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September 2018 Blog Archives      

Sunday, September 30    

5:34 PM The weather was too nice to stay indoors this afternoon so I jaunted up to Farmville to check out the trail conditions for my races for the next two weekends. Most of the High Bridge Trail looked like this.

But there were several places where the trail was covered with leaves and debris owing to our friend Flo, who paid us a visit a couple of weekends ago. Not to worry, however. I talked to a couple of park rangers who assured me that the trail would be cleared before the races. The most common running surfaces are grass, dirt, asphalt, concrete, sand, snow, and crushed gravel. My favorite is the latter. Plus, the High Bridge Trail is flat without any hills whatsoever. You can't go wrong with good old accessible rail-to-trail surfaces.

I ended up going 10 miles -- my second time running 10 miles in two days. Usually when I go 2 or 3 miles I'm just getting into the groove. Not today. It just wasn't in the cards. My legs were feeling a little tired after all the exertions of yesterday. So I kept up an easy pace and walked whenever I felt like it. Thankfully, I made it through yesterday's race without any blisters, chafing, soreness, G.I. problems, or anything else that could be categorized as "negative." The positive mental aspect of completing two back-to-back 10 mile runs is huge. I think I may be getting the hang of this running thing after all. Truth is, I had a great run today. I listened to sermons and had some pleasant conversations with people out on the trail. And since I wasn't in any hurry I could take my time and pretend I was back in Hawaii where everything happens maana. The next step is to get in a couple of bikes in Raleigh this week before I begin tapering for Saturday's half.

But right now I feel like watching a surfing movie.

Cowabunga, dude.

8:15 AM It can't be true. There's really only 3 months left to 2018? Like you guys, I can't believe how the years go by so fast. Well, most of the time. Sometimes time seems to stand still, especially when you're going through a tough period. As a kid, time moved in slow motion. Remember asking, "How much longer till we get there?" Then I realized that everyone has exactly the same number of hours in a day. The question is, how are we using our time. "Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness" (Jean de la Bruyre). So, as we begin yet another new month, my mind is filled with reflection and anticipation. A few random thoughts should you care to indulge me:

Last night while sitting on the porch with Sheba I heard a huge tree on a neighbor's property fall to the ground in a loud crumph. It must have severed a power line because we were without electricity for 8 hours. It reminded me of how easy it is to become disconnected from the Holy Spirit in my life. Sometimes I feel doomed by defeat. My enthusiasm is deflated. The branch is hanging tenuously to the vine (John 15:5). That little incident with the tree last night reminded me again that Jesus is the new life that surges into our lives. It's His power alone that can push off the old and bring in the new. The Bible is very clear that there's a big difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. For the Christian, new life has begun. At the new birth, a seed was planted in our hearts. But it's up to us to see that the seed is nurtured, that it begins to grow and sprout into what Paul calls "the fruit of the Spirit." I had a long talk with Jesus about all this in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe it's time in your own life to take a personal inventory to determine how much "fruit" the Spirit is growing in your life. Want to give it a shot?

Let's see ... what else?

Oh yeah, last night I was reading Basic Christian -- the delightful biography of John Stott -- and came across a quote I have to share with you. It's on page 52 and describes the time when Stott was a student at Cambridge:

Most of his lecturers adopted a 'liberal' approach to the Bible and to theology.... He complained that he heard little which was first-hand and preferred to go directly to original sources.

It was Harry Sturz at Biola University who, over a period of years, coaxed me to begin to rethink everything about New Testament scholarship I was being taught, beginning with textual criticism. I never regretted my decision to do so, even though I've been led to espouse some unpopular theories. Harry Sturz's independence of thought appealed to me strongly. Though an older man, he was still young enough not to have grown intellectually complacent. This was the very point I was trying to make with the students at Shepherd's Seminary on Thursday night. Ad fontes. Think for yourselves. Questioning is not bad. Yes, Christianity is founded on faith, but not a blind faith. As church historian Mark Noll puts it in his book Between Faith and Criticism (which I quoted to these students), the question is no longer one of faith or reason. It's a question of a reasonable faith or a faithless reason. Somewhat regretfully, I must say that I do not see all that much of this Berean spirit among students today. Speaking personally, I've found that the American system of education doesn't encourage independent thought as much as the European system does. Students tend to regurgitate back to you what they think you like to hear. There is too little opportunity to tease out ideas. I should know, as I have been guilty of this myself in my classes. I want to improve.

Looking ahead to October, my calendar tells me it's going to be another busy month. Every weekend seems to involve a big athletic event:

  • October 6: High Bridge Trail Half Marathon.

  • October 13: High Bridge Trail Ultramarathon.

  • October 20: 51-mile bike with my friend Jason on the Virginia Capital Trail.

  • October 28: Marine Corps Marathon.

This week I'm also making last minute preparations for my Hebrews class that runs from October 8-12. Is it any wonder I'm shaking my head and screaming? What I've learned over the years is to try and not to bite off more than I can chew. Make the most of every opportunity that God gives you now, whether at home or at school or at church or wherever. Once you are sure that you're being faithful within your present duties, then you can begin to ask Him to start knocking down a few of the walls around you. It's not about being perfect. It's not about never struggling. It's about learning, growing, overcoming, improving. Never compare yourself with anyone else. You are a unique person with unique talents, strengths, weaknesses, and gifts. I'd like to think that the mistakes I've made in 58 years as a Christian have helped me become a better person. We all make mistakes. But let's try and learn from, okay?

In a month or so I'll be flying to Alabama to visit my daughter and her family as we commemorate the 5th anniversary of Becky's homegoing. Sometimes I'd give everything I have to be able to talk with her again. But I know she's happy where she is and wouldn't want to be back here. Where she is now, everything is perfect. Her tears have been wiped from her eyes, and there is no more pain. Becky is healed. Yet I still think of her. At times I can't get her out of my mind. My wife is gone forever. Or maybe she's still here, hidden behind the smile of one of my children. Jesus understood better than any of us that suffering and death are realities of this mortal life. Evil exists in this world, but only for a little while longer. Very soon there will be a new heaven and a new earth and my tears -- our tears -- will be wiped dry and we will discover life as it was meant to be. This can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

All that to say, I'm finding that adversity can be surprisingly joyful, for it's at these very moments that Christ's strength and joy moves in on my weakness and sorrow. It's His way of helping me grow up and grow closer to Him. I can't thank my family enough for being with my on this journey, sharing the highs and lows of my grief recovery and providing so much support when and as it is needed. I have treasured your love. So thank you!

Saturday, September 29    

5:58 PM Hey folks! Let's get going on this race report thingy while it's still fresh in my memory, you know, old age and all that. It was nice to get in another 10-miler today. Race conditions were perfect, and the event was extremely well-organized. The top 6 winners were all Kenyans. I set a new PR for a 10-miler (barely -- by a mere 9 seconds!) and took only a couple of short water breaks. Other than that, I ran the whole distance. Here are a few pix:

1) At the starting line thinking, "I will overcome my doubts and rock this race."

2) You can tell we Virginians like our local races. The field was packed.

3) At first, the streets were crowded.

4) But then the 4-milers split off from the rest of us. It got lonely from that point on.

5) No race has such great support as this one.

6) When I was running I felt like I got faster as each mile went by. By God's grace, I finished the race smiling. 

7) Nice guys finish 1,237th out of 1,421 :-)

The race challenged me mentally and physically, but thankfully I was able to tap into my training. It's amazing how the human body adapts and acclimates when you push it. I hung around for some grub and the awards ceremony and then drove home, tired but happy. Sheba was so happy to see me. I don't think she cared about the race but she was excited about the treat I brought home for her. If you'll allow me to wax philosophical for a moment -- if you need to test yourself in a positive way, try running a race. The stuff we're made of that rises to the surface during a race makes the effort well worth it.

Well, it's time to cook stir-fry for me (and extra rice for the Shebes). Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Dave

4:30 AM I got in a 10 mile bike yesterday and then, with the help of one of my kids and two of my grandkids, we got the house cleaned from stem to stern. Today it hit me. I have 10 miles to run today. It might not be as intimidating as 31 miles, but goodness gracious, it's still a major run. It's been really rainy of late but the weather today will be sunny and cool. I'm thankful for that. I'm shooting for a 14 minute pace. Needless to say, I'm a bit freaked out by the hills, especially the last mile. Still, it will be nice to race again. I'm not the fastest runner nor the most dedicated, but I do enjoy the sport. So much of running is hit or miss. But so is much of life. So why not get out there and give it the old college try?

Off to the Burg of Lynch!

Friday, September 28    

9:50 AM It rained all last night but the weather in Lynchburg tomorrow should be just about perfect, with temps at the start of the race a pleasant 58 degrees with clear skies. Thank you Jesus.

Right now I've got a stack of essay exams to grade before heading out to do one last bike before my 10-Miler tomorrow. This morning I've also been able to put the finishing touches on a Galatians lecture I've been working on and started polishing my Romans and 1 Corinthians lectures. For Romans, I'm focusing on the last section of the letter, where Paul moves from doctrine to duty, belief to behavior, exposition to exhortation, from theology to everyday Christian living. I'm struggling a bit with his exhortation to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices and especially whether or not to apply his words to the need to keep our bodies physically fit. It's clear that his main emphasis is not on bodily exercise per se but on Christian sanctity that reveals itself in the deeds of the body -- legs that walk in His paths, lips that speak truth, feet that spread the Gospel, arms that embrace the poor and needy, etc. Still, I may find myself talking about our care for the temple if for no other reason than we are whole beings, body, soul, and spirit. (There's also an obesity epidemic in the U.S. One problem we have in America is that we have too much cheap food available at our fingertips at all times. We still have the mentality of "eat whenever I like and whatever tastes good to me.")

Moving on ....

I can't thank The Shepherd's Seminary enough for their kind invitation to address their New Testament students twice last night in Cary. I first spoke on the topic of every member missions, noting how Paul would often ask his churches to emulate some of the evangelistic zeal that had brought their communities into being.

I must never limit God in how He may see fit to use me to spread the Good News about Jesus both by life and by lip. "Woe to me if I don't preach the Gospel," said Paul, and I want to keep doing it until my dying day. Secondly, I was asked to elucidate a bit on my theory of Gospel origins.

As you know, I've had the privilege of studying the church fathers for many years now and of being involved in Gospel studies for a good portion of my academic career. I've had the joy of translating the fathers from the Greek and Latin into English. This exercise has been both humbling and inspiring -- and it even caused me to change my views about synoptic origins. I've found Gospel studies to be an exciting adventure of faith, and I sensed that my audience last night felt the same way. I am grateful to my friend Doug Bookman for his interest in my scholarly work and for asking his students at STS to read my book Why Four Gospels? You don't know just how rare that is.

