May 2016 Blog Archives
Tuesday, May 31
6:52 AM Week 2 of Greek class. It is amazing. It is Mind Expanding. The jewels of Scripture require extracting. (Okay, enough melodrama.) Greek is just plain old tough work. You slog through. It is high drama, all the time. You think you're sitting in the Crazy Seat. We're falling into an abyss that has no bottom.
Is it worth it? It's too soon to assess. But I think so. I hope so. I am convinced it is so. So stay the course, my dear friends. If you show up brave and true, and if we each own our place in the process, God is big enough to see us through.
Monday, May 30
12:12 PM Suffering from NDD? (Nature Deficit Disorder.) Two quotes from today's Diane Rehm show:
Hmm. Maybe that's why I find Kailua Beach so therapeutic. Studies have shown that living by the coast improves health and well-being. Moreover, a blue mind is a creative mind, according to this report.
By the way, the local pool opens up today for the summer. Can't wait to get back into lap swimming. Being outdoors is so good for everybody. It's so sad to think of all the books written today about the health benefits of nature. Today's society is so disjointed from nature we need 1,000 reasons to get outdoors before we do anything.
Got a spare half hour and want something to do? God's restorative creation is calling!
10:32 AM I'm not usually prone to exaggeration, but this manuscript is phenomenal.
It arrived yesterday. It's title is "The Greek of the Gospel of John: A Deep Sounding. Critical Features of John's Language in John 1-6 and 18-21." The author is Jim Voelz of Concordia Seminary and it's his paper for SNTS this August in Montreal. I'm the respondent, so I get to say all kinds of nice things about Jim and his work. And what doesn't Jim discuss? He treats word order, parataxis, asyndeton, hypotactic constructions, subordinating conjunctions, apposition, collapsed relative clauses, verbal aspect, historical present indicatives, perfect stems, and more. And I have an entire 10 minutes to respond. Hey, I'm not on roids!
9:55 AM My colleague Alvin Reid and I have so much in common it's downright scary. We both came out of the Jesus Movement. We both played the bass guitar in Christian rock bands. We both are passionate about global evangelism. (I quote him all the time: "Life is a mission trip. Take it!") Finally, it seems the Lord has called both of us to write about our personal fitness goals and challenges. His latest post is worth linking to: Friday Is for Fitness: Sabbatical Gains. Guys and gals, take my advice: Read what Alvin says and then go out and do it. Body weight is no place to be overly sensitive. Don't fret over every little ounce. Who really cares that you get fit after all? Well, I do. And so does Alvin. But we're not legalists. In fact, I will say this: I literally cannot imagine any Christian becoming serious about health and fitness unless and until they are convicted by a much higher Source than either Alvin or me. Many of us are fighting a battle we don't even know exists. No, its not the weight battle. It's the battle against trying to do something in our own strength. Can't be done, people. Try it that way and you'll destroy the whole thing. On the other hand, when you take the noose off your neck and allow the Holy Spirit as it were to "breathe" you along from where you are to where you want to be, that's when things begin to get exciting. Hear me: grace is our only hope. This is true of weight management as much as it is true of marriage or relationships.
Two final thoughts that I think Alvin would agree with though he didn't state them explicitly:
1) Don't waste your energy trying to change anyone else's body. This includes your spouse's. The only result is that they'll become bitter. Besides, it never works. Never.
2) Have fun while exercising. God isn't a kill-joy. I love working out. I love 5Ks. I love biking. I love climbing. Will I learn to love half marathons? I guess I'll find out this coming Saturday. If you know someone who is doing this -- someone who is really serious about fitness but who are also just as serious about having fun while working out, compliment them once in a while. They are unique people!
As an aging Boomer, I'm worried that my generation will drop the ball here. Our kids and grandkids need role models, spiritual mentors, and granddads and grandmas who will prioritize transformation over methodology. Alvin is one of these dudes. He's trying to lead a horse to water but you know, sometimes horses can be weird. Now don't you be one of them weird horses!
P.S. In the nick of time I reached my 100 mile running/biking goal for May by riding 5 miles today. I sprinted all the way (15 MPH). Believe me, the rumbling of thunder in the distance is a great MOTIVATOR.
Sunday, May 29
8:26 PM On June 9, my odometer will flip to 6-4. How in the world did I get to be 64 years old? I'm told that anyone who lives to be 60 can expect to live at least another 20 years. Who knows. (God does, of course, but I'm trying to be philosophical here.) I do know this: If the next 20 years go by as quickly as the last 63, I'd better get busy now with living. Baby Boomers like me are now the largest demographic cohort in most Western nations. We're asking ourselves, "Have I done something with my life that really matters?" Since Becky died I've asked myself that question a thousand times. "Dave, have you created anything that bettered the world and that will outlast your life?" And now, on the home stretch, that question seems more urgent than ever. Life 2.0 centered on career building and marriage. Life 3.0 doesn't reject those things but now focuses more on purpose maximization. "In a curious way," said former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz, "age is simpler than youth, for it has so many fewer options." Regardless of how many more years God gives me, I want to pursue purpose is all that I do. Perhaps the most important word in my vocabulary these days is "Why?" This is a powerful word. Teachers like me tend to obsess over the "How?" word. Yet we rarely discuss why we are doing what we're doing. How can we do anything exceptionally unless we understand why we're doing it in the first place? Perhaps it's here that we Baby Boomers can take the lead. Perhaps we can begin to reshape culture along the lines of pondering one's purpose for being. We know that the most enriching experiences of life come not when we're outperforming others but rather when we're doing something that matters and doing it well and (for the follower of Christ) doing it for God's glory.
Can I tell you one of my goals as I age? That my students would "mostly get it." No, not Greek. But truth. Obedience. Something to live for. A ministry that is not church-centralized but Christ-centered. A church where people take more responsibility for their own spiritual development and are less reliant on their leaders. Where Jesus Christ is openly and gladly acknowledged as the Senior Pastor. (Honestly, I can't wait for this to show up on some church marquee somewhere.) 64 years in, I've learned a few things. Mostly the hard way. Caring about what Jesus teaches is a big, big deal. John wrote that the darkness has never overcome the Light, and that Light is ours. And when we drag the Light into our lives and homes and churches, kicking and screaming and bleeding, we begin to see the "things" in our lives for what they really are. Start saying yes to what you are really good at, what God has made you to be and not what others think you should be. No one will do this for you. You have to do it for yourself. God designed you to be really good at something. Find out what that is and then pursue it with all the passion you can muster. Don't waste your life. Don't bury your talents. The paycheck isn't as important as glowing and coming to life and blessing the world. Students, be exactly who you are. It is so tempting to be less than that, to fake it. Say no if you need to. Jesus has your back. He wants to bring us into oneness and wholeness. He yearns that we experience all that He has to give us.
We were meant to do more than grow old. We can live life to the fullest.
8:58 AM I won't spoil your day by more stories about haying. As I looked at my hands this morning, however, it did occur to me that there might be an object lesson here.
(1) I should have worn work gloves and (2) it's obvious that I haven't gotten hay up in a while. The concept of perseverance has been baiting me for a while. I am realizing that it's easy to get even a finger "out of shape." I'm reminded of what Heb. 2:1-4 teaches about drifting away from Christ. The principle could be stated this way, I guess:
Just don't mow the lawn.
Or change the oil in your car.
As I think back on 40 years of teaching Greek, it occurs to me that the great majority of my former students probably do not use their Greek all that much. In fact, I have asked countless grads to translate a simple verse for me and they are usually speechless. "I can't believe this is happening." Oh yes I can. Because it's happened to me. Countless times. I often let the little things on the farm slide until it's too late. A simple procedure now requires an expensive repair. As usual, Jesus hit the nail on the head. He said, "Give us this day our daily bread." He was being clear: Live in this day. Don't put off to tomorrow what you can and should do today. Enjoy life today, or enjoy it never. This very day is a unique gift from God. It will be gone before you know it. And once it's over, it's over. Don't obsess about what's gonna happen tomorrow. You will never have this day again.
So get on with it. You've got your list of things to do; I have mine. Maybe on your list is chillaxing with the kids. Go for it with gusto and without declaring it a waste of time. Every small piece of time you give your kids now matters, even if its results are invisible for the time being. Today I finally got around to writing an email I knew I needed to write but kept postponing. (I'm a coward at heart.) No, you don't have to become a legalist. No, you don't have to finish every last item on your list. This is where the Holy Spirit comes into play. This is when Jesus reminds us, "I've left you with another Helper. You can do this. I am right here with you."
Well, that's my devotional for the day. Today I'm planning out my New Testament class for the fall -- arranging the reading assignments, lining up the guest lecturers, deciding which topics I'll lecture on. I've got to cover Acts through Revelation. (Yes, I know it's foolishness to think that one can actually do that.) One of my lectures is called "The Forgotten Father." God refers to Himself as Father more than any other title because He wants us to begin to experience the boundlessness of His love and the height of His patience. Love the Father well, and your house will stand, my dear friend.
Saturday, May 28
6:50 PM Done. Our first cutting of summer hay, that is. Well, hardly. We've only cut a couple of small fields. The larger ones eagerly await their haircut. But with more rain in the forecast, they will have to wait for the right conditions. Here's Nate baling the front "yard" of Bradford Hall.
