Friday, May 31, 2024

A Little Trip Planning

Tonight I've been working on my trip. First up? Wardrobe. (Simple: Lots of tank tops.) 

Second up? Daily schedule. (Even simpler. Lots of surfing, mostly at Waikiki.) 

Ain't no big ting braddah! 

His Will, or Mine?

Do you ever struggle with self-will? 

I have, my entire life. I want what I want when I want it. I think I know best. I make my plans, and then God has the nerve to interrupt my plans in order to bring about his will. 

The older I get, the more I realize that God does what he pleases. James 4:15 teaches us that when we are tempted to presume anything, we are to first say, "If the Lord wills, I will do this or that." Actually, James writes, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." I had forgotten all about that little "we will live." So instead of saying, "If the Lord wills, I will fly to Hawaii on Tuesday," I should say, "If the Lord wills, and if he still grants me the precious gift of life, I will fly to Hawaii on Tuesday." I'm not in charge of any part of my life. I don't give my heart its beat. I don't give my lungs their breath. I don't control the blood that courses through my veins. I'm at the mercy of the One who made me. I am not my own. I am not in control. 

That's why God has unexpectedly removed from my life things I clinged to. He's burned off things and relationships that bound me. Even today the Lord is rooting from my heart things I've cherished for so long, that he may dwell in my heart without a rival. And I have no doubt that in future days and years I'll be cast more and more on the Lord so that I can increasingly become more and more his.

God does what he pleases. He will have his way. Will I trust him -- regardless? 

This Beautiful Day

The kids are cutting the fields while I am mowing the grass. 


In perfect weather.

Thank you, Lord! 

Additional Notes on Heb. 12:1-2

Here are a few more thoughts about Heb. 12:1-2.

1) Most New Testament authors have nothing to say about sports. Paul is the exception. "I have finished the race" (2 Tim. 4:7) is an image taken directly from the arena. He seemed to be thoroughly familiar with the sports of his day. Is this a blanket endorsement of sports? Hardly. But sports has much to teach us about life, including the Christian life.

2) The metaphor of "cloud" of witnesses could also be rendered "throng." I like that. It's a stronger term.

3) "Let us run" is in a Greek tense that emphasizes that a) we are already in the race and b) we have to continue to run the race until the end. The Christian life is more than one outstanding burst of energy. It requires "endurance."

4) Even though the marathon was unknown in ancient times (the longest race the Greeks had was about 3 miles), endurance is still required even for shorter races.

5) Not only are the words of the passage inspired by the Holy Spirit but so is the structure of the text. The passage contains only one main command: "Let us keep on running." This is modified by three participial phrases that tell us how to do this:

  • by drawing encouragement from others
  • by throwing off everything that hinders us
  • by fixing our eyes on Jesus

Here's my sample sermonic outline:

Passage: Heb. 12:1-2

Title: Keep Persevering in the Race of Life!

Outline:

Our encouragement

Our entanglements

Our example

I'll close with these words of Corrie ten Boom:

Look inside and be depressed.

Look outside and be distressed.

Look to Him and be at rest. 

Have a wonderful evening! 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Farming: Rooted in Faith

Farming is fueled by hard word but it is rooted in faith. That's because so much of what happens is out of your control. 

As I checked up on this field the kids were cutting today my mind went to this great hymn of yesteryear:

Here are some Bible verses that nicely complement this hymn:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose, and both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. 

The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to.

There should be no greater man or woman of faith than the farmer. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

God Created Us for Community

There is a lot that the running and the church communities have in common. The running community is a powerful force for good, giving you motivation, support, and guidance to reach more of your running and life goals. The science of surrounding yourself with positive role models is clear: it helps you succeed in life. Likewise, the church (like this one I spoke at on Sunday) is a place where Jesus Christ has invited us to his memorial service, to remember that he died for us and he doesn't want us to ever forget that act of love. 

By drawing together weekly and by taking communion, we share in a common experience and prod one another to greater enthusiasm toward God. Church is a time to take a weekly breather, to rest, to celebrate -- and to remember. The Lord's Supper at the end of the service on Sunday was the most meaningful part of the day for me. Just like on race day on Monday with 50,000 other runners, so being at church on Sunday reminded me that we're a melting pot of people who have overlooked our differences to thrive as a family.

Do I really need the running community? I most certainly do.

Do I really need a church community of old men in sport coats and twenty-somethings in blue jeans and gray-haired grandmothers and wiggling kids and pieces of bread being dipped into a cup of grape juice and hamburgers afterwards? Every bit as much. 

Post-Race Recovery

Recovering from a 10K race is an art form. After all, you just pushed yourself to your aerobic threshold for over an hour. Basically you need to treat yourself like an invalid for the first 24 hours if you really pushed yourself during the race. Concentrate on sleep and nutrition above all else. I slept for 10 and a half hours last night. Tonight I'll probably do the same thing. I feel surprisingly good today. I am going crazy wanting to run again, but I also know the importance of easing back into it. I know that recovery is critical. "Hard days hard, easy days easy" is my mantra. When it's time to run hard, I love to run hard. And when it's time to chill out, then it's time to go easy. This is why race recovery is such a beautiful thing. You must let go of the urge to run and accept the regeneration that's happening in your body, especially in your muscular and central nervous systems. I mostly feel tired, thirsty, and hungry after a race, in that order. Maybe that's why the first two statements out of my mouth today at the Mexican restaurant were "Estoy muy cansado" and "Tengo mucho sed." 

