Tuesday, August 31, 2021

What Are You Doing on Labor Day?

What are you doing next Monday on Labor Day? The Carying Place in Cary, NC, is looking for 700 runners to go 3,000 miles. The race is called The Carying Place Labor Day Race for Home and offers both a 5K and 10K option. They also have a kids fun run. You ask, "What is the Caring Place?" It's a service that provides short-term housing and support services to homeless, working families with children. They also teach budgeting and life skills classes to help struggling families stay afloat in these uncertain times. 


To date they have worked with over 400 families. Here's just one of the many families that have been helped through this service. 


You can read more here. Please consider joining me on Monday for this worthy fundraiser. Yes, I am asking you to be active on Labor Day. Go ahead, chastise me. Sue me. The cause is worth it. A small, kind gesture can go a long way. 

Registration takes place here. The location is the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary. The course circles beautiful Symphony Lake. 


Courtesy of the City of Cary.

This will be my first running of this race. I've signed up for the 10K.

My First Trip to Wegmans

You know me. Always wanting to try something new. Well, today the new Wegmans in Wake Forest was my target. About a million people visited the Wake Forest store during the first hours of its operation. I mean, people were parking in Durham just to get a sub at the sandwich bar. What??? 

For those of you who don't know, Wegmans joins the likes of Harris Teeter and Kroger as THE place to do grocery shopping in North Raleigh. Walking inside, you're greeted by a fancy display of beer and wine (I wonder why), housed in the most decorative wooden cases. The deli, bakery, meats, and sushi departments are all clustered near the front door as if to entice you into impulse buying before you even get to the grocery aisles. Wegmans decor is, I think, a bit nicer than Harris Teeter's. Their chicken wings bar hasn't opened yet (it will next month), but the deli was doing a fairly brisk business. The bakery takes up a good portion of the building, and I even felt like I was back in Europe when I saw all the freshly baked goods on display. 


The same could be said about the cheese aisles. 


The idea is to mimic Europe's cheese caves. There's a large open area in which to dine, and I decided to try their burger bar. 


It was a mistake. I'll stick with getting some fresh bread and cheese the next time. 

My first trip to Wegmans was a bit overwhelming. There was so much hype over it I didn't know what to expect. However, I found everything I went there to look for, and the groceries don't seem to be priced any higher than those of other nearby stores (except maybe for Food Lion). I'm glad they make their own bread and cheeses. They also have a florist on hand to make any arrangement you want. 

I can see why Wegmans has acquired a bit of a cult-like following. It's also been lauded as a top employer in the area. I'm glad we've got a store in Wake Forest. Just more options for picky shoppers like me. 

P.S. For those of you who read my blog for the running posts, I'm sure you're disappointed with this entry. Does it count that I thought about running while doing my grocery shopping at Wegmans today?

Monday, August 30, 2021

Leaning into God

 What a way to start the week.

Lord, thank you.

Today in Greek 2 we finally finish the entire indicative mood. Glory be! Only one more tiny little morpheme to learn -- the passive voice morpheme. 

For an explanation ....

We are now a little more than half way to our destination -- the ability to read our Greek New Testaments. Being in the middle is hard. At the beginning, you have loads of motivation, even a little arrogance. At the end, everything comes together and you are so happy. In between? The middle is a time of nagging doubts. What helps you make it through is nothing other than grace -- leaning into the One who knows the end from the beginning and has mastered the middle. 

I'm beginning to think that this is what is most important about learning Greek: learning to depend on him. If I can instill that in my students, that's the best outcome I could imagine.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

You Get to Make the Rules

Amby Burfoot is a Boston Marathon winner and has spent his life studying how running affects health. In his book Run Forever he tells a story about Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon. Dave has finished Boston himself 45 years in a row. Every birthday he would run his age in miles. He hit 60 miles on his 60th birthday. Amby counseled him, "You can't keep running your age. Don't hold yourself to an impossible standard. Be flexible."

The next year, on his 61st birthday, Dave covered 61 miles. But this time he included some swimming and cycling. "This is my game," Dave said. "I get to make the rules."

I love that! 

