Saturday, April 30, 2022

Don't Be Stoopid Like Me

GU. It's one of the reasons some of us run, right? So yesterday I was in Raleigh. That's always a good time to stop by the running store and stock up on some fuel for my 2022 races. 

GU is very carb rich and dense. The same could be said about me. 

I don't write much about race nutrition. This isn't a food blog. But I've learned my lesson -- the hard way -- about race day nutrition. For years I ran half marathons and even marathons without taking in any calories during the race. That was really stoopid. In fact, I was so stoopid I didn't even know how to spell stoopid. Since then I've learned about GU. I mean, this stuff rocks. They are filled with good nutrition. They fit the bill perfectly. They are carbohydrate dense and will also replenish your potassium and sodium (salt). Most of them taste like baby aspirin. I'd fake a headache just to pop a few. They are the ultimate stocking stuffer (hint hint). Go ahead, give your body what it requires. Don't be stoopid!

P.S. The rain is coming pronto and I still have beaucoup farm work to do so I'm heading back outdoors, armed with a GU of course. Very exciting. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Tonight's Mozart and Handel Concert

Beautiful venue. 

Stellar performance. As a musician, it inspired me. 

Music is a language invented by God. There's nothing better in the world. 

I Love Latin!

I've spent the afternoon at my Wake Forest office reviewing one of my many Latin grammars. 

It's all in preparation for tonight's concert in Raleigh. 

The entire program is music by Mozart and Handel, all with Latin lyrics. Here's one of the pieces to be performed. 

I LOVE Latin! What else can I say???? 

A New Publishing House!

Here's a new publishing house you might not have heard of yet. I see their catalog boasts a new beginning Greek grammar. I wish it (and the publisher) well! 

Some Friday Spontaneity

I love being spontaneous. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy. My only "rule" for living is to be true to yourself. Pray and commit the day to the Lord, and then get at it. Don't overthink your day, whether that involves spending time at the gym ...

... or on the track ...

... or enjoying a bowl of homemade soup and a fresh chicken salad sandwich at the local Amish bakery. 

On my drive home I passed the local hospital where Becky had been treated so many times. It does take courage not to dwell on the past. Time is to be used, but it is also to be enjoyed. I find that the antidote to pain is not happiness. The antidote is meaningful activity. It comes in the being and doing what God desires for you. Since Becky passed away almost 10 years ago, I have begun to crave Jesus. Desperately. I long to remember him, to commune with him, to sit in the dark and in the light and learn from him. I simply want Jesus. But I also want to be with people who love him too. He's the only one who makes sense to my broken heart. 

How's that for spontaneous? 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Forthcoming Triathlons

It's official! I am now registered for my three triathlon races of 2022, all taking place this summer in the great state of North Carolina. They are:

Rex Wellness Triathlon of Knightdale (June 12)

Rex Wellness Triathlon of Garner (July 17)

Rex Wellness Triathlon of Wakefield (August 21)

Each race includes a 250-yard swim, then you bike for several miles (varies from 5 miles to 12 miles) and then you run for several miles (usually about 3 miles). Preparation is everything. I will resume a pretty regular schedule of cycling and swimming once summer school starts in a couple of weeks. It's time for both run, bike, and swim workouts again. 

To be honest, I miss the triathlon. I've only done 6 of them but they were so much fun and very competitive. They even write your age in large numbers of the back of your calf so that you know who to try to reel in from your age group. I think I'm slowly becoming a triathlete who also enjoys marathoning. Once you set your goal and know that you have to get better at other sports to reach that goal, both mind and body accept the challenge, adapt to it, and learn to enjoy it. 

Have you tried a tri yet? You should! 

I have a "cameo" appearance at 6:29 :-) 

Huxley and Orwell, Meet 2022

"It must be wonderful to be seventeen, and to know everything." --  Arthur C. Clarke. 

In the late 1960s, when I was in my late teens, I was required to read two books in high school. (There were at least two, but these were the ones I remembered). They were Brave New World and 1984

Yes, this was in a public (not private) school. Most of us got the picture. 

That's the level of education you need to have alarm bells go off witnessing modern America. 