My meal (chori pollo) will help to replenish my protein, carbs, and fat. 

In the meantime, I'm taking a 3 day break from exercising. We runners put our bodies through a ton of work and overall pounding, regardless of the surface we might be running on. 

Have a wonderful day! 

A Lasting Lesson from the Bolder Boulder 2024

In every race there are contestants and there are spectators. The Bolder Boulder is different. All 50,000 of us in the stands had run the race ourselves. 

We were both spectators and contestants. 

Hebrews would call us a "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). The word "witnesses" refers to people who are able to talk about what they themselves have seen and heard. The point of Heb. 12:1 is that the heroes of faith in chapter 11 cheer us on, knowing full well from personal experience the kind of agony we are experiencing. We, the contestants, must now "run with perseverance the race set before us." Others can encourage us to persevere in the contest because they have completed the exact same race.

I love that! 

As I mentioned yesterday, after the race, winner Conner Mantz praised the crowd for the electricity it had added to his effort. But then he added this:

It's tough, though, like trying to kick and you're out of breath. It's tough to really enjoy the crowd 100% but I enjoyed it as much as I could.

My experience was similar. As a contestant in the race, I had little time to look around as I entered the stadium. 

I had to keep my eyes focused on the finish line and had to do so without distraction. In a similar vein, Hebrews encourages us to "keep our eyes on Jesus." Jesus mirrors the entire race from beginning to end and now waits with outstretched arms to welcome us at the finish line. Sure, we can draw encouragement from the crowd. But I can tell you from personal experience that focusing on others causes only spiritual weariness and discouragement. But looking at Jesus renews our strength and electrifies our courage. 

Let's look to him today, shall we? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bolder Boulder 2024 Race Report

How can I describe the Bolder Boulder? Simply to point out that it's the world's largest 10K race doesn't do it justice. So let me add:

  • With 50,000 runners, it's the sixth largest race of any distance in the U.S.
  • It puts on one of the best Memorial Day programs in the country.
  • It attracts top national and even international talent in both its "citizens" and "pro" races.
  • No city looks prettier than Boulder this time of the year.
  • The weather is usually ideal (like it was yesterday).

I ran this race last year and was hoping to improve my 10K PR this weekend. I wasn't the only person running his legs off. Conner Mantz -- who will represent the U.S. this summer in the Olympic marathon in Paris -- returned to defend his title. Last year he won the race by only 4 seconds. This year he did it again, finishing in 29 minutes and 12 seconds to outlast Eritrea's Haileselassie by just 1.8 seconds. On the final hill on Folsom Street, Haileselassie took the lead, but as the race went into the downhill into Folsom Field, Mantz found a new gear and became the first repeat champion since Allan Kiprono of Kenya in 2012-13. 

In a post-race interview, Mantz said he got a huge boost from the crowd in Folsom Field. "The crowd was so loud and it was just fun to be in such a special environment," he said. This what those last few meters looked like from my seat in the stadium:

And the rest of us? A 10K race is not all that difficult. I've done maybe two dozen of them. Still, it requires patience. Bolder Boulder is difficult both because of its elevation (1 mile above sea level) and its vertical profile (it has 272 feet of vertical climbing). My goal was twofold: I wanted to PR, and I wanted to beat at least half of the other 71-year olds in the race. My wave stood in line for an hour and 10 minutes before the gun sounded for us to start. 

It took me about a mile to find a pace that was sustainable. Runners were yo-yo-ing in response to each other and the crowded course. I found strength and comfort knowing what I was capable of and not allowing the pace of others to influence my own. My fastest miles were my first and last. I remember thinking that I had very little left in the tank when I finally entered the stadium. This was my view:

Folsom Stadium is a fabulous finish location for a race. I held my own and with a final kick managed somehow to achieve a PR. It was only by 2 minutes, but I was happy to take it. I also finished 34th out of a total of 77 runners in the male/age 71 category. I loved seeing people at all levels pushing to what was outside their comfort zone. That's the beauty of running. There is a challenge and a goal for every single level.

A GREAT RACE it was. There were so many unforgettable moments during the post-race show. Here are two of them:


I think the 10K is my all-time favorite race distance, and the Bolder Boulder is my all-time favorite 10K. I'm already looking forward to next year's race. A shout out to the race organizers for putting on another outstanding event this year. Thanks also to my former student Andy who invited me to speak to his congregation on Sunday in Denver. I enjoyed that. But most of all: 

To the loved ones we lost, you are forever in our hearts and minds. Your service and your sacrifice to our country will never be forgotten. May all of us take inspiration each Memorial Day from the patriotism of the brave soldiers and first-responders who died for our great nation. THANK YOU. 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Goal Setting

The best goals in life -- the ones you can achieve -- are those you can accomplish again and again. As is the case with most people who have already done the Bolder Boulder, I hope to PR on Monday. 

The best goals allow you to build a pattern of achievement. 

Setting a goal and achieving it can be very satisfying. Of course, the opposite is also true. Goal setting is one of the most profound things that running teaches you. It makes you consider your goals not only in racing but in life. You don't have to do a lot, but you do have to do it consistently. 