There is nothing this guy cannot do. Including tossing bales. I used to be a "fifth level" tosser. Not anymore. Four's my limit. So Nate gets to do all the heavy tossing.
As it is with the tossing bales of hay, so it is with life. If I once mourned my lost youth, I do so no longer. I've buried the past, the 30-year old I once was, and am happily aging. If the best baseball is played in September, the best lives are lived in life's September. I'm here to announce as a 63-year old: The seventh-inning stretch still exists, and the rest of the game is going to be fantastic. Lookie here. I even "summited" today -- Lol!
I will never be 30 again but that doesn't matter because all that matters is that I push myself to the limit, which I did today and yesterday. I am the same me today that I always was and perhaps even a better me. Every stage of life is simply being yourself with a slightly different focus. For me, being outdoors is a ballast to thinking and writing. I keep out-of-doors for my sanity's sake. When I fail to see the loveliness of life and begin to complain only of its difficulties, I go into God's great cathedral and am once again reborn. As I watch our goats, I think of Psalm 23 and see the Great Shepherd walking with me through the winding valleys of life. Creation has so many reminders of how great our God is, amen?
P.S. The maple I dedicated to Becky last year never did take root so today we planted a new one, and right now I'm working on the text for the plaque that will accompany it.
After much prayer, I'll decide what it will say. In the meantime I've got more Round Up to spray and more fields to bush hog and more lawns to mow and more fences to fix. Plus I've got overnight guests coming on Tuesday and you know what that means (house cleaning). But God is going before me. He is working tirelessly in my life -- and in yours -- to draw the best out of every single situation we have encountered, good or bad, because He always does more than we can ever ask or imagine. Which makes me so grateful to Him.
Off to cook supper.
12:32 PM Man, I'm going through my chores at the speed of light. Most important of all, I got the porch back together again, and it shore looks good. Squeaky clean.
When my world gets too busy, nothing fixes me like sitting on the porch listening to the sounds of nature and allowing real life its rightful place again.
Also filled the donks' water. (This is sacred work. Our animals depend on us.)
Also turned off the humidifier in the crawl space and changed out the water filter in our filtration system. (Aren't I handy?)
Also made a long overdue trash run. (When it comes to trash, I am really lazy.)
Also trimmed the rose bushes, including Becky's "Burji Rose Bushes" from Ethiopia -- her faves!
Still need to pay my property taxes, fill a couple of Greek DVD orders, and get the rest of the hay up. Then it's sit and chillax. After all, it's a holiday weekend and I'm in a very relaxed mood.
8:18 AM Odds and ends ...
1) My stir-fry last night. Key ingredient: Water chestnuts. Oh my, they're good!
2) Quote of the day (Becky Black):
3) Got up early to scrub the chairs, which are now drying under a very hot sun. And to think we have to get up more bales this afternoon. (Oh boy, I need counseling now.)
4) This story is unbelievable: A man is "in love" with Everest:
My stars! What a marital legacy he's forming. Beck Weathers (who barely survived the 1996 disaster on Everest) said it best this week:
Friday, May 27
8:58 PM Love it!
Thursday, May 26
6:50 AM Mountaineer Alan Arnette (whose summits include Everest, K2, and Manaslu) has just written a fascinating piece called Why People Die on Everest. Reasons include:
He recommends going with only the best guide companies. If I were to climb Everest (which I never will), I would insist on a 1:1 Guide/Sherpa-Client ratio, guides who are certified by the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations -- my guide in the Alps this summer is a member), and something that Alan doesn't mention: live-streaming of my personal data (location, altitude, O2, EKG, heart rate, speed, etc.). This service is already available (see Wicis-Sports) and uses satellite technology to stream their data across the world every few seconds. This way medical professionals (either at base camp or 5,000 miles away in your own doctor's office) can get medical and GPS data live and in real time. I'm surprised this wasn't thought of years ago but apparently it's a fairly new service. No one climbing Everest should leave home without it.
Wednesday, May 25
5:42 PM Great couple of days. Made it through the basic Greek verb and noun. (Cackle as I type that.) Biked 10 miles yesterday near Wake Forest.
The trail was a cardio killer (check out this elevation scale).
Then today I ran 3 miles near South Boston. It was very hot. You can see how many others were out running today:
I may crash and burn when I climb the Alps, but it won't be because I didn't train hard enough. (Yes. I rest too. Like now.) Just getting into shape, I guess, to pick up bales on Friday. This is some gorgeous hay the Lord has given us this year.
Not to be denied, however, was the front porch, on which the birdies have been pooping all winter long. (I'm dealing with it.) The chairs will need some deep cleaning.
But as least I got the porch in shape -- swept, mopped, then mopped again. I think it looks pretty nice, don't you?
Sorry, but I can't resist posting a GoPro of me biking yesterday -- plus frolicking in the pool at the Hampton Inn in Wake Forest. My generation is so funny. We flit from this thing to that thing. When we get to glory, we'll probably hear something like, "Well, done, you guys. You sure were faithful. And great fun to watch!"
Off to cook me some stir fry.
Tuesday, May 24
6:35 AM Well said, Bonhoeffer:
6:24 AM Greek students: Here are a few cool vocab apps/resources for my beginning grammar:
4) Parsing Guide.
As you begin your Greek studies, remember that no one wants more for you than God. We can confidently give Him our hopes, aspirations, and fears.
See ya in class!
Monday, May 23
7:22 PM I am deeply saddened to hear about the deaths this week on Mount Everest, not to mention all of the reports of severe frostbite. Of course, let's not forget the 300 or so climbers who successfully reached the summit since May 11. The fact is, altitude sickness can strike anyone, at any time. Guides can put up warning markers for their clients, but they cannot chart their individual courses or decisions. I don't mean to push the fear button. Climbers are their own people; they must own their own decisions. Mount Everest is exceedingly beautiful. Read any book written by someone who has summited Everest and their stories are almost primordial. They chose to confront their mortality, up close and personal. They were willing to break out of their comfortable lives to venture to a place where few of us would dare to go. In return, the mountain requires from them responsibility, good decision making, and (sometimes) heroism. Everest also lays bare one's fatal flaws and irrecoverable errors. Again this year, some have emerged from their ordeal on Mount Everest; others have perished. The larger question for me is, "Why? Why do mountains attract us like flies to the light? It is mere hubris? Is it to find something more meaningful in our lives, some human achievement that can be attained in no other fashion? What motivates people to travel thousands of miles around the world to risk their lives on a mountain? Is it worth the cost?"
The tragedies we read about on the web today will no doubt stop some people from climbing Everest. But it will not keep others from pursuing their dream. When I summited Mount Olomana last month it was a terrifying, joyful moment. The mountain was dangerous but I had overcome my fears. I can start to understand why brave men and women would risk their lives to climb Everest or K2. We cannot shrug this off as a hypothetical question only. Most of will be faced with similar questions as we face the tough decisions in life. We must be allowed to wrestle with our fears, and come to terms with our own limitations. Believe it or not, people like to grapple with their limitations. Good Greek teachers try not to coddle their students. They put the hard stuff in front of them. They teach them to overcome their fears of the language. Let's stop patronizing their intelligence by being shallow. I can tell you, most students are absolutely capable of spiritual and academic depth. Perhaps this would be a good time to discuss with our children that they ultimately have to make their own decisions in life. We as parents cannot guarantee their safety in life. There is no magic "formula" that ensures that our kids grow up to be brave and responsible adults. (That includes homeschooling, by the way -- and I say this as a former homeschooling parent.)
If you're not involved in mountain climbing, all of this will probably make zero sense. But regardless of our experiences in the great outdoors, there will always be healthy boundaries and unhealthy boundaries. A healthy boundary says, "You should do what you believe is best for you." A bad boundary says, "Don't you ever try to climb a tall peak!" Each of us has permission to say no to engage in behaviors that we deem to be certifiable insanity. We are free to walk away from certain toxic relationships as well. I am glad to see that the Nepalese government is beginning to look deeper into the root causes of the deaths on Everest. There are systemic issues at work, an example being allowing too many climbers on the mountain at one time, thus producing killer logjams and prolonging a climber's time in the infamous "Death Zone."
And what about the expedition leaders? Did they insist on a turnaround time for their clients? Were they turning people around and sending them down the mountain before the symptoms of HAPE or HACE became too severe? What about companies that offer cheap packages to clients, who are thereby exposed to safety risks? Who is responsible to see that the climbers' equipment is in good working order? Did each climber have their doctor's seal of approval before embarking on their expedition? People easily ignore the body when it sounds the alarm. I have even read of cases where ultra-marathoners have died of heart attacks even when their training journals revealed that they had been having typical angina pectoris while running.
If pain is the mystery of life, altitude is the mystery of mountain climbing. Everyone has a physiological limit. The problem is that one's fitness at sea level is no predictor as to how one will do at elevation. I have never climbed higher than 8,000 feet and my first peak in Switzerland this summer is over 13,000 feet. I do not question that I will experience counterprevailing sensations -- wanting to push ahead despite the lack of oxygen, acting like a man in extremis, or giving up and seeking lower ground. All I can do is take the risk, seek the challenge, invite the pain, and act sensibly when the time comes when I know I should turn around. Peaces lies not in attaining the summit but in being myself -- my best self, my responsible self. I climb to learn how to be true to my innermost being. But precisely because I know myself and my tendency to push ahead no matter what, I have hired a professional and highly experienced mountain guide to whom I've given permission to turn me around at the drop of a hat.
