restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations





about dave

on the road

the book box

columns & essays

reading room

contact dave


















March 2018 Blog Archives     

Saturday, March 31   

7:15 PM Do you realize that tomorrow is April 1st? As in April Fools Day? It's also Resurrection Sunday (Happy Easter everyone!) and only one week away from my first-ever-why-in-the-world-would-I-do-such-a-crazy-thing-ultramarathon. One. Week. I know, half of you are thinking, "What's the big deal, Davey ol' boy," and the other half are thinking, "Boy oh boy Dave, you da man," and the other half are thinking, "Dave can't do math." Anyway, if I were you I'd prolly just stop reading this blog for a couple of weeks because I'm about to freak out. Anyways .... Tonight I went out for dinner. No, not just to any old restaurant, but to one Becky and I used to frequent. You see, I've been in a really nostalgic mood lately, so I thought it would be fun to resurrect (get the pun? resurrect?) old habits. Long story short, I ordered what I always order from the same server who always served us. Naturally, she had completely forgotten who Becky was, so I tried to remind her but gave up because, well, I just did. Fact is, sometimes we all just need a reminder. Loss is real. And nobody ever really "gets over it." I don't always feel the way I'm feeling tonight, but when I feel nostalgic I affirm my feelings because I am a human being and that's how human beings feel. You still miss her, Dave. And that's okay. For many of us, mortality is no longer an abstract concept. Loss breaks us. Mostly of bad habits. Thank God I don't know what accidents or losses are still looming ahead. Feeling knocked down, Dave? Love again. Work again. Hope again. Give again. Weep again. Laugh again. Live again. Go out to dinner again. I guess that's my Easter message to you all. You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.

I remember you, Becky. You echo in me. You have (present tense) a beautiful heart and soul. Thank you so much for your life. Your memory is a gift.

3:34 PM Today I'm pondering the opening verses of the book of Romans, a letter often called the "Cathedral of Christianity," and for good reason. The structure of the entire book is amazing, and it all starts with 1:1-7.

I think I've managed to unpack the discourse structure of this passage. Strike up the band. Plus, I'm unpacking the theology contained in these verses. Honestly, Easter would be nothing had not Jesus been raised from the dead. Jesus teaches us to say, "Not my will but Yours be done." I mean, how much lower can God stoop than to become a human being, a baby laid in a feeding trough? As Max Lucado often reminds us, we can't take the manure out of the manage. We can't pretend that "no crying He made." At the incarnation, God became a real man with a heart and two lungs and a navel and legs that grew and a beard that sprouted and a Son who learned obedience through the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8). And then He died in disgrace. My riches aren't mine. They are all pure gifts from the nail-pierced hands of this God-man Jesus.

And then -- He arose! Even if you call it a hoax, you still have to explain the empty tomb. "The disciples stole the body." They why were they martyred for their faith? "The authorities stole the body." Then why didn't they parade His corpse through the streets? Only one explanation adequately explains the mystery of the empty tomb. "He was powerfully declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead," our passage tells us.

The pierced hands of Jesus are the ultimate expression of God's love. And the resurrection of our Savior is the ultimate guarantee that we too will rise someday. We can stake our everything on it.

11:32 AM I went. I ran. I rumbled. (Sincere apologies to Caesar.) Here we are at the starting line of today's 5K.

The course was basically a loop that you ran twice. You start out going downhill, then you run under Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and across 4 boardwalks before turning around.

You climb back up the hill and then do it all over again. At the finish line, everyone hangs out and yaks until the last person is done.

It was a fun course. I didn't do so bad for such a hilly course. What's neat about these results is the column on the right showing your "road age standard." The tables establish a performance level for each gender and each age for most standardized distances (like the 5K).

As you can see, I come in at 51.70 percent! Woohoo! I'm TOTALLY AVERAGE for my age and gender! Yay!!!! (Running tip: Comparing is fun, but you can compare too much. Never base your worth on what others are doing. Compare yourself only to yourself.) Props to the race organizers for putting on such a fun event. I had amazing support from all of my fellow runners. Afterwards I enjoyed a big cup of coffee and a Danish at a quaint little coffee shop in Durham called the Saladelia Cafe.

Nice ambiance, wouldn't ya say?

Ok, I think I'm going to stop here. We runners tend to think everybody else is interested in our running reports when they're really just rolling their eyes and putting up with our bloviating. Folks, ya gotta know when to say when.

"When. "

5:30 AM It's official. Today I participate in my first ever Durham NC Parkrun. It's probably something like my 1,000th 5K. As I run, I'll think back to all the people who motivated me to get here, and all the obstacles, self-doubt, and despair that tried to stop me. These are all my companions on the road race of life. They are old friends come to bid me adieu.

This is the first day of the rest of my life.

Friday, March 30   

8:04 PM Okay dokey. I got all of my errands taken care of. I'm finished with supper. I'm getting ready for next month. Wow, only one day left in March. April is going to be crazy. I'm registered for 3 races:

  • The Mountains to Sea 50K trail run in Raleigh on Sunday, April 8.

  • The Running for Clean Water 5K in Dallas on Saturday, April 14.

  • The Petersburg Half Marathon on Saturday, April 21.

In addition, while in Dallas I'll be going to see the Vocal Majority men's chorus on April 14 with mom and dad. And oh, on April 5, I have another interview with Abidan Shaw for his Hoi Polloi podcast. (I've already done 3 with him.) Then there's Student Day on Saturday April 7.

Oh my. Talk about a fun month. Speaking of fun, on Sunday April 22, Duke Chapel is holding yet another organ concert. And did I mention the doctoral defense I'm leading or the trip to the NC Zoo with my kids and grandkids or the gazillion emails I have to answer or all the meal preparation I have to do for the month? I think I need to have a little talk with Jesus about my schedule. Down time comes hard for me. I marvel at the schedule I keep. I have friends who are even busier. Regardless, I'm content. Jesus is slowly teaching me healthy ways of living. He's reminding me I need to press the pause button from time to time. And yet. I love doing. And I say that as someone who tends to be as contemplative as Aristotle, who loves to read, who enjoys nothing as much as chillaxing on the front porch with my dog. And please don't get me started on ice cream sandwiches.

Here, again, running is teaching me how to live. You don't get bonus points for overtraining as an athlete. Even as you find enjoyment in moving your body, you learn to find satisfaction in taking it easy. Rest days are as important as training days. Do I find this kind of balancing act easy? I don't think so. But I'll tell you this: God designed me not only to do but also to be. Thank You, Lord. You're so smart.

10:55 AM My Garmin keeps telling me to "Move!" so I guess I had better get outdoors. Been cramped up in the house all morning long doing finances and other office things. Early it rained but the rain has long since stopped and the weather is so pleasant that no one in their right mind would stay indoors all day. I've been getting so many Greek DVD requests that I had to place an order for another 25 today. The latest request is from Australia. So, there's lots to keep me indoors. But I can't stop enjoying the glory of God's nature. Just can't. My goal is to live a long life filled with service to Jesus, vibrant family activity, and lots of fun and adventure. I don't really care how fast I run or how high I climb. Most people rust out due to inactivity rather than burn out due to being overly active. A vigorous lifestyle can have a powerful influence on keeping old age and poor performance at bay. So ... it's off to the post office, bank, and grocery story, and then I plan to get in a nice, long, slow walk. Yup, I'm untying those "nots" in my life and hope you're doing the same!

Thursday, March 29   

5:26 PM Today I ran 10 miles in Farmville because I felt I needed to get in a long race. The route was a very familiar one -- the High Bridge Trail. I came in first place if you can believe it. I was also the only one running, so I guess I also finished last. With only one weekend away from my ultra, I thought it would be good to try and get in a couple of long training runs before then. The run felt great. I did what's called interval training. After getting started and warmed up, you begin to put a few "pickups" into your run. These don't have to be very strenuous, but they should be long and hard enough that you feel like you've really pushed your body.

Today I alternated between a 4.4 mph pace and a 7.8 mph pace. In other words, the idea is to run slowly for a while and then run fast for a few minutes, alternating the slow and fast paces throughout your run. I'm learning that I can only do so much at my age and with my genetics. But I do feel like I can be better and run faster. As you see here, my overall pace today was a solid 12:30.

I almost completed 10 miles in under 2 hours, which was my goal. I run with my head high, greeting everyone I see. I want to tell them, "Hey, you're doing fantastic! Keep it up!" Today there were actually several other runners/bikers on the trail. I think everyone's getting the race bug again after the winter hiatus. Tomorrow I'm taking the day off from running, then on Saturday I have my 5K race in Durham. Sunday, of course, is Easter, but I'm shooting for another run that afternoon. Then it's back to school, teaching, exams, quizzes, grading, meetings, etc. It's funny how time flies. It seems like it was months ago when I signed up for my 50K race, and now it's only 10 days away. It's true that my training program is lagging behind the schedule I set for myself, but I think I'll be ready to run on the 8th. It's all pretty exciting and scary.

Thanks for reading!


7:58 AM This and that ....

1) I'm beginning to obsess about my 50K run in two weeks. At the race website we read these "encouraging" words:

This is a trail race ... very different from a road race.... You may fall ... in fact, you probably will fall. So just get up and keep running!

I see the race is limited to 100 runners. I'm looking forward to working this trail with the other 99. This is the first time in 3 years that I've signed up for an ultra. My instinct tells me it's the right thing to do. But my fears are there just the same. Yet all things are possible, are they not?

2) In case you were wondering what I enjoy for breakfast ....

3) 78 degrees today. Seventy-Eight. Well, hello Spring.

4) Starting on my 2017 taxes....

5) Love this book.

A few quotes:

  • If exercise were a controlled medication, it would be the most heavily prescribed on record.

  • Running stimulates your body to improve overall physical and mental capacity.

  • I want you to take control of your running enjoyment and fatigue while staying injury free.

  • Unfortunately many people over the age of 50 believe that they cannot, or should not, increase their level of exercise.

  • The evidence is growing that running and walking will bring quality to your life, increase longevity and will not harm your joints -- when done correctly.

  • Older runners can improve faster than younger runners.

  • One of the fastest growing age groups in many parts of the running world is the 80+ division.

  • In many ways, running is more important to older runners.

  • Many veterans find that they run faster while covering fewer miles per week, especially fewer days per week.

  • Walk breaks let you erase fatigue and damage to the legs and body.

  • Our bodies are designed to improve through a series of challenges.

  • Stress + Rest = Improvement.

All of these things seem so obvious to me today. Just 3 years ago, it was all Greek to me. But life involves continual expansion. We learn to discharge what is latent within us. And each stage is an achievement.

Achieve well today, my friends. When you reach a plateau, consider what you learned from that stage of life. And then unflaggingly pursue the next one with excellence. 

Wednesday, March 28   

5:16 PM Spent the day re-baling loose hay bales. Fun but tiring.

Don't you love these periwinkles?

Gonna spend the evening on the front porch reading.

10:20 AM *Warning: Squishy post ahead.*

But before I get to my themette, I just have to wax elephant about the weather. Have you ever seen the sun shine more beautifully than today? And check this out:

  • Today's high: 73

  • Tomorrow's high: 78

  • Friday's high: 71

  • Saturday's high: 65 (brrrrr .... that's cold!!!)

I'm so ready for warmer weather I can hardly contain myself. On Saturday, by the way, I'm trying something brand new, or at least brand new to me. Seems that in Durham every Saturday there's a weekly timed 5K run hosted by the "Durham NC Parkrun." Had no idea. So I've signed up to do my first ever run with these folks. The event is free, and afterwards everyone hangs out at a local coffee shop. So bam, right in the middle of my Easter break, the Lord is treating me to something new. Thank you, Jesus!

But back to my themette. Listening to Keith Getty last night was really pretty incredible. One thing he kept mentioning over and again was the word "stewardship." How can we steward the gifts God's given us, be they musical or academic or whatever? Folks, the idea of standing before the Lord on THAT DAY and being held accountable for the way we've stewarded His gifts is a gigantic motivator. It motivated me to pick up a book I read last year. It's Billy Graham's final book called Nearing Home.

I noticed that I had done some scribbling on page 38. This is where Graham writes these sobering thoughts:

Look for the Lord's purpose in every circumstance and in every face or voice you encounter daily, for the time He has given you is not without purpose. Prepare for each day by asking the Lord to open your eyes to what is going on around you. You may feel lonely, but perhaps the Lord will use your smile to draw someone else close to you. You may experience pain, but the Lord may use your resolve to strengthen another who doesn't have the will to go on. We can reject the opportunity to be used by God, or we can seize opportunities to impact others as a testimony to Him.

This is one of those quotes where your mission becomes very clear. We can't allow ourselves to be distracted from the main point. And this is precisely where I so often fail. As Keith Getty puts it in his interview (this is my paraphrase of what he said): There are many good things in life, and they are easy. But there are only a few great things in life, and they are always hard. In other words, the Gospel is epically transformative. It changes everything. The story of the Gospel is comprised of billions of little moments where average Joe-or-Jane-Doe Christian carries on despite loss and pain. Graham is a good example of that. Writing a book when you're 92? Why not? Rather than fearing growing older, shouldn't we instead keep our hopes and dreams alive as long as God allows us to live? We should live as long as we last. Growing older is fine, but we should never grow old.

I can't deny my wish to find a fountain of youth. (You're not over 60 so you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Just wait.) That's a pipe dream. But what I can do is stay vital and (to use Keith Getty's word) creative as long as I last. If we're not careful, we can carry a lot of negative attitudes into old age. We can try to cling to our lost youth like barnacles to a ship's hull. But nothing can stop the aging process. Who cares? Billy Graham didn't. So what if we're old, marred clay? In Jeremiah, the potter didn't discard the old clay. He began to rework it on the potter's wheel. He gave it back its dignity. What greater gift can older people give to the church than a life that is mobilized and energized for action in the kingdom? Even our failures can be redeemed. We may slow down, but we can still be as active and involved as we ever were.

So my prayer today is a simple one.

God, help me to see aging as filled with opportunity, not as a curse. Help me to use my life, my blog, my service, my teaching, my relationships to point people to You. Lord, give me something useful to do as long as I live. As a granddad, I love to give gifts to my grandchildren. Dear Grandfather God, You have surrounded me with countless gifts of love. May I show my gratitude by the way I leverage and steward Your gifts. By Your grace, I am what I am. Never let me waste time by pining after the past. Instead, grant me the grace to let go of what I need to let go of so that I may grow in Your love.

The unofficial motto of my state is "Virginia Is For Lovers." That's a supremely bizarre state motto, if you ask me. But there's some truth to it. As a citizen of Virginia, I want to do my part. I should fulfill my calling to be a lover of others regardless of my age or health. My vocation is not contingent on age. My calling simply depends on my identity as God's image-bearer.

