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November 2018 Blog Archives    

Friday, November 30    

6:36 PM I just started to reread this wonderful little book that, in a sense, got it all started for me.

It piqued my interest in all things linguistic back in the day when Greek teachers weren't all that linguistically inclined (or declined or conjugated). I'm really never happier than when I have a full stomach (pork chops and mashed potatoes), a warm fireplace, and a good book to read. My problem is that I'll read a little of this book and then go right back to my book about Colditz and its escapers. I always have at least two books going at the same time. I try to learn something new every day. The more I read, the more I realize I never knew what I never knew.

That's all I've got for now. Bon weekend (as the French would say)!

3:02 PM Sometimes, such as on a day like today, you just don't want to get outdoors and get any exercise. The ground is too wet, the temps too cold, the overcast sky too threatening, the leaves too mushy.

I'm sure people must think I'm crazy for going out in such conditions. Today I decided to tough it out and bike in less-than--ideal conditions. I feel proud for pushing through and getting in a solid 10 miles. I don't like biking in such lousy conditions, but I do like the feeling of accomplishment it gives me. My face was pretty frozen when it was all over though. I've only run once in a torrential downpour and that's because it wasn't expected and came out of the blue. Needless to say, I'm scared to death of getting zapped by lightening. Also, ice is most definitely a deal-breaker. I'll try to tough out most anything, but ice is going one step (or slip) too far. Bottom line: It takes a lot of self-discipline to get outside when the weather conditions aren't ideal. The key is to get going before your brain figures out what you're doing. Procrastination usually gets you nowhere (literally).

10:12 AM Did you know that ...

  • The state of North Carolina is in the top 10 percent of the "hungry citizens" ranking?

  • 1 in 4 children in North Carolina are "food insecure"?

  • 3 of 4 teachers in Wake County report having hungry children in their classroom at least weekly?

  • The Tri-Area Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in the Wake Forest/Rolesville/Youngsville area serving 750 families each month?

If you're not sick of me yet and want to read about how you can help out this awesome ministry, go here and, even better, show up tomorrow in Wake Forest with your canned goods. A current list of needs is available on this page. The event is the Frosty Run 10K/5K.

The race begins at 8:00 tomorrow morning, and Lord willing I'll be there. The running community is awesome and I love how we support our local communities. 'Tis the season to be jolly -- and generous, right?

7:38 AM I have a reading problem. I read everything I can get my hands on. That includes Greek grammars, one of which I recently ordered from Amazon.

Yesterday I finally had an excuse to read it and its workbook over a cup of coffee and two fleshly baked glazed donuts at my favorite Amish bakery.

I've written up a review of sorts that I may or may not publish, but meanwhile I am finished with these tomes and would like to offer them to anyone who is sincerely interested in studying Greek but isn't able to attend a class. Just write me and they are yours. I will assume that if you request them you are fully committed to covering their contents from beginning to end. North American readers only. My email is

Meanwhile, my life right now in a nutshell:

What I'm reading: Escape from Colditz.

Listening to: The rain.

Watching: The "Surf's Up" Beach Boys tribute band on YouTube. They are so good. Thanks for the memories, dudes. 

Promoting: Our linguistics conference. I see I'm not the only one. (Thanks, Will Varner and Rob Plummer.) Remember: Registration fees go up Feb. 1. Right now, for only $50, you get two meals and a snack, plus you get to hear all the major players.  

Avoiding: Pulling off my rotten toenails.

Anticipating: Being with mom and dad in Dallas for 5 days.

Working on: The final draft of They Shall Run and Not Grow Weary.

Cooking: Eggs and corned beef hash.

Wishing: I could run in shorts and a tank top instead of 7 layers.

Procrastinating: Cleaning out the inside of my car.

Considering: Running the Athens Marathon in 2019.

Praying for: The ability to let life's ebbs and flows wash over me, arms open wide to receive the pain as well as the joy.

Thankful for: That God's put me in the place where He wants me to live out the love He's given me to share.

Dreaming: Of climbing the Alps again. How 'bout Castor and Pollux this time?

Thursday, November 29    

5:42 PM This is what I looked like while Nate was changing out trailers today.

I like laying around. In fact, the only thing I like more than laying around is working. And boy did we work today.

We had a gignormous field to get up but thankfully the day was perfect for haying and I had an absolute blast working with Nate and Jess.

Some days are like that.

Contrast last weekend, when we practically froze to death. There will be "it" days and there will be "grit" days. I don't know about you, but I always sleep much better at night after a long day's work. Even my sore toes didn't hold me back today. This is my best effort to look like a real farmer.

And how do you like my little buddy Mr. Chesley?

It's hard to tell from the picture, but he's excited because he just saw his daddy. Earlier today, I went to the gym. As you can see, it was pretty empty.

I suppose that's due to all the Christmas shopping going on. The only time the gym is emptier is in February. Oh, there are plenty of people there in January. You can hardly find a place to park. Then it's all over by February. (We Americans are terrible at follow through.) Today I broke one of my cardinal rules. I used my phone in the gym. However, I had a very good reason to do so. Whereas the gym itself was practically empty, the lounge was filled with people drinking eggnog and otherwise having a good time chatting away. I figured I'd disturb less people in the gym than in the social chamber. I would also add that wandering around in the gym just sipping water all the time doesn't count as a workout. On the other hand, to all of you people who are TRYING to get into a workout routine and are wanting to make a difference in your health, kudos to you. My only advice is: It doesn't matter how great you look in your gym clothes, unless they get sweaty they aren't doing you a whole lot of good. Actually, I don't belong in a gym. The outdoors is where it's at for moi. But the Y is a necessary evil because otherwise I would have to buy 50 million weights and I really don't want to do that.

Once again, I'm thankful for my health. I'm thankful I can exercise and pick up hay and drive a tractor and lie down in a field and laze. Being outdoors is special for me. It makes me feel alive and helps heal me.

Lord, You are beautiful. Thank You for Your beautiful creation.

6:10 AM Odds and ends ....

1) Was up bright and early per usual. My goal for the day is to get back to the gym and get in a good long workout. I pretty much abandon my workouts Monday through Wednesday. Too busy. This week has been insane. I am super excited about tonight because I have to get up more hay. Someone once said, "Choose your ruts carefully. You'll be in them for a long time." I actually enjoy my ruts!

2) I'm now requiring Scripture memorization as part of all my exegesis courses.

3) Best. Christmas. Flash. Mob. Ever.


4) Quiz time. What are the top 10 New Year's resolutions? Answer here. Look familiar? In 2019, I've resolved to stop blogging. I mean that. I really don't want to, but "all good things must come to an end," if you know what I mean.

P.S. My New Year's resolutions never last more than a day, so I might as well resolve to stop doing something I don't plan to stop doing.

Wednesday, November 28    

8:25 PM 10 days till Dallas according to my snazzy day planner. Really? Where has this year gone? I was going to post some pictures of last year's race but I can't find them. Anyhoo, I'm ready to curl up on the sofa and dig into my weekend reading.

Before I do, here's a shout out to Dawit, who recently arrived from Ethiopia. I ran into him last night while dining at the Abyssinia in Raleigh.

Whoosh! How's that for a long blog post?

Happy miles, everyone!

Monday, November 26    

6:10 AM Last night I listened (and relistened) to Gabrielli's Sonata pian et forte. A brilliant performance. Absolutely perfect. Gabrielli himself would be proud. I only wish I could have heard it live.

In my younger days, I played the trumpet (first chair, first trumpet in Hawaii's All State Band as a senior in High School). I am so so so so grateful for Gabrielli. This is probably the most influential piece that inspired me to audition for Greater Europe Mission's Eurocorps brass team in 1978. I will never ever forget playing on this fabulous octet throughout Germany for 3 months with my bride Becky by my side.

Playing in an open-air evangelistic concert on the Baltic in Northern Germany, July, 1978.

By the way, it was preparing for this trip that I decided to teach myself German so that I could share my testimony during our concerts. That was also the summer that I began looking into doctoral programs in Europe and was fortunate enough to have been able to visit several universities in both Germany and Switzerland, two of which (Tübingen and Basel) accepted me as a doctoral student by my prospective major professors. As you probably know, I ended up in Basel as a student under Prof. Bo Reicke, perhaps the doyen of New Testament studies in those days.

What an amazing genius Gabrielli was. I've waited years to hear a rendition like this. Utterly brilliant without allowing any of the usual show-offy "Let's see how fast we can play this" approach all too common these days. I love how the audience responds. You should always wait to clap until you hear no sound, because many of us like to hear the reverberation and enjoy a moment of silent awe. The pause allows me to absorb and fully appreciate the beauty of Gabrielli's creation. When you recall that Gabrielli's music was written sola Deo gloria (much like Bach's music), it's a reminder that church music doesn't have to be the dull pabulum it so often is nowadays. Someone has said, "When the angels in heaven play for themselves, they play Mozart. When they play for God, they play Bach." I could feel the power of this piece even through my headphones. Great tone and resonance. It's like reading the Bible. I have listened to this piece several times and each time leaves me wishing I could hear more of the nuance that I know is there. Thanks so much YouTube for sharing it with all of us. Without question, one of Gabrielli's greatest works. I hope you can listen to it and enjoy it. 

P.S. Happiness is a choice, what we elect to focus on. I know for me, this means a lot more of some things and a lot less of other things. A lot more listening to good music and a lot less listening to CNN. A lot more face time with family and a lot less texting. A lot more running by feel and a lot less running by my Garmin. A lot more praying and a lot less griping. A lot more telling my story honestly and a lot less hiding behind a facade. A lot more giving and a lot less taking. A lot more growing up and a lot less giving up. A lot more apologies and a lot less rationalizations. A lot more saying no and a lot less saying yes to everything that comes my way. A lot more time with people who make me feel good and a lot less time with toxic relationships. Life is a lot like childbirth -- incredibly painful and yet gloriously wonderful. You take the good with the bad. If death is real, so is rebirth.

Much peace and happiness from my house to yours during this holiday season ....