That's what frightens me the most -- people educated beyond their ability to apply common sense. What can be more terrifying than modern authoritarians taking measures to protect groups of people and ideas through authoritarian measures. Everything is skewed in one direction at the expense of everything else. Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's Doublespeak are alive and well today. Imagine Lord of the Flies but with adults on the island cheerleading the kids' actions and you have a pretty good idea of our modern educational system. My only solace is that I still have the God-given agency to impact the people around me, and that is my commitment. 

The Last Time Americans Were United

As I've been putzing around the farm I've been listening to Big Band music from the 1940s. This is the great music my parents' generation enjoyed. Here's what is perhaps my favorite YouTube from that unique musical period:

My mother and father met while dancing to this music in a USO club in Youngstown, Ohio, while he was being shipped off to France in 1944 to fight the Germans. 

Oh how I wish I could have played trumpet in the Glenn Miller band. I guess it's all about taste. I mean, AC/DC puts 60K in a soccer stadium. 

Sadly, the 1940s were probably the last time that all Americans were united in a common cause. 

Learning "The Night Window" on the Piano

I am currently teaching myself to play "The Night Window" on the piano. 

It's from the 1917 movie soundtrack. You will recall this is the war movie that looks like it is all one scene. Of course there were as many as 5 scenes but they were all put together seamlessly and it feels like there's only one camera going around. I honestly LOVED the one-shot (faux) cinematography. But the music? Oh my, the music. I am obsessed with "The Night Window." It's so haunting and beautiful and powerful. It's a crime that the movie score didn't get an Oscar. It is a masterpiece. 

As you will recall, the scene for "The Night Window" slowly moves toward the window, then you sort of float to the ground. 

Then it's all color and lights. It's like watching a living painting. I saw this movie just before Covid hit. A movie like this one is a rare masterpiece. The courage and utter terror of war are perfectly encapsulated in it. It's pure visual and auditory poetry. This is why I say Thomas Newman is my favorite movie score composer. The shot of the arch silhouetted by the fire reminded me of a biblical scene of judgment. Terrible. Horrifying. Hypnotizing. It was like watching a heart attack in slow motion. I don't think I've ever been so stressed in a movie theater. Also, I don't think I've ever seen a movie that changed protagonists midway. That made Blake's unexpected death all the more gut-wrenching and shocking. 

"The Night Window" is not difficult to play on the piano. I will forever love it. It represents such a magical moment in the movie. It pushes the narrative forward like a beating heart. I think it's matched only by Schofield's charge across the field as the troops go over the top. 

This film makes me want every day to become more and more excellent at everything I put my hand to, including my messages this Sunday. A sermon, like a good movie, should be memorable, not forgettable. The score of a good movie alone can make you cry. This is true also of a good sermon. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Enter to Serve and Depart to Worship

Are we done? Calling our Sunday services "worship" services, that is. 

Let me ask you a question. Where will you be worshiping this weekend? That's NOT the same question as "Where will you be going to church this Sunday?" Today I worshiped God by lifting, running, and doing farm work. Oh, and eating. This weekend I will be mowing, trimming trees, running, and speaking 3 times on Sunday. I do not go to church to worship. I go as a worshipper. That's because worship is, according to the clear teaching of Paul, daily (Rom. 12:1-2). And when we do go to church, the reason we do so is not for worship. Again, Paul is clear: when we come together as a church, we do so for mutual edification (see 1 Cor. 14:26). 

Howard Marshall was professor of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Among his many publications is a major work on the theology of the New Testament. 

In an important essay called "Did the Early Christians Worship God?" (Churchman 99 [1985] p. 220), he writes:

It is true that Christian meetings can be described from the outside as occasions for worshipping God and also that elements of service to God took place in them, but the remarkable fact is that Christian meetings are not said to take place specifically to worship God and the language of worship is not used as a means of referring to them or describing them. To sum up what goes in a Christian meeting as being specifically for the purpose of "worship" is without New Testament precedent. "Worship" is not an umbrella-term for what goes on when Christians gather together.

If we want to meet with God and worship him, we do not have to go to any special place be it in Jerusalem, Gerizim, or a church building. To truly worship God, I need to change the whole direction and focus of my life. Worship means showing my love for Christ by living for him at home, with my friends, at my workplace, and in my leisure. Worship can't be confined to a building one day a week. Someone has said, "To say 'I'm going to church to worship this Sunday' is about as ridiculous as saying 'I'm going to bed to breathe for a while.'" Worship includes the whole of life. 

