gifts that God has given us -- including the gift of the scientific study of how languages work. A "Christian" mind is one that not only thinks about specifically biblical matters, but one that can think Christianly about so-called secular topics. To approach the study of New Testament Greek linguistically does not mean that we're approaching the Bible in a way that lessens its divine inspiration and authority. The fact is that a proper application of linguistics to the language of the New Testament is wonderfully beneficial. It enriches us, because God has made us rational beings in His own image. At any rate, I hope that many of you will be able to attend the conference next spring and will also benefit from the essays when they're eventually published.

3) Once again, it's back to the gym today. Only 10 weeks out before my ultra. I've yet to determine my goal for that event. Let's just say I'm obviously grateful to the Lord to be able to get outdoors today and exercise. Despite my frailties and fears, I really do want to run this ultra race well. But I'm not obsessing about it. Running is a big part of my life but it isn't my life. Today I'll probably try for a short run. All I want to do is get loose and stretch and lubricate the bones and ligaments. I want to be as strong and thin as possible for the race. Today is overcast and breezy but hot. So we'll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading. Hope you're doing well!


P.S. Ordered this book (and its workbook) today:

Sunday, July 29   

5:32 PM One of my all-time favorite pastimes is visiting churches where my former students serve as a pastor-elder. Today it was Clearview Baptist Church in Henderson, NC.

Abidan Shah was not only my student but my assistant for over a year. He's completing his doctorate at Southeastern in textual criticism. Of course, going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than climbing a tree makes you a monkey. I liken church gatherings to family reunions. Reunions happen because we plan for them. They are times to bring together a diversity of people who've led imperfect lives but with whom we remain linked by reason of our common heritage. And what a wonderful family Clearview is. As head of the church, Christ was clearly exalted today. Abidan has been bringing a series of messages on the titles of Jesus, and today's title was "Christ" -- or, as Abidan had us repeating throughout his message, "God's chosen King." (I love interactive sermons!) Every week, because we are God's children through Jesus, our exalted King, we have the privilege and responsibility of gathering to affirm our family ties and encourage one another on to love and good works. Thank you, Abidan, for the reminder today that Jesus is my Savior and my King, whose every wish I should be eager to obey.

Today I took the entire day off from any kind of exercise (except the type that exercises the jaw. Thank you, KFC.). Instead, I finally got around to registering for next Saturday's Blue Moon 5K run. It starts at 7:30 pm at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park right in downtown Durham. If you live nearby, why not join us? I did this race last year and it was a hoot. The post race party on Blackwell St. is something you'll never forget, believe you me. And, while you're registering, you can make a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Durham, a most worthy cause.

While online I also completed my registration for the 21st Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy next May. Last year the race sold out long before race day so I wanted to be sure I got in again this year. Plus, the price goes up next month. If I'm able to go, this will be my third time squealing in Porkopolis. The Pig was my inaugural marathon race just two summers ago. That day in Cincinnati taught me a very important lesson. You don't have to be super fit, super fast, or a super athlete to complete a marathon. By the pure grace of God, and after many months of training, I was able to finish what I started and made a personal dream come true. Did you know the Pig raises money for over 300 charities (they call it "piganthropy"). The Lord was so good to me when I ran this race in 2017 by allowing me to raise $7,000 for endometrial cancer research at UNC. This time, a couple of my kids are "threatening" to run the race with me. Now wouldn't that be fun! The Pig has become a traditional race for me. I plan to run it every year as the Lord enables me. It's hands down the happiest marathon I've ever done. You never forget what it's like to have that enormous crowd cheering you on. I loved every second of the race, including infamous Mount Adams, Cincy's equivalent to Boston's Heartbreak Hill. At mile 18 there's even a luau with everyone dressed in grass skirts. Taste of home! You can check out the race website here.

Let's see, what else? I've started re-reading my history of the Gettysburg battle again. I haven't given up on making a trip up there before the semester begins, but the weather isn't cooperating right now. Either way, I plan to continue my marathon and ultra training this week. No, I'm not happy with where I am today. But yes, I am making progress. I do have goals for both races, but I'm not ready to share them with you yet. I don't know about you, but being a Type A kinda guy, I hate to plod along in life without specific goals. Without being a tad hard on yourself, you probably wouldn't be where you are in life either. I think it's the way we're wired.

Later this week I'll have an update for you on some of the books I'm currently reading so I can review them for a journal. But for now, my stomach is talking to me, and it ain't Greek either!

7:55 AM Good Sunday morning all! I'm feeling really pumped right now about the Marine Corps Marathon in October. It's a unique event that means a lot to people. It's called "The People's Marathon" because there are no big cash awards that attract the elite runners. Just the moms and pops. Everyone is running for the love of the sport. I'm told that the presence of the Marines along the course makes for a really memorable experience regardless of your finishing time. The finisher's medal features the eagle, globe, and anchor, and the ribbon includes the words "Semper Fi." See, I'm already getting teary-eyed. The globe even opens up to a rendering of the Iwo Jima War Memorial. Plus, running on the National Mall is pretty hard to beat. Last year, runners from all 50 states and 60 countries participated. I believe something like 27,000 runners finished it.

I love big races like the MCM. You are surrounded by thousands of other amateur athletes who are experiencing the same excitement and fears you are. Just knowing that others are pushing through the same exhaustion you're feeling makes the race go so much easier. When I first started running, I was scared to death that I wouldn't be accepted. What I've learned is that the running community is one of the most understanding and compassionate communities I've ever been involved in. All of us have the exact same goal: to keep moving until we finish. The running community is especially supportive of a beginner's efforts. That's true with triathlons too. No one will laugh at you for being slow or overweight of whatever. That's because it isn't the shoes or the clothes or the speed that makes you a runner. It's your attitude toward life.

You have a lot of God-given potential, my friend. Remember that, not only on race day, but every day.

Saturday, July 28   

6:22 PM Hey guys. Today I got on my bike again. I love to crosstrain by cycling. It almost seems like when I'm not running I'm "letting my body rest." Of course, today's workout was pretty strenuous. I thought I'd go 20 miles but ended up biking a full marathon distance. That's correct. 26.2 invigorating miles. And why not? The day was perfect for cycling.

Biking makes me look forward to running, and vice versa. I've discovered that my joints just feel a lot better if I alternate running and crosstraining. Here's the irony, though. Take a look at my total time. Today I finished 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 16 minutes. That's slower than most elite athletes average in a marathon when running! Today I managed a mere 11.5 miles per hour. Elite marathoners average 12 miles per hour on foot. I couldn't run at that pace if my life depended on it, but elite runners are doing it for 26.2 miles. Such is life I reckon. Growing up in Hawaii I did no running. None. And very little biking. But give me a surfboard, and ....

All that has changed. And it's never too late for you to start too. Go ahead, make the last half the best half. You say, "I'm too old." For the love of Pheidippedes! I started running at 62. And then I began cycling at 64. I feel younger today than I did before I started running and biking. Never too old to do a good thing, right? The neat thing about biking for the runner is that it strengthens your quads, which are the muscles you need for good knee health. In addition, because you're not pounding the pavement, you're not putting any weight on your lower joints. So the benefits of bilking are obvious. It's a great way to stay fit while not running. Running is still the foundation of your active lifestyle but crosstraining keeps you fresh and eager to get back on the running course. I think I'm on track to be ready for my big races in October. I'm not there yet, however. I've got to keep training so that when race day comes I'll be as prepared as I can be. I can still do poorly, of course. But, God willing, it won't be because I didn't train hard enough.

Thanks for reading,

"Biker" (hehe) Dave

8:45 AM I'm studying Heb. 1:1-4 this morning. (For a detailed analysis, go here.)

Here's a thought I will be emphasizing in my class on Hebrews: In promoting the excellence of Christ, Hebrews never disparages anything or anyone Christ is compared with. The old is not "bad" and the new "good"; the old is "good" and the new is "better." It is the same God who spoke equally through the prophets and through His Son. The Greek of Heb. 1:1-2 clearly shows this.

Indeed, the whole of Hebrews is an extended qal wahomer argument moving from the "good" of foundational Jewish events, institutions, and persons to the "best" of Jesus Christ. I see no denigration whatsoever of the Old Testament in Hebrews, and certainly not here in the letter's exordium, which presents a schema of continuity in which the prophets prepare for and are completed by the climactic speech act of God through His Son.

Okay. So what's the upshot? The principle for living I'm drawing from this text can be summarized as follows: "To make someone look good you don't have to make someone else look bad." This principle seems to have been consistently followed by the author of Hebrews. "Moses was faithful in all his house," he writes in Heb. 3:5. The difference between Moses and Christ is not one of faithfulness (both were equally faithful) but rather one of status: Moses was faithful as a son in the house, whereas Christ was faithful as the Son over the house. And, as everyone knows, "the builder of the house has more honor than the house" (Heb. 3:3). Got it? As we suggested yesterday, all of Hebrews is an early Christian exposition of the Old Testament. In it the author shows how something importantly new and different has occurred in Christ and His once-and-for-all death on the cross. Hence the recrucifixion of Christ is to deny the single and total effectiveness of that sacrifice (6:4-6).

Wedge-building between the Old and New Testaments is still high among the marks of false teachers today. Both Hebrews' author and Paul  (if they are not one and the same) remind us that if the Old Covenant possesses a transient glory, this was part of God's plan (compare Heb. 8 with 2 Cor. 3:1-18, the former of which quotes Jer. 31, while the latter clearly echoes Jer. 31). Hence Abraham could look for the city of God to come, and Moses could bear the denunciation of Christ (11:13-16, 26). Hebrews reads the Old Testament christologically, as should we. We are called to the same trust and faithfulness that persons in the Old Testament exhibited, finding our confidence by looking to Jesus while avoiding the unfaithfulness of the wilderness generation. In short, there's no passivity in attaining holiness. The apostle calls us to be good runners (12:1-2). I for one (speaking to myself first) venture to hope that I will run with endurance the race set before me.

P.S. I see that a Polish dare-devil has skied down K2. (Google YouTube. I mean, this is something amazing.) At one time I thought I could never conquer endurance challenges. I've learned to push those doubts aside. I once ran a 5K with a vet who lost a leg in Iraq. That was such a good, simple reminder to me to shuck the victim mentality. Life is hard for everybody. Get over it. Get something done with your life. Don't just think about pushing yourself. Even with all your doubts and struggles, you can still get out there and take risks. Even if you decide to walk a mile every other day, you are doing something most people will never accomplish.

Now I'm off to get some exercise. But first I have to stuff my face with eggs and corned beef hash.

What's your Everest? Your K2? Your big hair audacious goal? GET TOUGH AND DO IT!

Friday, July 27   

5:58 PM Happiness is getting in a 45-minute workout at the gym and then a 5-mile bike ride and then a lap swim at the pool right before a huge storm hit. Today I also registered for my next tri in Wake Forest on Sept. 6. It's the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon and features a 250-yard pool swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 5K run. This will be my second time participating in this event. I just checked on the ages of the competitors. So far, there's only 4 of us men over 65 who've signed up. I hope that number goes up. I like plenty of competition. I also just paid my registration fees for the Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 2. This will be my third time running V-Beach. The course is flat and fast and finishes right beside the ocean. I'll start at the back of the pack in the old man wave, of course. I'll plan to drive up the night before and stay at the same Airbnb I rented last year. The last thing you want to do is tire yourself out with a long drive the day of the race. Races are the culmination of all of my training, which is why I like them so much. I'm going to take my surfboard with me in case there are any waves at the beach.

Not sure what else I can add here. Oh -- here's a pic of the hot dogs I devoured today after my bike ride.

Mustard, onions, chili, and slaw. The dogs themselves were, no doubt, full of all kinds of healthy ingredients, such as preservatives, flavorings, colorings, and who-knows what other chemicals. No ketchup, of course. No one over 18 should ever put ketchup on a hot dog. Just sayin'. I scarfed down these babies in less than a minute, declaring myself the wiener of my pigging out contest.

Well, that's about it for now. I relish the chance to ketchup with you later. (Don't hit me.)


7:58 AM Good morning fellow bloggers! Today I'm putting the final touches on my Hebrews class for this fall. Our main textbook (after the Greek New Testament, of course) is Attridge's excellent commentary. I'm also asking students to purchase Lane's two-volume commentary on the book. (I'm not sure there will ever be a definitive commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews.) Both Attridge and Lane bring up little details you might never think about otherwise. There are 4 assignments for the class:

  • Each student will translate selected portions of Hebrews daily.

  • Each will be assigned books and/or articles to review for the entire class.

  • Every student will present an analysis of one paragraph from Hebrews not covered otherwise in class. Their presentations will include their own interpretive translations as well as a colon analysis following the method taught in class.