My kids are watching to see how well I age. Time is wasting. It's time to open my eyes to what is going on around me, as Graham said. "We can reject the opportunity to be used by God, or we can seize opportunities to impact others as a testimony to Him."

Now that sounds like a great philosophy of aging.

8:08 AM Interesting study here released by Barna yesterday.

When churchgoers were asked, "Have you heard of the Great Commission?", 17 percent said "Yes, and it means ...," 25 percent said "Yes, but I can't recall the exact meaning ...," 6 percent said "I'm not sure," and a whopping 51 percent said, "No." Two results of the survey will surprise nobody:

1) Age makes a difference in whether or not churchgoers recognize the Great Commission -- older people score higher than younger people.

2) "Evangelicals are the most likely churchgoing group to state that they have heard of the Great Commission ...."

I'll note 3 things:

1) Knowledge of a term (and an extra-biblical one at that) shouldn't be conflated with an assessment of a person's commitment to a missional mindset. I have a friend who belongs to a mainline denomination who is as fully committed to living and sharing the Gospel as anybody I know but who prefers the term "Gospel Commission" to the more familiar "Great Commission."

2) Today's Millennials and Gen-Xers may not know the correct Christian rhetoric but for them words are meaningless until they become more than words. They tend to embrace a more wholistic approach to the Christian life and are less comfortable with cultural Christianity.

3) Finally, it goes without saying that the "Great Commission" passage in this survey was the one from Matthew 28:19-20. This is because Mark 16:15 has been marginalized in recent years by a well-meaning but (in my view) misguided approach to textual criticism. A very strong case can be made for the originality of the last twelve verses of Mark and, honestly, I wish we as a church would still quote Jesus' words: "Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to every creature."

But the real question is: Are we obeying Jesus' Gospel Commission? The great irony is that we can state what the Great Commission is but fall short of actually fulfilling it. Sharing the love of Jesus with others requires way more emotional energy (and time, and expense, etc.) than we expected. So, one Great Commission. But a billion little Great Commissioners. The challenge of discipling the nations still lies before us. The ability to penetrate every people group on the planet is greater today than at any other point in history. Yet I've discovered in my own life that increased talk about the Great Commission doesn't necessarily equal increased participation in it. So yes, knowing what the Great Commission is and means is a good place to start. But maybe this isn't just another slogan to wear us out. Perhaps God designed this as a gift, not an obligation.

I'll wrap things up with a prayer of Henri Nouwen:

I realize that I have to be informed, that I have to study the many aspects of the problems facing the world, and that I have to try to understand as well as possible the dynamics of our contemporary society. But what really counts is that all this information, knowledge, and insight allow me to speak more clearly and unambiguously your truthful word.

Tuesday, March 27   

9:22 PM You all know that I love church music. I'm also someone who's concerned about the level of mediocrity and homogeneity I see in church music today. Thus it was a blessing that tonight God allowed me to stumble upon this interview with Keith Getty, composer of "In Christ Alone."

His interview moves beyond the shouting matches going on between traditionalists and contemporarians today. He does, however, address what he sees as the worship-team-driven approach to church music. While excellent musicians are seated passively in the pews, poor musicians are on stage. Nor he is reacting against contemporary worship styles. Instead, he wants to refocus church music, see it move away from the superficial toward an authentic encounter with God moved by the beauty of music and especially by lyrics that lead to what he calls "deep faith." Please hear his passion. Feel his soul literally grieving a contemporary church that sings seven songs that all sound the same. Where is the doctrine? Where are the laments as in the Psalms? Getty believes the arts should be carefully stewarded by Christians. The arts should be used to remind us of the invisible, things that we dream with our inner eyes and ears, things that reveal a window into the beauty and glory of the eternal kingdom. I once heard of a church that shut off all its lights during the singing except for one that was shining on a huge cross. The focus was not on the musicians up front but on intimacy with Jesus. The congregation was invited to lift their hands or kneel or bow or do anything other than just sit and watch.

I grew up in a church that was artistically deprived. We weren't hostile toward the arts. We were just indifferent. Keith Getty rejects any kind of churchy "art" that lacks depth and breadth. He has an incredible vision for the arts. He wants Christian artists to be all they can be and especially he wants their music to reflect good theology. I think he might be fighting un uphill battle. But it's a battle worth fighting, don't you think? 

6:40 PM Since I can't physically be in Gettysburg this week, I figured the next best thing would be to travel there in my mind. And what better way to mind travel than to resurrect this novel about the battle that took place there in the summer of 1863?

I'm a speed reader. I have to be in my business. But some books you just have to savor. I like that word, savor. "It is like swishing the experience around ... in your mind," writes Fred Bryant, author of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience. Savoring is the capacity not only to live life but to enjoy its pleasures. And is there any experience more pleasurable than reading a good novel? There I am, at the Lutheran Seminary, a Union lookout in the copula, watching A. P. Hill's soldiers fan out for the attack. Will we be outmarched and outsmarted? Again? Or there I am, a private in Longstreet's assault on the third day, double-quicking across "that deadly space." Oh wait. Pickett's Charge never happened. Lee has changed his mind. Instead of a frontal attack, he decides to launch a bold flanking movement to assault the enemy's supply depot at Westminster, MD.

I definitely look forward to reading this book again. It's historical fiction, pure and simple -- unlike Jeff Shaara's book about Gettysburg, Killer Angels. If you do read it, I suggest not taking it too seriously. Just savor it.

6:22 PM I got a kick out of this. Here are the results from last Saturday's 10K in Raleigh:

As you can see, yours truly placed second in the Male 65-69 Division (the "Moseses"). But I was bested by both of the runners in the Male 70-74 Division (the "Methuselahs"). And by at least 6 full minutes. All's fair in love and peace I guess.

Tread lightly along this journey, my friends.

8:12 AM Have you ever wondered what makes a peak like the one I climbed yesterday so special? What makes it stand out? What makes summiting it such a glorious experience?

A peak stands out for one simple reason. It's surrounded by deep valleys and canyons.

When I first started running and mountain climbing, I did it for survival. I needed an avocation to keep my mind from dwelling on the loss and the pain. My running and climbing is different now. I'm not running away from anything. I'm not running toward anything. I run because it's me. It's become an important part of my daily ritual, like washing the dishes or picking up Sheba's dog hair. Life today is calm and peaceful. I don't know, however, if I would have ever reached this point had it not been for the valleys. Becky's death has given me a new perspective  on life and has broadened my understanding of the sovereignty of God. I've discovered that His sovereignty not only encompasses the tragedies in our lives but also our responses. It assures us that He is bigger than our problems and that indeed He leverages those problems to make our lives better. If Becky's passing made me mourn, it also helped me grow. I've been assigned a role (widower) for which I did not audition. Yet I, like many of you, have chosen to believe that God is working all of this toward some ultimate purpose.

Suffering cleanses the soul. Through suffering I am the phoenix, reborn. And I will keep being reborn until I can soar no more.

Monday, March 26   

8:04 PM As you know, I'm in training not only for my ultra next month but also (Lord willing) for the Alps again in July. (That's a big "Lord willing," by the way. I'm still praying about that one.) Today the weather was perfect for a hearty hike, so I hopped in the van and drove to Hanging Rock State Park, which is located just north of Winston-Salem, NC.

The last time I hiked here it was hot and dry. Today it was cold and wet. At least the ground was wet, what with the recent snows we had. It took me two and a half hours to get there but the drive was worth it. The Blue Ridge features a chain of heights known as the Sauratown Mountains, the highest point of which is Moore's Knob, which is the peak I climbed today. From the top you can clearly see Hanging Rock (for which the park is named) as well as many other topographical features of this region, including Pilot Mountain. Here's the Hanging Rock formation as it looked as I drove to the site.

Your hike begins at the visitor center, where you pick up your map and ask about trail conditions.

Then a short drive takes you to the swimming center beside the lake. The lake and its various buildings were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. From here the summit of Moore's Knob is clearly visible (see the exact center of this photo).

A quick check of your backpack and you're ready to climb. The first mile of the hike is relatively flat.

Today the most challenging aspect of the climb involved the wood-planked boardwalks put there to protect the environment. Slippery they were!

Eventually you make your way past the lake and begin your ascent. The trail gets steeper and steeper the longer you hike. Foot placement here is essential, as the last thing you want to do is sprain an ankle tripping over a rock or a tree root.

After 2.20 miles you reach the crest of the ridge and the going gets a bit easier. It's here that you'll also begin to see some pretty interesting rock formations.

The climb is officially rated moderate-to-strenuous, but today there was nothing moderate about it. But hard work always pays off, and eventually you reach Moore's Knob and Lookout Tower.

Here are some pictures I took from the summit. Can you spot Hanging Rock?

And Pilot Mountain?

You are now standing at 2,579 feet and enjoying a 360 degree view in each direction. You can even see the lake where you started your hike.

Cell phone connection is great, so I sent a few pictures and videos to friends and family. I especially enjoyed looking down at all the quaint farms this area has. They reminded me so much of my cozy little homestead.

From here on out it's all downhill for 1.2 miles. The going is easy since there are rock steps the whole way down.

The entire hike comes in just under 5 miles.

Even though you feel like you've climbed a big mountain, the elevation gain is only 954 feet. Compare that to my summits in the Rocky Mountains:

  • Huron Peak -- total elevation: 14,003 feet. Total elevation gain: 3,800 feet.

  • Mount Bierstadt -- total elevation: 14,060 feet. Elevation gain: 2,850 feet.

I saw maybe 5 people during my hike today. One of them was kind enough to snap this picture.

She was a local who climbs this trail several times a year. This was only my third time. If you're gonna hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway side of Grandfather Mountain, then you simply must climb Moore's Knob. Access is easy. The effort to view ratio is 10 out of 10. And the trail is a nice challenge physically. By the way, there are some good eateries in nearby Stuart, VA. I scarfed down a delicious homemade hamburger and some awesome fries at the Stuart Family Restaurant.

Hiking to the top of Moore's Knob is nothing short of an adventure and one you're not likely to forget.

7:46 AM I was planning on spending a few days in Gettysburg this week but I cancelled my hotel reservation because of the rain that's in the forecast. This will allow me to get caught up on some farm projects I've had on my list of things to do for a while. Thing is, when I got up this morning, I was eager to hit the road. I've always suffered from a bad case of Wanderlust. I can't tell you how many times I looked up and saw it: the Virginia Monument, or the exact spot on Little Round Top where the 20th Maine made its stand, or the Eastern Battlefield where Custer went head to head with Stuart. Really, all this is in my own backyard, so to speak, within a day's drive for sure. The window opens, just enough for truth to seep in. The images, the memories, all connect the dots between my past and my present -- the Great Wall or the Pyramids of Egypt or Nahum's Tomb in Iraq or the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in the Ethiopian Highlands. When we travel, we see things revealed to us that have always been there. If there's one thing I've learned along the road of life, it's to keep your eyes wide open. You never know what's around the next bend in the road -- maybe an Alp or a wave in Hawaii or a plate of dog meat in Seoul. The window opens, and you do more than look. You gaze. This really happened? Here? Visualization. It's the key to enjoying this great big world God created. I tend to learn things the hard way. That's perhaps why I love history so much. History is said to be a great teacher. But you have to attend class.

I guess maybe all this Wanderlust will pay off eventually. I travel because I love it. And because, wherever I go, the next thing I know, I find what I've been chasing.

Sunday, March 25   

8:04 PM I just got back from the great city of Durham, NC, which boasts two of my favorite places: an Ethiopian restaurant, and the Duke Chapel.

Since the snow had melted away, I decided to have a little adventure this evening -- after grading my exams, that is. Yes, they are DONE. Anyhow, I had heard that a new Ethiopian restaurant had opened in Durham and I was anxious to visit it on my way to an organ concert at Duke. It's called the Goorsha and everything about the place was wonderful, from the service to the ambiance to the location to the food.

I ordered the doro wat (chicken stew) platter, but the owner Zewditu insisted on serving me a sample platter as well. I literally couldn't finish everything, there was so much food! Here I am with Zewditu, who's holding a copy of Becky's book.

Zewditu, thank you so much for your gracious hospitality tonight. You can be sure I'll be back!

Tonight's organ concert was at the one and only Duke Chapel.

It featured University Organist Robert Parkins on the Kathleen McClendon Organ (one of three outstanding pipe organs the chapel boasts).

You probably can't read it, but the program highlighted 20th-century composers both from Europe and the U.S.

In fact, we, the audience, had the high honor of hearing the world premier of Dan Locklair's "Noel's Psalm: A Sonata for Organ." I must say, Bach would have approved! The performance was both crisp and clean.

My favorite composition this evening was Locklair's "In Memory -- H. H. L." It was originally composed for string orchestra and Locklair wrote it in memory of his mother, Hester Helms Locklair (1918-2005). It has been described as a "short, single movement elegiac composition." Its cadence has sometimes been referred to as the "amen cadence," which is often associated with the close of hymns. The piece seemed to take me back in time and moved me to tears. Afterwards I had an opportunity to thank the composer personally.

So there you have it -- a simply stellar evening. Duke Chapel is unquestionably the best place to listen to organ music in the greater Raleigh-Durham area. That I was able to attend the concert tonight was serendipitous indeed. It amazes me time and time again just how powerful music can be. It's such a pity that great organ music is almost a thing of the past in so many of our communities.

Stay musical, my friends. And never forget to stop for a moment and remember.

8:55 AM The farm looks so beautiful this morning. We got a couple inches of snow last night and I won't be driving anywhere, at least until we have a thaw. But this doesn't mean I can't take a walk and enjoy God's wonderful creation.

Being snowed in is a good time to work on my essay exams. Nope. Still not done grading them. It takes time. I read every word before assigning a grade. Sometimes I have to read an answer twice before I get the gist of what the student is trying to say. I feel they deserve as much. Being stuck indoors is also a good time for reflection and evaluation. Map My Run sent me this today:

Them's a lot of miles for one week. And miles do take their toll. To wit:

Yup, that's my big toenail coming off. The other toes don't look so great either. That's the angst and ecstasy of running. Given the fact that you are always on your feet, there's very little you can do to avoid runner's toes. Athletes leverage stress to become better. Through training they learn that everything matters -- nothing is neutral. If you put miles on your feet every week, there's a price to pay. If you memorize Greek vocabulary, you'll be a better and more efficient reader of your Greek New Testament. If you study hard before the essay exam, you will likely get a good grade. The Greeks called this askesis (training) and they believed that all of us must become "athletes" in every sense of the word: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe the next breakthrough in medicine won't be due to a surgeon devising a new method of surgery. It will be the individual patient -- you and I -- taking responsibility for our own health. This can occur every morning in your kitchen. "Man isst was er ist," say the Germans. "You are what you eat." That goes for the spiritual too. Not just what you hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning, but what you read each and every day from God's word, can produce astonishing new levels of spiritual health and fitness. The one thing physicians are doing more today than ever before is focusing not on pathology but on the patient. One aspect of disease that I can control is my diet and level of daily exercise. I don't drink enough water every day. I need to change that. Soda is not good for me. I can cut out soft drinks. Fast food is junk food. So why give in to the convenience? Diets don't work. Then why I am trying out that new fad diet?