My hope is that as a result of the time we spend together on this blog, you will begin to put your mind back in the exercising gear where you have allowed it to go into neutral. It will not be easy. It's never easy to make a lifestyle change. Let me urge you to buck the tide and come out of sedentary confinement. Keep you goals simple and attainable. Remember: you get to set the rules, not somebody else. Don't you dare let some unrealistic goal drive you away. While it gets harder the longer you live, I promise you, it also becomes more rewarding. 

Meeting Dave McGillivray at the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.

Opening Our Homes to Strangers

In 3 John this week (Advanced Greek Grammar class) we'll be diving into such topics as "What is the church?" and "The Importance of Hospitality." Here are the key New Testament texts that deal with the latter topic:

3 John 5.

Rom. 12:13.

Heb. 13:2.

1 Pet. 4:9.

I might render these verses as follows:

My dear friend, you are so faithful in the work you do for your fellow Christians, even when they are strangers.

Share what you have with God's people who are in need. Always be eager to open your homes to strangers.

Remember to welcome strangers into your homes. There were some who did this and entertained angels without realizing it!

Open your homes to each other without complaining. 

I sat on the front porch last night with the 7 retreatants I'm hosting this weekend and we talked about any number of topics, from fishing to school to being missionaries for Jesus. I'm overwhelmed by the sweetness of it. Because it reminds me, in tangible ways, how God nurtures and protects and gives grace. As I wrote in The Gospel of Hospitality, "Hospitality is not easy. It goes against the grain of our contemporary values. It involves hard work, planning, and efficiency. But it will not occur in our lives until we make it a deliberate priority. Like any other quality, we must develop a generous spirit." 

I offer my apologies for all the times when I could have opened my home to strangers and didn't. I know better now. There is one thing your fellow Christians cannot do, one thing they can never do. Only you can open your home to strangers. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Ashland Half Marathon Report

Half marathon # 31 has now come and gone. By the end of all these pictures, you'll feel like you've run a half marathon too. I was very pleased with how the race turned out. Here's the most important picture of all.

I am very proud of it. As you can see, I didn't do what I normally do during a race and go pedal to the medal. I ran a smart race and stayed well "within myself."  You can also see that I achieved my "A" goal of coming in under 3 hours despite the oppressive heat. Barely! 

Here's how the day went. I arrived in Ashland while it was still dark and tried to find a parking place (along with 600 other runners). 


Then I got my racing bib and stood in line for the porto-potty. When the race was about to start, I lined up around 2/3rds of the way to the back of the pack and off we went. Here are a few pics that will give you an idea of how the runners on the course slowly thinned out until everyone was pretty spread out. They will also show you just how scenic the course was.


My PR on this course is 2:29 but I got that time back when I was running full out -- not very wisely. Besides, today's race was really only a practice run for my peak races that are coming later in the year. Here I am fairly early in the race. 


And here I am around mile 11.

My legs didn't want to move as fast but I kept on running. The race challenged me mentally and physically, which is exactly what a half marathon is supposed to do. The most important thing was to keep moving forward. 

I am so thankful for all the aid we runners received along the course. 


Aid station volunteers -- angels in disguise.

It was very hot and we needed to constantly replenish our water bottles. And, although the crowds weren't very thick, the support that did show up was awesome.

There's nothing like approaching the finish line.

And receiving your medal.

Overall I had a great morning and a reminder that running, along with Bible reading and prayer, is one of the constants in my life that adds sanity to my daily routine. So if you ever see me running at a race, don't be surprised at my persistent and plodding style. And don't expect the smile to ever come off my perspiring face.

Friday, August 27, 2021

A Good Way Runners Can Save Money

Running is so humbling. Before you know it, your toenails have outgrown their toes. I've had a toenail get so big that I had to take out a birth certificate on it. Fortunately, today I was able to have it surgically removed. Since I am a "doctor," I did the "surgery" myself and saved tons of money. I tried to distract myself by noticing how pathetic all my other toenails look. 

Grotesque, I know.

I think I'm going to use the old toenail for farm storage. 

