Thursday, November 30, 2023
In Mark 5 we have another example of Mark's style. This is when a second story is embedded within the first. Scholars call this "intercalation." Intercalation is a special feature of Mark's Gospel. The best example of it is found here in Mark 5:21-43, the story of Jairus's daughter and the woman with an issue of blood. Jairus and his request is first introduced, but the narrative is interrupted by the woman and her special need before the Jairus story resumes and the narrative is brought to a conclusion.
In an intercalation, the interior story is there because the author wishes to inform or interpret the stories in the outer envelope. Mark wants to remind his readers that, before Jesus heals Jairus's "daughter," he has healed the woman with the blood discharge, whom he addresses as "Daughter" (5:34). Both healings in turn preview Jesus' eschatological reign when there will be no need for physical healing. It's also impossible to miss the connection between the raising of Jairus's daughter and Jesus own resurrection.
To this point in Mark, the theme has been Jesus' power over all those things that are so utterly beyond human control.
- His authority over the wind and the sea.
- His authority over demons.
- And now his authority over death.
Jesus pacifies a huge storm when most of us can't even pacify a toddler.
Jesus orders a legion of demons about like he was giving instructions to a pet dog.
Finally, Jesus heals a woman who's been bleeding for 12 years and a young girl who is desperately ill and dies, and in each instance Jesus' authority is as boundless as it is absolute. The perfection of his power is matched only by the perfection of his compassion.
What a brilliant example of intercalation. And what a brilliant example of prayerful Bible study.
When it comes to picking the best biceps exercises, don't forget the following two. I love doing these regularly as they are proven to maximize biceps development.
First up we have the crossbody dumbbell curl. We know that one of the main functions of the biceps is supination of the forearm. With this exercise we pronate the forearms and bring the dumbbell up and across the body, thus preferentially targeting the brachialis. Remember to keep the movement slow in order to best activate the slow-twitch muscle fibers of the brachialis.
Next, we have a biceps exercise that many consider to the very best for growing bigger arms: the pullup.
There you have it: two of the best biceps exercises to get bigger and stronger arms.
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
When I played on a brass octet in Germany in 1978, we played many of Bach's pieces.
Bach, in his many compositions, was tapping into the Universal Harmony that's found both horizontally and vertically as a simultaneous experience. You can find one of his fugues in the forest and in the fields, in the streams and in the oceans, in a snowflake or in a raindrop. Universal music is present for anyone to hear in any era. But most in our churches are too distracted with pedestrian, rote, predicable, boring noise. It's amazing to think that Bach's music is hundreds of years old. I love classical music and started listening to it around the age of 5. I've performed enough Bach to be constantly amazed by his ability to connect the soul with God. Bach was not only a musical and textual genius, but he played with musical possibilities in an incredible and overwhelming way. His Toccata and Fugue in D Minor never fails to send chills down my spine. Its profundity and beauty are magnificent. Bach, as our octet director would often say, was the composer's composer. He always seemed to remember that he was writing music for the glory of God, not just exercises. This is the mark of all true church music, then or now. Pity our churches that they have to endure such pablum.
Back to training today for my hoped-for climb next summer to the summit of the Allalinhorn in Switzerland. The climb will take three days. From the village of Saas Fee (accessible by train) we will take a cable car to the Felskinn Station. Then the plan is to hike to and overnight at the Britannia Hut at 3,030 meters. You can just make out the hut in the top right of this photo.
The rocks and boulders in the Alps never cease to amaze me. It's like if you to move a single piece out of its place, the whole mountain will come falling down on you! From the hut you can see the Allalinhorn and its magnificent glacier.
We will get up early and set out for the summit.
Even though this is considered an "easy" 4,000-meter peak, I know I will be exhausted if I do make it to the summit.
Hence the plan is to descend, not to Saas Fee, but back to the Britannia Hut and spend the night there relaxing (and, hopefully, celebrating) before coming all the way back down the mountain. Part of training obviously involves cardio, so I was up early this morning to get in a run at the High Bridge Trail.
When I left the house the temperature was 16 degrees. The trailhead wasn't much warmer. My run may have looked like this.