Examine your goals. Are they too lofty? Or just right? Remember: it's the process of working toward your goals that's the most satisfying.

Have a lovely weekend! 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Another Birthday!

My train-loving grandboy turns 3 tomorrow. Since I won't be here, I gave him his gift a day early. 

Future railroad man right there. Love you, Mr. Ira! 

Thankful for the Languages

You don't have to know Greek and Hebrew in order to really understand the Bible. It's astonishing how much we can learn just by reading the Scriptures in English again and again. But there are some advantages to having been exposed to the original languages. One is that we're able to make decisions. As you know, translators are also interpreters. As they work through a verse they have to make decisions. Does "the of love of Christ constrains us" refer to our love for Christ or Christ's love for us? Even more importantly, we might want to study the languages in order to become aware of how people in a different culture think. Language is not simply the way we communicate with each other. It's the way we communicate with ourselves. We both think and speak in language. That's why doctoral students will want to learn how to speak German and not only read it. 

So it helps to have an exposure to the biblical languages. Not a day goes by when I am not thankful for Greek and Hebrew. 

When We Preach

When we say to a congregation, "Thus says the Lord," we are really standing in the place of God. To say "Thus says the Lord," and God didn't say it, is blasphemy. Be humble enough to realize that. When you stand for God and speak for God, do it in a way that demonstrates this. 

Graduation Day!

My eldest grandson graduated from high school last night in Alabama. In the fall he'll begin the study of law. 

Congratulations, Carter! Very proud of you!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Don't Forget the Music

Don't miss the music in Scripture. Or in your walk with the Lord. 

We are people of words. We're good at words. The words of Scripture are vehicles that carry great thoughts about our great Good. How valued are the words of Scripture!

But in real relationships, there are always the unspoken sounds we dare not miss. In my younger years I often missed the music. Truth is, my relationship with God has often been too cerebral. But there is a dimension in every genuine relationship that cannot be expressed by words, a reality that makes you soar or ache or weep or rejoice.

In your daily Bible reading, pay close attention to what is said. Examine carefully the words. Explore their relationships. Get close to the Scriptures. But don't forget the music. 

How to Build a Strong Back

Repeat after me: Lower the weight. Use proper form. Full range of motion. Flex and hold at the peak of the exercise. This is the most important thing for building muscle for 95 percent of newbies like me. 

Taking a Deload Week (or Two)

This was my last day at the gym until next week Wednesday. After that, I'll take another week off when I travel to Hawaii. 

These are called "deload weeks." I've been weight training for about two and a half years and deload weeks work wonders. This is such a sustainable way of training. After a while I end up on a plateau, with nervous system fatigue seeping through, so I deload, refocus on the mind-muscle connection and proper technique, and then usually hit another PR. I've also noticed better muscle definition since training this way and that I'm less likely to get injured. "Work smarter, not harder" is so true, as I think many of us focus almost entirely on the latter. I've found that an active deload week can be extremely helpful to include periodically as needed. It helps you to come back stronger and to break through any sticking points you might have. Many people, myself included, "accidentally" deload when they go on vacation. After all, deloading is not just for the body but for the mind too. Mental health is an underrated component of the lifting journey. Heavy sets require immense mental strength. There are times when my head just isn't there due to mental stress from life, and that's when I also need deload days. Oddly enough, whenever I take a week off because I'm traveling, I expect the first workout to be terrible but it's almost always been better than the workouts I get after going months without any longer rest periods. I feel restored and motivated again, and the difference is massive for me. Also, because you stop going to the gym, you actually realize how much you miss and appreciate it and you find new motivation to get back on a structured plan and progression. 

Just a brief update. Have a wonderful day! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Love Me Some History

On a recent run at the High Bridge I stumbled upon the park's new historian. He is a walking encyclopedia of all things related to the Battle of High Bridge and the race to Farmville. When the newly-constructed visitor's center opens next month at Camp Paradise, I hope to sit in on his ranger talks. An interesting guy! 

Introducing Southside Virginia

Before doing my farm work today I thought I'd catch a little Vitamin D. After all, I don't want to be shark bait when I get to Hawaii. 

Here's the fascinating book I've been reading. 

It details the final week of the war in Virginia. These battles all took place in what is called Southside Virginia. 

In case that term is new to you, Southside Virginia is that portion of the state that lies below the James River and that extends to the North Carolina border. It is made up of two natural regions: the Coastal Plain (also called the Tidewater) and the midsection (also called the Piedmont). 

My farm is in the Piedmont. The former region extends from the coast to the fall zone, while the latter extends westward to the Blue Ridge. The elevation in the Tidewater is between 100-300 feet, while the elevation in the Piedmont can reach 700-800 feet. Southside is comprised of the James River Basin, which includes the Appomattox River, and the Chowan River Basin, which includes the Nottoway, Blackwater, and Meherrin Rivers. The average temps in the region range from 39 degrees in January to 79 degrees in July. Precipitation averages about 45 inches per year. 