I suppose the climbers who died this week on Everest had a similar philosophy toward their sport. I'm sure they approached Everest with respect and even trepidation. They knew that this contest of theirs would require consequences in pain and fatigue and exhaustion unrivaled in any other sport. This is all the more true because all of this agony is self-inflicted. Those who perished were just like you and me for the most part -- ordinary citizens ready to take on perhaps the most grueling challenge devised by man. When I climb (much smaller mountains, of course), I join these courageous men and women who find their creativity in doing something extraordinary with their lives. I am totally and completely in the present. Time stands still. It is like being so absorbed in reading that you are unaware you are reading. I am no longer a spectator leading a vicarious existence. I am truly alive, and with this living I discover perhaps the most important fact of all -- that I am the only obstacle to my success.
1:50 PM This and that ...
1) Working on the Greek alphabet.
2) Just booked my flights for an August trip to Dallas to share about Ethiopia at Grace Bible Church.
3) Arrived today:
4) Greek students! Don't forget this page.
5) A hearty welcome to everyone who joined our Five Minute Greek Club. I am a freak about all things Greek. A complete weirdo. Welcome to the club.
6:50 AM So apparently, some people are still uninformed about our prestigious club that gets underway today.
There are two things you need to know about our Five Minute Greek Club: We never meet, and there are no dues. You simply "sign on the dotted line," promising me you will translate two verses every day (Monday through Friday) throughout the summer. Your prize? A gratis copy of one of my books. If you had me for beginning Greek last semester, you are eligible. See the email attachment from my assistant. Today's the last day to join.
I feel like I'm on the edge of something huge right now. Oh yeah. Summer Greek begins today! I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. The class is full with a waiting list. I hope you all can get in. The more the merrier. I want lots of people to share my crazy love of this language.
Time to cook some French Toast and hit the road!
Sunday, May 22
7:42 PM Just got in another 5K. That makes my monthly total 81.6 miles. Only 18.4 miles more to go to reach my monthly goal. Now I'm awaiting the sunset. Should be gorgeous tonight.
5:18 PM It's Sunday evening and the sun is shining again. I'm sitting at my desk contemplating the amazing two weeks I've just experienced. I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever heard God speaking to me so clearly as when He told me to meet with UNC and set up Becky's cancer memorial fund. As I sit here, alone in this big house, I taste salt in the corner of my mouth. I knew when I got married that it would have a price. I just didn't know how high a price God would exact to show us humans the consequences of loving another person. Marriage is a powerful yet simple example of how we can -- or can't -- conduct ourselves in life and not come to harm. More than most experiences, marriage-- divine, vast, unfathomable -- shows us what we are made of in a period of time that seems like an eternity but is really only a brief second. It changes us.
Now, two and a half years after I said goodbye to Becky, I can still no longer escape the sense of profound loss, the grief. But I am a survivor. God has given me work to do, part of which is to try and transform a loss into something better, something meaningful. I am scarred by Becky's passing, yet grateful to have shared some of life's wonders with an extraordinary person who can never be replaced. Who am I that I should have been chosen to be her life mate? How unworthy I am of God's heart. Yet He woos me with the sweet promise of His presence and joy. I am so in love with Him. He is always here. And sometimes He gives extra grace. Today was one of those days.
I'll keep trying to help people remember Becky. For as long as it takes. Every woman who has ever suffered from endometrial cancer is created, known, and loved by God. I am not called to cure this dreaded disease. I am called simply (if I can be so bold as to call such a task simple) to be God's index finger pointing to a worthy cause, His heart breaking when His creatures are suffering and dying, His voice telling others, "I care."
To everyone who has already given -- a thousand thanks. What an absolutely amazing surprise. And to everyone who has taken the time to write an email of encouragement, thank you. And to Becky -- I count it a privilege that my heart feels like it's been shattered. It means that my life has been blessed, and a huge part of that blessing was you. You will never be forgotten, at least not by this man.
8:15 AM The United Methodist General Conference has just concluded. As an outsider, I found three YouTube videos that helped me to understand a little bit better the debate in the UMC over same-gender unions; you might want to check them out:
Saturday, May 21
7:10 PM Last night I watched a YouTube of one of Newt Gingrich's recent speeches in which he sought to account for Donald Trump's popularity. His answer had four parts: Trump is great at talking; he uses fourth grade language (i.e., people can understand him); he engages his audience; and "he loves what he's doing."
At the time I'm writing this, Becky has been gone for 29 months. The ordinary pleasures of life -- walking the dogs on the farm, taking a hot shower, watching the sunrise -- are tempered by the long penumbra cast by her death, which ever so slowly recedes with time. Thank God -- oh, thank God! -- that He gives widowers the gift of faith to accept His love. In His presence I feel awe and wonder, and even joy. Yes joy! There is no greater joy in life than being in relationship with the Father. As my knowledge of Him grows, so does my assurance that He will never let me down. I'm enjoying Him -- all He is and all He does. More profoundly, my enjoyment of the life He's given me is growing in the same way. Like Trump, I love what I do. God created us to feel His pleasure both in our labor and in our leisure. On Monday I'll begin my 41st year of teaching Greek. Sometimes I think I'd rather teach than eat. Then there's the satisfaction that family brings. It's an awesome thought to realize that your family enjoys you and wants you to enjoy them. Equally satisfying is the joy of the great outdoors. God has written His name in the natural world and has given us the precious gift of appreciating the splendid beauty of creation. From that appreciation springs a desire to glorify our Creator and Savior God by loving and serving Him. Faithful obedience becomes a response of pure joy.
My forthcoming book Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Christian Ministry, is about learning the secret to the lost art of truly enjoying God. It's written for people who've struggled to live life to its fullest, people who let their struggles defeat them because they forget God's unlimited lovingkindness, goodness, and grace. We don't live joyful lives because we've forgotten how rich we are in Christ. During the past two and a half years I've been surprised and pleased at the many dozens of emails I've received from people who identify with my bouts of discouragement and loneliness. In part, my book is a response to their questions. No, I don't have all of the answers to the puzzle of human suffering. Instead, my book is about how God has used Becky's death in my life to reveal more of Himself to me. I'm sure we can all agree with C. S. Lewis, who wrote that "the real problem is not why some humble, pious, believing people suffer, but why some do not" (The Problem of Pain, p. 104). One can never accuse God of being unjust because He owes us absolutely nothing. Yet not a single tear of ours goes unnoticed.
Now that's amazing. But the best news of all: One day He will make sense out of our most senseless suffering.
Neither can I.
P.S. Peyton Black turned 1 this week. Happy Born Day, grandson!
2:18 PM Hello bloggers. Nothing much to report here. Did another bike ride in Farmville then visited (since it was nearby) the gorgeous campus of Hampton-Sydney College, one of only three all-male colleges in the U.S. (former students include Stephen Colbert). Following are a few pix.
Friday, May 20
6:04 PM A few graduation pix, in honor of those unforgettable words of Mark Twain, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
7:14 AM Happy Graduation to the SEBTS class of 2016! As someone who received his M.Div. in 1980, allow me a few words:
1) Teaching is not teaching unless lives have been changed. It is not mere instruction we need in the classroom. Instead we need men and women who will model the Jesus lifestyle. Those who do, who depend completely on the living God and not on their own intellectual prowess, are the people God will use to shake our generation.
2) Today we have a glut of information about the Bible. The result is often a slavish dependence upon computers, degrees, education, management skills, and human talent. If there appears to be any human explanation for what we do, we jump on it. When this happens, our science and technology become nothing more than tools of the Evil One. It is only when we are freed from our over-dependence on human plans, programs, and leaders are we able to trust God rather than ourselves.
3) Our "studies" often betray our callous indifference to God and what matters most to Him. If we love the Lord our God the way we say we do, how can we spend so little time in doing what is of eternal importance? The world is looking for handsome, self-important people to lead it, but God is looking for humble, Spirit-dependent people who will love the lost as He does.
Through 40 years of teaching I've often closed my classes with a prayer that contains these words: "Lord, make us winsome and attractive for the Gospel." I get the imagery from 2 Cor. 2:15. Paul says our lives are to be a "fragrant aroma." We are to influence others like perfume. Our goal is not to beat people into submission with arguments. I have yet to witness a debate where anyone's mind was changed. Maybe you have, but I haven't. I think Paul is saying that redemptive people are winsome. And even when they do engage in apologetics (a legitimate enterprise), they have an attractive fragrance that stands out from the aromas of the world. In short, Christians with a combative disposition do not help the cause of Christ.
So, Lord, please make us winsome and attractive for the Gospel. Please help us to put a lost world before our diplomas. It can be done, and by God's grace it must be done.
P.S. Yours truly and his bride in 1980, the year I left Talbot for Basel.
