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May 2018 Blog Archives   

Tuesday, May 29   

6:45 AM What a crazy week it's going to be weather-wise. Rain and more rain. Not that we don't need the rain. Farmers are always grateful for precipitation, especially when their main crop is hay. So it looks like I'll be taking another hiatus from picking up bales and even from running outdoors unless I can take advantage of any dry spells that present themselves. It's either that or use a "dreadmill." My verdict: Make your plans, but hold them loosely. Keep on pushing yourself, be that physically, intellectually, or spiritually. This is our third week of summer Greek and the finish line is almost in view. Interestingly, we're covering 13 chapters in Greek 1. Doing the math, that's the equivalent of a half marathon. Today I'm sending my students home with their second exam of the semester, covering chapters 7-11. Then "all" we have left this week are chapters 12-13. I say "all" because every half marathoner knows that 50 percent of your energy is expended on the last 3 miles of the race. You look and look for reasons to quit but can't find any. So you keep plodding along. And just what are we learning this week in Greek class? The passive and middle voices. Not that hard, not that bad. Not even "deponency" will kill you. When I took beginning Greek, I had several bad days. I struggled, stumbled, and heaved just to finish. Ditto for my first half marathon. I thought about trying to convince the race organizers to shorten the course but they would have nothing of it. The bottom line: 13 miles are 13 miles. And 13 chapters are 13 chapters. You can crawl across the finish line if you need to, but ya gotta go the distance. Even if you don't beat your time goal, you've still beaten your laziness, and that's something worth celebrating in and of itself.

Below? That's moi at the finish line of the Dallas Marathon last December. A marathon is twice as long as a half. A 6 week Greek class is twice as long as a 3 week Greek class. The principle here is obvious: You can't run 5 miles unless you've run 4. One mile at a time, and one chapter at a time.

Got it?

Monday, May 28   

11:52 AM Just ran 2 miles in South Boston at (or is it "on"?) the high school track. It's now raining. I had planned to run a 5K but the humidity got to me and I just had to stop. Tough runners would have continued. Me-type runners call it quits when they are literally about to keel over.

Back to our Hebrews class for a sec. Here's the one entry I'm having my students read on the topic of textual criticism:

F. F. Bruce, "Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews" in David Alan Black, ed., Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992. Pp.27-39.

I remember when Prof. Bruce wrote this essay for me. The manuscript I received from him was written on a machine called a typewriter. (You might find one in your local ancient history museum.) White out had been used in places. And when the book was eventually published, Bruce's essay appeared posthumously. The great scholar had gone home to be with the Lord. I suppose the most interesting variant he discusses is the one in Heb. 2:9. In place of "by the grace of God" many copies of the letter have "apart from God." Oddly enough, this variant isn't even mentioned in Guthrie's commentary, which I just checked. Oh well, it will be discussed in our class, along with other important textual variants. After all, textual criticism is part and parcel of the exegete's toolbox.

My next race is next Saturday in Raleigh, by the way. It's called Race 13.1. Let's see, where did I put my body glide and aspirin? It will be my second half marathon in two weeks. Not that I'm OCD or anything. I could sit here and write a ton of stuff about how excited I am but I'll wrap things up and just say how thankful I am to the Lord for allowing me to participate in road races.

Happy Memorial Day! Run strong!

7:55 AM Happy Memorial Day everyone. I hope you're enjoying your day off from work (if you get one). This morning I'm sipping Kona Coffee that I brought back from Hawaii with me last year. Could anything taste better? I was planning on swimming laps today but there's heavy rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for practically the entire day. So I thought I'd bring you up to speed on my 5K last night in Raleigh. 5K races are just downright cruel. They make you run, and run hard, the whole way. Unlike a 10K or a half, you have no real excuse to steal breaths at aid stations or even walk up the hilly parts. And this course was HILLY. I had 3 or 4 goals going into last night's race:

  • Finish.

  • Finish under 35 minutes.

  • Finish without walking at all.

  • Place in my age division.

I accomplished all but the last goal. In fact, this was the first time I was able to run the entire course without taking any walk breaks. Out of pure habit, I ran way outside of my comfort zone. According to my Map My Run app, my intensity level was 97 percent. 3.1 miles is a long way to run when you're going full out. But I finished strong although it took me several minutes to recover. God's grace! Remember, Dave, you like to do hard things.

Best of luck to all of you this holiday if you're out there running or otherwise training. Let me know when you sign up for your first 5K. Do your best and all will be well. 5Ks are definitely rough, but none of it is worth it unless you're enjoying yourself. I'll be cheering you on.

A few pix:

1) I drove down to Raleigh early so that I could grab some Ethiopian food before the race.

2) Tegegne is back in charge. He sold the business several years ago but now it's back in his very capable hands.

3) If you're ever in Raleigh and want to try some authentic Ethiopian cuisine, the Abyssinia is the place to go.

4) The race started at 6:00 pm but I got there at 3:45 to help with registration and packet pickup. I'm standing in the back passing out the race t-shirts. It was a blast.

5) We lined up for the start at 5:55. There were some really fast dudes in this race. I mean, guys with calves the size of my thighs.

6) It was a beautiful day for a race, for sure, but a bit on the humid side. Okay, a lot on the humid side.

7) Did I mention that the course was hilly?

8) You ran up and down, up and down, and up and down again. The hills seemed never-ending.

9) Here's good ol' moi post-race catching my breath.

10) The after-race party included a couple of roach coaches. I ordered some tacos and washed them down with an ice-cold coke.

11) I pulled into the farm at exactly 9:30 pm and was treated to this gorgeous view of the moon.

What a great day! So it wasn't my fastest 5K but the effort I put into this race made it an incredibly amazing experience. And it was a delight to share it with you.

P.S. In commemoration of Memorial Day, I've been watching "Hymn to the Fallen" by John Williams. To all the fallen, our deepest and most heartfelt thanks.

Sunday, May 27   

8:45 AM Hey guys, and welcome back to my little blog. I was up early this morning working on the syllabus for this fall's exegesis of Hebrews class. It's crazy to think that anyone can cover the entire 13-chapter epistle in one week, so I've forced myself (ugh) to select portions of the letter to focus on. What do you think of my choices?













I know that some of you who read my blog are runners and, like me, read the Bible for echoes of the sport. Some passages, such as 12:1-3, are obviously running-related, but others are less obviously so. Here I'm thinking of 2:1-4 or 3:1-6, for example. There are two principles at work in these passages. I'd call 2:1-4 "The Danger of Doing Nothing." In other words, when you do nothing, something always happens. That's a principle of life you can bank on. Just don't mow the grass or change the oil in your car. As for the readers of Hebrews, they were in danger of slowly, imperceptibly drifting away from their moorings in Christ, much like a sailing vessel can drift away from a dock. During our lives as runners, we face a moment of truth every time we wake up in the morning. Running for life is a choice we have to make over and over again. Piece by piece, day after day, we are adding to the mosaic of ourselves as runners. Together, inspiration and perspiration carry us through. Every run we do can become a spontaneous celebration.

As for 3:1-6, my takeaway is another often-forgotten principle of life: You don't have to make someone else look bad in order to make someone look good. You'll recall that in this passage the author is comparing Moses and Christ. His goal is to show how vastly superior Christ is to Moses. Had I been given that assignment, I probably would have said, "That's easy. No problem. All I have to do is show how Moses sinned and how Moses failed and then compare him to the sinless Christ." But the author of Hebrews was much wiser than that. Rather than denigrate Moses in any way or attempt to "unhitch" himself from the Old Testament, he shows how Moses "was faithful in all of his household." Moses, he says, was a super great leader, perhaps the greatest leader Israel ever knew. Then he goes on to say, almost in a stage whisper, "Pssst, and guess what? Jesus is even greater than Moses, and if He can be greater than Moses He must really be Something." You see, the author isn't contrasting Moses' faithfulness with Christ's faithfulness. Both were equally faithful. But there's a catch: Moses was faithful as a son in the house. But Christ is faithful as the Son over the house. Thus the point of comparison has nothing to do with faithfulness but has everything to do with status. One of the reasons I love the running community so much is because it's so affirming of every runner who makes an attempt to get out there and run -- even those of us out of shape slobs who started out running at a caterpillar-like pace. The possible suddenly seems possible, and no one offers you more encouragement than people who have been running all their lives. "Trust me," they tell you. "If I can do it, so can you. All you have to do is keep training, keep improving, and keep ignoring the naysayers." You are living a life, my running friend, that only a short time ago would have been a complete fantasy.