I believe that if we were ever to see a revival of interest in early Christian history, there would be a great difference in the way we read the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Tomorrow night there's a race in Raleigh called the Starry Night 5K that starts at 5:30 and is followed by a "lantern ceremony" (whatever that is -- druids maybe?). I haven't signed up for it because I'm already committed to running the Virginia Ten Miler tomorrow and I don't think I should opt to do two things. You can't do everything you want to do, folks. Sometimes you can have your cake without eating it too. That said, I'm really tempted to do the race in Raleigh because it would give me an excuse to eat some healthy Ethiopian food at the Abyssinia, my fave eatery in the whole world practically.

Gotta run. Life is calling ....

Thursday, September 27    

6:10 AM I was up at 5:00 this morning. Here's what I'm doing today:

1) Reading the book of Galatians and typing up a summary of its contents for my NT class. After loading up on liquid meth (aka coffee), of course.

2) Working out at the Y and then either running or biking.

3) Watching the hearing on Capitol Hill.

4) Making visits to the post office, bank, and grocery store. 

5) Speaking at The Shepherd's Seminary this evening.

6) Reading these essays:

"Die Bitte des Paulus fr den Sklaven Onesimus" (from the latest issue of Novum Testamentum).

"Tertius in the Margins: A Critical Appraisal of the Secretary Hypothesis" (from the latest issue of New Testament Studies).

7) Comparing studies of the discourse structure of Jude in essays that appeared in these impeccably edited books (hehe).

8) One more thing: Reading Stott's biography. Note: I have a problem reading only one book at a time. This disorder began when I was hooked on the Hardy Boys series as an 8-year old. I'm always reading several books at once. In fact, I just ordered this book. I'm not a huge fan of fiction, but a dog who thinks out loud? Gotta love it.

 

Whew. I'm already exhausted. Signing off for now to go and eat the breakfast of champions: spam and eggs.

Wednesday, September 26    

7:25 PM Hey folks. I am in total RMD (Race Meltdown Mode). This Saturday is my 10-mile race in Lynchburg, and if there's one thing everybody knows about Lynchburg, it is that it's HILLY. There are practically no flat sections in the Virginia Ten Miler. You're either going uphill or downhill. Then, the last 1.5 miles ("Farm Basket Hill") is a brutal climb to the finish. Ugh. I used to be excited about this race. Now I'm just nervous. As you know, I've been doing a lot of crosstraining on my bike. Yesterday I got in 15 miles on the Neuse River Greenway. The trail conditions were awful. The County hasn't been able to do post-storm cleanup yet so you are dodging leaves and branches (and a few tree limbs) all along the way. One invisible acorn on the trail, and you're history. If you're not totally paying attention you better anticipate trouble. Tomorrow I hope to get a run in before I rest up for the big day. I try to remember why I do this. Studies have shown that regular exercise can postpone disability by 15 years and death by as many as 8 years. Which means I won't be using a walker until 2025. O dear. To top off everything, my toes are in terrible shape. I'd post a picture here but it's probably illegal. You all know that I love to run. But sometimes I have to wonder about my sanity. As if to overcompensate, I threw myself into my work this week with abandon. I overscheduled my daily calendar. I did way too much writing. I overate. What's more, the weather turned hot and humid again, which means I will be running in my own sweat again on Saturday, and the whole world knows how much I "love" perspiration. Oh well. This week has confirmed to me the power of being around positive people. I had great convos with several of my colleagues who are super scholars and even better friends. We chewed the fat and talked about everything under the sun. It's always inspiring to be around inspiring people. Today we gathered to hear the testimony of my Old Testament colleague Tracy Mackenzie and about his two earned doctorates.

It was an hour well spent. Meanwhile, there are so many thoughts swirling around in my muddled brain before this Saturday's race.

First, I am so motivated by my fellow runners. Many of them are running to overcome setbacks in life. Some run to support a cause. Most of us run because we simply love being outdoors and meeting nice people. Running is so much more than putting one foot in front of the other.  

Second, I sit here wondering why the Lord has given me so many earthly blessings when so many others go without. My job. My farm. My family. My health. My happiness. I know deep down that I don't deserve any of these blessings. Why is God so good to His children? Makes you count your blessings.

Finally, I am late to this show. I'm wondering why I waited so long to become active. People are constantly telling me how hard running is. Yeah yeah yeah. It's actually not that hard. You just decide to do it. Time and time again people put off to tomorrow what they know they should do today. I should know. I've perfected the art of procrastination. Don't let anybody tell you that running isn't hard. At the same time, don't let anyone tell you can't become a runner. Life is all about choices. Guess what? You won't exercise unless you decide to.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about Saturday's race. Nervous as all get out, but good. I am clearly not built to be a long distance runner. But I love the sport anyway. I hope you have fun doing whatever you love to do. Hot dog, you can do it!

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Dave

P.S. Amazon Prime comes through again. Now I get to read another great book this weekend.

Monday, September 24    

6:45 AM It's back-to-work week. Hard to believe it's already the 6th week of the semester and that our first semester break is in only 2 weeks. Of course, that won't be much of a break for yours truly since I'm teaching Hebrews from 8:00 - 5:00 daily. Doesn't seem fair. Even Paul taught in the school house of Tyrannus from only 11:00 - 4:00. This week I'm looking forward to being back at The Shepherd's Seminary in Cary to lecture on the origin of the Gospels. For some crazy reason they're open to hearing from a fuddy-duddy like me. I think I should organize a benefit concert (Obscurantist Aid) but they don't exist for lowly Greek professors. This morning's time in the word was precious. I made the decision to read through Philemon, and why not? Was anybody more tactful than the apostle Paul? And to think he took the time out of his busy schedule to write a letter on behalf of a slave, a piece of property back in that day. Would you do such a thing? Would you care that much about a "nobody"? Paul did. Because in Christ there are no "nobodies." When I look at my students' faces, I see more than a crowd. I see individuals each with gignormous potential to become great in the kingdom (i.e., little in the kingdom). I'd like to blame my own teachers in college, seminary, and grad school, who treated me like I was important -- a simple kid from Kailua Beach no less. This long line of perpetrators taught me more than Greek and Hebrew. They taught me how Jesus sees us: wanted, valuable, a brother and sister. So today I began my day as I always do -- at the feet of Jesus, looking at Love, and yes, asking Him to show me small ways I can come to love the whole world today. It's in the details for me. Grading my students' papers myself (and not asking my assistant to do it for me). Giving respect and honor to their stories. Choosing to affirm them in their God-appointed ministries. Writing references on their behalf as they apply to doctoral programs or for jobs in academia. Keeping my office door open. It's in the following of the daily nudges from Abba, because we are family.

This is the kingdom of God. It's where we see our best dreams come true.

Sunday, September 23    

6:30 PM After church I took in a movie (Fahrenheit 11/9) and then visited my Ethiopian friends at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. My tummy is now happily filled with kai wat and kik alecha. Time to sit on the porch and enjoy the cool weather, then fix my meals for the week. As I watched the movie, I thought to myself that Jesus could have been a politician. You can almost hear the people wildly chanting, "MAKE ISRAEL GREAT AGAIN!" I'm glad Jesus didn't put His name on the ballot. His kingdom, after all, wasn't of this world. He said as much. Jesus' message is finally getting through to some today. Let the dead bury their dead. The book of Philippians teaches us to decide on one thing and stay with it, while Hebrews reminds us that we have to go to Him outside the camp and bear His reproach. That, to me, sounds a lot more like persecution than promotion. Let's beware of any deals with the devil to get the kingdoms of the world by a short-cut. We travel the way of the cross, but we travel it with our Lord.

Back to my great book about Everest.

8:12 AM I don't know about you, but when I read the Bible, I often like to read a whole book at a time. This morning that book was Paul's Letter to Titus.

Titus was a Gentile convert to Christianity who became Paul's trusted assistant in his missionary work. In Paul's' Letter to Titus, the apostle advises Titus about how to appoint church leaders, how various groups in the church should treat one another, and how Christians are to be full of "good" (the Greek could also be rendered "attractive") works and especially how they are to avoid argument and division. I was struck by something today I'd never seen before in this short letter, and that was Paul use of "philanthropy" to describe God's nature.

God is philanthropic. He "loves humankind." And since God loves all men and women, so should His people. This was, in fact, one of my themes during yesterday's apologetics conference. Apologetics involves both a good defense and an effective offense. Or, as Paul puts it right here in Titus, we are to "be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it" (Tit. 1:9). In the end, it all comes down to action, not theory. "They claim that they know God, but their actions deny it" writes Paul about the false teachers (Tit. 1:16). The Christian, on the other hand, is known for his or her good works.

He gave Himself for us to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us people who belong to Him alone and eager to do good (Tit. 2:14).

I want you to give special emphasis to these matters, so that those who believe in God may be concerned with giving their time to doing good deeds, which are good and useful to all (Tit. 3:8).

Our people must learn to spend their time doing good, in order to provide for real needs; they should not live useless lives (Tit. 3:14).

I camped on this last verse for a good while this morning. What does Paul mean by "real" needs? I think he meant pressing needs. Not every so-called need requires our generosity. In other words, we need to exercise discernment when it comes to meeting needs. I recall reading once about a congregation who went without salaries for their elders and opted out of purchasing a building for their meetings. No, they didn't feel that paying pastors or having a church building were sinful. But as long as they were supporting single mothers in their midst who wanted to raise their kids at home, they had nothing left over for those other things.

Recently I was curious to see where my money was being spent, so I got out my credit card statement. You know, I've always thought of myself as a caring person, but the truth is that I am most concerned about myself. I'm appalled at my self-centeredness. But actually, nothing I have is my own. Everything is a gift from God. If I've received it freely, then I should also give it freely (Matt. 10:8). That's the work of the Gospel, isn't it? It's you first, not me first. Of course, not all "needs" are genuine needs. But many are. So let's be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in all these things, shall we? When He tells us to give, let's be eager to dispense with our money (or time, or labor, or words of encouragement, etc.). If we do so, we'll all move a little bit further into God's redemptive movement.

Saturday, September 22    

9:16 PM Sometimes I hate to write about my races because I'm sure most people aren't too interested in them. Yet, they are such an important part of my life post-Becky that I can't keep quiet. Take next Saturday's historic Virginia Ten Miler in Lynchburg. I just found out that the special guest at this event will be none other than Ann Audain.

Now before you say, "Ann who?" let me explain. One of my favorite features of the VTM is that it attracts world class athletes from all over the world. Last year I met several elite Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. Moreover, each year the race directors are keen on inviting a world class runner to serve as a "special guest" whose duties include packet pickup appearances, race day announcing at the finish line, and participation in the awards ceremony after the race. In past years, the VTM has hosted such famous runners as Molly Huddle, Carrie Tollerson, Kathrine Switzer, Dick Beardsley, and John Benoit Samuelson. Ann Audain, this year's special guest, has won the Virginia Ten Miler a record 6 times. Her female course record of 53:47, set in 1984, still stands today. Why, I can't even run 6 miles (let alone 10) in under an hour. She also qualified to compete in 6 Olympic Games. But, by far the best part of having Ann at the race will be to meet somebody who succeeded at this sport despite being born with major foot deformities that weren't corrected by surgery until she was 13. Like so many of us, Ann Audain began running because she knew she could overcome the obstacles that showed up, unwanted, in her life. For the dedicated runner, obstacles are to be sought out and savored, not avoided. Dedication means not giving up and not giving in, no matter what hand life has dealt you. Even our bad runs are doing us some good. I've never, ever heard one of my fellow runners say that the hours and hours of training weren't worth it. Running is life-changing. It's changed my life, I believe for the better. With each step forward, it becomes more difficult not to be a person who cares about physical fitness. As Ann discovered, lasting inspiration comes by overcoming your doubts and fears, one doubt and fear at a time. And the great thing about it is that you don't have to run a 10-Miler to be an athlete. You can run or walk any distance. Compared to others, your accomplishments might seem modest, but to you they will be monumental. Any one of us can be more active. The first step toward lifelong exercise is simple: Trash those "can'ts" in your life. You can do this. You can walk or run. For many of us, it isn't the last step we take during a 10-Miler that counts. It's the first step we took on our journey to becoming athletes. I realize this every time I get out there on a race course.