Sunday, November 25    

6:35 AM Despite writing a blog where I try to pass myself off as an athlete, I enjoy passive activities as well. Yesterday it was raining so I spent my time immersed in reading. The Kid Who Climbed Everest was a fascinating tale. So was this article in JETS (Dec. 2017): "Authorship and Anonymity in the New Testament Writings." Here are 3 takeaways:

  • The title of the book of Hebrews (To the Hebrews) was apparently coined on the analogy with the Greek titles of the (other?) Pauline epistles.

  • It therefore closely connects the book with the Pauline corpus (Hebrews never circulated independently of that corpus).

  • The letter's postscript (13:22-24) clearly places the author within the Pauline circle.

The author of the JETS essay concludes:

... whatever differences there may be between Hebrews and the teaching of Paul, the canonical placement of Hebrews and the title assigned to it assert their compatibility (and maybe their complementarity).

In the new Tyndale House Greek New Testament, this fact is obscured by the placement of Hebrews after Philemon -- a decision that goes against not only the majuscules used in producing their edition but against Tregelles' own placement of Hebrews after the Thessalonian epistles. As far as I know, nowhere is this decision explained. In the early canon of the New Testament, Hebrews had a close connection to Paul. This is an example of how canonical order can inform our understanding of how biblical books were interpreted in the early church. In canonical terms, placing Hebrews anywhere other than after 2 Thessalonians belies this fact.

Today after church I plan to run for the first time since last Thursday's half. Man, it's going to be gorgeous today. I still have a ways to recover from my race but I should be good for about 6 miles. I'm in decent shape. I just have to maintain it. I do belong out there. As long as long as I'm out in nature, I'm good. I know my last several blog posts have been pretty sappy. I'm a Hallmark card apparently. I did enjoy hosting some of my family for Thanksgiving dinner. Seeing everybody laughing launched my holiday season on a high note. I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed themselves. I would say that I had the best time of all though. Now it's time to increase my bandwidth for other pursuits -- like prepping my students to finish out the semester (only two weeks to go). I'm thankful I have interests that keep driving me forward and that keep my mind stimulated and my body active. I'm not above being lazy, though. Fall is ideal for sitting in front of the hearth and doing nothing but gel. This year I've only got one more major race on my calendar. The Dallas Marathon is a tough one. Training for a marathon is like preparing for a summer hurricane to hit. Dallas will be my twelfth 26.2 mile race. By God's grace, I've never not finished a marathon, though the one I did in Allen, TX, on New Years Day almost killed me. No need to think about that now. I'm committed to running Dallas and that's that. Then it's time to teach J-term Greek. I get so excited just thinking about introducing a new generation of students to the joys of Greek. Meanwhile, I'm trying to put the finishing touches on my book They Shall Run and Not Grow Weary: Devotions to Lighten Your Running Load. Absolutely satisfying use of my time and a nice way to end the semester break. Who knows, I might share a chapter or two with you on the blog. Nothing better than being motivated by your work.

Looking forward to a good week. Blessings on you!

Saturday, November 24    

5:20 AM "Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door" (Emily Dickenson). It's early, and I've been awake thinking. Thinking mostly about my grief-challenged yet glorious life. I patter away at the keyboard not really knowing what I will write. Except that Jesus is worth it. If there's anything I've learned since that day in November 5 years ago, it's that the dawn sneaks up on us when we're least expecting it. I see the dawn in the faces of my children and grandchildren. I see it in the imperfect community we call church. I see it when the kingdom makes ordinary things sacred -- a head cold, a death, a race, feasting on Thanksgiving ham, marriage, singleness. There is more to this life that is still to come, many other dawns that await us, many doors to open still. Pay attention, Dave! Don't miss it!

There's an awful lot for me to be thankful for, no doubt about it. What makes my daily life sacred and holy isn't the books I've written or the classes I've taught but the way God shows up when I put the dishes in the dishwasher or work through a difficult relationship or see my entire life as vocation. Grief recovery isn't a pat formula. It's a mystery. Grief can be healthy. It's a reminder that when we make ourselves vulnerable in this life it sometimes means getting hurt. The thing about grief is that it's relational. You never really grieve alone. First, there's Jesus. We can always tell Him the truth. Then there's family. They offer grace. And then there are the Gatherings. Church is very simple: we gather, even in our suffering and loss, to remember God. I have admired, deeply, the way C. S. Lewis handled the death of his wife. That was a metaphor for life. You simply go on. Like the pastor who labors long and hard over a message knowing he will deliver it to five people. Or the mother who homeschools her kids in absolute anonymity. No single act of love and selflessness is ever forgotten by Jesus. You can't put the Dove in a cave. Realize this, and you cannot help but exhale praise and thanksgiving.

Our family time yesterday was intentionally centered around a meal. Nora Ephron's definition of family comes to mind: "A family is a group of people who eat the same thing for dinner." The earliest followers of Jesus "devoted themselves to the breaking of bread." That was long before the Eucharist was infused with pomp and circumstance. They were too busy celebrating the Real Presence. In many parts and in many ways, I witnessed that Presence yesterday. I saw Jesus when my son and grandson assembled my new book shelves. I saw it when my daughters held their babies. I saw it when the kids laughed and played together. I saw it when the girls volunteered to help with the cleanup. I felt joy as I drove a tractor through the bumpy hay fields and nearly froze to death. Being family together is a way of speaking to each other and, without words, saying "You matter to me. I love you." Just as there was plenty of leftover ham yesterday, so there's always enough and more when we feast at the Table of God.

It's been a scary thing, this opening up of your heart to those you love, this vulnerability of being rejected, this unclenching of fists. But there is power in connecting. I can be open and unsheltered with my family. Imagine if every home was a place where we told each other the truth. No family is perfect, but I love mine with all the love I can muster. When Becky was alive, it never occurred to me how much I would need their presence one day. They have helped me see God in the stuff of everyday life again. We might not get together often, but we know we are always there for each other.

We are family. Not me first, but you first. Blessed be God, both now and forevermore.

Friday, November 23    

7:38 PM Four hours of haying have left me cold and hungry. Every year when it turns cold I'm an idiot and forget to layer. I hate being cold so much that when I get indoors I have to take the longest shower I can and then warm up next to a cozy fireplace. My hands were feeling frostbitten after being out in sub-freezing temps for so long. I've become a cold weather wimp as I've gotten older. The worst part is the frozen snot. How do they do it on Mt. Everest???!!!! Still, I'd far rather run in the cold than in the hot. The thought of a warm reward at the end is always nice as well. Hot chocolate. Hot soup. Hot tea. Hot sauce. Whatever's hot. I've learned to embrace the cold, but it's been a long process of hit and miss. And the snot? That's what those expensive fleece gloves are for, right?

Now to eat supper and then chillax in front of this fireplace.

2:04 PM For the beauty of the earth,/For the glory of the skies,/For the love which from our birth,/over and around us lies:/Christ, our God, to Thee we raise/This our hymn of grateful praise.

6:10 AM This year I'm giving thanks for so many things. I am truly grateful that some of my kids and grandkids can come over for Thanksgiving dinner today. I'm cooking ham, mashed potatoes, green peas, and crescent rolls. Desserts will be provided by others. I know that a lot of people get stressed out over holiday cooking -- getting the table set just right, staying on top of meal preparation, washing the dishes. Me? I'm going to enjoy the day. I'll set out the food, pray, say "Bilu!" (Amharic for "Dig in!"), and then sit back and cherish my family. My life is far from perfect, but there are about a gazillion things to be thankful for. You value what you notice, and I try to be aware of God's blessings every day.

Happy Thanksgiving (again) to all of you!

Thursday, November 22    

7:16 PM I just got home after getting up hay all afternoon and evening with Nate and Jess. What fun! There's only one thing better than a Massie Ferguson tractor, and that is TWO Massie Ferguson tractors.

It was dark and a frigid 30 degrees by the time we finished. I took a half-hour-long shower just to thaw out. Today Nate and Jess had to do most of the work as my legs were pretty much shot after the race. Jessie can do it all -- rake, tedder, pick up, and bale.

I always enjoy working with them.

Earlier I had a blast at the race in Wake Forest. My last several half marathons have been just under the 3:00 hour mark, so today I thought I would challenge myself. I fell in with the 2:45 pacers and promised myself I would try to stick with them until the race ended.

What to say about this event? Only that it was one of the best half marathons I've ever run. Not that the course was easy. It wasn't. You were either going uphill or downhill the entire time, and the grades were steep. But the weather could not have been better -- in the mid-to-high 30s with plenty of sun. I had an amazing time. At about mile 9, I suddenly felt a burst of energy (where did that come from?) and passed the pacers. I never looked back. Words can't express my gratitude to my pacers. Thank you Liz and Amanda!

I actually came in at a reputable (for me) 2:41.

I got my medal and waited for the award ceremony to begin, hoping that I had taken first place in my division -- and therefore could take home the much coveted turkey. Alas, it was not to be. I was second (out of three). So I'll serve ham tomorrow for dinner. I will admit that I'm a teeny weenie bit disappointed that I didn't win my division, but I have no regrets about this race. I gave it my best and left absolutely nothing out there on the course.

For me, the best combination in life is family + enjoyable work + travel + running. To put all of these together in one single day is more than astonishing. My thanks to the Giver of all good gifts!

So, half #17 is in the books. I can't wait for the Dallas Marathon in only 2 weeks.

4:45 AM Do you love old pictures as much as I do?

No better reason to run a race on Thanksgiving Day than to do it in grateful memory of the love of your life.

I think about Becky every single day. 37 years is a long time to be with someone. And we were just getting to know each other.

This one's for you, Becky Lynn.

Wednesday, November 21    

5:02 PM It's kinda odd. Here I have a whole week off from teaching and about the only think I can think about is, well, teaching. I miss the classroom and can hardly wait to get back to school next Monday. As you may know, I'm in my 42nd year of teaching. What does that mean? What have I learned in all these years, if anything? As I've pondered these questions, I've come up with a few answers:

  • I'm not as smart as I once thought I was.