Of course, in our Hebrews class, we'll be covering these passages not in English but in Greek, and believe you me, the Greek of Hebrews can be a bit on the challenging side. But if I get the syllabus up in the next 3 weeks, that should give my students plenty of time to work ahead if they so desire. The course is by default (more than design) merely an entrée into this wonderful epistle. And in addition to exegeting specific texts, we'll also be covering such macro-issues as authorship. Here's what they'll be reading on this subject.

  • Allen, David L. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010.

  • Black, David Alan. The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. Energion, 2013.

  • Guthrie, George. "The Case for Apollos as the Author of Hebrews," Faith and Mission 18.2. (2001): 41-56.

Of course, when they read my little book, I don't expect them to agree with me, though I hope they'll get a glimpse of the remarkable joy of discovery I experienced as I began to study the church fathers for themselves.

Okay, enough about Hebrews (for now). Tonight I've got a 5K in Raleigh.

I nearly fainted when I saw the elevation chart.

Am I back in the Swiss Alps or what? The race starts at 6:00, but I'm volunteering to man the registration table from 3:45-5:45 so I'll get there a bit early. Speaking of volunteering, I am so excited to be able to announce to you that I've joined Team Lungevity!

They had a booth at the Marine Corp Historic Half last weekend and I signed up! So in October, when I run the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, I'll do so as a fundraiser for lung cancer research. You can tell, cantcha, that I'm still not over Becky's passing and love running for "the cure." Since her death I've broadened my understanding of who I am in this world. I'm learning to integrate Becky's loss into a greater whole. Yes, God is sovereign -- absolutely! But God's sovereignty doesn't cancel out the important role we play. Through running I hope against hope that somehow, some way, I can make other people's lives better through my circumstances. At the incarnation, God came all the way from heaven to live among us. The streets of gold became a pile of dirt at His feet. I have grieved long and intensely, but I've found comfort in knowing that I can still enter into the pain and grief of others who are battling cancer. The point is, no matter what loss you might experience in life, my friend, there's always a way to make it into good. Faith allows us to trust God and also to serve others in His name. I'll be 66 in two weeks, so there's no time to waste if I'm going to get busy for God.

Well, that's it for now. I hope everyone is running strong, be your race a physical one, an emotional one, or a spiritual one -- or all three. Balance in life is a slippery thing. Runners know well what the word "sacrifice" means. So do followers of Jesus. I know, sometimes it's hard to wrap our head around the task. But here's what we can do: stop blaming our laziness on a barrage of excuses, put away our demons, and run with endurance the race set before us.

You got this!


Saturday, May 26   

12:10 PM Afternoon, folks, and welcome back to DBO. I'm here to tell you I am super super excited that this book came in today's mail.

I had been anxiously anticipating it. I've watched enough YouTubes of Nathaniel Philbrick to know that he is an excellent communicator, and what a story he's got to tell. Earlier I went to the farmer's market and brought these beauties home with me.

I just devoured a mater sandwich and plan to use the yellow squash in my spaghetti sauce tonight. Before that I enjoyed a stellar 45-minute workout at the Y, where I worked mostly on my upper body strength. As you know, I had planned to swim after that but I decided to nix that plan as a thunderstorm threateningly approached. Anyway, I hope many of you were able to get that workout or run in today that you had planned to do. As you know, my blog is (partly) an attempt to motivate non-runners or even non-exercisers to get moving, and it's always a blessing to hear from people who tell me, "Man, what a great run I had today! Just had to share that with you!" You guys are the best. It's now time to get some rest and then maybe get on the bike this afternoon if it's not raining. I need to close by mentioning that I've totally gotten into pre-race excitement mode in view of tomorrow night's 5K down in Raleigh. I wish I were in better shape for the race but I'll take what I can get!

Bye for now.

7:45 AM Good morning friends. I can't believe I actually slept in until 6:30 this morning, which is something I almost never do, but I must have been worn out after getting up all those bales last night. I love sipping coffee on the front porch with my faithful doggy by my side. (Our view this morning.)

I thought I'd update you on a few things that are going on in my life right now and then I'll get my day started. I'm pretty excited that the final contract for the book Ben Merkle and I are editing --  Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Key Issues in the Current Debate -- came in yesterday's mail, signed by all parties. The publisher is Baker, with whom I've published I think around 6 books and I know that Ben has already published with them too. I am very happy with their decision to take on this work and I'm sure they will do an absolutely swell job with it. As a reminder, the contributors are Stan Porter, Steve Runge, Stephen Levinsohn, Mike Aubrey, Randall Buth, Michael Halcomb, Rob Plummer, Con Campbell, Thomas Hudgins, Nicholas Ellis, and Jonathan Pennington. Ben and I will write a rather lengthy introduction on the history of the study of Greek and the importance of linguistics for students of the New Testament. And if you're at all interested in attending our conference on this subject, the link is here. Speaking of Greek linguistics, I checked this book out from our library yesterday and, believe it or not, I've already read the entire thing.

It's excellent in every way. The main authors are two people I'm not familiar with -- Wendy Widder and Jeremy Thompson -- but I see that both Mike Aubrey and Dan Wilson have also contributed to the book. Chapters include:

  • Introduction to Linguistics and the Bible

  • Linguistic Fundamentals

  • Major Approaches to Linguistics

  • Linguistic Issues in Biblical Greek

  • The Value of Linguistically Informed Exegesis

Mike Aubrey writes in the latter chapter:

Exegesis is and has always been, fundamentally, an intersection of history, theology, and exegesis.

He is so right. I hope this book will do for many of you what Barr's seminal work on semantics did for me when I was a newly minted Greek teacher at Biola in the mid-1970s.

As for today's training schedule: a 45-minute workout at the Y, then 20 minutes of lap swimming at the pool. I've been feeling pretty good lately, getting in some good runs, and eating pretty clean, though I can always do better in this category. I'm certainly not perfect. On occasion I'll open a can of spaghetti simply because I'm in a hurry to teach class after a workout. Do you ever feel like your head's about to explode because there's so much to learn about this healthy lifestyle business? I cringe when somebody says "I ate healthy today" and then find out they had a TV dinner and Doritos. Of course, how often have I done that!! It's so easy to fall back into the convenience trap. I'm finding that the 45 pounds I lost when I began weight training and exercising regularly are staying off, but I think that's mostly due to my high metabolism. I sweat standing still! But I've come a long way, as have so many of you. I feel better and stronger than I have in years. On my way home today I plan to stop by the farmer's market. Eating locally grown food is vastly better than buying canned food. I may also get in a short run this morning. I have to say there's something incredible about running in the morning. I love Joyner Park in Wake Forest. I get there right at dawn. Honestly, any time spent outdoors, at any time of day, is time well spent. What are you doing for exercise these days? Do you have a favorite training ground? Have you signed up for your next race yet?

Enjoy this day!


P.S. Happy Third Birthday to my grandson Peyton Black. I love you!

Friday, May 25   

10:10 PM Hey there guys, and welcome back to Rosewood Farm. Hope you all had a super great day. Mine was pretty fantastic. Today we finished 2 out of 6 weeks of summer Greek, and now the students get to enjoy a long holiday weekend with their families. I was thinking about going surfing this weekend but then I realized that Memorial Day weekend is probably not the best time to go to the beach. Instead, the local public pool is reopening for the summer tomorrow and I plan to get back into lap swimming in case I want to do another triathlon this year. The two I did least year in Wake Forest were such fun. Today my goals were to mow both Maple Ridge and Bradford Hall and then get up hay with Nathan. It was a perfect day for working outdoors. The mowing took me about two hours.