Incidentally, in my field of study, the New Testament, we can also get sidetracked with "new" approaches that promise the moon but fail to deliver. Not long ago, redaction criticism was all the fad. We were told to read the Gospels vertically, not horizontally. Today there's a brand new edition of the Greek New Testament that omits any mention of the fathers or the versions. Translation: We can resolve textual difficulties on the basis of the Greek evidence alone. I'm not convinced. Recently on our Greek Portal we linked to several reviews of this Greek New Testament. The most helpful one, in my opinion, is the one that calls into serious question the absence of patristic and versional evidence. The answer: A holistic approach to textual variation -- treating all of the evidence and not only part of it.

It's not that I'm against innovation. After yesterday's 10K, the good people of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation were passing out leaflets announcing their next race on Saturday, Sept. 29. And guess what? It won't be held at 8:00 in the morning, the time races are normally held. The race begins at 5:30 in the evening. After the run, we will honor local children who are facing brain tumors by lighting a lantern in their honor. Most of us runners think the time of day is relatively unimportant from a physiological point of view. But our circadian rhythms tend to make our bodies more flexible and efficient in the afternoon, so exercise (and competition) at that time is generally more enjoyable and less-risk prone. The evidence supports afternoon races. So why don't we do them at that time of day?

A week ago today, as I watched the marathon leaders running past me in the other direction, it hit me. Not the proverbial wall. I discovered the truth. Regardless of my finish time, I was a marathoner. I was one of "them." If they were running at their limit, so was I. If they were straining to finish the race, so was I. Back-of-the-packers like me are no less runners than the elite racers. Occasionally I hear runners complain that age has robbed them of their speed. I have to laugh. I'll never "look back" at my speed because I never had it. Even when I come in second to last (as I did on Jan. 1 at the Allen, TX marathon, where it was 1 degree on race day and only 44 runners finished the race out of 700 registrants), I felt the enormous pleasure that comes from giving it your all. This happens to me every time I pin on a race number. I doubt that any Roman legionnaire felt any prouder. Girded with the latest style of running shoes and Body Glide to protect those "sensitive" parts of the anatomy, you make your way to the starting line, ready to do battle. The veterans gather around and give support as you take your place at the rear echelon. Running produces fitness of muscle, but it also produces another kind of fitness, a fitness that goes way beyond the physical. Life is a game that's played on more than the physical plane. And frankly, I wouldn't want to play the game in any other way. Mind, body, and spirit -- all cooperating, each showing you where you fit in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, when you run, you explore the limits of your whole person. We have to prepare for life in much the same way that an athlete trains for a big race. The same basic skills are involved. There are no tricks or gimmicks here, no new edition of the Greek New Testament that we can depend on for our answers. To play the game of life well, we have to be involved individually. Running helps to develop that discipline -- and, of course, any other form of exercise you might prefer over running.

There is a place in life for the sedentary, like sitting at a table grading essay exams. But we can't go through life as though we were simply intellectual animals. The best we can do is be prepared, live each day as it comes to us, fill each hour with love, and grapple with the mystery of living.

Saturday, March 24   

5:02 PM I'm finishing up a pretty mundane week I guess you could say. I got in a few training runs but not very many. So I was pretty excited to get back into the swing of things, race wise. Today's 10K turned out to be a really good run. I had three goals going into the event:

  • Run (not walk) the whole 6.2-mile distance.

  • Finish under 1:15.

  • Enjoy myself.

I accomplished all three goals.

  • I ran the entire race, even the major uphill portions.

  • I finished with a time of 1:12:41.

  • The race was a blast.

This was the 7th annual running of Ella's Race and my fourth time running it. I didn't run my best race (too hilly!), but considering that, some 7 hours after the race, I have absolutely no soreness, I must have run at a pretty reasonable pace. The race started right across the street from the local Chick-Fil-A, which was hosting the event. Chris, the owner/manager, and his team put on a well-organized race, as always. The highlight for me is always spending a few minutes chatting with Ella's mom and dad, Mark and Rene Newmiller. I'm glad I can run this race because I know it's an encouragement to them. Meanwhile, the countdown starts today for my next race, my 31-mile ultra. It's in exactly 15 days, if you can believe it. I'm going to go out there and try my best. I'm not going to obsess about my time. I'm going to enjoy the experience. And if all goes well, I'll have enough oomph left over to run the Flying Pig Marathon a month later.

Here are a few pix from today's event:

1) Ella's Race is always a run you feel good about. It's for a great cause (the Brain Aneurysm Foundation) and its greatest cheerleaders are Ella's parents. Here they are with their adopted kids from Haiti.

2) I'm usually a solitary runner, but I always enjoy running with other people I know. Today one of my Greek students joined me for Ella's Race, although Ben did the 5K while I did the 10K, so we only saw each before and after the race. Later we ran into a couple more seminarians, two of whom were running their first 5K ever. I told you folks -- it's never too late to start.

3) This comes from my Garmin so it's unofficial.

The official results should be posted online tomorrow. I'm always curious to see how I did in the geriatric age bracket.

4) As you can see, the official course t-shirts were purple.

Here we are running down one of the many hills in the race. In fact, I don't recall there ever being level ground. You were either ascending or descending the entire time. The volunteers along the course were amazing, as usual.

5) The post-race amenities were awesome. I scarfed down a chicken sandwich and a cup of yogurt in no time.

6) I am going to get a little philosophical here, but out here while I'm running I realize that the most important people in my life don't care how fast I run or whether or not I PR an event.

To them, I'm just "Dad" or "Papa B." They don't associate who I am with my running, and you know what, that gives me grace to do the same thing. Each one of them is doing just what I'm doing, only with a different focus -- maybe trying to be the best parent, or the best at their career, or the best whatever. The neat thing is that we all can (and do) support each other. Thank you so much, family, for being there for me and for putting up with the weird things I do. You are my biggest fans and cheerleaders, and I hope I am the same in your lives. Today I gave it 100 percent, just as do you on a daily basis, and we both can be content with that. I love you.

Friday, March 23   

10:20 PM I've been grading essay exams from my NT class and just have to say how grateful I am for my students. They put a lot of effort into this test. You all are the best. Thank you. I've also been working on the list of things to do for our Student Work Day on April 7 here at the farm. It will be so much fun working on various farm chores together. This evening I was rereading Will Varner's excellent linguistic commentary on Philippians. Commenting on 2:5-11, he writes, "Paul has just exhorted his readers to not think about themselves but to give up themselves for others. Here he offers the first exemplar of that self-giving, Jesus' giving up His glory for us" (p. 58). I am so grateful for those teachers in my life who were Christ to me in that way, always willing to give of themselves so that I could make progress in holiness and pursue my life's dreams and aspirations. They patted me on the back -- and occasionally gave me a swift kick in the pants when I needed it. If you have such teachers in your life, thank God for them. It's heartening to know that there are so many teachers like that out there in the world today. Marriage is like that too. Whenever I think back on my life with Becky, I can't believe how supportive she was and how joyful it was to live for King Jesus together. She was the type of friend that I had longed for. It was a joy to serve her and to be a support to her in her various ministries. Above all, we realized that whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. That knowledge means freedom. All that we are, all that we have, is placed in His hands. Years have gone by since we last sat on the front porch together, dreaming about our next mission trip together. Yet -- and here is the point -- God has never shut up His tender mercies toward me. He too has walked the path of loneliness. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He gives new heart to the humble. His pleasure is in those who fear Him. May I learn to fear Him. May I learn to honor Him with an obedient faith. May He make me more gracious than I am, more loving, more kind, more tender, more selfless. May I offer my time, my work, my joys, my sorrows, yes, my sufferings, to Him. Widowerhood is not something to be tolerated. It's a gift that we can offer back to God. "Now I long to know Christ" is how Paul put it. What are you facing today, my friend? Offer it up. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. "Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." The choice is ours. 

Well, the race tomorrow morning starts at 8:00. The temp at starting time is expected to be around 32. Cold but manageable. Hope it raises lots of dough for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

1:10 PM Anyone feel up to a 5 mile run on a beautiful day in Southern Virginia? Count me in!

This is part of the Tobacco Heritage Trail. It's a 5-mile out-and-back that ends up taking you to the Dan River. As you can see, the recent rains have filled the Dan almost to flood stage.

And we're expecting more inclement weather tomorrow, including a good chance of more snow. Thankfully, the skies should be clear (but cold) at race time tomorrow morning in Raleigh. While I was in South Boston I had to go to Food Lion, which is adjacent to an awesome Mexican restaurant. Fajitas for 6 bucks? Can't beat that.

Back to grading papers. Love my work!

8:58 AM A good Friday morning to you. I see April 8th's 50K Mountains-to-Sea Trail Run at Falls Lake is now sold out. According to the list of participants, there are only two of us over 60 who are running it. Oh my. What have I gotten myself into? I can't even figure out the course map.

Is this supposed to be a Rorschach Test? Can I do this? I can still see it today. I am descending a 4,000 meter peak in the Alps. I look like a drunken sailor. More than once I slip and fall. Thankfully I'm short-roped to my mountain guide. Two thoughts are going through my brain and only two. Will I make it down safely? Will it have been worth it? Have you ever had moments like that? Moments when you question your sanity? Moments that make you wonder why a grown man over 60 would attempt something as ridiculously difficult as climbing the Alps? Moments when you are confronted with a seemingly impossible task and yet somehow you push through? Did I make it down? Yes, thanks to my guide and the One who created the Alps. Was it worth it? $25,000 was raised for UNC Cancer Hospital. Yes, I'd say it was worth it.

The question you must ask yourself is, in the midst of your personal journey on this planet, is God calling you to do something impossible? Is He asking you to find a challenge and then go for it, even if you fail in the end? My heart yearns for adventure and mystery. Life is too short to live a dull, mundane life. I love stepping into the great unknown and finding out what's there. Past adventures are just that -- past. It's time for me to move on from outworn memories and pursue the next goal. You know, running can get routine at times. It's time to try something new. Do you remember what it was like to start college or get married? The butterflies and the curiosity? A year ago I was prepping for my first marathon. Now, 8 marathons later, I'm training for my first 31-mile run. I'll reach down and touch my soul, like I did when I found the Lord, or welcomed my firstborn into the world, or summited my first 14,000-er in the Rockies, or published my first book, or finished my 17th mission trip to Ethiopia. In any event, I'm eager for this new adventure to begin. I'm enticed by its distance and difficulty. I'm anxious to see how well I'll do. Need a new adventure, my friend? Just step outside. But make sure you've got your running or climbing shoes on.

Below: Arriving at the top of Huron Peak in the Rockies. Hope you enjoy this vid because I really enjoyed taking it (while panting!).


Thursday, March 22   

2:12 PM Been a whirlwind of a morning. Got my timber sold, then Nate and Jess invited me out to lunch with MY BOYZ.

Nice break from grading. Right now I'm eyeballing the weather for next week. I think I might drive up to PA and spend some time at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. Of course, if the weather turns bad (again) there's no sense in going. I'm not going to lie. I love U.S. history. It feels good to have a sense of one's past. That includes my paternal great-great-grandparents (the Millers) who just happened to live on a creek in western Maryland (the Antietam) and who just happened to have a major battle of the Civil War take place near their farm (the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam). History helps us better understand the world around us today. The present requires a study of the past. Just ask anybody who's trying to understand why the aforementioned battle has two names. It's the most normal thing for people to want to know where they came from, about their heritage and their cultural traditions. History is all about context. When I was a doctoral student in Basel, we not only studied doctrine/theology, we studied the history of doctrine (Dogmengeschichte). I could go on and on but I think you see my point. It's important that we take our children to the historical landmarks in the U.S. that helped define who we are as a people today. Our past is long, complex, partly ugly, and partly wonderful. My own state of Hawai'i has had some pretty interesting historical twists and turns. Just look at our state flag. As a teacher, I also enjoy the history of education. I think everyone who teaches needs to be truly sui generis, outstanding in their own way. Learning about the great teachers of the past can help us do just that, I believe. Simply put, learning your past is very useful for your future.

Well, a big glass of chocolate milk is calling. See ya! 

9:25 AM Grading NT essay exams. So far they're great!

6:38 AM Awesome quote from F. F. Bruce:

Paul's concern for his converts and sense of oneness with them breathes through all his correspondence. When they were led astray, he was indignant; when they slipped back, he was distressed; when they showed evidence of living lives worthy of the Gospel, he was overjoyed.

I am overjoyed to see the progress my students are making in knowledge and grace. "Now we truly live, if you stand fast in the Lord" (1 Thess. 3:8)!

5:58 AM Scattershooting ....

1) I'm in! I'm officially registered for the Marine Corps Marathon in October! I'm still pinching myself. Registration opened at exactly 9:00 am yesterday morning. I was on the website at that exact moment and, by the sheer goodness of God, was able to register before the lottery began. The Marine Corps Marathon has got to be one of the premier marathons in the world. I've heard it compared to the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, which I'm scheduled to run in May for the second time. It is the "People's Marathon" par excellence. Marines are at all the aid stations and at the finish. In fact, all of America's armed forces are represented. One section of the race even honors the fallen.

Plus, the diversity you see in DC is absolutely amazing. I'll meet all kinds of people from perhaps every nation in the world. Typically, the race sees about 25,000 finishers. I really can't wait for this race. I'm even looking forward to the hills at the end.

2) On Monday I took a student and his wife out to the Olive Garden for lunch and lo and behold, who do I find enjoying a meal there?

They were celebrating Nate's 35th birthday. Woohoo!

3) Here's Bruce Little giving his retirement lecture yesterday.

Two names featured prominently in his talk? Francis Schaeffer and Jacques Ellul, both of whom are near and dear to my heart. Au revoir, Bruce, and enjoy your retirement in Maine.

4) Love my students.

5) I started this book last night and I've already read half of it. A real page turner.

6) Last Sunday's race results are out. Yours truly placed third to last in his age group (65-69).

The winner in my age bracket finished in under 4 hours. He's "only" 67. How amazing. Nice going, Joe. The years of sedentary confinement have left my body slow and unwieldy. Running for me is intentional. I don't have the luxury of being fast. But I can be consistently slow!