  • A one-on-one oral exam will take place on the last day of class covering oral recitation, parsing of selected verb forms, discussion of syntax, an evaluation of textual variants, and discussion of any major issues of translation.

We only have one week for this class (we meet from 8:00-5:00 daily) so I've had to be über-selective in our translation assignments:

  • Monday: 1:1-4, 2:1-4, 3:1-6

  • Tuesday: 4:1-11, 5:11-6:12, 7:1-28

  • Wednesday: 8:1-13, 9:11-15, 10:19-25

  • Thursday: 11:1-7, 12:1-3, 13:1-6

  • Friday: Student presentations, lunch together at a local restaurant, oral exam

So much to do. So little time. I love how the author of Hebrews uses Old Testament allusions as clues or hints to a historical situation in the Old Testament with bearing on his audience's situation. His eleventh chapter is a good case in point. Hebrews itself is an often-alluded-to book. Take Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (see Heb. 11:13) or W. H. Murray's Evidence of Things Not Seen (see Heb. 11:1) or Entertaining Angels (see Heb. 11:13) -- a movie about the life of Catholic activist Dorothy Day. Almost every day I find allusions in the news. Here's one I noticed this morning in Chris Cilizza's piece at CNN about Michael Cohen:

Allusions work because an author can assume there's a body of knowledge that's shared by the author and his or her readers. The New Testament depends heavily on the Old Testament in this manner. According to Stephen Voorwinde, "The writer to the Hebrews has a mind that was marinated in the Old Testament."  And, in his peroration, Dr. Voorwinde makes this utterly amazing application:

So when you work your way through Hebrews, don't take shortcuts. Do your homework. Wrestle with the text. Go back to the Old Testament. You will discover treasures about Jesus you never knew were there. Share those treasures with your people and they will love you forever.

So that's Hebrews. Today I plan to work out at the Y and then go for either a long walk or a bike ride. It's quite beautiful outside though on the hot side. By the way, I just found an app to find the best doughnuts in your area. It's called Doughbot. Pretty clever don't you think? For doughnuts, you can't beat the Amish bakery in South Boston. As for my training schedule, even though the race in October will be my tenth marathon, I'm still nervous. I won't go into my worries and doubts, except to say there's no reason to do anything unless it brings joy into your life. Why would someone with as little talent as me want to do yet another marathon? I'm not sure I have the answer. I keep coming back to the finish line. Have you ever stood at the finish line of a marathon? I mean, the pure unmitigated joy you see on the faces of the runners. Even as you watch their bodies giving in to fatigue, you witness their souls as the realty of their accomplishment dawns on them. There's nothing like it in the world. It's a joy you can see, feel, believe in. It doesn't matter what you look like or what position you come in at the finish. The joy is in the act of running. It's in the joy of accomplishing a goal. It's in knowing you're not stuck somewhere in life but moving forward. I suppose that's why I keep on running. If I had known this would happen, I would have started running years before I did.

So I'm back outdoors again today. Did I mention it's hot and humid? Now I'm getting carried away! See ya!

Thursday, July 26   

7:28 PM Another day of training is in the books. And I nailed today's workout. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but really, it was good to run 10 miles and not feel all beat up afterwards. I think my body is (finally) adapting to the warmer weather when I run, or at least I hope so. I met one other athlete out on the trail, who was very kind to take this pic.

I'm just coming up on the 5-mile turnaround juncture in my run. I was real happy with my time and pace.

137.7 total miles so far in July!

After my run, I went to the pool to get some laps in. Then some book reading happened, followed by a long nap. Today I concentrated on my breathing while running. I find this helps me with my pacing. Remaining conscious of your breathing at all times is really important. I'm also trying to improve my running style -- elbows high, shoulders relaxed -- while trying not to over-think everything I do. I believe God made each of our bodies unique. You have to find the best style for you. It's so much like the Christian life. As I've often said, God calls all of us to ministry but He calls different people to different ministries and expects us to concentrate on our calling and not on somebody else's. It's inconceivable that as Christians we should spend our lives in any other way than ministering to or serving others. But there's a wide diversity of spiritual gifts, and a big part of our responsibility is to discover what our gifts are and to help others to discover theirs.

Well, one of my spiritual gifts is eating, and supper is calling. By the way, at the public pool today, there was a guy with one leg who must have been around 26 or 27. Oh Lord, I should be more grateful than I am to be able to run.

6:55 AM I'm not going to lie, I am kinda bummed about the weather up in Gettysburg. They're calling for thunderstorms over the next few days. On the other hand, we're enjoying some pretty nice weather down here, so I've decided to take my trip to the battlefield some other time. So what to do today? My plans are as follows. Drive to Farmville and do a 10-mile run on the High Bridge Trail. (Yes, there are super-humans among us who crave workouts in the heat. Either that or they're just really good liars.) After that my idea is to do some lap swimming before chillaxing poolside and reading a good book. But first, there are my farm chores to do. God provides nature, but we have to tend it. Luther once said, "For God will be working all things through you; he will be milking the cows through you and will be performing the most menial duties through you, and all duties, from greatest to least, will be pleasing to him." Which reminds me. I also have to clean the kitchen this morning before I leave. But hey -- laborare est orare, "work is worship," so there you have it.

I'm happy to report that the blister I got from my last long run has healed up completely, thanks to some ointment and divine providence. (A sixteenth century French surgeon once said, "I dressed the wound; God healed it." I couldn't agree more.) So it's off to the races with my new shoes and healthy feet. Hopefully I won't look as tired after today's workout as I did after my last long run. I'm kinda of hoping to finish before it gets too hot. I'm always surprised at hard the first 1-3 miles seem but I'm sure it happens in order to add more challenge to the miles that follow. Once you get going, however, things tend to improve. Between my run and my swim I plan on filling every glycogen storage space in my body with delicious, fatty Southern-style hot dogs.

By the way, there are only 10 days until my next "official" race. It's one of the biggest 5Ks in Durham and takes place in the cool of the evening, which makes for a great time for all. I am already craving it. Training is all well and good, but there's nothing like putting on a race bib.

When's your next race? Do you ever train in hot weather?

Wednesday, July 25   

6:52 PM I love me a good gym workout. Plus a 5-mile bike ride. I finished just as the rain started. As in one HUGE thunderstorm. I thought for sure the highways would become flooded. My farm lanes were 8 inches deep in water. Tomorrow, if it's dry enough, I hope to get in another long run. For slower runners like me, long runs are L-O-N-G runs. Part of me really looks forward to them, and part of me dreads them. But when you realize that only 3 years ago the only running I did was out to my car when it was raining, I've come a long ways, baby. Who knew this running thing would embrace me the way it has? I love my non-running friends, but they don't entirely understand this passion of mine. Can't say I blame them. Running involves faith. You have to believe that you will get better and stronger the longer you keep at it. Running keeps me thankful -- for my family, my friends, my farm, my students, my blog, my races, my relationship to God. Not a day goes by that I don't count myself incredibly blessed. It's been a lovely year so far, filled with joy and peace. I'm grateful for every single step. I know that I'm on the right road, and that if I keep on moving forward, no matter how slowly, I'll eventually get to the finish line.

Tonight I'm finishing up John Stott's book on missions. It's been a very convicting read so far. Then I'll re-watch the movie Gettysburg, as I haven't totally given up on the idea of making a quick trip up there this week. I'll probably make up my mind in the morning. I have a large, diverse collection of books about Gettysburg, but nothing can top a visit there yourself.

Well, another thunderstorm is approaching and I have to unplug my computer before it gets zapped.

9:35 AM Hey, did you know that investment advisors tell you to do three things: buy quality, hold on to your investments for a long time, and diversify? It occurs to me that these "rules of the road" apply to exercise as well. Invest in activities that you enjoy and that are time-tested for their effectiveness. Then plan to be involved in exercise for the long term. If you're a runner, it's the dedication to run for the rest of your life that counts. This is especially true when the initial jolt of inspiration begins to wear off. Finally, diversify. Find as many ways as possible to keep moving and to enjoy your new fitness level. In running, this is called cross-training. There are so many things we can do to improve our running that have nothing to do with running. But note: We don't do these things instead of running. We do them because we are runners. Examples might be strength training (weight lifting), bicycling, rowing, swimming, hiking, mountain climbing, paddling, surfing, etc. Participating in sports other than running can keep your running fresh for the rest of your life.

So that's my "financial" advice for you today. And it's even free.

Today I plan to do a gym workout and then either a bike or a run depending on the weather. It's down to 9 weeks before my 31-mile ultra and, yes, I'm getting nervous. I've said it before, but I'm not a big fan of running in heat and humidity. On some days, the best decision is not to put on your running shoes. But today's not that day. As long as I stay hydrated I'll be okay. The rule of thumb is: Don't do anything today that might keep you from running tomorrow!

Do you like or despise running in hot weather? Do you train all year long?

Tuesday, July 24   

9:44 PM Well, hello. I really hadn't planned on waiting this long to blog today. I took the entire day off from training so I could devote my time to academic work, including sitting in on a Ph.D. exam and then dictating a book review to my secretary. I also began reading this recently-delivered book by Stott.

The weather continues to be rainy, but things should begin clearing up on Thursday. I need to get back outside again this week. I haven't ruled out a jaunt up to G-Burg but it all depends on the weather. As I said, I'm hoping to bike the battlefield. Or maybe I'll just run it. Either way, I'll be out in nature. One of the best things about being a runner is being able to get outdoors, pound the pavement (or gravel), clear your head, and remind yourself how closely related you are to your Creator. Yes, it's hard work to get outside and bust your tail off. But the payoff is absolutely worth it. I could go to the gym and do my runs on the dreadmill. But I know I won't. I belong outside.

What's the weather like where you are? Are you okay with running outdoors when the weather is less than desirable?

Monday, July 23   

6:22 PM On Saturday, my neighbor and dear friend Thomas Hayes passed away. His funeral and interment was today. Thomas was 89. For many years we attended church together. He and I used to sing in the choir, and our men's quartet traveled to other churches and the retirement home on a regular basis. Thomas worked for Burlington Industries and farmed fulltime. He was indeed a hard worker. He and his wife Charlotte welcomed us with open arms when we moved into this farming community in 2004. As I drove to the cemetery today, the oncoming cars stopped by the side of the road out of respect for the deceased.

It's a wonderful Southern custom. I'm praying for Miss Charlotte. She will miss her husband. I hope she will discover that the Savior is so much greater than one could ever think He is, that His truth can stand any test, and that we can learn to fear and trust and love Him better every day.

You will be missed, Thomas Grey Hayes. Thank you for your love and friendship through these years. I grieve your passing, and yet not as those without hope. The resurrection of Jesus happened. You and I have banked our very souls on it.

9:15 AM Hey folks! John Stott wrote what is perhaps the definitive book on preaching. It was all the more surprising, then, when I read these words in his book The Living Church (p. 103).

There are to be no gurus in the Christian community -- only pastors (shepherds).

But how do shepherds feed their sheep? The answer is that they don't! To be sure, if a newborn lamb is sick, the shepherd will doubtless take it up in his arms and bottle-feed it. But normally shepherds do not feed their sheep; they lead them to good, green pasture where the sheep feed themselves.

He then concludes:

Thus all preaching should lead people to the Scriptures and encourage them to browse there for themselves.

Paul often uses the images of milk and meat when he describes Christian growth and maturity. Babies in Christ need the bottle. But very soon afterwards they need to consume meat so that they can begin to discern the mind of God for themselves. It is to that high measure of independence that Christian teachers need to bring their charges.

I love teaching. It's what I do. But I'm learning that enabling and equipping is just as important to my teaching ministry as is lecturing. I see a generation of Christians who are overly dependent on others for their spiritual growth. Yes, we need each other. But nothing can compare with a personal encounter with the God of the Bible. Thank you, Dr. Stott, for the reminder.

Sunday, July 22   

7:14 PM Hey guys. My first love is running, but I also enjoy getting out there on the bicycle and putting in some training miles. Well, when I saw a break in the weather this afternoon, I immediately drove to Farmville to try and get in a bike at the High Bridge Trail before the rains returned. My goal was, maybe, 10-15 miles, but I surprised myself by surpassing that goal by 5 miles.

That said, I still felt rushed in order not to get caught out during a thunderstorm. It feels good to take a break from running and to be challenging myself with other activities such as cycling. I've pretty much decided that I'm a triathlete for life, so it never hurts to get some cycling miles under your belt. To be honest, though, I miss my old friend the marathon. At the same time, I've come to embrace the multisport option as well. I feel that cycling makes me a stronger runner as it involves complementary muscles.