"Edification service." That's what it is. To reverse an old slogan seen on a church's bulletin board:

Enter to serve and depart to worship. 

What Makes Me Happy

I will tell you what makes me very happy. It's working out at the gym. 

Then putting a few miles on my 69-year old legs. 

Then having two of these babies at my favorite restaurant -- "Dairy Dell" (lol). 

They may not be healthy. But one thing is for sure: There will DEFINITELY be hot dogs "all the way" in heaven!

Off to do my farm chores. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Single Narrative Syndrome

Ah, the single narrative syndrome. Where other narratives are disallowed. Today there are many views you are simply not to hold. If you do hold to them, you are quickly labeled an obscurantist or worse. You can say anything you like about the accepted narrative. But you dare not even mention the unaccepted narrative. Today in our secular universities there is little free speech. There are many views you are simply not allowed to hold. That's one reason I decided to study abroad for my doctorate rather than in North America. Our "liberal" institutions are open-minded unless and until you espouse a conservative conclusion. By contrast, Basel was a breath of fresh air. Even a staunch theological conservative like me could succeed as long as I was able to produce an excellent piece of original research and see to it that it was published. Likewise, the mainstream media in America only gives us the "correct" narrative. No other narrative will be tolerated. "Look, just fit in, and you'll do fine." 

Here's a lesson I'd like to pass on to my grandkids. Get good at being you. Take the path less travelled when necessary. Unless it's dishonoring to God or unscriptural, don't feel like you always have to fit in. Of course, there are times when you are to do just that. Nobody should want to deliberately upset the apple cart just for the fun of it. There are many occasions that call for us to limit our personal choices to the parameters of others. 

But this shouldn't lead to blind conformity or compulsory speech codes. God made you. And he knows what he's doing. The world needs more people who question the accepted narrative, who are willing to challenge the secular (and even, when necessary, the ecclesiastical) status quo. I hope you will be one of them. 

Only 7 Weeks

It's only 7 weeks to my next ultramarathon in Farmville. I can't think of any logical reason why someone would pay $85 to suffer through something like this. It's as puzzling as why some people like to Google themselves. It's like trying to explain color to someone who's been born blind. The last time I ran this race I committed the cardinal sin of running -- going out too fast. If I had stuck with my original pace, I might have had more strength at the end. I can't describe how bad my legs hurt when I finally finished those 32 miles. The last few miles were indescribable. Everyone around me was suffering. I wanted to say something encouraging to them but I had nothing left in me. My legs plodded along and slowly carried me to the finish line. The race director put a medal around my neck and I swore to myself I would never do this again. Remember, the first guy who ever ran a marathon ... died

I can't wait to do it again. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Washington: A Life

I've just had my mind blown. I've been reading Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow. 

My daughter's husband loaned it to me. (Thank you, Jon!) It is one of the most incredible, informative, fascinating, and entertaining books I've read in a very long time. There are many elements that make this book so amazing, not least the inordinate amount of attention the author pays to detail. Right now Washington is evacuating New York City and thinking, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?" I wish I could share more with you but I'm way behind on my farm work. Earlier I worked out for an hour. 

Then I ran for a few miles at the high school. 

I just finished mowing but there's still a list of chores that await me. 


Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Little Trip to Alabama

This week I was visiting my daughter and her family in northeastern Alabama. 

The weather was PERFECT  -- warm enough that we weren't freezing, but not hot enough that we felt like we were hotdogs being skewered at a 7-11 for a week. This was my view every morning from their front porch. Lovely! 

It's hard to put into words how much fun we had. So much laughter. So much talking. So much food! 

They have three teenagers. I can't believe that. Yesterday they were just babies. Then I blinked, and now they're ... well, they are most definitely NOT babies anymore. One will be going off to college in the fall. Really, the main reason I came was to hear her final vocal performance of the year before she graduates. 

I am constantly stunned by her artistic abilities. 

And she's not the only musician in the family. One plays the drums. Another the violin. Yet another the baritone. 

One is a little monkey who can climb ANYTHING. And another loves sports. 

Their dad pastors a wonderful missions-minded congregation. 

Together, we did a little hiking. 

I'm very proud of their two oldest. Both work at Chick-Fil-A. Spicy chicken sandwich anybody? 