Monday, March 19   

9:36 AM Last Sunday afternoon, as I was strolling through DC with Karen and Tino, Karen asked me if I recognized this building.

"No, honey. What is it?" "The FBI Building." The architecture itself seems to say, "You don't want to mess with us." Oh, I pre-ordered this book today. It'll go into my "marked to-read" stack.

9:12 AM It's going to be a big week. This Saturday is Ella's Race. I'm a huge fan of this event. Ella's parents decided to host this race after their daughter died from an inoperable brain tumor.

This will be, I think, my fourth time running it. You can do a 10K, a 5K, or a 1-mile run. I usually do the 10K. I've actually met several of my students at this race. Hope to see some of you there this time around too. Then this Friday I have 81 acres of timber going up for bid. Bids will be unsealed at 11:00 am on the farm. Otherwise I have lunches scheduled with students or colleagues each day of the week it seems. Plus a visit to my physical therapist for stretching. All of you are probably wondering how I'm feeling today. (Well, all one of you at least.) I am barely ambulatory. Stiff as a board, in fact. Not. I'm feeling great, all glory to God. A marathon never fails to invigorate me. What would your life be like if you said to yourself:

  • No more adventures for me.

  • I think I'll just take it easy from here on out.

  • I am enough.

Huh? What are your personal goals for 2018? Are you meeting them? Have you given up? Yeah, I know how easy it is to overcommit. I'm pretty much an expert at that. So here's what you can do: Pick goals you are super-excited about. Two of my hard-working kids are starting back to school today. They couldn't wait to text me this morning to remind me. (Oh, they're not spring chickens either. They're just ramping up their career goals.) Another one of my daughters has just begun writing her very first book. And boy is she a good writer. By the way, be sure to write down your goals. That's the difference between a goal and a wish. Once I get an idea in my head, I usually write it down. That's one of the reasons I blog, you see? It's like putting your life on the line. I love the fact that goals need to be challenging. Next month I'm registered to do 31-mile jaunt around Falls Lake. Am I crazy? Or just goal-oriented? Or both? Believe it not, the more I age, the more goals I set for myself. Individual goals. Family goals. Writing goals. Travel goals. I try to be realistic. People tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a short period of time. Still, I love writing down my goals and reviewing them every so often (like about once a week, like on Monday mornings, in fact). So have you written down your goals? Visualize exactly the person God wants you to be. Your success depends on complete dependence on Him, and then following through with His plans for you.

P.S. Don't forget about Saturday's race in Raleigh. It's for a really great cause, plus you get to meet Ella's parents. 

Sunday, March 18   

7:52 PM Today I finished my 8th marathon since I began marathoning 10 months ago. One thing I love about marathoning is that, regardless of how well prepared you are for the race, you never know what your body will do at mile 20 or so. Usually, the higher the number of training runs before the race, the better your pace will be during those final 6 miles. But as you know, I was just coming back from several weeks of dealing with head congestion and sneezing. Honestly, I'm not as fast or as fit I was 10 months ago when I attempted to run my first marathon in Cincinnati. Today I knew it would be hard to come in under 6 hours (which I normally do), but I also knew that, either way, I was going to enjoy this race tremendously, which I did. Let's get started on the race report before I forget all the details, seeing that I am old and senile and all that. It all started yesterday when I drove to the race expo in Cary.

For a medium size race, I thought the expo was a little on the smallish size.

I got my race bib, had a 20-minute massage and stretch session, then left to grab some dinner.

I ended up at one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants and had some delicious doro (chicken) wat.

From there it was a 10-minute drive to my hotel.

I was in bed with the lights out at 7:30 pm in anticipation of a 4-o'clock wake-up time.

I got up right at 4:00, packed my bags, and then drove to Thomas Brooks Park, where I grabbed a cup of coffee and then waited in line for the potty.

At the start, I fell in with the 6:00 pace team (they are in green) and was in a completely comfortable head space.

I waited and warmed up and then we were off and running. I stayed with the pace team through miles 1-3 and then let my body run at a nice, 12 min./mile pace, staying ahead of the pacers until about mile 20.

I wanted to run at this steady pace for as long as I felt comfortable and then really fight for it when my legs started telling me to quit.

I hit the half marathon mark (13.1 miles) right at 2:47. This was exactly where I wanted to be at this point in the race.

I had been hydrating and fueling well for the first half of the race, and I was doing great cardiovascularly. My legs, however, began to rebel against my pace. And sure enough, right around mile 20, the pace team passed me and never looked back.

With every subsequent mile, my legs were feeling heavier and heavier. The pain was real. When I finally crossed the finish line at 6:11, my average pace was 14 min./mile. I never worked so hard to keep my legs moving. When I finished, I received this beautiful race medal.

The race director himself was there placing the medals over the heads of the finishers. How cool is that! 

I thanked him profusely for organizing such a great event and then I had my picture taken with Greg, a 61-year old who basically paced me for the last 6 miles.

He was running with one of his sons (you gotta love that!), and we would take turns passing each other. After his son took this picture I saw something I hadn't noticed before. His bib number was exactly 262 -- quite appropriate for a marathon, don't you think?

As I said, this wasn't my fastest marathon by any means. But I fought as hard for my medal today as I did at any of the other 7 marathons I've run. That makes me feel great. As usual, the race challenged me both mentally and physically. The most important thing was not to run so fast that you bonked. The terrain wasn't technical at all. There were a few muddy places and a couple of hilly sections, but most of the time we ran through a beautiful section of Cary. The aid stations were stocked with practically anything you could want: gummy bears, pretzels, muffins, goo-bars, water, Gatorade, sodas, bacon slices, even wine for those who were so inclined. All in all, a 5-star race!

So there you have it. To think that I am a marathoner x 8! Once again, running has made me better and stronger. It's amazing how a 65-year old body can continue to adapt and improve. All glory to God!

Thanks for joining me on the journey, you guys. Now go and sign up for a 5K. You know you want to. :-)

Saturday, March 17   

1:04 PM My daughter and her husband came over today to help me with a few projects. Which meant I got to see two of my grandkids. Yes, I'm a happy man.

Off to the races.


8:22 AM Morning, guys! While watching the sunrise this morning, I reviewed my running schedule for 2018.

These are the races I'm already registered for.

  • 1 day until the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC.

  • 7 days until Ella's Race 5K in Raleigh, NC.

  • 22 days until the MTS 50K trail run in Raleigh, NC (my first ultramarathon).

  • 28 days until the Running for Clean Water 5K in Garland, TX.

  • 74 days until the Marine Corps Historical Half in Fredericksburg, VA. 

  • 35 days until the Petersburg Half Marathon in Petersburg, VA.

  • 50 days until the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, OH.

Other races on my 2018 bucket list which I haven't signed up for yet include:

  • Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon, June 3.

  • Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon, July 22.

  • Air Force Marathon, Dayton, OH, Sept. 15.

  • Army 10-Miler, Washington, DC, Oct. 7.

  • Richmond Marathon, Nov. 10.

  • Rock N Roll Marathon, San Antonio, TX, Dec. 2.

Of course, this coming Wednesday I'll be trying to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in DC, that is, try to get on their waiting list. I hear this is an incredible event. You get to run past some of the most iconic monuments in the country along with about 40,000 other runners. This is the quintessential big marathon, rivaled only by Chicago and New York. Check out the race medal. Only an ultra belt buckle can beat it.

I'll put my name in the lottery and see what happens. The only negative is that you finish on a hill. Well, it's called the Marine Corps Marathon, right? 

Going into tomorrow's race I feel confident but not-overconfident. I'm healthy and my training has gone pretty well, so I'm hoping to meet my goals. I'm falling in with the 6 hour pace team and will see how I do. If I have anything left after 23 miles I'll try and push myself to finish under 6 hours. Today my mind is relaxed. I'm focused. I know it's going to be hard. So you just keep going. I only hope and pray that when I see the finish line there'll be some finish left in me. Being able to do these races is much more than I ever deserved. Even the toughest days can be one of the best experiences of your life. That's what happened on Jan. 1 in Dallas. To run a marathon, all you have to be willing to do is face your true self and accept who you are after peeling back multiple layers of the onion. Nothin' to it, really!

Friday, March 16   

8:35 PM Hey folks. It's been a good day. I have two things to share before I dig back into my novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. For one thing: I'm done training for this Sunday's marathon. I have basically one day, tomorrow, to taper. Today I ran 10 miles at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. Not exactly crowded, wouldn't you agree?

It was much colder today than I anticipated. The sun was out but there wasn't much warmth in it. I felt a bit chilly, but things got nice and warm once I started. No one else was out and about. But God's creation was beautiful.

It was so still and quiet, with just my breathing and the sound of my shoes hitting the crushed gravel. So, you see, it wasn't all that bad. It was the longest run I've had in two weeks if you can believe that. It'll have to do. I like this route because it's all trail and it's fast and flat -- much like the course we're all obsessing about for Sunday. Today I tried to mostly run without walking, though on occasion I'd back it down to a Greek professor power walk (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good). Hey, if power walking is an Olympic event, I'm sure nobody will mind if I walk out there on Sunday's course. After all, I'm competing only against myself and I needn't compare, nor judge, nor let others shape my sense of accomplishment. (Ego. Take a hike.) Here are my mile splits. Slow but steady.

Tomorrow is a rest day -- the whole day. A couple of my kids are visiting me here on the farm in the morning, then my only plans are to check into my Cary hotel, attend the expo to pick up my race bib and parking pass, grab some carbs at a local restaurant, and then get into bed nice and early. More often than not, it seems I go into a race these days more unprepared than well-prepared, but my schedule has been, well, hectic the past few weeks.

Number two: Praise the Lord, my new shoes worked like a charm. They felt amazing. There's just nothing like New Balance. (If I keep saying that enough, they'll sponsor me for sure.) At mile 5 or so I did begin to develop a blister on my right heel, but the solution was to tighten my shoe laces. So I think I'll try and wear my new shoes (with plenty of rubber on the soles) instead of my old shoes (that resemble pancakes even though they are worn in perfectly). I'll make that decision on race day. Otherwise, I'm wearing the same old outfit you've seen in a million racing pictures, including the same old Nike cap I've worn my whole life. And yes, I'll have my iPhone with me so you can expect bucket loads of photos when the race is over.

I close with a pic of me in Kailua last summer with a pastor buddy of mine. What a tale of two worlds. He's Hawaiian by blood and I'm Welsh-Romanian.

But we were both born and raised on O'ahu and we both have been transformed by the grace of God and we both love the sacred, transforming story of what God does in the human heart when it becomes flat and lifeless. I can't wait to get back home this summer after teaching summer school Greek. Maybe I'll start another Greek class while I'm on Windward O'ahu -- while not surfing, that is. You know that I still surf, right? This picture was taken while Becky and I were vacationing in Kailua one year.

I'm wearing my ugly California lifeguard "short" shorts. They look ridiculous today, but in Hawaii, nobody notices things like that.

Happy weekend,


8:45 AM This and that ....

1) Kudos to Hawaii Rep. Coleen Hanabusa for her classy comeback in yesterday's hearings. Ms. Hanabusa reminded her audience that her grandfather, a U.S. citizen, was interned during WW II simply because of his Japanese ancestry. She mentioned he was interned on Oahu of all places (rather than on the mainland), which until yesterday I knew nothing about despite the fact that I'm from Oahu. Just 15 miles from Pearl Harbor, in an overgrown gulch, lie the ruins of Hawaii's largest and longest running internment camp.

It had 175 buildings and 14 guard towers. 73 years after the site was abandoned, artifacts remain, and in 2015 it was designated as the Honouliuli National Monument. It won't be open to the public for a few years, but if and when it does open (the hearing yesterday was about funding), I definitely want to be there. The site is an important part of Hawaii's history. For more information, please go to the National Park Service's official webpage.

2) My thanks to Travis Bohlinger of the Logos Academic Blog for calling attention to our linguistics conference coming up in April of 2019.

3) I like this logic. 

4) How to fuel for a run.

5) As of today, I'm officially registered for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA, on May 20.

This is the race that started it all. Once I watched my daughter complete it, she had me hooked on running. The event has only rave reviews, despite the brutality of Hospital Hill at the finish.

What fun it will be!

6) Gratitude:

  • A clean kitchen.

  • A working washer and dryer.

  • Good weather for this weekend's race.

  • No weight increase in two years.

  • A great physical therapist.

  • That guy dressed in brown who brings me packages.

  • Sheba.

  • My Garmin.

  • Tons of grandkids.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, March 15   

9:28 PM Tonight I reread a book I bought when I attended Biola College. It was a required textbook in our geology class, taught by Henry Morris, co-author (with John Whitcomb) of The Genesis Flood.

We met every Thursday night for 4 hours. Dr. Morris would drive up to La Mirada from San Diego to teach the class. It was an unforgettable experience. The perspective of the course was, of course, young earth creationism, which I espoused then and still do. My term paper for the course was one I will never forget: "The Formation of the Hawaiian Archipelago from a Flood Geology Perspective." It even included aerial and underwater photos I had shot of the various secondary and tertiary tectonic earth movements involved in the formation of Oahu (where I was born and raised). At any rate, The Genesis Flood has a brief section about the magnificent Matterhorn in the Alps, which I assaulted two summers ago, along with the Breithorn, the Oberrothorn, and the Klettersteig. Here you can clearly see the different layers of rock.

The lower part is sedimentary rock (it's brown in the picture). The middle part consists of oceanic crust (the grayish rock). The peak is gneiss, said to have originated in the African continent. According to uniformitarian geology, the rocks on the top of the mountain are many years older than the rocks below them. Uniformitarian scientists call this overthrusting. For them, the Matterhorn was created when the Apulian Plate broke from Gondwana (containing Africa) and moved toward the European Continent. The oceanic crust was subducted, thus forming the Matterhorn's upper layer out of (older) African rock. (I hope I stated that correctly.) Whitcomb and Morris, of course, reject the whole notion of overthrusting, at least when applied on the scale of a mountain like the Matterhorn.

We do this for two perfectly sound scientific reasons: in the first place, there are many places where there are no field evidences of a physical nature that any such movements ever took place and, in the second place, all reasonable applications of engineering mechanics to the study of the phenomenon indicate that thrusting on the large scale required is highly unlikely and probably physically impossible (p. 198).

They argue instead that large overthrusts would only be physically possible "during or soon after the Deluge, when the strata were still relatively soft and plastic in their mechanical behavior and when the great forces necessary for overthrusting were at least feasible in terms of the post-Flood geologic adjustments that must have occurred" (p. 200).