The good news is that I am now 100 percent ready for tomorrow's race. I might actually run barefooted just to show off my surgical prowess. 💪

It's Not a Switch But a Lever

I have known first-year Greek students who kept asking me to recommend books about learning New Testament Greek. They already had my beginning grammar but they wanted, it seemed, to add to their library every other resource ever published. When I was teaching myself German, I fell into the same pattern. Seems I bought every beginning German grammar I could, thinking that the more resources I possessed the faster the learning would go. In the end, I decided I only needed to master one basic grammar. 

The fact is, achieving any goal in life requires patience. It involves, not an on-off switch, but a lever. Some of you are out of shape. You want to remedy that situation. The way to do it is not by joining two or three health clubs and buying every book on exercise that's out there. As obvious as your fitness decline may be, it isn't irreversible. But the rebirthing process to get back into shape will take many months, if not years. What's needed is consistent, unimpeded training. Of course, you want speedier results. We all do. But in reality, it's a slow climb back to an active lifestyle.

Remember: The journey is as important as the destination. The key is understanding what is best for your body. You want to push it far enough to make a difference and enable you to enjoy the process, but not so far as to risk overstress or injury. Running and walking are ideal recreational activities for time-pressed, efficiency-minded people. But it all begins with patience. The road is not always smooth or flat. But millions of runners and walkers have gone before you. For all of us, the miracle isn't that we started; it's that we kept going. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

An Easy Bike Day

Today I returned to one of my favorite spots on the planet.

My goal was an easy 20 or so miles on the bike before taking a rest day tomorrow.

The race kicks off at 6:30 Saturday morning and I hope to arrive at the starting line fresh and fit. 

Fitness is such a  moving target. It's a combination of many things -- age, temperament, self-discipline, and natural ability. The older you get, the more you have to be a tortoise rather than a hare. Fitness also requires you to make a long-term commitment to eating as clean as you can. I hope Mexican counts, because that's what I had after today's bike.

You know me: I would love to run every day. But that's just not very wise. However, by combining biking and running I can (hopefully) avoid serious injury.

The half marathon can be a brutal distance even when you've trained for it. I usually run the entire 13.1 miles except for when I walk through the aid stations and refill my water bottles. If you go out too fast, however, you end up walking to the aid stations instead of just walking through them. During a race, your body has to gradually adjust to the new physical strain it's now experiencing. The key word is slow. Ease into your run. Don't start out at a sprint. Take short strides with quick foot turnover. Keep your arms close to your side. Don't lean too far forward. 

Reduced to its essence, running is all about having fun. There is something pure and beautiful about the sport. Each year, several hundred thousand Americans participate in a half marathon. Being part of a movement like this makes returning to fitness all the more meaningful and enjoyable,

Lasting Lessons from 3 John

Deep diving into 3 John this morning. It's brutal, having to decide what to focus on in Greek class and what to leave out. 


For example, did you know that this short letter has 16 non-active Greek verb forms? I didn't either until I counted them. I'm tempted to go rogue and use the term "deponent" in class. And then there's the theme of hospitality. It's not a new practice or the next big thing. It's been around since the beginning of Christianity. It's an enduring way of living that shaped Becky's and my decision to buy our farm in Virginia and open up our historic 1811 farm house to guests (we have 7 retreating here this weekend). It makes me feel like I'm a part of something old and durable. I feel humble, rediscovering the message of 3 John, and I am thankful. Elsewhere I've called this the Gospel of Hospitality. Community is always a gift, wherever you find it. 

John is very clear about church leadership. Don't love to be first. Maybe we start here: surrender your grand titles. I am weirdly protective of Jesus' status as the only Senior Pastor the church has ever known (see 1 Pet. 5:4). I love the pastor who, as part of an elder team, introduces himself on Sunday as, "Hi, I'm _____, one of the pastors here at [name your church]." It's not working, America, our celebrity church culture. The answer is clear: Quit trying to do it all. 

Finally (for now), how about the idea of self-support? I love how Stephen Smalley puts it in his commentary on 1-3 John (p. 339): "The admonition to support Christian ministers 'in the cause of the truth' is not incompatible with a 'tent-making ministry'." He adds, "These ministers were concerned as any 'to present the gospel freely,' without slavish dependence on others, whether or not they happened to be Christians." 

