May 2015 Blog Archives 2
Saturday, May 30
5:28 PM A "few" pix:
1) Love the 747!
2) Nice serendipity: Approaching Honolulu Airport we flew right over Kailua Bay. I "just happened" to have a window seat where I could enjoy the view. Isn't God good?
3) Pearl Harbor and Ford Island.
Interestingly, the initial blow on Dec. 7 came, not at Pearl, but on the windward side of Oahu at Kaneohe Air Station, where the Japanese suffered their first aircraft loss of the attack. During the war, pillboxes became a common site in Kailua, and their remnants can still be seen.
4) My cottage at the beach.
5) Recognize this? :-)
6) Sunrise at Kailua Beach.
7) Loved reading Scripture at the beach.
8) The exact spot where I was baptized in 1960 at the age of 8.
9) Our house on Kanaha Street.
10) We lived in an apartment when I was in high school. They've since been renovated. A new one-bedroom condo in this complex starts at a mere $700,000.
11) I was quite active during my stay in Kailua (one of my daughters dubbed it "Operation Getfit"). I walked a couple of miles every morning and every evening. I also swam in the municipal pool.
12) My daily walks took me past my former elementary school.
Here it was on a dark December morning in 1963 that the student body assembled on the lawn to pay tribute to President Kennedy. The school had a tiny 5-piece band with one trumpet player, who proceeded to play "taps." I was that fifth-grader.
13) The trail to the Lanikai pillbox.
14) Here breathtaking views await you, including this sunrise over the Mokulua (Twin) Islands.
15) Great view of Kailua Bay as well.
16) Here is the as-yet-pristine Waimanalo Beach.
17) View from Diamond Head facing Waikiki Beach.
18) I got three square meals out of these Chinese dishes.
19) Ever since I was a child I've wanted to join a canoe club. This trip I did. The Windward Kai Canoe Club works especially with youth to keep them off the streets.
20) Finally, a video panorama of Windward Oahu for your viewing pleasure.
4:30 PM My "theme song" in Hawaii:
3:58 PM Fan boy alert!
As you know, I just spent 9 days at Kailua Beach on Oahu. Oahu is Hawaii's third largest island and includes some of the world's most famous beaches. In fact, Waimanalo Beach -- just south of Kailua Bay -- has just been named Best Beach of 2015. (Kailua Beach won the top spot so many times it was "retired" from competition.) Oahu is actually very small, a mere 44 miles long and 30 miles wide. For comparison, my drive to Wake Forest is about 45 miles one way. As a child I used to think, "Honolulu is so far from Kailua!" The distance is actually under a dozen miles. You could put Oahu into the state of Connecticut 9 times. Yet despite its diminutive size, Oahu is incredibly gorgeous and the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands. To me, the best thing about Hawaii is its natural beauty and perfect weather. You have no idea just how spectacular the Koolau Mountain Range (that divides Kailua from Honolulu) is until you see it. But the beaches will always be the attraction for me. I think it's accurate to say that I didn't live near the ocean as a child but in it, coming to land to eat and sleep. I was enchanted by the endless sea, some days nothing but blue and on others dancing with white caps. Tunnels through the Koolaus would eventually turn the little village of Kailua into a gigantic suburb of Honolulu. Into this suburb our family moved in 1955, when I was 3. Some 60 years later I came back and faced seaward. I was "home" in a sense, in a watery wilderness known as Windward Oahu.
Kailua is where my memories began. The town I was raised in had a quaintness factor of about 15 out of 5 stars. Growing up there I was your typical keiki (kid) -- fun-loving, curious about everything, and seemingly always getting myself hurt, from riding my bike into a moving car to getting hit on the chin with my surf board resulting in several stitches to getting punched out by the local mokes. Our family didn't have a whole lot of money and survived on spam and what my mother used to call "Romanian Chop Suey" -- cut up pieces of hot dogs sautéed with onions and served over rice. I must have attended school (I have diplomas) but I remember very little about my classes. Seems me and my friends were always at the beach. My first fulltime job was on the Kaneohe Marine Base as an electrician's helper. I did that for two summers. During my junior and senior years of high school I also played the trumpet professionally in a soul band. We played all of the officers' clubs on the island. After graduating from Kailua High School in 1970, I attended the University of Hawaii for a year to study music. At the age of 19, I left for Biola in California and never took up residence in Hawaii again. Since Becky's death I have felt a strong desire to return to Kailua, my home away from home. I brought Becky here for our honeymoon and several times since. Everywhere I go I see her smiling at me, a fragrant plumeria flower in her ear. That seems a long time ago now, another world. Spouses never die; they live on in the brain forever.