Though Henry Morris is now with the Lord, I want to thank him for being a thinker who guided me through the maze of geology many years ago. I didn't understand half of what he was saying then, and I still don't today. I have a personality that likes to have everything figured out and placed into neat little boxes. However, cosmogony is a field I will never understand. I'm just not smart enough. I value the writings of both YECers and OECers. Either way, when we think about Creation, we're invited into a story that begins with God and ends with God. He not only created the heavens and the earth, He upholds all things by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3). My trip to the Alps was so much fun. I've fallen in love with these mountains. It's like being in mountain heaven. I couldn't stop taking pictures. I hope to go back this summer. I'd go back every year if I could.

12:12 PM Just back from lifting at the Y and doing a 5K training run at the track. While I was running I got 3 emails from the marathon organizers, one with my bib number (266), another informing me to be sure to ring the bell at the finish line, and a third telling me that I had been awarded a coveted parking spot at the race venue, which means I can avoid parking off site and taking the shuttle. I feel very blessed to have gotten a parking pass because there were only 900 spots available for 4,000 runners. Now it's time to walk the dog and take a nap!

7:55 AM As you know, last Saturday my son and daughter took me to the National Portrait Gallery to see the paintings of our presidents. Below are the pictures I took of the presidents who served during my lifetime (I was born in 1952). Each portrait is, needless to say, striking in its own way. Crowds are thick at the gallery, but don't let that stop you from visiting.

7:42 AM Odds and ends ....

1) Reread this last night. It's an excellent tome.

As John Howard Yoder writes on the back cover:

With the verve and the gift of trenchant simplification to which we have been accustomed, Ellul lays bare the fallacy that Christianity should normally be the ally of civil authority.

Don't be surprised if you get to the end of this book and immediately want to start all over again.

2) Lord willing, in less than 2 months I'll be back in Cincy for the Flying Pig Marathon. The race has sold out (per usual). This year's marathon is shaping up to be the largest in its 20 year history. It's a bucket list race for sure.

3) Finally found a pair of running shoes that fit, praise the Lord! Not sure if I can break them in before Sunday's race. But they sure fit well. I feel like I'm walking on air. My thanks to the staff at the New Balance store in Raleigh for their great service. 

4) Why Running Is Not Enough.

5) Tips on learning Greek:

  • Take advantage of mentors.

  • Allow others to push you.

  • Take breaks frequently.

  • Prioritize consistency.

  • Focus on what's most important.

  • Schedule your study time for those periods when you're most alert.

  • Show up to class.

Wednesday, March 14   

6:55 PM Hey! Happy Pi Day! (As a Greek prof, I think I'm supposed to say that.) I'm back on the farm and just cooked myself the most delicious supper I've had all day. (That's not saying much.) Speaking of eating, today I took a good friend out to lunch.

Bruce Little is retiring from SEBTS this year at the ripe young age of 72. He came to the seminary about the same time I joined the faculty. There are very few Christian philosophers I respect more. He and his wife will be moving back to their home state of Maine in May. He won't stop mentoring doctoral students, of course, and as always he'll spend much of his summer abroad teaching pastors, mostly in Eastern Europe. (He's truly a man after my own heart.) Otherwise, my week has been pretty normal -- teaching, meeting with students, writing, and chatting with colleagues about various and sundry. By the way, congrats to our visiting prof John Meade for his outstanding essay in the latest issue of Didaktikos called "Currents in Old Testament Studies: Is There a 'Septuagint Canon'?"

The pull quote?

When talking about the Greek Scriptures, we should refer to the Hebrew canon in Greek dress, which early Christians simply called the Old Testament.

Which means, I guess, that the next time I co-teach the LXX class, we'll have to call the course simply "The Old Testament"! You'll notice that this issue also features a fine essay by Ben Witherington titled "On Serving through Scholarship."

What? What? That's exactly a theme I've been harping on for years! There's an elaborate conspiracy among NT scholars these days to do "everything in the service of Christ and the church" (p. 24). Don't worry. I'm on to it. Receiving my copy of Didaktikos is one of the best things that happens to me in my office, and I hope you can somehow avail yourself of a copy. It's published by Faithlife.

Oh, I survived Snowmaggedon on Monday. Things got so scary that they closed the campus on Monday afternoon, and my 6:30 Greek 2 class had to be canceled. By Tuesday, however, most of the snow had melted.

Like you, I take learning seriously, so I asked my assistant to make several YouTube videos available for the class to peruse as they work on the participle for next week's quiz.

In other (boring) news, my eighth marathon is coming up this weekend in Raleigh/Cary. Reader, allow me to explain the seriousness that is running in North Carolina. Raleigh has been named the healthiest city for men in many different publications. Raleighites love running like Greek geeks love participles. I have like zero opportunities to run where I live. The novelty of running has never worn off around my farm because it never wore on in the first place. That said, I still hope we can offer a 5K at the local Y this May. Walkers to the right. Runners to the left. All very orderly and fun. Kudos to us if we can get this thing off the ground. Anyway, I'm eager to do another marathon, because the last one I did almost killed me. Yes, folks, runners are kinda crazy in that way. We love suffering. I know in the big scheme of things, running a foot race is not headline news, but I gotta to tell you, it forces you to dig deep. As every Greek student knows, dedication sometimes means doing things that a part of you really doesn't want to do. Some may think I'm a very disciplined person. Hogwash. I'm the laziest surfer dude from Hawaii you'll ever meet. Self-discipline has never been my strong suit. There is no "secret" to being a runner. To become a runner, all you have to do is, well, run. And by "run," I don't necessarily mean to literally "run." I've yet to run an entire marathon. I probably never will. Still, there's nothing quite like standing at the start of a 26.2 mile race and asking your body to do more than it's used to doing. Plus, what's not to enjoy? From improved cardiovascular fitness to better health, there's so much benefit from participating in this crazy sport. I am proud of my finishing times, even when I'm slower than everybody else in my age group. A clock is never reflective of the kind of person you are. Great races can be had by all, even the slowest among us. You'll find that learning how to run a race, like learning how to read Greek, is mostly about putting forth an honest effort. When it's over, the only question you to need to ask yourself is, "Did I do my best?" The truth is that every race takes me a little bit closer to where I want to be in life. Your goals are just that -- your goals, not somebody else's. So find something you enjoy doing, and just get out there and do it. Go ahead. Test your limits. Make no mistake: Living life to the fullest is something each one of us can do, with God's help.

Monday, March 12   

8:34 AM As I was perusing various and sundry New Testament websites last night, I was impressed at how much of what is being said nowadays is based on what people are against. I don't want to be known for being primarily against anything. My own thinking as a New Testament teacher has changed so much through the years that I wouldn't know where to start describing to you how often new thoughts usurped old ones. Change in our discipline is inevitable and to be encouraged. For example, the Evangelical Textual Criticism website is promoting (via a book giveaway) a new book by Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry called A New Approach to Textual Criticism.

I'm regretting not having this book available when I last taught textual criticism at SEBTS. There's just too much good, God things going on in our discipline that it's sometimes hard to keep up with current research. I realize that a few of you might be expecting a bit of pushback from someone who has long called into question the scholarly guild's preference for the Alexandrian text type. However, after publishing several works on the topic, I've discovered my appetites have changed. I have no idea what reading this book might do in your life, but there's no cookie cutter that defines evangelical textual critics. I prefer Sturz's view of text types, you don't. But here is our baseline:

  • Study the discipline for yourself.

  • Go wherever you think the evidence leads.

  • Stay abreast of recent developments (like reading this book).

  • Blog about your journey.

I'm sure a few of you are just getting started in the field. Others are lifetimers. Probably most of you have read Parker's An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts, Metzger's The Text of the New Testament, Kurt and Barbara Aland's The Text of the New Testament, and, since you're reading this, you might have read my New Testament Textual Criticism. Some of you may be considering textual criticism as your life's work. (Don't laugh. It's actually happened.) The fact is that the field of evangelical New Testament textual criticism is expanding in unprecedented ways among younger scholars. When I was in college in the 1970s, I recall Harry Sturz telling his Greek students, "The field is white unto harvest, but the laborers are few." My guess is that this statement is still true today. One of Tommy and Peter's reviewers refers to the "tectonic shifts" talking place in the field. I imagine sooner or later an earthquake of seismic proportions will occur. But for now, it's works like Tommy and Peter's that will keep the movement alive. Theirs is not the definitive word, of course. They're building the scaffolding, however. The real construction, I suspect, is still ahead.

Sunday, March 11   

3:48 PM Yesterday dawned cold and clear. Tino made us coffee and some cinnamon rolls before we headed out to the race. When we arrived at the Four Courts Restaurant in Arlington, we got our race bibs, downed some more coffee, and then just soaked up the atmosphere. I was thrilled (as always) to be around people who choose to be active. We are all different sizes and shapes, and we all have greatly varying abilities and goals. But we all have one thing in common: When we run, we feel alive.

The night before, Tino and I had discussed our race strategy, which basically boiled down to him setting the pace and me trying to keep up. Although he hasn't run a lot of races, Tino trains regularly in connection with his work at Fort Myer and is in really great shape, so I knew I would be in for a big challenge on race day. I couldn't wait for the race to start. The guy playing the bag pipes only added to our excitement.

Tino and I lined up at the back of the pack.

And then the horn sounded. I very much realize it's a gigantic faux pas to go out too fast at the start of a race, but the first mile was all downhill and Tino was really killing it. My job (remember?) was to keep up with him at all costs.

My other goals were to (1) avoid hitting the wall at mile 3 and (2) complete the race without doing any walking at all. I was still struggling with a runny nose, but thankfully I've perfected the art of the snot rocket. (Nothing says "Real runner" quite like a projectile coming out of your nostrils.) After a while, the pace began to slow and I could settle into a rhythm. Despite being pushed to the max by Tino, I was enjoying the race immensely, waving to the leaders as they passed us going the other way, and soaking up the scenery along the Potomac (including great views of Arlington National Cemetery).

In the end, we made it. Of course we did. Four miles took us about 45 minutes to run, but we both fought hard for it, and the victory was sweet. Karen was at the finish line to take our pictures, congratulate us, and bring us more cinnamon rolls.

I just love this post-race photo!

Here are our mile splits:

An 11 min./mile pace is not too shabby! As I said, the weather was gorgeous, though a little on the cold side. I ended up wearing 4 layers, and for most of the race I never felt cold. After it was over I was soaked to the core. I wish I could describe all the thoughts and feelings I had during the race, not only because I enjoy sharing such details with you but so I can revisit them when they've become hazy. The race was definitely something new for me. Usually I'm the one who's pushing someone else to run hard and be strong. This time around, I was the pushee instead of the pushor. The course was a place where I became continually aware of my pace, my effort, my heart rate, my everything. I knew that Tino was going to push me relentlessly, but I also knew that I would eventually have to slow down to a pace I was comfortable with. When I did, Tino was right there beside me. We had an awesome time running together, and I was proud and pleased that I was able to keep up a constant strong pace for the entire race, even through the final uphill portion. Not once did I walk. I felt strong the whole time, even though I started sneezing again after we crossed the finish line. My body wasn't sore at all, just sleepy and famished. When we got back to Karen and Tino's place, I showered while Karen prepared a delicious brunch, then we all took a nap before going out to see the DC sights.

Yesterday's race taught me a lot about myself and how much grit I can push out of myself when I want/need to. I loved running with Tino, I loved the course, I loved the challenge, I loved the community. My first order of business now is to get completely over my head cold because I've got a week of teaching coming up plus my marathon next Sunday. But it was so much fun being out there racing again. With the trees budding, the daffodils blossoming, and my allergies going crazy, it's the perfect time of the year to be a part of the family of runners.

Thank you, Karen and Tino, for the joy and honor of being in your beautiful home. Thanks for all the surprises, like going to the Kennedy Center for a concert ...

... or the Smithsonian to see the presidential portraits ...

... or famous sites like Ford's Theater ...

... or even the new Hawaiian Poke restaurant in town.

You guys thought of everything. Thank you! I love you!

Friday, March 9   

9:14 AM I love my New Balance shoes. Problem is, I can't seem to be able to replace the pair I have. My size is 13 extra wide, but every time I try one on the fit is too small. Are my feet growing? Are they making this shoe smaller? I'm getting desperate. My current pair is on its last leg. Somehow I need to find running shoes that are of high quality and can provide the right kind of support for my feet, legs, and back. I reckon I have 2 long races left on the pair I'm currently wearing. Maybe I can find some shoes in Northern Virginia this weekend.

At any rate, it's race time. Talk to you later, Lord willing. Wish us well!

8:50 AM I see that John Meade is offering a talk this month on campus. The topic is the Hexapla. Go here for more.

John is currently a visiting scholar at SEBTS. He teaches at Phoenix Seminary.

8:12 AM For all you runners out there, I thought I'd show you the promo video for tomorrow's race in Arlington, VA. That final hill looks BRUTAL.

Well, I've always liked a good challenge. Latest weather is showing sunny skies and a temp of 35 at race time. Poifect! Did I mention the cause yet? (I may have, but I'm too lazy to go back and check the blog.) It benefits the brewery at Arlington's favorite pub, Ireland's own Four Courts. Well, not really. It benefits the Arlington County Police Friends and Family Fund. I have no idea what that is, but it sounds good. I don't really celebrate Saint Paddy's Day so I won't be wearing green tomorrow, but I imagine some folks will. The post-race finish is full of beers but that's not why I'm running. (Two Guinesses before 9 am? What are you people thinking?) I'm meeting up with my son and we're going to RACE. Will the luck of the Irish be with us? Just praying that I don't get passed by the much-feared leprechaun, who starts 15 minutes after the gun goes off. So, how does this race compare with the dozens of 5Ks I've run? Harder course, longer too, and probably a slower pace. I'm considering this weekend's race as a warm-up for next Sunday's Tobacco Road Marathon in Raleigh. This will be marathon # 8 for me. I've fallen off on my training because of the sniffles but I'll do my best on race day. This course is flat and fast and a PR maker (many runners get to ring the PR bell), but I'll be happy if I can just finish in under 6 hours. Everyone raves about the incredible course and the fun experience. Having done mostly road races when it comes to marathons, I know this course will be a nice change of pace. The trail is mostly a compacted dirt surface, though the first and last 2.5 miles are on the road. It's a 7:00 am gun start, which means that I'll either have to spend Saturday night somewhere in Raleigh, or else I'll have to get up very early on Sunday morning. For me, running involves trying to find that elusive balance between running too fast and running too slow. By mile 15, I'm just hanging on for dear life. There's nothing really horrible about a marathon, but you do feel it.