Clearly, we had much to celebrate. You probably have dozens of well-meaning people who have advice for how you should live your life and what career choices you ought to make. But remember: A good education tells people how to think, not what to think. Then you can reach a bold decision on your own (with the help of the Spirit, of course) about what to do with your life. "The only way to be truly satisfied," said Steve Jobs, "is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know it when you find it."
Friend, find out what makes you tick, and then go for it with all the gusto you have. Once you get this right, everything else will fall into place.
See you at Commencement!
Thursday, May 19
10:42 AM The reset button has been pressed:
The date, as you can see, is June 4. I like this venue a lot better than Umstead. I guess I prefer a little more terra firma under my feet. The course, as you can see, snakes its way through much of Raleigh.
I'm also glad it's on a Saturday and not on a Sunday. Not that I haven't had Sunday worship on a mountain somewhere. I've left a hiking trail as sanctified and renewed as any "worship service."
By the way, I received an awesome text message today. It made me feel immeasurably loved and cared for. You know who you are. Thank you.
9:24 AM I'm calling it off. Sunday's half marathon at Umstead Park in Raleigh that is.
The ground will be too sodden for walking let alone running (I've hiked in wet conditions there before). When I first started doing 5Ks I vowed never to run in wet conditions and risk injury. Overly cautious? Or just being a wimp? Maybe both!
9:12 AM Lord willing, in exactly 7 weeks I leave for Switzerland. My goal is to try and climb the Matterhorn -- at least as far as my ancient legs will take me. Previously, my ambition was to summit Mount Olomana again. Checked that box. Hawaii's trails are as treacherous as they are beautiful. Thankfully the weather was as dry as it ever gets in Windward Oahu when I made my summit bid. (The video is here.) And now it's on to the Matterhorn -- without doubt the best known and most coveted peak in the Alps. For training, we'll climb a couple of other mountains before attempting the Big M. After initial training with crampons on ice and snow, we'll attempt the Breithorn (13,661 ft.), a 4,000 meter peak that involves a glacier approach and mixed snow climbing. The next objective will be the Allalinhorn (13,212 ft.), a similar 4,000-meter peak that involves more training in climbing technique. My most important goal -- my "Impossible Dream" -- of course will be the Matterhorn itself (at 14,692 ft.). For this ascent we will first hike to the Hörnlihütte at 10,000 ft.
This mountain hut eliminates the need for sleeping bags and cooking. They'll provide meals as well as bunks and mattresses. Not that I think I'm going to get much sleep that night. The next morning we'll attempt to move steadily up the mountain ridge over steep and exposed rock. During the climb one's stamina, coordination, and balance are tested to the max. I'm told that it usually takes 6 hours of rapid climbing to make it to the summit and about 6 hours of downclimbing to make it back to the Hörnlihütte. I think it will be a fantastic experience. I know it will be a tremendous challenge, even if I'm only able to climb 100 meters beyond the hut. I've got one incredible mountain guide, I can tell you. His YouTubes are all over the web and we've spoken several times by phone. From what I can tell he aims to make climbing the Alps safe, fun, and exciting in equal measure. If you want the "why" about this trip, I'm not sure I have an answer. I think a big part of it is the possibility of getting away from the routine of life for a few days. The Matterhorn is also just difficult and dangerous enough to capture one's full attention for a while. I know it will be a great test of my endurance and skill. Obviously, I need to continue to train very hard before attempting any of these mountain peaks.
I'll be staying in Zermatt, a beautiful pedestrian-only town with incredible scenery and numerous flower boxes (such as the ones Becky and I used to enjoy in Basel). I want to thank you ahead of time for your encouragement and well wishes. Even if I don't summit any of these mountains and end up just trekking through the lowlands (complete happiness is relative), I know it will be an interesting week. This trip is more than about mere destinations. More and more I'm seeking out the natural beauty of God's creation wherever I travel. I subscribe to the theory expressed by Richard Nelson in his book The Island Within: "What makes a place special is the way it buries itself in the heart, not whether it is flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame." Hiking, in my opinion, offers a traveler no better way to achieve this familiarity with the "special places" in life. Even in Virginia I have found endless possibilities, from the local hiking trials to the Virginia Piedmont where one hill rises gently after another.
Hiking beckons. If you answer her call, you won't be disappointed.
Wednesday, May 18
7:46 PM Meeting today with one of my Ph.D. students reminded me of a wonderful mentor I had back in my Biola days. As you may know, this is my 40th year of teaching Greek. When I was hired to teach Greek at Biola in 1976 it was a dream come true. I was like a boy taking his first theology lesson and saying that he would like to be a Karl Barth. The salary was microscopic, but in those days very little could be expected if one was a humble instructor. This was during my second year of seminary at Talbot School of Theology. It was the same year I married Becky. We used Chase and Phillips' classical grammar for beginning Greek. It was designed to be covered in one semester at Harvard but we scraped by in two. Students were obligated to translate parse and endure quizzes and exams. I was closely supervised by the head of the Greek department, Dr. Harry Sturz. No one was kinder to me, or more encouraging. I was bent, grimly and ferociously, on mastering every secret of Chase and Phillips. I must have succeeded, as I was hired again in 1977.
I think my chief intellectual adventure in those days was my interaction with Professor Sturz. His noble features showed little trace of the burden of years, and he had already been a legend for years on campus as a symbol of excellent teaching. "He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes." All of us recognized his immense intellect. Yet he was never dogmatic, never over-bearing. It was there at Biola in the 1970s, under the tutelage of this gentleman scholar, that I honed whatever skills I possess as a Greek teacher. He left his imprint on my life.
Forgive me for trotting out a tired cliché -- but it really is true: We become like those with whom we study. For better or for worse. I grin when I read that statement. I wonder sometimes what my students think of an old geezer like me. No matter. Let's each of us run our race and be proud of it. Let's be grateful to God that He made us who we are. This will be risky of course; there are people watching us, closely. Gray hair makes us older but not necessarily wiser. Here is the truth: We all need mentors, people we can aspire to become like. I hope I've been that.
And that's the irony of it all. One can never be sure. The only proof is in the lives of our successors.
7:10 PM Just ordered from Amazon. (I've always wanted to know what Columbus's voyages were like; I hear Haley's new history of Hawaii is politically incorrect [which makes it unique]; and Jeff Shaara's latest novel is said to capture Sherman's March to the Sea in vivid detail.)
6:18 PM "Thank You" notes:
1) To all of my doctoral students. Here's one of them at lunch today.
You young scholars are a blessing!
2) To Raleigh, for being one of the fittest cities in America. (I'd also like to thank your little partner, Cary.)
3) To G. K. Chesterton, who once said,
(Hooray for the old guys!)
4) To Chassity Neckers for the reminder that skinny doesn't mean you take care of yourself.
5) To Paul Himes for making his New Testament exegesis students translate from the Septuagint. (Here's one of my former students reciting Psalm 1 in Greek. Go Jayson!)
6:44 AM This and that ...
1) Should one man set the "vision" for a local church? Read the comments here and decide for yourself.
2) Why footwashing is important for today.
3) Want to learn or review Spanish? Go here for some of the best YouTubes online.
4) Did you ask your search committee these questions?
5) How your GPS can be deadly -- literally.
Tuesday, May 17
2:51 PM I keep getting emails from a 13.1 mile race that I signed up for months ago in Greensboro but never participated in. "Congratulations!" "Check your official race time here." "Purchase a picture of you at the finish line here." Obviously, I cannot fix this. The internet has its beauty and its downside.
10:10 AM Map My Run just sent me this email.
In just one year I have grown to love the outdoors, to enjoy being active again on a regular basis. I love the fitness community. It's what I know. God has always made the most sense to me through His word and through the world that He created. I crave health and well-being for me and mine and for you and yours. But believe me, this is a God thing. I am from the beach, remember? I'm naturally prone to hanging loose, bruddah. When I see that I traveled 817 miles in one year of exercise I think, "That's not me. Good grief -- that's the exact distance from Washington, DC to Tampa, Florida." I hope you get a laugh out of that. After all, if God can do this for a lazy kid from Kailua like me, He can do it for just about anybody I suppose. He's good at being God. That first 5K unleashed a chain reaction of liberation from being a couch potato. But He made it all possible. This is my point: Good health is a gift from God. Pure and simple. Sure, we think we can engineer a carefully sculptured bod. People, I declare this is nonsense. If we are in good shape, super. But all the praise goes to Jesus. One day I'll go off the rails healthwise. We all will. Through sickness. Cancer maybe. Who knows. Maybe I'll get injured doing something stupid (er, audacious) like climbing the Alps. Friend, if you are doing your best to maintain the temple, that's good enough. We don't live in a reality TV show; we're living real lives. I'm just grateful for all the good things I've experienced being outdoors and doing silly things like running in races or hiking up hillsides. For me, getting in shape was like completing a doctoral program. I absolutely understand why people find other things to do with their time. Yet I think that sometimes we very much underestimate the power of God to change us. I bet we are tougher than we think. Like all human beings, we grow through struggle, failure, and perseverance. And if it turns out we never really do lose all that unwanted weight? We can still love God and follow Him. Because when our physical health tanks (and it will), He will hold us fast.
9:04 AM Odds and sods ...
1) Thank you, Joel, for your testimony (Participating in the War on Cancer) and for your support of Mama B's memorial fund.