Back in the 50s and 60s, Kailua was a small town with hardly any traffic or tourists. For us kids, it was a gigantic playground. As I said, I grew up surfing -- a lot. Kailua Bay has many types of breaks to entice a teenager to the beach: the shore break at Kailua Beach, the point break at Mokapu (the Marine base), the reef break about a mile offshore, and even island breaks -- specifically Popoia Island (Flat Island) and the Mokulua Islands (Twin Islands). You'll see these islands in many of the pictures that have made Kailua so famous. On this trip it took me all of one day to adjust to wearing rubber slippers, swim trunks, and a t-shirt (optional) -- and to chuckle at all the clothes we wear on the mainland. Street names from my childhood came back to me immediately -- Kalaheo Ave., Kainalu Rd., Kaha Place, Kaimake Loop, Maluniu Ave., and (of course) Kanaha St., where we built in 1955. You sense the "aloha" spirit of the islands as soon as you arrive. For me, being in Hawaii means coming back to a place where the people of many cultures get along together as ohana (family). When I was born in the Territory of Hawaii in 1952 (before statehood), the population of the islands was a half million. Today it is one and a half million. That largely explains the horrific traffic problem the islands are experiencing, largely because the roads are under-built and not wide enough to handle the 1-million-plus vehicles registered in the state. Taxes are ridiculously high, and good-paying jobs are scarce. Disposable income is 41 percent higher in Durham, NC, than in Honolulu. A home at Kailua Beach will you cost you at least 3 million dollars -- and Kailua has plenty of people (many from the mainland and Japan) who can afford it. Grocery prices are astronomical. On the positive side, the food is off the charts. The cuisine is largely a mixture of Hawaiian, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and Filipino. And while traffic is a headache, people are gracious and will stop to let you in their lane at the drop of a hat. "What about racism?" you ask. I've experienced some in Hawaii, but not a whole lot. There are more multi-racial Americans living in Hawaii than in any other state. Growing up, of course, I had to endure "Kill Haole Day" once a year (the last day of school), but I generally found that if you have a cool attitude you'll get along fine. I lived in Hawaii long enough to understand the manner of life in the islands. I can also speak Pidgin, which helps, especially outside of Honolulu. People who "talk stink" about Hawaii probably just don't understand our culture very well. Hawaii is both beautiful and complex. Example: The Aloha State has the longest life expectancy in the U.S. (81.3 years). The people of Hawaii also consume the most spam per capita in the U.S. (You figure it out.) If you do ever visit the islands, my advice to you is very simple: be nice to everyone you meet, say "mahalo" a lot, and show respect to the locals, and there will be few tensions if any at all. Hawaii is where I learned not to merely tolerate ethnic diversity but to love it. The neighborhood where I grew up had one haole family (us), plus Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and Japanese households. The most common surnames in Hawaii are Lee, Smith, Wong, Fernandez, Nguyen, and Kim. We used to joke that most people in Hawaii were "chop suey" -- half this nationality and half that. But we went to school together, played together, and surfed and swam together -- and (for the most part) enjoyed each other. "Everyone is a minority in Hawaii" is more than a saying. Come to Hawaii and you'll make friends from all nationalities. My point is this: Live a life of aloha, and always remember -- you get what you give in life. But be prepared to run on "island time" (why rush?) -- and to enjoy the great surf, the warm sun, the golden-sand beaches, and the aloha spirit.
Many people who were born and raised in Hawaii attended college on the mainland and ended up staying. Could I ever live in Kailua again? Honestly, I think I'd get "island fever" if I ever lived there. (There's plenty on the mainland I still want to see.) Between 1950 and 1960, Kailua's population surged from 7,740 to 25,622 -- an expansion rate never matched before or since in Hawaii. In 1960, Kailua replaced Hilo on the Big Island as the second largest community in the state. Flat Island and the Mokuluas are now overrun with tourists, so much so that many locals are asking, "Will Kailua become the next Waikiki?" The construction of the gigantic 130,000-square-feet Target store in Kailua (it opened in March of this year) probably sealed the fate of the town. Once a quaint seaside community devoid of big-city trappings, Kailua is now a busy regional tourist and shopping destination. In a sense, Kailua will always be home for me. From the ages of 3 to 19 I lived within the gentle embrace of the Koolaus and the ocean. Kailua sits in the caldera of a great extinct volcano, the eastern edges of which have long since eroded away to form Kailua Bay. In the western sky one can see the great, brooding summit of Konahuanui, the highest point (3,150 feet) in Windward Oahu's 33-mile Koolau Range. The fluted cliffs of the Koolaus point me beyond the island, to a Home in a far better "Paradise" than Hawaii could ever be.
Thursday, May 21
3:36 AM Aloha oe.
Wednesday, May 20
4:32 PM I'm packing for my trip. Let's see...