Which do you enjoy more -- the run, the bike, or the swim? Have you tried a triathlon yet? What exercises make you stronger as an athlete?

Rest is a huge part of training, so it's off to bed early for this old fossil. Hope you enjoy your week!

8:15 AM Two verses from Hebrews jumped out at me as I read my Bible and sipped coffee on the front porch this morning. The first was Heb. 6:7:

God blesses the soil which drinks in the rain that often falls on it and which grows plants that are useful to those for whom it is cultivated.

Where I live, we've entered a very strange weather pattern. It rained all last night, and this morning a steady drizzle is falling. I'm told this is the start of an abnormally wet pattern that will elevate flood risks in the eastern U.S. into the end of July.

Last night there was flooding in parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland. Baltimore saw almost 5 inches of rain, breaking the previous record from 1887. Weather experts tell us we can expect days of downpours, travel delays -- and ruined outdoor plans.

But farmers view rain slightly differently. On my road alone (White House Rd.), there are several large farms that grow anything from tobacco to soy beans to grapes (yes, we have a vineyard on my quaint country lane). As you know, our main crop here at Rosewood is horse-quality square bale hay. Where there is no rain, farmers suffer. The effects of an El Niño can lead to under-average crop yields, and irrigation systems are expensive. Of course, rain falling at the wrong time can delay planting and harvesting. Too much rain is almost as bad as no rain. But all plants need water to survive. And God provides the rain for that very purpose, as our verse reminds us. For those of us who live on White House Rd., rain couldn't have come at a better time. I, for one, am most grateful to the Supplier.

Here's the other verse that leaped off the page as I read my Bible this morning. It's Heb. 13:15:

Let us, then, always offer praise to God as our sacrifice through Jesus, which is the offering presented by lips that confess him as Lord.

Last night I attended a wonderful worship service. It took place at my bedside. With evocative works like Dietrich Buxtehude's "Jesu, meines Lebens Leben" on your iPhone, whose heart wouldn't be lifted up in worship? It was as though I was transported into the very Presence of heaven with the angels and the archangels. According to Albert Schweitzer (himself an accomplished organist), Buxtehude was the greatest organist between Scheidt and Bach. It was from Buxtehude that Bach acquired his rich harmonic vocabulary. Here's the work I listened to last night.

I sang along as the choir led me in worship. You'll notice that this is a prayer.

Prayer is central to anything we do as Christians. Paul advises us to pray with the spirit and also with the mind (1 Cor. 14:15). I think what he means is that prayer should not only be from the heart, but should be well-informed. Paul's own prayers reveal a deeply spiritual and precise nature (see, for example, Phil. 1:9-11 and Col. 1:9-14). If this is to be true, a great deal of care needs to be given to teaching on prayer in our modern churches. How rich and deep ought the words to our music be!

Jesus, my life's life. Jesus, my death's death.... Thanks be to You, my greatly beloved Jesus, a thousand thousand times!

True worship is intelligible worship. This is the teaching of Rom. 12:1. The term logikos here can be rendered either "reasonable" or "rational." Moreover, it's clear that Paul is thinking of worship that is expressed not only when we gather as Christ's body but in the home and in the workplace and in the gym and on the bike path . In view of God's great mercies that I have received, now more than ever I seek to present my body as a living sacrifice to God.

How is your worship experience these days? What kind of music transports you into the heavens? Do you come to church, not merely to worship, but as a worshipper?

Saturday, July 21   

8:26 PM In a world full of bad news, I hope you'll watch this documentary on the Thai cave rescue. You will be glued to your computer.

Flooded caves. Monsoon season. Even professional divers wouldn't have dived in those circumstances. And yet these rescuers pulled 13 people out of the cave. It's a beautiful thing when people work together to accomplish a goal. Everyone had to work together to come up with a solution. The rescue required thousands of volunteers from many nations working together. Apart from the military personnel, every single person involved in the rescue was a volunteer. Nobody forced them to help but yet they were there, working their tails off. Even the Thai diver who lost his life was a volunteer. Well done to everyone involved. My admiration for you is beyond words. I prayed for your success. God worked a miracle but not without your bravery and sacrifice.

P.S. Australian documentaries rock!

3:18 PM Just did a bike and a swim. (I'll take my walk later this evening.) Afterwards I sat poolside and read, stumbling upon this great quote (Stott, The Living Church, p. 74):

We do a great disservice to the church whenever we refer to the pastorate as "the" ministry. For if we use the definite article, we give the impression that we think the pastorate is the only ministry there is. I repented of this decades ago, and invite any readers to join me in penitence today.

God calls all people to ministry. Period. Anybody need some sackcloth and ashes? You can borrow some of mine (if I have any left).

P.S. I am refining my race list for the rest of the year. Not overly aggressive but it does contain some biggies. So far it looks like this:

  • August 4 -- Bull Moon 5K (Durham, NC)

  • September 2 -- Virginia Beach Half Marathon

  • September 29 -- Virginia Ten Miler

  • October 6 -- High Bridge Trail Half Marathon

  • October 13 -- High Bridge Trail Ultramarathon (NEW EVENT)

  • October 28 -- Marine Corps Marathon (NEW EVENT)

  • November 10 -- Richmond Marathon

  • December 9 -- Honolulu Marathon (NEW EVENT)

Nothing makes me more alive than running. What are you most excited about this year?

10:08 AM Quote of the day (from a sermon I heard this morning):

God is outrageous in His generosity.

Let that sink in!

9:10 AM Okay, you can stop wondering why I didn't post last night after I finished getting up hay. We stopped work at 11:30 pm. Yes, I said ELEVEN THIRTY!! That's over 6 hours of getting up hay, folks. Don't you ever say I don't work hard. But it wasn't all blood, sweat, and tears. It was actually fun getting up hay in the dark. Plus, the temperature was perfect. (Oh my, did I just type "temperature"? For 66 years I had no idea that temperature had an "a" in it.) All that is about to change. We're back to our daily afternoon thunderstorm weather pattern so common here in the South during the summer months. I'm pretty sure I'll survive the hiatus from haying. Besides, I've got oodles of book reviews to complete. I just finished reading Bradley Arnold's doctoral thesis (Exeter University) called Christ as the Telos of Life. You would not (please note the "not") know this from its title, but the book is really a study of Philippians and how Paul develops the image of the runner pursuing the goal (telos) of living for Christ. This becomes "Paul's overarching argumentative aim in the letter" (p. 2). At this stage, I'm not convinced that the author has proven his point, especially because he seems to make more of Phil. 3:13-14 than Paul does. Now, of course, there's nothing I would love more than to be able to argue that Philippians is all about running! Goal setting (telosity?) is what the sport of running is all about. I've got to admit, however, that my own study of the discourse structure of Philippians constrains me to see unity for the sake of the Gospel as what Paul is really reaching for in this letter. Oh well. That won't be anything new to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time. So this weekend I'll be writing up my thoughts about this book and getting started on my next book review. I'm not sure how involved I'll be in the blogosphere in the next few days as I'm sorely tempted to make a jaunt up to Gettysburg to bike the battlefield, which is something I've wanted to do for a long time. However, it looks like they're going to have the same weather pattern we're in, and if I can't ride in the afternoons because of thunderstorms that will sort of nix that idea. We'll see. I wouldn't be able to leave until next Wednesday anyway because I'll be sitting in on a Ph.D. dissertation defense on Tuesday.

As for today, I'm going to take a break from running and enjoy a nice long walk out in nature before the rain comes. How 'bout you? Trust me, something happens to us when we begin to move. Our bodies release chemicals that can almost produce a high -- and it's all free and legal. This morning I was reading about a doctor in Houston who was shot and killed while riding his bike to work. In fact, the man was George H. W. Bush's cardiologist. Whenever I read about such tragedies I ask myself, "What's really important in your life, Dave?" It's so easy to get so inwardly focused that we have little time for other people. I so want to be a better giver/investor, especially in the lives of my kids and their families, who love their dad and Papa B and whose love and support I value and cherish. I often think of my puppy Sheba and how connected she wants to be with me. Her happiness is based on human connection (and marking her territory). Becky and I would often just sit on the porch together, not saying a word to each other but still connecting, if you know what I mean. I know she is no longer suffering but I selfishly want her back with me. Friends, let's not become too busy to be involved in the lives of those who are most important to us. Don't pressure yourself to "feel better" when you are sorrowing or feeling loss. Let yourself feel the heaviness. Then get outdoors and spend some time "in the Word." Allow the Holy One to invade you daily. This is where God has placed you. Thrive in it. May we, the broken, be the ones who don't give up on radical obedience to our Lord's commands. You belong to the family of God. You are loved. Now may we in turn love Jesus and the Father and the Spirit to whom He introduced us with all of our hearts. Maybe then, His love will spill out of our lives into the lives of others.

So there you have it. The most disjointed blog post you've ever read. Of course, I'm never guilty of over-sharing. Thank you for reading my words and for allowing me this platform to express my thoughts and feelings.

Peace be to you,


Friday, July 20   

8:55 AM I was looking for a September race to add to the Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 2 and I think I found what I was looking for. It's the Genworth Virginia Ten Miler on Sept. 29. I ran this race the past two years. Last year alone saw 3,394 finishers. The venue is the great city of Lynchburg, VA. There's also a 4-mile run, a 4-mile walk, and a children's run. Thankfully the race has same-day packet pickup, which means that I can get up early and drive to Lynchburg without having to stay overnight the night before. The race is an out-and-back course with a 1.5-mile long climb to the finish line (for good reason they call Lynchburg the City of Hills). I recall the race being very challenging but also a lot of fun. Join me if you can. It's the perfect way to get in a long run before your next marathon. It's definitely a win-win situation. :-)

7:46 AM Hey guys. This morning I've been "in the Word." Both of them. I think God worked overtime on this morning's sunrise, don't you?

And then there was this passage in Heb. 13:1-2:

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't forget to welcome strangers into your homes and show them Christian love, for some did this and welcomed angels without even knowing it.

Two quick observations if I may:

First, I noticed the verbal aspect in the first command: "Keep on loving one another." I find it interesting that the author didn't rely on the tense of the verb to express his desire for continuous action. He used a verb that literally means "let it continue." Perhaps our Greek textbooks should reflect this way of "mitigating" imperfective aspect?

Second, I noticed the morphological connection between "love of brothers" and "love of strangers." This play on the phil-prefix is often missed in our English translations -- "brotherly love" versus "hospitality." Why should this be?

Finally, this morning I was reviewing my syllabus for the New Testament course I'm teaching this fall. This course is designed to cover Acts through Revelation. Its official title is "New Testament Introduction and Interpretation 2," but I've entitled it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." One of the books we'll be using in class is this one.

I wrote this short treatise because, despite the proliferation of books about the church in recent years, no one had (to the best of my knowledge) ever exegeted 11 brief verses in Acts 2 that seem to practically "list" the hallmarks of the nascent church in Jerusalem. The early church was an evangelistic church, reaching out to the world in witness. It was a committed church, pledging allegiance to Christ alone in the waters of baptism. It was a learning church, devoted to the teachings of the apostles. It was a caring church, eager to share life together with one another (koinonia). It was a Christ-centered church, elevating His supper to a place of continued prominence. It was a praying church, asking God to help keep it pure and to give it bigger challenges to expand its territory. And it was a sacrificing church, generously caring for their poor brothers and sisters.

Today we read a great deal about "unhooked Christians," Christians who've dropped out of the church. The reason they had done this was their disappointment and disillusionment with the local church. These churches seemed to lack a heart of witness, unquestioned loyalty to Jesus, devotion to biblical truth, genuine fellowship, Christ-centeredness, a keen sense of dependence upon God, and a sacrificial spirit, which is always a test of the sincerity of one's love for Christ. With apologies to MLK, I have a dream of a church that is a truly biblical church, whose people love the Word of God and adorn it with loyalty and obedience. Such is my dream for the church. May it be one that all of us can share in our NT class this semester!

Thursday, July 19   

7:22 PM I know you've been holding your breath wondering if I got in my 20 mile run today. Well, I'm happy to say that I didn't. I got in a 20.78 mile run instead.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm sore. And yes, I walked quite a bit toward the end. But finish I did, and this ambassador of slow runners is pretty pleased about it too. One of the great rewards of running is being "in the Word" while out on the course. You say, "What do mean, Dave? Were you listening to Scripture on your iPhone while running? Were you listening to sermons on your iPod while running? Were you meditating on Bible verses while running?" The answer is, "None of the above." You see, my friends, there are two ways of understanding the expression "in the Word." Let me explain.