2) 36 students have enrolled in my 6-week summer Greek course, which starts next Monday (no rest for the weary). If you fine people make it through the first three days you will have gone further than I did when I first enrolled in Greek at Biola. Students must be allowed to wrestle with the content without being shamed or they'll default to the registrar's office and we'll lose them. At any rate, welcome to the class and I promise to work my tail off for you.
3) Jane Eyre (speaking of her Mr. Rochester): "I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blessed -- blessed beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine." Tell your spouse today, while you still can, "You are my heart's full joy." (No need to add, "Even though you're so imperfect.")
4) Rainy day. Reading a dissertation chapter. This one is a home run.
5) Read 12 Truths About Losing Grandparents. (Man I wish I could write that well about loss.)
Monday, May 16
4:32 PM Good principles here on healthy church practices.
2:22 PM This morning was a busy one, beginning with a half hour of heavy lifting, then a bike ride of 5 miles, then a 5K on hoof. Then it was off to Roxboro to have lunch with Kim and the kids (Joel had to work) and I got to hug my painfully cute grandson Gabriel. Right now I have to cut grass, so if you'll excuse me ....
6:22 AM Today I'm thankful for:
1) 5K races that give you gift cards instead of medallions. Inside Out Sports, here I come!
2) Hassan Siddiqui, who, in our awards chapel this semester, received the prestigious Arthur F. and Olga M. Robinson Advanced Language Prize for mastery of both Hebrew and Greek on the graduate level. I would also like to welcome Hassan as my newest Ph.D. student.
3) John Wesley, who said, "Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can."
4) News websites that don't automatically begin playing an annoying video when you click on their home page.
5) New challenges in life, like this Sunday's half marathon in Cary. The good news is that it's my first race, so I can be assured of setting my personal best time. (It will also be my personal worst time, of course, but let's look on the bright side, shall we?)
Sunday, May 15
2:22 PM For those of you who love the good old outdoors as much as I do, it's probably obvious to you that I'm going to post something about hiking if it's a Sunday. I'm sitting here pondering on the fact that, as I hiked the gorgeous Twin Lakes State Park near Farmville, VA, there was a breeze blowing the whole time -- which seemed appropriate enough being as it is Pentecost Sunday. To be honest, I have rarely had such pure enjoyment on a nature hike as I had today. So here I am, training as hard as I can every weekend for my alpine experience this summer, yet finding the Lord refreshing my spirit every time I get outdoors. The lake was, of course, beautiful. I could post a hundred pictures of it. Health-wise, I feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger. I have been blessed with good weather of late to get some real hard training in. After my hike I visited Farmville Baptist Church, where the choir's anthem reminded me of how simple the Christian life really is. Even when you can't do anything, God can, through His Spirit. It's so simple. God is doing a massive work of grace in my life in this area. I'm forced to peel away all the self-sufficiency, all the hubris. I'm learning that it's the scars that define me, not the successes. But, oh, thank God that He is my Savior and my Lord and my Cover and my Rock, because even when I am stripped of everything else I still have Him.
Pix (of course):
1) This was my second visit to this quiet and secluded park.
2) Prince Edward Lake.
3) Love this sound.
4) A slow pace -- intentional on my part as I simply wanted to enjoy the outdoors today.
5) Farmville Baptist Church.
6) "Breathe on me." Amen.
8:20 AM Thank You Notes:
1) For friends who behave like friends.
2) For Lowe's Home Improvement (new dish washer).
3) For final exams. (Bless my students. I cannot imagine working as hard as they do.)
4) For prayer, which allows us Christians to intercede for our politicians instead of just venting about them (2 Tim. 2:2: "pray ... for kings and for all who are in authority"). Silly us. God is not about to fall off His throne.
5) For fun. Fun is so underrated. Hope to do something silly myself today.
6) For Fakebook. Normally all you get is Fake Shiny Other but sometimes you get the real deal.
7) For adjustable saddles on mountain bikes. I have to be quite careful when coming to the at-ease position.
8) For the beautiful Sanctuary made without hands. In the Rolodex of joys in my life, this has to be one of the highest.
9) For being normal. Average is not normal. Normal is being the best you can be.
10) For brain sweat. Nothing beats reading a good book. I read lots of them. They're the gymnasium for my mind.
Saturday, May 14
8:24 PM So what's a bachelor doing on a Saturday night?
1) Eating a chili relleno and a cheese enchilada.
2) Watching the clouds roll by. How small and insignificant I look in comparison.
3) Staring at the grass grow. Literally. Still waiting on 4-5 days without rain to begin cutting. On a farm, patience is not only a virtue but a necessity.
4) Re-reading Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb -- an apologia pro vita sua after being excoriated in the press. If you're interested in the 1996 Everest disaster, this book is a must read.
My brain is no more a passive instrument than my body. I train my mind the same way I train my body: by constant practice. The brain has to wrestle and run every bit as much as the body does. My kids tell me, "The first thing is to go is the memory, dad." O yeah? "I never knew an old man," said Cicero, "who forgot where he hid the money."
Talk to you tomorrow!
7:48 PM On the schedule for Saturday, May 28: Mount Mitchell Hike in the Boone area.
It's the highest peak east of the Mississippi and has been called "very strenuous." The trail ascends over 3,000 feet. It gets steep and then just steeper. I'll hike it with a buddy (whose car we'll leave at the top so we don't have to hike back down). I imagine every step will have to be made with great care. Footing can never be taken for granted. Just like in the Alps.
12:25 PM Greetings, cyber-pals!
Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote about happiness, which he referred to as eudaemonology. He declared exercise as the basis of mental health as well as physical health. "When people get no exercise," he stressed, "there is glaring and fatal disproportion between our outward activity and inner tumult." "Health," he added, "outweighs all other blessings." He's absolutely right -- if you include spiritual and emotional health in the mix.
Today I am, well, happy. In fact, very happy. That's because I just participated in one of the best 5K races I've ever had the privilege of being involved in. I'm happy not because the race was easy. (It wasn't.) Nor because the course was flat. (It wasn't.) Nor because I achieved my personal best race time. (I didn't. My time was 31:56.) I'm happy because I achieved three personal goals today.
1) I ran the very best race I knew how to run. Folks, I gave it 200 percent. That's the only way to live life, and that's how I want to live the rest of my life.
2) I kept an even pace despite the ups and downs of the course. I knew going into today's race that it was going to be brutal. Here's an elevation graph to prove it.
So the goal I set for myself was a simple one: keep the same pace whether I was going uphill or downhill. And I did. Without once stopping to rest I ran a consistent 9.5 mile per hour pace, and that makes me very happy because that's the kind of stamina I'll need when I get to the Alps.
3) Finally, my third goal was to become informed about this work of God called Dorcas Ministries. The common denominator in all of my races is the motive. I race mainly (though not exclusively) to help a cause I think deserves help. Thankfully, Dorcas Ministries came to the event fully prepared to advocate for their cause.
Even the mayor of Cary (seen below in the far distance) spoke about the virtues of this organization and how much it's helped his fair city.
I looked at him like a young Arthur looking at Merlin. "That's the trick, for sure. That's how communities ought to function." Running, therefore, can never become for me an end in itself. When I run, I am forced to ask the why question. And that's the simple reason why I love 5Ks so much and why I am so happy today. Honestly, I just love watching people help other people. And if I can get involved personally, so much the better.
Dear reader, nothing will bring you greater happiness than doing for others as God gives you the opportunities to do so. I'll even get you started. Check out a 5K race in your town. Maybe they'll sponsor a Dorcas Ministries in your city. (If you don't have one, you need to start one. You will be a star.) I meet people all over the country and when I look at them in the eyes I see loneliness. People need to belong somewhere -- to be loved and to give love, to know and to be known. Isn't this so? Online life is no substitute for getting out into the real world, where we both give and get. According to Jesus, that's how people will know that we are His followers. Running a 5K doesn't involve any fancy clothes, so don't let that stop you. All you need is a good pair of running shoes. So thank you, God, for inventing legs and the ability to run and the desire to give and not just get all the time and the happiness that comes from the satisfaction of knowing you obeyed the prompting of the Spirit when you went out and helped someone.
Schopenhauer, you da man. To obtain the greatest amount of pleasure in life we have no choice but to get out of ourselves and off of our fat sofas. All of us have that ability. But the art lies in how we use it.
P.S. Did you see that Becky's fund is now up to $1,250? I can't believe I just typed that. Thank you to all who made a contribution. Jesus' description of His kingdom comes to mind: small beginnings, invisible, humble, tiny seedlings, mostly hidden. You gotta love a kingdom like that where everybody counts, especially the little people.
The priesthood of believers is a reality after all.
Peace and love (I sound like John Lennon. That's creepy),
5:58 AM Great quote here (see comments):
Off to the races!
Friday, May 13
6:25 PM Why a hug is important.
8:12 AM Ok, folks. I'm keeping you brutally on the hook. Here's a great ministry in Cary, NC, that helps families in need. It's called Dorcas Ministries.
I'm hoping to help lead a tribe that does more than put money in their offering plates. Come and join me tomorrow as we run in support of this fine ministry. This is going to be so fun.