3:40 PM Thrilled that Nate and Jessie now have four boys. Their latest arrived this morning at 5:07. All are doing well. Family is a blessing.
9:15 AM Oh the memories....
8:05 AM Mark Twain on Hawaii:
My "home away from home" in Kailua:
Tuesday, May 19
8:00 PM Being an incurable tinkerpreneur, I've dabbled in a lot of different things in my 62 years, but unreasonable risk-taking has never appealed to me. That's why I have very mixed feelings as I contemplate the death of wingsuiter/daredevil Dean Trotter yesterday in Yosemite. Someone has said that Dean lived more in his 43 years than most men live in 100 years. That he was a risk-taker, nobody would doubt. I'm all for pushing oneself to one's limits. Within limits. We all take risks on a daily basis. (You say, "I don't take risks!" Do you drive a motor vehicle?) I've never BASE-jumped or sky dived, but for 15 years I rode my horses full out over hill and dale. A few unplanned dismounts at 25 miles per hour, and you're likely to realize it's time for a change of avocations. Yet there is a certain part of me that respects Dean Trotter and anyone who dies doing what they really love. What I don't understand is their craving for danger. (Heard of Mustang Wanted?)
In one of his final interviews, Dean said that "every death has a lesson." The lessons for me? I will take risks, but not for their own sake. And I will continue to enjoy flying -- in an airplane.
5:05 PM So what to do on Oahu besides surf?
I'm staying in a cottage only a block from where I grew up. How cool is that. Like most homes in Kailua, the kitchen sink has three spigots: one for hot water, one for cold water, and one for pineapple juice. Just kidding, brah. Most of all, I'm planning on spending lots of time with the Lord and His creation. Wish me well!
4:12 PM This says it all. :-)
Monday, May 18
5:20 PM The poetry of Richard Avedon:
The camera lies? Indeed it does. And it's one reason I love photography so much. I love its subjectivity, it garrulousness, its hubris. When you take a picture you have to make a thousand choices. What if you had taken the picture a second earlier, or a second later? Would the faces have looked the same? What if you moved the camera a bit to the right or to the left? Were the faces smiling before you took the picture, or afterwards? For me, pictures always raise more questions than answer them. For example, I wonder who took this picture of Becky and me so many years ago.
What was the occasion? Were we as naive and happy as the photo makes us look? "The camera lies all the time." Becky stares at me in this picture. Her eyes entrap me. When I see her again, what will she look like? Young and vibrant, as in this memory? Ravaged by disease, as I last remember seeing her? Heaven is another reality. I cannot say what Becky will look like. But I'm sure God can.
Dave, there is a future and there is a plan. It is what made you and Becky see the world so differently from those who weren't able to share your cancer journey. Nothing you do can lead to peace -- not the traveling or the writing or the activity or the shutting yourself off from others. "In acceptance lieth peace" (Amy Carmichael). God is asking you to accept the small discipline of loneliness so that you might walk with Him in greater intimacy. That is indeed a gift.
"I believe, Lord; help Thou my unbelief!"
2:18 PM In the Palestine of Jesus' day, the religious authorities enjoyed an allegiance with the imperial forces that were occupying their nation. In the Gospels, Jesus is consistently portrayed as resisting both the religious and political authorities of His day. Political allegiances are always problematic for followers of Jesus. This is true in today's American politics as well. When I heard a certain Republican candidate for president's belligerent talk yesterday -- "If I'm president of the United States and you're thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL, I'm not gonna call a judge. I'm gonna call a drone and we will kill you" -- I could certainly see where he was coming from. Whereas the teachings of Jesus should be a check and a critical corrective to such statements, the assumption among many conservatives today is that world power is politics. They are right, of course. Yet it might be helpful to admit, with Kierkegaard, that much of evangelical Christianity today is "playing Christianity" -- a child's game, a counterfeit even, an ersatz Christianity that masquerades as genuine Christianity but lacks any substance or depth. Being a disciple of King Jesus is meant to be a game-changer. If we are not very careful, political loyalties can easily displace our allegiance to Christ. And if we are not very careful, American Christianity can become so diluted that it ends up mixing easily with allegiances that demand killing without due process of law. Indeed, this already seems to be happening in our nation.