I barely finished with that project when it was time to pick up bales. Here's the first load we got up today.

And the second.

I don't have a picture of the third load of hay because by that time the sun had already set. That's right, we worked until 9:30 pm!

Here's a brief YouTube of what it feels like to work outdoors on a beautiful day like today. I am so blessed!

Right now I've got to cook supper, however, so I'll talk to you guys tomorrow. Cheers!

Thursday, May 24   

6:45 AM The other day the library staff introduced me to a new acquisition. I don't know who was more excited: the librarians to show it to me, or me when I saw it.

"On Pascha" is worth reading by every Christian. No, it's not sacred Scripture. But the pioneer generation of Christians (the "Church Fathers") still have much to teach us. This particular book is a meditation on Christ as the typological fulfillment of the Passover. As with most anything written by the Fathers, it contains some good typology and some not so good typology, so read with caution. I mentioned the book to my Greek class and they were blown away to discover that the Greek they are learning in class this summer will also enable them to read the Greek Fathers, as well as the Greek Old Testament (the "LXX"). Melito (d. 180) was held in great esteem by the early church. He came from Sardis in modern-day Turkey. Here's a sample from the book. See what you can do with it.

I leave you with this thought: That person who means nothing to you is somebody else's everything.

Make it a great day!


Wednesday, May 23   

5:40 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. It's mid-week and I'm back on the farm to do farm chores and get caught up on all the animals. I also had a great lunch today in Wake Forest with one of our librarians. Libraries and librarians have always had a very special place in my heart and research. Speaking about eating out, on Monday my assistant and I made a visit to Duke Hospital to check on one of our students who just had surgery and before then I treated Noah to Ethiopian for the first time.

That was a lot of fun. He really thought it was tasty.

Well, it's been a while since I sat down and really gave you an update on where I'm headed this year with my running. But I have at long last finalized my race schedule for the year and thought I'd share it with you. I'm feeling super motivated, having just done both a full and a half marathon. I have been going back and forth on whether I should sign up for more than two marathons for the rest of this year, and for now I've come to the conclusion that in 2018 I don't think I'll be able to run as many marathons as I did in 2017 because I don't think I'll be able to dedicate as much time to training as I did last year, although I did get in a nice 5K run this morning in beautiful Joyner Park in Wake Forest. (Here's my view at sunrise.)

So here are the races I've signed up for in 2018 that I am so looking forward to running:

  • Sunday, May 27, 6:00 pm: The Raleigh Beach 5K. These evening races are always a good time even though I'm not huge fan of the Dorothea Dix Park course.

  • Saturday, June 2, 7:15 am: Race 13.1 in Raleigh. This will be the third time I've done this half marathon. The course is challenging but fun.

  • Wednesday, July 4, 8:05 am: Liberty 10K in The Colony, just north of Dallas. I've done this race once before.

  • Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:00 am: Virginia Beach Half Marathon. I also did this race last year.

  • Saturday, Sept. 29, 5:30 pm: Starry Night 5K in Raleigh. This is another one of those awesome summer evening races.

  • Saturday, Oct. 13, 8:00 am: High Bridge Ultra 50 in Farmville, VA.

  • Sunday, Oct. 28, 7:55: Marine Corp Marathon in Arlington, VA.

  • Saturday, Nov. 10, 7:00 am: Richmond Marathon in Richmond, VA.

I may also be signing up for other shorter 5K races as the year goes on. But the big race that I've officially signed up for is the 31-mile High Bridge Ultra in October. You might be thinking, wow, that is a while away, and it is, but I've already started my training for it and I definitely foresee much of my training to be at the actual course because this is where I like to run and bike anyway. Also this summer, I hope to get back to the West. My plan, after finishing summer Greek, is to fly into either Billings, Montana or Rapid City, South Dakota, with my aim being to revisit Mount Rushmore, the Custer National Battlefield, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons. So be on the lookout for more details about these upcoming events. Right now I'm trying to rebuild my base by running and biking consistently. I am enjoying every day of it. I really need to get back into endurance training if I'm going to have a chance of completing the 50K race in October. I'm also trying really hard to eat better but that's a constant struggle when you are traveling as much as I do. Yesterday I had Korean Bulgogi for lunch, but as you know, in Korean cuisine meat is not so much a main course as it is a condiment, so along with the Bulgogi I enjoyed tons of Kimchi, Seaweed, and Bab (rice). I've been going to the gym regularly (as I did this afternoon) and I'm gradually working on building my upper body strength for the climbing in the Tetons and the Rockies that I plan to do this year and next. In short, I'm going to make my ultra my main race goal of 2018 without neglecting my other goals. I am so, so, so excited about trying out an ultramarathon. I really like races that allow me to get out in nature and enjoy God's beautiful creation as well as races that make me push myself to the max.

Other than that, our summer school Greek class is going very well and the students are really hanging in there despite our grueling schedule. I think most of them are suffering from PTSD having been introduced to the imperfect and the aorist on Monday, but tomorrow I'm going to hold another study hall in my office after class and we'll try to help those who need a little assistance to get over this speedbump. It's so much a cliché because we hear it every day, but it's really true: Live each day as though it were your last or as if your health will be taken away from you tomorrow. So two thumbs up to all of you who are trying so hard to pursue God's will for your life with a passion, because really, there's no other way to live our lives.

The last thing I have to say is that I was finally able to get a pedicure today, a much-needed one I might add. I had intended to cut my toenails before last weekend's race but I forgot all about it, so today I had a professional take care of it for me. My nails are now officially "healed"!

That's it for now. Thanks, as always, for visiting.

Monday, May 21   

6:42 AM If you're a follower of Jesus, God has hard-wired you to serve others in His name. Here's a picture of a team from Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg. In accordance with Scripture, they were passing out cups of *gummy bears* in Jesus' name during yesterday's race.

They had a corner on the market too, since there were plenty of other volunteers blessing us with cups of cold water. Believe me, at mile 8, these bearers of energy were just what the doctor ordered. But I have to ask myself: In all of my running, this is the first time I've seen an evangelical church out on a race course. It can only be done when we begin to realize that the gathering exists for the going. I have a special empathy for people trying to find their place in the body of Christ. But let's not forget to consider simple, towel-and-basin ministries such as this one. Simply put, serving others in Jesus' name is what you do with who you are in Christ. Every believer has been called to serve in the kingdom of God. Markus Barth reminds us that the entire church "is the clergy appointed by God for a ministry to and for the world" (Ephesians, p. 479). This is the highest calling possible. Paul says that the body grows into the Head through every joint or connection point. How different it would be to runners if they saw church after church doing such simple acts of service. They would welcome the God-given concern being expressed. This is why, significantly, the goal of leadership in the church is to get every member of the body relating to the Head for himself or herself. The leading servants will do this primarily in the context of exercising their own spiritual gifts. The church needs these specially gifted leaders, but the call of God also comes to every believer who has ears to hear -- even if this means that they stand in the oppressive heat and humidity passing out jelly beans in the name of their King. 

Church, I believe we can do better. Can I tell you the dream for my life and teaching? I hope you get to the end of your life and breathe a huge sigh of relief and thanksgiving. You discovered that God is good at being God. You discovered that He was willing to use you in normal, everyday circumstances to be a blessing to others in His name. We don't have to be superstars. We're probably better at just being normal folk anyway.