Ann Audain is a living reminder that every starting line is another opportunity to prove that our past will not determine our future.

3:02 PM What a great day it's been. I spent it in Severn, NC, a rural community that is located about 120 miles east of me. The local Baptist church there was hosting an apologetics conference on such topics as creation, the resurrection, and suffering.

I spoke 3 times. My topics were the historicity of the Gospels, how to handle textual variants in the New Testament, and "Love: The Greatest Apologetic for Christianity (John 13:35)."

My thanks to brother Mark Corbett and the folks at Severn Baptist Church for their warm hospitality. I am deeply humbled and honored by the opportunity. My prayer is that God will use the conference to prepare His people to fulfill the vitally important role He has for them in the kingdom movement He's inspiring in our day.

Friday, September 21    

7:04 PM I've been mowing this afternoon.

Plus sitting on the front porch with Sheba. I'm reading a book about that fateful day in May 1996 when several climbers died on Mount Everest.

In my headphones I'm listening to one of my favorite songs from the 1980s.

I remember listening to it when Becky and I moved to Basel, when she began her cancer treatments, and after she went home to be with the Lord. The song truly does take me somewhere else. Thank you, Christopher Cross, for being such an amazing composer and musician. There was a time when music was created to touch the soul and speak into our human spirits to sooth the pain and create joy. Now it is mostly visceral noise lacking musicality and emotional substance. Sitting on the porch this afternoon, I am at peace. At peace with my God, at peace with myself, and at peace with the world, as much as you can be at peace with a world system that spat upon, mocked, and finally killed the Lord of glory. The peace Christ gives is different from the peace the world gives. In the middle of the difficulties you face, God will help you develop the "fruit of peace" in your life, peace even in the midst of your biggest wars. You may even find yourself soaring toward heights you've never before attempted, something much bigger than yourself -- facing it, being in it, becoming part of it, your own "Everest." Being alive is precious. Life is so short. Be proud of who you are, my friend. Revel in whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life.

12:30 PM As you may remember, I'm running my very first ultramarathon 3 weeks from tomorrow. We runners have a remarkable talent for self-deception. The harder the race, however, the more realistic you need to be about your training. So how am I training for race day?

  • I plan on doing several short runs between now and then. For example, today I ran 5 miles. It was an exhilarating run even if I did perspire profusely. I plan on doing several more of these shorter runs between now and Oct. 13.

  • I plan on cross-training regularly. Yesterday, as you know, I biked 20 miles. If you have a good road bike and a good bike path, that's a fairly easy distance. But it really helps with your overall conditioning and is also a big help in building your base in preparation for the big day. I plan to get in a few more 20-mile rides between now and then.

  • I've scheduled in two warm-up races between now and race day. Next Saturday, Sept. 29, I'm scheduled to run in the Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg. Then the following Saturday, Nov. 6, I'm scheduled to do the High Bridge Trail Half Marathon in Farmville. This latter event will give me a 13.1-mile "long run" before historic race day a week later.

Here are a few more principles I'm trying to follow as I train:

1) Try and maintain a balance between running and other activities such as biking and hiking.

2) Rest, rest, and then rest some more. Yesterday I took a 1-hour power nap after my 20-mile ride. Today I'll get in another nap. I give myself permission to nap every day that I exercise without feeling the least twinge of guilt. That's just how our bodies are made to work: exercise balanced by rest.

3) Remain flexible. Remember, you can't predict how you'll be feeling tomorrow let alone a week from today. I know of no more important tenet of running than listening to your own body. Much of what we can get done on any given day depends on how well and strong we're feeling that day.

4) Give myself a day (or two) off at least once a week. Better to take an extra day off than to become susceptible to injury or illness because you're not rested.

5) Don't try and make up a training day you miss. The idea is to avoid over-training at all costs.

6) It's not only about mileage. Quality counts too. Take today's 5-mile run. My goal was to start out at a slow and comfortable pace, and then gradually increase my pace, all the while taking brief 30-second breaks in which I did leg swings to relax my running muscles. As you can see, I think this method worked well today as seen in my improving pace.

 

In sum, for any long distance race, you'll need a training plan, but not one that's set in concrete. Listen to your body. How do you feel? Are you strong? Do you need more rest? Do you need more exercise? Are you frustrated with the sport? If so, do you need to take a month off? More than anything, we runners want to enjoy the sport of running, not simply endure it. Yes, we need to move forward, but at our own pace. In short, never let running take over your life. Ask yourself: Do I live to run, or do I run to live? My biggest goal for the next 3 weeks isn't to complete my first ultramarathon. I realize that finishing the race might not even be a possibility come race day depending on how I'm feeling that day. Instead, my main goal is to maintain a level of fitness that I can be pleased with because I know I am doing what I can to maintain the marvelous temple God's allowed me to steward. I'm sorry if you get tired with all my posts about running, but I have to say, the sport really keeps me coming back to the Scriptures and to biblical principles of life. In ultramarathon training you will most certainly push your body to new limits. However, you must always listen to your body when you're training or you're setting yourself up for failure. Train harder. But also train smarter.

To my Christian friends: Be honest. Growth in the Christian life is a very gradual process. Remember the Goldilocks Principle. Are you pushing yourself too hard? Not hard enough? Or just right? Only you can answer that question! 

7:50 AM Heard the one about the young man who wanted to become a great writer when he grew up? When asked what he meant by "great," he replied, "I want to write what the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream in pain and anger!"

Today he works for Microsoft writing error messages.

Off to the gym.  

Thursday, September 20    

2:26 PM Hey folks. I just finished a 20-mile bike.

Like most people, I think of lots of things when I'm biking (or running, or walking).

Today my random thought was: I wonder why Paul used so many agricultural metaphors in his writings. Specifically, he mentions the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians -- a book I've been pondering of late, as you can probably tell. Please tell me I'm not the only person who likes to take a metaphor and translate it into non-metaphorical language. So, why did Paul say "fruit" of the Spirit when he could have said "deeds" or "works" or "expressions" or "products"? He must have thought there was an important distinction between the "works" of the flesh and the "fruit" of the Spirit, ya think? I once heard someone say that it's the difference between the fruit on a tree in an orchard and the ornaments on a Christmas tree in your living room. The Christmas tree ornaments have no living connection to the tree. They are completely independent objects that we hang on the tree. But fruit has a vital connection to the tree. Without the life in the tree, there can be no fruit on the tree.

As I pondered this question while riding along, I thought back to the lecture I gave yesterday on what the apostle Paul says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the book of Galatians. It's one thing to know the will of God. It's another thing to actually do God's will. And the amazing thing is that the obedience that God requires in our lives is exactly the same obedience that He enables. Because I wasn't able to do this in my lecture yesterday due to time constraints, I want to point out here four additional metaphors Paul uses to describe how we are to live the Christian life. These are all to be found in the 5th chapter of Galatians. They are:

  • Walk in the Spirit.

  • Be led by the Spirit.

  • Keep in step with the Spirit.

  • Sow to the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit is to live by the power that the Spirit gives us. To be led by the Spirit is to allow the Spirit to direct our lives instead of our fallen, sinful natures. To keep in step in the Spirit is a wonderful military metaphor. "Left, right, left, right," goes the drill sergeant, and likewise we place our feet wherever the Holy Spirit is wanting us to place them. Finally, we need to sow to the Spirit if we are to bear the "fruit" of the Spirit.

So you might wonder: How do I know whether or not I am walking in, being led by, keeping in step with, and sowing to the Spirit? The Bible is clear that this does not happen automatically. As Paul says in Eph. 5:18, we have to invite the Holy Spirit of God to control our lives. I don't know about you, but I have to do this on a daily basis at least. Every morning, before I set foot on the floor, I pray a very simple prayer: "Father, thank You so much for this new day. It belongs to You. My goal this day is to please You. Lord Jesus, You are my King and my Master. My goal this day is to serve You. And Holy Spirit, please fill me with Your power and presence so that I may be enabled to please the Father and serve the Lord Christ." Then I begin to proceed through my day. I'm constantly asking, "Lord, what would you have me do today? What shall I write today, if anything? How shall I serve you today? What emails and text messages should I answer and when? Who needs a phone call of encouragement from me today? What exercises shall I do today to maintain this temple You've given me? Where and for how long shall I meditate on Your word? Shall I cut grass today or tomorrow?"

As for prayer, for me the key verse is Eph. 5:18: "praying at all times in the Spirit." I don't want prayer to be a do-it-yourself activity. I want to pray when the Spirit is prompting me to pray, all throughout the day. Plus, keep in mind that prayer is much more than spoken communication. Prayer is also communion -- a moment by moment, step by step, relationship with God. Not only do I pray when I get up in the morning, but I pray while biking or running, while doing the kitchen dishes, while standing in the grocery store line, while taking a shower. I'm not very good at compartmentalizing: This is spiritual, and this isn't. Sometimes my prayer is a quick "Thanks." Often it's a desperate "Help me." Prayer, for me, is like talking to my best friend. It's spontaneous. While out biking today, about all I could think about was how thankful I am to God to be able to be outdoors doing what I love to do. Sometimes I pray with groanings that can't be expressed in words, as I did for a long time last night. It's at these moments that the Holy Spirit, we are told, "helps us in our weakness.... And the Father who knows our hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's will" (Rom. 8:26-27). Finally, more often than I'd like, I find myself asking forgiveness of the One I love. That's why, when I wake up in the morning, the first thought on my mind is, "Holy Spirit, please help me. Fill me with Yourself so that I may walk in You, be led by You, keep in step with You, and sow to You."

My friend, whatever it is you are relying on today other than the Spirit for help in making progress in holiness, for God's sake, get rid of it. Amputate it as you would a gangrene limb. He accepts you as you are. And the obedience that He requires of you this day, He will also enable. You can count on it.

Well, sorry folks, but my thoughts are totally random and scrambled after I work out. I think of a lot of things while exercising, and it just so happened that today you had to bear the brunt of my latest cogitating!

7:12 AM Random musings on a beautiful Thursday morning ....