For millennia, Christian theologians have spoken about two types of divine revelation -- two "Words" from God, if you will. The first is the Word of nature. And the second is the Word of Scripture. Nature reveals the glory of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above displays His handiwork" (Psa. 19:1). Scripture, on the other, reveals God's grace, in particular His offer of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. "As it is written, the just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). Thus God has provided us with two books: the book of His works, which we call nature, and the book of His words, which we call Scripture. This means that science and theology are closely related. Science seeks to understand what God has revealed in nature. Theology seeks to understand what God has revealed in Scripture. In both of them, as Johann Kempler said, we are thinking God's thoughts after Him. This is why the Bible and nature should go together. We need both theology and science. In fact, when I studied in Basel, theology was (and still is) considered the "Queen of the Sciences." Theology is taught as a Wissenschaft, a science, because in both science and theology we are thinking God's thoughts after Him.

Through nature, God speaks to us, teaches us, and provides for us. Nature, of course, can't teach us everything about God. But something inside of us comes alive when we're surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of God's creation. Nature reflects God's glory, power, creativity, sovereignty, awe, wonder, and provision. If God takes care of birds and bugs and plants and flowers, surely He will take care of me. God has taught me so much about Himself through my walking and running and climbing and cycling through nature. I've always loved God's creation, but it seems that I am enjoying it more these days since Becky's home-going. There are so many spiritual analogies to be derived through the study of nature.

Do you ever read God's "Word" in nature? I dare say, there's a great need for more Christians to be involved in this Word. It can start with something as simple as a walk in the park or a visit to the local zoo or starting a garden. This was my view today as I listened to the sounds of nature and communed with my Creator for 5 plus hours.

I can say this: You don't need a church pew to experience God. Today I heard creation singing and saw the trees clapping their hands and I wanted to join in and accompany them. God surrounds us 24 hours a day with evidence of His love and glory. It's a shame that we are often too busy to notice. Open your eyes, my friend. He's right there.

Well, there you have it. My sermon for the day. My goal now is to stay healthy and continue my training for my 10th marathon and my first ultra in October. Believe me, I realize I have a long ways to go. An ultra is no joke. Neither is a hilly marathon. Suffice it to say, I'll keep on running as long God gives me strength. Somehow, He always does. One of the best things about running is you know there's always an adventure around the next corner. If you lack excitement in your life, dear reader, you ought to try running. The pain involved is a small price to pay to read this "Word."



7:55 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another training update as I prepare for my big races in October. But first, a look back. 2018 has already been a great year in terms of my races and overall health. As you know, I'm very slow and a bit on the older side for a runner, but God has given me a strong set of legs and an undaunted spirit, and these are blessings I try not to take for granted, ever. So far I've run 16 races in 2018:

Allen (TX) Marathon

Run for Young 5K (Raleigh)

Birmingham (AL) Half Marathon

Carolina Fever 5K (Chapel Hill)

DC 10 Miler

Tobacco Road Marathon (Raleigh)

Ella's Race 5K (Raleigh)

Durham Park Run 5K (Durham)

Garland (TX) 5K

Petersburg Half Marathon

Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati)

Marine Corps Half Marathon (Fredericksburg)

Race 13.1 Half Marathon (Raleigh)

Smile Train Triathlon (Wake Forest)

Liberty on the Lake 10K (The Colony, TX)

Rex Wellness Triathlon (Garner)

Today I hope to get in a long run (maybe 20 miles?). I can't wait. I'll share it with you if and when I get 'er done. What inspiring things have you accomplished in 2018? What setbacks have you had to overcome to reach your goals? I hope everyone has the best of days today pursuing God's will for your life. I've been spending a lot of time with the Lord lately. My heart feels renewed at this point in the year. Perhaps His greatest gift to me has been clarity -- clarity about my single status, clarity about my future goals (professional and personal), clarity about relationships. I'm learning to downsize: This matters, this doesn't. I'm thankful for all the contemplatives who've stirred me this year: John Stott, James Packer, Jacque Ellul, Craig Koester, James Boice (who attended Basel just before me), and many others. I have happy memories of yesterday and an anticipation of the next day. In only 4 weeks, classes begin. What a privilege to begin my 42nd year of teaching. So believe me, life is good even though I complain so often about this or that. I love, love, love the farm and every rustic outbuilding. I have no clue where I'd be emotionally had it not been for this country oasis. As the sun sets every evening and I prepare dinner, I love reflecting on the many times Becky and I would sit on the porch together competing for space to tell each other how good God is. I mean, really? This is my life? Oh Lord, use me to be a blessing to others today. Allow me to lean into Christlike simplicity and generosity. Help my kids and grandkids, especially, to see in their dad and Papa B a man fighting back against materialism and overindulgence, a man who's determined to address his failings and follow his Master in simple obedience, a man willing to align himself with the humble ministry of Jesus.

Do this for Your glory, Lord.

Wednesday, July 18   

6:44 PM Today I got in a workout, a bike, and a swim. Trifecta! Before that, the grandkids came over to pick blueberries.

They are soooo sweet!

One of them has begun piano lessons and treated me to a concert.

Here's some of today's loot.

Right now it's time for me to cook dinner. Tomorrow I want to get back into running. Hopefully my 66-year old body can handle a 20 mile run. If you're one of those people who can achieve their goals effortlessly, more power to you. Seems I have to work like the dickens to get anything done. That's why the sport of running is so amazing. Nothing worth accomplishing ever comes easily.

What's your next challenge?

1:10 PM Hello again, virtual friends. I'm so loving writing my book Godworld. I'm far from being finished, but the driving concern behind the book remains my desire to embrace the kingdom and to do so better than I have in the past. I think some Christian denominations get this profoundly wrong. To take but one example. In some denominations, missions is a most unfashionable concept. (See last Sunday's post.) C. S. Lewis reminded us in The Screwtape Letters that Satan blinds our minds by persuading us that the Gospel is false or too exclusive or unnecessary. The god of this world is utterly opposed to the personal Gospel and will hinder it at every turn. However, we can't forget that Paul was a traveling evangelist. For him, people are either saved or lost, redeemed or not redeemed, in Christ or not in Christ, on the broad way or on the narrow way. There is no excluded middle. Paul knew he was commanded by God "to open [people's] eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God." This can't be put any more clearly. Evangelism was foundational to all Paul did as an apostle.

Do we academics have anything like Paul's concern to reach lost people with the Good News? If not, there is something terribly amiss. I must not remain content with what I have gained in Christ. Others need Him too. The Lamb of God shed His precious blood to set captives free. Paul therefore sees the cross of Christ as foundational to Christianity. It is the centerpiece of the Gospel, and Paul for one is not going to neglect to proclaim it.

When I left the U.S. to study for my doctorate at the University of Basel in 1980, people warned me that I would lose my faith. A European university is a very intellectual place and values the mind very highly. If the Gospel is folly in the world's eyes, it is also folly to many academics. But the fact is: We cannot reach God through our minds alone. In other words, it takes Scripture to reveal God, and that is exactly what God has done. The unaided intellect finds it impossible to believe the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). Unfettered reason rejects revelation. "Why do I need a Savior? Why do I need grace?" The paradox for me, however, was that when I got to Basel, I found that not a few of the academics I met there were genuine believers. They weren't so bewitched by their own brilliance that they didn't need Jesus. In Basel, I discovered that it is not a choice between faith and reason. The choice we face is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason. The true place of the intellect in the life of the believer is not only to immerse itself in active scholarship but to concentrate on the revelation of God (1 Cor. 2:9-10) and to be transformed into the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

As a teacher of the New Testament, I have a responsibility to develop the mind of Christ in the students I serve. He is the goal of all knowledge. I was reminded of this when, in 1978, I arrived in Seeheim, Germany, as a summer missionary at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse. A sign mounted on the school's gate read, "In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is this truth that allows us to look at the whole of life with intellectual integrity.

If our churches are to be an effective and true manifestation of Christ's life, they will need to work and pray as never before for steadfast growth in love and truth. We who have pledged our lives to following Christ are to do one thing: love Him with everything we've got, including our minds. We're not called to sacrifice our intellects. But we're not called to elevate them above Scripture either.

Blessings on y'all!


8:34 AM Here's a question for all of you verbal aspect guys out there. How would you render the present tense (imperfective aspect) of the imperative in Heb. 13:18a?

Pray for us.


Keep on praying for us.

8:22 AM "Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God" (Heb. 13:16).

Tuesday, July 17   

8:52 PM Spending a lot of time driving, as I do, can lead to thinking some novel thoughts. Three of them came to mind today:

1) Why couldn't we do what apparently the earliest churches in Acts did and observe a weekly fellowship dinner (Acts 20:7)? I know of only a handful of churches that do this regularly. But think about this: For the single Christian, this may well be the only dinner in the week they don't eat alone. The early church was a family. Paul talked about his brothers and sisters. He could refer to himself as a nursing mother or an encouraging father. For Jesus, family life lived out on the spiritual level was just as important, if not more important, than family life lived out merely because of blood lines. Loneliness is one of the burdens an unmarried, divorced, or widowed person bears. It's part of the charisma of singleness we talked about earlier today. My oh my, how it could be alleviated when the body of Christ makes much of family meals! Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about this and he lavished praise on the widows in his congregation who help to prepare food for their church-wide dinners every Wednesday evening. Not only does this get them out of the house, it gives them an opportunity to serve others. What a gift.

2) Why couldn't we have our people pray before we preach to them? I don't mean simply bow their heads as we lead them in a brief prayer. Latin American churches, I am told, have something called orando la palabra. Before the speaker begins to exposit a passage of Scripture, the people are invited to turn to that text and meditate on it prayerfully for as long as 15-20 minutes in hushed silence. We can do no better than to ask, each of us, for God to speak truth into our lives as we first read then hear the word of God taught. Do we have anything like this in our churches in North America? I'm not aware of any such practice. I need others in the body of Christ, including those who teach formally on Sundays, just as they need me. But I also need to humbly approach the word of God myself to ask the Holy Spirit to give me discernment, knowledge, and wisdom (1 John 2:27).

3) Why don't we have a service of celebration for single followers of Jesus ("eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom") like we do for Christian couples who are getting married? Marriage, of course, is a wonderful picture of Christ and His bride, the church. Hence we solemnize it by taking vows and making promises and even asking the congregation to formally vow to love, support, and pray for the newlyweds. Is it too much to envision a church service in which persons who know themselves to be called by God (as was John Stott) to a life of singleness and celibacy affirm their calling publicly, vowing to gladly accept the yoke of loneliness and sexual non-fulfillment even as the congregation vows publicly to love, support, and pray for them? Such a service, I should think, would not only speak eloquently and clearly of the Gospel, it would be a goad in the service of that Gospel. (Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about elevating the unmarried state as if it were holier than the married state, as some of the monks did. I'm only talking about the people Jesus described in Matt. 19:12 as those who were willing to forego marriage for the kingdom's sake. See Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:23.)

You say, this simply cannot be done. But I know of no good Scriptural reasons why not. These are humbling reflections. I am far too prone to see "doing church" as something static and never-changing. Alas, it may be far more flexible than that. If you're thinking, "Dave's gone off the deep end (again)," I applaud you for your skepticism. In the end, what I say or think doesn't matter. I don't want to base my life on anything I think. The Bible is true. That's what matters. Read it. Meditate on it. Obey it. I promise I'll try and do the same.

6:46 PM Photo update:

1) Picked up these books from my office today.

I'll be reviewing them for Filologia Neotestamentaria.

2) Stopped by to see my friends at the Awazé in Cary today for lunch on my way to UNC.

Doro wat never tasted better.

3) At UNC, I met with Dr. Vickie Bae-Jump and her team to get an update on their research into the causes and potential cures for endometrial cancer -- the form of cancer that took the life of my then-60-year-old wife four and a half years ago.

Afterwards Dr. Bae-Jump was kind enough to send me this summary of how the Becky Black Memorial Fund to Fight Endometrial Cancer is being used:

Please, don't miss the connection between weight and endometrial cancer. This is yet another good reason to exercise, folks.

I'm going to bed tonight grateful for good health, a blessing so taken for granted it barely registers. May my good health continue to drive me to help others who are less fortunate. Greater yet, may God bless the work of researchers like Bae-Jump who devote their entire lives and careers to doing what they can to relieve the awful scourge of cancer. 

So it's been a good day for me, and I hope for you. Just simply communing with the Lord. Spending time together, Him and me. "Life together" is what Bonhoeffer once called it. Contributing to cancer research satisfies the deeper part of me that so desires a better, healthier, safer world. I know that the only ultimate solution to sin and death is the Savior. But, in small ways at least, maybe we can do something to help alleviate the temporal suffering of others. It was my own experience of loss and grief that gave me a different perspective on what it really means to live Christianly. Once we see ourselves as people who need God's mercy and grace, we will be more likely to extend that mercy and grace to others.