Sunday, May 20   

5:44 PM You hear it long before you see it. Crowds cheering. Horns blaring. Loved ones screaming for their sons and daughters or husbands or wives. As the finish line of the Marine Corps Historic Half approached, I could almost have wept with joy. This is where it all started exactly 3 years ago when my daughter invited me to cheer her on during her race. It's been a long journey getting here -- 12 previous halfs and 9 full marathons -- but none of this would have happened without the inspiration of that one person. The result has been 3 wonderful years of training, running, sacrifice, frustration, growth, and victories. To God be the glory! This race was truly "historic" for me. There isn't any way to adequately describe how grateful I am to Karen for spurring me on to become a runner. All the blood, sweat, and tears required to get to this place were inspired by my family. There's nothing like the deep-seated feeling of fulfillment you get when you work so hard for something and all your hard work finally pays off. I didn't get a PR today but I am more than pleased with my results. After all, I survived Hospital Hill! I'll leave you with a few pix.

1) Here's my hotel in Fredericksburg.

I chose it because it was located right at the start and finish lines. The staff couldn't have been more friendly or helpful. They even closed breakfast late today to accommodate all of us runners. Thank you, Homewood Suites!

2) Here's a word you heard lots this weekend.

3) The race started at 7:00 am sharp. I mosied to the back of the pack. Even there you could see that the crowd of runners was huge.

4) The first 3 miles are all downhill. As you can see, as the sun rose the clouds began to drift away, leaving the runners to deal the best they could with the heat and humidity.

5) Eventually the course veers away from the main roads and you begin running through some nice neighborhoods with many historic homes.

6) Like my downhill form? As lithe as a gazelle, eh? Haha!

7) Before you know you it, you start the long climb up Hospital Hill at mile 11.

8) At the top, the meds are looking the runners up and down to make sure they haven't had a heart attack or heat stroke.

9) A few minutes later you see the finish line. I took all the high fives I could get. You are about to become a Historic Half Marathoner!

10) This was neither my fastest nor my slowest half.

11) I did conquer the Beast, however!

12) Wow. My first ever Marine Corps Historic Half medal. I somehow don't think it will be my last.

13) A big Oorah for all the Marines who have served our country so faithfully through the years. Good to see so many of you out there on the course today. God speed and stay safe. Let's all just take a minute and remember those who didn't make it back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

To wrap things up, this race was so much fun. I'm so proud of everyone who ran today. The whole thing was so awesomely crazy. The good news is that despite a few minor aches and pains my body is feeling really good. It stiffened up on the long drive home today but nothing too serious. I'm raring to get back on the Greenway as soon as I can this week.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Saturday, May 19   

7:50 AM Taking this book with me to FBurg.

7:10 AM One of my kids asked me this morning if I enjoyed running in the rain. I told him I don't mind the rain. It's the humidity that gets to me. There are all kinds of less-than-ideal weather situations, so you just take them as they come. On January 1st of this year I ran a marathon. I wore 4 thick layers, three hats, fleece-lined pants under my running pants, and heavy gloves. If I kept moving I stayed warm, but once I stopped (for any reason) I began to freeze. The temp that day was literally 1 degree. But you know what? Your mindset is more important than your clothing. Stop being a crybaby. Lace up and go. We "get" to run, remember? It's never something we have to do. My mantra is, "This isn't going to kill you, you wimp." Running, like anything in life, is a decision. You either decide to make running a part of your life or you don't. Ditto for all things academic. Growing up, I always admired smart people. Since I never had their cachet, I figured I could be a mediocre student in high school. But when I got to college, all of that changed. I had become a "student." Let's get real. Not everyone in school is a student. They're more interested in a degree than in learning. What makes the difference between someone who's just going through motions and someone who's committed to a lifetime of learning? It's motivation. Yes. I said it. The M word.

Each of us is driven farther and faster when we do something we love. Harnessing the power of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic remuneration is thoroughly satisfying and infinitely more rewarding. Carrots and sticks (often) don't work. I say "often" because sometimes we have to use extrinsic motivation to nudge ourselves along. In class yesterday, I had a pop Spelling B. The first 6 students to the board could vie for a much-coveted award: one of my books (hehe). I gave them an English word (say, "law") and they had to give me the Greek nomos. It was sudden death. They did so well I had to start choosing really hard words. Eventually one of them walked away with a copy of The Myth of Adolescence to the applause of the other students. This weekend, as they do their take-home exam, I've promised everyone who gets a perfect score a free copy of one of my books. As I said, carrots and sticks aren't all that bad. But an operating system centered around rewards and punishment can only do so much. The starting point, of course, is to fall back on extrinsic motivators only when absolutely necessary. I give quizzes and exams. In Basel, that would have been unthinkable. A quiz over the reading material? Ridiculous. I'm reading the book because that's what I love to do. But here in the States, the game we play is called the tyranny of the urgent. I do only as much as I'm expected to do because I have little to no time to do anything else. If we want to strengthen our academic institutions, get beyond our underachievement, and address the problem of mediocrity in our lives, our businesses, and our world, we need to move from Type X behaviors (X-trinsic) to Type I behaviors (I-ntrinsic). Of course, none of us ever truly exhibits purely intrinsic behavior every waking moment. I know I don't. A publisher sets a deadline for my manuscript. Whether I feel like it or not, I have to meet that deadline. But in the long run, I believe that Type I people outperform Type X people. No, we don't disdain money or recognition. But we're motivated by something more lasting than that. For the follower of Jesus, that motivation is pleasing Him. So we have a choice. We can cling to our old habits or craft a new approach to help ourselves work a little smarter and a little better. Getting an A in Greek is a performance goal. But being able to use Greek once you've graduated is a learning goal. Both goals can fuel achievement, but only one leads to mastery.

Thanks for hanging with me.

Friday, May 18   

7:44 PM This came from this weekend's race director:

Grrrr. Looks like another humid race. I've said this 5 million times on this blog, but if there's one thing I hate, it's running in humidity. Even before you begin running you're sweating copiously. We runners can get obsessed about certain things. It's such a hugely important part of our lives that we can take running (and ourselves) too seriously. Then again, heat stroke is no joke. So I need to remind myself to keep perspective. With my 66th birthday just around the corner, I'm not getting any younger. On the other hand, I'm reminded of the saying: "When you want to, you'll find a reason. When you don't, you'll find an excuse."

7:32 PM Over time I've discovered something very interesting about myself. I love America. I mean, I get teary-eyed over the most inconsequential things at times, including songs like Neal Diamond's "They're Coming to America." I suppose this is partly due to the fact that exactly 100 years ago my maternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Cluj, Romania. They had 10 kids, all of whom were born in the old country except for their youngest, my mother. I can see them now, gazing open-mouthed at the Statue of Liberty as they passed through the immigration center at Ellis Island. When Becky and I visited these sites in 2001, I tried to imagine what my ancestors must have felt. Joy. Fear. Relief to have finally arrived in the land of their dreams. They ended up moving to Youngtown, Ohio, and settling in the large Romanian community there alongside the Italians, Greeks, Germans, etc. I'm reminded that we're a nation of immigrants -- which is one reason I find the rants of a certain lawyer (now viral on YouTube) so detestable. "This is America. Speak English, not Spanish!" Oh really? Don't you know that the U.S. has no "official" language"? Don't you know that neither English nor Spanish are "native" to this land? Don't you know that Spanish (not to mention German, French, Mandarin, etc.) are taught in public schools all across the nation? Actually, if he had told me to stop speaking Spanish in public I'd have probably done so because my Spanish is so malísimo. Then again, I'm pretty mulish. I actually thrive on embarrassing myself in various tongues. The only way to improve one's Spanish or French is by speaking it, for crying out loud. So don't be surprised to find me talking, say, German with German tourists, or Pidgin with the mokes in Kailua.

I mention all this because July 4th is coming up and I've decided to spend the holiday in Dallas. I've signed up for the 33rd annual Liberty 10K at Stewart Creek Park in The Colony. I've done this race once before on the 4th and all I can remember is how humid it was that day. But the proceeds all go to a local charity, and it's one way I can give back to a nation that's provided me with so many opportunities to pursue my own dreams. Of course, I'll be visiting mom and dad while I'm there. Which means real Texas barbeque. And Ethiopian food. And Cheddars ....

6:55 PM I might as well share with you the course map for Sunday's race.