12:54 PM Living where I do is country living at its best. There are so many amenities you can't find in the city. For example, this morning I needed to see a doctor about a suspicious growth on my leg. Thinking it might be a carcinoma, I didn't want to wait to have it checked. I called the local clinic (the only one in town) and they said, "Sure, come in right away. The doctor will be happy to see you." Since I was a walk-in I had to wait about an hour, but I used this time getting caught up on my emails. I was in and out in no time. After that I drove over to the local Ace Hardware store. I needed more pallets for my square bales and I noticed that they had some sitting next to their building. "Any chance I could buy a couple of pallets from you today?" I asked. "Oh no," was the reply," they're free. Just hep [sic] yourself." As I was pulling into the Ace parking lot a fellow reminded me that the tail light was out on my van. So I get on the phone and call the one-and-only mechanic in town. "As much as I love Mecklenburg County and its Sherriff Department, I really don't want to get a ticket. Any chance I could have the light replaced today?" "Bring it right in," the mechanic says, and I did. Five minutes later I drove away with a brand new light bulb. While driving through town I saw that the Farmer's Market was open again for the summer. The tomatoes were unbelievable -- freshly picked from fields in Florida. Ditto for the field corn. And who could pass on the fresh peaches?
Of course, country life lacks cultural events of any magnitude, but I'm only an hour and a half from Raleigh's Performing Arts Center. Our fair city of Clarkesville at least has a Food Lion where I can get anything I need. I think rural living is best suited for people who like a slower pace of life and cheaper prices on just about everything. Even when we lived in La Mirada, California, we had 21 fruit trees and a vegetable garden and donkeys and goats and chickens and horses -- all on a third of an acre. We actually had something called a yard. Here people say "hello" and seem to genuinely mean it. You feel part of a real community. And more often than not, you can see the doctor the same day you call.
1) Free pallets.
2) Organic fruits and vegetables.
3) I bought these beauties.
Can't wait to have my first mater sandwich for lunch tomorrow. Corn on the cob with a steak for supper tonight. And for dessert? Why, peaches and vanilla ice cream, of course.
4) Food Lion to the rescue.
5) Lunch today. Tuna on rye with avocado and mango juice.
9:02 AM Quote of the day:
Who said it? (Hint: His initials are DAB.)
8:52 AM The lives of 440 passengers are at risk when an engine explodes aboard a Qantas A380. It's quite a story. You can view it below:
There were 5 pilots on the flight deck that day, and the story of how they saved a dying aircraft is amazing, as this blog post points out. If you are a Christian leader or aspire to be one, you need to watch the video and read this post. The pull quotes:
A few thoughts:
1) God's pattern for church leadership is shared leadership.
2) Leaders listen to each other.
3) Friction disappears when we are willing to recede into the group.
4) You get what you pay for. Qantas invests millions in pilot training and it shows.
5) Earnestness is not unction. You, as a leader, might be certain where the church should be heading, but you may be dead wrong.
6) With blessings come dangers. Pilots are admired and respected, but the job can easily become hell on earth.
7) Good leaders do not dodge issues; they confront them head on. And there will be plenty of them.
I am not a leader, formally at least. I have never been a local church elder nor do I ever anticipate becoming one. I simply lack the desire (1 Tim. 3:1). But I know a good leader when I see one. And a bad one too. For the latter, Christianity has become a charm to wear around the neck, a kind of ornamentation -- like cake for special events rather than bread for daily living. The "I" has never been crossed out. Faultily faultless, they listen to no one. Like the Pharisees, they are fussy about pots and pans, but sinners and harlots are entering the kingdom before them.
If you have good local church leadership, thank God for it. It is a blessing.
Sunday, May 17
7:35 PM Most people know that I was born and bred in the Deep South -- the southernmost state in the Union, in fact. Hawaii. Before you laugh, just remember that the kingdom of Hawaii saw its share of Union troops when the U.S. illegally annexed it in 1898. When I was very young we used to play "Civil War" in my dirt garage, and somehow I always ended up being the Virginian in grey. I remember reading about places like Gettysburg and Antietam Creek and battles like First Bull Run and Chancellorsville. I bet I knew as much about the American Civil War as any kid my age who grew up in the Islands. I first began to get interested in actually visiting these sites after I had moved to California and had gotten married. Since then I have made it a point to stop at historical markers, visit battlefields, and read a good deal about this period in our history. What amazes me is how ignorant I still am about the war despite all my study and reading and traveling. This weekend, for example, I decided that since I was going to Fredericksburg to watch Karen run the Marine Corps Half Marathon, I might as well squeeze in a visit to some of the lesser-known sites of the war. Like hundreds of others before me, I went off the beaten path and was hugely rewarded for my efforts. Below are just a few of the sites I got to see this trip. The National Park Service deserves my thanks -- and the thanks of Americans everywhere -- for the outstanding work they do to preserve many of the places I've visited. In particular, I want to thank Frank O'Reilly for his excellent guided tour yesterday at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Park. He spoke about Stonewall Jackson's wounding there in May of 1863. One of the more famous battlefield tour guides, Frank O'Reilly is perhaps best known for his treatise on the Fredericksburg Battle -- a copy of which I bought for Nathan (since I already own one) and which Frank was kind enough to inscribe. I can think of several reasons why what took place at the Chancellorsville crossroads was pivotal in terms of the outcome of the war, but the wounding and subsequent death of Lee's most aggressive commander surely ranks at the top.