In a world where suffering and death seem to win out in the end, Easter reminds us that Jesus has conquered death and that one day, for all those who have placed their trust in Him, all of our tears and pain and sorrow will be swallowed up by inextinguishable joy. Until then, let us overcome evil by doing good.

7:58 AM Good morning, Blogworld! Do you have Amazon Prime? Don't you just love it? It allows you to use free shipping to justify buying all the books you want. Yesterday I ordered 7 books by John Stott. John WHO? John Stott was only one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the past three quarters of a century.

I love his books. For one, his prolific writing keeps me humble. For another, he always hid his considerable scholarship behind an amicable smile. Reading his books makes you feel like you're having coffee with your best friend. Finally, every time I finish one of his tomes I'm left with a renewed love for life, people, and especially Jesus. Let's face it. I'm very protective of my time. And let me tell you: John's writings float my boat. You get sucked in from the very first sentence. Here are some things that made the life of John Stott so worth emulating. (This isn't my list; you can find it here: Six Lessons from the Life of John Stott.)

1) Conviction.

2) Focus.

3) Holistic Gospel.

4) Dialogue.

5) Fulfilled Singleness.

6) Humility.

To flesh this out a bit: John Stott ordered his life by the Word of God. He didn't dabble in a million things. "This one thing I do" could have been written by him instead of by Paul. He somehow believed that the personal Gospel and a social conscience belonged together. He listened to others, even when he disagreed with them. He chose singleness because he felt he could better serve Jesus that way. He lived a simple, humble life.

Alright, Davey old boy. How do you measure up? Long exhale. It's horrifying to confront my own materialism, to take just one example. Here's another: When I think about how many times I've complained to the Lord about being single, my heart breaks. John Stott represents, in so many ways, the kind of kingdom man I want to be and the kind of kingdom students I want to raise up. Maybe it's time we reframed the way we think about these six areas. For instance, our culture stresses that a good marriage takes a lot of hard work. And it does. Well, guess what? A good single life also takes a lot of hard work. Paul was unmarried and wanted everyone to be just like him (1 Cor. 7:7). That is a lovely attitude. There was not a hint of unfulfillment in the lives of Paul or Jesus for that matter. I consider it a great honor and privilege to hear from so many of you who have recently become widowers. Our soul is sorrowful, yet every morning we wake up joyful and eager to see what the Lord has in store for us. We are broken and yet whole. We've come to realize, as did John Stott, that both marriage and singleness are a charisma, a special gracious gift from the Lord (1 Cor. 7:7).

I could go on and on but I think you get a taste of Stott's medicine. The works of John Stott are like breaths of fresh air. You won't agree with everything he says, of course. However, you will hardly be able to find another author who will challenge you to fight for scandalous love like he does. Read his books for yourself and see what speaks to you.

P.S. Over at the All Souls, Langham Place website there's a wonderful sermon called What do singles teach us about the gospel?  Apparently, "much in every way"!

Monday, July 16   

8:28 PM Tetelestai! It is finished! Haying, that is. As we were picking up bales, the Lord protected us from the storm clouds that seemed to hover all around us.

I can't tell you how often that's happened. What a blessing. Thank you, Creator Father!

Earlier today I worked out at the gym and then biked 5 miles. When I got home I was exhausted. Seems I had been pushing too hard and resting too little. Without rest, our bodies weaken due to lack of recovery time. So they require rest to adapt and grow stronger. Rob your body of rest, and eventually you'll burn out. So I took a long nap this afternoon.

Usually I find it hard to take a break. I always seem to run on all 8 cylinders. Not today. I slumped over into bed and kissed the world goodbye. When I woke up I was completely restored and eager to get back out into the hot and humid day to get my work done. Like salt, rest adds flavor to your workout program. I sure needed a good rest today. A little nap time never hurt anybody!

7:40 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another brief training update. I remain super motivated about my big races coming up in October. By God's grace, I've been able to keep up a fairly consistent pace in my weekly/monthly training schedule.

And my new shoes will go a long way toward making my workouts even more effective. There's no way I can praise the New Balance 1080s enough. I get them in my usual Neanderthal size of 13 double wide.

They feel great just putting them on and even better when running in them. It's a really nice-performing and good-looking shoe, I think. The guy at the shoe store yesterday told me he's going to do his first sprint triathlon and was asking me all kinds of questions about the event. Imagine that. People asking me for advice. Nothing is so much fun as trying a new sport with a fresh attitude. I've found that participating in tris takes the definition of fitness to a whole new level, and running takes on a whole new character. I told him to be cool, not to freak out over the strangeness of it all, and to be happy with just finishing. Since our body is what's propelling us over these distances, it's important that we take care of it. Make sure your running shoes are of the highest quality. Change your diet if you need to in order to ensure that you're getting the appropriate nutrients for running. Pamper yourself by getting an occasional massage. And be sure to get plenty of rest. For example, today I plan a gym workout and a 5-mile bike -- nothing more -- because I have a few hundred bales to get up this afternoon. Sure, I'd like to put in a 10 mile run today, but there are times when even the most devoted warrior must sit out the battle. Know thyself. It's not a sign of courage to push yourself through injury or pain or fatigue. Like anything else, running can become a self-destructive addiction. Make no mistake -- I'm not immune!

Speaking of our bodies, last night and this morning me and the Lord were discussing Paul's teaching about the body, marriage, singleness, and worldly possessions in 1 Cor. 7:29-31. And guess what? I saw something I had never seen before. Here's the Greek:

I suppose we could translate this as follows:

What I'm talking about, my dear brothers and sisters, is this: the time has been shortened. Therefore people who are married should live as though they're not, those who weep as though they weren't sad, those who laugh as though weren't happy, those who buy as though they didn't own anything, and those who use the world's goods as though they didn't cling tenaciously to them. For this world, as we know it, will not last much longer.

Wow. Did you see it? The marvelous play on words? Paul says that those who use (crasthai) this world shouldn't cling tenaciously (katachrasthai) to it. In other words, as we go about our daily lives, we have to constantly be dealing with material things -- today I'm having the tire alignment checked on my Odyssey -- but we are not to be fully occupied with such "things." Take my singleness as an example. Paul says that if you're called by God to singleness and celibacy (as I am currently), be useful to the Lord! If you're married, be useful to the Lord! Do I have the right to remarry? Technically yes, but practically no -- unless I have first honestly dealt with the question of the impact marriage might have on my usefulness to the Lord. Either way, the appointed time for the Lord's return is near. "There's not much time left." Which means: even as I go about my daily business of working for a living and getting up hay and caring for my properties and possessions, I can't cling tenaciously to any of them. I am simply a pilgrim and stranger on this old earth. And whether or not I am single or married, I must make it my chief "business" to give my undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:35). For most American evangelicals, this will begin with a radical deconstruction of the American Dream. God doesn't pull any punches here. We gain our life by losing it. But there is something sooooo liberating when we unhook from consumerism and at least try to find a path through the me-first culture that surrounds us. Chrasthai, friends. But beware katachrasthai!

Make it a great day!


Sunday, July 15   

9:10 PM This morning I attended what some would consider to be the most visible (and perhaps largest) church of a certain mainline denomination in North Carolina. My goal was to get a perspective on how this particular denomination views the kingdom. It's all part of a book I'm writing called Godworld. I've attended this church about three times in the past and the sermons all sound pretty much the same. One hears a lot of about human rights, social justice, immigration reform, the evils of mass incarceration and centralized wealth, and the dehumanization of the poor. Today the word "cross" was mentioned, but it was defined as "the struggle to fix a broken world."

I've become used to such language from the pulpits of both conservative and non-conservative churches. Today many Christians think there must be a "Christian" solution to political problems. They are often quick to make judgments based on their views -- whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat -- of how society "should" work. They cherish the hope that all can be resolved if only their approach to social justice is adopted. I think these people forget that there can be no accord between the world and the kingdom, between the values of society and those of divine revelation. As Christians, we are indeed invited to take part in a dialectic with the world, but in my opinion it is a very grave mistake to climb on the bandwagon of political parties or doctrines. The Gospel can't be reduced to social responsibility and political action. Such a reductionist approach invariably accelerates divisions within the church, and the reason is obvious: Christ had no political axe to grind. Never have there been so many Christian consults on world hunger, the problem of war, race, poverty, etc., but despite the significant increase in knowledge there is less and less active obedience. Jesus cares deeply about social injustice and poverty, about immigrants and their families, but His followers engage these issues in unique kingdom ways. What is uniquely Christian about supporting amnesty on the one hand or deportation on the other? Following Jesus doesn't necessarily give us any insights into the means of "fixing" society through political avenues. The far more difficult task of imitating Jesus remains. What have I, as a Jesus follower, personally done to alleviate poverty or human suffering? When the Yazidis fled to Sinjar Mountain while being pursued by ISIS, did I give anything to help in their relief? When I heard that Nina Pham was infected with Ebola and was asking for financial aid, did I assist her? When a tornado swept through my community three years ago, did I get out my chain saw? Each party has its mantra. Republicans "don't care about the poor." Democrats "don't care about the law." Each demonizes the other. Why should the church get involved in any of this mess? It's a grave mistake, in my view, to confuse Christianity with socialism or capitalism. Christian love is addressed to the "neighbor"; it is an inter-individual matter. Our protest against "injustice" rings hollow because we have failed on a personal level to love our neighbor. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century knew all about the hypocrisy of church-state politics. They argued that the Christian's actions must be specifically Christian, that Christians must never identify themselves with this or that political or economic movement. Instead, Christians are to inject into social movements what Christ alone can provide. That view is worth considering again today.

Friends, let's apply the two great commandments absolutely. Let's act on them without weakening their power by acting like the world. As Christians, we are called to weave into the fabric of our daily lives the revolutionary teachings of Jesus. I don't mean "revolutionary" in the sense that Jesus was a Zealot or an advocate of state power. (Oscar Cullmann disposed of this nonsense in his book God and Caesar many years ago). My point is this: When Christians preach the saving power of the state, they only contribute to the evil of our time. Let's not forget that what people really need is not a few more political advantages, but something that Christ alone offers: forgiveness of sin and newness of life. Christians will be Christians to the degree that they suffer with those who suffer, and if they seek out, along with those sufferers, the one and only way of salvation.

When I got back home today, I wrote the following prayer in my journal.

Holy One, I come to You today with gratitude in my heart for the opportunity to wrestle anew with the Gospel, to pursue truth with academic rigor, with a relentless focus on intellectual engagement instead of of spiritual superficiality, with a zeal directed by knowledge, with a firm "No" to "Mindless Christianity." In an age of anti-intellectualism, I struggle, dear God, with Your call to stand for truth, for unity, for the Gospel Commission. I struggle with Your holy call to be a true "disciple" ("under discipline") of Jesus, to follow His teaching, to respond biblically to pluralism, racism, materialism, relativism, narcissism, and injustice. I struggle with how to imitate Christ, to be incarnational like He was, a servant, patient in endurance, like Him in mission. I struggle to demonstrate the distinctiveness of Jesus to the world, with how to display His nonconformity in a world with upside down values -- in short, how to become, every step of the way, a radical disciple. Yet despite my struggles, dear Savior, I know You are with me, possibly more so than ever before, and that You are good, and that You created an extraordinary world, and that Your salvation is both personal and social. Even the most bittersweet season of my life still sparkles with beauty because of Your mercy and grace. This is what I want to do: Tell Your story -- the sacred, transforming story of what You alone can do in the human heart. May I emerge from the pain of the past new and transformed, beautiful after the brokenness, so that I might live out Your Gospel Commission by giving generously, serving without recognition, putting others' needs above my own, and sharing with all the life-giving message of the Gospel.

In the name of Jesus the Christ I pray, Amen.

8:20 AM Some will perhaps recall that I'm writing a book called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. It's about the kingdom of the God in the New Testament. One chapter will deal with how God's kingdom finds expression through various Christian denominations. I sense there's a movement afoot in evangelicalism, a holy rumbling. I've seen a lot -- rural churches in Africa, underground churches in many parts of the world, churches held in living rooms, churches called cathedrals. I want to discover how these expressions of Godworld seek to set up outposts of the kingdom in the teeth of the enemy. I want to wrap up this chapter soon, but there are several churches I still need to visit. I'll visit one of them today in North Carolina. Afterwards, I'll "force myself" to have Ethiopian food in Durham. Then I need to stop by New Balance in Raleigh to pick up my new running shoes and visit The Bike Guy in Wake Forest to have a fit assessment. I've begun to develop tingly fingers in my left hand when I ride due to strain my ulnar nerve.