At the start of the Civil War, there were 24 counties in Southside. The total population was 373,174 (44 percent white and 56 percent black). Southside has always been largely agricultural in nature. My own farm used to grow dark leaf tobacco, which was the main crop in the antebellum period. In 1860, Petersburg was the second largest city in Virginia and the eleventh largest in the South. Its industries included tobacco factories and numerous cotton and flour mills. Most of the mills were located on the Appomattox River. Petersburg was situated at the head of navigation on the fall line of the Appomattox River, so the city was fairly wealthy. Streets and homes were illuminated with gas lighting, and there was a gravity-fed municipal water system complete with fire hydrants. Many streets were paved with cobblestones, and the sidewalks were all bricked. (I've run the Petersburg Half Marathon several times and I can attest how difficult it is to run on cobblestone.) 

When, in 1865, the two armies departed the Richmond/Petersburg front on April 3, they would pass through the following Southside counties during the final Appomattox Campaign: Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Amelia, Nottoway, Powhatan, Prince Edward (where Farmville is located), Buckingham, and Appomattox. All but Nottoway have a common boundary with the Appomattox River. It was in 1854 that the Southside Railroad completed its line between Petersburg and Lynchburg. Originally the line was set to bypass Farmville owing to the many grades in the area. However, Farmville residents raised a total of $100,000 to bring the railroad through town. These funds were used to build the High Bridge that routed the railroad between Rice's Station and Farmville. 

Hope this gives you some context when I mention such places as Rice, High Bridge, and Farmville! 

Grandsons Are TOO Funny!

All 7 of my grandsons love to run but none more than Chesley. I've already challenged him to a race. The other day I sent him one of my slo-mo running vids, so he decided to try his hand at doing the same thing with his mom's iPhone.

Nice work, Ches. You're a chip off the old block. 

Gotta love dem grandkiddos. Can't wait to run a 5K with all 7 of them some day. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Running Is an Adventure

Let's face it. When you run the same route over and over again, it can be hard to keep the sport fresh and alive. 

If we're going to run for the rest of our lives, we need something more to our running. For me, this "more" comes in the form of 1) seeing progress, 2) running for a reason, and 3) having a good deal of variety whenever possible. As you know, one of the things I'm doing is running the High Bridge Trail backwards -- from Rice toward Farmville instead of from Farmville toward Rice.

As for my reason, running has become a life-changing experience for me. Running helps my body, nourishes my soul, and sharpens my mind. It's proven to me that you can do almost anything if you simply give it your best effort and trust God for the results. If I had known this would happen, I would have started running many years before I did. I will never be able to thank my daughter enough for getting me into the sport. Even now I'm amazed at all the things I've become because of her example -- a marathoner, a triathlete, a mountaineer, an adventurer -- and all because I'm simply willing to move my own two feet. 

With each day of training, it becomes more difficult not to be an athlete. You know you're a runner when you understand that the body you have is the only body you will ever get. You won't get to exchange it until the resurrection. Until then, giving in to the mystery of running makes every training run, including today's 10K, an adventure. 

Hope this helps in your own fitness journey! 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Thanking God for the Weather

Nobody watches the weather forecast more than farmers. Particularly hay farmers. There are any number of ways in which Mother Nature can complicate all aspects of farming, even when the haying season is not going full throttle. Green things are starting to grow again in Southern Virginia, and life is becoming increasingly busy for farmers across the Commonwealth. They have a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of of land to tend. That's why I was so happy to see that haying has resumed after several weeks of constant wet weather. 

If it stays too wet in the spring you get a late start and then all your crops are late, which affects yields. Climate change has only added to the complexity. In the past 30 years, both winter and spring have trended wetter across Southside Virginia. This spring was exceptionally wet. 16 of the last 31 days have had a considerable amount of measurable precipitation. 

Runners, too, can be a bit obsessive about the weather. I think when you run so much outdoors you have to be. I can't tell you how often the weather for that day wasn't anything like the local meteorologist warned you about. If you live in Virginia you know what I mean. I am no psychologist, but I imagine that our motivation to run is directly related to the weather outdoors. For me, this is true even of races that I've got coming up. For example, a week from today is the Bolder Boulder in the great state of weed Colorado. Thankfully, this is what I saw a couple of minutes ago when I checked the forecast for this coming weekend. Race day is circled. 

The weather looks perfect. Of course, I'd be going to Colorado even if the race was going to be held in snow. Although meteorologists are notoriously wrong, I hope they are right this time. All of this to say ... trust God and leave the weather to him. It is, after all, his world.  

Happy Birthday Peyton!

Being a family means frequently smiling for photos. Today was no exception. My son and his wife operate "My 7 Sons Farm," named after Nolan, Bradford, Graham, Peyton, Chesley, Ira, and Reuben. Today Pey turned 7. I love them all. Below are a few pics :-) 

Hope all is good on your end of the screen. Enjoy the rest of your day! 






Sunday, May 19, 2024

Advice to My 22-Year Old Self

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" 

Love that question! As you know, next month, God willing, I'm turning 72. I cannot believe it. I know I look that old but I don't feel that old. But the Bible says that 70 is old so that's that (Psalm 90:10)!

If I could go back 50 years to give my 22-year old self some advice, what would I say? 

For what it's worth, here are a few miscellaneous thoughts. I offer them to all of you but mostly to the twenty-somethings who might be reading this. This includes most of my students as well as my grandchildren who are entering college. I realize that if you're in your early 20s, growing old is probably the last thing on your mind. But what better time than now to start preparing for it? It will come a lot quicker than you could ever imagine. The following list is not presented in any particular order. They are simply things I've learned through the years.

