Today I'm Thanking God For ...

I'm on a quest (albeit a slow one) to read a biography of every president. Their lives are fascinating. What's more, it is an education in life and leadership. Having just finished Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper, Jr., a 600-page behemoth, I set out for a shorter read and landed on Grover Cleveland by Henry F. Graff. At 150 pages it belongs in the Flyweight Division, but Graff still packs a powerful punch.

Early in the book Graff recounts a time when Grover Cleveland, at just nine years of age, wrote a composition on the value of industriousness. Here is a portion of his essay (italics mine):

George Washington improved his time when he was a boy and he was not sorry when he was at the head of a large army fighting for his country…. Jackson was a poor boy but he was placed in school and by improving his time he found himself president of the United States guiding and directing a powerful nation. [1]

That is pretty amazing. Two times this boy who would become president noted the efforts of people who "improved their time." Cleveland's phrase reminds of a verse from Proverbs:

The memory of the righteous is a blessing. Proverbs 10:7 ESV

Commenting on this verse, John Kitchen writes,

The 'memory' of the righteous is their fame, renown or legacy. Such a mental legacy of the 'righteous' is a blessing. That is to say, to think about, reflect upon, study and contemplate the life of a righteous man yields great benefit to the one who expends the energy to do so.[2]

As I reflect this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful to God for a host of the righteous men and women who have improved their time and in doing so marked my life. So thank you Lord for . . .

  • My mom, who prayed for me and taught me the things of God like Eunice did for her son Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).
  • Jack Delaney. As a kid, I watched Jack for at least ten years. His infectious smile was evidence that "the joy of the Lord" could indeed be someone's strength.
  • My youth pastor, Chuck Bernal, who put up with my mischievous ways while leading me, encouraging me, and discipling me in Christ.
  • My college president, Dr. James B. Crichton, who trusted me enough to entrust his Sunday School class to a then 19-year-old theological neophyte.
  • Professor Paul Davidson (aka "Brother D"). A man whose love for God and his students I could only hope to emulate. Our third son bears his name.
  • Ray Underwood. My forty-year friend and 22-year ministry partner who chopped his own meager salary at 21 so he could hire me to work with him at his first full-time church pastorate.
  • Dean W. Berry, Jr. Shannan's dad and our children's Grandfather whose tenacious love and sacrificial spirit embodied "honor your father and mother."
  • Dr. P. David Nicholas, the founding pastor of Spanish River Church whose life and words were a constant reminder that the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."
  • Russell Douglas and Jim Clopton because they show me what it means to serve God for a lifetime.
  • Shannan. We celebrate 32 years of marriage next month. She models selflessness and support like none other.

I could go on and on and so can you. On this Thanksgiving Day may God bless your life with the memory of the righteous, living and departed. And as he does may you offer up "a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." Hebrews 13:15 ESV


[1] Henry F. Graff. Grover Cleveland. The American Presidents series, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Page 7.

[2] John A. Kitchen. Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary. Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications Ltd. 2006. Page 218.