I took five pages of notes this morning. Creativity isn't easy, but I want to be a person who works hard to bring value to class every time we meet. That's how it is when you give yourself totally to your profession. It takes time and lots of ingredients, but at the end of the day no one would mistake it for fast food.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Small Town USA

Here's the course map for this Saturday's half marathon in Ashland, VA. 


As you can see, most of the race is along country roads. Ashland is just a small spot in the larger scheme of things. Easy to miss on a map. Yet the town has a rich history, an expanding tourism base, and an unspoiled mix of cornfields and restaurants. Amazingly, it boasts its own college -- Randolph-Macon College, with nearly 1,600 undergraduate students. The college was originally located in Boydton, just a few miles down the road from where I live. The Latin and Greek based curriculum of the 1830s has expanded to include 38 majors and 34 minors. (Sidebar: I find it amazing just how many colleges there are in Virginia, most of which you've probably never heard of -- Averett, Bluefield, Ferrum, Hollins, Longwood, Mary Baldwin, Marymount, Radford, Richard Bland, Shenandoah, etc.)

The town was named "Ashland" in 1858 after Henry Clay's estate in Kentucky. It's safe streets make it a town of joggers, cyclists, and walkers. In 2014, Ashland was named one of America's best small towns. Plus, if you need a Super-Walmart, you're only 16 miles north of Richmond. 

The half marathon actually begins right beside the train tracks, where visitors are treated to frequent CSX freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains. 


Ashland reminds me a lot of Farmville, another of my favorite small towns in the great state of Virginia. I love the sense of community you find in small towns. I love the clean air, the fresh produce, and the local products. That's the spirit that made America great. Above all, parking and traffic are never a big deal. You can join the co-op, enjoy the farmers' market, and wander around the cute downtown. In a big city it's considered rude to acknowledge another person as you go about your business. In a small town, it's considered rude if you don't.

There's no sense in romanticizing small towns. They have a downside, too. Believe me, I live near one. I can see advantages of living in a big city like Wake Forest or Raleigh. But the big city was not meant for me. There is no place I'd rather live. I love you, small town USA!

Fall Racing Schedule? Update

I won't bore you with all the details about my upcoming racing schedule. On the other hand, maybe I will. Because if you are having to reset over and over again, misery loves company. 

As you know, I would have been in Hawaii this month. But because of Covid I postponed my trip to later in the year. October would have been the best month for me to visit, but now the governor is telling people to stay away from the islands. That's fine. Probably not a good idea to be flying anyways unless you have to. Ditto for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy this October. There are rumblings that the city's restrictions will mean that the expo and even the pre- and post-race gatherings will be spatially distanced. It's hard enough as it is to be with 30,000 other people without masking and social distancing. So I may not return to Cincy this fall after all. 

I've had a lot of time to think about this over the last few days. Here's what I've put together on my racing calendar as of today. Subject to change, of course:

August 28: Ashland Half Marathon.

September 25: Virginia 10-Miler.

October 9: High Bridge Ultra Marathon (50K).

November 13: Richmond Marathon.

Believe me, I realize that in the larger picture of things, my race schedule is a minor blip on the radar. That said, I think you all know how much running means to me. In all the ups and downs of life, running is one of the constants in my world, like Bible reading and prayer. It provides me with consistency, predictability, joy, a sense of accomplishment, and fellowship with my Creator. On today's run I marveled at all the fields I passed, including acres and acres of soy beans. 


In the end, we who farm might take credit for working hard, but we can't take credit for making anything grow. That's God's job. 

I still believe today what I have always believed: that the world God created is very good, and that his love is like nothing else on earth. Of all the things I'm thankful for right now in the midst of major life changes, it's that I'm making it through and into a new, better place. I'm still running my race. I'm beginning to think that in times as uncertain as ours, that's all we can ask for -- those sweet moments of walking with God, feeling protected by the goodness of his friendship. People are wondering about canceling their fall plans. I'm one of them. But that's okay by me. I have all I need right here -- the Bible, a Savior/Friend, and a Daddy to walk and talk with every day.

How Is Your Daily Walk Going?

When I first started exercising, I didn't do any running. Instead, I started walking. I would walk for a half mile. Then I upped that to a mile. Eventually I could walk three miles without stopping. Then I began adding running into my walks. I'll never forget the first time I ran a mile without stopping. I was in Hawaii, and I ran down Kaleheo Ave., a street I often traversed on bicycle during my childhood. It felt like I had just won the Olympic Marathon. 