I suspect that my problem stems from my riding position and weight distribution on my bike. Hallelujah. I've got The Bike Guy to check it out for me.

Wherever you attend today, may God meet you there.

Saturday, July 14   

8:58 PM "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22).

"The earth has yielded its produce. God, our God, blesses us" (Psa. 67:6).

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isa. 40:29).

2:06 PM Today I worked on the yards and am happy to announce that I am done! I finally finished pruning the orchards and completing various other landscaping projects around the farm.

I love the "new" look at Bradford Hall.

Now if I can only keep it looking so nice.

Earlier today my new mower arrived.

I introduced myself to the workers, who hail from Mexico. I gave them some Gatorade and we reminisced about their wonderful country (I've been blessed to have made 3 trips to Mexico). They even let me try out my super awful Spanish on them.

After that, it was off to South Boston to bike 5 miles, get some nail clippers and bug spray at Wal-Mart, and go to the post office and bank. Arriving back on the farm, I wormed the goats and donks, filled their waters, and then broke in my new mower. I remember the first time I climbed into the seat of a ride mower. That was 20 years ago when we moved from SoCal to the tobacco fields of Granville Country, NC. At the time I had a John Deere. On mowing day, I'd cut about 5 acres. Here I was, thinking about nothing and about everything, totally cut off from the world, the vinyl seat burning the back of my thighs -- and loving every second of it. Things haven't changed since then. Even if I have other work to so, my lawns will get mowed, and the place will look new again. Do you enjoy mowing the lawn, or has it become just another a chore? One of my grandsons has just starting mowing their yard. That's what I call coming of age. I think we can take it as a general principle of life that hard work is necessary for personal happiness. At my age, I've found three things to be necessary: discovering what are the things most desirable in life, dismissing other objects of desire as unattainable, and becoming less preoccupied with self.

And mowing?

I hope I can mow forever.

6:55 AM Will Varner has posted an excellent comment on James 3:17 at the Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page.

This is a good reminder that the New Testament in Greek was intended to be heard and not merely read. I strongly suspect that the Holy Spirit is responsible for more than just the words of Scripture. The rhetorical level of language can be chalked up to Him as well. James has a brilliant way of getting his message across. He must have been a fascinating person to listen to.

Have you engaged the text in this way yet? If not, jump on in. The water's fine. I still haven't decided how I would translate this verse to bring out its use of alliteration, assonance, etc. I'll just make a few preliminary comments and leave things there:

1) Clearly, "pure" is set off as the first and foremost virtue in James' list.

2) Despite the alliteration that follows based on the Greek letter epsilon, only 3 of these 6 alliterated words belong together in any significant way: "peaceful," "gentle," and "friendly." (Will says there are 6 consecutive words beginning with epsilon in this verse, but there are really only 5. The last word is preceded by mestes.)

3) The next 3 alliterated words begin with the Greek letter alpha so in one sense they belong together. But notice that the last 2 words use the alpha-privative, meaning something like "not" in Greek. So I wouldn't press the alliteration here. "Good works" seems to be differentiated from "un-prejudiced" and "un-hypocritical."

This is awesome stuff. But how to bring this out in translation? Let's try this:

But the wisdom that is from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of good deeds and compassion; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Like it? If you do, I can't take credit for it. It's the way the translators of the Good News Bible rendered the verse. One possible improvement would be to alliterate in English the Greek behind "peaceful, gentle, and friendly." How about "composed, congenial, and considerate"? Okay, that's pretty lame. Maybe we should all just learn Greek instead!

Friday, July 13   

6:50 PM Hello, fellow bloggerites. I'd like to share with you two things I'm doing this evening.

1) I'm baking muffins. Since I had forgotten the recipe, I got out Becky's Betty Crocker Cookbook and found what I was looking for on p. 421 under the entry "Muffins."

2) I'm reading through Craig Koester's Hebrews commentary again and noticing how he is constantly referring back to the discourse structure of the entire book whenever he examines a particular verse.

You might be thinking, "What in the world do those two activities have to do with each other?" Much in every way, to quote one of my favorite authors.

We can read a book of the New Testament in one of two ways. We can read it like we read a cookbook, or we can read it like a novel. These are vastly different approaches. A cookbook is simply a repository of facts. It doesn't really matter where in the cookbook you find your recipe. The page number is irrelevant. You just need to know how to bake muffins. But when you read a novel, the opposite is true. As the story progresses, the entire plot shifts. Only as the story unfolds can we truly understand the significance of the novel's characters and plot line. It's important for us to realize that reading a book like Hebrews is a lot like reading a novel. As the argument develops, we learn more and more about the overarching theme of the novel. Nor can we simply go to the ending and read the last chapter. There is no "surprise" ending to a novel unless we've done our due diligence and read the entire book. Koester shows how Hebrews is a very carefully argued homily in which all the parts fit the whole in a way that supports the center. At the same time, this concentric structuring is balanced by a more linear argument that moves toward the goal expressed in the final chapters of how to "please" God by offering Him our service and sacrifice. This is a far cry from simply memorizing verses out of their context. In New Testament Philology, a book edited by Mel Winstead, my good friend Radu Gheorghita offers a chapter called "Scripture Memorization and Theological Education." He writes (p. 176): "The following considerations are intended as an apologia for reconsidering Scripture memorization as an indispensable part of the instrumentarium of the theologian, the biblicist and systematician alike, especially during the years of their theological formation." As the essay notes, Radu himself has memorized large portions of the New Testament in Greek, including the book of Hebrews. "The primary cognitive benefit of memorization," he writes (p. 179)

is a mastery and a profound grasp of the biblical text in its canonical form. Issues such as vocabulary and style of the author, themes dominating the overall message of the book, the atmosphere of the writing, theological nuances, the structure of the book and the intricacies of the argument, and many other aspects are depicted by book memorization with more ease and precision than by other explanatory tools.

What this means is that for us to truly understand a book like Hebrews, we have to read it from beginning to end and study it that way too.

Thank you, Radu, for this important reminder.

And thank you, Betty Crocker, for the muffin recipe.

4:12 PM Wow. Wow! WOW. WOW!!!! My 2-day mini-vacation was off the charts. Just the Lord and me -- walking together, biking together, hiking together, talking together (seems I did most of the talking), and just -- what word am I looking for here? -- communing together. Here's a teaser. They say it's the most beautiful waterfall along the Appalachian Trail. I can believe it.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yesterday I drove almost 5 hours to Damascus, VA to grab a shuttle to take my bike and me to the end of the Virginia Creeper Trail in White Top. The Appalachian and 6 other trails intersect this quaint town. Our van driver told us that Damascus was once a booming textile town but is staying above water today mostly because of the bicycle rental/shuttle businesses (I counted 8 of them).

It took us about 30 minutes to arrive at the trail head.

This building is actually a replica of the original station that stood atop the highest point of the railroad until it was abandoned in 1977.

Here's a pretty good view of what the Creeper looks like. Every half mile or so you cross one of these wooden trestle bridges.

Occasionally, however, you break out into the open, where a huge meadow awaits you.

About 11 miles into your ride, you're plenty hungry. Of course, the tourism industry doesn't miss a beat.

I enjoyed a foot-long hot dog, "all the way" as we say in North Carolina. Sure hit the spot. After completing my 17-mile ride, I drove to my Airbnb in Buchanan.

The guest room at the Mount Joy Manor has a queen size bed plus a jacuzzi tub and tiled shower. Awesome.

Phil and Lori were the perfect hosts, even volunteering to cook breakfast for me even though that wasn't included in our rental agreement. Thank you!

After eating, I made my way via the Peaks of Otter to the trail head for Apple Orchard Falls. Here's Sharp Top, which I've climbed 3 or 4 times (I can't recall exactly).

I enjoyed the views (and a cup of coffee) at the Peaks of Otter Lodge before heading back out on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You begin your hike at milepost 28. The Apple Orchard Trail is a down-and-back hike for a total of about 2.8 miles, according to my Garmin.

This sign says otherwise. But I think my watch is correct.

The trail moves in a northerly direction, where it crosses the Appalachian Trail at about 0.2 miles.

One mile into your hike you pass a gigantic overhanging rock. At this point, you begin a fairly steep descent to the falls. Stairs are added for safety.

All of a sudden you are treated to a view of the 200-foot high waterfall. Isn't this place gorgeous?

You're looking at one happy (and sweaty) hiker.

I had no idea the waterfall would be so breathtaking. Of course, what goes down must go up.

If you ever needed a good cardio workout, I think I've found the right place for you. I've discovered so much about my body through exercise. When you're climbing up a mountain, you call on all your reserves. You're operating at full throttle. The climb, therefore, becomes a good litmus test for your overall fitness. That's why hiking is an ever-changing learning experience. You learn something new about yourself every time you climb. And when you push to the limit, you become the phoenix, born all over again.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I hope my report today was an encouragement and maybe even an inspiration to put those hiking shoes on again. If someone my age who is as un-athletic as it gets can get out there and conquer a mountain, you must now believe you can too. My little mini-vacation was such a great, simple reminder to stop the pity party and get something done. It's when I'm actually pushing myself that I can look myself in the eye with respect.

Climb on,


Wednesday, July 11   

10:16 PM This evening Sheba and I were sitting on the front porch watching the storms going through the area, casting a feeling of foreboding over the countryside. My mind went to a decision I recently made that I have since come to regret. It wasn't a life or death matter, or even a right versus wrong matter. It was simply a choice I made, made too hastily and without sufficient forethought. The regrets have since piled up in my brain and are sitting there festering. Ugh. I'm often paralyzed by decision making. I have been guilty of making by-the-seat-of-my-pants decisions. Then I say to myself, "Wie dumm von mir!" (Okay, so I don't really speak German to myself. Well, not often. But I love that line of Rommel's from the movie The Longest Day. "How dumb of me!" said the German commander when he realized that the Allied invasion of Europe was taking place in Normandy and not at the Pas de Calais as everyone, Rommel included, had assumed.) Do you know what happened next? I opened the book of Hebrews and my eyes just happened to fall on Heb. 4:14-16. That was a God thing, big time. This text began whispering to me, "You're ignoring your Great High Priest." And I was. Not only was I not turning to the throne of grace for help in time of need, I was turning everywhere else for relief from my self-inflicted guilt. Evidently, Jesus understands exactly what I'm going through. "Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses." And boy do I have weaknesses. Becky would have not made the mistake I made. But I'm not Becky. I'm me. We each had our own weaknesses, but a good many of them we shared, per Craig Koester's description of "weaknesses" in his Hebrews commentary (p. 283):

1) Physical weakness.

2) Social weakness.

3) Vulnerability to sin.

Jesus enables weak people like me to "approach the throne of grace" (v. 14). "[H]uman beings are subject to forces beyond their control, and they need help to cope with daily life" (Koester, p. 295). There is something so nourishing, so healing, when we remember that our High Priest understands exactly what we're going through. It's like falling into a soft cushion. When I'm feeling down, I want to call Pizza Hut. When I fail to look unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, I injure my own soul. A soul divided against itself will collapse, crushing everyone taking refuge under its shelter. Enter Jesus. Is there anything more we could ask for? Sure, we could spend our lives dragging our regrets behind us, but that's our choice. Jesus allows us to move beyond our guilt and regrets by commanding us to look unto Himself (Heb. 12:2). "You're not a failure." "Everyone else struggles like you." "I understand." Jesus may have suffered, but I bet you a thousand bucks He was not whiny. I am His friend, beloved and treasured. If I ask Him for strength and mercy and grace, He will give them to me.

Obviously, I'm still working on this wisdom thingy. When we make silly decisions, He's neither shocked nor horrified. Love still wins. Hope still triumphs. Faith still conquers. I may not be able to see my Great High Priest, but evidences of His presence are everywhere. All I have to do is pause and look for them. If any of you cared what I thought and asked for my opinion (right after Uncle Sam sends me a million dollar tax refund), I would say that we all need to give a lot more space in our lives for the concept of redemption. We need to incorporate a worldview that begins and ends with our Great High Priest, Jesus. I couldn't fathom living a single day without Him. Could you? This has everything to do with Christian discipleship. Not only is Jesus the compassionate High Priest we've always wanted, He creates peace in us that we can only find in Him.

I've had many setbacks in life. And there will be plenty more to come. But the fact is, failure after failure has brought me to the place where I am today. The point is that I tried. I wasn't afraid of failing. Mistakes are always learning opportunities.

Hey, Dave!

Try again.

Learn from your mistakes.

Never let fear paralyze you.

Fall down 10 times, get up 11.

Keep the faith even when you have no earthly reason to do so.

Never be the victim of your circumstances.

Stop beating yourself up.

Grab hold of your High Priest.