Thursday, May 12
7:15 PM A bit of fun in the sun, anyone?
1:44 PM Yet another testimony from UNC, this time from Becky's former oncologist:
How can you not LOVE the Tarheels?
12:30 PM I'm sitting here reading Malcolm Muggeridge's classic The End of Christendom. It can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned.
That said ...
Earlier I took a long walk at the Occoneechee State Park, which is not but a mere 12 miles from the farm. Grief is difficult but never more so than when you have special occasions such as Mother's Day and birthdays. Ugh. The double whammy. Unfortunately, they can't be avoided. Predictably, the grief attacks come in waves. Yesterday I was a basket case both physically and emotionally. Today I'm doing much better -- about 80 percent physically and 50 percent emotionally. So off to the park I went to relish in the beauty of God's creation -- where I am reminded that God is present (always), that there is never a moment when He isn't walking with us in our sorrow, that He is well acquainted with grief and sorrow, that He understands, and, finally, that He's not in any hurry to rush us through our grief. On days like today, tears are not just helpful, they're necessary. Real tears. Real hope. On my walk I felt so much comfort, so much solace, so much peace, so nurtured, as though I was in the arms of a Father. "Jesus broke out into tears." How long do you think He wept? Go on and cry, Dave. Let your tears carry you to the One who knows a thing or two about grief and pain.
But now it's back to my book. I know I shouldn't be as harsh on American culture as I am. I'm still working on that grace thingy. However inane are those who preside over the world's affairs, the truth of the incarnation remains intact. I don't know about you, but I'm movin' on, folks. Here I have no continuing city, not even my wonderful Shangri La out here in the country. I have found in Christ the only true answer.
A "few" pix:
1) Man, is this a nice place.
2) I did the historic "Buzzard's Head" trail. Lol!
3) Trekking poles were an absolute must today.
4) Shhh. Can you hear it? SILENCE.
5) Nifty historical marker.
6) Well-marked paths.
7) Bet this old chimney could tell a story or two.
8) The beautiful sounds of nature.
9) Hey everyone!
8:50 AM Endless gratitude to L. C. Technology International in Florida. They were able to recover the video files from my corrupted SanDisk SD card. Perhaps no living being is less interested in wasting other people's time than me, but I just had to link to this YouTube of some old-timer trying to summit a silly mountain in Hawaii. Goodness gracious!
8:32 AM Hello folks! Can you handle one more story about Becky? After all, today would have been her 63rd birthday. There is so much to share I don't know where to begin. Let's just say I'm super excited that today is Becky's birthday because I have a very special announcement to make in that regard.
Have you ever found yourself on the verge of a radically new discovery about yourself? Well, for several weeks now I've noticed that there was a thought lurking deep within my subconscious mind. A few days ago I decided to let it surface and began to explore it. As you know, for about a year now I've been involved in running 5K races partly for the exercise they afford and partly to support certain "causes" sponsored by those races. Those causes have ranged anywhere from raising funds for a local volunteer fire department to supporting the American Brain Aneurysm Foundation. It's strange really, how forgetful I can be, because all of these "causes" seem to blur together after a while.
In the middle of all of this I thought I heard the Lord telling me I should add a new "cause" to all of the other worthwhile activities I support. So I screwed up my courage and approached UNC in Chapel Hill to see whether they might be interested in developing a fund that would be used to raise awareness and research dollars specifically for endometrial cancer -- the form of cancer Becky had and to which she eventually succumbed. There wasn't much question of what needed to be done. I got the ball rolling and before I knew it I was sitting in the offices of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. As is turns out, UNC just happens to be one of the leading centers in the United States for endometrial cancer research. On Tuesday morning I met with Dr. Victoria Bae-Jump (MD, PhD), an Associate Professor in the Division of Gynecological Oncology at UNC. Her research, come to find out, focuses on understanding the interactions between cell signaling pathways implicated in endometrial cancer as a means of targeting a therapy for this disease. As she showed me her slides, we talked about her work with metmorfin. We talked about her work with mTOR inhibitors. We talked about her work on obesity as a possible factor in endometrial cancer development. Somewhere in the midst of all of this it became crystal clear to me that this was precisely the institution and precisely the researcher my subconsciousness had been pointing me to all these months. So I prayed. I prayed that the God of love, whom I'm getting to know a little better each time I'm blindsided by life, would show me how I could both express my appreciate to UNC for the outstanding care they gave Becky for five years and support the work of the hospital in terms of cancer research. Everything seemed to come together in a flash, and before I knew it we had developed a webpage on the UNC Lineberger site. Yesterday, it went live. And so today, on Becky's 63rd birthday, I have the honor, the privilege, and the unspeakable joy of announcing to one and to all:
Today I sit here overcome with joy, helpless, tears in my eyes as I reflect on the goodness of our God. I get an overwhelming sense that this is a good thing that God is doing and that Becky would be pleased were she here to see it playing out. I am reminded that even when my world has been shaken and my footing is less than steady, I have Someone to turn to, Someone who places a seal over the hearts of the grieving and even plants dreams deep down in their subconscious minds. And whenever I feel like I'm hitting a brick wall, I'll remember this fund in Becky's memory and I will feel calmed by the knowledge that followers of Jesus can indeed stride confidently up to the throne of grace, because God listens, He cares, He grieves with the 60,000 women in the U.S. who will be diagnosed this year with endometrial cancer and with the families of the 10,000 women who will die in America in 2016 because have they lost their battle with this horrible disease. And that's a startling truth. God knows. He sees. He cares. He loves us all.
And so I pray. I pray that God may use this fund to accomplish His purposes in this world, whatever they might be. Can you pray too? Pray for Dr. Bae-Jump and her team of researchers. Pray for the women whom you know are struggling with cancer. Pray that all of us would learn what love is and how to love well, not in word only, but also in deed. Because not loving others is just not an option.
It is not true that there is no hope for the suffering. So together, you and I, we'll keep on fighting. We'll keep coming up with new experiments and new therapies and new plans and inventing new procedures and praying for new miracles. Because right now, that's all we've got.
Happy 63rd birthday, honey, and my love and appreciation to all of you who knew her and loved her so well during her 60 years on earth.
P.S. A few addenda.
1) A lighter moment during Tuesday's orientation meeting.
Dr. Bae-Jump is on my right. On my left is Ms. Kelly Mansfield, Director of Development at UNC Lineberger.
2) One of Dr. Bae-Jump's many slides.
3) Here's her wonderful staff.
4) They gave me the royal tour of their research lab.
5) On the drive back to campus I treated myself to -- what else? -- Ethiopian food.
6) Dr. Bae-Jump was kind enough to send along the following:
I love how she puts that. No, I am no utopian. We humans are such a mess! People will be broken and hurting until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we can all pull together, pitch in, and (for us followers of the Lamb) press into God. After all, He can do far above what any one of us could ever ask or imagine.
Tuesday, May 10
7:24 AM Good morning! Enormous shout-out to everyone who has tried to climb K2, including Ed Viesturs, the author of this book that arrived yesterday.
The climbing community is rare and unique. From it has arisen an inspiration in my own soul that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. These people are together. They cheer each other on. When they're scared to death, they declare "We can do this." When they are defeated (by the mountain, by disease, by weakness, by high altitude sickness -- but mostly by the mountain), they lift each other's heads up. They know themselves. There is a time to keep on climbing, and a time to walk away. Ed Viesturs knew this better than most. That intuition saved his life many times. Sometimes in life (or even in an election year) the bravest and best thing to do is to stop fighting for something that is never going to produce a winner. Give Jesus something to stick to in the real world and life will feel worth living again.
I am by no means a wise man, but I feel like I'm beginning to understand what is of greatest value in life. That's why, before going to campus today, I'll be meeting with the powers that be at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill. I can't betray the good news yet. But once again in my life, I'm about to give it everything, and it feels good. I pray that I would use my days wisely, that I would be faithful to all that God calls me to do, and that I would not grow (too) weary in well-doing. Godworld isn't just the title of my next book. It's a reality -- a kingdom in which even older Christians are finally learning how to walk. And the coolest thing is that you don't even have to climb a mountain to do it. Whenever I feel so small, so useless in this big world, I tell myself that my God isn't small or useless. He is working to redeem this world in His time and in His way. I'm well aware that what happens today at UNC is a mere drop in the bucket. But this time, I'm not going to use my own water only.
Make it a great day.
Monday, May 9
6:05 PM This and that ...
1) Did another 5K today. Year-to-date miles: 498.3. May 2016 miles: 45.2.
2) Hebrews Highlights Henry (Huh?).
3) Got a call from Florida today. Seems like my billions of GoPro video files from Hawaii were recoverable. Yay! Should have them on Wednesday. Warning: Be prepared for more insufferably boring YouTubes of my vacation.
4) Still on my bucket list before the end of June: Climbing Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet).
5) This week in Greek class we get to talk about the 5 Greek words for "love." (The lecture is purely hypothetical.) (No it's not.)
6) Time to cook supper. The cuisine? Here's an anagram hint (*wink wink*): "She nice."
10:25 AM Reflections on a Mother's Day without Mom:
1) My faith in God is stronger but quieter.
2) Jesus is more at the center than at the periphery of my life.