  • I still make lots of stupid mistakes, such as blogging without proofing my spelling.

  • I regret that I didn't start blogging earlier.

  • I enjoy teaching more than ever.

  • I try to delegate to others what I used to insist on doing myself.

  • Good teaching focuses on the best students. That is, good teachers think about how they treat their best students and then treat all their students the same way.

  • Everything I've written could have been written better.

  • I would like to attend more annual meetings (SBL, SNTS) than I'm able to.

  • Things I like: students who ask questions, well-written term papers, having summers and semester breaks off for travel, the coffee our secretaries make for us every morning, and ethnic diversity in the classroom.

  • Things I don't like: waiting days for a response to an email I've sent someone, New Testament commentaries that simply repeat what everybody else is saying, and book reviews that say absolutely nothing.

  • I feel the debate over verbal aspect is much ado about nothing (there are 3 aspects, and the indicative mood grammaticalizes time).

  • I am not impressed with size; bigger is not necessarily better. (This applies to churches as well as colleges and seminaries. And dare I mention books?)

  • I pray for my students more than ever.

  • If I were younger, I would do another doctorate (this time in missions).

  • Nothing makes me smile more than watching my first year Greek students "get it."

  • As never before, I realize the importance of love, which alone can keep me from libertinism on the one hand and from being shipwrecked on the rocks of legalism on the other.

  • A caring heart is everything in a teacher.

So much for my musings, which probably sound a bit idyllic. I admit that many of my ideas about teaching are more idealistic than realistic. But I am an optimist. I suppose the best thing about my work is that it's never boring. My workplace is a dynamic environment, and I can't wait to face a challenging task that constantly requires new ideas and a fresh outlook. Teaching is a passion for me and so I never feel really out of place in the classroom. My goal is to provide a healthy learning environment for every student that enters my classroom. Thankfully, when I was a student I had teachers who modeled what a good classroom should look like, and I suppose my own teaching is a thank-you to them. Above all, I love learning, and I always hope to remain a student myself.

My thanks and love to the thousands of students I've had in my classrooms through the years, to my colleagues who are always uplifting and encouraging, and to my Lord who gave me this passion for teaching and learning. I feel very blessed and grateful on this Thanksgiving Eve.

4:40 PM Heard about this exercise for people over 65?

1) Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. Each day you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

2) After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags.

3) Then try 50-lb potato bags and eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

4) After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.

8:46 AM Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. But thankfulness doesn't always come easily. Here are some ways I've found to revive an attitude of gratitude.

1) Don't compare yourself to anyone else. When we do that, there will always be someone who seems more polished, more spiritual, more mature, more whatever. Remember, God's work in your life is a process that lasts a lifetime. So be patient. When we're not, it's easy to forget to be grateful.

2) Spend time with your loved ones. When Becky graduated from Biola, she returned to Texas. We exchanged letters for a few weeks. Eventually my "Regards, Dave" became "Love, Dave." I couldn't wait to get on a plane and propose marriage. The U.S. Postal Service back then (or email today) can take a relationship only so far. I needed to actually see her -- her freckled face, her ear poking out, her beautiful smile. Who do you need to see today? Visit them and I bet that will put a smile on your face and gratitude in your heart.

3) Enjoy the colder weather. God made seasons for a reason. After every fall comes winter, and after every winter comes the spring. What is barren suddenly bursts forth with tiny green emblems of life. Every year we're reminded that a similar miracle awaits those who know Christ as Savior. Our bodies will be transformed, He will dry up all of our tears, and we will finally stand face-to-face with our Lord. If that truth doesn't light your fire, your wood is all wet.

4) Do something for others. Stop thinking about yourself long enough to write that email of thanks or send that encouraging text. When we do for others, gratitude will eventually come creeping back into our souls. After all, God's calling card is spelled LOVE.

5) Be quirky. Go to a concert. Watch a movie. Fill up a bird feeder. Read some poetry. Watch the clouds roll by. Give your dog a tummy rub. Smile at a stranger. Climb a tree. Take a bubble bath. Watch the sun set. While you're at it, thank God for all these things and more: grandkids, fireflies, popcorn ....

6) Take a minute and name three people who have had the biggest impact on your life and give thanks for them. Go ahead, stop what you're doing and just focus on those three names. Now go and be that friend to someone else today.

7) Give praise to God. Not just at church. He's all around us in nature. "By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: his eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being" (Rom. 1:20). Spread before you from horizon to horizon are glimpses of God in the light of the sun or the power of a storm or the scent of a rose petal.

Life is tough sometimes, but it's infinitively easier if you see beyond the hurt and become grateful for the good. When it comes right down to it, most of us aren't grateful for the things in our lives as much as we are grateful for the people in our lives. The lesson is not to take anyone or anything for granted. The lesson is to enjoy past memories. The lesson is to live fearlessly in the now. Let's change our attitude from "I have to" to "I get to." Life is a precious gift from God. Let's thank Him for it. As John Hall once put it:

Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said?

Does one whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it? Was it well or poorly spent?

Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent? 

Now go and do something you're terrified of doing and BECOME ALIVE!

Tuesday, November 20    

7:36 PM Can you handle one last post tonight about running? Got an email today from the race organizers for Thursday's half. It says, "The first place winner of each age group of the half marathon will receive a free turkey." My motivation meter just went off the charts.

Just because you're Methuselah doesn't mean you're non-competitive.

Good night.

6:48 PM This morning I had a nice long workout at the Y, focusing on my upper body strength. Afterwards I intended to run about 6 miles. Then my body spoke to me. "Go take a long nap!" it was telling me.

Listening to your body means listening to all the cues it's giving you. The more you listen, the better you become at deciphering these signals. Today the message was loud and clear: You need a rest, Dave.

Sometimes it's just not your day. Take a break. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.  

6:04 PM Introducing:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Run for any length of time and the constant banging against the front of your shoes will cause your toenails to go wacko. (This can also happen if you drop something on your toe, though bragging rights drop off precipitously if this is the cause of black toe.) The only solution is to let nature take its course. If you're desperate enough, I'm told that a doctor can poke a hole in your nail to relieve the pressure and pain. This is called trephination. Being a Greek teacher and all that, I know what that word means. Not that it helps. I could, I imagine, just stop running. But that's as likely as me not eating Doritos.

Life is a vicious cycle, ain't it?

8:12 AM Did You Know? Some amazing statistics about texting and driving, including the fact that distracted driving is the number one killer of teens. I'm pretty impressed with the Just Think First program. It was founded after losing 7 Wakefield High School students in just 24 months. My half marathon this Thursday at Wakefield HS is a fundraiser for that organization. I'm happy to see that already hundreds of runners have signed up for the races (which include a kids fun run, a 5K, a 10K, and a half). You can also walk the 5K. I hope you will consider coming out and supporting this event. The whole family can get some exercise and do so for a worthy cause. Go here to sign up. If there's anything the running community is, it's a community of support. To all the people who volunteer at races: I can't thank you enough. If you're a runner, take time to say thank you to the people at the aid stations. It means so much to them. One of the absolutely coolest things about runners is that we like to give back. We rally for each other. We do hundreds of charity races each year around the world while doing something we love. Running motivates. Running encourages. Running unites. I can't to wait to bring my grandkids with me to races. I'd love to do a fun run with them.

Want to run for a charity? Find yours here. On a personal note, I did apply to run in Boston in 2019 as a charity runner for cancer. After quite a lengthy process of applying, my application was ultimately turned down because my fundraising target goal ($10,000) wasn't high enough. I'm fine with that. There are plenty of other charity races I can help out at, like the Chicago Marathon in October 2019, which I'm running for Lungevity. Never think you can't run for a charity. Spirit of the Marathon is such an inspiring movie. I watched it a few weeks before running my first marathon in Cincy. The result was $7,000 raised for UNC Cancer Hospital, where Bec was treated. Yes, my friends, if an old geezer like me can do this, so can you.

Keep it up runners!

Monday, November 19    

6:34 PM Let me tell you, there's nothing like trying out a new bike trail for the first time. Today I chose to bike the "Art to Heart Trail" in Raleigh, some 10 miles of it to be exact.

It starts out in the parking lot of the North Carolina Museum of Art (where both parking and admission are free, but sadly the museum is closed on Mondays, unbeknownst to yours truly).

It ends up 5 miles away in the heart of downtown Raleigh, after cutting through Meredith College and NC State University.

The trail starts out looking like this.

But then the real workout begins. One website I was on said that the trail is "relatively flat." Well, everything's relative I guess. I definitely felt the course was relatively hilly, as in kill-your-quads-hilly. Somehow I managed to plod along at a decent clip. At one junction the course takes you onto Western Boulevard, at which point I issued a polite "no thank you" and turned around, as I absolutely refuse to bike on a roadway unless I'm competing in a triathlon, and even then I don't like it.

So today was a great day, praise the Lord. I have come to accept the fact that getting outdoors regularly is a big part of who I am. I want to be the healthiest version of myself possible, though exercise has to fit into my lifestyle without getting me off balance. On the drive home I stopped by Nate and Jessie's farm and had a blast with my five grandsons. They love their Papa B and he loves them!

6:40 AM Last night I enjoyed reading portions of John Stott's commentary on Romans in the Bible Speaks Today series published by IVP.

How to describe Stott's prose? For indeed, his is excellent in every way. He has in common with all good writers several virtues: As for clarity, he is always lucid and articulate. If it's brevity we're talking about, his commentaries are both economical and succinct. As for manner of writing (style), I would say his language is always eloquent but not so flowery as to break the flow of thought or to call attention to itself. A literary artisan, Stott is someone worth emulating. The object of writing is to inform the reader and ultimately to delight the recipient of that information. Here Stott succeeds magnificently. I might give the following as an example from Stott's Romans. In his "Preliminary Essay," Stott discusses the so-called new perspective on Paul. Students are often confused and burdened by this subject. But Stott navigates the treacherous waters brilliantly. While expressing gratitude to Sanders and Dunn, Stott is wary of their thesis.