Fredericksburg was once the home of George Washington and James Monroe. It was also the scene of one of the largest battles of the American Civil War. In fact, part of the course follows the historic Sunken Road. Running can be boring. But my guess is that this course will be super interesting. If there's one thing I've learned about running it's that there's always something amazing along the course if you've got your eyes open.

Now go and run your best!

5:24 PM Odds and ends ....

1) My students have now completed 6 out of 26 chapters in our beginning grammar and are to be heartily congratulated. I lasted only 5 chapters when I first took Greek at Biola back in the day. Today I sent them home with their first take home exam. Honor system.

2) I read this fine book yesterday.

3) My official finish photo came from the Flying Pig Marathon today. I can't believe I'm actually smiling.

4) Scot McKnight's brand new commentary on Colossians is out.

I love what he writes about 3:16:

Paul does not reserve teaching to one group of people (apostles, teachers, pastors, elders) but instead here reveals it is to be a fellowship-wide activity.

5) Enjoyed lunch today with my friend and colleague Chuck Quarles at the Olive Garden in the Forest of Wake.

6) The elevation chart for this Sunday's half in Fredericksburg:

That final uphill portion of the race is called "Hospital Hill." I think I'll hire a Sherpa.

7) I'm purposely keeping this blog report short. I've got dinner to cook and the house to clean before I leave for the race tomorrow. I was going to go for a run this evening but it's raining again. I'm okay with that. In the past 30 days I've put in exactly 135.4 miles of training. Suffice it to say I think I'm ready, but one never knows until race time.


Thursday, May 17   

6:55 AM Since I won't be climbing Mont Blanc this summer, this conference looks more interesting than ever.

I'm definitely planning on Marburg in 2019, but maybe I should attend the Athens conference this year as well. Jean Zumstein's presidential address looks very interesting: "Mémoire, histoire et fiction dans la littérature johannique." I usually attend "The Greek of the New Testament" seminar, and I note that this year my friend Paul Danove is reading a paper called "The Grammaticalization of Communication by New Testament Verbs and Nouns." Then there's Brad McLean's paper "The Semiology of Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon and the Semiotic Theory of Louis Hjelmslev." Wow. Papers in other sessions feature Richard Hays, Dieter Sänger, Mark Seifrid, Alan Culpepper, John Collins, Jenifer Knust, Klaus Wachtel, and Loveday Alexander. Need to think about it and commit it to prayer.

Meanwhile, back to Greek!

Wednesday, May 16   

7:50 PM Two years ago, on June 4, 2016, I ran my very first half marathon. Prior to that race, I had been running shorter distances for about a year. The event was called Race 13.1 and was held in Raleigh. My time was 2:49. If you had told me that 2 years later I'd be running in my 13th half marathon, I'd have crawled into a cave and assumed the fetal position. Although I enjoyed my first half immensely, it was too hard for me to imagine doing it 13 times. Why am I so in love with the half marathon distance? In my mind, the half is the ideal race. It's short enough that you don't need to spend days and weeks to recovery, but it's long enough to give you a challenging and fun running experience. Race 13.1 Raleigh is famous for its beautiful scenery. Most of it is run on a greenway. God willing, I'm running it again on June 2. This weekend's race is the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg. It attracts those who want to test their mettle against the infamous Hospital Hill. Training for this race has been fun. On Monday, I ran 6 miles at the Neuse River Greenway in Raleigh. Then yesterday I biked 13.1 miles. On Friday I hope to get a long run in, if the weather allows (we've been having a lot of rain). The true wonder of the half marathon is that it's a milestone you remember forever. Without a successful half (or two) under your belt, it's highly unlikely you'll ever have the courage to attempt a full marathon. No doubt about it: Running a half is the best training for running a full. Little wonder that the half marathon is the fastest growing race distance in the U.S. It's neither too long nor too short but just right. It's not an easy distance, of course. You can fake a 5K; you have to train diligently for a 13.1 mile race. But the excitement of crossing the finish line for the first time, along with the ongoing dedication toward the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, makes it all worthwhile.

In other (and completely unrelated) news, our Greek class is going very well. We introduced the students to the first declension today. Tomorrow it's adjectives, and then on Friday I send them home with their first review exam. As usual, yours truly is never content with just talking about Greek nouns and verbs. Just today we exegeted the Great Commission passage found in Matt. 28:19-20. Yesterday we talked about pastoring and how the goal of pastors is to "equip God's people for works of service" (Eph. 4:11-12). Only a generation before Becky and I started ministering in her native Ethiopia, the North American church sent people overseas with the authority to lead, control, and command. Today we send people overseas to come alongside national leaders and ask, "How can we help you?" It's my conviction that we are long overdue for this change to occur at home as well. God is in the business or ordaining the ordinary. And church leaders need to be committed to developing others' gifts so that the body of Christ will grow into all of it variegated beauty. It's my prayer that our Greek class will do far more than equip students with a tool that will enable them to get deep into the Word for themselves and help them check the accuracy of their commentaries and Bible translations. It's my prayer that our course in Greek will get all of us thinking about becoming fulltime ministers of the Gospel -- both church leaders and so-called laypeople. Both need to be challenged on this matter. It is a day for a radical transformation of the whole people of God into a ministering body. Nothing short of this will enable followers of Jesus to serve the church and obey the Great Commission.

P.S. I don't have my students learn the Greek vocative case since the vocative is easily recognizable by being set off with commas in our Greek New Testaments. To help make my point, I shared with them this cartoon. Too funny!

Sunday, May 13   

8:12 PM Happy Mother's Day one and all. I hope you men treated your wives to a delicious meal today. I had a cheese sandwich. But not to pity: I'm about to cook me some scrumptious stir fry. We just finished getting up two trailer loads of beautiful hay. As you can see, it was hot hot hot.

But the real killer was the humidity. It was at least 200 percent I would guess. Earlier I ran 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail and then biked the same distance.

My emotions did surprisingly well today. Yesterday morning you would have needed a bucket to catch my tears. It's funny, this grief thing. Each of us mourns in a different way I reckon. Some days you might weep. Other days you remain at least outwardly controlled. Either way, loss is extremely personal. Nobody else can understand you, really. And that's fine. Those who experience loss have to heal in their own way.

I want to say "Thank You" to the Lord for giving my such a wonderful weekend. In some ways I'm jealous of one of my kids and his family, who leave for the beach tomorrow. On the other hand, I wouldn't trade teaching for anything.

Have a great week,


6:55 AM Last night was such a blessing from the Lord. What precious memories of singing in this chorale together. The concert's theme was "Seasons," and it began with a beautiful rendition of "There Is a Season" by Greg Gilpin, with words based on Eccl. 3:1-11. Grief is difficult, and special occasions like birthdays and Mother's Day can be the hardest of all, but when they activate a flood of happy memories you simply thank God for them and move on. (By the way, maybe it's the runner in me, but doesn't the blue backdrop remind you of those portajons you see at races?)

Before the concert I pigged out at our favorite seafood restaurant in Henderson. This is some of the greatest, unhealthiest, and most delicious food you will ever taste. My motto in life is: Eat clean, but don't overdo it.

Today I'm prepping for my summer Greek class that begins tomorrow. Can you believe I get to teach 6 weeks of the most wonderful language on the planet to the best students in the world? At graduation on Friday I had complete strangers come up to me and say that they were using my grammar to teach themselves Greek. Several of my students are planning on teaching Greek in their local churches this year. I'm hoping we can start another Greek class in Hawaii this fall.

In 1971, when I went to the mainland for college, it was to Biola University in California. There I became captivated by the biblical languages, the wisdom of the church fathers, the skepticism of the skeptics, and the theology of the theologians. My Greek professor in college, of course, did his best to weed me out, but little did he know that I was destined (divine passive!) to be a lifelong student of New Testament Greek. At any rate, he eventually hired me to teach 11 units of Greek at Biola, which meant that I could indulge in my favorite pastime and even get paid for it. That was 42 years ago. Unbelievable.