3) My kids and grandkids have assumed a greater role in my life.
4) The understanding of God's sovereignty is now much bigger in my life.
5) What I lost was good. It's therefore okay to feel bad.
6) Becky's death has winnowed dramatically the number of people who function within my intimate circle. I don't need surfacy friendships.
7) Time and time again I have heard someone say, "Dave, you have no idea how much your new dedication to fitness has inspired me." That dedication was inspired by Becky's own courage.
8) Mother's Day is a day to celebrate the mystery of tragedy and suffering yet also the mystery of grace disguised by pain and loss.
9) I have been dreaming about Bec almost every night now. They've all been happy dreams.
10) Loss can make a person not less but more. I am discovering a whole new world beyond Becky.
11) My goal? If I had one, I guess it might be to mourn deeply and live well.
Plus: To remember well. Her love, her insight, her selflessness, her faith, her character, her intimacy with God, her courage, her generosity, her light-heartedness, her drive to complete tasks thoroughly, her willingness to forgive, and especially her relentlessness in prayer.
Becky, because of you I live within the ambivalence of night and day. I wonder: Can you see from where you are how far I've come? How the rawness is being replaced by contentment? How I am moving past your death even as I continue to experience it daily? How I have changed? Nothing again in my life will ever be an "accident." Life is entirely God's doing. And one day, all of life will be made well and whole again.
Little did I know, two and a half years ago, how losing you would reshape everything about me. Little did I know how glorious and mysterious and harsh and wonderful my life would become. I just want you to know that I'm doing okay. I'm going to make it. Life has assumed a new routine. And like the sturdy cedar beside our house, you are ever present -- strong and seasoned, your delicate face like that of the carved and strong visage of a farmer's wife, full of years and strength and memory and character. God is not through with this story yet, honey. He is redeeming it for His purposes. I have made peace with your loss and with His sovereignty. The mountains still tower before me, but I will give it everything I have to conquer them.
Happy Mother's Day, honey. I love you.
Sunday, May 8
4:10 PM This post is for all my daughters and daughters-in-law who take such great care of their husbands and kids (my grandkids) all year long. Ladies, you are my heroes. You each deserve the "Mother of the Year Award" as far as I'm concerned. Today, in your honor, I decided to do a mountain bike marathon (26.2 miles).
You say, "That must have been hard!" Nope. Not hard -- not even close to being hard -- when compared to all of the work you gals do, day in and day out, year in and year out, as wives and mothers (and daughters). Ever since mom died I've had this Horrible Dad Moment when I just know I will forget to honor your birthday or, even worse, Mother's Day. Listen, gals: I just want you to know how proud I am of every one of you. I've never known mamas to work so hard, love so deeply, and care so genuinely.
This was FOR YOU:
P.S. Afterwards I stopped at the MacDonald's in Farmville for an absolutely scrumptious Filet-O-Fish meal. Yes. I know. I swore off on fast food joints months ago. Religiously.
Sure glad I'm not a legalist.
Saturday, May 7
8:22 PM Hey there, Ishi! You're lookin' good!
8:08 PM I know you can't balance an overloaded beam. But I really do think I'll be ready for another 5K next Saturday, so here's taking the plunge. Besides, I like being in Cary.
If you'd like to join us, go here to register.
1:54 PM Photo update:
1) Pretty weather for a street party and a 5K, wouldn't you say?
2) Oxford's finest were out in full force to keep the streets safe for the 350 or so runners who participated in today's race.
3) One of the many pre-race pix I took. Love this community!
4) Post-race pic. I came in just over 30 minutes.
4) One of the local Baptist churches was hosting a fund raiser to support a mission trip to western North Carolina this summer to put a roof on a house.
Now that's a win-win situation. They get a donation and I get a "healed" car.
To sum up: I love competing in 5Ks (as you know). It produces fit muscles but it also provides another kind of fitness -- an ability to be mentally fit, which is an asset especially when you're in my line of work. No, life is not all about reason and only reason. But in the game of life, reason is necessary. When then do we settle for lassitude and fatigue in our minds? There's a solution, and it's called motion, motion of any kind. For those of you fine folks out there whose treadmill in your den is the most expensive clothes hanger even invented, you might want to keep that in mind.
With all due respect-ish,
One Tired Dude (zzzzs time)
P.S. Here's a video of today's fun-and-games if you're interested.
Friday, May 6
8:32 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Pardon the cheese factor here, but I really like old Alfred Hitchcock movies. Think I'll watch North by Northwest tonight.
2) Unlike most of my races, tomorrow's 5K in Oxford won't be earning big bucks for any cause. The purpose is just to have fun and enjoy the city's downtown district. I'll still pull myself together any way and go all out. For me, a race is a race is a race. You do your best no matter what. Time and venue are incidental.
3) I will admit that I'm a huge Paul McCartney fan simple he was (and still is -- he turns 71 on June 18) a musical genius plus the fact that I love his songs ("The Long and Winding Road" is one of my favorites that I used to sing to my girlfriend in high school accompanying myself on the piano). Then too, as a former bass player (I played bass for four years in college in a group calling ourselves Joyous Creed), Paul hardly ever stuck to the basic base notes but instead used a diverse choice of rhythms that I tried to mimic when I was in college. Perhaps "Come Together" is the most well-known example of Paul's diverse style of base playing, but I also love the patterns in "Magical Mystery Tour." All of which to say is that I've gotten my ticket to see Paul McCartney at the McGregor Hall in Henderson, NC, on Saturday May 21. The tour is called The McCartney Years and features a Dutchman named Yuri Pool as Paul. For tickets, go here.
4) Top baby names of 2015. I love them all.
5) Two opposing views:
We'll be discussing this issue when get to the so-called "Pastoral Epistles" next semester in New Testament Introduction. (Yes, this is exactly me: to question everything.)
1:44 PM Thank you, LaCrosse, VA, for having a knock-dead rigorous bicycle course.
And thank you, Map My Run, for being the coolest app ever.
Not only do I know how far I've gone; I know how many calories I can scarf down after I'm done exercising.
Sincerely, A Man Getting Ready to Do the Marathon Rumble.
Friday, May 6
10:14 AM This and that ...
1) Just booked another flight to Hawaii. I'll have the privilege of inaugurating our first ever Greek class there on September 6.
2) Grateful for all the precipitation we're getting. So are our hay fields. "How singular, and yet how simple, the philosophy of rain! Who but the Omniscient one could have devised such an admirable arrangement for watering the earth!" (Andrew Ure).
3) Just 17 days until my first half marathon.
4) This day in history: The Hindenburg Disaster.
Thursday, May 5
8:08 PM Remembering the poor and remembering the powerless. What a powerful statement by Dr. Russ Moore, head of our own SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Watch The Gospel vs Sunday Morning Gospel Darwinism. I love this touchstone. As I shared with my Greek students this week, my life verse is usually translated "distributing to the needs of the saints" (Rom. 12:13), but I prefer to render it as "Share what you have with God's people who are in need." As Dr. Moore insists, we must learn how to read the "other" charitably, including the illegal immigrants in our midst and the Muslims within our land. As I write in the preface of my forthcoming book Running My Race:
Notice how Dr. Moore slows his words for emphasis (quoting the apostle Paul): "'We remember the poor and we remember the powerless, the very thing that we should be eager to do,' because we are conserving the Gospel for the future."
I've taken to calling the next year of my life the "Jesus Year." As much I believe in attending a church, I believe in being the church. Dear Millennial, you are not a "none." Yes, I realize that small acts of kindness to others seem so inconsequential. A cup of cold water is such a little thing. Yet these simple things are the very things that matter to God. Your little trails of kindness and love and remembering the poor lead straight to God through the Gospel.
In the coming year, let's experiment with what Dr. Moore is trying to tell us and take a Christian stand apart from the crowd. Sharing your room with someone who is homeless, giving your coat to someone who needs it more than you do, feeding someone who is hungry, visiting the widow and widower in their grief -- Jesus said that such acts reap great rewards (Matt. 25:34-40). Sometimes kindness means refraining from saying something negative that otherwise you have the right to say. Kindness is a bouquet of flowers or babysitting for free or a whispered compliment or a warm smile or a squeeze of the hand. The teaching of the book of 1 John (which we are studying in Greek class) is that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with a God who is both light and love, and our love for Him can be measured by the amount of time we spend with Him and by how much we allow Him to do for others through us. The Bible declares that Jesus is not some nebulous power but a person as real as your best friend. That's why I'd like to call the next generation of Christians "Jesus People" (sorry Alvin!) because, like Jesus, their lives are marked first by their love for God, then by their love for others.
Russ's video is the kind of video I'd like see every millennial and church leader watch. As Dr. Moore shares his vision for a church that loves the powerless, he is charitable as well as courageous, full of conviction of how we are all to be the church. His words are wise, tender, and beautiful.
Thank you, Dr. Moore.
2:24 PM Today, between rain squalls, I did a 5K power walk in South Boston.
I'm getting behind in my monthly miles. As you can see, I failed to reach 100 miles in April.
I'll try harder in May. Problem is: My Map My Run app doesn't include surfing, snorkeling, and lap swimming.