1) On Monday the flooding finally subsided enough for me to drive to campus and so I was able to teach all of my classes this week. However, as I type this, hundreds of thousands of people are still without power in the Carolinas. The death toll continues to grow. The rivers are still rising and some of them have yet to crest. People and animals still need rescuing. Homes are hidden by the floodwaters. Cities like Wilmington are cut off for now from the outside world. Bridges are still out. Oh God, have mercy upon us. Please continue to pray -- and give.

2) I just received my racing singlet from TEAM LUNGevity for the Marine Corps Marathon next month. I hope to raise $1,000 to fund research into early detection methods and more effective treatments for lung cancer.

3) This morning I read the book of Galatians straight through while sipping coffee on the porch. We covered Galatians in our NT class yesterday. I asked the students to memorize Gal 5:1 and many of them did. "Freedom is what we have. Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people and don't allow yourselves to become slaves again!" We also recited Gal. 2:20 in class: "I've been put to death with Christ on His cross, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This life that I now live, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me." I also love this verse: "In order to set us free from the present evil age, Christ gave Himself for our sins, in obedience to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen." You are free, Dave. But you are free only to do what is right. "You are called to be free. But do not let this freedom of yours become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another." I think of my NT students, each of whom is required this semester to perform "towel-and-basin" ministries. They are displaying the love of Christ in very ordinary, everyday ways. Most people will never notice what they do. And yet I know there's a special reward in heaven for them and for all among us who would honor Christ by following their example. Praise be to God.

4) Not long ago, my colleague Maurice Robinson was honored with a well-deserved Festschrift, which contains an essay titled "Arguments For and Against the Byzantine and Alexandrian Text Types."

The essay concludes with this interesting statement:

I wonder whether there is [a] theoretical valid middle position, between the position of the proponents of the Alexandrian text, who regard the Byzantine text as corrupt and of little value for determining the original text, and the position of the Byzantine priority proponents, who seem to regard it as the only important text type to consult.

The answer is a resounding Yes.

5) In our NT class yesterday we were blessed to have John Hammett lecture on the significance of Romans in church history (he focused on Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Barth) and Chip McDaniel lecture on Galatians and the Abrahamic Covenant. My thanks to these friends and colleagues. One is a church historian, the other an Old Testament expert. Would that I could have them in class every time we meet.

6) In Tuesday's chapel service I noticed that the Hebrew word "Selah" ("Say-La") appears in the Psalm that was being exposited. I was shocked when I asked one of my Old Testament colleagues what he thought the word meant and how he would translate it. "No idea," was his reply. So I did a little digging and I think I've come up with the definitive answer to this question. Even my Old Testament colleague agrees. Listen carefully:

 

"Sail on, sail on, Selah!"

You're welcome.

Have a great day!

Dave

Monday, September 17    

11:56 AM I'm trapped for now on White House Rd.

In both directions.

If I can't make it to campus I've already got my Monday night class covered. There's no way I'm driving through standing water.

9:25 AM Good Monday morning one and all! The rain is falling in huge sheets. (Let' see ... am I "soaked" or just "soggy"?) I have one bar of Wi-Fi but the really good news is that Raleigh and points south are now rain-free (see weather map below) and will start to dry out.

Last night we probably got a good 3 inches of rain -- a nice soaking rain, what we country folk call a "farmer's rain," which means that as soon as the fields dry out we'll be back to haying, big time. I've been sitting on the front porch trying to take it all in -- the absolute beauty of the rain, the pond rising, the animals plopping themselves down in their rain shelters, and I'm feeling utterly relaxed. I love this place even though it's "eine Menge Arbeit" (sorry, but only the German came to me just now). I haven't run or walked or biked much with all this precipitation, so I'm hoping against hope to be able to get in a few miles when I'm down in the Forest of Wake. Poor weather forces you to become flexible and creative. I can only imagine what things are like in Fayetteville and Lumberton. They are still rescuing people by boat for crying out loud. Many people have been flooded out of their homes, and there's been some tragic loss of life. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon for everybody. The campus reopens today on its usual schedule.

Since I'll by MIA for a couple of days, I thought I'd leave you with a link to a great article on the value of walking.

That's right -- no running tips today! For many of us, our journey to fitness began with walking once or twice a week. Before long, we found ourselves giving up soda and fast food. Why, if you're really careless, you may even find yourself hiking, climbing, biking, and maybe even running a 5K just for the fun of it. Before I began walking regularly, my main excuse was laziness. Excuse no. 2? "I'm too busy." No more. Today, workouts are like brushing my teeth. You don't even have to think about it. You just do it. Funny thing, before I began working out regularly, I actually had loads of time. It's just that I wasn't using my time very efficiently. Sometimes you just have to shut up and get 'er done. As we get older, I think we realize that if we don't keep moving, one day we'll plop down on the sofa and never get up again. Do you like the idea of looking and feeling better? Then why not give walking a try? Throw those silly excuses out the window. You can either sit on the couch or get busy with life. Who knows -- within a couple of years you may be running your first marathon. So if you have no pain, get out and take a walk. Unless it's raining, of course. Keep in mind that walking is not the same as running. The big difference is that there's a lot less impact on your knees, muscles, and joints. Moreover, unlike running, you don't have to worry about the risk of an overuse injury.

Life is short, folks. Make the most of it.

Dave

P.S. I just now got an alert from the National Weather Service. "Flash Flood warning this area till 12:15 pm EDT. Avoid flood areas." The grammar isn't the best but I get the message loud and clear. Be safe wherever you are, my friend.

Sunday, September 16   

6:18 PM In just 3 weeks, my week-long class on Hebrews will begin. The course syllabus is explicit that I'll pursue a "learner-centered" method that encourages students to be full participants in the learning process. I see my role as one of coaching and facilitating the learning process. I'll expect the students to read well, translate well, lead class discussions, and present one section of Hebrews to the rest of the class. Now, I know my method will surprise none of you who have read this blog for any length of time. I've often said, "All learning is self-learning." In fact, the author of Hebrews assumes as much of his readers. He points out their mental sluggishness, and even calls them out for not being "teachers" when presumably by now they had much to teach (and learn from) each other. "How long will you be a learner?" Seneca once asked his students. "From now on be a teacher as well!" (Disc. 3.24.53). Experts in pedagogy calls this a flipped classroom model. I call it participatory learning. But whatever term we use, students at the graduate level need to become actively involved in the classroom and not remain passive note-takers.

May I suggest a starting place as mutual truth seekers? It's okay to question what you're learning. It's even okay to question your teachers. (Politely, please.) It's okay to challenge the consensus quo. If you study the synoptic problem on your own, God will not fall off His throne. Seeking truth on one's own is powerful in and of itself. We learn best in community and when we are Berean Christians. This point came home to me today while I was perusing a magazine called Outside Online. The article was titled Disaster in the Alps. Being a novice mountain climber, that sure got my attention! It's the tragic story about a group of alpinists trapped in an overnight storm that killed most of them even though they were close to safety. Their professional mountain guide simply got lost and lacked the equipment to call for help. Oddly, all of the climbers were experienced alpinists. What makes their story saddest is that none of them asked whether they should turn around when the weather conditions worsened. In fact, none of them even asked their guide whether they should have been climbing at all, because everyone knew a major storm was brewing in the Alps. Why didn't they question the decisions their guide was making? The group seems to have succumbed to what the author calls "the expert halo." They had hired a professional guide, after all, and "they surrendered their decision-making to his." As one of the climbers who survived put it, "Nobody said anything because, probably, they all trusted him."

The lesson? Good team members don't blindly hand off all the responsibility to their leader. You must take charge of your own life. When I climbed the Alps two summers ago, I promised my family that when I climbed the Breithorn, the Oberrothorn, the Kletterstieg, and the Matterhorn, I would hire the best mountain guide available but that I would ultimately take responsibility for my own itinerary and safety.

Walter and I worked hand in glove. I sought and valued his professional guidance. However, we both knew that I would make the final decision as to where, when, and what to climb.

Long before I arrived in Zermatt, he and I had a long series of email exchanges in which we planned and modified our plans. I promised I would follow him, and he promised he would listen to me. It was a great partnership that led to a very successful trip.

You see, ignorant compliance is a trick of the enemy, and if we're slaves to it, we're way off the beaten path.

Can I tell you my goal for my students? I want them to turn out to be humble self-starters who work well in teams. I want them to teach as much as they learn. Becoming educated is mind-numbingly hard. No one is perfect at it, least of all me. But if we pursue truth both individually and corporately, everything else will pretty much fall into place.

When I look back on my teaching career, I want to remember not so much what I did but what God did through my students. They are a joy and a gift and the delight of my heart. Our (participatory) Hebrews class is, I think, going to be awesome. 

9:16 AM My "local" TV station, WRAL in Raleigh, has an excellent list of ways you can donate to hurricane relief in the Carolinas. "Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are" (Heb. 13:3).

8:48 AM He did it! Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record at the Berlin Marathon today, finishing in 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. He took 1 minute and 18 seconds off the previous world record set by Dennis Kimetto. Kudos also to Amos Kipruto and Wilson Kipsang for their second and third place finishes. Kenya can be proud today.

Three thoughts:

1) Can you think of any other sport where the world record holder and the average marathoner cross the same finish line? As John Bingham puts it in the movie Spirit of the Marathon: "Some run to compete in a marathon. Some run to complete a marathon. And the beauty is that the sport is big enough to embrace us all."

2) "My only words are 'Thank you!'" It's always good to give credit where is due, in this case his trainers and pacers.

3) There's one thing that unites all runners, no matter how slow or how fast. It's our love of the sport. Not long ago, marathoning was reserved for elite athletes. What's changed is that today people like you and me can be one of them. We can all become more active. Whether you're 16 or 66 like me, your future is in your feet.

7:45 AM Do you remember when you fell in love with the word of God? I can. I was a teenager, suffering through high school, and it seemed like overnight I had a new desire to read the Scriptures. I couldn't put the Bible down. At that time, my Bible was the Good News Bible, commonly called Today's English Version. It was written in language I could understand and even had beautiful line drawings and a glossary of terms in the back. It was just what a 16-year old needed. I began to realize just how amazing was the ridiculous mercy God had spoiled me with.

How 'bout you? Which Bible do you enjoy reading? If you haven't looked at the Good News Bible in a while, I want to make a pitch. When I'm not reading my Greek New Testament, I'm reading my GNB, as I did this morning on the porch. I was meditating on one of my favorite passages in Hebrews. Here's the Greek:

And here's the Good News translation:

This is crazy, I said to myself. This passage meshes exactly with the movie I saw last night.

"Let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way." For Lou Zamperini, this impediment was his anger and hatred for his Japanese captors.

"And of the sin which holds on to us so tightly." Lou's easily-entangling sin was alcohol. What's yours? Mine?

"Let us run with determination the race that lies before us." Lou Zamperini was a track star in high school. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He knew a thing or two about running. Problem is -- and this point the movie makes crystal clear -- even though the war was over, his battle had only just begun. He needed to put the past behind him and focus on the race ahead.

"Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end." I couldn't make it through a single day without Jesus. Lou discovered this truth as well. Jesus is the only thing we can ever be sure of. That's what I loved so much about this film. When Billy Graham stands up to preach in a Los Angeles tent, it's not Billy Graham you see but Someone you can trust because anywhere He asks you to go, He's been there too. Jesus is enough, Lou, for you -- for all your nightmares and insufficiencies and failures and sins. No one will be more kind to you or lead you better.

"He did not give because of the cross!" People will fail you, Lou. But Jesus never will. He never gives up. He is ever faithful. He is the most trustworthy person you will ever know. You are never alone, Lou.

Do you see now why I love this version of Scripture so much? So here's my invitation to you. Grab a copy (or just read it online) and use it alongside your favorite Greek New Testament (or your favorite English translation). Enjoying the line drawing is optional. But you may need the glossary.

Two notes:

1) In the movie, the role of Billy Graham was played by his grandson Will Graham, whom I once had in class. Central casting, you done good. 

2) "Let us run with determination the race that lies before us." I love "determination" instead of "endurance." When Becky died, I only believed what I couldn't do. But to survive the loss of a spouse, you need dedication and determination. Determination sometimes means doing what you don't want to do. People look at me and sometimes think I'm a self-disciplined person. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm the laziest, most un-self-disciplined person I've ever known. What I think I am, and what I think most runners are, is determined. Part of my determination comes from wanting to find answers to life's most important questions. I may not know what causes a perfectly healthy woman to develop endometrial cancer, but I'm determined to try and find the answer. Being determined means mustering up every ounce of commitment and dedication you can when you feel like quitting. I see this most clearly in the long distance races I run. How in the world can you stay the course unless you have determination? It's just not possible. It took me a year and a half to complete my first marathon. Why? Because it took me that long to develop a sense of determination in my training. When I talk to people who say they used to run but stopped because they became frustrated and discouraged by the difficulty of it all, I feel sad. I wonder, What if they had just taken one more step? Maybe you're at that place in life, my friend. You don't need to see a movie to know that Jesus trumps every seminar you will attend or book you will read. Look to Him -- fix your eyes on Him -- and watch what He can do.

Saturday, September 15   

8:22 PM Tonight I went to see the movie Unbroken: Path to Redemption. It's the true story of a WWII POW who suffers from PTSD (before that acronym was invented) and tries to smooth over his problems and anger with an occasional "sorry." Eventually he finds Jesus Christ to be the heart of life's greatest decision.

I always go into a "Christian" movie with a bit of trepidation. Will it be just another low-budget, poorly-scripted, faith-based film that disappoints on so many levels, not least because of its unbelievably poor acting? Unbroken did not disappoint. Yes, it lacked nuance. Yes, its message was simple. And yes, the Gospel came through loud and clear. To choose eternal life is a simple matter. You say yes or no. When Louis Zamperini made the most important decision of his life -- to choose Jesus over self -- he found the lifeline he was looking for all those wasted years. The message of this wonderful film is: When you're adrift on the sea of life's problems, you need to act quickly and decisively. Grab on tight. Release your grip on the past. Bad memories erased, old friendships restored, sins forgiven -- nothing is too hard for Jesus.

Take a friend to see this film. He or she will thank you. Better yet, take yourself. Its message is glorious. Grace will encounter you afresh. Perhaps you will even allow God to assume the center of your life again rather than the periphery.

3:35 PM Got in a 45-minute workout at the Y followed by an afternoon of listening pleasure. The Tenerife Symphony simply nails Bernie Herrmann's theme from the movie "North by Northwest." How is it even possible to play a piece so perfectly? Hitchcock lovers -- enjoy!

 

6:48 AM Happy Saturday everyone! This morning I made myself go over my running calendar just to remind myself how a lazy lump of lard had somehow run a bunch of races in 2018. To wit:

  • January 1: Allen (TX) Marathon

  • January 7: Run for Young 5K (Raleigh)

  • February 11: Birmingham (AL) Half Marathon

  • March 18: Tobacco Road Marathon (Raleigh)

  • March 24: Ella's Race 10K (Raleigh)

  • March 31: Durham (NC) Park Run 5K

  • April 14: Greenville (TX) 5K

  • April 21: Petersburg Half Marathon

  • May 6: Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati)

  • May 20: Marine Corps Half Marathon (Fredericksburg)

  • June 2: Race 13.1 (Raleigh)

  • June 24: Smile Train Triathlon (Wake Forest)

  • July 8: Rex Wellness Triathlon (Garner, NC)

  • August 4: Bull Moon 5K (Durham, NC)

  • August 18: Run for Life (Cary, NC)

  • September 2: Virginia Beach Half Marathon

The following races are on my schedule:

  • September 29: Virginia Ten Miler (Lynchburg)

  • October 6: High Bridge Trail Half Marathon (Farmville, VA)

  • October 13: High Bridge Trail Ultramarathon (Farmville, VA)

  • October 28: Marine Corps Marathon (Arlington, VA)

  • November 3: Vulcan Run 10K (Birmingham, AL)

  • November 10: Richmond Marathon

  • December 9: BMW Dallas Marathon

If I can keep up this pace, I will be able to meet my goal of running at least 5 marathons, 5 half marathons, and 1 ultramarathon in 2018. I added the Vulcan Run in Birmingham on Nov. 3 because I'll be spending the weekend there with my daughter and her family.

We'll commemorate the 5th anniversary of Becky's homegoing on Nov. 2 by attending my granddaughter's choral performance at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Long ago I read a book called Necessary Losses.

If I recall correctly, the theme of the book is that in order to grow, loss has to be a necessary part of the equation. Loss of innocence. Loss of youth. Loss of vitality. Loss of loved ones. Loss of kids when they go off to college. It's hard to let go, isn't it? But that's exactly what we have to learn how to do. This is easier said than done, but it helps when you have your family to help you through the transitions of life. So I'm really looking forward to what God might have in store for my soul when I'm in Birmingham. I love family. I love music. I love running. And when you can combine all three? Paradise.

P.S. The suspense grows. Will he or will he not set a new world record at the Berlin Marathon tomorrow? Inquiring minds will be watching. Looks like the weather in Berlin will be perfect. Go Kipchoge!

6:12 AM The rain began last night and has been falling steadily. I'm in the dark green band. I can only imagine what those who live in North and South Carolina are facing this morning.

Folks, please watch out for flash floods and falling trees. Given the emphasis the Bible puts on prayer, I believe God wants to hear our voices petitioning for the safety of those hardest hit by the storm. "There is nothing that makes us love a person so much as praying for him" (William Law).

Friday, September 14   

7:58 PM I just finished reading Bob Woodward's new book Fear. A real page turner. Not sure why, but I've always been interested in presidential politics, stemming back to my days as a student in Hawaii and reading Arthur Schlesinger's now classic The Imperial Presidency. This book, published in 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal, ends with a discussion of Nixon's abuse of presidential power. To some perhaps, recent events will make Schlesinger's work seem both relevant and prophetic again.

7:36 PM The news I was hoping against hope I wouldn't receive: People have died from the hurricane. You can die from a heart attack because the emergency responders couldn't get to you in time. You can die from plugging in your generator. And how must that husband feel who lost his wife and 8-month old when a tree fell on their house? Death is a fundamental part of the world we live in, and Christians aren't immune to it either. I try to imagine a world in which evil doesn't happen any more. Such a world doesn't exist. Not yet at least. And to think of all the times God preserved us from danger and we weren't even aware of it.

Do you long as much as I do for a new heaven and a new earth without a trace of death or weeping or pain?  

12:55 PM As I was running on the treadmill at the Y this morning, my mind went to two things:

1) This is truly sooooo not me. I'd much rather run outdoors. Running on a treadmill makes me feel like a hamster. I get bored easily and survive only by listening to music or watching YouTubes. Plus, you have to be super careful about getting on and off one of those contraptions. Seriously, people have gotten injured trying to dismount a treadmill while the thing was still moving. I remember reading about Mike Tyson's 4-year old daughter dying after a treadmill accident. Yikes.

2) I only have 4 weeks until my ultra. And I'm behind in my training. I have absolutely no excuse for this. Yes, I'm busy, but so is everyone else. I sure hope this isn't going to be a disaster.

So because of the rain, I had to run indoors today. I think people were shocked. Dave might lift weights, but he never runs on the treadmill. Well, he did today. My goal was to run at 4 miles per hour for 1 hour straight. I managed this without a hitch. It was a hard but satisfying sweat fest. Here's what I figured out. If I can run at that pace for 7.75 hours, I can finish my ultra in under the 8 hour time limit. The course is as flat as a pancake so I don't have to worry about worrisome hills. I am giddy when I think about that. I want to smash that time goal and be a super star! All jesting aside, I think I've got 8 hours inside me. And today's run helped to confirm that. I am amazed that anyone would try to run beyond 26.2. Are these people crazy? Am I?

I can't wait. I'm ultra excited!

9:50 AM Did you read the amazing story about some strangers renting a van for a woman in Myrtle Beach so that she could evacuate herself and her 7 rescue dogs to safety in Tennessee? Wow. Now that Flo has made landfall, the needs will be tremendous for disaster relief. This isn't a particularly cosmic thought, I know, but you can go here to make a donation to the Salvation Army's Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief Fund. You can also make a gift by calling 800-725-2769. The link for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is here. Let's gladly do for others what we would want them to do for us, and demonstrate our love in very plain and ordinary ways for those who are suffering because of this awful storm. 

8:15 AM So, how are things in your neck of the woods? We've dodged a huge bullet where I live, as some meteorologists were predicting Aunt Florence would pass right over Raleigh and points north. I kept wondering if we would see a pivot, and that's just what happened.

Of course, I feel for those in the path of the storm. Over 430,000 customers are without power, and the floodwaters have risen more than 10 feet in parts of the Carolinas. Dozens of people are awaiting rescue in New Bern, NC. Flo is now "only" a Category 1 storm, but it's still dangerous. I've already informed my students that their safety is my greatest concern. Here on the farm we've had nothing more than light breezes so far and very little rain, certainly nothing like the 1-2 feet that was originally forecast for my region of the Piedmont. The only flooding I've seen occurred in my downstairs bathroom when the Jacuzzi tub I was filling sprung a leak and before I knew it I was mopping up a couple inches of water on the bathroom floor. And I spent beaucoup bucks on that crazy thing. What's that all about? Then I remembered James 1:2-4. (Honestly, sometimes I wish I wouldn't remember the Bible.) The daily frustrations of life that we want off our backs are, says the Lord's brother, the very things we are to endure joyfully. Joyfully? "But Lord. I just wasted an hour on a gigantic irritant." It's so easy for me to fall into complaint mode. Problem is, faith is an action word according to James. When I'm put to the test, my faith and love for God ought to motivate me to handle the stresses of life better than I do. Faith like that speaks louder than all the books I could ever write.

