Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, December 11, 2022
Thanksgiving – Part 4… Personal Reflections
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: Last month, I wrote three RRs about Thanksgiving Day and thanking God. I write this (a fourth) RR, because I can never be thankful enough. I write this RR only for myself. It is personal. Since Rabbi Weiner has sent this RR to you, you are welcome to read it, if you have the time and the inclination.
“IT’S ALL ABOUT ME:” I try not to write about myself in these RRs. Today is an exception. This RR is personal. It is all about me, but I have a purpose. I hope this RR sparks interest in your going through the same three-part thought process to thank God in a more meaningful way. It is easy to say, “Thank you.” It is more meaningful to think how you have failed a generous, gracious God and, then, formulate a plan to avoid the same failures in the future. I choose four general topics for thankfulness, dividing each topic into three parts, as follows:
● First part– God’s blessings: I list a few things for which I am thankful. It is not enough to think of something and say, “Thank you.” Even a small child can do this. And, we can mutter thanks, with little character change or building maturity. If any thought was given to thanking God at the Thanksgiving Day meal, it may have gone something like this: “Thanks, Lord, for everything. Pass the gravy, please.”
● Second part– my failures: For each topic of thankfulness, I reflect on how I have failed God or others. This is a more difficult admission, and is necessarily brief. I will not share all of my faults with you. (How long can an RR be?) I learned many years ago that I am imperfect. I am now nearing my eighty-second birthday. I do not know if I have another day, month, year, or longer to live, but death grows closer each day. I feel like I am living with other elderly people in a BBC (British) television comedy, entitled, “Waiting on God.” At this point in my life, I am truly waiting on God.
I am reminded of the tombstone epitaph of Ruth Bell Graham (Mrs. Billy Graham). As Billy and Ruth were driving through their beautiful western North Carolina countryside, they were delayed by road construction. Seeing a road sign erected by the Highway Department at a highway construction project, she told Billy she wanted that sign’s wording inscribed on her tombstone. Ruth is buried in a small garden at the Billy Graham Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her tombstone is inscribed, as was the highway construction sign: “End of Construction– Thank you for your patience.” I fear my “construction” days will end before I quit trying the patience of others.
● Third part– my corrections: Before my retirement, I was the director of the Blount Memorial Hospital Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Maryville, Tennessee. This department is vigorously inspected and regulated at regular intervals. We had to satisfy meticulous demands of numerous state, federal, and peer accreditation organizations. For every real or potential problem uncovered by us or the inspectors, I had to document in great detail corrective actions we undertook to correct (eliminate) an existing problem and/or prevent a hypothetical problem from occurring in the future. This process is excellent for all of life’s situations. Since this RR section is solely for me, I will keep my corrective actions private. I will simply mark this part as: “????? (Personal).”
► TOPIC 1– I THANK GOD, IN THREE PERSONS, FOR EVERYTHING GOOD AND WORTHWHILE IN MY LIFE:
● First part– God’s blessings: Everything I have or hope to have, I owe to God. Trying to list these things would be like listing my entire life in minute detail, which would be an impossible task because one good gift or blessing would bring to mind other gifts or blessings. I also thank God for many things I know that have been done for me, of which I am not even aware. I thank God for this (my first) life and salvation, and I thank Him for the eternal life (the second life) that is yet to come. I thank God that Yeshua is overseeing the building of my home in Heaven (John 14:1-4), and that Heaven will be far greater than my mind can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9). I thank God for the “blessed hope” of eternal life in New Jerusalem (Titus 2:13). I thank God for His only begotten Son (John 3:16), who was willing to die for me on Golgotha’s cross, who was supernaturally resurrected, and who will return some day as the embodiment of our Blessed Hope, that I may also defeat death and be evermore with Him (2 Corinthians 5:8). I thank God for the promise that at my inevitable judgment (Hebrews 9:27), Yeshua’s blood sacrifice has secured for me God’s mercy and grace (forgiveness) for my sins, not the second death (guilty of sins) I deserve.