In celebration of Him, I'm gonna visit the throne of grace and tarry a while tonight. It's not about me. It's about Jesus -- not Jesus the tooth fairy, but Jesus the Redeemer and Lover of my soul. This is so cliché, I know, but it really is true.

Through all of my tough times, I will forever be grateful for Him.

3:20 PM Well, it was "one of those days." No, it wasn't as bad as being trapped inside a cave or being sucked out of an airplane window, but it was mighty close. My plan this morning was to take my car down to Oxford and have my new tires installed and aligned, then get in a workout, a bike, and a swim before picking up bales at 1:30. No problemo, right? Problemo! A real disaster. I was at the Goodyear dealer when they opened at 7:30. They couldn't check the alignment ("We don't have the right specs for a 2017 Odyssey."). They didn't reprogram the tire pressure sensors. ("Oops. We forgot."). I was finally liberated from the tire store at 1:00, just in time to get up hay. Speaking of which, whatcha think of this 6-decker?

We had to really work to get that done, too, especially in 101-degree temps. That's some nice-lookin' horsie hay if I do say so meself. Since it will probably rain tonight, I'm going to take a couple of days off from haying and do a couple of things I've wanted to do for a very long time in my home state of Virginia -- (1) bike the Virginia Creeper Trail (or at least 17 miles of it), and (2) hike to Apple Orchard Falls (a moderately-difficult 7.5-mile loop trail). I'll need to get an early start tomorrow morning if I'm going to be able to take the bike shuttle at noon from Damascus to White Top. Then it's a leisurely ride, all downhill, through what I am told is some of the purtiest countryside of all of Virginny. Tomorrow night I'm staying in an Airbnb in Buchanan, VA, close to the Falls trailhead. It's a restored mansion that was built in 1804 by a Revolutionary War veteran.

I'm told it's set on a majestic hill with views of the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains.

I can't wait to hike again. It's been a while. Hiking is welcoming to even the least athletically inclined. It's a mystery drug that  -- like a Starbuck's Caramel Macchiato -- will keep you coming back for more. And, unlike running, there are no gross side-effects like toenails falling off or snot rockets shooting out of your nose. Hiking is, in short, an incredible experience.

I might take my GoPro camera with me.

Yes, that's a threat.

Time to eat ....

Tuesday, July 10   

9:20 PM Just finished my work for the day. And what a lovely day it was. We got up yet another large field this evening and finished up just as the fireflies were making their nightly debut. Beautiful. I won't bore you with another baling report except to post this message chain that I had with one of my daughters. We were discussing farm work -- its joys and challenges (she froze 159 ears of corn today). It can get tiring for sure. I sent her a pic with this message:

We also talked about mom -- her work ethic, her seeming tirelessness, and how happy she would be to see us working so hard. Earlier today I got in a 5 mile bike then swam my laps. I notice there's a major triathlon this weekend at Jordan Lake down in North Carolina but I'm not ready for a half mile open-water swim. Sigh. Maybe one day.

Rice is cookin' and I'm starving, so ....


4:40 PM I used to publish a great deal more in the field of New Testament textual criticism than I do nowadays. What motivated me greatly was the way I sensed that some students were simply adopting whichever reading was printed above the line in their Greek New Testament rather than evaluating the textual evidence for themselves. Thus I'm always happy when I see a blog post having anything to do with a major New Testament textual variant, and this one at the Evangelical Textual Criticism website is no exception. I'm very glad that the author prefers the longer reading ("in Ephesus") in Eph. 1:1, since I came to the same conclusion both in my master's thesis at Talbot and the first essay I ever published in a journal, entitled "The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address" (accessible here by permission of the publishers). Not all of my ideas have been adopted, of course, but I do think the days of automatically following the so-called "earliest and best manuscripts" (in this case, p46, Aleph, and B) are waning. The idea is that an opening salutation in Paul that lacks a place designation is out of step with his normal pattern of writing. There are, of course, some who argue for a so-called "encyclical theory" in which Paul is said to have left a blank space that was to be filled in later by Tychicus. But if you carefully read p46, Aleph, and B you'll see that there is no such thing as a blank space in any of these manuscripts.

Let me try and summarize my views on the variant "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1. Both the external and the internal evidence, in my opinion, point to the originality of these words. If this is the case, then the letter we know as "Ephesians" was in fact written to, addressed to, sent to, delivered to, and first read by the Ephesian believers. (Upshot? When you as a pastor ask your parishioners to "Turn to the Book of Ephesians," you don't have to go "wink, wink.") Moreover, it's no accident that the place designation was excised in some of our early Greek manuscripts in an apparent attempt to transform the letter from an occasional document into a general/catholic/universal epistle. Nils Dahl was right: The problem of particularity existed in the earliest church, and apparently the easiest way to "solve" the problem was by removing place names. This practice stopped once the early church began to acknowledge that all of the Pauline letters were general/catholic/universal in one sense: They were ultimately intended by the Holy Spirit to be read by all Christians everywhere. Which is why I can read a very personal letter like the one Paul sent to his friend Philemon and not feel guilty for reading someone else's mail!

As an aside, I was a bit surprised to find a number of what seemed to be significant typos in a blog post dealing with "transcription errors." This might be the most glaring example of them all:

Here, of course, the Greek for "Ephesians" needs a "Phi" instead of a "Pi." I realize you're probably thinking, "As if Dave Black doesn't have any typos in his blog posts." Clearly I believe I can be a better typist. Evidently, typos matter. And maybe for good reason. On the other hand, typos like these are easily fixable -- as I've discovered on many an occasion after one of my kids has pointed them out to me. Typos notwithstanding, I've been enormously helped in my work as an amateur textual critic by websites such as Evangelical Textual Criticism, whose posts (including this one) are always stimulating and often provocative.

6:40 AM Have you done much sailing? I haven't, despite the fact that I grew up on an island surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. In Kailua, my friend and I would sometimes take his Hobie Cat (our surfboards in tow) out to the Mokulua Islands when the reef was breaking.

That saved us a good hour of paddling. The only long-distance sailing I did in Hawaii was when I was spending a week on Maui and a friend asked me if I'd like to sail back to O'ahu with him on his dad's 35-foot yacht. It would be him, another friend, and 16-year old me. I said sure. We left Lahaina Harbor at sunrise and before we knew it we were in the Molokai Channel, where the winds are treacherous. To say the experience was exhilarating would be an understatement. Eventually Koko Head appeared as a tiny speck on the horizon, and I knew we would make it home safely. I learned a lot about sailing that day. A sailboat never goes in a straight line. You have to point the bow slightly windward via the rudder, allowing it to be constantly pushed to the leeward side. The most important part of this whole process is to leave yourself enough leeway. That's not always easy to do, especially when the wind direction is constantly shifting. Here's a picture of what this looks like. (I can't post a real photo of me and my friends on the boat since we didn't have cameras in the Dark Ages.)

Life is a lot like sailing. You set your sail, and then watch yourself achieve your goal. Right? Hardly. The fact is, the winds in our lives are constantly changing. Which means that we're always altering our course accordingly. Like today. I was hoping to get in a 10 mile run this morning but my Achilles Tendon on my left foot is hurting, just a little bit, but enough to make me pause and readjust my sails. You see, I'm the kind of person who doesn't give himself enough leeway in life. I set my sail and rudder and expect everything to go as planned. Which means I've trained when I shouldn't have, run in races that I had no business running in, and pushed my body when I should have been resting it. Running is so "daily," if you get my drift. You are constantly having to pay attention to yourself and make adjustments along the way. The winds are outside of your control. But the one thing you can control is the sail and the rudder.

Sometimes I'm asked, "Who is your reader?" I'm going to guess that the person who reads this blog is probably a Jesus follower whose life is mostly blessed and whose world is pretty secure. But occasionally, I'll hear from someone who's teetering on the edge of faith. They've run into a strong headwind, and are having to make some pretty significant course adjustments, just as I have had to do in my own life recently. I value you desperately, dear reader, whoever you are and whatever you may be going through (or not going through). Hear me: I don't think God wants you to ever doubt His faithfulness. In fact, He sent Jesus to soothe those troubled waters in our lives. Something wonderful happens in our lives when we yield to the pain and the sorrow. The Spirit begins rushing in, sweeping us up in His wake. I've lived long enough to know that you can press extremely hard on the Lord and He will hold you. I've discovered that it's okay to be a widower, to age, to find all of life very challenging and yet equally beautiful. Your life is a story you've been given to live. Live it with beauty and light. Banish envy and doubt with truth. And always be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway. It's a matter of endless fiddling -- with your schedule, your priorities, and a dozen other major things that affect your life.

Sail on, friend!


Monday, July 9   

7:50 PM Farm update:

1) Baled this field again.

2) Our first load of the day.

3) And our second.

4) Yes, we were hot and sweaty. Satisfaction is often disguised as hard work.

Time for supper (did I say stir-fry?). 

3:02 PM Busy day:

  • Worked out at the Y.

  • Did a 5 mile bike.

  • Swam for 20 minutes.

  • Went to the bank.

  • Did grocery shopping.

  • Ordered my mower from Lowe's (Saturday delivery -- can the yard wait that long?)

  • Met with insurance guy (he needed pics of my secondary house -- Maple Ridge).

  • Answered emails.

  • Delivered a gift to a neighbor.

  • Made lunch (sloppy joes).

  • Chatted with Nate.

Tonight we're getting up hay. Such is the world I live in. I am ready for a nice long nap!

P.S. Here's my new Husqvarna ride mower. I seem to go through one of these every three years or so. What a weird life.

8:20 AM How do we find just that right balance between exercise and rest? For me, the porridge is usually a little too hot or too cold, when it needs to be "just right" (thank you, Goldilocks). Here's my Map My Run data for the past 30 days.

I put in 26 workouts for a total of 170 miles. So today I'm asking myself, "Self, are you working out too much?" In other words, regardless of the amount of miles or hours we put in monthly, the solution to the balance question is to listen to our bodies. They are usually quick to tell us when we're doing too much. When we push ourselves beyond what they are ready for, we experience fatigue and pain. It's really just that simple. That's why we have to listen to our bodies attentively. If we don't, we may find ourselves working too hard and thus working against ourselves.

My goal for October is to (1) complete my first 31-mile ultramarathon and (2) run a PR at the Marine Corps Marathon. I think both are do-able, but I won't get there unless I find the right balance between too hard and too easy. On weeks like this week, I already know I'll be getting up hay several evenings in a row, so I have to conserve enough energy for that. As for my training cycle this week, I'll just have to listen to my body. Today it's telling me to take the day off from running. However, I still hope to get in a good workout at the Y and then swim some laps at the public pool. Again, it's all a matter of balance. I'm trying to be a good Goldilocks.

Moreover, I'm beginning to see the relevance of training for my non-running life as well. Through running I'm hoping to find that balance in my everyday life that often eludes me. Facebook? There's only one site I read. Goodbye everyone else. TV? Haven't watched it in years (except every time I go out for dinner -- where a TV is in every nook and cranny of the restaurant, even in the men's room. Yikes). I've also pressed the reset button on getting news online. Let's be honest: I don't have time to stay engaged with all the news outlets that are demanding my attention 24/7. Without the noise and static of being online, I'm learning how to rest and simplify. I know that a media fast won't make the evening news, but I gotta tell you, it's so liberating. As for emails, I'm really good at answering them quickly, perhaps too good. I like people who respond to my texts and emails immediately. But later responses don't hurt anybody. All too often I hold myself at gunpoint by the expectations of others. Let's face it, that works for only so long.

So where do things stand as of today? Few care whether or not I fast from social media. You don't need to read my blog as much as I need to write it. Instead, this week I hope to find quality time with family while not neglecting my workouts and my farm jobs. Maybe this is a new beginning on a new perspective on balance. Hopefully so.

7:40 AM I read Stan Porter's essay on discourse analysis last night.

When I think about the guy who published Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek in 1988, my second book, I can't remember him. It would be like describing another person. I had only just begun to be interested in the art and science of linguistics and its application to the study and teaching of New Testament Greek. Today, all that has changed. As Stan reminds us, discourse analysis "is important to the future of New Testament interpretation" (p. 208). Stan warns against neglecting discourse analysis for a reason. All exegesis needs to be grounded in linguistics. It's just that simple. When I wrote my 1988 book, I was a linguistic neophyte. In many ways I still am. So if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by your Greek studies and are considering surrender, do read this essay by one of the world's leading New Testament Greek scholars. His perspective would, I think, do us all good.

Sunday, July 8   

6:16 PM I did it! My fourth triathlon is in the books! Because the race site in North Carolina was at least a two hour drive from home, I got a room in the Hampton Inn and enjoyed some great Ethiopian food last night.