If you're doing in life what you love to do, thank God for it. It's all grace.

Saturday, May 12   

12:12 PM Was running errands today in South Boston when I saw that St. Luke Apostle Church was having a car wash to raise money for a youth mission trip.

I've known their pastor, brother Harry, for several years now since we work out together at the local Y. He, his pastoral staff, and their deacons were doing the work. I love church leaders. Especially when they serve. And the vast majority of them do. I have much hope for the church when its leaders get sweaty for the cause of Christ.

Off to cut grass before tonight's concert in Henderson.

6:44 AM We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

-- Joan Didion, The White Album

Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Since you went Home to heaven, my life has changed completely. I no longer live in time. I live in moments. Like watching the sunrise this morning while sitting on the front porch. This is where you and I would perch for hours, talking about life. I wish I could talk to you today. I wish I could tell you again how sorry I am for all the times I was less than the husband you deserved. I wish I could tell you again how much I love you. I wish I could tell you what I'm doing these days. I think you'd be proud of me. I was powerless to control the events that altered the course of our lives forever. Your death was an act of Providence that changed everything. I had the power to choose how I would respond. As it happened, I have found that the God whom we served together for 37 years is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Today I am writing a new story. But it is still our story. I could no sooner forget you than I could stop breathing. You left a huge hole, and all of us are feeling it today. But your spirit will always live on in our hearts and minds. You died with dignity and in faith. Both your life and your death will live on as a testimony to a life lived for your Lord and for others. One thing I know: the shifting phantasmagoria which is my actual experience will one day be no more. "The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end" (Isa. 60:20). I am beginning to experience life again. I am beginning to build new relationships. I am finding things to be grateful for. Already, by God's grace, there are more smiles than frowns. I am discovering that healthy balance between holding on and letting go. If there's one thing your passing has done, it's been to make me more sensitive to the loved ones I still have. I've found a new depth of relationship with our children and grandchildren. They too are learning to say goodbye.

Becky, on this, your 65th birthday, I release you to your loving Savior. The God in whose presence you now dwell promises to hold me close and fill my emptiness. I may not have you any longer by my side, but I have our history together, our memories together, and a richer life because of you. And even though I'm letting you go for the millionth time, I will never leave you. You will never be forgotten.

I miss you. I love you. Thank you.

Friday, May 11   

7:55 PM So much fun getting up hay tonight, just before the rain arrived. God is good!

6:30 PM Below are a few pictures from today's graduation service. What a wonderful day it was indeed. Beautiful music, great teaching, superb fellowship, and lots of laughter and hugs. "More and more," wrote Henri Nouwen in his book The Inner Voice of Love, "the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them." He adds, "It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence."

That's what today was. The simple ministry of presence. Together -- administration, faculty, staff, students, and families -- we celebrated God's great goodness. Praise be to Him.

6:15 AM A weird thought occurred to me this week. As we put the finishing touches on my Greek 2 classes, I realized that my beginning grammar has 26 chapters -- the exact number of miles in a marathon. I never intended this. It's just one of those freak coincidences. I congratulated my students on having completed their "Greek studies marathon." But know what? Runners are never satisfied. They are always in process. That is their "normal." Is there anyone out there who's had a year or two of Greek but never used it? I imagine there's quite a few. Maybe you're one of them. So I encouraged my "marathoners" to keep up their Greek by joining a fabulous club. I call it the "5-Minute Greek Club." There's two things you need to know about my club. One, we never meet, and two, there are no dues. Here's what membership involves: You commit to translating two verses every day, Monday through Friday, throughout the summer, and if you do this I promise you a copy of one of my books for free come fall.

You see, that's what running has taught me. Driven by the need to do our best, we make the effort and we make it more often. All around us are people engaged in the same struggle. Each one of us is capable of the ideal. Some will do more, some less, but we are all capable of achieving our personal potential. As I crossed the finish line last Sunday I thought to myself, I think I'm finally learning how to play this game. All it takes is persistence -- and love for what you're doing. Student, if you don't love Greek, don't try and drum up the feeling. That never works. Ask God to give you a love for the language. And He will. He delights in giving good gifts to His children.

P.S. Yesterday I was reading George Guthrie's fine commentary on Hebrews. But on Heb. 12:1 he says this:

The author has in view, however, a marathon rather than a sprint, as seen in the phrase "with endurance."

I get the gist of what he's saying, but it's based on a false premise. There was no such thing as a marathon in ancient Greece. The longest foot race they had was about 3-4 kilometers. The modern marathon started in 1896, when Athens hosted the first modern Olympics.

Thursday, May 10   

6:02 PM The summer's first thunderstorm just barreled by with the sound of a train locomotive.

It's now gone eastward and thankfully we still have power. These storms are always both terrifying and exciting.

12:55 PM Yesterday I received my bib number for my race in two weeks.

Meanwhile, I lifted at the Y and then put in 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail. Almost stepped on this little guy. Ain't he cute?

Afterwards I rewarded myself with lunch at Mexico Viejo. Arroz con Pollo for only $5.50.

Time for a short nap before getting up hay.

Enjoy your day!

7:58 AM Good morning, tribe! Better grab a cuppa, cause this is gonna be long. Where do I start? How about on the front porch? Can you believe I haven't sat on my porch for 6 whole days? Talk about going through severe withdrawals. I learn things on my porch that I don't seem to be able to learn anywhere else. First, I'm reminded of the beauty of my Creator. Here's today's sunrise.

Then I open His word. As you know, I don't have "daily devotions." I'm too undisciplined for that. I just read the Bible. All the time. And try to listen to what God is saying to me. These days He's been reminding me that I was once married to a wonderful woman whose 65th birthday I'll be celebrating on Saturday. In fact, the party began on Tuesday when I had Ethiopian food with some friends in Cary. This Saturday night it'll continue when I attend the Spring concert of the Northeast Piedmont Chorale in Henderson, NC. (Becky and I once sang in this wonderful choral group.)

Today, sitting on the porch, I was drawn to a passage from Hebrews that we talked about in Greek class this week. It's Heb. 12:1-2.

Now, I have to admit that I've written an excruciatingly boring, long-winded, pedantic, and obfuscatory essay on this passage that I don't expect any of you to actually read unless you're into suffering big time. So I'll try to give a cook's tour of the kitchen here and hopefully inspire you to get into this passage yourself sometime. You know, it truly is a masterpiece. (I'm teaching Hebrews in the fall and can't wait to get to this passage as well as Heb. 1:1-4.) The text begins with a very strong Greek transitional marker -- toigaroun -- which is found only here and 1 Thess. 4:8 in the entire New Testament. It's a "therefore," but a strong "therefore." The reason Paul uses it here, I believe, is that before he calls on his readers to run their race, he wants to be sure they reflect deeply on the Old Testament personages he's already pointed out in chapter 11. The application for us today might be this: as you run your race, who are those people in your lives, now in heaven, who set an example for you in terms of running with endurance? And this is just where Becky Lynn Lapsley Black comes into play. If there was anybody I know who bore a consistent testimony to the faithfulness of God in her life, it was Becky. She lived her life of faith, and she lived it well. And now, Paul says, it's my turn. It's time for me to remain firm in faith through the sufferings I face.