● Second part– my failures: I have failed God. Try as He has to make my life wonderful, my gratitude has been weak and insufficient, and often absent. God has given me vast amounts of “gold,” but I have given to Him a pitiful handful of “sand” in return. In God’s presence, I feel dirty and inadequate, clothed in the filthy rags of my iniquities (Isaiah 64:4-9). I am in agreement with the Apostle Paul, when he confessed in anguish and despair that he could not understand his actions– he did what he did not want to do, even though he hated himself for failing God (Romans 7:15). Why do I– why does any Believer– fail God, when right and wrong are so clearly defined in the Bible? Do I– why does any Believer– love Satan so much that this evil monster’s ways are chosen and followed over God’s pure and good ways?
● Third part– my corrections: ????? (Personal).
► TOPIC 2– I THANK GOD THAT I LIVE IN AMERICA AT THIS TIME IN HISTORY:
● First part– God’s blessings: I realize the United States is collapsing. I firmly believe our country is under God’s judgment for her many sins. (If you do not know these sins, wake up and observe what is happening all around you.) From God’s prophets, I believe such collapse is inevitable. I realize that “God’s people over whom His name is called” in America have not followed the formula revealed to Solomon for a nation to be healed and brought into a right relationship with God (2 Chronicles 7:14). However, I am grateful for the many good things– the many blessings– from God that I have enjoyed during my lifetime in America. Most Americans are good people. During my life, I have enjoyed Constitutional freedoms. The framers of the Constitution clearly opined that this marvelous document (and the government it founded) was suitable only for a Judeo-Christian people. The citizen living under Judeo-Christian ethics can best understand American constitutional freedoms and responsibilities. The First Amendment guarantees me the right to worship in any manner I wish. My teenage years occurred during the 1950s. I have thought often about how fortunate I am that I grew up during this time. My generation is called “the Silent Generation.” We should no longer be silent, but we should shout from the rooftops as loudly as possible that we enjoyed an exceptionally good life during the 1950s. My childhood was better than that of my children, and the childhood of my children was better than that of my grandchildren. My patriotic generation would never disrespect the American flag or national anthem. I still get a lump in my throat when I see the flag pass by, or hear the anthem, or meet a person in the military (active duty or veteran). My generation knew the extreme sacrifices young men and women have made to preserve our way of life.
● Second part– my failures: Although I have tried to be a good citizen, follow all laws, and respect our nation’s history, I probably could have been an even better citizen.
● Third part– my corrections: ????? (Personal).
► TOPIC 3– I THANK GOD FOR MY WIFE:
● First part– God’s blessings: I am firmly convinced there was Divine help in finding Linda to be my wife. Almost by “accident,” I had a blind date with a fifteen year-old girl, Linda Hunley. Wow! She was drop-dead gorgeous, petite, cute, sweet, kind, smart, faith-filled, and… well, she was as nearly perfect as I could wish. I have done dumb things in my life, but on this matter I was a “genius.” I knew I could not let her “get away,” and within three years, we were married. In ten days from now, we will have been married sixty-one years. In writing this RR, I tried to think of one thing, whether small or large, that I would change in her, or have her improve, or have regrets about our marriage. I cannot think of one negative thing. She has been as nearly perfect a wife as I could ever want. I honestly cannot remember one argument or fight we have had in sixty-one years of marriage and three years of courtship/ engagement. Not one! How blessed I am that she has created a peaceful home for me and our children.
Incidentally, I have a request for Yeshua: As You are building our homes in Heaven (John 14:2-3), I would request my home be built next to Linda’s home. In our early marriage, I was in school in Memphis. I would take a break in studying about 10:00 p.m. Linda and I had no money for entertainment. We would walk to the bank of the Mississippi River and watch the barges on the river, talk, hold hands, and snuggle. (Memphians today would not believe we walked the streets of Memphis in the late evening, without harm. We would not try this now in broad daylight. Were we lucky? Are our “guardian angels” still in therapy, trying to recover? Back to the subject: If Linda and I have adjoining dwelling places in Heaven, we may be able to walk to and sit on the bank of the River of the Water of Life (Revelation 22:1-2). This River will far surpass the Mississippi River we formerly enjoyed.
● Second part– my failures: Linda is a better person, than I am. She is a better wife, than I am a husband. Even so, we have done many things right in our marriage. We completely avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. Only Linda can speak for herself, but I believe our marriage bed has been held in honor and kept undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). I should have helped more with housework, and I am not sensitive enough. Someone stop me before I confess more faults. In short, I have not been as good a husband as Linda deserves. But, being such a sweet and kind person, she does not complain.
● Third part– my corrections: ????? (Personal).