But it felt more like this:
Because mountaineering in the Alps requires so much upper body strength, I also got in a short lat workout at the Y before returning to the farm.
Why, if everyone already knows all this, am I telling you? Research has shown that the act of writing down your goals makes it infinitely more likely that you will pursue them and even achieve them. Goals are meant to make you a better, more focused person. Goals can focus on anything: climbing a mountain, running a race, getting your weight under control, reading your Bible every day, becoming a better parent or spouse, etc. Goals must be reviewed every day. It also helps to break down your goals into small steps (daily, weekly, monthly). Thus every day is an opportunity to take action toward making your goal a reality.
Unless and until the Lord shows me otherwise, I will keep chasing down my goal of summiting one last 4,000-meter peak in the Alps. I know it won't be easy. But that's the point. If running a marathon or climbing a mountain were easy, everybody would be doing it, and you would not be doing anything out of the ordinary. In my estimation, it has to be hard for it to be the accomplishment it is. To be the best version of you, you've got to push the envelope. It's just that simple. I believe there is a way to push yourself hard enough to test your limits without sacrificing your health, safety, or relationships. In all honesty, I sometimes push too hard. On the other hand, there is nothing quite like achieving a goal you've worked your tail off to accomplish, right?
Are you pushing yourself too hard? Too little? Or just right? There's only one healthy answer (Goldilocks allusion :-)
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
My favorite poem by Yeats has got to be "Lake Isle of Innisfree." The poet -- an Irishman -- is living in dark, drab London. He longs to return to a lake island to hear the water lapping on the shore, but not with his ears alone. "I hear it in the deep heart's core."
As you know, when Becky passed away 10 years ago, I began making annual trips to the land of my birth and youth.
What was it that drew me to the shores of Kailua Beach?
I have no doubt it was, largely, grief. Having been married for 37 years, Becky's death had left a gaping hole in my existence. A tectonic shift had occured in my "deep heart's core." Travel emerged as a way to transform loneliness into independence and purpose.
One out of four people 65 or older are widowed. The loss feels impossible to overcome. We need a way to rediscover equilibrium, to get to know ourselves again. For some of us, travel becomes that escape route, especially if it's to a place we know and love. There we reclaim something we loved before -- a part of who we are at our core. "Am I brave enough and bold enough to embrace my new life without my spouse?" we ask ourselves. Deciding to travel brings simple distractions that nurture vulnerable souls even as we seek to honor the memory of the loved one we lost. For me, annual trips to Hawaii are:
The journey changes me somehow. It's been an essential part of the grieving process and my grief journey. I travel to Hawaii knowing that Becky would want me to live my life fully, find happiness, and not exist in a continual state of suffering. No, a "griefcation" will not cure all of your pains. Only God can do that. But it can help you to cope. Kailua Beach, with its breaking waves, always reminds me that life, however painful it can be, is undeniably beautiful.
The first and ninth lines of Yeats' poem are especially relevant here. Here he writes:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.
I will arise and go now.
The allusion to the Lord's parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is unmistakable. Just when does the prodigal say the words "I will arise and go"? When he's poor, suffering, and starving. He decides to reform his life and arise and go back to his native land, his native people. When Yeats quotes these words from Luke 15, what does he imply? He implies that his current life is not right. He needs to return to his origins in Ireland, which are beautiful, authentic, and nourishing in a way his bleak, gray existence is not. Hence this allusion to Luke 15 brings the reader into the poet's "deep heart's core."
In his "Prayer for Entire Love," Augustine wrote, "When we cast ourselves upon Thee, and weep in Thy bosom, after all our ragged ways; and Thou dost gently wipe away our tears, and we weep the more for joy; because Thou, Lord, who madest us, dost remake and comfort us." Every visit to the islands is a time when the Lord gently wipes away my tears and replaces them with tears of joy.
Thank you, Father, for showing me such love and aloha.
Monday, November 27, 2023
- Makes my whole day better.
- You get to escape your daily life no matter how great or bad it might be at the moment.
- Makes you feel strong.
- The boost in energy and mood is amazing.
- I love the community of runners.
- I love the hot, sticky feeling afterwards.