I think sometimes I have this Christianity thing all wrong. I want a risk-free life, but God wants faith. The Bible never guarantees a life free from hurts and hardships. The only guarantee is the fact that He will lead us if we will follow Him. "The world offers only a craving for physical pleasure," writes the apostle John, "a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever" (1 John 2:16-17). Unless Jesus returns, this old planet, with all of its natural disasters and come-hither-and-be-satisfied lies will wage a constant war on my soul. When I graduated from Biola 43 years ago, I secretly hoped the Second Coming would wait until I at least married Becky and began teaching Greek and had a family and bought my first home. Today, however, I hope Christ returns soon. "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King." I've grown a bit weary of Satan's assaults and, more importantly, of offending the One I love the most. The timing of that event is all in His hands, of course. This planet, despite all its fallennness and calamities, is still a beautiful place. Out of nothing, God created a stunning universe and even decided to hang a little blue planet in one of its corners.

Then He bathed it in love. We are surrounded 24 hours a day with evidence of His glory and love. The very things we worry about and fret over are the things we ought to trust God with. Nothing is too hard for Him. What's more, when Jesus left this earth for heaven, He left His followers behind and asked them to serve for Him, love for Him, and speak for Him. This is a timeless truth -- and one well worth remembering when we grow weary in well-doing, as I do from time to time (especially when on my hands and knees wiping up a sodden floor).

P.S. As you may remember, I had the privilege of speaking at a Chinese congregation last Sunday.

I thank the Lord that more and more of my books are being translated into Simplified Mandarin, including Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and Learn to Read New Testament Greek. This is so amazing, you guys. Enormous shout-out to my publishers. Please let your Chinese-speaking friends know if you will. Much appreciation.

Thursday, September 13   

12:38 PM Okay. So I think I'm caught up. Had a hearty breakfast before working out.

I ate much faster than a professor of Greek is expected to, but I was starved. (Burp.) After that I went to the post office, the bank, and Food Lion to stock up on more water.

They had just replenished the water aisle so I didn't feel too guilty in getting a few more bottles even though I'm already pretty well stocked. Then it was off to the Y to get in a 45-minute upper body workout.

The gym was pretty busy when I started and pretty empty when I left. Hmm, did I sweat that much? Of course, my legs insisted on running, so I got in a 5K tempo run at the local high school track before calling it a day. It was breezy but very, very humid, as you can probably see in this picture.

Right now the only things I've got left to do by way of hurricane preparedness is to fill the bathtubs and empty out the freezer -- a good excuse to have a pizza for lunch, don't you think?

Let's pray that our fellow citizens might be spared the full force of Hurricane Florence as it hits the coast and begins its jaunt through the Carolinas. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

7:10 AM Good morning folks. I was up at 5:30 this morning washing dishes and otherwise battening down the hatches for the arrival of Lady Florence tomorrow. Although the storm has begun to track a bit south of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, we're still gonna feel its effects in terms of rain, wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour (or greater), and flooding. Since I live on a tertiary road and at the end of a very long gravel driveway, if the power goes off it will likely be off for some time. The campus was officially closed last night but the plan is for it to reopen on Monday, but nothing is settled at this point. I'm thinking about running today because if I don't the chances are unlikely that I'll get to do anything outdoors for about a week. (Can you say treadmill?) As you know, I'm still trying to find the sweet spot between training too much and training too little. Someone once asked an elite runner, "How do you get better at running?" He answered, "Run more." Makes sense to me.

Otherwise, nothing special going on here. If I do get stuck on the farm, I know what I'll be reading....

Wednesday, September 12   

9:24 PM If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how sentimental I can become whenever I think about Becky and all the years the Lord gave us together. I've been a bag of mixed emotions for the past two days, on the one hand rejoicing as I celebrate 37 years of marriage and on the other hand becoming weepy because, well, I MISS HER. Basically, life is about letting go. Learning to accept the hand you're dealt. Riding out the storm the best you can. Thankfully, as a Christian I don't have to do this alone. I literally have a Father who cares about me, and then I have people like you who send me encouraging texts and emails. If the visible cord was broken between me and Becky almost 5 years ago, the invisible cord, in one sense, still remains. Just because Becky is in heaven doesn't mean that the cord breaks completely. It just changes. It ebbs and flows, like the storm surge from a hurricane. I'm struck just now by the difference between my life 5 years ago and my life today. It's not hard to compare what I lack with what I once had. It's also hard not to feel a little ashamed as I look over my shoulder at "what once was." I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to reflect on the past, but I also think it can be detrimental to always push the past into the back of your thoughts so that you never reflect on what your life was "before." You see, I never want to forget her face, or her love, or the trials and joys we shared together. It's not that I want to live in the past. I just want to learn from it. Losing Becky has taught me so much about life:

  • Even as you move forward, you do so with your eyes wide open to the potential of even greater loss in the future.

  • You must constantly be aware that the culture is seducing you NOT to grieve or feel pain or weep.

  • You have to accept the presence of confusion and uncertainty.

  • You allow God to challenge you in your walk with Him.

  • What He begins to write He will finish.

  • A person can die with dignity and in hope.

  • God can bring good out of evil, though often in ways we didn't imagine or hope for or want.

I honestly can't say enough about what God is teaching me these days. It hurts my heart so much not to be with Becky. Sometimes I feel like she's just in the next room, not a universe away. Still, I am more convinced than ever that nothing can or will separate me from the love of God. There's Jesus, holding out His arms. Come to me. I will give you rest. And I do. I went to Him yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the day before that. I relaxed into that place He's reserved for me, the place where all grieving husbands go. It's such a strange paradox, living in this big empty house. Everywhere I go I sense her presence and feel her absence. Yet I love living here because I love the challenge of trying to make something good come out of her death. If I can't be with Becky right now, then there's nowhere I'd rather be than right here. I'm heartsick yet happy, broken yet whole. Yes, it still hurts. It hurts so much. And I never want that pain to go away completely. Just the opposite. I want to learn how to leverage that pain for good. Because there is life after loss. Life thrives in the fertile soil of death. In Him, there is hope and healing. And in choosing to face the darkness, you take the first baby steps toward the sunrise of His love.

In sum:

Give me one pure and holy passion. Give me one magnificent obsession. Give me one glorious ambition for my life. To know and follow hard after You.

In the wake of heartache and grief, that's the only thing that matters, isn't it? 

Thank you for hanging in there with me. Your words of support have meant the world to me. They really have. You guys rock. A theme of this blog is acceptance. We all move through grief at different rates. So be yourself. Always. You will weather this season. You will have good days and bad days, but the good will outnumber the bad as time progresses. 

Dave

Monday, September 10   

6:55 AM Rain, rain, and more rain is in the forecast thanks to Florence. The rain will be coming down in huge sheets. I love the sound of rain on my roof. I will even run in the rain if there's no lightening. So, this week will be soggy. I've got my road bike with me in the car and I might try to get in a 20-mile ride today in Raleigh. I'll let you know how it goes. If all else fails, I'll give myself the week off from training. I don't want to make light of the situation. I know that some people are potentially in harm's way with this hurricane. My thoughts go out to everyone affected.

Now get out there and face your challenges with gusto. Tomorrow will be a tough day (my anniversary) but I'll get through it.

Dave

Sunday, September 9   

5:22 PM My thanks to the Greensboro Chinese Christian Church for their warm hospitality today. I spoke in their English Sunday School class ...

... and in their combined morning service.

The theme was "Every Member a Missionary." Many thanks to brother Steve Chang, one of my former Greek students, for the kind invitation.

I need to amp up my training again this week. It won't be long before October's RUN FEST. I feel like I'm getting ready -- physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. And boy am I excited. The human body is a really incredible machine, but you knew that already, didn't you?

Thanks for reading!

Dave

5:10 AM This Tuesday I will have celebrated my 42nd wedding anniversary. Let's face it: Life can be brutal at times. And yet it can also be exhilarating. There is something wondrous about falling into the arms of God. I'm not scared off by hardships and challenges. Let's ride to the bottom and see what's waiting for us there.

With marriage on my mind, I was up at 4:00 this morning listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers speak about marriage from Ephesians 5. One thing for which I remain eternally grateful is the desire to listen and learn from others. John Stott's words gave me a picture of God and His plan for marriage that surprised, challenged, and, I think, even changed me. Not that I'm planning on remarrying. I'm not. But I think it's both hard work and good work to be constantly rethinking our perspective on life in general and on relationships in particular. After all, I'm still a teacher, and teachers can't avoid the topic of marriage.

Stott's message is titled God's ideal for marriage. You'll notice it's only 30 minutes long, as are all of his sermons given at All Souls in London. I'm not sure why this is. I'm quite positive he could have taken a lot longer to deal with his subjects. I suspect, however, that the time for the sermon in the weekly meeting is due to the church's unrelenting emphasis on every-member ministry and participatory meetings, so that not all of the teaching is done by professionals from the pulpit. At any rate, Stott is able to pack an enormous amount of truth into a 30-minute message, and you will not be disappointed if you listen to it in its entirely, preferably with your spouse. Think about this: We can't "Live in love as we are loved" (Eph. 5:1-2) unless we are manifesting love right now, in the moment. I don't really care how many years you've been married. Your marriage begins today, right now, in the present. Resolve to live this moment fully engaged, and you (and your spouse) will be blessed.

Blessings on you,

Dave

Saturday, September 8   

9:44 AM Confession: I am tired. Last night we worked until 9:30 getting up hay.

Not that I'm complaining (much). Despite the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and the ubiquitous horsefly (why are you always picking on me?), I thoroughly enjoyed the work.

I still can't believe my life. Growing up in the Islands, I would have never thought in a million years I would be farming today. Nevertheless, I feel exhausted. Not only because of the farm work. As you know, in exactly four weeks I will try to complete my first 31-mile (50K) ultramarathon. You may be wondering where it is. The venue will come as no surprise to you since I bike and run there on a regular basis. The High Bridge Trail runs from Burkeville in the east to Pamplin in the west. Smack dab in the middle of the trail is the quaint town of Farmville, replete with Southern charm and historic lore. The ultramarathon organizers have decided that we runners will all meet up in Pamplin early Saturday morning and then be bussed to the trailhead in Burkeville (about a 45-minute drive away). The bus leaves at 7:00 am sharp. Yesterday I decided to bike from Farmville to Burkeville because I wanted to see what the trailhead looked like. When I got there, I had the surprise of my life. This is what I saw:

A dead end. No outlet to Burkeville. None whatsoever. Not a road, not a trail, not even a footpath. One of the points of this post (I just realized this) is that we all have "surprises" in life, where things aren't what they seemed to be. So, I just stood there for a moment in a state of shock before turning around and biking back to Farmville along the route I will race in 30 days.

Turns out my round trip was exactly 31 miles.