Even though I mostly run these days, I realize that running isn't for everybody. No problem. There are many other ways to become fit and healthy. Walking is one of them.

This morning in my Bible reading I was in Ephesians. Along with my Greek, I had Harold Hoehner's magisterial commentary at my fingertips. I love how he outlines the second half of Ephesians:

Walk in Unity (4:1-16)

Walk in Holiness (4:17-32)

Walk in Love (5:1-6)

Walk in Light (5:7-14)

Walk in Wisdom (5:15-6:9)

Stand in Warfare (6:10-20)

As everyone knows, the imperative is used only once in the first three chapters of Ephesians but 40 times in the last three. This shouldn't surprise us, because Paul "consistently presents doctrine first as a basis for the practice on which he later expounds" (Hoehner, p. 499). Stott (Ephesians, p. 146) says that in 4:1 Paul "turns from exposition to exhortation, from what God has done (in the indicative) to what we must be and do (in the imperative), from doctrine to duty, ... from mind-stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications to everyday living." 

As a father and grandfather, I often think about how I can apply the biblical truths I am studying to my family life. In the opening section of Ephesians 4, Paul sets forth a life worthy of our calling. He calls this our "walk." This walk is characterized by 5 qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love. To be humble is to recognize the worth of others. Pride lurks behind every family squabble. Meekness isn't weakness; it's "the absence of the disposition to assert personal rights" (Stott, p. 149). To be patient is to be long-suffering when aggravated, and to be forbearing is to exercise mutual tolerance. Finally, Paul says we are to do all this "in love," for "love is the crown and sum of all virtue" (Stott, p. 149). 

As a dad and granddad, it isn't enough to know about these 5 qualities. I must continually devote myself to them. Will there be challenges? Absolutely! The adversary will stop at nothing to sow discord in your family. You can count on it. I have discovered, however, both by experience and by an examination of the Scriptures (including this passage), that as parents we need to set the tone. 

How about you, dad (or mom)? Do your kids see in you humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love? Do they see honesty mixed with conviction? That's how we learn to grown in grace with one another in our homes. All parents (and children) make bad mistakes. The question is: Have we learned from them?

This very day, my family needs that kind of quiet modesty and availability in their dad. My dedication to the word of God is not to be rooted just in the reading of it or the teaching of it but in living it

Friend, don't let really intimate loving relationships become the last item on your to-do list today. Maybe it's time for that drive across town or that cross-country flight or that email or that text message. The Great Commission is the purpose of the church, and it's to be lived out in our daily walk with the Lord.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

What It Means to Be a Teacher

Warning: This post says nothing about running.

OK, seriously guys. Can life get any better than it's been these past few days? First of all, I felt like my body really gave me a good race on Sunday. I'm still flying high as a result. Then yesterday I began my 45th year of teaching. Teaching is a major joy-producer. Educators who love their job are some of the happiest people I know. They achieve the highest level of job satisfaction all by simply doing what they love to do. 

And why do we love the classroom so much? Teaching allows us to ignite others with our passion for learning. Teachers enjoy years of watching their students develop into life-long learners. Do you really love a subject matter like math or languages? By becoming a teacher you can enjoy a career sharing your enthusiasm with your students. Teaching is about so much more than knowledge. It's about leaving a lasting impression on others for years to come. Being an educator means going the extra mile to make sure your students can relate to you as teacher, guide, mentor, and friend. 

All this and more I experienced the past two days on campus. The joy you get when see the lights come on in a student is priceless. Not to mention the sheer beauty of the buildings and grounds. 


Teachers, we make a difference! Just think of all the teachers who shaped your life. The profession is, after all, one that offers an unparalleled opportunity to influence the ones who will lead the way in the future. Thank you, Lord, for this privilege! 

To top everything off, I sat for my official "retirement" photo today. I even had to wear a suit. My word! 


I think they will hang it in the library beside all the other former full time professors. They took a bunch of photos. I begged requested to have this one chosen for mounting. 