- Running is time for myself.
- It's one thing in life I can control.
- It keeps me fit.
- The passing scenery can be beautiful.
- Clears my head.
- I love pushing myself and improving myself.
- My body likes it.
- Because I love to eat.
- The confidence I've gained in my daily life is unmistakable.
- It keeps me disciplined.
- Occasionally I get to share this with my kids who run with me.
- Even the worst runs make me feel strong.
- You're surrounded by nature and sunshine.
I love Mark's (Peter's) Greek.
Here's one example. Mark loved shorthand. This is especially true when it comes to pronouns. Often Mark uses the article when one might expect a pronoun. An example is Mark 7:11: "If a man says to the father or the mother." This, of course, means "If a man says to his father or his mother." Or take 6:41: "He broke the loaves and proceeded to give them to the disciples." Whose disciples, you ask? His, of course!
So remember: Mark often uses the article to express the ideas of "his" or "their."
More coming ....
Recently I was reading a blog post in which the author took the ESV to task. He argued that the ESV is both excellent and terrible. In my opinion, the word "terrible" is a bit uncharitable. Does the ESV occasionally mistranslate something? Yes, but so do all translations. This morning I was memorizing the passage my Greek students are translating for today's class. It's 1 John 2:1-6. They'll have a quiz over this passage today and I know that many of them will be consulting the ESV during their preparation.
Notice that there are two different constructions at the beginning of verse 4 and verse 5.
Verse 4 starts out with "The one who says ...." But verse 5 begins with the words "But whoever...." Interestingly -- and for reasons I can't explain -- the ESV renders verse 4 as "Whoever says ...." It's anyone's guess as to why they did this. They do the same thing in verse 6: "Whoever says ...." Here, too, the Greek has "The one who says ...." Here I'd much rather have my students follow the CSB than the ESV:
Verse 4: "The one who says ...."
Verse 5: "But whoever ...."
Verse 6: "The one who says ...."
Is this a huge deal? No. But details matter. And this is yet another reason to compare as many English translations as you can when translating a passage from the Bible.
Sunday, November 26, 2023
Historian Carl Becker was a believer that an important distinction existed between history as it has come down to us and history as it really happened.
Since historians can't deal directly with the event itself because the event has disappeared, they can only deal with the affirmation about the event that persists. He argued that the "ephemeral event" is the event as it actually took place, but that it is fleeting and that true knowledge of it disappears soon after it ends. This is where the "affimed event" -- a commonly agreed-upon recollection -- takes over and forms a consensus. The product of this consensus -- this "affimed event" -- is the event as it will be remembered but not necessarily as it happened. Regrettably, argued Becker, once established, the affimed event becomes nearly impossible to dismiss even when new, seemingly contradictory evidence, is discovered.
This is, I believe, exactly what has happened to our understanding of the historical origins of the Gospels. The "ephemeral event" has been lost, and the "affirmed event," incongruities and all, has survived and has become deeply imbedded in the scholarly consciousness. The object of my book on the Gospels was to attempt to examine the evidence more logically within the confines of both the internal and external evidence.
So, what were the historical origins of the Gospels? To discover that, one must be bold. The missing pieces must be included to help assemble the whole puzzle rather than leaving pieces out because they do not seem to fit. I hope to have shown that the missing pieces fit together completely and logically, and that a break with the "affirmed" interpretation is long overdue.
- It's one of the best things you can do for your body.
- It gives you discipline.
- Every workout is an opportunity to improve your health and fitness.
- It's such a healthy way of life.
- I'm happier, and definitely healthier.
- It's a great way to see how far you can push yourself and test your limits.
- You meet like-minded people who want to get the most out of their lives.
- It's like life in that it involves overcoming obstacles with creativity and persistence.
- It's fun.
- It's transformed my body.
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
You're at a Thanksgiving dinner. There is honey baked ham, turkey with stuffing, a yam casserole, croissants and jelly, and pumpkin pie with whipped topping. You don't know how many calories they have. You enjoy them anyway. The next day you look the same. End of story.
When Paul uses athletic imagery in his letters, his point is that athletes are not made merely by hearing lectures on the subject but by getting into training themselves. Great character is not produced by idyllic retreats.