  1. Life is full of surprises. It's not likely to turn out in any way that you imagined. It will be hard and it will hurt, but it will always be worth living. So stop trying to predict the future. It's something you will figure out as you go. Enjoy the weird craziness of life now. 
  2. Appreciate your friendships. Some will last and others won't, but for now they are your friends. Be there for them.
  3. Even if you can't comprehend it now, disease and suffering will enter your life. So appreciate and be grateful for every day of health God gives you.
  4. Use sunscreen.
  5. Never be afraid to follow a different path than everyone else. 
  6. Don't make yourself small in a crowd. Speak up when you need to. You have as much right to express your opinion as everyone else. 
  7. Drink lots of water. 
  8. You are not the size of your house.
  9. Not every email deserves an answer.
  10. Never worry about the opinions of people you don't respect.
  11. Breathe. REALLY breathe. Inhale for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds. Do this several times a day.
  12. Avoid consumer debt like the plague.
  13. Save, save, save. Just a little bit, but do it all the time.
  14. Ladies, if a guy ever treats you badly, don't stand for it, not even for a minute. If you need to, literally get up from dinner and walk out. 
  15. Own your own bad choices. 
  16. Choose a career that allows you to have the life you love, not a career that is your life.
  17. Call your grandparents. 
  18. Be patient with yourself. A watched pot never boils.
  19. Go outside every day no matter how you're feeling.
  20. Do what you love in life. Do what makes you forget time because you're so caught up in it.
  21. Stop being such a perfectionist. Looking perfect is great for a while, but what people ultimately want in relationships are humor, kindness, and loyalty.
  22. Hang out with people who make you feel valued.
  23. Be who you are.
  24. Read books (even the ones made out of paper). 
  25. Don't be embarrassed to be on antidepressants. I needed them for 2 years after my wife died.
  26. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with. 
  27. If you're in a situation where you can't be kind, at least practice civility. You are not in control of other people's emotions. If they're annoyed because you can't do something, that's not your fault.
  28. At some time or another you will be betrayed and deeply wounded by someone you loved and who you thought loved you. Let them go. 
  29. Pay your bills.
  30. Always go with your gut.
  31. For everything you want, you will have to give up something else. Most of life is about trade-offs.
  32. Brush and floss like it's a religion. It will save you tons of dentist bills.
  33. Count your blessings. Every. Single. Night. They are many. 
  34. Live alone at least once in your life. It's a powerful thing knowing that you can enjoy your own company.
  35. At times it's okay to put your own needs before other people's. 
  36. Spend time with the Lord every day. 
  37. Pick your battles carefully. You don't always need to be right.
  38. Don't be in a hurry to find a spouse. You'll find the man or woman of your dreams when the time is right and it will be worth every second of waiting. 
  39. Finally, be humble. I'm not talking about acting humble. I'm referring to being humbled by God. It is not until the self-sufficiency of our hearts is shattered that we will begin to understand the deep things of God. The bruising experiences of life are so designed by God that he uses them to shape us, to prepare us, and to move us into places of his service. As you decrease in weakness, he increases in strength. "It is doubtful that God can use any man greatly until he has hurt him deeply" (A. W. Tozer). 

I so wish my younger self could have heard and read this advice and really taken it to heart. In fact, my older self is still relearning most of these lessons.

Have a wonderful day! 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Phil. 2:14 Is Still in the Bible

In the early church, if you didn't like a passage in your Bible, you could simply excise it. Thus textual variants arose. But do we perhaps practice the same thing today? 

Permit me an example. In Phil. 2:14, Paul writes "Do everything without grumbling and complaining." Some of us have already cut that verse out of our Bible. We jump from verse 13 to verse 15. That's the kind of textual criticism we do not want to practice.

Grumbling becomes a problem when we forget. We forget what a privilege it is to live in the greatest country on earth. We forget what a privilege it is to be a student of the Scriptures and to gain a knowledge of God's word. We forget what a privilege it is to have so many Bible study tools at our fingertips on the internet. 

When I began seminary in 1975, I fell into the trap of grumbling and complaining. My classes were too hard. (They were supposed to be hard.) My profs spoke too fast. (Three fingers pointing at yours truly.) Not enough of my college courses transferred into my M.Div. program. (Graduate levels courses aren't the same as undergraduate ones.) I couldn't understand a single word my brilliant apologetics professor said. (But at least he was on our side.) There were too many textbooks to purchase and read. (Some of them are my favorite books today.) Grumbling and complaining! I heard it all through my years in seminary. What was wrong with us?

It was during my second year of seminary that I made a choice. I chose to have a positive attitude. All of a sudden my classes weren't too hard and my professors didn't speak too fast and I began enjoying the required textbooks. Later on in Philippians Paul writes, "Let your forbearing spirit be known to all" (Phil. 4:5). I love how William Hendricksen renders this: "Let your bigheartedness be known to all." That's an attitude of not sweating the small stuff. Of not taking yourself too seriously. Of being willing to meet people halfway. Of being joyful in the midst of hardship.

I had the privilege of being right there, through lengthy days and nights, as Becky battled with cancer. Not once did I ever hear of word of complaint from her lips. Instead, she often said things like, "No one has better doctors than I do. I'm so thankful." Through all the pain of her four-year struggle, her secret was her attitude. You see, when you choose joy, the sun is out every day. The room is filled with laughter. 