I got back home just in time to get up more hay, very grateful for the dry weather the Lord has granted me (and a million other farmers in the Piedmont) of late. There's more haying to be done next week, if the weather permits. After a very long drive to Fredericksburg and back, I was tired when I got home, but when work needs to be done, you just do it. I'm reminded of the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Just when the people were desperate for relief, Christ intervenes. In fact, He already had everything figured out. When the disciples were fretting about food -- "Where in the world are we to find hamburgers for so many people?" -- Jesus knew the solution.
By the way, you've got to hand it to Karen. She achieved her targeted time for the Half Marathon. Like me, Karen is goal-oriented. When the Lord allows you to meet a goal, that sure is a good feeling. She's talked me into running a 5Ker with her, which I think is about my maximum distance. We'll see....
2) I stumbled upon this cemetery in Farmville yesterday. Lincoln went to Gettysburg to dedicate the cemetery there. Not sure who dedicated this one, but it is very well preserved.
3) At Farmville, the southern troops crossed to the north bank of the Appomattox River. Grant reached the town on the afternoon of April 7. It was here, on this day, that Grant sent a message to Lee -- the first of several communications that passed between Lee and Grant prior to Lee's surrender. Lee responded, "Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender." Here marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
4) In this somewhat dark photo, Frank O'Reilly is marking the exact spot where the most famous casualty of the Battle of Chancellorsville occurred.
Jackson must have been in excruciating pain. Yet his faith in God never wavered. Of course, the age was a very religious one, and I'm not sure anyone could rightly claim that the Almighty was on "their" side (Meade's letters also indicated his belief that God was on the side of the Union). Still, standing on the exact spot where the great Stonewall was shot by his own men has something of a sacred feel to it.
5) Again, I'd like to express my gratitude to Frank O'Reilly for answering a few of my questions and for signing Nathan's book. Listening to Frank speak made me realize how much harder I need to work on nailing down the facts of the war.
6) Everywhere you drive in Virginia you run across ante-bellum homes like this one ...
7) ... or this one.
8) Of course, you'll recognize Chatham Hall if you've been reading my blog for any length of time.
I visited it last year as well. From here one could see the entire Battle of Fredericksburg unfold. Union troops could look with envy on Confederate General James Longstreet's soldiers who had an even better defensive position than did Jackson to the south. Oddly enough, Karen's race ran along Sophia Street, which runs parallel to the river and where the 116th Pennsylvania took a beating. How times have changed.
9) The race also skirted the famous "Stone Wall" and "Sunken Road" at Fredericksburg. Here the Confederates poured death and destruction on the hapless Union troops. The road looks much like it did in May of 1863, except for the absence of the Southern artillery whose shots and shells tore off heads and limbs and left mounds of dead and wounded Federal soldiers. "Oh, God!," exclaimed Union General Oliver Howard, "see how our men, our poor fellows, are falling!"
10) But enough of the 19th century. Here's one of the fields we baled today.
We built the gambrel barn in the background for hay storage. I'll fill up the other barns first, though.
Well, folks, it's well past 7:30 and time to stop working (including blogging) and get something to eat. Have a blessed week!
Saturday, May 16
8:02 AM "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." Augustine.
7:54 AM Tomorrow I'll be attending the Historic Half in Fredericksburg. To watch. It's a grueling 13.1 mile half-marathon known for its own version of Heartbreak Hill called Hospital Hill. (Runners, I believe, substitute an "e" for the "i" in Hill.) I'll be cheering on one of my daughters.
7:50 AM Hola, amigos! Henry Neufeld is running a buy-2-get-1 free sale on his Spanish titles. Go here. I won't mention the titles but you can probably guess [wink].
Friday, May 15
8:45 PM It took us only three hours to get the hay up this evening.
We finished just as the sun was setting.
Nate and I work well together.
We have an agreement, you see.
I do half the amount of work because I'm twice as old.
Works out nicely.
Have to end this post with a selfie.
2:56 PM Just back from graduation. I believe it was our largest class ever. Even the D.Mins. were rejoicing. A few pix:
1) My office desk top looks like this.
Yep, that's Kailua Beach. Lord willing I'll be there in one week. In person.
2) Twas a packed house. Very proud of our graduates.
3) With one of our Ethiopian grads after the service.
4) Working on semester grades with my assistant.
5) My finger is still giving me fits. I thought to myself, I wonder if Becky put anything for cuts in the medicine cabinet at home? Sure enough.
She had. That's my Becky :)
Meanwhile, I'm famished. Gonna get some grub, and then rest up before stacking bales. What a crazy life!