In spite of the learned literary researches of E. P. Sanders, therefore, I cannot myself believe that Judaism is the one exception to this degenerative principle, being free from all taint of self-righteousness.

Polite but to the point.

As I have read and pondered his books, I have kept asking myself whether perhaps he knows more about Palestinian Judaism than he does about the human heart.


As for the apostle Paul, since he was well acquainted with the subtle pride of his own heart, could he not sniff it out in others, even when it hid under the cloak of religion?

Here Stott badly mixes his metaphors, but does so intentionally I'm quite sure. In the end:

We must allow Paul to speak for himself, and not make him say what either old traditions or new perspectives want him to say.

Don't you love Stott's "tone" -- clear, concise, confident, courteous, and perhaps we might even say courageous. Stott always seems to be in good spirits. He seems uncannily able to distill complex thoughts into simple language that's easily understood by others. All of the commentaries in the Bible Speaks Today series are like this. They accomplish what I have vainly tried to do in my writing career: tackle even the hardest subject matter and break it down into digestible chunks.

If you read this post and felt like you could improve some of the qualities mentioned here, there's no better time to start than today.

Sunday, November 18    

5:20 PM In just 21 days I'll be running the Dallas Marathon for the second year in a row. It's crazy to think about. I love this course because it takes me right past the place where I proposed to Becky in 1976 (White Rock Lake). That's a memory that will stay with me forever. She may not be there in person, but she'll be there in my heart. I'm not sure there is any one secret to having longevity in marriage. But I do think that having similar interests helps. Our trips together to Ethiopia, perhaps more than anything, gave us something to talk about and helped us to laugh (and cry) together. It definitely was a great connection between the two of us. However, I think that each couple has to find the right mix to keep things harmonious and happy: doing things together as well as developing one's own hobbies and interests. Would she have enjoyed running with me? Probably not. Now, one thing Becky most definitely wasn't was a couch potato. But her arthritis would have kept her on the sidelines. As for walks in the woods -- we did plenty of those together!

Odd to think about it, but we would have celebrated 42 years of marriage this year. She was smart, funny, adventurous, and oh so kind and generous. Doing things together for other people kept us aligned, sane, and connected. It will be so much fun when all those memories bubble up to the surface when I run past "that spot" in 3 weeks. Can't wait.

Saturday, November 17    

4:50 PM Had a nice 8 mile run today at the High Bridge Trail breaking in my shoes. Care to tag along for a bit?

You can't hear it because I'm wearing my ear buds, but I'm listening to the Beach Boys, Gabrielli, and the Haven of Rest Quartet. As you can see, my pace was slow. That was intentional on my part. Yes, I do things gradually.

Like anything, you get into a groove and the miles seem to fly by. I need to keep up my training regiment because I have a half this week and a full in 3 weeks. I'm very glad my body lets me do the crazy things I demand of it. To be honest, I miss my good friend, the marathon. Now that's a pretty taxing race! Afterwards I went grocery shopping.

Aren't I a healthy eater? (All the junk food is hidden in the shopping basket.) Then I cooked Teriyaki Chicken using my mother's recipe. Never has food tasted better. Sheba even enjoyed it. Be honest. It shore looks good, eh?  

Now it's time to chillax on the front porch with my puppy and my book about Stott. Oh, I peeked ahead at the next chapter and what I saw didn't look pretty. Divisions never are. I'm sorry if you get tired of me talking so much about Stott and his experiences. It's just that when you get to my age you tend to appreciate those who have gone before you. I have to say, the man led a pretty exemplary life, so that's what comes out on the blog.

I close with a photo of the High Bridge Trail. Lovely!

Now it's your turn.

What exercises do you enjoy?

Where do you like to run/walk/cycle?

Want to know my secret recipe for Teriyaki Chicken?

Don't take your good health for granted!

6:40 AM What a teacher, that John Stott. I was reminded again last night that we are to treat those with whom we disagree with respect, compassion, and appreciation. Here's the setting:

Stott had a colleague at All Souls in London who claimed to be "baptized in the Spirit." This led the staff of the church to begin a reexamination of the ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Stott was worried about a possible division in the church. Some claimed that speaking in tongues was a special gift of God. Others were dubious. John was asked for his opinion. "I don't know," he replied. He felt he needed a chance to study and reflect in depth on the issues being raised by the Charismatic Movement in England.

After two years of study, Stott was ready to declare his mind on the subject. The setting was a conference themed "The Individual Christian and the Fullness of the Holy Spirit." A crowd of about a thousand came to hear Stott speak. Here's what John Stott did -- and in so doing, he has set for us a good example, I think, of how we should handle difficult situations as they arise in our churches.

1) He began be making it absolutely clear that he was not throwing down a gauntlet or issuing a personal confrontation to charismatics. "We are brethren," he said. "We love one another. We are concerned to know God's will in order to embrace it ourselves and commend it to others, not in order to score cheap points off one another in theological debate."

2) Then he offered his opinion, based on his exegesis of the Bible. He denied politely but firmly that there was any such thing as a post-conversion Spirit-baptism. The baptism of the Spirit, he insisted, is a once-and-for-all experience that always accompanies conversion. "As an initiatory event, the baptism is not repeatable and cannot be lost." But the filling can be repeated and needs careful maintenance. As for tongues, "We must assert that neither the baptism nor the fullness of the Spirit need be accompanied by spectacular signs. The initial baptism of the Spirit may be quiet and unsensational while the continuing fullness of the Spirit manifests itself in moral qualities rather than in miraculous phenomena."

Stott's talk was eventually published under the title The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit. It's still in print today.

The whole ministry of John Stott can't be found in this one example. It's tempting to sit back and say, "You see, John Stott opposed tongues-speaking, and so shall I." Perhaps, just perhaps, we should, as did Stott, read the Scriptures for ourselves. It may take several years of study before we can form an intelligent and gracious opinion on the subject, but isn't that better than a knee-jerk reaction? At the very least, maybe we can learn to forego slippery slope rhetoric to excuse our own prideful laziness. The Spirit takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. But not in an arrogant sort of way. This takes practice. But the life of John Stott shows that it is possible.

Next up: Stott and Lloyd-Jones have a falling out.

Friday, November 16    

6:10 PM I'm sitting here with a full stomach having just pigged out on the most delicious Chinese stir-fry and rice I've ever cooked. What are you doing?

Suffice it to say, the mere fact that I'm blogging so late in the day means either that I've been in a lazy stupor all day or else I've been out somewhere gallivanting. Actually, it's been a very busy day. I woke up this morning with a bad case of Wanderlust. If you're constantly daydreaming about seeing the world, if you feel unsettled, if your suitcase is always half packed, then you can identify. Maybe I have the Wanderlust Gene. Who knows? At any rate, I woke up early, and when it was light enough I went outdoors and guess what I saw? The brightest sun shining in the bluest sky. Typically I'd go for a run on a gorgeous day like today, but my brain revolted. It told me in no uncertain terms that I was going back to Bedford, VA, and would climb to the summit of Sharp Top for the umpteenth time. So off I went -- having no idea, mind you, what the conditions on the mountain were except that I knew Bedford had gotten tons of rain in the past two days just like we had. This is what I figured. I'd drive to the trail head and assess the conditions and then make up my mind whether or not to climb. Two and a half hours later, I was peeping up into the sky with eyes glued to the tops of Sharp Top and her sister peak, Flat Top. They seemed to have hair that had turned white. What is that? It doesn't look like snow. I can handle snow. But the one thing I can't handle is ... Oh NO! It's not snow. It's ICE! At that moment, what struck me the most was how unprepared I was for hiking. I was wearing my regular hiking shoes. I had barely enough outer clothing to keep me warm. I left behind anything that might have helped me to negotiate ice. Yes, I had been guilty of getting caught up in the moment and having a one-track mind.

I sent off a quick text to one of my daughters telling her I was about to climb Sharp Top in the ice and that if she didn't hear from me by 4:00 pm she was to call the local police and report a missing crazy person. I set off to see if I could get all the way to the top, first taking the trail, and then taking the access road they use for the shuttles. After about 2 hours of climbing I finally conceded defeat. I turned around and tried to make it down to the car without breaking my tailbone. That's the crazy thing about sports. Sometimes you surprise yourself and have the run/bike/climb of your life. You are victorious. You are on top of the world. Sometimes, however, try though you may, you see your goal slipping farther and farther away. Your heart sinks. You feel defeated.

Did I do the right thing in turning around? Absolutely. Safety comes first, and always will. As my mountain guide in the Alps would often remind me, "Dave, it's okay if we have to turn around. The mountain will still be there tomorrow." I shrugged my shoulders. There were now two possible attitudes going forward. Go home and sulk. Or dust yourself off, get back in the car, and try something else, accepting your defeat with grace and dignity.

Mountaineers have a saying: "You don't conquer a mountain. The mountain lets you climb it." Today, Sharp Top wanted her privacy, and she got it. After my trek back to the car, I learned an important lesson: If God closes a door, He opens a window. Off I went to Lynchburg and had a fantastic bike ride. To be perfectly honest, I'm not all that disappointed I didn't make it to the summit of Sharp Top today. After all, I had an awesome time enjoying nature (creation). I got tons of exercise. I reveled in the sunshine. I am amazingly proud of the way my knees held up. I absolutely loved today. A little detour is what we need sometimes to help us appreciate all the times when we did achieve our goals.

A few pix:

What's that gray stuff up there on the summit? Dandruff? Hoarfrost?

Mine was the only car in the parking lot at the trail head. Normally, not a good sign.

If I had brought my ice axe and crampons with me, I might have had a chance.

I got in over 6 and a half miles today on my road bike in Lynchburg. Sunny and brisk!

Afterwards, I rewarded myself. (The slaw dog is the official meal of southern Virginia.)

Oh! My new shoes arrived today! Light weight, with a wide toe box for my "unique" nails.

Thumbs up, New Balance.