They have two dogs. Here I am trying to get some writing done in the morning. Nope, not without petting sweet little Lilly! 

I guess you could say it was a pretty fantastic trip. I have been SO blessed and am thankful for my wonderful friends and family. One of the kids said to me before I left, "Papa B, one of the things you've taught me is that age is just a number." I sure hope so :) 

Thanks for reading, and may you have a positively wonderful week in the Lord! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Do You Take Blogging Breaks?

I admit, I enjoy blogging. Obsession is too strong a word, but if you're talking about things I really like to do, blogging is right up there with running and teaching. My only "rule" for blogging is keeping it authentic and not forcing my writing. If I don't feel like blogging I won't. If I feel like taking a break I will. 

The flip side of that is that I love traveling. It used to be I couldn't blog when I traveled because I was using Front Page for my website -- a dinosaur if ever there was one. It allowed me to blog only from my home computer. But since I've changed to Blogger, I can upload a post from anywhere in the world. However, sometimes I think it's good for me (and probably for you too) to enjoy a break from blogging. If, on occasion you don't hear from me, it's not because I've become complacent or apathetic about blogging. I've done it with fervor for so long now it's simply a part of my life. The truth is, even when I'm not blogging, I'm reading others' blogs -- not many, but they are there nonetheless. And not the kind of blog that is blah blah predictable. The blogs I read involve personal peeks into the daily lives of people I admire beyond the superficiality and insanity of Twitter. You can tell they're not writing to impress their audiences. They're just being themselves. 

I love being spontaneous. Many of you do too. Just think what fun we'd miss if we didn't blog! 

"I Have Finished the Work"

Today's Bible time was in John 17, especially verse 4:

I have finished the work you gave me to do. 

Young person, please do not defraud God on this matter. He has created you for a work that only you can do. Do not limit him. Do not put him in a box. Do everything you can to find out what his will for your life is so that, with Jesus, when you come to the end of your earthly existence, you can say two things:

Father, I knew what you wanted me to do with my life, and, by your grace, I have finished it.

There can be no greater blessing. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

My Book Is Now in Bengali?

Yes, it's true. Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is now available in the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. Over 330 million people speak Bengali. 

That's more than Russian, Portuguese, and Japanese. I've got to admit, I wasn't expecting a Bengali translation. 

The Bengali edition now joins the English, French, Mandarin, and Spanish versions. Now if we can just come up with one in Hawaiian Pidgin

A Prayer of Contrition

Here's a wonderful prayer I stumbled on last Saturday. I believe it can attributed to one of the Reformers. It goes like this:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

I've begun praying this prayer several times a day. It reminds me of my constant need of a Savior. It goes hand in hand with the first of Luther's famous 95 theses:

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Matt. 4:17), he intended that the whole life of believers on earth be one of continual repentance. 

A continual spirit of repentance and contrition reminds me of a petition in the Lord's Prayer -- "Lead us not into temptation" -- meaning, "Lord, when there's the opportunity to sin, keep me from the inclination, and where's the inclination to sin, keep me from the opportunity."

Knowing that our sin prompted such a sacrifice that Christ had to be killed on our behalf awakens holy sentiments in our innermost being. True Christianity means not only that the "big" sins matter but that we can't separate Christianity from following Christ's righteous example in very literal, everyday ways, and that he himself enables us to obey. 

Remember that the next time you take a good long look at the dark side of your soul. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Flying Again!

This is kind of a random post, but since it's raining outside you sometimes go random. This week I plan to visit my daughter and her family in Alabama. Which means I'll be flying again for the first time in years. That's something for a person like me who tends to fly 3-4 times year each year. Do you enjoy flying? I love it. As you can imagine, I always get a window seat. I spend most of the flight looking out the window at the incredible views below. Here is Kailua Beach where I used to live. 

And here we are about to land at HNL. 

One of the best things about travel is running into new spots. As for this visit to Alabama, my son-in-law and I plan on hiking to the state's highest point called Bald Rock. I hear the views are amazing. 

We'll also work out at his gym and attend my granddaughter's final vocal performance of the year before she graduates from high school. 

I know airlines are struggling these days and service has really gone downhill. At the same time, I'm glad to be able to see family again because we live so far away from each other. One thing I know from travel: no matter how awesome your destination is, no matter how homey your accommodations are, there's still no place like home. 