I woke up at 4:30 (the race started at 7:00 am) and grabbed some coffee before driving to the Rex Wellness Center in Garner. After picking up my bib and getting body-marked, I headed off to set up in the transition area. This time I tried to be scientific about where I put my stuff, and believe it or not, my T1 and T2 times were my best yet for a tri. I tried to keep everything simple and well organized during transition.

The swim was a breeze. So was the bike. The bike course consisted of a simple out-and-back for a total of a mere 10 miles. I usually hug the right side of the road and let the speed demons pass me, but this time it seemed like I was the one doing the passing, thanks to my nifty new road bike. The second transition was easy. You just rack your bike and throw your helmet off. All I had to do was a 2 mile run. I was secretly planning on placing in my age group if possible. I felt pretty good. The 2 miles flew by and I finished the race with a smile on my face. Here are the vital stats:

Official Finish Time = 1:11:49.

65-69 Age Group = 2nd Place.

Lots of thanks to all of the course volunteers who made everything happen today. I'm especially grateful that I placed in my division because let me tell you, the people here in Garner are SUPER FIT. It was humbling to be able to stand on the podium with these guys.

After the awards ceremony I headed to one of my favorite Mexican eateries to celebrate. La Cocina has some of the very best chili rellenos in Raleigh.

I came home and mowed about 4 acres before my lawn mower bit the dust. That's fine, I needed to get a new one anyway. Besides, I needed a nap too! It was a great race, but I still have things to work on. I'm getting faster on the bike, but my swim times can be greatly improved. This will only happen if I'm willing to put in the effort to get faster at this whole triathlon thing. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.

Another day, another race, another personal victory over sedentary confinement:-)

Thanks for reading.

Run on!


Saturday, July 7   

9:38 AM I probably shouldn't be admitting this, but I'm enjoying reading the Festschrift edited by Mel Winstead. My colleague Ben Merkle's essay ("Verbal Aspect and Imperatives: Ephesians as a Test Case") concludes as follows (p. 51):

With imperatives, the author is often not making a subjective choice but is merely conforming to the normal or expected use of a term. Thus, we should be careful not to over-interpret imperatives based on the tense-form used.

Ben still thinks the general distinction between aorist imperatives as referring to specific commands and present imperatives as referring to general precepts is helpful. But it's too simplistic. With that I agree. As I'm prepping for my Hebrews class, I took another look at the present hortatory subjunctive in Heb. 12:1: ""Let us run with endurance the race set before us." Here trechōmen seems to have the idea of "continue running," but did the author have the luxury of choosing an aorist form for this lexeme? A glance at the data shows that he did. I found numerous examples of aorist hortatory subjunctives of the verb trechō in Greek. Take a look at these:

And these:

Truth is, I need to do this kind of research every time I examine the use of a present versus aorist imperative/hortatory subjunctive. That said, I do think the general distinction between these two tense-forms holds true. All told, Ben offers some pretty good perspective. We sometimes place verbal aspect on a pedestal it wasn't meant for. If we're not careful, exegesis can become over-exegesis, as Ben reminds us. The dangerous part of exegesis is not what it focuses on but what it distracts us from -- context and usage.

8:42 AM Hey guys, and welcome back. I just returned from a week in the Big D where I visited with mom and dad as well as her brother and his wife. I'm sure we did more eating than is legal.

On Wednesday morning, I competed in the Liberty-on-the-Lake 10K in The Colony, TX. Truthfully, I wasn't sure I was going to run in this race. The forecast looked bleak (heat and humidity). But I felt I had trained hard for the event, so why not give it the old college try? On my way to the race site I fueled up at the local Dennys. It was my usual fare: two pancakes and two cups of coffee. Breakfast of running champions! I then drove to the race venue, got my running bib, and waited for the race to start. At 8:10 am we were off. The first mile was probably the hardest. The sidewalk we were running on was too narrow to hold all the runners and we were practically stumbling over each other.

Finally the 5K runners turned around and the 10K runners were left on their own. At this point, I was running with about 300 other people. I tried to keep a 13 min./mile pace, hoping to shave a couple of minutes off my course PR. That was not to be. By mile four, I was beginning to wilt. I was taking three cups of water at every aid station -- one to drink, and two to pour over my head and down my back. There was a guy about my age who was really smoking it, and I fell behind him for the rest of the race, letting him pace me.

When I passed the 6 mile marker I kicked it into high gear and crossed the finish line strong. I got my finisher's medal and chugged down two liters of Gatorade while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Believe it nor not, I was awarded third place in my age group.

I felt I had run a mediocre race, but hey, I'll take it.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the event. The heat was blistering, but if you kept hydrated you were okay. The next morning I woke up feeling super motivated and got in an early 6.6 mile run through the local subdivision. It felt great.

Afterwards I stopped by 24 Hour Fitness and swam laps for 40 minutes in a last-ditch effort to get ready for Sunday's tri.

Looking back, I was super glad I participated in the 10K on Wednesday. Now I'm more pumped than ever to train for my ultra and the MCM in October. Game on!

Thanks for checking in, and talk to you soon.


Monday, July 2   

6:40 AM One of the extraordinary blessings of being married to Becky Lynn Lapsley was getting to know her missionary parents, who ministered the Gospel in Ethiopia many years ago. There they raised their eldest daughter, who ended up marrying a surfer dude from Hawaii. Could anyone have predicted that?

Becky is no longer physically present with us, and her death left a gigantic hole in our lives. But we have all grown during the past four years, grown spiritually and -- just as importantly -- grown closer to each other. This week I get to visit mom and dad in Dallas again. Of course, we will talk about Becky, but not very much. Our focus is more on the present and the future than on the past. We are, each one of us, finding ways to feed our souls, to keep going, to stay involved in the world, to find new places for our lives. Becky would have expected that of us, and I expect that of myself. Becky would have loved having Ethiopian food with us or going to a concert on the Fourth of July. She and her mom would probably work in the garden together. She would, for sure, never allow us to give into self-pitying thoughts. "Go on with your lives," I can hear her saying. Becky is still with us, if only in our memories. She will always be a part of our lives, a huge part, and we shall love her forever.

Sunday, July 1   

8:18 PM Haying is done for the day. The real feel today was exactly 100 degrees, and it felt that way too. Miserable.

Can't wait to get to Dallas tomorrow, where the temps are even higher. Not only do I get to visit mom and dad, but Becky's brother and his wife will be there too. It will be a grand reunion.

This morning I was up at 4:30. I read the entire book of Hebrews. (My daughter tells me that in her Sunday School class this morning the teacher read aloud the entire book of Galatians. Sweet.) Tonight I'll read something else. Like my book on the 1996 Everest disaster. How foolish of them to climb beyond the agreed-upon turnaround time. Summit fever is very real. I felt it myself in Switzerland. The week after I was on the Matterhorn two 67-year old Brits died on the mountain because they got caught out overnight without warm clothing. My heart goes out to their families.

I have a race this Wednesday in Dallas. It's only a 10K but the weather will be brutal. Thankfully we have the Weather Channel, cause you're checking the weather forecast several times a day. The real feel on Wednesday will be 102. Perfect weather, right? The jury is out on whether I'll run. I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. I am not lying when I say that I love running so much I can easily get running fever every bit as much as I can get summit fever. Be aware of this possibility for you. Sometimes it's best just to take a couple days off and not risk your health or safety doing what you love to do.

Well, time to get cleaned up and cook supper. (Stir-fry? Yes.). The rice is already cooking. Me? Cooking dinner every night? I still can't believe it.

See ya,


7:15 AM Well, I blinked, and suddenly half of 2018 disappeared. Where did it go? The halfway point is perhaps a good time to take stock of where we've been and where we hope to go.


That's the first word that comes to mind as I reflect on the first half of 2018. It's crazy, I know, but I think of her first thing every morning. How can't I? I live in our house, still enjoy her canned veggies, still see her picture on the mantel and hear her voice singing. Marriages go through phases -- newlyweds, first home, children, empty nest, widowhood/widowerhood. People a lot smarter than me describe these as "seasons" of life or psycho-social stages. Each stage of life requires us to learn new lessons. "Even the saddest things," wrote Frederich Buechner, "can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead." I once read that it takes about two years to recovery from a natural death. But if the death was traumatic, recovery can take a lot longer. Ann Kaiser Stearns, in her book Coming Back, writes: "Recovery from loss is like having to get off the main highway every so many miles because the main route is under construction." Exactly. I live in Podunk, Virginia. So on my drive to work in North Carolina, I take the countriest of country roads. It seems that one of them is always undergoing a bridge repair. You are rerouted through roads and hamlets you never expected to visit. Basically, you're still heading in the right direction, but you're not following a straight line any more. It often takes months for the county to finish building a bridge, and you sometimes wonder if they will ever be done. Ann Stearns basically says, Don't worry about that. There is a finished highway in your future.

For me, recovery has involved many elements, both good and not-so-good. Concentration and focus have become difficult. Sleep can still be a struggle. The ache in my heart never seems to go away. On the other hand, I've discovered exercise to be a great stress reliever. And teacher. Climbing the Alps and the Rockies has taught me so much about grieving. You have to take one step at a time. You look for a rhythm between your breathing and the steps you are taking. You settle into a metronome-like pace, one that can sustain you for a very long time. It took me seven hours to summit Mount Bierstadt in 2016. To manage fatigue, I pictured very precisely in my mind what my body was doing. I saw my legs balance as they prepared to take the next step. I saw my muscles tense as they pushed into the next step. I saw my muscles then relax as they rested for an instant before taking the next step. I saw the air as it moved in and out of my lungs. I was brand new to the sport of mountain climbing, but what seemed strange to me began to feel familiar. Today, as I continue to cope with Becky's death, I'm creating another "new normal." It's like learning to climb. You just take one step after the other, knowing that you will eventually reach your goal. And, as with climbing or traveling along a highway detour, the journey of grief takes you through uncharted territory. Anniversaries are the hardest. Becky's birthday. Mother's Day. The anniversary of her Homegoing. I recall the first anniversary of her death. Am I losing my mind? Will I ever get over this? Today, the pain is not as in-your-face, but it's still there. It's seems that I have to "let go" on a daily basis. Easy? No. Essential? Yes. You feel, and God continues to heal.

Prior to Becky's death, I had a very limited view of God's sovereignty. I now see that God takes all of our experiences and molds them into a greater whole. God's sovereignty doesn't protect us from loss. But our Sovereign God is also a Suffering Sovereign. We approach Him boldly because He can feel not only our sorrow but our joy. His presence doesn't erase our grief. But it gives us peace. The road is still crazy crooked, but at least I don't have to travel it alone.

I don't know what other detours the rest of 2018 holds. But I know they'll be there. If you are traveling on the detour of loss today, I have no advice to give you. I am so done with pious (and even un-pious) platitudes. Thankfully, I have friends and family who want to listen and sympathize. I have often told them how grateful I am for their concern and love. Sometimes a person will write me and let me know how they found meaning in their suffering through something I wrote or said. Recently I received an email from a pastor whose wife died from cancer. "I sure do miss her!" he wrote. Then he concluded his email with these words:

Jesus is wonderful!

I'm sure my friend is still probing for meaning in his wife's death, trying to make sense of it all. We all do. My appreciation for widowers has grown exponentially in the past 4 years. Our loss joins us. Through it we have found community, a community for broken people like me, a "Jesus-is-wonderful" community. William Blake well captures the meaning of "Jesus is wonderful!" in his poem "Can I See Another's Woe?"

He doth give His joy to all; He becomes an infant small,/He becomes a man of woe; He doth feel the sorrow, too/Think not that thou canst sigh a sigh, and thy Maker is not by;/Think not that thou canst weep a tear, and thy Maker is not near,/O! He gives to us His joy that our grief He may destroy;/Till our grief is fled and gone, He doth sit by us and moan.

Today, with half the year gone, I feel like I'm halfway up the Matterhorn. Becky's death was and will always remain a horrible experience in my life. But I'm climbing on. I noticed that Becky always seemed to have had a much higher pain tolerance than I do. I'm getting older. No matter how hard I try to control the airplane I'm flying, I can't control the natural flow. The lesson here? Do what Becky did, and did so well. Surrender. To the loss. To the pain. To the unmet goals. To the grief. To the fear. To the raw emotions.

Then look forward.

Embrace the future.

Trust the One "who doth sit by us and moan."

Have faith.

Keep climbing.

So that's my mid-year report, friends. A jumbled array of feelings, eh? That's the way of grief, I reckon. Grief is very personal. Each of us mourns in a different way. So heal in your own way, my friend. I'm not a lover of advice columns. But that's about the best I can do. God doesn't give us explanations, only a deeper revelation of His heart.

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