I first met Joni Eareckson in 1978 at an evangelistic meeting I was part of in Germany. As a teenager she broke her neck and had become paralyzed. Since that day she was never out of her wheelchair. When I met her, she had the biggest smile I had ever seen. Because of that smile, her life literally impacted the whole world for Christ.

Every morning before my feet hit the carpet, I pray, "Thank you, Father, for the privilege of living, and for the privilege of living for you." Everywhere in the Bible we read about people whose joy was not dependent on circumstances but on the Lord. In the words of Nehemiah, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). 

Friends, God is at work in our lives, turning our biggest irritants into priceless gems. That's why we can live our lives without grumbling and complaining. 

Have a wonderful day! 

Preachers: Let's Not Stop with Exegesis!

Hey folks. Been hanging out in Hebrews lately. I was in chapter 13 today. 

In verse 22 we find the expression "word of exhortation." 

This describes what today we would call a "sermon." Exhortation is not mere advice that can be accepted or rejected. Exhortation calls people to do something with what they've been taught. It is "strong encouragement" (Heb. 6:18). It involves information, but information that always includes admonition.

If you are a Sunday speaker, this is a matter you need to ponder as you prepare your messages. Exhortation is perhaps the most neglected yet the most needed stage in the process. Too much preaching begins with exegesis and then simply ends there. But remember that exegesis is a means to much a larger end -- practicing practical truth in our day-to-day lives. That's because the Bible was not written for our information but for our transformation. The ultimate goal of preaching, tben, is not to do something with the Bible, but to let the Bible do something with us. 

Just some rambly thoughts!

Why I Love My Gym So Much

The gym environment is a big part of why I exercise. Maybe it's the same with you. Hanging out with people who uplift us, teach us, and motivate us can really help. If you can, try to find a gym with people like that. You don't have to hang out with people who make you uncomfortable. Thankfully, the Lord has preserved my gym from self-centered lifters. There's always going to be someone who sucks at gym etiquette, but the Y where I workout has very few of them. That in itself is a huge blessing! 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Hard Work + Discipline = Results

Lovely day for a run. 

I don't know about you, but I love training for an upcoming race. The Bolder Boulder is exactly 6.2 miles. And guess what? That's what I did today at the High Bridge Trail. 

I'm sorry if you get tired of all my training reports. I have to say, this training is consuming and monopolizing my brain. So that's what naturally comes out on the blog. I find it fascinating how the human body can adapt over time. I can recall running one single mile without stopping for the first time. That was SO hard. Today that's a relatively easy goal. I'm not bragging, but I am grateful for my accomplishments. Hard work + discipline = results. That's true of every area of life. The other day a co-worker asked me if I was still running, unable to understand why I like running so much. I couldn't explain it to him. How can you? I used to think that running was crazy too! But once you start, you can't stop. 

Be honest. Are you exercising too hard? Not enough? Or just right? (Think Goldilocks.) 

Okay, sorry for rambling, but this has been on my mind all day long. Thanks for putting up with me! 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Great News about This Year's Bolder Boulder!

A week from this coming Monday, the Bolder Boulder 10K race kicks off in Colorado. Lord willing, this will be my second year in a row to participate in this amazing race. Contrary to convention, in this race the elite runners start after the rest of the field of "normal" runners. This means that when the elites are entering Folsom Stadium they are met by a cheering crowd of 50,000 runners who've already completed the race. I am SO happy to see that last year's champion Conner Mantz is returning to defend his title this year. In an epic battle for first place, Mantz rallied from fourth place with only a half mile to go to claim a victory time of 29:08. Afterwards the iconic Memorial Day tribute took place. For last year's event, here are my race reports -- in which you can hear me screaming my lungs out for Conner Mantz to win! 

Ready to Take That First Step?

I'd love to get more emails like this one:

Dear Dave,

Well done friend. You've come a long way and I'm looking forward to starting this journey as well.

God bless you, 

(Name)  

Millions have gone before you, my friend. Each of them faced the same fears and uncertainties that you are facing. Each learned, as well, the truth that there are no secrets or gimmicks when it comes to exercising. It's just you and the gym or the pool or the track .... 

In running and in life, the difference between success and failure sometimes comes down to a single step. 

"By Prayer" Or "By Prayer and Fasting" (Mark 9:29)?

Dwayne Green's most recent Youtube video discusses a really interesting variant in Mark 9:29. So I decided to take a look for myself.

There are two basic readings here:

  • "except by prayer"
  • "except by prayer and fasting"

As Dwayne points out, the latter reading is supported, not just by the majority of Greek manuscripts, but the vast majority of Greek manuscripts -- 99.7 percent to be exact. So why does the Critical Text exclude "and fasting"? More importantly, what can this teach us about the proper way to approach textual variants in the New Testament? 

There are many factors involved. As you know, the predominant view in modern textual criticism prefers the readings of two ancient manuscripts that are commonly known as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Of the four Greek manuscripts that lack "and fasting," two of them are Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Harry Sturz, in his book The Byzantine Text Type & New Testament Textual Criticism, argued that in order to understand modern textual criticism you need to forget virtually everything that has previously been accepted as fact about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. But to do this, you first have to understand how the modern proclivity to favor these two manuscripts came down to us. You can read his arguments for yourself. Here I would like to add to the discussion a framework advanced by historian Carl Becker (1877-1945). You can read about Becker's views in Ernst Breisach's Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (University of Chicago Press, 1994). 