Thursday, November 15    

7:16 PM Odds and sods ....

1) Women outperform men in the marathon. Here's why.

2) Summiting Mount Sinai. Now that's an idea!

3) Use your crock pot to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

4) Free online New Testament Greek audio.

5) Fun guide to American accents.

2:10 PM The sky continues to open up and my workouts are beginning to get more challenging. Today I couldn't run outdoors so I worked out for about 30 minutes at the Y before driving to the doctor's office to get my annual flu shot. I would not be surprised if there's flooding again like we had when Hurricane Michael passed through our area a month ago. Thankfully, the road to my farm hasn't washed out -- yet. In South Boston, one of the highways crossing the Dan River is closed. Things seem to be going from bad to worse. Crazy. I'll never forget what a California earthquake feels like. Or waking up at 2:00 in the morning in Hawaii and evacuating to higher ground because of a tsunami warning. Folks, stay safe out there. My heart is breaking for all those affected. Our poor area!

On a happier note, I have now officially signed up for the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day in Wake Forest. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that the half marathon is my favorite race distance. Is it just me or does 13.1 miles seem just the right distance? I truly don't know if any or all of this matters, but I do know that now that I'm 66 I approach life differently than I did even 5 years ago. One thing I'm learning is to not get so focused on my pace that I forget to enjoy the race and the scenery. We live in a time and day that allows for almost unlimited opportunities to become fit and stay active. We're also aware that the only reason to try out a new sport (like running) is to enjoy it and because we expect it to be fun. I am so looking forward to this race. The neighborhood we'll be running through is awesome. Plus, so far I'm the only guy over 65 who's running the half -- which means that the odds of me placing first in my age division have skyrocketed. SCORE!

Any other tips for running a half?

Do Doritos count as running fuel?

I can't wait to run a 5K with my grandkids!

6:15 AM I am so enjoying reading Basic Christian -- John Stott's biography. I especially loved this quote on p. 82:

We have [wrote Stott] an unmistakable, inescapable responsibility towards our neighbors who are strangers to Christ and his gospel of grace. This responsibility is clearly shared by the whole congregation.

Then he adds:

The task of evangelism cannot be delegated to the few. Worship and witness go hand in hand.

Finally, he concludes:

We cannot play at this.

Then there's this story on p. 115. At the end of a two-month speaking tour in Australia, Stott suddenly came down with laryngitis. That night he was scheduled to speak one last time. With his throat raw, he whispered a prayer: "I beg you to take it away from me." The Lord seemed to reply: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Stott saw that a thousand students had shown up to hear him. He stood up and began to speak softly, unable to modulate his otherwise sonorous voice or convey his personality, all the while praying "Fulfill your promise to perfect your power through my weakness!" At the end of his address, Stott issued an invitation for the students to surrender their lives to Christ. The response was immediate. Later someone told him, "Do you remember that final service of the 1958 mission in the University Great Hall when you lost your voice? I came to Christ that night."

Suppose you were in the same situation. And suppose your response was, "Lord, I don't want this laryngitis. I know Your power is perfected in weakness, but I'll forgo that honor for now, thank You very much. I can't stand not being able to talk. Please just take it away!" What is this person saying? My will be done. I'll serve You Lord, but on my conditions.

That happened to me once when I was living in Basel. I had been asked to give a lecture on Ephesians at the Bibelschule Walzenhausen on Lake Constance, and when I boarded my train in Basel I lost my voice. Thus began the "mental skirmishing" --  me filled with resentment and self-pity, while the Lord was calling me close to His side. "Will you also go away," I could almost hear Him say, "or will you come with Me?" To be a Christian is to follow Christ unconditionally. And when we make those choices with the freedom of the will that God gives us, we find, as did Stott, joy and peace in serving Him. What if we say No? We forfeit the grace of God and become a sulking child. I've been there more times than I'd like to admit. I'm slowly learning to accept my infirmities and to thank God for whatever aspects of my weaknesses I can honestly thank Him for, including His unfailing love and presence.

The next chapter in the book: Stott confronts the excesses of the Charismatic Movement.


5:10 AM A few thoughts on publishing in response to some graduate students:

1) If it's worth writing, it's worth publishing. This includes your master's thesis and doctoral dissertation. I know that some might disagree. They feel that a student's writing should "mature" before he or she publishes. I'm not so sure. My first journal article was based on my master's thesis. My first book was my doctoral dissertation. I encourage my students to begin publishing while in school -- and many do.

2) Review, review, review. Books, that is. It's the easiest way to get into print, and you get a free book besides. I began writing book reviews for journals such as the Grace Theological JournalCriswell Theological Review, and JETS. I did this while I was a doctoral student. Later my reviews appeared in JBL and Novum Testamentum. At our school I ask my students to consider writing one review each year.

3) Set goals. When I graduated from Basel in 1983, I prayerfully set the following goals: One book review every year, and one book every 5 years. If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. Don't be afraid to set goals --  and to set them high.

4) Respect the scholarly guild, but don't fear it. Go where angels fear to tread. My second book was on the integration of linguistics and New Testament Greek. It is still in print in a second edition. What right did I have to write a book on linguistics? None whatsoever. But nobody else had written a book on New Testament Greek linguistics, I needed one for my classes, so I gave it a whack. It seemed to open the floodgates for others, more competent than myself, to write their own books on the subject.

5) Shoot for the stars. That is, send your articles to the better known journals. Why not? The worst they can say is No. That's how you get published in BiblicaNew Testament Studies, and Novum Testamentum. If you think you can't, you won't.

6) Consider publishing your own website. It's by far the cheapest and easiest way to get your ideas out to a wide audience -- literally overnight.

In short, if you are called to scholarship, you are called to writing. Of course, the least important thing you will ever write is your dissertation. It's merely the launching pad for a lifetime of research and writing.

Happy writing!

4:50 AM Woke up this morning with these words on my lips: "O Master let me walk with Thee, in lowly paths of service free."

Monday, November 12    

8:20 AM My daughter Kim is a horse-lady. They own two steeds. Yesterday after lunch we got to talking about all of our crazy horse-related experiences, including the times we had "unplanned dismounts." Can any of you out there identify? Why do we expose ourselves to such punishment? Only because the horse is probably the most wonderful animal to come from our Creator's hands. I so miss my horses Cody (Arabian) and Traveler (Thoroughbred). Traveler used to race in California. He knew only one speed. Wow. What a unique creature.

Have you read about "Beautiful Jim Key"? He was known as the smartest horse on earth. He could cite Bible verses, tell you the time of day, and even spell words. He and his owner William Key performed before astonished audiences between 1897 and 1906. His owner was a former slave who advocated for the gentle treatment of horses. Children by the millions joined the "Jim Key Band of Mercy" and pledged "I promise to be kind to animals." I never had to use a whip on either of my horses. You see, the goal of good horsemanship is to become a partner with your steed. And when you attain that goal, there's nothing like it in the world. I don't ride much anymore. It's not that I'm too old to ride. It's that I'm too old to fall! But I will never forget all those years riding cross country on my wonderful horses.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the horse.

7:24 AM So, what to blog about? Yesterday I jotted down a brief introduction to the book of Philippians. I try to do this for every book I teach. Despite attending Bible-believing and Bible-teaching churches, many of us have difficulty grasping and explaining the big picture. I am an unashamed "fan" of having our students be able to write out in a single paragraph the message of the book they're studying. Is there a unified focus? Is there one overriding theme? What is the "linguistic macrostructure" of the writing? How would you finish this sentence: "Mark's is the Gospel of _________"? Or, "What is the message of Luke?" Studying the New Testament requires seeing both the forest and the trees. There's both forest-work and tree-work to be performed. So, for what it's worth, here's what I've come up with for Philippians:

Paul's Letter to the Philippians was written while the apostle was a prisoner and at time when the church in Philippi was troubled by false teachers and internal divisions. Paul pleads with his readers to have the humble attitude of Jesus Christ rather than to be controlled by pride and selfish ambition. He reminds them that their heavenly citizenship requires them to work together for the advance of the Gospel. He writes of the joy and peace that God gives to those who live in union with Christ and who put the needs of others before their own, as Christ did. After a lengthy introduction (1:1-11), the letter divides itself into body proper (1:12-2:30) and body subpart (3:1-4:9), and concludes with words of thanksgiving and personal greetings (4:10-23). Paul is confident that since God began a work of grace in the lives of the Philippians, He will continue to work in them and sustain them as together they hold forth the life-giving word in the face of opposition and suffering.

This summary is based on my detailed examination of Philippians published years ago in Novum Testamentum. I've also put together a Power Point on the subject. As for my class on Philippians next semester, I've begun brainstorming assignments. What can I do that is new? What will best help my students master not only the message of Philippians but better understand the language of the New Testament? Thus far I've come up with a few ideas. See if you like them.

  • Memorize the "heart of Philippians" (2:1-4) in Greek.

  • Learn by heart the unique vocabulary of the Greek text.

  • Memorize the principal parts of the irregular verbs found in the letter.

  • Listen to my audio files of the book (see my Greek Reading Room).

  • Read the book aloud in at least 5 English versions in one sitting. Do the same in Greek.

  • Work through the spiritual applications of each paragraph. (For example: In Phil. 1:5, Paul says the Philippians had become partners with him in the Gospel. What did that look like then? And what might that mean for you personally?)

Incidentally, I've taken a stab at practical application here:

Of course, many of you are Greek geeks, and I'd love to get your ideas as well. Send me an email and let me know your thoughts.

The motto over the entrance to Plato's Academy reads:

Ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω

This might be rendered, "Let no one without a knowledge of geometry enter." I recall that at the University of Basel it was just assumed that students had a working knowledge of numerous subjects, including Greek and Latin. It's wonderful to see so many students on our campus eager to learn the languages. Many have had to overcome severe deficiencies in their previous schooling. To all of my pupils who are working so diligently this semester, hang in there and do well. I hope many of you get the 110 Award on your next exam!