By the way, these days I'm getting beaucoup offers from complete strangers to publish one of their essays on my site or else to offer ads. These emails go straight into my blocked emails folder. I sometimes visit sites that offer ads and I simply detest it. They look -- stupid! They are truly self-defeating. It's obvious that ads have one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to draw your readers' attention away from your content to their ads. You want to do that, you go right ahead. But for me to offer ads would go completely against my goals in blogging. I want to communicate something of value to people, and therefore I don't want anything to distract from my content. I think ads frankly discourage people from visiting your blog. (Are you listening, Patheos?) Besides, you have no control over the ads that your ad platform puts up on your blog. Besides #2, does anybody make money off of ads anyway? I doubt it. Then why literally sell your product for mere pennies on the dollar? Honestly, it makes you look foolish. Someone has said, "Ads are like kicking your visitors goodbye." Yep. Exactly. Folks, we don't need to monetize everything, do we?

Thursday, March 8   

6:54 PM Just had dinner with Jessie, Nathan, and the boys. You bring me such joy!

Happy, happy granddaddy!

11:58 AM Been a great day so far. We're about to make some horse lovers in Durham very happy.

Then there's this new sign at the Y. Pretty cool.

I was too hungry to drive home to eat. The local buffet works just fine, thank you.

Right now I'm working with the good people at the South Boston Y on organizing our first-ever 5K walk/run in May. We'll offer a training program (Couch to 5K) and try to help newbies learn what they can expect during their first race. There are still a lot of tasks to complete, including registration, insurance, water stations, volunteers, awards, and, of course, the ubiquitous race t-shirt. The big challenge right now is finding someone local who can do the chip timing. We hope to get the town's Boy Scout club involved with the aid stations and course monitoring. Our thinking is to use the local Tobacco Heritage Trail as the venue. It would be a flat and easy out-and-back course. This is very exciting for me, needless to say. Anyway, hope your day is going well. I get to take read, write, take a walk, and then join 5 grandsons for dinner. Woohoo!

Thursday, March 8   

8:45 AM Interested in how to do a Greek word study? And to avoid fallacies while you're at it? Here are three resources you can use today to get you started:

7:48 AM Since March is Women's History Month, I thought I'd talk to you about the woman I was married to for 37 years.

Our society tells us that marriage is an end in itself, that marital happiness is a goal to be pursued at all costs. I'm not against happiness in marriage, but that can't be your goal if you're a married person. Joy is always the by-product of having Christ in our lives and in our marriages. As He becomes more and more the center of our relationship, His "fruit" becomes more and more of our daily experience: His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The marriage I'm describing is one that says, with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

The beauty of a married couple – hand in hand, living together for Christ insofar as that is possible in this fallen world – is marvelous. It involves the "new horizons" and "new doors" that C. S. Lewis described in his essay "Christian Marriage":

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go – let it die away – go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow – and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons ought to be appearing and new doors opening all around them.

"New thrills." "All the time." Exactly. Note how the ancient church father Tertullian described a Christian husband and wife (Ad Uxorum 2.9):

Together they pray, they work, they fast, teaching, exhorting, supporting one another…. Willingly the sick person is visited, the poor person is helped – alms without afterthought, sacrifices without hesitancy, daily zeal without obstacle.

Tertullian didn't mean that gender differences disappear in a Christian marriage. That would be an absurdity. His description merely emphasizes that both genders can and must be involved in spiritual activities together, with each person contributing his or her own unique talents and abilities. Each enriches the other. The result is true teamwork, a unity that puts God's needs and desires first rather than their own. Thus, not only do Christian couples seek to please each other, they willingly and actively seek to be faithful to the ultimate goal of reflecting God's glory and grace in the world all around them.

As Becky and I studied the New Testament together, we were surprised to discover that it talks so much about the way women participated in the ministry of the early church. We know that the wives of the apostles accompanied their husbands on their evangelistic journeys (1 Cor. 9:5). Commenting on this verse, Clement of Alexandria concluded that the apostles' wives were "fellow ministers," that is, co-laborers with their husbands as they ministered to others. We also know that women in the early church opened their homes for church meetings. It's interesting to note that Scripture gives us the names of the women in whose homes these churches met more than the names of the men (see Acts 12:12; 16:40; Rom. 16:3-5; Col. 4:15). Moreover, we know that Priscilla (Rom. 16:3), as well as Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3), were Paul's "co-workers." The latter duo went so far as to share Paul's "struggle in the cause of the Gospel," possibly meaning that they were exposed to the same suffering and opposition that the apostle Paul faced. Paul describes Phoebe as "a helper of many, myself included" (Rom. 16:2). The Greek term for "helper" (prostatis) is defined by Doug Moo as "one who came to the aid of others, especially foreigners, by providing housing and financial aid and by representing their interests before the local authorities." Moo thinks Phoebe was "a woman of high social standing and some wealth, who put her status, resources, and time at the service of traveling Christians, like Paul, who needed help and support" (Romans, p. 916). When I first read that description I thought to myself, "He's describing my wife!" Becky and I were glad to be a team (though a frail and imperfect one) in the work the Lord appointed us to. Together we sought to serve both in the practical ministry of meeting the physical and material needs of people as well as in the ministry of the Word. Together we were involved in church planting and evangelism. Together we hosted visitors in our home on a regular basis. The key word is together. We were "co-workers" for Christ – and that without any diminution of our masculinity or femininity.

It's been 4 years and 5 months since the Lord took Becky home. Ironically, during this time I've discovered that loss can also make us more. Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, after his son died in a mountain climbing accident, write a book called Lament for a Son. It includes these powerful words (pp. 96-97):

And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith.... In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there also character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making.

When Becky died, I felt like I was losing who I was. Since part of me was dying in addition to losing Becky, I grieved for myself as well. Today, God has graciously delivered me from that "valley of suffering." Today, I can say with the Psalmist, "I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and He heard me. He set me free from all my fears" (Psa. 34:6).

This is the way of grief. As you continue to remember, the pain subsides. Your grief is infused with hope. You carry a smile instead of a frown. I wrote this post because I wanted you to know what Becky meant to me and how I miss it all -- her smile, her beauty, her laughter, her stubbornness, her wisdom, her partnership in the Gospel. I miss the future we won't have together. Now I'm letting it go -- for the umpteen millionth time -- to live life again, a life that will always be filled with memories of our life together.

I love you, Becky.

Thank you being such a wonderful wife.

You will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, March 7   

5:14 PM Right now I'm listening to an amazing sermon by Nathaniel Armisen called "Kennzeichen Jüngerschaft." Deutlich und klar!

5:02 PM Just back from a long walk on the farm with Sheba. Even though she's deaf and partially blind she still insists on leading the way. My favorite part about farm life? The animals. I will always be amazed at their beauty. Their simplicity. Their loyalty. Even the donkeys bray and the goats baaa when they see me. I am an Alpha Mensch I guess. I know Sheba will eventually leave me, but I'm oh so not ready for that day.

11:44 AM Free book in mint condition. Yours for the asking. Email me at If I get more than one request I'll pick a name out of my kepi. I'll contact the winner this evening at 5:00, so be sure to get your request in before then.

11:24 AM My land, how spoiled we are in America. Much of the world suffers from broken infrastructures, lack of food and water, poverty, and economic injustice. We can indeed help, and help we should. So when I bought my tickets to Dallas for an April visit with mom and dad, I looked for a 5K with a cause, and boy did I find one. It's called Running 4 Clean Water and will be held only a few miles from where I'm staying in Murphy.

The race is a fundraiser for the good people of Sierra Leone. Proceeds will go to clean water projects in that nation. Now, some of my readers may not even know where Sierra Leone is. That's okay. I'm a humble and repentant learner too.

And listen, even if you can't participate in the race, you can still make a contribution (as small as you like -- it don't matter!) by going here.

Go ahead, and make the Old Man proud.

10:22 AM I want to think with you about the arts for a moment. (You thought I was maybe going to bring up politics, eh? No way. You don't come here for my political opinions. Not that I don't have any. Oh, brothers and sisters, do I ever.) As you know, there are seven "liberal" arts:

Grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Then there are the "traditional" arts:

Architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, dance, and performing.

Are you an artist? You probably are, in one of these ways. I've never been good at the "hard" sciences if you know what I mean. But I've always been an art lover. My visit to the Louvre was unforgettable. Or how about seeing the Parthenon for the first time? Or listening to a live concerto? I've dabbled in drawing and painting. See if you can recognize any of these people.

Then there's music. I grew up playing the piano, guitar, trumpet, and -- last but not least! -- the ukulele.

Lately I've been rereading Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer. It's a small book you can read in one sitting.

On p. 7, Schaeffer writes:

As evangelical Christians we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the Lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality.

Oh, how blind we are to this truth! He goes on to say:

The Lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul and redemption is for the whole man. Evangelicals have been legitimately criticized for often being so tremendously interested in seeing souls get saved and go to heaven that they have not cared much about the whole man.

Oh my. That is so true. May I suggest a starting point to rectify this? How about our "worship" music? (Yes, I'm going to inject some opinion here.) I have some tips for performers. Actually, they're not my tips. I'm taking them from Schaeffer. I have three of them:

1) "God is interested in beauty" (p. 15). Have you ever heard Van Halen's Jump? Or Chicago's Baby What a Big Surprise? Or Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor? Or any of the Maranatha Singers' music? Here's a sample called As the Deer.

Notice how this song has what is called "musicality" -- the quality or state of being musical. It includes such qualities as harmoniousness and melodiousness. Anybody trained in pitch, rhythm, and harmony is drawn to such music. In a word, the music is, well, beautiful. I'm not at all surprised. "God is interested in beauty."

2) "The factor that makes art Christian is not that it necessarily deals with religious subject matter" (p. 19). Now that's a powerful statement! Contemporary Christian worship music generally has acceptable lyrics. But musicality involves more than lyrics. Every time I turn on the radio I can immediately tell if a music station is "Christian." That is not meant as a compliment. Writes Schaeffer (p. 31), "Christ is the Lord of our whole life and the Christian life should produce not only truth -- flaming truth -- but also beauty" (emphasis mine). Later on he writes (p. 34), "A work of art has a value in itself." Really? Yep. "For some this principle may seem too obvious [Yessiree, I'm one of those people!], but for many Christians it is unthinkable" (p. 34). He goes on to state that the purpose of art is not just to communicate content. Art is something that God created us to enjoy. In other words, " ... creativity as creativity is a good thing as such" (p. 35). Hence we can't reduce Gospel music to a tract or to an intellectual statement.

3) Finally, "The fact that something is a work of art does not make it sacred" (p. 41). Again, spot on. But I think the obverse is true as well: The fact that something is sacred doesn't necessarily make it a work of art. How, then, can we judge whether something is a work of art? Schaeffer lists four basic standards (p. 41).

  • Technical excellence.

  • Validity.

  • Intellectual content.

  • Integration of content and vehicle.

Read those again.

Christian artists, you were made to excel. So excel (wink). Let your medium match your message. Please stop giving us all light and begin giving us salt too. To the best of your ability. (Perfection not required.) Some say that worship music is acceptable if the words are acceptable. I'm not buying it. Messages are more than words. Hand to the heavens, I'll still love you if you have the nerve to get on stage and try your best to lead me in singing. Thank you! But nothing would make me happier than a growing commitment to musicality. Don't underestimate its magic. Art is not just content; it's holy, sacred ground. (I almost wrote scared.)

I'll give the last word to Schaeffer (p. 63):

No work of art is more important than the Christian's own life, and every Christian is called upon to be an artist in this sense.

8:18 AM Hey folks! Yesterday was quite a day. After getting my van inspected, I drove to the Honda dealer in South Hill to get it detailed. My appointment was at 10:00 and they were finished at 12:00 noon. I was antsy to get to Wake Forest as I had several pressing jobs waiting for me there. But they couldn't hand me my car keys. Seems that the employee who did the detailing had inadvertently gone off to Rocky Mount, NC, with my keys in his pocket and wouldn't be back for another 4 hours. The Honda dealer graciously let me use a loaner to get to work, and when I eventually picked up my van, they charged me nothing for the job.

Last week in Houston I stopped at a Cheddar's for lunch. After a good 25 minutes of waiting for my meal to be served, the manager approached my table with a sheepish look on her face. "The chef completed your meal but dropped the plate. He's working on it again. Please forgive us for making you wait so long for your meal. It will be out shortly." Sure enough, 5 minutes later I was enjoying a delicious chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes. While I was dining the chef himself came out and apologized for his mistake. I sensed that he was being genuine rather than making a forced apology. Finally, before I finished my meal, the restaurant manager returned to my table and asked me how I had enjoyed my meal. Then she apologized a second time and informed me that my lunch was on them.

The lesson? When you make a mistake, make it right. I have to give the dealership and the restaurant a lot of credit for doing just that. You both just made me a customer for life!

One of the qualifications for leadership in the church is "blameless." Obviously this can't mean that Christians never do anything wrong. We do. It just means that when do something wrong, we do what we can to make it right. Of course, it's not always possible to do this. There are some relationships that are so toxic that we have to give ourselves the freedom to walk away. Still, we prioritize peace and reconciliation over disharmony.

To think we can find perfection in anyone, including our leaders, is a pipe dream. Bo Lane, in his book Why Pastors Quit (summarized here), notes the following:

  • 77 percent of pastors believe their marriage is in trouble.

  • 72 percent only read their Bible when preparing a sermon.

  • 30 percent have had affairs.

  • 70 percent are completely lonely.

  • 70 percent feel grossly underpaid.

  • 50 percent feel so discouraged they would leave the pastorate if they had another means of making a living.

  • 50 percent will not last 5 years.

Which is one reason I look for vulnerability and transparency in my leaders. If you're struggling, say it. If you've made a mistake, admit it and make it right. Bench yourself if you need to. We will love you no less. Matthea Glass asks:

What are we in denial about today? Are we struggling to admit that we are powerless to save ourselves? Are [we] still trying to be good enough to be accepted? Are we more focused on our self-worth than God? Is there a stronghold we need to face?

Jesus modeled humble behavior. Church leaders and church people alike are regular old sinners. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Our response to our own failures can either drive us further from God or bring us closer to Him. God prefers the latter. Scripture makes it clear that all we have to do is admit our guilt and trust Him with the rest, including how to "make it right."

Tuesday, March 6   

8:20 AM Here's our "word of the day":

Yep, I heard that term at the ETS conference last Friday. Greg Beale used it to refer to the grammar of the book of Revelation. (Actually, first he said that "Everybody agrees that Revelation contains grammatical errors." Cough. But then he immediately added that these "errors" are intentional allusions to the OT, or, if you will "solecisms.") Our word solecism has a tortuous history:

  • The English word comes the French solécisme.

  • The French got their word from the Latin soloecismus, "a mistake in speaking or writing."

  • The Romans got their word from the Greek soloikismos, "to speak [Greek] incorrectly," from soloikos, "an ungrammatical utterance."