► TOPIC 4– I THANK GOD FOR MY FAMILY:
● First part– God’s blessings: God has given Linda and me wonderful children and grandchildren. I think I should show you photographs and brag ad nauseam at this point, but I will spare you. I never put pressure on my children to be anything in life, except where their hearts led them. There was only one thing I really wanted for them. I wanted them them to be good people. They are all exceptionally, exemplary good people. They have exceeded my wishes in this regard. Thank you, kids, for making me happy by turning out so well. Thank you, Linda, for doing such an outstanding job in our home. I give Linda most of the credit for our children’s character.
● Second part– my failures: I was so busy with a heavy workload, I did not spend as much time with my children as I wish I could have spent. Even when “off” from work in the evenings, I was often physically and emotionally spent. On some evenings, it was all I could do to eat supper and go to bed. Fortunately for them, they had a superb mother who filled in any gaps in my parenting.
I realize that among God’s most precious gifts to me– my heritage– were my children and grandchildren (Psalm 127:3). Sadly, I do not know how I could have done much better. The practice of medicine is a brutal taskmaster. Most of my colleagues were also trapped by this taskmaster. I was either at the hospital, working, or at home, with my family. I never, never took time off just for myself. I never hunted, fished, played golf, and so forth, because I would have considered such time away at these two activities– work and family time– as selfishness on my part.
Following, I mention two news stories reported in recent weeks which grieve me because they underscore the importance of children and the uncertainty and brevity of life:
□ Four University of Idaho students were butchered in their sleep in Moscow, Idaho. These young people were greatly loved by their families and had full lives of promise and happiness ahead of them. These lives were senselessly ended by a monster.
□ At a Walmart Store in Chesapeake, Virginia, another monster– a Walmart employee– opened fire on fellow employees, killing several. The death that touched me most was a 16-year old boy (described as a “good boy”) who had just started working the night shift to make a little money to assist his poor family. With his first paycheck, he bought his mother a little gift. I was so touched by this article, I could not finish reading it. It is heart-breaking and unjust that this boy died at such a young age.
I could not be a pastor. The Ruach ha-Kodesh must have known this because I was not called to the ministry. How difficult it must be to conduct a funeral service in situations such as I have just described. I was medical examiner for Blount County for many years (and assistant medical examiner for Knox County for a few years). I handled deaths of many people, but the ones that were the hardest to handle were children’s deaths. I recently wrote in an RR that I hope we have a “school” taught by an angel in the Millennium. There are some questions I hope get answered. One question is: Why must children die so early in life? I think I may know part of the answer, but there are gaps in my answer I need help filling in.
My second-born child, Ray, died unexpectedly of natural causes in November, 2018. The natural order of life is that a parent should die before his/ her child. But, natural order is not always followed, and some parents receive a heart-breaking telephone call in the early morning hours, telling them their son or daughter is dead. Since Ray’s death, I occasionally play over and over in my mind how I failed him or could have been a better parent. Unfortunately, I cannot improve or correct the past. I just hope that Ray is now with Yeshua in Paradise, and I can tell him personally some day that I wish I had been a better parent.
● Third part– my corrections: ????? (Personal).
CONCLUSION: I will continue this self-examination with more topics on my own, but I will not bore you additionally with my faults. Anyone who knows me knows my faults are many. Also, please excuse my rambling. Rambling for me is inevitable, and I may still have a bit of “turkey hangover” which blunts my thinking. Incidentally, Linda’s Thanksgiving dinner was outstanding!
I do suggest that you examine yourself in a similar, three-part manner. Consider God’s blessings to you, how you have failed Him, and how you will prevent such failures in the future. You may learn from the past and become a better person in the present and future. Such reflection should not be used to beat yourself up, but should be an opportunity for improvement. A quotation from Robert Plant summarizes the goal of such reflection: “The past is a stepping stone, not a millstone.” Use the past to step forward, but do not use the past to hang a weighty millstone around your neck.
We are just days away from January 1. Some people make New Year’s resolutions. I never make such resolutions. I know I will not keep any resolutions and I devoutly avoid making lists of any kind. If you make resolutions, this process may be useful in assessing your flawed, past life and preparing for a better, future life. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 11-Dec-2022 17th of Kislev, 5783
Ge 37:1-11 1 Sa 18 Ps 62-63 Mk 12 (1 Co 9)