7:34 AM Good morning students and graduates!
When I was learning Greek back in the winter of 1974-75, I couldn't believe what I was getting myself into. I couldn't put the textbook down, it was just that interesting. Six days a week I studied and memorized and mastered the material -- all part of a correspondence course offered by Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Sometimes I'd sit alone and think I was crazy. Man, I love this language so much it hurts, I said to myself. This was my second try at taking Greek. My first attempt was a humiliating failure. I felt ruined. I couldn't imagine what I would do with my life if I had to change my college major to any subject other than Bible. All that changed when I discovered those cassette tapes from MBI.
How about you?
At the end of his first missionary journey, the apostle Paul had a "word of exhortation" for his churches. Likewise, as you come to the end of a year of Greek instruction, I'd like to offer a few words of encouragement and advice to all of my Greek students. The danger is great that you will quickly lose what you have worked so hard to acquire. I see this all the time -- straight A students who, a year or two later, can't read a single line of Greek prose. If, after 30 weeks of instruction, you forget everything you've learned, what have you really accomplished? Very little. What is it that students lack? Some complain about a lack of self-discipline. Others bemoan their lack of time management skills. Still others blame a lack of language aptitude or passion. But what these students really lack is Christ. Self-discipline is Christ. Time management is Christ. Passion for languages is Christ. Just Him. All we need or could ever ask for is in Christ. So if you lack wisdom -- or zeal for Greek, or anything else for that matter -- remember that God is eager to give all things to you -- in Christ. God is not in the retail business. He's a wholesaler. You can get what you need directly from Him. Just ask Him. And what He will give you is Christ. When you believe Christ and receive Him, Christ becomes yours, and all of His benefits become yours as well. Nothing will be too difficult for you -- even maintaining your knowledge of Greek -- because the One who is in you is empowering you. His indwelling presence constitutes our provision. So thank God that Christ is in your heart, accomplishing God's desires within you. The harder the tasks, the more they prove His power to fulfill them. I will repeat a hundred times that it is not a smart student who can master Greek -- or a student with language aptitude, or a special Christian. It is a student for whom Christ is their provision. If you have a love for Greek today, thank God for it and praise Him. It is the experience that God has ordained for you.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The work of the Spirit is not to impart anything of Himself. He applies in our hearts what Christ has accomplished for us. He conveys the work of Christ to us. Christ encompasses (potentially at least) all that we need. If you find yourself joyously motivated to use the Greek you've learned, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not the result of taking a particular professor or using a particular textbook. (Of course, mine is the best!) If our focus is only on a teacher or a textbook, we are merely stimulated in our soul and the stimulation cannot last very long, because it is not Spirit-produced. So as you move forward from here, having acquired a working knowledge of Greek, my prayer for you is a simple one. I pray that Christ would work directly in your hearts through His Holy Spirit. May He lead you by His own mighty power that you may henceforth consecrate your knowledge of Greek to Him, forever serve Him, and everlastingly return glory to the One who gave you a love for this wonderful language.
Happy Summer! Make it a good one!
Thursday, May 14
4:34 PM Photo update ....
Beautiful, sunny day today. Only 72 degrees to boot. And there's a cool breeze blowing. Perfect for horsing around. Practiced some centered riding in the arena and then went out on the trail. We've also been cutting hay. Hope to bale tomorrow after graduation. Oh, I just had to include a pic of B's rose garden. Sweet-tastik!
8:24 AM Tomorrow is commencement and the last day of my 38th year of teaching Greek. I've been grieving more than normal the past several days. I'm not sure why, but it's probably the cumulative effect of having Mother's Day and Becky's Birthday the same week. Besides, this is the time of the year when we would be boarding a plane for Africa together. Then again, my heart is filled with gratitude this morning. For one thing, I'm grateful for a family that loves me and that constantly points me back to the sufficiency of Christ. For another, I've found great joy in the ordinary labors of life -- writing, teaching, caring for others, investing, farming, cooking, cleaning. Christianity is distinctive in that it sees all of life -- including the ordinary practices of life -- as holy. Human labor is not incidental to faith. As Paul points out in several places, Christianity is bound up with work. In class this week I became aware once again at how meaningful work can be when we view it as a response to the divine work that pulses throughout the universe. In most cases, we work in order to live. But we also live in order to work. Work is God's good gift to us. As well, it is our response to His work in us. I'm learning that even my "leisure" activities are purposeful and that the line between work and play is nebulous. When I go for a walk or a ride, for example, my aim is restoration of body and soul so that I am able to pursue my work goals.
That said ....