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Today is Victor Chang's 87th birthday. Dr. Chang was a pioneer in modern heart transplant surgery.
Coincidentally, today I had my annual visit with my cardiologist. She gave me a clean bill of health and even told me I had her blessing if I wanted to climb the Alps again next summer. A theme of this blog is acceptance -- accepting the things you can't change. Another theme of this blog is that life is constantly changing. If you don't like it, it will be different soon. The only thing permanent about life is that it's temporary. So live it to the fullest while you can. Listen to your body and treat it with the respect it deserves. And, for God's sake, if you have a heart condition, talk to your doctor.
I'm taking this massive tome with me to Alabama. I'm over half way done.
This far I've learned that deterrence always consists of two components:
1. Demonstrable superior strength in terms of the common triad of military, economic, and diplomatic assets, and making sure that any potential adversary knows this fact.
2. The national will to deploy these means to vanquish any adversary or bend them to your desired outcome.
I look forward to finishing the book.
5 simple words, but they are unbelievably powerful.
The NIV renders them as "Be very careful, then, how you live." The CSB has "Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk." Phillips, however, nails it:
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility.
Everything in life that's worthwhile requires care and a "due sense of responsibility." These include:
- our marriages
- our families
- our jobs
- our education
- our hobbies
- our appearance
- our habits
This is raw truth. We must treat these matters as the serious things they are. It's premature to put a cap on what you think you are capable of being responsible for. In The Lion King, Mufasa's kingdom is the responsible one, brimming with joy, meaning, and harmony, while Scar's kingdom is the nihilistic one, decaying into chaos, degeneration, and destruction.
What I've learned in recent years, especially since Becky's homegoing, is that life is about how you control and manage your duties by taking responsibility for your circumstances. We as humans and especially as Christians need to wake up from our endless bondage to complacency. The whole Bible literally alludes to this. Accountability and responsibility make me a better man -- at work, with my loved ones, or even while running. There are no limits but our own apathy.
The key is the indwelling God who enables us to actively pursue our duties. As Phil. 2:12-13 reminds us, there is always a blend between our commitment to what we have to do and our reliance on what God is doing. Yes, we are to shoulder responsibility for seeing that the work gets done. But our obedience arises out of the internal work of God enabling us both to will and to work his good pleasure. The effectual Worker makes us effectual workers.
The road toward a joyful standing before Christ at his coming is this road of obedient, responsible, enabled work.
Monday, November 20, 2023
In the world of weight lifting, the term "deload" refers to a period of time, usually just a week, when you shift your focus away from intense workouts toward recovery. The focus is on rest, sleep, and proper nutrition. The idea is to leverage your recovery time so that gains can be increased in the long term. This is something I haven't done very effectively. I tend to always run on all 8 cylinders. I feel great, so why not push myself? When I started marathoning 6 years ago, I was averaging 4 marathons a year. One year I even did the Richmond and Baltimore marathons on back to back weekends. Why not? What I was overlooking was the enormous stress I was placing on my central nervous system. Even during my years as a student, I tended to push myself too hard. I remember being burned out after my second year at Biola. Thankfully I had the good sense to take a much-needed break from my studies. I went back home, got a job as a busboy in an upscale restaurant in Waikiki, worked every evening and surfed all day. I did this for a semester and a summer. It was just what the doctor ordered. My hiatus sustained me for 2 more years of college, 5 years of masters work, and 3 years of doctoral studies.
Taking a week off from lifting won't kill your gains. As long as it doesn't make you complacent, that is. Don't be like the guy who said, "I love deload weeks. In fact, I've been doing them for the past 52 weeks." Today was my last day at the Y for 7 days.
|Goodbye gym! I'll miss you!|
I plan on taking another deload week when I travel to Kentucky next month for Christmas. "Work smarter, not harder" applies here I think. Hopefully after each deload week I'll come back restored and ready to go at at it again.
Friend, planning some recovery time, even if you don't feel like it, isn't a bad idea.
Sunday, November 19, 2023
The message at church this morning was based on two words in Phil. 4:6.