Becker said there are two basic ways of understanding an event in the past. The historian, he said, can't deal directly with the event itself but only with statements about the event. There is therefore a distinction of capital importance to be made between the event itself which disappears and the affirmation about the event which persists. This "affirmed event" -- a commonly agreed upon interpretation of the event itself -- eventually takes over. True, the event is remembered, but not necessarily as it happened. Regrettably, argued Becker, once established, this "affimed event" becomes deeply embedded in the popular consciousness. Harry Sturz showed how deeply ensconced within scholarship is the "affirmed event." And because the affirmed version continues to mistakenly show a preference for Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, Sturz argued that there are better ways to account for the historical data. Furthermore, he argued that as long as the affirmed version is anchored in the minds of biblical historians, the true answers will remain hidden. 

So what is the way forward? To discover that, one must be bold, said Becker. Where there are gaps in understanding history, one must engage them with feasible hypotheses. This is what my friend Maurice Robinson attempted to do in his magisterial introduction to his Greek New Testament based on the Byzantine text. He argued (successfully to many) that the missing pieces must be included to help assemble the whole puzzle rather than leaving them out because they do not seem to fit. Sturz sought to do the same thing, though his conclusions differed somewhat from Robinson's. Neither would argue, however, that the "affirmed version" of New Testament textual criticism is of much help in places like Mark 9:29. Whether you count manuscripts or count text types, you end up with a text that solidly contains "and fasting." 

Just something to keep in mind my friends.

Have a wonderful and fantastic evening! 

Exercise Is Simple. It Really Is!

Today I got in an hour and a half run in Farmville. 

This is the trail I'll be doing for December's ultra. As you know, every week I combine running with gym sessions. 

One reason I like exercise science so much is because although there are a lot of details and a lot to potentially know, actually implementing a sensible plan of exercise that works is fairly simple. Behind the simplicity is a lot of research, but the plan itself is simple:

  • Run consistently.
  • Visit the gym 3-4 days a week.
  • Hit every major muscle group during the week.
  • Work out for no more than 3-5 hours per week at the gym.
  • Stick to basic movements.
  • Get enough protein in your diet.
  • Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Focus on quality form, proper nutrition for recovery, and resting between workouts.

Apologies for my stumbling explanation. 

Nap time!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Waikiki in 3 Weeks!

Right now Queens is breaking 5-7 feet. In the heart of Waikiki, Queens offers a fun but short left for goofy-footers and a longer right for standard-footers like me. The waves are usually split by a perfect A-frame peak. On bigger days the wave can barrel at times, but usually it's just a rideable face. 


Three weeks from today, so der Herr will, I'll be there with my board to celebrate my 72nd birthday -- and the goodness of our God. 

Virtuosity

My favorite definition of virtuosity is doing the common uncommonly well. Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

Not Exactly the Same

Confidence and arrogance are two very different things. There's a fine line between them. Self reflection is the key. 

I've noticed this for years and just wanted to mention it. 

How Should We Translate Kai in Heb. 12:1?

An adverb describes how, when, where, and to what extent something happens. Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, and even other adverbs. Adverbs give additional detail to how things happen. 

In my reading this morning, I ran across the word kai in Heb. 12:1. 

Although kai generally functions as a conjunction ("and") in the New Testament, here it functions adverbially. Below is the kai as it appears in the first three words of Heb. 12:1:

Remember, in exegesis our concern is "What do I see?" Pay special attention to terms and grammatical structures. This includes conjunctions and adverbs. I use a pen or a pencil to circle words I find interesting. 

Is the kai important there? Not if you consult the majority of English versions. Here's a brief list of translations that decided not to translate the word:

  • CSB
  • CEB
  • ERV
  • ESV
  • GW
  • GNT
  • NET
  • NIV
  • NLT
  • RSV

In the following translations, the kai is rendered "also":

  • ASV
  • HCSB
  • KJV
  • NASB
  • NKJV

The idea is, "Therefore, we too have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us...." I like that. But I like Koester's rendering even better. Often in Greek, a kai can be used to mean something like "in fact" or "indeed." This is how Koester translates it in Heb. 12:1: 

"Therefore, since we indeed have ...."

Again, I think this is a perfect illustration of how words like conjunctions and adverbs can make all the difference. I checked the Spanish, German, and French translations but couldn't find anything comparable to Koester's rendering. Schlachter 2000 has: 

"Da wir nun eine solche Wolke von Zeugen um uns haben ...." 

Please don't think me impudent, but I might tweak this as follows:

"Da wir in der Tat eine so gro├če Wolke von Zeugen um uns herum haben ...." 

If you don't like this, that's fine. I'm no expert in the intricacies of German grammar!

Now that you've seen an illustration of how to deal with adverbs in a text, you might want to use that observation the next time you engage in Bible study. Come up with your own analysis. And if you don't find a translation you agree with -- in any language -- try your hand at producing your own.

Have a wonderful day!  