Although I enjoy my work immensely, work neither has any salvific value nor does it provide ultimate fulfillment. Take farming, for example. Agrarian living is very satisfying, but I disagree with those who say that the agrarian life is the only valid "Christian" lifestyle. Simply put, there is no single attitude toward work in Christianity, no one approach to work that best comports with the way of Jesus. In the Scriptures, work is relativized. The value of work is not found in the task itself but rather in the people who do the work. No work endures forever. In a generation my name will long be forgotten among students of the New Testament. "All is vanity and chasing after the wind" says Qoheleth (Eccl. 2:17). "I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it" (3:14). I am God's son. Therein lies my identity. However, no task that glorifies Him, no matter how menial, is to be despised. Jesus proved this when He washed His disciples' feet. As I blogged the other day, there need be no division between Mary and Martha, between the contemplative and active life. This is one reason I do not have "daily devotions." My academic study of the text is as much an opportunity for devotion as is my casual Bible reading. I simply have never been able to drive a wedge between the mind and the heart. In his classic book Work in the Spirit, Miraslav Volf strikes a helpful balance: "The deepest meaning of human work lies in the cooperation of men and women with God" (p. 98). Our labor, he says, is always grounded in God's labor. It is He who is at work in us to give us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:13). Even my "original" or "creative" work belongs first and foremost to God, who grants the inspiration. Work originates with God, is redeemed by Jesus Christ, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is therefore no such thing as "private" work: "God is the One who works all things in all people" (1 Cor. 12:6). My own productivity (whether agricultural or intellectual) is merely a response to God's creative work in me. I can plant and water, but only God can make things grow. My own academic field -- New Testament studies -- is predicated on the assumption that our works as Christians have been foreordained by God (Eph. 2:10). Thus one test of our work is how it enhances or undermines the glory of God. Good work always reflects God's creative work in us. He delights in using jars of clay "so that the surpassing greatness of the power might be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7). "My work" is therefore an oxymoron. The paradox is that we choose to take credit for what we think we have done, and this attitude always breeds disastrous results. Work is satisfying, not because it is the source of our identity, but because it is grounded in God's work in our lives. When the Word became flesh in the form of an ordinary carpenter or builder, God elevated all human work. This includes the work of a housewife or busy mother as much as it includes the labors of a seminary professor. Having received God's good gift of work, we then seek to share with others the fruits of our labor. Working in order to help others is not a pious truism; it is the heart of the Gospel (Eph. 4:28).
This view of work is not without its mystery, but it's not the mystery of why God would have us work. The mystery is how we, as frail and fallen human beings, can participate in the work of God on this earth. Thus, as much as I enjoy teaching, the last thing I want to do is to make it the core of my being. For they'll know we are Christians by our love, not necessarily by our labor. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.
A few pix from my days on campus:
1) My Greek 1 class taking their last quiz of the semester.
They did exceptionally well. There's nothing like translating from 1 John.
2) Breakfast yesterday with one of my doctoral students. He just finished his first year of study.
3) Ethiopian food last night with my former assistant and his wife. He's graduating tomorrow with his Th.M.
4) His bound thesis arrived yesterday in my office.
It was while opening the box it was in that I got the cut on my finger. Sweet revenge on his part I guess!
5) Care to take the final exam in our LXX class?
Wednesday, May 13
9:04 PM No blogging today. Sliced the top of my right index finger today at work. That means I've lost one half of my typing ability.
Tuesday, May 12
8:48 AM She would have turned 62 today. There is so much I could say but I won't. All I know is that God cares just as much for me as He does for the birds of the air or the flowers of the fields. He loves me, and He loves Becky. And He provided for us more than we could have ever asked or imagined. Even when there has been heart-wrenching loss, thousands upon thousands have found Him faithful. I am one of them.
So Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! This photo sums her up in so many ways:
Sweet, confident, strong, dignified, caring, trustworthy, capable, convictional, wise, tough, confrontational (when necessary), responsible, multitalented, sensitive, energetic, compassionate. What fun we had together! I remember getting lost together in France. And climbing the pyramids of Egypt. And boogie-boarding in Hawaii. I miss her greatly, but I can just see her there in heaven, singing with the choirs of angels, singing in exultation, singing with all the citizens of heav'n above: "Glory to God, glory in the highest!" and bidding me, "O, come, let us adore Him."
You know, that's one thing Becky and I can still do -- together.
Monday, May 11
4:15 PM Just back from a 3-hour hike along the River Walk Trail at the Staunton River State Park.
I was the only living thing on the trail today, except for the trees.
Yep. Trying to get in shape for Hawaii. As one of my surfing heroes, Fred van Dyke (now 71) once said, "If I'm getting old, I might as well dig it."
You young grommets out there, take it from this geriatric surfer: You're never too old to start taking care of your health.