This is the distance I will have to travel on race day, except not on a bike but on hoof. Mission Impossible much? Let's put it this way. You will notice that it took me 3 hours to cover 31 miles by bike. My Garmin tells me that I averaged 10.5 miles per hour. In 4 weeks, on ultramarathon day, the race directors have set a time limit of 8 hours, with a cutoff point along the route for slower runners. Eww. Maybe I don't want to do this after all. Then again, I know I can complete a 42K (26.2 mile) marathon in under 6 hours because I've done that many times. That leaves me with a full 2 hours to go an additional 8K (or 5 miles). If there's ever a time to be optimistic this is it. Maybe you're like me. You have God-sized goals and man-sized fears. You doubt your abilities. You want so hard to push yourself, but you say to yourself, "There's got to be a breaking point." The thing is, nobody really cares all that much about your struggles. Sure, your friends and family are interested and curious about what you're doing, but it is you who will have to make the investment if you want to succeed. Back to me. I have a wonderful family who loves what I do. But I am the one who controls my destiny. I am the one who has to overcome my fatigue. I am the one who can either live up to someone's else's expectations or work within my own limitations. I am the one who has to kick negative thoughts to the curb. In the words of two-time FIFA world cup champion Mia Hamm, "The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is looking." Love, love, love this saying! It's something we all need to be reminded of. I have never regretted a race. Never. I tell myself that over and over again and I usually get there. Kudos to everyone who gets out there and tries the impossible. Do it anyway.

If I were to ever finish an ultramarathon, it will be because I had the desire to try and the God-given strength to endure. This will definitely be the most brutal thing I will ever put myself through. This is a picture of Katherine Beiers.

At the age of 85 she ran this year's Boston Marathon in absolutely horrible weather conditions. She finished in just under 8 hours. The main thing? She never gave up despite the cold, wind, rain, and fatigue.

"Just keep moving forward."

That's the runner's mantra. Unconcerned about what others think, we make the effort and do our best. All around us, other runners are engaged in the same fight. I tell my Greek students, "It matters little, in the end, what grade you get. It matters that you are doing it with all your might." Doing one's best in the strength God provides becomes the criterion of success. I can't aspire to win the Boston Marathon. But I can run my race with all my might.

The bottom line is this: "You go on. You set one foot in front of the other. And if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going" (Geraldine Brooks).

Friday, September 7   

7:30 AM Call me crazy, but this is what I had for breakfast this morning.

Yep, that's SPAM on my plate. Now, why in the world would a world-class athlete (cough) eat something as provably unhealthy as Spam? In self-defense, I offer the following impeccably logical arguments:

1) I grew up in Hawaii. Spam is served with everything. Once an addict, always an addict.

2) Which of the 50 States has the longest lifespan? You guessed it: Spam-loving Hawaii.

So there.

Now, I don't normally have such a gignormous breakfast. But 1) I've been up since 5:00 and I'm really hungry, and 2) my training goal for the day is to get in a 26.2 mile bike in Farmville before getting up more hay. Throughout the day I'll drink several liters of water because I'm always wary of becoming dehydrated during a workout on a hot day like today. I don't think my eating habits are too atrocious, do you? I realize there's a great deal of controversy as to what qualifies for "carbs" (Twinkies qualify, right?), but my carbs are mostly "clean." That said, I definitely have a sweet tooth. That's why you probably noticed I had fruit juice with my breakfast, and not just any old juice, but mango juice (see, I still love Hawaii). As for dinners, I eat two every evening -- the one I'm cooking, and the one I'm grazing on while cooking (usually fresh vegetables). I know I need to cut out processed foods but that will never happen (Spam is not organic, is it?). Oh man, I'm in trouble with the diet police. I know I need to be more diligent about my diet, but hey, I'm a guy -- and a busy guy at that.

Which means I better stop blogging and get exercising.

6:25 AM Greek students, for what it's worth, here's my approach to doing Greek sentence diagramming within a paragraph. Note: It has nothing to do with English sentence diagramming!

Instead, my goal is to identify all main clauses and then identify any clauses that are syntactically subordinated to those main clauses. Here's a simple example from 1 Thess. 1:2-5:

As you can see, there's only one main finite verb in the entire paragraph: "We give thanks." This verb is marked in blue. There are other finite verbs in the paragraph (marked in green), but they are not main verbs. The main verb "We give thanks" is then expanded in a series of participial clauses, three in fact:

See how this works? Easy cheesy! At this point, your teaching outline practically jumps off the page:

1) The When of Paul's Thanksgiving.

2) The What of Paul's Thanksgiving.

3) The Why of Paul's Thanksgiving.

In other words ...

1) Paul gives thanks when he prays personally for the Thessalonians.

2) Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians' practical faith, sacrificial love, and unwavering hope.

3) Paul gives thanks because he knows that God has chosen them.

The next step is to produce a translation of the paragraph based on your own exegesis of the text.

The final step is to draw as many practical applications from the paragraph as you can. Here's a sampling (for more you can go here):

  • Paul had no orphans. When he left the church in Thessalonica, he did not forget about them.

  • Paul wants his readers to know that he personally (note the middle voice of "mentioning") prays for them.

  • Thanksgiving is not thanksgiving unless it is expressed.

  • "Faith without works is dead."

  • True love always involve sacrifice.

  • We can endure suffering and persecution because we have placed our hope in Jesus and in His coming back to earth.

  • The church is a family (Paul calls these believers his "brothers and sisters").

  • Teaching and preaching is more than "words." It involves Holy Spirit power and full confidence in the efficacy of the Gospel.

  • "Examine my life," says Paul. The selfless life he led backed up the Gospel he proclaimed.

Now that is true greatness.

Good day! (Said in my best Paul Harvey voice.)

Thursday, September 6   

7:12 PM Today I was able to get in a 20-mile bike ride between La Cross and Brodnax.

It's a 10-mile out and back that I did twice. The Tobacco Heritage Trail is normally a pretty safe place to ride. But lately it seems to be filled with various and sundry obstacles -- rocks, wet leaves, dogs, a few potholes, and even iron stanchions like this one, which actually gave me a flat tire the other day because I couldn't see it in time (I was riding at dawn).

This is more than just a pet peeve. Obstacles like these can lead to injury and death. I stopped by the local town hall to show them this picture, told them exactly where the obstacle was located, and requested that they replace the post that someone had obviously removed from its spot. After my bike, I had my annual physical then mowed the yards at Bradford Hall and Maple Ridge.

Nice, eh? Maybe I missed my calling when I went into teaching instead of landscaping.

Okay, enough rambling. I'm off to sit on the front porch and gel with a good book. Not that it matters to anyone but me, I'm rereading the novel Gettysburg by Newt Gingrich. It's not a bad read, though it's highly repetitive. Unlike moi, of course (wink).

Night.

8:22 AM "All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear" (Rom. 13:1-2, The Message). Like a cold glass of water on a scorching hot day, I found this text to be very refreshing. Let's pray that God might grant us citizens -- all of us -- strength and wisdom in these critical days in our Republic and, above all, to grant us the courage to be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ wherever we go.

8:05 AM My friend Jim Voelz has been duly honored with a Festschrift. I got a copy yesterday.

I'm eager to read the entire book. These essays interest me in particular:

  • Chrys Caragounis, "The Weltanschauung of the New Testament Authors."

  • J. Keith Elliott, "The Relevance of Authorial Language, Style and Usage in the Evaluation of Textual Variants in the Greek New Testament."

  • Jeffrey Kloha, "The Development of the Greek Language and the Manuscripts of Paul's Letters."

  • Thomas Winger, "'Saved through Child-bearing'? Theology and Hermeneutics in Reading 1 Timothy 2:15."

So much to learn, so little time.

7:20 AM I hope we all live like we believe. I know my NT students do. This week they turned in their "towel-and-basin" ministries detailing how the Lord is leading them to serve their communities sacrificially this semester. What an exciting time to be a part of the body of Christ! I am incredibly thankful for this generation of young people who are such brave and beautiful believers. I'll share with you soon what their ministries are, and I think you will be delightfully surprised. Here's a foretaste. It's called Hope Reins. The idea is to connect a child with a magnificent horse "to comfort the pain and sorrow that is all too common in a hurting kid's day-to-day life." If you live in or near Wake County, NC, you'll want to become aware of this free, Christ-honoring ministry. I hope we all wrestle with how to best serve King Jesus. I hope we can all learn to live like we are loved by Him, transformed even more into the likeness of Jesus, into God's heart for humanity.

Wednesday, September 5   

8:30 PM Nice stay on campus. A couple of highlights:

1) Rob The Bike Guy fixed a flat for me.

2) Enjoyed Chinese today with my colleague and friend Ronjour Locke.

3) Maurice Robinson lectured on "The Text of Revelation" in our NT class.

4) And Ant Greenham did the same on "Muslim Evangelism."

I loved how both speakers kept the words few and the concepts simple. They weren't skimpy on the facts, however. This is exactly the sort of thing I want modeled for my students. It might not take a village (sorry, Hillary), but it most certainly takes a community for true Christian growth to take place.

What's tomorrow look like?

Write a book review. Get up more hay. Get my annual physical. Mow. Do a 20-mile bike. In exactly 38 days I'll stand at the start of my first ultramarathon. I like to keep life, um, interesting, you might say. Yes, I'm freaking out a bit. But I'm keeping my eyes on the prize. At this point in life, I'm just grateful to be able to keep active. I thank God every day for physical and emotional strength.

What is the next stage you're looking forward to?

What kind of planting are you doing in your life right now that you don't see the fruits of yet?

Do you see a link between your physical health and your spiritual health? 

What's the greatest evidence of Jesus you've experienced so far this week?

What do you worry about the most?

God knows how to give good gifts that are marvelous. May that be your experience in abundance.

Dave

Tuesday, September 4   

6:40 AM My toes are feeling much better today. I'm actually thinking about having my big toenails surgically removed. Wow. Each time I run I discover new challenges to overcome. That's just part of the sport. Now it's back to school. Let's see, how can I fill that 10 minutes of free time I'll have this week? Okay, so I'm not that busy, but sometimes it feels like I am. Life is absurd at times. I hate not being busy, which is a big part of my problem. (I need therapy.) I'm working on it, though. If I can get in a long bike while in NC I'll be happy.

This week we have one last crack at the book of Acts in my NT 2 class. I'll be focusing on the missionary journeys of Paul this week. My primary concern is with the evangelization that the church is required to carry on throughout the world. I still remember how enthusiastically Lloyd Quast taught me the book of Acts when I was a student at Biola University in the early 1970s, and I suppose his lectures were a milestone on what has become a long and exciting pilgrimage. Do I really believe in the Great Commission? Do I really depend on the Holy Spirit alone for the salvation of souls? I must then continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send me out, and I must go, depending not on my own worthiness and merits, but on the ground of the merits and worthiness of the Lord Jesus.

Although I'm perhaps known for my criticisms of much in the church's practical life, I seek above all to be a churchman rather than a theologian or a scholar. For me, theology can be distinguished but never separated from the Christian life. I have sought to study and emulate the apostle Paul's theology because it takes seriously the experience of Christianity. The mystical presence of Christ (Paul's "in Christ" formula) forms the undertow of daily life. It affects everything we do getting up, sitting down, eating, working, even sleeping (which I do a lot of). Nothing in our lives is "profane" if we live to know Him and to make Him known, as Paul did (Phil. 1:21).