P.S. Today on campus is the memorial service for one of my former colleagues. Logan Carson was a good friend and a wonderful mentor to so many. He is now in the presence of the One he served so faithfully!

Sunday, November 11    

7:24 PM After attending church today with my daughter and her family, we decided to dine at one of those all-you-can-eat-buffets in town. If the restaurant's purpose was to fill the customer's belly as cheaply and quickly as possible, it certainly succeeded today. I'm here now to tell you that I am dealing with major toenail trauma.

No, this is not a picture of ET (from the movies).

I'm going to lose this nail eventually. I'm too big of a wimp to pull it off, but I read somewhere that if I soak it I can expect to be rid of it sooner rather than later. Got the tub water running now. Meanwhile, let's play the toenail game:

T: Toenail -- why you doin' this to me??!!

O: One day you will fall off.

E: Egads! That can't happen soon enough!

N: Non-runners: do y'all know how bad I'm hurtin' right now?

A: Aaargghhh!

I: If I need to, I'll have my doctor pull you off! (Marshall Ulrich actually did this.)

L: Later I'll frame you for posterity.

Oh, and did I mention that my other toenails look just as bad? My other toes are so callused that you can't tell the nail from the callus. But hey, long as I can run, I'm good. Pretty feet are overrated anyway.

Let's not start talking about bunions.



7:40 AM With Thanksgiving approaching, did you know that Becky was a descendent of Governor William Bradford? This is one reason we named our home Bradford Hall. (Her dad is named Bradford as well.) Did you also know that William Bradford loved the Hebrew language and that Hebrew almost became the official language of America? Note the inscription in Hebrew on his tomb. It says, "The Lord is the help of my life."

What a blessed ancestry. I've only just begun researching my family tree on my father's side. I've gotten as far back as the Miller family who, during the Civil War, farmed along a creek in western Maryland called the Antietam.

5:30 AM I'm taking the day off from running. In fact, I'm taking the whole week off. It's not that I'm feeling bad. In fact, just the opposite. Other than an achy toenail, my body has recovered nicely from yesterday's exertions. So today it will be church and then lunch with family. This is going to be a busy week on campus, but next week is Thanksgiving Break. I'm toying with the idea of doing a half marathon on Thanksgiving Day. It's called the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon and the course takes you through the scenic Wakefield Plantation in Wake Forest. The race is a fundraiser for the "Just Think First" program that tries to raise awareness on topics that affect teens such as gangs, alcohol, drugs, and peer pressure. Somewhere I read that the average American consumes about 2,000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner -- which is like eating two and a half double quarter pounders in one sitting. So pounding the pavement before dinner on Thanksgiving Day might not be a bad idea. You know, hobble then gobble. By the way, shout outs to those running the Athens Marathon today. Can you imagine running the original marathon course?

This morning I was wide awake at 4:00 am. That's what happens when you are fast asleep by 7:30 pm. I'm in the book of Philippians this morning. Paul's message is a very simple one: A life of love and service to others is far more important than a comfortable life. Christ emptied Himself for the sake of others, and so should we. This is all, of course, a work of God's grace (1:6). And yet it raises many practical questions. Am I helping others fulfill the Great Commission? With whom am I partnering in the cause of evangelism and church planting? Am I putting first things first (1:10)? What are my priorities? In what do I rejoice the most? Paul had been "put" by God in prison to serve Him. Where have I been put so that I can be involved in other people's lives? Are there situations in which I am the only person around who can help meet a need? Do I expect, like Paul, that God can use me in any situation? How did Christ's relation to His Father shape His willingness to look our for the interests of others and not just His own? Why do I grumble and complain so much when I'm specifically commanded not to (2:14)? How well am I holding forth the life-giving word? What does it mean to "put no confidence in the flesh"? Paul saw his credentials as a "loss." Do I? Do I really know Christ and the power of His resurrection? We often talk about ourselves as "having been saved." But what aspects of our salvation are still pending? What does it mean to "agree in the Lord" (4:2)? Why is Paul so serious about us showing our "reasonableness" to others? What does it look like for the "peace of God" to be present in my life? Paul doesn't rejoice because he was in need and things suddenly made a turn for the better when the Philippians sent him some money. He rejoices because their gift proves that their faith is genuine. Do I remember this principle when I give to others? Is my ultimate motive to please God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift?

Paul's little letter to the church in Philippi should challenge all of us to renounce covetousness, materialism, and luxury, and to care sacrificially for others in need. I, Dave Black, have to choose today between God and mammon. I can't have both a good life and a good conscience simultaneously. Affluence is not sinful, but we cannot keep it without smothering our conscience. To the wealthy, Paul commanded, "Do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share" (1 Tim. 6:18). He doesn't tell the wealthy to become poor. But he doesn't allow them to stay rich either. As pilgrims on this earth, we should travel light and live simply. Do I do this? Nope. But I want to learn how. I want to be free of anything that would distract me from serving God and others. Our God is a generous God. If His love dwells in us, as it did in the Philippians, we will take action when we see a genuine need we can help meet, to the degree we are able.

May God help us all to grow in generosity and live in contentment!

Saturday, November 10    

6:25 PM Hey folks! Marathon #11 is now in the books. (Or at least it's on my blog.) Next stop: The Dallas Marathon in exactly 4 weeks. Care for some trivia? The country with the slowest average marathon time is India (5:00:34). When I saw that statistic, I realized I was from India. How could my parents and birth certificate have lied to me? Here's another fact: I am the best slow runner I know how to be. Every time I run, I give it my all. And I hope you will too. Because it's late and I'm not a little tired (litotes -- like it?), I close with a few random pics from today's record-breaking marathon in Richmond. (I'm sure somebody broke a record, even if it wasn't me.)

Lance Armstrong swallowed more than 13 energy gels when he ran the New York Marathon in 2006. Since I can't stand energy gels, I opted to get my carbs the night before.

Recognize this place? It's the state capitol building. I wanted to stop in and say hello to Gov. Northam, but I was running a bit behind schedule.

Since I had accidentally lined up with the half-marathoners about a half mile away from where I was supposed to be, I had to make a mad dash to get to my corral. Here I am having just fallen in at the very back of the last corral. To be fair, I probably would have started out here anyway.

As you can see, the weather was perfect for running.

"First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The James River in all her beauty.

I couldn't agree more, sir. 

Finished! (That's a double entendre, hehe.)

Finally, let's play the "Guess the Seminary" game. Bet you can't guess it!

Friday, November 9    

7:45 PM Random musings ....

1) News alert: Tomorrow's weather is predicted to be perfect for a marathon. (Except for the wind.)

Fall and spring are always iffy seasons for runners. You have to be prepared for anything. At April's Boston Marathon, the weather was miserably cold and rainy. I imagine every runner contemplated dropping out. Several elite runners did. The rest looked like the wounded after a battle, slogging along in a death shuffle. That's all I'm going to say about that. Except that if I do ever write a book about running, it will be called: How Runners Weather the Weather. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for my post-race report -- if and when I regain consciousness.

2) Have I convinced you to attend our linguistics conference next April? This is the BIG DOG. A half century of relative neglect has put us New Testament guys and gals far behind in this area. We have a long ways to catch up. I confess I felt very foolish when I published my book on linguistics 30 years ago. I am in no sense a specialist in the field into which I trespassed. Thankfully, our speakers are anything but novices. Moreover, each topic we'll be discussing is complex and has in every case attracted an extensive literature. One or two topics are even, one might say, explosive.

I'm extremely grateful to my colleague Ben Merkle for the immense amount of time and energy he's invested in helping me prepare for this event, and to all those in our PR department who have assisted us. Our prayerful hope is that the conference will stimulate a new generation of Greek students to think more linguistically about some of the big issues in New Testament Greek studies today.

Go here for the speakers' lineup and registration. See you in April.

3) If you're a Greek student, be sure to avail yourself of all the bells and whistles at our New Testament Greek Portal, which is very professionally managed by my assistant Noah Kelley. There comes a point, no matter how proficient you've become in your Greek studies, when you sort of want to give up. At our Greek Portal, I do my best to remind you that when the going gets tough, the tough get going (I just made that up).

4) While in Richmond today I might visit of a couple of the museums there. After all, other than the expo, I'll have plenty of time to kill. One place I've always wanted to visit is the Edgar Alan Poe Museum on Main Street. Poe ("Master of the Macabre") created the short story genre, or so I'm told (I know nothing about him). I also understand a black cat named Edgar roams the property. If so, that's so Poesome.

That's all folks! Have a great weekend! 

Thursday,  November 8    

5:58 PM And then there was one .... Yep, only one day to go to the Anthem Richmond Marathon -- Richmond being about as close to "my home town" as I suppose it can get. I'm excited for another run and especially another long run. I remember running this race last year. I felt good for the first 18 miles or so, but the last few miles were pure torture. Every part of my body was hurting. You want to stop and just sit down. But I could feel the finish line reeling me in. The crowds cheering. The grandstand seating. The long finisher chute. Hearing the announcer. Being caught up in the pure emotions of the runners all around you. You realize you have just completed a marathon! It was, in a word, fantastic. It was, in two words, really fantastic.

After all this running, I might actually start to think of myself as a runner.

11:46 AM Marathon training is going well, thanks for asking. This is not me, by the way.

After working out at the Y, I had a great 5 mile run. My toenail held up quite nicely, so it looks like I might be good to go on race day. The fall scenery was beautiful, as always.

Afterwards I enjoyed some Arroz con Pollo in South Boston. Hey, for only 5 bucks, you can't pass up such a good deal.

Up next: Begin writing the syllabus for my Philippians course in the spring. I love having goals propel me.

What are you working on? 

7:44 AM One of the hardest things in life is saying no. But there are times when it's the right thing to do, and the sooner we make up our minds, the better. I'm going to try a 5 mile run today to see how my toenail holds up. If it gives me problems I think I may have to bow out of the Richmond Marathon this weekend. I'll find another trough to put my snout in. It's not that I don't want to run in the race on Saturday. I love marathons. I love the death shuffle that begins around mile 20. I love the degree of preparation it takes to participate in a race of that distance. I love accomplishing goals, especially when they are hard-earned ones. (They say the degree of discomfort experienced after 20 miles in the marathon is the worst that most men, and most women outside of childbirth, will ever experience.)