Once a beach bum, always a beach bum I reckon. Don't even get me started on trying to remember how to knot a tie. 

All of this info is humbly submitted in the hopes that you've also had a great start to your work week. 

Next up: My future race plans.

Monday, August 23, 2021


I am a huge fan of efficiency. Aren't you? Waste is never a good thing. The more efficient we are, the more we accomplish with less energy. We were designed to be efficient. One problem with the plethora of new beginning Greek textbooks is TMI (too much information). For a person who is efficiency-minded, you want the most efficient guide to Greek. Otherwise, "analysis paralysis" ensues. This is where you are hopelessly stuck trying to decide what information is necessary.

Tonight we will cover chapter 14 of my grammar. It will be an efficient overview of the subject matter. Subject matter that belongs in a second year grammar will remain in a second year grammar. 


I see an analogy with the sport of running. (You knew running would come up, right?) Most beginning runners do too much, too soon. Tendons and ligaments need lots of time for build-up of strength. Our bones build up even slower than our tendons and ligaments. Any one of these can easily be overstressed by doing too much, too soon. 

To reiterate: slowing down and concentrating on what's most important at an early stage will reap benefits in the future. I ask my students to concentrate on the chapter at hand. Don't read ahead. Master the material before moving on. Build your stamina gradually. 

So you've completed first-year Greek? Go on to an intermediate grammar. Then take my Advanced Greek Grammar course (class starts tomorrow!). The absolute most important thing is to be efficient. Don't expend energy on things that are secondary or tertiary when you're still mastering the basics. 

Remember what every marathoner knows when the race starts: If you don't feel like you are starting too slow, you're starting too fast.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Luray Triathlon Race Report

Well, I finished my 6th triathlon today. The day was perfect. As in, everything went better than expected. Lake Arrowhead looked stunning. 


The water temperature was 81 degrees -- nice and warm. In fact, if anything the water was too warm. After racking my bike I snapped this photo of some of my fellow triathletes just before the swim began. 


I swam really smart (for a change). In fact, for all three legs of the race (swim, bike, run) I pushed myself to the aerobic threshold but not beyond. 


Just where I wanted my heart rate.

I was breathing hard but never huffing and puffing. There were three legs to the swim. I swam one buoy at a time and felt great the whole time. After the swim, I drank some Gatorade, put on my helmet and sunglasses, and started into the bike. The route was a mere 17 miles. The whole time I felt strong. The hills were tiring but there were also a lot of downhills. After the bike I swapped out my helmet for my hat and then hit the road. For once, my legs weren't mush after the bike. I fell into a regular pace. There were aid stations with cold water every mile or so. I'd dump one cup on my head and then drink one (or two) cups. Finally, the finish line was in sight and I crossed it in 2:44:23. That was good enough to earn second place in my age group. 


The first and third place guys never showed up. It was probably my body odor.


I truly forgot just how much fun triathlons are. 

Let's talk about one thing I haven't mentioned to anybody yet. I had a secret desire going into this race. From my swim sessions at the YMCA, I knew I could probably finish the swim in about 45 minutes. But I secretly set my goal to come in under 30 minutes in today's race. Keeping calm was key. I just swam within my comfort level yet I also pushed hard. I had a pretty fast swim time (for me). In fact, the official time was 29:24. Let me tell you, I wasn't expecting that. Yet the Lord allowed me to accomplish my secret goal. (My other secret goal was not drowning). I love those eureka moments when you get to see improvement in your races.

As I left, somebody took this photo. 


Then the race director walked past me. He didn't say anything. He just smiled at me and tapped me on the shoulder as if to say, "Nice job." His message came through loud and clear.

If you ever want to try a sprint triathlon, you should do this one. You'll enjoy a good challenge. You'll love the lake setting. You'll be inspired by your fellow racers. Being an athlete doesn't necessarily mean you're athletic. I'm certainly not. Being an athlete simply means you are willing to take risks, reach for something beyond your grasp, and move off the spot you're on. Mental strength isn't only for triathlons. It's what's needed to get us to push through our problems. It's what keeps us in the game of life. 

For me, my favorite mantra is, "Through perseverance even the snail reached the ark." That always brings me to the place of knowing that each step I take is taking me one step closer to who I want to be.