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Passion

Don't limit yourself to one passion in life. You can love and be passionate about multiple things at the same time! 

The Slacker's Guide to Forming a New Habit

Another great session at the gym today. 

Which reminds me .... 

There are few things in life more difficult than starting a new habit. (Breaking an old one is a close second.) Especially if you're a lazy beach bum like me. Take seat belts for example. Wearing seat belts in California became mandatory on January 1 of 1986. It took me months to get used to doing that. It required a conscious effort. Today I do it so automatically I'm not even aware I'm doing it. 

Lifting has become that way for me. I can't remember when I didn't lift. It's just part of my life and routine. I work out 3-4 days a week and don't feel like myself if I don't. 

So, how do you go about forming a new habit? I'd begin here: tell someone. I know this sounds simplistic. But I do think letting a few people (or even one person) know will hold you accountable. The trick is to be honest with them and then expect them to check up on you. Creating a new habit takes 21 days. That's only 3 weeks. That's when they'll follow up. Tell them in no uncertain terms that if they catch you eating Doritos and reading "The Slacker's Guide to Life" instead of doing your workout, they have your permission to chew you out. 

Forming a new habit is SO hard but SO do-able! 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Never Rule Out the Underdog

As you know, I am an incurable infracaninophile -- lover of the underdog. I just love it when someone who is not supposed to win a race, wins big. When the little guy beats the big guy. Think Minutemen versus Redcoats. Think Joe Namath's Jets versus the Baltimore Colts. Think the U.S. ice hockey team versus the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics ("Do you believe in miracles?"). 

In the 2018 Boston Marathon, an unknown runner from Japan won the men's race. 

At first, the announcers couldn't even pronounce his name correctly. They lambasted him from the start: "He's in the lead only because he's trying to get on camera." But the same commentators who laughed and joked about Yuki Kawauchi's "crazy" move at the start would soon have to eat their own words. Clearly he was the strongest runner that day, and by far. His finisher reaction was so heartfelt. His was a real life Rocky story. 

Yours can be too.

When the Bible Is Too Familiar

For many of us, the Bible is a very familiar book. But as is true with all things familiar, we can miss much of its teaching. When a passage is so familiar, we no longer think fresh thoughts about it. So it's my job -- and yours too if you're a teacher -- to go into the familiar and help point out what is easily missed, while remaining true to the inspired biblical text. 

Have a wonderful evening! 

Untying Two "Nots"

Greek has two words for "not." Interestingly, both are used in Heb. 4:15.


I noticed this as I was doing a deep dive in Hebrews 4 this morning.


This literary device is known as a litotes. Essentially, a litotes is a double negative. It emphasizes something by negating its opposite. Thus "God is just" becomes "God is not unjust" in Heb. 6:10. When we say "I don't hate it," we are actually affirming "I like it." But the litotes downplays the difference. For some reason, we don't want to affirm the positive. Here are some English examples:

That concert wasn't bad.

He's not unattractive.

My car wasn't cheap.

The weather isn't unpleasant.

The results aren't inaccurate. 

The example I began this blog post with from Heb. 4:15 means "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses" (NLT) or "We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses" (GW). But the NIV is better: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses."

Which is a reminder that we should always consult more than one English version when we do Bible study! 

Have a fantastic week! 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

A Trip to Richmond

Good evening friends. I spent the afternoon in Richmond and its environs. I drove up there to bike the Virginia Capital Trail. This asphalted road connects the original capital of Virginia (Williamsburg) with its modern capital (Richmond). If you decide to ride the entire trail in one day, you're looking at a total of 52 long miles. I've done that twice and boy was it a killer, especially on your okole (pardon the Hawaiian). Today my goal was less ambitious. I wanted to ride from the Four Mile Park to the Malvern Hill Battlefield. Boy was the park crowded! I was barely able to get a parking place. I think I got the very last spot. 

I unloaded my bike, made sure the tires were full of air, and off we went. Biking is so much fun! 

After about 45 minutes, I arrived at my destination. 

This battle was the last in a series of 7 engagements that took place in one week in 1862. 

Union general McClellan had received orders to march overland from Fort Monroe and attack the Confederate capital in Richmond. Despite the name "Malvern Hill," the terrain is more like a slightly sloped field, one that obviously favored McClellan's defenses. 

Lee's troops advanced against the Federal lines but were quickly repulsed by sheets of Union fire. Unlike Lee, I had no trouble today making my way to the center of the Federal  lines. Back in 1862, charging a battery of artillery uphill was thought to be a good strategy. The end came quickly amid smoke, darkness, and confusion. But that didn't change the final result: McClellan's army was driven away from Richmond. 

It was time to remount my bike and make my way back to Four Mile Park. Here's a slo-mo clip.

From there it was a brief 15-minute drive to my favorite Ethiopian eatery in the city, named after the capital of Ethiopia. 

The owner, Bitew, is an old friend of mine. It felt great speaking Amharic again. 

I ordered kai wat (beef stew) in memory of Becky. 


I sat there filled with joy and gratitude. Not that I have achieved perfect contentment and gratitude. There may never be a point of complete serenity this side of heaven. For believers, life is like the Virginia Capital Trail -- a journey that's homeward bound. And although on this side of eternity the partings we experience don't get any easier, there is a bright side. We who love the Lord will never see each other for the last time.