I don't know. I like to think of my own teaching as preeminently missional. If we really believe in the Gospel, what should we be doing to advance it? What is the church, and how can we help it transform society? Although I dislike the term "missionary" (the word itself is not found in the New Testament), I admit candidly that I feel "called" to be one. Hence I always ask myself when I read Paul, "How did this letter contribute to his work as a church-planter and disciple-maker? And what can it teach me about doing the same?"

I still have so much to learn. In the meantime, I never want to lose sight of the simple things that make life so worth living.

Monday, September 3   

6:26 PM I am now in self-imposed exile from running, now that the dust (and the Advil) have settled. Both of my big toenails are trying to fall out. Again. I kid you not. I definitely won't run again for a while, like maybe before this Wednesday. Lots of other things I could tell you about my day but I can see you're already bored. I did spend one last day at the local public pool. My summer pool pass expires today, which is also the day the pool closes for the year. Needless to say, it was a tight fit; I could swim, but not swim laps. But back to my feet. I would highly recommend the sport of running to anyone -- anyone who doesn't mind their toenails falling out, that is. I'm now without a "next race," well, at least until Saturday.

That's it for now. Time to hit the Advil again.  

9:04 AM The following is a glossary of abbreviations in New Testament studies, or at least the ones I know (or at least I think I know):

NPP: No, this isn't the National Patriotic Party of Liberia or the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico or even the National People's Party of India. It stands for New Perspective on Paul. NPP is what happens to you when you begin to rethink things like Greek genitives and then rewrite your theology accordingly. Is this happens to you, I suggest you keep quiet about it.

PP: If you thought this is "NPP" without the "P," you would be wrong. The PP are the Pastoral Epistles, which, of course, were neither written to nor by pastors. Some have tried to replace PP with LTT, but "Letters to Timothy and Titus" is probably too wordy to catch on.

2 Cor.: Second Corinthians. Or, for people in the know, Two Corinthians.

Ch or CH: Anyone living in Switzerland will tell you that CH stands for Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation), but New Testament scholars (especially Swiss New Testament scholars) will tell you it means chapter.

ESV: English Standard Version, or, in some circles, Extremely Saved Version.

2 Macc.: Whenever I see this abbreviation I get hungry for two Big Macs. It actually stands for Second Maccabees, a Greek letter written in the second century B.C. that talks about such things as praying for the dead, the merits of the martyrs, and the intercession of deceased saints.

Vv. vs. vs.: Verses versus versus.

SBL: Society of Biblical Literature, whose handbook, by the way, is the go-to source for abbreviations.

GNT: Greek New Testament, not to be confused with Good News Translation.

Vulg.: Vulgate. This is the Bible in Latin. And no, there's nothing vulgar about it whatsoever.

NHC: Nag Hammadi Codices, though it's probably easier to say National Hurricane Center.

VT: This is not the Green Mountain State but the journal Vetus Testamentum.

Q: Who knows what this is!!!???

For more, see my never-to-be-written How to Write Like a New Testament Scholar.

7:45 AM There's no class tonight so I've got all day to get caught up on farm chores, especially mowing. The grass is so tall I almost need to use my bush hog to cut it. I'm really looking forward to this week on campus. In NT class, we have two very special guest lecturers: Maurice Robinson on the text of the book of Revelation, and Ant Greenham (who once lived in Jordan) on Muslim evangelism and the insider movement. Speakingwise, I'm scheduled to teach at two churches next week, one in Greensboro and one in Severn. As for racing, I've signed up for two events for the month of September: the North Hills 5K on the 8th and the famous Virginia Ten Miler on the 29th in Lynchburg. Of course, this is also the month for celebrating my anniversary on the 11th, which will mark year #42. Observing an anniversary of a deceased wife is sort of like taking a deep breath. I personally think it's worth the risk and trouble to commemorate something as wonderful as one's wedding day, considering that if we knew what accidents would befall us when we got married we probably would have opted out in the first place. On Sept. 11, I will celebrate again how God's grace triumphed over evil, and that He is good in ways we can't always see at the time. On that day, I will choose (again) to believe that God is alive and that He is at work toward some ultimate unseen purpose, and may even use my loss to that end. One thing I'd really like to do this month is climb another mountain, maybe MacAfee Knob again. Being a good Baptist, I love being "immersed" in trees and the complete connectedness you feel with your Creator when you're out in nature. Germans call this Waldeinsamkeit, or being alone in the woods. Any time I'm alone in the forest, I experience an almost other-worldly solitude and peace. Hiking is the perfect fusion of physical activity and the calming gift of nature. There is a sort of primal quality to hiking in the woods that inspires you to appreciate the world all around you. Hiking, for me, is my most humble expression of gratitude for the One who created the heavens and earth. Life is a pure gift, and I pray that I can pay it forward with the joy I hope is expressed in my blog posts.

Have a great week,

Dave

Sunday, September 2   

7:50 PM Happy Labor Day Weekend, y'all! First of all, I'd like to report that the Lord actually allowed me not only to run a half marathon at the beach today but also let me catch a few "big ones" (wink) while there! Believe me, that was about all the activity I could handle for one day. First stop? The race expo at the VB convention center.

After picking up my bib I waited in line to meet the one and only Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon 51 years ago.

I only wish she had brought her new book with her. Kathrine was nice enough to take the time to tell me about her running experience at Boston last year and she even signed my race bib. How very kind!

After that, I made a beeline to the Olive Garden to pig out on carbs before heading to the local La Quinta to take a shower and crawl into bed early.

When I left the hotel at 5:30 this morning, I was already perspiring. In fact, during the entire weekend, the race directors were constantly warning us about the heat.

That didn't quench anyone's prerace enthusiasm, however, least of all mine.

I fell in with the 2:45 pace team hoping I could keep up with them. (It was not to be.)

The race started out a bit on the crowded side, but after a few miles people began to spread out along the course.

I had forgotten just how brutally hot this course is. I may have even whined a little. By mile 9 (pictured below), I began wilting.

Thankfully, every mile of the race provided live music for the runners, and that always gives me a burst of much-needed energy. I love running through the neighborhoods of Virginia Beach, including Camp Pendleton. I was holding a steady pace, but I was slowing down. The last mile or so of the race was on the breezy boardwalk, so I felt good as I headed toward the finish. In case you're interested, here are the stats from my Garmin.

And here are the stats from the official race website, confirming my reputation as being a "middle-to-back-of-the-packer."

I picked up my finisher's medal and walked about mile to recover from the race. Eventually I found a chair to sit down on while working on my hydration.

As always, Rock 'N Roll puts on a well-organized, fun event. I was especially pleased to see so many church groups along the course, including these Methodists (whose t-shirts had "Love God, Love Others" written on them).

Afterwards, I headed to the beach. Not Virginia Beach, mind you, which was uber-crowded. Instead I ended up in Sandbridge Beach, about 10 miles south of VB.

It's a very quiet place, mostly sand and sun and beach cottages. It's got a children's playground, volleyball, showers, and multiple beach access-ways. Personally, I prefer this quieter kind of venue to the much more developed Virginia Beach. Parking was only $5.00. I saw lots of fish tooling around in their "schools," but very few waves. The waves were mostly breaking on the shore. Occasionally, you could catch a larger wave breaking on a sandbar about 50 yards offshore.

With the exception of a couple of good waves, I'd say today wasn't my most pleasant surfing experience. But hey -- if you can't surf, you can always lounge around on the sand.

All in all, I had a great day and accomplished all I set out to do. Reading this blog post to this point (one of us has had to do it!), I realize I've highlighted only good things about my day in V-Beach. That's because everything was good. Even the hydration issue was never an issue thanks to superb organization on the part of the race directors. There were more water stations than ever, plus ice cold towels and sponges. Keeping your neck cool goes a long way toward lowering your body temperature and increasing your endurance when running in hot weather. It was indeed an amazing race and great training for my big events next month. I do hope and pray I can get into good enough shape to run Boston next year as a fund raiser for cancer. That would be fun! At races, I see most clearly how God has blessed me physically. I am running farther than I had ever dreamed possible. Even the ability to stand up and walk each day is something I no longer take for granted. When I get to the back of the pack on race day, I know I'm among friends, people who worry the way I do, think the way I do, and run the way I do. They are a fantastic bunch. Many of us are a little on the "older" side. We've learned that each race has to be run one step at a time. We're also learning to apply this principle in our everyday lives. Running reminds us that the only "now" we have is today. It teaches us to truly enjoy the moment, and especially not to take our families for granted. Rather than merely putting up with our age, we are compelled to stand firm and weather the storms of aging as gracefully as we can. Not a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. I've never had so much to cherish. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, September 1   

8:45 AM If you're just tuning in, half marathon weekend is here. Glory be! No rain is predicted for race day tomorrow in Virginia Beach. That's good. As for the temps, well, that's another story. The real feel will be 98 degrees and the humidity 90 percent. I face yet another decision: Take water with me (and thus add weight to my run) or rely on the aid stations? And how 'bout the pace team? Shall I follow the 2:45 balloons or the 3:00 ones? (The balloons, by the way, are held up in the air by people called pacers, who are experienced runners who guarantee to lead their team across the finish line at a specific time. It's a great idea for idiots like me who aren't sure how to pace themselves.) I'll discuss this when I get to the expo today at the V-Beach Convention Center. An expo is a racket that forces you to walk through a makeshift bazaar to pick up your race bib. There's a booth for everything and everyone, whether your problem is perspiration or constipation. I plan to speed walk through the expo as I want to go surfing today. Not that there any real waves in Virginia Beach today, mind you. The latest surf report reads as follows.

Real surfers, however, always ignore surf reports. We are the ultimate optimists. "Okay, so maybe the waves are teeny tiny, as in minuscule, but I know there's a huge swell just over the horizon!" Here's my board, by the way.

I designed it myself in Hawaii. It's called a semi-gun -- which either means that you're not into pacifism all that much or else that you like to surf fairly big waves. This chunk of fiberglass-coated foam has been my companion at such notorious breaks as Pipeline, Pupukea, Haleiwa, Makaha, Huntington Beach, and, of course, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the waves usually break a whopping 10-12! (Inches.) Anyhoo, back to the half marathon tomorrow. Overall, here are my race goals for the weekend:

  • Don't go out too fast.

  • Enjoy the experience (that's the whole reason we run, isn't it?).

  • Don't put too much pressure on yourself to get a new PR.

  • Keep ignoring the logic or reality of this ridiculous sport.

  • Try not to look too much like an electrocuted marionette when you cross the finish line.

  • Don't forget to take two aspirins at mile 10.

  • Meditate, read a book, check emails -- but don't think about the heat during the race.

  • Don't just put on Vaseline, smear it on.

  • When you see the MarathonFoto guy out on the course, remember to smile (I'm always thinking about my next of kin).

  • Cram your craw full of every ounce of carb you can tonight.

  • Smile as the leader blazes past you on his way to the finish line.

  • Remember: You can't finish if you never start.

  • Scream, cry, wallow in self-pity, but finish that race!

Thank you, thank you to all of you who read this blog, because I know what I write probably doesn't interest you in the least. I pass no judgment. You are the greatest anyway.

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