So how do I do that? Notice the structure of this passage. There's one main command here and only one: "Let us keep on running with endurance the race set before us." If your Bible has more than one "let us" (the NASB and ESV have two, the NIV three), sorry, folks, but that's too much lettuce. Here's how the text unpacks itself:

Therefore, let us keep on running with endurance the race set before us

  • having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us

  • throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us

  • looking off to Jesus, the Founder and Finisher of faith

The words highlighted in green are all participles in Greek, telling us HOW we are to keep on running with endurance. We can thus (toigaroun!) immediately see the author's main point – running our race with endurance – as well as his qualifications of the "race":

  • By knowing that others have finished the race, the present generation of runners can expect to complete it

  • No runner, however, can hope to attain the goal without getting rid of hindrances and an abhorrence of personal sin

  • The runner must look to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith

Teaching this text? Here's a possible outline:

  • Our Encouragement ("having so vast a cloud of witnesses”)

  • Our Entanglements ("throwing off everything that hinders us”)

  • Our Example ("looking off to Jesus”)

I am here to tell you: There is a way to run our race successfully. First, there's nothing quite like drawing encouragement from those who have already completed their race. Remember them. Recall their example. Emulate the outcome of their faith (see Heb. 13:7). Be intentional about it. Stop by their graveside and read Scripture that reminds you of them. Speak of them often to your kids and grandkids. The heroes of Hebrews 11 are the life and breath and strength of the church. The kingdom advances in small feats of courage performed by people who've simply been faithful where they were planted.

Secondly, your life is too precious to waste on pettiness, greed, selfishness, pride, sloth -- or anything "that hinders us." The voyage into the kingdom of God is a grand but difficult adventure. It's like running a marathon. Imagine what would happen if you had to tackle a marathon dressed in a coat of armor? Last Sunday I began the race with a tank top, a t-shirt, and a jacket. I ended with the race with my tank top only. Strip it away! says Paul. And that includes the sin(s) in our lives that give us a great big Charlie Horse between the ears. As the song says, ch-ch-changes are always possible through the Christ who indwells us.

Finally, and ultimately, our race is not about the cloud of witnesses or our easily-entangling sins. It's about a Person, a safe place to be sequestered, a soul-Lover who understands the journey because He completed it Himself. I grew up looking to men. I respected and loved my pastors and leaders immensely, maybe too much. You see, there comes a time when we have to take responsibility for our own spiritual development. I am suggesting this: listen to sermons, yes, but study the Bible for yourself more. Healthy people do not blindly follow men. They reject the whole pedestal thing. What they look for in their leaders is humility and transparency. Because, honestly, no matter who we look at, we will ultimately be disappointed. Corrie ten Boom, one of my favorite theologians, put it this way:

  • Look inside and be depressed.

  • Look outside and be distressed.

  • Look to Him and be at rest.


Becky Lynn, I'll be remembering you this week. But you know what? I'll allow you to be human and God to be God. You never achieved evangelical superstardom this side of heaven, and for that I am deeply grateful. But you were a star in my eyes. Thank you for helping to make me the man I am today. Thank you for pouring your life into the lives of our children. Thank you for being secure enough in your identity in Christ that you never allowed others to manipulate you. What an insane privilege it was for all of us to have known you. I hope the world sees in me what it once saw in you: a warm, caring, wide-open-arms kind of person who was determined to build others up at the cost of my own comfort and ease. May the world see in our family a thankful, committed group of ordinary people who can't get enough of Jesus and one another. Until we meet you again in heaven, we're grabbing each other's hands and running our races and laughing out loud that God loves us despite our many flaws. May we all live the example of Christ even as you did so well, sweetheart. May we all care as passionately about the poor as you did, honey. May we all be as bold and visionary as you were, darling. And may we value the Bible as much as you did.

If you, my friend, are facing the silent scream of pain today, or if you've lost a spouse (or are about to), or if you're just tired of running your race, please, please remember that, though terrors in this life surely await us, life is still worth living -- celebrating even -- if we keep our focus on Jesus.

Wednesday, May 9   

7:58 PM This slow-motion video is amazing. Speakers up.


5:26 PM Hey there. I'm sitting here loafing. What are you doing?

As you know, along with 27,000 other people, I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy last weekend.

It was a grueling battle between me and my body. Crossing the finish line of a marathon for the ninth time was like nothing I've ever experienced before. Since this was the 20th anniversary of the Pig, I thought I'd share with you 20 random ideas about marathoning.

1) You don't have to be a natural athlete to enjoy running a marathon.

2) Train but don't neglect a balanced lifestyle. Running isn't everything.

3) Good running shoes are worth every penny you spend on them.

4) Sleep more than you think you need to when training for a marathon.

5) Don't forget to hydrate on the course.

6) Just think about each step as it's happening.

7) Be prepared to fight for your goals.

8) Remember that anything bad can happen at any time.

9) Make yourself push through the pain.

10) The sense of achievement after you finish will stay with you for the rest of your life.

11) Your last marathon is just the start. Your greatest achievement is always your next one.

12) Running a marathon will change you as a person forever.

13) Kindness matters. Be sure to thank the police at the intersections and the fans alongside the road.

14) You can always go farther than you think possible.

15) Everybody wants you to succeed even if they are bored sick with your tales of running.

16) Be honest about your fitness and adjust your pace accordingly.

17) Plan for at least one thing to go wrong.

18) Don't even think about running a marathon without doing some serious training beforehand.

19) Always carry your ID with you when you run.

20) Smile.

So there you have it – a few random musings about marathoning. I know I still have countless lessons to learn. Whether you're considering signing up for your first marathon or your first 5K, I hope this helps you with things to do and things not to do. I want to be a simple vessel of God's love in this world, to work where I have the most potential for good, and to have the passion to make a difference in somebody's life. Thanks so much for following my story. As you run your own race, I'm pulling for you.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful rest of the week.


P. S. A few pix from the weekend:

1) The city of Cincy really knows how to roll out the red carpet.

2) I stayed in the host hotel.

3) The expo was huuuuuge.

4) I putzed around but didn't buy anything because I didn't need anything -- except for my race bib.

5) Dave McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon, gave an inspiring talk on Saturday. Dave has competed in a whopping 155 marathons.

6) I woke up at 4:00 on Sunday morning, eager to start my day. Had a bite to eat then made my way to the race start at the Paul Brown Stadium near the river.

7) My corral ("pig pen") was indeed crowded!

8) The day I'd been looking forward to for so long had finally arrived.

9) It was a good 30 minutes after the initial wave of elite runners started that my group crossed the starting line.

10) First item of business: Cross over the Ohio River into Kentucky.

11) Then you made your way back into downtown Cincinnati.

12) Musical groups were everywhere. This blue grass band was my personal fave.

13) At mile 7 you began the long climb up Mount Adams through Eden Park until you came to the river overlook, where your efforts were well repaid with views like this one.

14) I have to admit, I was so happy to have conquered Mount Adams that I even enjoyed faux-Elvis belting out 60s hits.

15) By this time I was getting tired, but remember: smile!

16) At this point the half marathoners split off from the full marathoners. I began to feel very alone.

17) This was the loneliest stretch of the course as you began the long downhill back into Cincy proper.


You can see very little shade here. By this time, dozens of people had fallen out of the race with heat stroke. Thankfully, the medical personnel were everywhere with cups of ice and wet towels to put around your neck. Life savers!

18) Finally, you reached mile 25. The Finish Swine was just around the bend.

19) I love love love this year's medal. It may be my favorite marathon medallion of all.

20) The "vital stats." I was hoping for a sub-6 race but the heat made that impossible.

In short, it was a great race for me. I'm pleased with my time considering the hills and the heat. As with last year, the volunteers ("grunts") made the race the success it was. Looking forward to doing this race next year with two of my kids!

Friday, May 4   

7:52 PM About to get up our second load of hay. Ain't it a purdy evenin'?

Earlier, I "trained" for my race.

Time to cook supper and pack. Super excited.

5:32 PM Today I made one of the most important decisions of my life. I think it may have literally been a life or death decision.

As you know, for the past year I've been praying about doing another fundraiser for UNC Cancer Hospital, where Becky was treated for 4 years. My trip to the Alps two summers ago, and the climbs associated with it, resulted in a $25,000 check to UNC for endometrial cancer research. You will recall that it was endometrial cancer that took Becky's life.

My idea was to return to Europe this summer and attempt to climb the highest of the Alps, Mont Blanc, in France. The guide I used in Zermatt two years ago was familiar with this mountain and its challenges, but thought I could manage it. Our planned ascent would take us along the famous Gouter Route. For the first time in two years, I've been actively engaged in a decision directly affecting my life. Climbing Mont Blanc would be a formidable challenge, one greater than even the ascents I made in Switzerland. Back and forth I went in my struggle: to climb or not to climb?