Sunday, May 10
8:16 PM There is too much to share. My heart is full. Enjoyed my granddaughter Katherine's concert at Meredith College in Raleigh. She is a member of the North Carolina Girls Choir. Afterwards the Glasses and I enjoyed Ethiopian food and then ice cream at Ben and Jerry's. I will never forget days like these.
9:36 AM Today Becky is enjoying Mother's Day with Jesus surrounded by the music of heaven. I can't even begin to imagine her joy. I taste salt in the corner of my mouth looking at this picture.
What a wonderful wife and mother she was. And here's the thing. She's more alive today than when this picture was taken at La Mirada Regional Hospital in 1983. The lesson for me? The Bible promises that my God (not my wife) shall supply all my needs. And when this old life is over I will find at the end a home and a haven in heaven. In the meantime, as the song says:
Saturday, May 9
7:56 PM It was the love of God that brought us together, and it was His love that separated us. But along the way He keeps giving me pleasant memories of what Bonhoeffer once called "life together." To wit: I have never seen Becky's rose garden more alive and vibrant.
Flowers to honor her memory on this Mothers-Day-Eve.
I will never forget the investment she made in our children, especially our daughters. I know that each of them will be thinking of her tomorrow. She was a blessing to all she touched, but none more so than the young women she poured her life into.
6:44 PM Howdy folks. Had a wonderful time putzing around the farm today.
I finally have a pine-dust-free front porch to enjoy in the evening, which should also help me with my allergies.
Then it was time to get all 5 of our fields ready for haying, coming up later in the month.
Trees needed to be cut and fences repaired.
Grass edges also needed mowing.
Well, I think the fields are now "white unto harvest"!
I am tired but it's a good tired. The big question is: Do I cook or eat out? I also know that mother's day is coming tomorrow and I'm already thinking about what to blog about. It is a huge task!
Blessings on you all,
12:30 PM According to Baptist Health of South Florida, the obesity rate in the U.S. is up 28 percent. This quote caught my eye:
There are, of course, good reasons to put on weight the older you get. At least I've got plenty of good reasons. Nevertheless, reasons don't necessarily make for good excuses. Weight control is a tough challenge we all face. If you take God seriously, you also ought to take your God-given body seriously. I'll admit -- I need help. I need people holding me accountable. When you're struggling with weight, you want somebody to be with you. To share your struggle. Somebody who understands. Eventually, my weight won't matter. But how can I travel internationally unless I stay in shape? So here's my promise to you. You see me putting on extra pounds, you tell me. I promise I will listen. In the meantime, I'm making this a matter for concerted prayer. Jesus, I believe, more than anyone else understands our temptations. He clearly understood that no one was immune to them, including Himself. He was handpicked by the Father to show us how to overcome our temptations and that "easily-besetting sin." Whatever your weakness today might be, turn to Him. I know that sounds kind of sappy and trite. But in the long run, He really is the One who can help us.
12:22 PM My bedroom is now spic-and-span.
One item checked off my list!
11:04 AM Back to the post I began an hour ago. CNN asks the question: What Went Wrong with Tzarnaev?
Years ago workmen repossessed a storage container from a man named Marvin Weisberg of Woodland Hills, CA. When they opened it the stench was unbelievable. Opening the contents, they were horrified to find the remains of 16,433 aborted babies.
We Americans often fuzzify what the Bible calls sin. We blame our problems on heredity or environment. Such linguistic camouflage is a mistake. The reason we have Marvin Weisbergs and Dzhokhar Tzarnaevs is because sin flourishes in the human heart. We seldom face up to the fact that, apart from God, we are all capable of committing heinous crimes, sometimes even in the name of God. Generally speaking, we mess up because we're messed up. Add into the equation a poor upbringing, and you have a recipe for disaster. As the CNN report states:
Our Lord dealt with the sick and the sinful tenderly. But He also insisted that there must be a radical turning from earth's trash to heaven's treasure. The picture shown above captures my heart. My own lapses give me a clear picture of my daily need for a Savior. I need to start taking my Christianity seriously -- I mean really seriously. As the water of sin rises all around us in our nation, we need to get solid rock beneath our feet, and fast. May the grace of God make us strong in Jesus Christ to do His will and forsake what displeases Him.
10:28 AM A few people I know really understand websites and how to set up and manage blogs. Well, I'm not one of them. I was just updating my blog when I went to copy a simple quote from the CNN news site. As soon as I copied the text into Front Page -- yes, I know I still use a dinosaur -- the rest of my blog page went bonkers. The best I can do is start a new May website (which this is) and simply link to the now-CNN-revised May archives. The content is still the same, though the photos have been enlarged and the spacing is horrific. Thankfully my other archived pages are "normal" (I use quotes because nothing on this blog can probably be considered to be very normal).
Lesson? Copy web-originated text to a Word doc first.
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