But wait. There's more. Some say that the Greeks were speaking about the people of Soloi, a Greek colony in Cilicia (modern-day Turkey) whose dialect the Greeks considered to be barbarous. (To the ancient Greeks, barbarians were people who couldn't speak Greek correctly.) But back to the book of Revelation. What's going on here? Incorrect grammar? Solecisms? Barbarisms? And does the author use these constructions intentionally or not? And if his use of "incorrect grammar" is intentional, can he still be accused of bad grammar?

And then there's the question of linguistic snobbery. In German-speaking Switzerland, where I got my doctorate, Swiss German was once considered a dialect of German that was to be avoided at all costs. Why? Because it wasn't "German German." Today, Swiss German is used in universities and even in Parliament (as it rightly should be). My native language is Hawaiian Creole ("Pidgin English"), a dialect of Standard English. When I moved to the mainland at the age of 19, people had a hard time understanding my English. But "English" it most certainly was, even if nobody knew what "I'm pau" meant. Today, when I'm in Hawaii, if I speak Hawaiian Creole instead of Standard English, its because I want to. People say that my native dialect sounds like someone is being lazy. Linguists would call this "economy of effort." (You do the same thing when you pronounce "victuals" as "vittles.") For example, in Hawaii we say, "Cute, da baby." Nobody in the Islands has any difficulty understanding exactly what is meant. The background is simple. The Hawaiian for "The baby is cute" is "Nani ka pēpē" -- "Cute, the baby." Generally, we omit the verb "to be" in such sentences. When we want to use a verb of being, the word we usually use is "stay," as in "Wea you stay?," meaning "Where are you?" For the past tense, we use "wen," as in "Jesu wen cry" for "Jesus wept" (see John 11:35), and for the future we use "goin," as in "God goin do plenny kine good stuff fo him" for "God is going to do a lot of good things for him" (see Mark 11:9).

When I was in Basel I spoke High German. It was the only German I knew. But since most of my friends were Swiss, I tried to learn their dialect. I even purchased a Basel German grammar in a local bookstore. Guess what I discovered? That Basel German is as much a fully formed, "rule-bound" language as is Standard (High) German. I try to teach my Greek students that correctness and incorrectness in language is not a matter of linguistics per se but instead a matter of sociolinguistics. What I mean is that people ultimately determine the "rules" of writing and speaking, not grammar books. If everyone says "It's me," then "It's me" is correct (even if the textbooks insist on "It is I"). In fact, in my book It's Still Greek to Me, the chapter on pronouns is called "Woe Is I." Have I made my point?

All pau!


Monday, March 5   

5:18 PM So here's another blog post that is guaranteed to bore you to death or at least put you to sleep. (So what's new, eh?) This afternoon I was sitting in my home library reading Ephesians 4 when I "just happened" (= divine providence no doubt) to come upon a literary device that Paul uses in verse 8. Friend, if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know this is how my mind works. I try to fill in the blanks, sometimes even where no blanks exist. Anyhow, this is what I was reading:

In verse 8 you can see that Paul introduces an OT quote with the words "he says," meaning "God says." We're going to look closely at this for just a few minutes. You see, one of the main arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews is said to be the way the author of Hebrews introduces his OT quotations. Here's a screen shot of an article I found online:

Certainly this distorts things a bit, don't you think? It's an overgeneralization, and an inexact one at that. How do I know? Because I once took the time to compare Hebrews with the 13 authentic Paulines and even wrote a little book on the subject called The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. So I grabbed my book off the shelf and, lo and behold, I was reminded that I had actually discussed this matter, to wit:

So then I grabbed my favorite commentary on Ephesians (written by my former Basel prof Markus Barth) and discovered that he, too, agreed that the words "he says" are Pauline. Here are his exact words (pp. 430-431):

Therefore he says. The quotation formula "he says" is found in several Pauline or other NT writings, and introduces a citation from the Bible of Isreal.

Oh my. Barth goes on to cite Paul's use of the same (or a very similar) introductory formula in Eph. 5:14, Gal. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:16, 2 Cor. 6:2, and Rom. 15:10. In other words, he cites the same examples I cite in my book, and even added one I didn't include (Rom. 15:10). The point Barth's trying to make is that, by using this method of quoting the OT, Paul is making it clear to his audience that he's not quoting "a hymn or perhaps a Targum, rather than a Scripture text" (p. 431).

Again, the evidence seems plain: Paul does indeed use "he says" to introduce quotes from the OT. The facts are obvious. Consequently the argument that Paul introduced OT quotes in one way and the author of Hebrews did so in a completely different way is an argument that fails the smell test. So evidently, we have to throw out that argument. And I haven't even discussed the other internal arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, because honestly?

Listen, this is a one finger pointed at you and three fingers pointing back at me scenario. I haven't always been right. If fact, I've been wrong about a good many things in my 42-year teaching career. This is why the body of Christ is so essential. To keep us thinking. And honest with the data. And true to our (better) selves. I am determined to address my failings, my faux pas (that can be a plural in French too, right?), my eisegesis. And yes, I realize this is a third-tier issue. God gave us a spectacular writing called Hebrews, and we all value it, whatever our position on authorship is.

But if Paul were the author ....

11:10 AM The countdown has begun. Only 5 days to go until my next race, the Four Courts Four Miler in Arlington, VA, just across the Potomac from DC. And the best part is that I get to run it with my new son Tino, who's stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington. I'm planning on spending the weekend with him and Karen in their new digs. Karen is a fantastic chef and, boy, am I ready for some home-cooked food. Here's the course map.

Hmm. Not bad at all. And here's the elevation chart.

Lord have mercy. An uphill at the finish? You've got to be kidding. Finally, here's a picture from last year's race.

Looks colorful -- and crowded. Just the way I like races to be. Weather at race time on Saturday morning is predicted to be a cool 32 degrees with winds out of the Southwest at 8 mph and 68 percent humidity. Nice!

Resting up today so that I can be in good shape for the big match race between Tino and the Old Man.


10:48 AM Well, it's official. I've set the date for our annual Student Work Day at Rosewood Farm. It's Saturday, April 7, from 10:00 to 4:00. Families and friends are invited to attend as well. I've got a list of jobs a mile long if you're inclined and able to help. If not, you are welcome to enjoy the farm trails and fishing in the stocked pond (bass, anyone?). Chores will include cleaning out the water troughs and refilling them with fresh water (like I did with this one today).

What fun it will be!

9:50 AM So what's not to like about the weather? I absolutely love the springtime. It's my favoritest season of the year for sure. Here are some pix to prove it. But before I post them, let me give a shout out to the Lord for being so good to me. I woke up this morning feeling 1,000 percent better. Amazing what Airborne, some cough medicine, and a good night's sleep will do for a tired body. So thank you, Jesus. I really appreciate it.

Sheba and I were gelling on the porch this morning when I heard Nate pull up to the gambrel barn at Maple Ridge for some hay. It took us only about a half an hour to load the trailer but it was so much fun. Afterwards I just had to take some photographs of Maple Ridge and its environs. This is where we lived when we were building Bradford Hall and it has many pleasant memories for me. So I'll post a few pictures with brief captions, but I can guarantee you that they will fail to capture the beauty of God's amazing creation.

1) Maple Ridge (ca. 1811) in all her glory.

2) Trailer (pre-loading).

3) Trailer (post-loading).

4) Trailer loaders!

5) Picking up branches after the weekend windstorm.

6) Starting up the mower for the first time since fall.

7) Love this old building (ca. 1790).

8) Cherry trees in blossom.

9) This red maple is about 150 years old.

10) It, too, is full of buds.

11) Daffodils everywhere.

12) Japonica. Don't you love the red on white?

13) Breath of spring.

14) Heading home on the mower.

15) Breakfast of champions!

Sunday, March 4   

4:20 PM Life is one continual expansion. We are forever occupied with growing up, growing wiser, growing stronger. But this growth doesn't happen in a haphazard way. Life proceeds through stages. In the text from 1 Thessalonians that we'll be going over in two weeks (when we get back from our semester break), 1 Thess. 3:1-5, the emphasis is on one of life's stages -- learning to accept suffering.

What it takes to win over suffering are the virtues and values that Paul passed down to us through the ages. Life is a contact sport. But it's a game anyone can play and play well. Our energies must be directed toward the reshaping of our minds. We must unflaggingly pursue the kingdom way, in the midst of our suffering. Note the reference to Acts 14:22 in my Greek New Testament.

This is the only "sermon" in Acts that is directed toward believers. Every other sermon has non-believers as its audience. In this verse, Paul undoubtedly astonished his audience with his "encouraging message." And what was that? "It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God."

Welcome to reality.

Now let's be clear. Suffering doesn't take God by surprise. As we said earlier, most of us are uptohere in troubles of one sort or another. That's just a fact. But in this passage, Paul clears things up for us. As I studied this text today, I came away with four or five thoughts about what Paul has to say to us in 1 Thess. 3:1-5. I've given them below (in no particular order). But first, our text:

So when we couldn't stand it any longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens while we sent Timothy, our brother who works with us for God in proclaiming the Good News about Christ. We sent him to strengthen you and encourage you in your faith, so that none of you would be shaken up by these persecutions. You yourselves know that suffering is God's will for us. For while we were still with you, we kept telling you again and again that we were going to be persecuted. And that's exactly what happened, as you well know. That's why, when I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to send Timothy to find out about your faith. I wanted to see whether the Tempter had somehow tempted you, making our work a waste of time.

1) The importance of after-care. It's just not natural to give birth and not love the child you sired. One thing I've discovered about ministry is that, when it's done right, there's always follow up. The ways we connect with each other are usually quite typical -- emails, visits, Facebook, phone calls, or sending people in our place. But regardless of the means, we are there for each other. When Paul's churches needed him, he didn't withdraw or pull inward. It takes intentional discipleship to nurture our converts. Paul did this, and he did it well.

2) The glory of teamwork. I often run races and climb mountains alone. But I'm always happiest when I'm doing it with a friend or a family member. I believe that the work of the ministry (to which we are all called, not just so-called "ministers"), is often misunderstood as a solitary pursuit. I hope we can change that notion. I hope we can push back against the Lone Ranger mentality, or the Senior Pastor model. Elders enjoy, as Michael Green has put it, a "fellowship of leadership" -- or at least they can. I love the church because the church has so wonderfully loved me. I love working with my fellow believers in a life of mutuality. It's a choice to lay down our own way and embrace the team. Notice how Timothy and Paul served the Thessalonians -- together. They were partners, if you will. We move toward each other in the body of Christ, like an ellipse, standing together for the sake of the Gospel.

3) We work for God. This truth has always haunted me. Scripture teaches us that, while we serve each other, we are ultimately servants of God first and foremost. Jesus said as much. "I do the will of My Father." At times in my life, I've had the wrong idea of ministry. It was my work. And in a sense it was. But now I realize that "my" work is really the work of God in and through me. I work His works, at least I do when I'm walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. This means so much to me. For one thing, it means that there's only one Person I have to please in life. For another thing, I never have to compare myself with anyone else because it's "God who works all things in all people" (1 Cor. 12:6). I'm both thrilled and terrified by that notion. "What if I'm careless about God's work? What if I fail to meet His standards?" Questions like these aren't bad things. I think they help us to acknowledge just how dependent we are on God to accomplish His will in our lives. And note: the "work" of God is more than vocational ministry. Your work as a housewife or a truck driver might not be big or audacious or obvious or acclaimed but it's no less "sacred work" than that of a fulltime pastor. Please never think otherwise.

4) Suffering is normal. Yep, this is life sometimes. We can't ignore or placate it. Historically, we've always known that God uses suffering to grow His people. Callous hearts require breaking. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the church in Ethiopia grew the most (both numerically and spiritually) when the Marxists took over the government in the 1970s and expelled the missionaries. A Holy Spirit awakening is just that: God disrupts our normal lives so that we wouldn't live "normally" any longer. Today, the story of the church in China or Iran is a story of persecution and great suffering. They are facing the same challenges that the Thessalonian believers faced. I've come to believe that the church in America will one day face the same kind of persecution. If so, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit would remind us that God is upending our greed and selfishness for a reason.

5) Finally, our work can be a waste of time. That's what Paul says. So you think you're an instrument of God's justice and mercy? Is there fruit that lasts? Are your converts acting justly and walking humbly and loving mercy? Plenty of people claim devotion to Christ. But what begins with a simple act must turn into a way of life. The world is watching. Time is flying by.

Is my work in vain?

Is yours?

8:34 AM What I know now that I wish I'd known then ....

1) That less is more. Books tend to be much too long. I know. I used to be an expert in flaunting the rule of brevity. Samuel Johnson once said, "Was there ever yet anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its readers, excepting Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and The Pilgrim's Progress?" Overwriting is a curse. Which is one reason my books are getting shorter and shorter.

Now, blog posts are another story ....

2) That there are no Abra Cadabras in the Christian life. Gimmicks simply don't work. I'm so done with platitudes and worn-out clichés. There are no "secrets" to walking in the Spirit -- except perhaps for actually walking in the Spirit. Oh my, the days I wasted attending that seminar or reading that book. Each guaranteed me the Promised Land. I think my discovery of the difference between books about the Bible and the Bible itself -- a discovery which, by the way, shouldn't have been a discovery at all -- has changed my whole outlook on life. I tend to agree with those who say that sermons have a proper place but we can't become dependent on them for our knowledge of God's word. At best, they are a supplement.

3) That the kingdom of God is the work of each and every believer. That helps me to understand why I am placed on this earth. I can leverage every gift God has blessed me with in service to Jesus and others, whether it's a musical talent, an artistic bent, or a teaching ability. When we begin to see all of life as sacred, then we begin to embody God's greatest dreams for us.

4) That my body is a temple. I doubt it's possible to overstate this truth. The reality is that there are no shortcuts to caring for the temple. You have to deal with the body you have, not the body you want. And in the search for health, there's always something new to learn or some new goal to struggle after. As Christians, we don't view the body as the Gnostics did. We see the body as Paul did -- clean and wholesome, a twin sister to the soul. Our goal is to make the parts a whole, and to do that we have to make good choices. The real contest is within.

5) That living requires dogged endurance. I guess that's why I love marathons so much. They are tough, tedious, painful, and tiring -- but they draw us again and again to escape our ordinary humdrum lives and reach out for something new. Life consists of setting goals and striving to reach them by the sheer grace of God. All of that is there in the marathon.

6) That only Jesus can heal a broken heart. And whose heart isn't broken? I know that everyone has a very different story when it comes to suffering pain and loss. But loss occurs to all. That's why after Becky's death I began to reorient my life around the only person who I know really understands my light and darkness, my hope and despair. I want to see more of His light. He grows lovelier to me with each passing day. I don't need to wait for the sweet by and by for healing, at least partial healing. Jesus' presence in our lives allows us to live out our faith in a real way, in real life, and with real people.