When mountain climbers think of risks, their minds usually go to avalanches, crevasses, storms, and altitude sickness. But Mont Blanc poses an additional risk, one that I did not encounter two summers ago in Zermatt: rock falls. Here I'm thinking especially of the notorious Grand Couloir, a section of the route that is as dangerous as it is unavoidable. And then there are the crowds. Each day during the summer about 200 people attempt to summit Mont Blanc, causing overcrowding and long lines on the route. I've read that around 50 people die each year on the Mont Blanc Massif. Almost always the cause is climber error. Even what might at first appear to be an act of nature can be traced back to a mistake in the decision-making process that unnecessarily exposed the climber to nature's dangers. Most of the deaths on the Matterhorn, for example, happen when people try to climb the mountain without a guide. They get lost and get "caught out," forced to spend the night on the mountain in freezing temperatures. Mountain climbing is not only about getting to the summit. It's about getting back down safely. The summit is only the halfway spot. If you make a mistake, you can die. The question for me was: Can I take added risks in my life and also honor my promise to my family not to expose myself to unreasonable dangers? Physical toughness is not the issue. I think I have the physical stamina to make the climb. But my decision is firm.

I've decided not to climb.

This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made, but I know it's the right one. Life is all about making choices, and some of those choices involve risks. Sometimes the hardest choice in life is to say no. I've spent many enjoyable moments on top of mountains. But climbing Mont Blanc, in my view, is Russian Roulette. I won't give up climbing, of course. I hope to climb Mount Elbert in Colorado either this fall or next. At 14,439 feet, it's the tallest mountain in the Rockies and the second tallest in the lower 48. Like the other 14,000 foot peaks I've climbed in Colorado, it's a big hike but one that almost any fit person can tackle. I have a friend in Denver who'll climb it with me, so that's an added bonus. Yet it too can be a dangerous mountain and deserves respect. You never climb when there's a possibility of a thunderstorm. You never climb without adequate hydration. You must have the right climbing gear and the right footwear. As far as fitness is concerned, you'll want to be prepared for a 4,700 foot gain in elevation.

The bottom line is that climbing a mountain at high elevation involves managing risks and maintaining a high level of conservative thinking. If the conditions are too dangerous, you turn around or don't even start. It's as simple as that.

12:12 PM I just realized that although a 5K run is said to add 30 minutes to one's life it takes 30 minutes to run, so I guess running is futile after all. :-)

10:24 AM Just did an upper body workout at the local Y. Last year we paved the parking lot. This year we planted a beautiful flower garden out in front.

I'm a huge supporter of the YMCA and it's so good to see the parking lot almost always full. Meanwhile I had to go to Tractor Supply to get some worming feed for the goats and then to Goodwill to buy a sweatshirt for Sunday's race. It cost me a total of 4 bucks. Once things warm up out there on the course I'll dispose of it and it will be collected and end up back at Goodwill. Right now I'm enjoying another sunny day here on the farm and I'm about to mow and then we'll get up more hay this evening. I am, of course, excited out of my mind about the race on Sunday. But the journey that got me there is just as important. Like most things in life, there's usually a yin to the yang.

Enjoy the journey, friends!

Thursday, May 3   

7:56 PM Another perfect day for getting up hay.

With that done, I can turn my attention to something every runner obsesses about: the weather on race day. Here's the latest from Cincinnati:

75 degrees is a little warm for a marathon. The ideal temp is somewhere in the mid-40s. But I'll take sunny weather any day over the kind of weather they had in Boston two weeks ago.

Am I ready? I'm a bit on the tired side because of my hay fever. But I'll spend tomorrow recovering and, despite an early flight out of RDU on Saturday (6:30 am), I hope to get some good rest in Cincy before race day on Sunday. Hydration during the race shouldn't be an issue. As I said, the course has aid stations every mile, and I am religious about drinking at each station. Missing a water stop is never a good idea. If it's hot and humid, I'll adjust my pace. Last year they handed out wet towels during the race and that made a huge difference. Right now, my focus is on eating right and getting mentally prepared for the race. I also need to figure out what clothing I'll be wearing on race day. Like last year, I'm running to raise funds for cancer research at UNC, so that's an added motivation to stay strong and focused. Running a marathon is mostly a mental game. You have to constantly push back against the No in you. In that sense, a race is a microcosm of life, which is one of the reasons I love racing so much!

1:12 PM The local vegetable stand has reopened!

My selection du jour.

And what can I say about my first mater sandwich of the summer? Nummy!

Finally, I see that Becky's rose bush is blooming. They'll go on my dining room table.

Off to mow!

7:34 AM This is going to be a crazy day. I've got a plate load for sure. First off, it's time to take the van in for an oil change and a recall (something about one of the back seats not working properly). Then it's banking, grocery shopping, Ace Hardware, mowing, and a long walk before it gets too hot. Then more haying this afternoon. All the while, I need to get some solid rest this afternoon in preparation for Sunday's race. The Flying Pig is unique in so many ways, not least because everything is pig-themed:

  • The finish swine

  • Grunts (course volunteers)

  • Info pigs (people at the information booth)

  • Pig pens (race corrals)

  • The piglet (kid's division)

For me, the best part of the race is the crowd support. Sometimes they're two or three deep. And the signs? So funny!

Not to mention all the people waiting at the aid stations eager to give you water or Gatorade or feed you "pig newtons" or lavish you with Vaseline at the "grease stop." The best treat of all is the famous "bacon stop" at mile 15, where you're handed a cup with three strips of bacon cooked to perfection. By then, you're ready for some real food!

Are you caught up in some wonderful new adventure? Grab it by the horns and hold on for dear life. And remember: Keep up the pace or that lady might hit you with her cane.

Wednesday, May 2   

7:48 PM It's only been since Monday, but it feels like a year since I last updated my website. My blog is essentially an online journal of my life, so I wanted to fill you in on what I've been doing. This was the last week of the semester prior to exam week. I still can't believe it. How did the semester go by so fast? As always, my students were absolutely fantastic. They are reconciling their faith with their practice. They are embracing the glorious kaleidoscope of God at work in this world. They are praying for and with each other. They've come to realize that someone preaching to thousands is of no more value to God than a mother who stays at home with her three kids. They are intent on seeing God's kingdom come and His will be done. For the sake of the Gospel, they endure countless hours in the classroom. Something is happening here, folks. And it's something good. Jesus was clear about this: Our only responsibility as Christians is to follow in His footsteps, and I think our students are doing this exceptionally well. I'm so proud of them. That's the work of the Gospel, no?

I arrived back on the farm just in time to get up the first bales of our new haying season. Just think: If the Lord wills, we'll be baling until December.

I love what I do. I love from the center who I am. And here's what's beautiful about it all: It's all a free gift from God, none of it deserved, but all of it appreciated. Long ago I learned to stop holding my breath for God to work everything out in my life so that I could be used by Him. No, He delights in taking earthen jars of clay and displaying His power through them. Even the physical strength I had to pick up bales today came directly from His hand. My soul longs for Him, no matter what I'm doing -- whether I'm in a field or in the classroom. My ministry, my work, is not mine. Every solid acre of this farm belongs to Him. Every blade of grass is His. Every class I teach is a stewardship. Most of all, I am His, and I'm so glad for that. From nothing to something. From rejected to accepted. His mission is now my mission. We are apprenticed to the Master. We walk in the footsteps of our Father. "The Kingdom of God is where we belong," wrote Frederick Buechner. "It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it."

So I'm sitting here tonight with a full heart, and a grateful one too. Sheba has been pampered. The goats have been checked on.

The donkeys are munching on carrots. The rice is cooking. What can I say? I don't watch TV, so this is how I have fun.

God comes to those who ask Him. And we can see Him even in a harvested hay field.

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