When I was in high school, I rarely studied. I must have attended high school (I have a diploma, right?), but mostly I surfed. When I got to Biola in 1971, I knew I was in for a gignormous challenge. I had to actually study -- or I would lose my scholarship. When I had to drop out of my beginning Greek class because I couldn't understand a word the prof was saying, I was so discouraged I even thought about dropping out of school. After all, the heart and soul of being a student is pushing hard, being determined, and fighting through adversities. Dropping Greek was devastating. On the "College Embarrassment Scale" of 1 to 10, I'd rate that moment a 52. I was incredibly demoralized and discouraged. But even then, God was preparing me to be a Greek teacher. At the very least, I can listen sympathetically when a student tells me how they are struggling with the language. It was also a lesson in pedagogy: Keep everything on the bottom shelf, and never assume your students know anything about how languages work.

Thankfully, God intervened in the nick of time. Someone told me that Moody Bible Institute in Chicago had a cassette tape Greek class replete with proctored quizzes and exams based on a super-simple textbook by a man named Ray Summers. The rest, as they say, is history. I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that Greek could actually be so much fun. I was treated like the dumb stupid novice that I was when it comes to languages, and I aced both Greek 1 and 2 before taking my second year of Greek at Biola. A year later, I was hired to teach Greek there. My shock and surprise swelled to an astronomical level. That moment was the beginning of so many amazing experiences that have come to my life because I am a Greek teacher. I can't begin to imagine how different my life would have been if I had given up on Greek after my first sour experience at Biola. I didn't recognize it at the time, but I actually was capable of learning this language. How much are each of us capable of what we don't realize yet? You know, folks, every so often you have those moments in life that end up shaping the person you become. This was one of those moments for me.

In the past two weeks I've had several students meet with me to discuss their future academic goals. Many want to go on for doctorates in New Testament and Greek. Some of them have well-meaning friends who have told them, in essence, "You're crazy. It's more likely to give birth to a baby elephant named Hannibal than to go to graduate school and expect to get a job teaching Greek afterwards." The problem is: These students have fallen head-over-heels with Greek. It's in their DNA. I remind them that there are countless people just like them who went on to earn doctorates (some from prestigious European universities) and are now teaching New Testament and Greek fulltime. They had the courage to jump off the proverbial cliff, and then proceeded to soar. I made that leap of faith when I moved to Basel in 1980. So my message for these students is a very simple one. If something is worth doing, do it now. Don't wait. You never know what tomorrow will hold. Live your life to the fullest each and every day. Live it full of faith and in a way that you won't look back with regrets, thinking about all the things you wish you would have done. That's one reason I want so much to run the marathon this weekend. As many runners can attest, your first 5K race is merely a planted seed that later blooms into a 10K, a 10-miler, a half marathon, and then marathons. What I find so inspiring at a marathon is the mentality of the runners. Everyone is amazingly positive despite the adversity and exhaustion. A marathon has a way of challenging you to your core. All of your outside protective layers are peeled away like an onion, and you are left alone with your doubts and fears. But step after grueling step, you finally make it to the finish line.

Student friend, don't minimize the will of God for your life in any way, shape, or form. Don't put God in a box ("Well, I could never study at Cambridge." Oh really? Many people just like you have.) Expect that you will have to dig deep toward the end of the race. But when you get there -- oh my, here's nothing like it. Have faith that you have what it takes to succeed. Ignore the naysayers. The important trait you need to have is a willingness to follow God's will for your life (as you best understand it) and a willingness to do whatever it takes to finish.

Just ask any marathoner.

P.S. A copy of It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic to the first 3 people to email me.

Wednesday, November 7    

5:55 AM Which is more beautiful? This rainbow I saw last night....

Or this passage from Philippians 3....

This is obviously a trick question. One picture can be no more beautiful than the other any more than I can love one of my grandchildren more than I love the others. The beauty of the rainbow is obvious. But what about these verses from Philippians? Do you see what I see? The alliteration? The assonance? The asyndeton? The irony? The paronomasia? The lexical repetition? Before I studied Greek, I never viewed the Bible as a collection of texts written by master word-artisans. Reading Adele Berlin and Gene Nida was like being struck by lightening. They (and others) opened a whole new world of understanding for me. My main takeaway? The Bible was not given for our information and transformation only but also for our reading pleasure. It is filled with hyperbole, imagery, sarcasm, symbolism, etc. Often I am so preoccupied with hermeneutical questions that I overlook the literary richness of the Bible. I have taught the book of Philippians many times and have still not lost the sensation and sweet taste of the author's prose (and, in places, poetry). That's the reason, perhaps, behind my decision to teach rhetorical analysis to my exegesis students. Like a good modern author, Paul always has his readers in mind when writing. He is far from being artistic for artistry's sake. And that is always appreciated. This morning, as I read Philippians 3 again, there was magic again, words with great power, like Poe's The Purloined Letter. We students of the Bible have the key to the door, to the richness of the text. And we owe it to people like Berlin to remind us where we had left the keys.

Tuesday, November 6    

4:48 PM I just got the link to my granddaughter's chorale as it performed on Friday night. Go here to watch some pretty incredible music. #proudgranddad.

1:54 PM So what to do? I've got another marathon scheduled for this Saturday. But there's just one hitch. The big toe on my left foot is causing problems. UGH. The toenail there is about 3 times the normal size of a toenail. In fact, I think my normal toenail gave birth to triplets. The resultant monstrosity is big enough to warrant a birth certificate. It feels like somebody is jabbing an ice pick into my toe. Having cruddy toes is a normal part of running long distance races. Your feet are sore for several days and your toes look like sausage links. But toenail issues are another matter altogether. You might remember that both of my big toenails fell off last year. I'm hoping they will do the same. And soon.

NOTE: No photos. You're welcome.

12:18 PM So you think you can't run a marathon? Here are 4 inspiring stories of last place finishers. Now go. And do.

12:14 PM Jon and Matthea sent me the recipe to "Slow Cooker Bottom Round Beef Roast." I just put it in the crock pot. Please wish me success. This is the first roast I've ever tried to cook.

9:20 AM I arrived at RDU yesterday at 3:00 pm and then taught my night class at school before driving home this morning to vote. The weekend with family was just what I needed. Why did it go so well? First of all, I refused to be alone. Was that easy? No way! When I arrived in Birmingham I had retreated so deeply into my emotional protective cocoon that I felt like a turtle about to be hit by a car. But slowly I began to crawl out of my shell. I know that my tendency is to "be tough" and handle all of my troubles by myself. This is precisely why I forced myself to be with family over the weekend. I knew I needed interaction. I needed to surround myself with people who love me. There is nothing heroic about grief. It is just plain hard work. Your emotions are frozen, and motion in any direction feels like the world is covered with solid ice. But we don't need to weep in silence. It helps to deal with your pain by being in community. If grief is a statement that you loved somebody, it's also a statement that you are loved by somebody. When we're grieving, we need to find someone to listen to us, talk to us, hold our hand, even cry with us. I experienced all of this and more over the weekend. But it wouldn't have happened had I remained curled up in a fetal position.

Other things I did right:

1) Music. For me, listening to music gives my feelings and thoughts shape and meaning. With such a jumbled array of feelings, I find it therapeutic to bask in song and artistic beauty. The day I arrived in Birmingham I attended my granddaughter's chorale concert at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. It was a marvelously uplifting performance. Later we sat in my daughter's living room and watched YouTubes of great music like Gabrielli's Aria della Battaglia and Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium. Becky and I always loved to attend the NC Symphony together. Music meant so much to her. When we grieve, God doesn't want us to forget the past. He doesn't want us to forget the good times, the hard times, the joys and sorrows you shared with your loved one. I will always feel connected to Becky through music and the arts.

2) Running. Grief has a tremendous mental and emotional component to it, but the physical aspect of grieving can't be overlooked. Knowing that I would be visiting with them, and knowing how much I loved to run, my daughter Matthea and her husband Jon arranged for us to do a 10K in downtown Birmingham on Saturday morning. We were slow, but we had so much fun running together. The weather turned out to be ideal for a race. Running has taught me so much about grieving. I've come to realize that my body will go only as far as it needs to go. If I'm running a marathon, my body is done after 26.2 miles. If I'm running a 5K, it calls it quits after mile 3.1. The same thing happened in my 31-mile ultra. Despite the fact that I am a slow runner, I have a great deal of tenacity and even stubbornness. Another thing about running: It involves suffering. Through running, I've learned how to embrace suffering. A race tells you it's possible to suffer and keep going. Even at the aid stations, you don't hang around. You get in, get your fluid, and get out. Running is all about forward motion. So is life.

3) Smiling. Yes, I said smiling. Research has proven that endorphins and serotonin are released into your body when you smile. Endorphins are natural pain relievers. And serotonin creates a natural high. When I arrived in Alabama, I was grumpy and quiet. But you try spending 4 days with 5 rambunctious and happy grandkids without breaking out in joyous laughter. Not possible!

4) Feeding my face. Call it comfort food if you like, but it works. I can't tell you how many times we went out for a meal -- Mexican, hot dogs, even Ethiopian. Of course, my daughter also cooked at home. For me, the dinner table is a place of community. I find eating alone alienating. In many countries like Ethiopia, mealtime is considered sacred. It's incredible how uplifting these meals with my family were. "Day by day," says Acts 2,"they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts." God created meal-time as a unique experience designed to foster fellowship.

5) Rest. I spent every afternoon sleeping. I needed it too. Fatigue is easy to spot. It shows on our faces and in our demeanor. Therefore, adequate sleep is essential when you're grieving. And I had plenty of it -- thanks to the boys for giving Papa B their room for the weekend.

