I've said before that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Along with millions of Americans, I'm counting my blessings today. Right at the very top of my list this year is a man who has invested the past 43 years of his life ministering to students like me. As we gather around his table to give thanks my heart will be full to bursting. You can be sure of that.
I arrived in Baltimore last week Wednesday for 6 days of annual meetings for the various academic societies of which I am a member -- ETS, IBR, and SBL. I presented papers at each conference, reunited with friends, interacted with scholars from around the world, and stayed up late talking with roommates night after night. But the highlight was undoubtedly the ETS session on Thursday afternoon. A world class cadre of scholars gathered in the Baltimore Convention Center for a session entitled “Deuteronomy as Good News: A Conversation with Daniel I. Block.” The event was billed as a response to Dr. Block’s work on Deuteronomy following the publication of his NIV Application Commentary and two spin-off volumes of essays on the book. It was that, but it was also the unveiling of a surprise Festschrift in his honor. In commemoration of his 70th birthday earlier this year, Dr. Block’s friends, colleagues, and former doctoral students contributed 597 pages of essays relating to the message of Deuteronomy, published by Eisenbrauns. In the academic world, a Festschrift is probably the highest honor one can receive. It's a symbolic induction into the scholarly hall of fame, the Oscar award of academia, the proverbial "well done, thou good and faithful servant."
By the time I arrived at Wheaton in the fall of 2011, the Festschrift was already planned and the essays were in production. However, I was in the right place at the right time to help with reconnaissance and arrange for a celebration dinner with all the contributors. At the dinner I had the privilege of listening to tribute after tribute to Dr. Block's scholarship and character. I count myself among those whose lives have been forever changed because of this man. He has shaped my writing and thinking, trained and modeled faithful study and teaching, and most of all, he has opened his heart wide and welcomed me in as his own daughter.
It's not difficult to figure out why Dr. Block's students love him so much. His enthusiasm for God's Word is contagious, his scholarly output formidable, and his love for his students knows no bounds. Outside the classroom, he and Ellen have walked with students time and again through unspeakable pain and exhilarating joy, and those ups and downs have forged an unbreakable bond. I'm profoundly grateful that God saw fit to weave our stories together, and that this year we can join hands around the table and give thanks together.