Boston Was Run Today

The Boston Marathon was run today. It sort of separates the pack. As a mid- to back- of the packer, I will never run Boston but I can appreciate the joy of those who do. I think it's great that people are chasing down a BQ (Boston Qualifier). I admire that drive. The marathon is a tough, tough race, with Boston the toughest of them all. 

I've been to Boston many times but going there as a qualifier would be amazing. For me, marathoning is all about the challenge to achieve a goal that is just beyond reach. Boston is a symbol of hard work, determination, and self-discipline. If you know me, and I think you do, you know I'm nothing if not stubborn. I give everything 100 percent. If there is any way it can be done, I will do it with God's help. Running is such an awesome sport because you are always challenging yourself. 

For those of you who ran Boston today, celebrate. Boston is your victory lap for all your hard work. Enjoy every moment of it. And to the rest of us:

Stand up.

Fear not.

Be strong. 

Congratulations to Evans Chebet of Kenya for winning today's men's race. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

2022 Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Half Marathon Race Report

Hey folks. Hope your weekend is going gangbusters. I had a race today. A half marathon. I have strict rules against running back to back halfs on consecutive weekends but I impudently ignored them today. Side note: I also did this race last year. It's called the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon/Half Marathon. It touts itself as "America's Toughest Road Race." And why not? Here are the stats:

  • Full Marathon: Total elevation gain/loss = 7,430 feet.
  • Half Marathon: Total elevation gain/loss = 3,790 feet.

If you don't believe me, look it up. 

Nobody expects a PR here. The city of Roanoke actually brags about that fact. Last year I spent about half of the race walking uphill. You see, you've got to climb two mountains: Mill Mountain, which tops out at the famous Roanoke Star; and Peakwood, a fancy subdivision of homes situated about as high as you can get. The course was so challenging that I promised myself never to run it again  to run it again this year. Today I crawled along at a snail's pace. I wasn't the only one. EVERYONE walked. Of course, no half marathon is easy, even if you go slow. 

There were about 6,000 runners at today's event. Here, the elites get things started.

Then us lesser mortals got into the game.

The first mile takes you through downtown Roanoke. You can see that the weather was perfect for a foot race -- overcast skies and about 45 degrees. 

Here we are entering what I'm calling "church row." St. John's Anglican Church is on the right. 

Last night I attended its Good Friday service. This might well be an evangelical Anglican congregation because there was a lot of talk about sin, repentance, and Christ's substitutionary atonement. The liturgy took you through the stations of the cross. The service was almost all music (of the highest quality),  Scripture reading, and prayers. By the way, there was no clapping after the solos or choir numbers. Good on them. (You can stop typing. This is just my preference. I don't expect everyone to agree with me.) 

The next part of the course took you across the Roanoke River. The descent to the top of Mill Mountain began just after that. 

Here we are still running, or at least trying to. 

But we soon gave up and decided to walk this part of the course. When you run a race, everyone will tell you to smile and have fun. At some points, that's nearly impossible. So, if for a while you slow down and walk, so be it. 

After 3 miles you finally defeat your nemesis -- The Roanoke Star. Here, many racers stopped to have their pictures taken above scenic downtown Roanoke. We even forgot about our pain for a second. 

After that, we were blessed with a long downhill stretch. 

You had to remember not to accelerate too much or else you would blow out your quads. 

It sure felt good to be running again.

Then it was time to climb Denali Peakwood. Again, even the fittest among us resorted to walking. What else could you do? 

The summit at last!!

But it wasn't the last summit. We still had smaller hills to climb, including one just before the finish line. Ugh!!

At this point my iPhone battery died so no more pictures. I had nothing else to do but keep going. I remember how people started out fast and then petered out as the race progressed. I started rather slowly and gained momentum as I went. Soon the race was over. You got your race medal and a big slice of delicious pizza. 

In summary, it was a lovely race. The scenery wasn't too bad, and the organization was good. But the best thing I can say about it is that we were well-supported along the way. Some of the signs you read as you ran were hilarious.  

However, I think that the volunteers must have had some kind of pre-race meeting where they all agreed to lie to your face with words such as "Looking good!," "Almost there!," or "Doing great!" 

Oh well, sure lightened things up. 

I want to thank each and every volunteer who showed up for today's race. You made the day a smashing success. 

Off for pizza (round two)!