7) That life is a celebration of the goodness of our God. God's heart for us is happiness. He desires shalom for us, a deep and abiding joy. In fact, loss and pain only deepen that joy. We now hold to things loosely. Jesus is our satisfaction. His love always wins in the end.

7:45 AM I was hoping to get in a good long walk this afternoon. Instead, I'm sitting here nursing a head cold. Later I'll go outdoors and bask in the sunshine. It's a gorgeous day here in Southside. If you want big city life, you can have it. Northern Virginia is one of the fastest growing regions of the nation. But I'll settle for my local neighborhood where life is slower but every bit as rich. If you live here I'm not telling you anything you don't know. I've noticed the recent influx of residents exchanging the heat of Phoenix and the humidity of Florida for the green forests of Southern Virginia. Welcome to one and all. Sure, our winters can get cold and our summers can get hot. But the spring and the fall? Makes everything else worth it. The only problem is that once you get used to not seeing another car on the road for 15 minutes, you can't drive in Raleigh any more. Right now I'm planning another "Student Work Day" on the farm. We'll probably have it in April. I've got a list of farm repairs as long as my arm. Plus I've stocked the pond. These events are for the entire family and are always great fun. Of course, I'm happy to serve lunch to everybody.

So today I just plainly need a day off, a day to rejuvenate my body, especially after the comical outing I had the past few days. Some days it's good to be active. Some days it's good to be a spectator.

Saturday, March 3   

8:50 PM Hey folks! Long time no talk. Well, it's actually only been two days, but it seems like a lifetime. I have to admit that this was one of the most "interesting" trips I've ever made -- a comedy of errors, in many ways. Not that there weren't lots of good times. There were. So I'll try and describe for you the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY.


The conference was phenomenally well organized and each paper I heard was outstanding. The venue was the Houston campus of SWBTS.

Texas must be an open carry state because I saw at least two guys packing heat on their right hip. Anyways, here the keynote speaker Greg Beale takes us on a tour of the use of the Old Testament in the New, a topic about which he is eminently qualified to speak.

My favorite paper may have been the one given by my buddy Boyd Luter.

Boyd and I go way back, in fact all the way back to our Talbot days together.

At the time, I was teaching New Testament while he was in the CE department. He's just one of several good friends I enjoy catching up with at these meetings. Here we have, from left to right, Charles Savelle (OT prof at SWBTS), Boyd (who currently teaches at the King's University in Dallas), and Craig Price (NT prof at NOBTS). Great guys all.

I thought my paper went well. It was an honor and joy to give it.

Finally, I got to speak German with a couple who were visiting Houston from Frankfurt. I think that made their day. I know it did mine.


Okay, things happen in life you have no control over. Like sitting next to two drunks on my flight from Raleigh to Houston who talked (yelled) at each other the whole way. Like the hotel I was booked into that was literally yards from the Interstate and left me in a sleepless stupor for most of the trip. Like the classy (*sarcasm*) dude or dude-ess in South Houston who decided to walk off with the rear view mirror of my rental car while it was parked overnight in the hotel lot.

Or like the broken vent on my flight home today that blew cold air on my head for three hours straight (yes, I'm sniffling again). So what am I saying? Life is never what we expect. The good news is that just as we can't anticipate the sad stuff, we can't anticipate the happy stuff either. Personally, I like my trips to be go better than this one did, but the good made up for the bad. As usual, I just try to make the most of life and, honestly, we can't always expect that everything's going to be perfect. I need to remember how blessed I am more often than I do.


While I was reporting the theft to the hotel manager, a guy comes up to me and volunteers: "I'm not surprised this happened to you. Houston of full of [N word] and wet backs." Boy did that make me angry. I have zero sympathy for people who talk like that. Some people need to think before they speak. There are bigger problems in this world than stolen mirrors. Funny thing, we talked about anger in our Greek class just last week (the subject comes up when you're discussing the textual variant in Matt. 5:22). God's not incapable of righteous anger and neither are we. But if we're honest with ourselves, we easily fall prey to unrighteous anger and just plain "lose our cool." Someone has defined righteous indignation as becoming angry about God's will being violated. Unrighteous indignation is becoming angry because our will is being violated. Just think of all the people in the Bible who got angry and regretted it, including Cain, Moses, Balaam, Ahab, Haman, Esau, and Absalom. Anyhow, I let it go. Chances are, I wouldn't have gotten very far with this gentleman anyway. By the way, my thanks to officer Mesa of the Houston Police Department for his outstanding job of taking my report. A pleasure to meet you, sir. 

Looks like I'll be back in Texas in April to visit with mom and dad and do a 5K race in Garland. We'll also plan on attending the annual spring concert of the bestest barbershop men's chorus in the world, the Vocal Majority. The theme this year is "There's No Business Like Show Business." Can't wait for the show. And for more real barbeque.



Thursday, March 1   

10:40 AM Okay. I have my plan all set. Arrive in Houston around dinner time. Grab a bite to eat. Read my paper tomorrow, then have dinner with friends at a rib joint. Listen to papers Saturday morning then jump on a plane and head home. I'm really looking forward to getting caught up with my pals. Now, hopefully, I will overcome whatever ails me and rock my next step. Wish me well!  

8:15 AM Morning friends! So how am I feeling today? I'm feeling a good deal better than I felt yesterday. I actually slept in to 7:00 am this morning, which I never do. Giving up control of our bodies to the Lord is about as difficult as starting to eat clean. We prefer status quo and security. But even if you've only scanned the New Testament, you know that's not God's priority. And so I'm learning, gradually, to trust Him with my body. Just as we have our children for a season ("They're young and then they're grown"), so we have our earthly bodies for a limited time. I only have one body, one heart, one set of skin. My body is God's miracle gift to me -- not only in the Sonic-boom moments of life but also when my body takes out the trash or pulls weeds or stands in a classroom or sniffles with a head cold. I will carry this body with me for the rest of my days, so I guess I had better learn how to take good care of it. Anyway, I'm still flying to Houston today and am really looking forward to seeing many old friends there. 

Speaking of Houston, Amy Walker's tour of American accents brought a big smile to my face. I think she nails the Southern patois. Funny thing, Becky pretty much lost her Texas accent after she moved to California to attend Biola. But get that pretty Southern belle back to Texas and she would unconsciously slip into her beautiful accent.

Also speaking about Houston, I'm rereading Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas, who is writer-in-residence at Second Baptist Houston.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • It's not about obtaining a "holy" body; it's about coming to terms with gluttony (over-eating) and sloth (laziness when it comes to caring for our bodies).

  • "[O]vereating and overindulgence lead to deprivation" (p. 22).

  • Good health is an ongoing battle but one worth fighting.

  • We can't only live from the chin up; we are a combination of body, mind, and spirit.

  • A healthy body is a fit home for a vibrant spirit.

  • By caring for our bodies we honor and love God.

  • It's not just how much we eat but what we eat.

  • "Hunger is a sensation, nothing more. It should never become my Lord and Master" (p. 58).

  • It's never right to disparage people because they are overweight.

  • "The Body Mass Index (BMI) isn't found in Scripture" (p. 80).

  • There may be spiritual reasons for why we gain weight.

  • "[F]itness isn't [just] about avoiding disease; it's about avoiding frailty" (p. 114).

  • Good health is not about good looks but about being fit for active service to God.

  • "[M]otivation is 99 percent of the battle" (p. 160).

Totally agree! We should all pursue good health to the extent we are able. For me, this isn't merely a physical or biological move, but a kingdom action. Through exercise we'll never overturn the curse of the fall. In fact, good health can sometimes get in the way of seeing God's grace and the need for Him. We can get so busy with exercise that it's easy to forget or ignore the beauty that God wants to create in our inner being. How to obtain this balance? Don't ask me, because I don't have the foggiest idea. I'm still trying to figure this one out. But one thing is clear: if I'm to continue to travel for kingdom work, I need to stay in good physical condition. On the the hand, let me state emphatically: our wounds (spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, etc.) do not disqualify us from ministry. In fact, God often uses our weaknesses to display His overarching power. Why, I believe I once wrote a book on that subject.

Incidentally, yesterday I mentioned that I was blessed out of my (stinking running) socks by Tuesday's chapel message by James Merritt.

He reminded us that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Jesus was, in other words, perfectly balanced. How can you tell if your church is imbalanced? Churches that make you feel condemned all the time are imbalanced. Churches that make you feel comfortable all the time are imbalanced. "Jesus," said Merritt, "did not offend all of the people all of the time, but He did offend some of the people some of time." If we're full of Jesus, we'll be full of grace and truth. If our churches are full of Jesus, they'll be full of grace and truth. Most of us, said Merritt, are imbalanced toward either being a Gracer or a Truther. We err either on the grace side or on the truth side. Then he got into the meat of his message and made three points:

1) We need the compassion of grace.

2) We need the conviction of truth.

3) We need the combination of grace and truth.

To quote Merritt:

  • "The Gospel needs both wings to get off the ground."

  • "Jesus was not 50 percent grace and 50 percent truth. He was 100 percent grace and truth."

  • "The Devil doesn't care which side of the horse we fall off as long as we don't stay in the saddle" (quoting Martin Luther).

Now that's the truth! I want to lived a more balanced life. How about you? Are you more a Gracer than a Truther? Or vice versa? We either err on one side or the other. You can (and should!) listen to this marvelous message here.

Finally (for now), here's a screen shot of a page from A. T. Robertson's "Big Grammar" that we read in our Greek 4 class this week.

Note the word in parentheses: Sesquipedalian. In his Ars Poetica, Horace warned his students not to use sesquipedalian verba, or "foot and a half long words." As others have pointed out, by using such a verbal monstrosity, Horace was nicely illustrating the very thing he was criticizing.

Ya gotta love languages!

February 2018 Blog Archives

January 2018 Blog Archives

December 2017 Blog Archives

November 2017 Blog Archives

October-June 2017 Blog Archives

May 2017 Blog Archives

April 2017 Blog Archives

March 2017 Blog Archives

February 2017 Blog Archives

January 2017 Blog Archives

December 2016 Blog Archives

November 2016 Blog Archives

October 2016 Blog Archives

September 2016 Blog Archives

August 2016 Blog Archives

July 2016 Blog Archives

June 2016 Blog Archives

May 2016 Blog Archives

April 2016 Blog Archives

March 2016 Blog Archives

February 2016 Blog Archives

January 2016 Blog Archives

December 2015 Blog Archives

November 2015 Blog Archives

October 2015 Blog Archives

September 2015 Blog Archives

August 2015 Blog Archives

July 2015 Blog Archives

June 2015 Blog Archives

May 2015 Blog Archives 2

May 2015 Blog Archives

April 2015 Blog Archives

March 2015 Blog Archives

February 2015 Blog Archives

January 2015 Blog Archives

December 2014 Blog Archives

November 2014 Blog Archives

October 2014 Blog Archives

September 2014 Blog Archives

August 2014 Blog Archives

July 2014 Blog Archives

June 2014 Blog Archives

May 2014 Blog Archives

April 2014 Blog Archives

March 2014 Blog Archives

February 2014 Blog Archives

January 2014 Blog Archives

December 2013 Blog Archives

November 2013 Blog Archives

October 2013 Blog Archives

September 2013 Blog Archives

August 2013 Blog Archives

July 2013 Blog Archives

June 2013 Blog Archives

May 2013 Blog Archives

April 2013 Blog Archives

March 2013 Blog Archives

February 2013 Blog Archives

January 2013 Blog Archives

December 2012 Blog Archives 2

December 2012 Blog Archives

November 2012 Blog Archives

October 2012 Blog Archives

September 2012 Blog Archives

August 2012 Blog Archives

July 2012 Blog Archives

June 2012 Blog Archives

May 2012 Blog Archives

April 2012 Blog Archives

March 2012 Blog Archives

February 2012 Blog Archives

January 2012 Blog Archives

December 2011 Blog Archives 2

December 2011 Blog Archives 1

November 2011 Blog Archives

October 2011 Blog Archives

September 2011 Blog Archives

August 2011 Blog Archives

July 2011 Blog Archives

June 2011 Blog Archives

May 2011 Blog Archives

April 2011 Blog Archives

March 2011 Blog Archives

February 2011 Blog Archives

January 2011 Blog Archives

December 2010 Blog Archives

November 2010 Blog Archives

October 2010 Blog Archives

September 2010 Blog Archives

August 2010 Blog Archives

July 2010 Blog Archives

June 2010 Blog Archives

May 2010 Blog Archives

April 2010 Blog Archives

March 2010 Blog Archives

February 2010 Blog Archives

January 2010 Blog Archives

December 2009 Blog Archives

November 2009 Blog Archives

October 2009 Blog Archives

September 2009 Blog Archives

August 2009 Blog Archives

July 2009 Blog Archives

June 2009 Blog Archives

May 2009 Blog Archives

April 2009 Blog Archives

March 2009 Blog Archives

February 2009 Blog Archives

January 2009 Blog Archives

November 2008 Blog Archives

October 2008 Blog Archives

September 2008 Blog Archives

August 2008 Blog Archives

July 2008 Blog Archives

June 2008 Blog Archives

May 2008 Blog Archives

April 2008 Blog Archives

March 2008 Blog Archives

February 2008 Blog Archives

January 2008 Blog Archives

December 2007 Blog Archives

November 2007 Blog Archives

October 2007 Blog Archives

September 2007 Blog Archives

August 2007 Blog Archives

June-July 2007 Blog Archives

May 2007 Blog Archives

April 2007 Blog Archives

March 2007 Blog Archives

February 2007 Blog Archives

January 2007 Blog Archives

Nov-Dec 2006 Blog Archives

October 2006 Blog Archives

September 2006 Blog Archives

August 2006 Blog Archives

July 2006 Blog Archives

June 2006 Blog Archives

May 2006 Blog Archives

April 2006 Blog Archives

March 2006 Blog Archives

February 2006 Blog Archives

January 2006 Blog Archives

Nov-Dec 2005 Blog Archives

October 2005 Blog Archives

September 2005 Blog Archives

August 2005 Blog Archives

May 2005 Blog Archives

April 2005 Blog Archives

March 2005 Blog Archives

February 2005 Blog Archives

January 2005 Blog Archives

December 2004 Blog Archives

November 2004 Blog Archives

October 2004 Blog Archives

September 2004 Blog Archives

August 2004 Blog Archives

July 2004 Blog Archives

June 2004 Blog Archives

May 2004 Blog Archives

April 2004 Blog Archives

March 2004 Blog Archives

February 2004 Blog Archives

January 2004 Blog Archives

December 2003 Blog Archives

November 2003 Blog Archives