"With thanksgiving." There are hardly sweeter words than these. Our blessings were never meant to become our complacency. Our lives should be a continuous reflection of thanksgiving.
Gratitude has been on my mind lately. It's stunning to me how people I don't even know had such thoughtful, KIND things to say to me this month when I commemorated Becky's passing. Sometimes you have to go through the bad to appreciate the good. Being single has actually made me a stronger person. Often, it's by experiencing and overcoming adversity that we learn to truly appreciate all the good things in our lives.
What I am thankful for? My family. Everything else is icing on the cake. Friend, find gratitude even when things feel hard. Remind yourself to be grateful and especially NOT to take your frustration out on those around you. It takes a lot of strength and character to find the silver lining in some situations. In his book A Touch of Wonder, Arthur Gordon talks about once having met Margaret Mitchell, the famous author of the classic Civil War novel Gone With the Wind. She said that the writing of that book was going well until she read the manuscript of John's Brown Body by Stephen Vincent Benét. So intimidated was she by the depth and content of that book that she was paralyzed. She said, "John Brown's Body gave me such a terrible case of the humbles that that it was months before I could find the necessary faith in myself." Ultimately, she finished Gone With the Wind. Crazy thing is, today everyone knows Gone With the Wind, but they've never even heard of John Brown's Body.
Have faith my friend. Find gratitude even when life gets hard, real hard. Think about what you love about life, right now. Then pause and thank God for that. Stop thinking that life should be a certain way. Do your best to accept the way your life is unfolding for you right now. Start the day with gratitude and end it with affirmations of all the things that went right. Remember: We value what we notice. Try to notice the little things every day.
Happy Thanksgiving to all you wonderful readers.
Saturday, November 18, 2023
Yeah, it's gorgeous outside. This was my view this morning as I arrived at the River Road trailhead at the High Bridge Trail near Farmville.
Southern Virginia is so beautiful this time of year. Here's how the trail starts.
The crushed gravel surface is easy on the knees. But the most desirable place on the trail is the bridge itself of course.
It's a half mile stretch and a place where I like to step on the gas a little and sprint.
I usually run by myself but today I had a little buddy run with me. He latched on to me for a half mile or so before losing interest and wandering off with his tail wagging.
Earlier I had a really crazy lifting session. I am beginning to realize that I'm learning new things every day and I feel like there's so much more left in my tank despite my age. I attribute that to my stubbornness to always become better and to always try to find ways to improve and grow in life. I'm definitely not unhappy, but I'm not content with what I've done so far and I feel like I have so much more I can do in life. I feel like my best years are ahead of me. I mean, today's workout was amazing.
It seemed to come together perfectly and I just felt no low points at all.
It's like when you hear about one of those NBA basketball players where they just can't miss and they're in this zone and it's just them and the basket.
Days like today won't come all the time but they do come.
I've had an incredible life, some really incredible experiences, but the past 5 or 6 years have probably been the best years of my life and I feel very grateful and very blessed to have had these opportunities. I want to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. I'm going to continue to stretch myself because that's the only way I'm going to become a better person. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable. I'm comfortable with pain. And so I'm going to put myself in those situations that will stretch me. That's just who I am as a person. People might think it's a little reckless, a little risky, but I like being risky and I'm going to keep on doing it.
Okay, I'll stop rambling. I write all this simply for what it's worth. Maybe one or two of you will draw something inspirational for your own fitness journey from a guy who is 71 years old and more excited about life than when he was 20. I believe our Father would be pleased to give us so much more if we had the faith to ask for it. Hezekiah asked for an extension of life. Caleb asked for a mountain. Jabez asked for an enlargement of his coast. Many of us are living on a narrow coastline. We need to push out our borders, possess our possessions, and enter that rest that remains for the people of God. Notice that the Lord said to his faithful servant, "Well done" (Matt. 25:23). The servant's work wasn't merely done but was done well. The emphasis nowadays is on just muddling by and then one day collecting our pension. That's not how I want to live my life.
Now let's see if I can follow my own advice for the next 20 years.