6) Dogs. The Glasses have two of them. I cherished every moment with them. It's amazing how pets become part of our families. My heart still aches over the dogs I've lost through the years. I could never imagine life without them. Being social creatures, they help you cope with loneliness. Jon and Matthea's dogs are so cute. They have a Corky and a Sheltie. Both are hearty, spunky, determined breeds. "Without dogs, our houses are cold receptacles for things. Dogs make a fire warmer with their curled presence. They wake us, greet us, protect us, and ultimately carve a place in our hearts and history. Our reflection, our lives, are often referenced in parts defined by the all-too-short lives of our dogs" (Paul Fersen, In the Presence of Dogs). Amen to that.

In short, this weekend was a challenging, inspiring, and rewarding adventure. I tried to imagine what Becky's reaction would have been had she been there watching me. I think she would have been proud of me. There were incredibly difficult parts of the weekend, but I was happy that I coped so well with my grief. My soul was filled with happiness by being with family. I'm consistently amazed at how much my kids love me. On weekends like this, my mind never truly shuts down. Even though I came through the experience stronger than when I went in, I'm still in the middle of a race. Though I may not be moving very fast, I'm proud of myself for still being out there on the "course," as it were. I'm consistently surprised at what can be accomplished when you just keep moving forward and don't give up. Of course, it's all God's grace. If you are a Christian, grieving for you is different. It's always infused with hope. And the foundation for this hope is found in only one place: The Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of loss. He is the Lord of comfort. He is the Lord of suffering. And He is the Lord of restoration. I have made the choice to follow this Lord. You and me -- we are kingdom people, following this matchless Savior along the downward path of brokenness and humility. I pray you would never forget what a friend you have in Jesus. I close with a few photos. God bless!

This is Galana. She's my Sheba's daughter. What a sweet puppy.

Three people who don't know how not to be runners.

Race day was bright and sunny.

This is perhaps the best Ethiopian restaurant in town.

Their food was so delicious. On our platter, I made sure we had Becky's favorite dish, kai wat.

Matthea is a marvelous cook. Here we are enjoying a scrumptious pot roast.

On Sunday morning we sang "It Is Well" just before Jon got up to give the message. Coincidentally, that was perhaps Becky's favorite hymn.

Everyone, meet Karis Lynn. Isn't she the most precious baby you've ever seen? All of my grandkids are like that, of course.

Matthea's fabulous art gallery. Such amazing talent. More here.

A visit to Gus's Hot Dogs makes everything right.

Friday, November 2    

7:45 AM I woke up tired this morning, physically drained. And why not? Four weeks ago -- a half marathon. Three weeks ago -- an ultramarathon. Two weeks ago -- a 52-mile bike. One week ago -- a marathon. And this weekend? You know when you have a tough day coming and you dread it? It has to take place, but you still lose sleep over it. Loss is just plain tough. It's hard to understand, deal with, work through, endure. God allows it for a reason but does that lessen its pain? If you ever feel the need to pour out your grief before Him, believe me, I understand. This morning, at 5:00 am, sitting on my front porch in the dark, I read the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Holy cow. What can we learn from this?

  • That aging and death are inevitable.

  • That God disciplines us because He loves us too much to let sin destroy our lives.

  • That, like the Philosopher who wrote this book and who "studied proverbs and honestly tested their truth" (v. 9), so we too can speak openly and honestly about our pain.

  • That reverence for God is not a feeling, it's a choice.

  • That you can be confused and still trust Him.

  • That God doesn't despise our fragility but created us with real, raw emotions like sorrow.

  • That suffering has a noble purpose.

Exactly five years ago this morning, to use the words of the Philosopher in Ecclesiastes 12, the silver chain snapped, the golden lamp fell and broke, the rope of the well came apart and the water jar was shattered. A body returned to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life went back to God, who gave it to her. A major part of our lives was ripped from us, and just as it takes time to heal from surgery, it takes time to heal from loss. But no matter what our loss may be, the words of the Bible remain true:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.

Let me mention four things that have helped me cope with grief through the years. Maybe they can help you cope with your own losses as they come to you in life:

Be yourself. Others may try to "fix" you, but you don't need fixing. Embrace your grief and learn from it. It is a great teacher.

Expect to be overwhelmed from time to time. Grief is like that giant wave that pummeled me at Sunset Beach years ago. When waves break, they smother you, and you struggle to survive. But waves eventually run out of energy. They expend their power and calm returns. Struggling against a wave is an exercise in futility. You must yield, accept, and even embrace it. The quicker you do that, the more you will recover.

Force yourself to look to the future. Turn your heart and mind to what God still has in store for you. I am grateful my kids helped me to see the importance of doing this. "Daddy, why not start running?" "Daddy, why not go back to Hawaii and surf again?" "Daddy, we'd like you to come and visit us for Thanksgiving." By forcing ourselves to look to the future, we begin, little by little, to cope with the past.

Help others. One way God carries our burdens as His children is by sending someone into our lives who's experienced something similar to what we have experienced. All around us are people who are hurting, who have needs (spiritual or financial), and when we reach out to them, we help not only them but ourselves.

Suffering is one of the hardest parts of our faith. But beauty after ashes is possible. Becky died with her family by her side. We wept over her still-warm body. Then we sang a hymn and prayed, expressing our gratitude to God for her life and that finally she was in pain no longer. I quietly asked everyone to leave the room. I caressed Becky's hand one last time, reluctant to let her go. I wept as I said a final goodbye to my beloved friend and partner. Then I left the room to plan her memorial service. Becky would have been surprised at how many people attended her homegoing celebration on campus. But I wasn't surprised. Becky was an honest and decent human being whom everybody admired.

I have many more special memories to offer, but this is not the place or the time. I miss you so much, my darling Becky. I wish you could be here to enjoy your grandchildren like I can. But I bet you're watching everything from above and smiling. I grieve for my adulthood without you, but I accept it. I'm so glad we were always together, perhaps in sickness even more than in health. I have no right to feel self pity. Your life was a pure blessing to me. You taught me about so many things and I will hold on to every one of those truths. I can't imagine having another intimate relationship. At this point in my life, I have plenty to do just keeping up with our kids and grandkids. I know that your spirit of love and generosity lives on in their hearts, and for that I am grateful. I hope that someday I can learn to trust God like you did. Deep down, I know that losing you will help me to discover who I am, now that I am on my own. I love you, sweetheart. I hope you can hear/see/feel that.

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Becky Lynn Black.

Thursday, November 1    

8:54 PM What a fantastic day. Had lunch with some seminary friends then got up hay with Nate and Jess late into the night (and into the rain that appeared out of nowhere). I'm sopping wet and have never been happier. Tomorrow's the big day (Year 5!) and man am I missing her. Number of times I counted my blessings today: 10,340. Some of my clearest and fondest memories of Becky happened here on the farm. What a wild ride we had establishing Rosewood! You know, sometimes the best memories are created when not everything goes quite right, when you have to step outside of your comfort zone, when you are trying to do something you've never done before -- like farming. Like yin and yang, we were misfits, but happily married misfits. On the other hand, we were so much alike. She was an adventurer, like me. She was deeply caring, like me. She loved life, like me. Not every moment we had together was perfect, but they all contributed to the man I am today. There are many good memories. I love you, Becky. I shall cherish the moments we had together forever.

7:12 AM As I sit here writing this blog post I'm thrilled out of my gourd. We just added an exegesis course to our spring 2019 lineup at the seminary. It will be a study of Philippians. I will be the teacher. The class will be offered during Spring Break, the week of March 4-9 from 8:00 to 5:00. The evidence is pretty conclusive: when students take 4 or 5 courses over a 15-week period, the completion rates are lower than when they take a weeklong intensive. I wish I could have taken intensives in seminary but back then courses were taught 3 times a week for 15 weeks ONLY. I am far from being an expert in Greek pedagogy, but I've taught enough summer and J-term Greek classes to know that immersion courses lead to some of the best results that seminary language programs can offer. Besides, I'm a Baptist. ("Immersion" courses. Get it?) Of course, intensive classes are by definition, well, intense. The schedule is punishing. But just think: After 5:00 pm you get the rest of the day off. On the other hand, you just might find the evening hours boring. After all, you live, study, and do practically everything else with your teacher and classmates for 8 hours each and every day for a week. This is highly conducive to relationship building. So, intensive classes are great -- if you are a passionate, dedicated, and ambitious language learner. Thankfully, we have tons of students like this at Southeastern.

As I prepare the course syllabus, I have to make a major decision: Which textbooks to require? I've used Hawthorne in the past but this time around I almost certain will use Will Varner's Philippians: A Linguistic Commentary.

Let's talk about how good this book is.

  • It's sure and steady.

  • The author is a seasoned New Testament scholar.

  • It is comprehensive without being wordy.

  • The Greek insights are plentiful and rich.

  • Special attention is given to such important topics as textual criticism, verbal aspect, discourse analysis, and semantics ("Wie der Text spielt").

  • The author fairly assesses others' views while rightly putting stress on his own.

  • I especially love the way the author provides a brief but rich introductory overview of the theme of the letter.

In every way, Will Varner's commentary on Philippians is one of the best you can find today. The approach is conservative without being obscurantist, instructive without being pedantic. For example, this is the bottom of p. 15.

Here the author discusses in detail Codex Vaticanus in Phil. 1:1. He points out such interesting features as the itacism of "Timothy," the dieresis in the right margin (indicating a variant reading), and the attempted "correction" of a later scribe who attached the letter nu to the left margin. This is genius. And it's super easy to follow. What else? How about paragraph summaries. I wish more commentaries did this. (This is a strength of Hawthorne's work.) How about constant reference to the Septuagint. How about the attention the author gives to discourse markers such as conjunctions. If you want a more detailed and professional review, you'll have to go elsewhere. I don't have time to do that here.

By the way, it's so good to be back on the farm. This was my view this morning from the porch.

I never tire of my little refuge. The most peaceful place in the world is on the seat of a Massie Ferguson 135. When Becky and I moved here 16 years ago, it was the right time. I said, "This is the last stop. This is where I belong."

Chore time :)

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