10:48 AM Announcement! This Saturday the historic city of Oxford, NC, is celebrating its bicentennial. It will feature a 5K walk/run. If you'd like to register for this stellar event, go here. Race starts at 8:45.
Actually, when Bec and I first moved to the area 18 years ago we lived on a small ranch just south of Oxford and were part of this great community. Happy Anniversary, Oxford, and we'll see you on Saturday, Lord willing!
Wednesday, May 4
7:16 PM Photo update:
1) Enjoyed lunch today with our librarian and my good friend Jason Fowler. We talked about the darkest hour of our lives -- when our wives passed away from cancer -- and thought especially about God's sovereignty and His goodness to us and marveled that He gave us humans the capacity to know Him, love Him, and trust Him.
2) Today we had our final faculty meeting of the semester. I'm gonna really miss these guys this summer.
3) Well, I see that Tolo Tolo (our male donkey whose name means "Hurry Up!" in Amharic) and Tinish Koi ("Slow Down!") finally had their baby.
I've named her "Ishi" ("Okay!"). Welcome to Rosewood Farm, cutie pie!
Tuesday, May 3
9:06 AM Notes to self (and/or whoever)...
1) You will get over jet lag. Eventually.
2) New at our Greek Portal: Noah Kelley's Transformational Generative Grammar and Biblical Studies.
3) "To believe in heaven is not to run away from life; it is to run toward it." Joseph D. Bunco.
4) Have you seen the political polls lately? I think they're very CREEPY.
5) A week ago I was eating this.
Crispy Gau Gee Mein with Vegetables. It is so delicious you will weep over it.
Monday, May 2
5:22 PM This week in Greek 2 I'm introducing the final grammar chapter in our textbook. Yep. We made it. Friend, may I affirm you in your calling? Maybe that isn't to take Greek or teach the Bible. Fine and dandy. Just because you're not "out front" doesn't mean that your work is insignificant. We all are watching you. Give it your best. Play your part in the orchestra. Keep on running your race. Be grateful that God made you YOU. Honestly, the whole of life is simply loving and serving God. This is sacred work. Your life REALLY counts.
P.S. Thanks to the great guys in our IT department who are helping me troubleshoot all kinds of problems I've had since I downloaded "updates" (pooter killers) to my Windows. If you know how to get the "Import pictures and videos in Windows" box to pop up on my screen when I plug my iPhone into my desktop, I sure hope you'll let me know.
2:44 PM What happens to grass when you don't cut it? Alas, that's the main problem with vacations. While Adam is gone (and Eve too), the Garden still needs tending. No problem. The Lord provided a simply gorgeous day to get out the old lawn mower.
Here's the back yard at Bradford Hall -- before ....
... and after.
By the way, no mono-culture lawns here on this here ol' farm. NoSirree. We just pretty much let grow what wants to grow (since what was once "grass" is now "weed").
Off to get some groceries before I starve to death. Believe me, the prices are much cheaper here than in Hawaii!
9:32 AM I took karate during my high school days in Hawaii. My dojo was in Honolulu -- and was one of the best. I made it to brown belt before losing interest. I recall my instructor asking me, "So, Dave, why are you studying karate?" "Because I like it," I replied. "What do you like more?" he asked. "The image of karate or karate?"
Greek student, now that it's the end of the semester, I have a question for you: "What do you like more? The image of Greek or Greek?" Before you protest too much, please read my essay Greek Student: Quo Vadis?
Maybe two years from now we'll still be able to discuss Greek together. I sincerely hope so.
9:22 AM More notes to self:
1) Never take yourself too seriously. Nobody else does.
2) Think of your last years as your best. (Jesus often reversed things).
3) Be grateful for those who have really loved you and have consistently shown you their love in this life.
4) Be like a child in your love of learning.
5) My infirmities can be a blessing to someone else.
6) It's easier to grow old when we are neither bored not boring.
7) Laughter is God's medicare.
9:12 AM There's something wrong with my GoPro Studio so I haven't been able to upload any of my videos of Hawaii yet. To slate your appetite, here's a sneak peak of what you can expect (taken with my iPhone).
I was so happy to complete this hike but it took several days for my thighs to recover!
Sunday, May 1
4:25 PM Kailua.
Three beautiful syllables.
And an entire universe apart.
If you've ever been there, you already know what I'm going to say in this post. My earliest memories were formed at Kailua Beach. And every time I return there (twice a year it seems since Becky's death), the town still has a Kailua-ish feel to it. (It ain't no Honolulu -- yet). As soon as I arrive at my beach home in Kailua and put on my swim trunks and slippers, it seems as though I've never left. The place still retains the Aloha Spirit, big time. I can hear it wafting over Honolulu's all-Hawaiian-music radio station. The real Hawaii is there, for sure -- but it's also in the plate lunches and the shave ice and the guava-mango-pineapple juice you get at Safeway. Mr. Obama claims the northern shore of Kailua Bay as his Winter White House. So be it. "My" beach is far quieter and more secluded and (most importantly) has the biggest waves. For a plunge into antiquity I drive my rental car past the three stick-built houses I lived in as a keiki and the three schools I attended there. For grinds there's Willow Tree for Korean and New Mui Kwai Chop Suey for Chinese. Later I stop to get my groceries for the week -- cereal, papayas, mangos, and (of course) chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.
Not every trip to Kailua was as important as this one was. I had three goals, each a unique challenge: finish my book Running My Race, summit Olomana, and help organize a beginning Greek class on Windward Oahu.
1) As for the book, I finished it Friday morning.
2) As for Olomana? I had my doubts. When you come through the Pali Tunnels to the Windward side you'll immediately see Olomana in all its glory. Walking on the beach it stares at you, jutting out its jaw in the Maunawili Plains with the Koolau Range as the backdrop. It's a scene right out of Rocky I. As keikis we climbed "The Beast" all the time. I suppose it was considered a local rite of passage. But at 63? The tourist guidebooks all warn the inexperienced away. Well, I may not have a lot of experience but I'm no spring chicken either. The fact is Olomana is not only the most dangerous hike in the Islands but also the most exhilarating. Climb it and your mountaineer happy gauge will be shooting through the roof. You get to scramble up clay, then roots, then rocks. Just below the summit a 15-foot section of class 4 rock awaits you, boasting a frayed-looking climbing rope. ("Do I trust it or not?") But the view from the top is no laughing matter. Think of it as the most awesome postcard of Windward Oahu you've ever seen. The hike itself is a rigorous climb with a solid fear factor of 10 out of 10 for the inexperienced. We call it our "Matterhorn" because you ascend a very similar-looking spine ridge to the top. It's a really fun hike but be sure to do it only in dry conditions. And when you do get to the top, be prepared to be buzzed endlessly by tourist choppers. (I'll post a video shortly.)
3) And the Greek class that will be using my DVDs? Our organizational meeting was well attended and super motivational. I may even take the class myself! We've decided to start in September and have two "semesters" with a break at Christmas. The home school community on the Windward side seems particularly interested. We're opening the class to anyone from any church and even to not-yet believers. I'm still in a state of total shock that this may actually happen. But that's God.
1) My home-away-from-home.
2) This is how the Lord greeted me every morning.
3) I had a daily routine (of sorts). Watch the sunrise, go to Starbucks (or Denny's) and write, swim/snorkle/surf/jog/climb, then grab a bite to eat and spend the evening reading.
4) "My" beach.
5) The exact spot at Kailua Beach where Becky and I celebrated our honeymoon 40 years ago.
6) The Beast itself.
7) Here's the sign at the trailhead. Guess I broke one of the rules, eh?
8) The Olomana Trail is sometimes assisted by unmaintained ropes and you can't automatically count on their condition. You can't see it in this picture, but there are drop-offs of several hundred feet on both sides of this rock face.
9) Shaka bruddah! Made it!
10) I look around me and see overwhelming beauty. I feel like an ant crawling across a green bed sheet, so tiny on this huge mountain.
11) I had Olomana to myself until a young couple climbed the rope to the summit. We snapped pix of each other. I think we all felt so blest to be in such an amazingly beautiful place and in such a primitive environment. Olomana is a very, very beautiful mountain and it's located in a very, very special place in my life. Humility, pride, wonder, fear, gratitude, and bravado all had a place in our kaleidoscope of emotions I suppose.
12) Budding Greek scholars at Windward Baptist Church, the host venue for our Greek class in the fall.
13) The new principal of Kailua High School with my book It's All Greek to Me.
14) My friend Wesley not only has the best Chinese food in town he's also a follower of Jesus. I was so happy to see him get a copy of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church in Chinese.
15) There WILL be bulgogi in heaven.
Thank You, Lord, for my week in Hawaii and the refreshments, large and small, You poured out on me -- from catching a thousand waves to adoring the views from atop Olomana to a busy pen in the morning to a full table at night to the joys of talking with loved ones on the mainland and the anticipation of seeing loved ones in heaven. Thank You for the strength and vigor You've given me to be physically active at my age, for the mental powers that enable me to think and write, and for every moment of happiness I've ever experienced on this island paradise. Your goodness is too great even to contemplate. Ten thousand words could not express my gratitude. Please greet Becky for me and tell her I miss her. Just as You are the sole object of her affection, so increase my love for You until that Day when the three of us will all meet in person.
With much aloha,