Friday, November 17, 2023
Next week I'll be spending Thanksgiving with family in Alabama. In Alabama, 90 percent of the population attends church. An overwhelming number of them are evangelical Christians. Alabama has even been called the buckle of the Bible Belt. According to the CDC, 38 states have obesity rates above 30 percent. West Virginia is the most obese state, with an obesity rate of 40.6 percent. Not surprisingly, West Virginia also has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. at 15.7 percent. Next on the list is Kentucky with an obesity rate of 40.3 percent and then comes Alabama with an obesity rate of 39.9 percent.
According to some studies I've seen, obesity is especially true for people affiliated with the Baptist faith. Church, it appears, is good for the soul, but not so much for the waistline. There are Americans in their 30s and 40s with serious metabolic health issues (usually diabetes) and they seem to just accept it. They are going to face a lifetime of problems and vastly reduced quality of life. While I have no fear of death, I do fear loss of independence and the nursing home. I've exercised regularly since Becky died 10 years ago, and I can say that exercise has positively impacted every aspect of my life. I do what I can and should to take care of the temple. The most profound change I ever made in my life other than developing the discipline of daily Bible study and prayer was sticking to a weight training routine. Even if your progress is microscopic like mine is, just getting in slightly better shape can change much in your life for the better. Especially as we age, being fit can make all the difference in terms of quality of life. Just try opening a jar of gherkins.
It's also really important to note the importance of rest and recovery. I now sleep at least 9 hours every night whereas 10 years ago I could easily get by with 7. Progress is slow in my 70s but it's been possible, albeit not quickly.
I know you may be thinking, What a dingbat post! Why don't you just mind your own business? There's so much more to life than a thin waistline! You have a point. I know many extremely overweight people who are great spouses, parents, and Christians. Yet their lives may be at risk or cut short due to obesity-related issues. One might even question what kind of example they're setting. I realize that obesity may stem from a medical condition they are actively working to control or from a lack of knowledge about nutrition or meal planning or portion sizes or even from some unresolved emotional issue. I'm also aware that some studies show that people who are moderately overweight (BMI 26-29) actually have better health. Health, not weight, should be the ultimate criterion of fitness. But just because obesity is a taboo subject does not make it less risky. I think it's still something to consider. I also think that good health and weight loss is, for the most part, a choice. This is obvious when you look at the states with the lowest rates of obesity like Colorado or my home state of Hawaii. They also tend to be the states with the highest levels of physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices in general. What I am in no way saying is that it is right to judge people based on their weight.
On the other hand, why should we just accept an unhealthy lifestyle as our destiny? Your body is amazing. Take care of it my friend. Get off the couch. Whatever exercise you choose you must enjoy doing it. If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it. Sustainability is the key. Keep going, keep going, keep going. Even if it's just walking. Keep pumping that blood through your veins. Don't despair if you've let yourself go. The body will respond at any age.
I was in Ephesians 4 this morning. So rich. In 4:1, Paul moves from exposition to exhortation. But not without first praying for his readers (3:14-19). Remember that, teacher friend. Instruction, intercession, and encouragement are powerful weapons in any teacher's arsenal.
- Teach them.
- Pray for them.
- Encourage them and exhort them to put into practice what they are learning.
Parents can do the same with their kids.
Thursday, November 16, 2023
Listening to this in Latin tonight.
It's difficult for me to describe how good this is. Still gives chills upon hearing it. I'm amazed at how majestic Gabrieli's music is. It is outstanding in its conception of sound. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit unto the ages of the ages, amen.
My favorite exercise? The pull up, of course. Pull ups challenge and develop your back muscles. These muscles include the rhomboids, the latissimus dorsi, the trapezius, and even the deeper muscles that run along your spine (the rector spinae). Pull ups are effective for building your biceps and building stronger arms. I have always struggled with pull ups. I know a lot of it has to do with my scapular strength. Make sure to engage your scapula before doing pull ups.
I am thinking about getting my own pull up bar at home. That's because I believe the pull up is the best upper body exercise you can do.
Tomorrow I'm off from going to the gym so I am thinking about driving up to the Virginia Capital Trail and biking from the Four Mile Creek Park to the Malvern Hill Battlefield. Stay tuned ....