Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Song and Not The Shrine

Calvin Miller


I first met Calvin Miller via snail mail. I had read The Singer while in seminary, and his poetic imagery of Jesus as the Troubadour singing the song of God's love cut to the core of my beliefs about who I was as a follower of Jesus. The line that became Ground Zero for my revitalized relationship with Jesus and perspective on the church was:
Life is the Song and not the Shrine.
I wrote Calvin a note about what his book meant to me, and he wrote back--as he did I think everyone who wrote him.Our friendship had begun.

I had stayed in touch with Calvin since that first letter through other hand-written notes, so when he came to Southwestern, I asked if I could take him to lunch. He accepted, and I was surprised when we walked out to the parking lot and got into his red Fiero. Pastor, seminary professor, artist, author, driving a red sports car? But when you got to know Calvin you learned his taste was demonstrated as much by that car as it was by his art and writing. Lunch felt like a meal with a favorite uncle who was far more interested in me than I was in him. But, Calvin made everyone feel that way, and I was blessed to be among them.

I dreamed of being an author and Calvin was my favorite--and only one I knew personally at the time, so I began to risk sending him things I was working on and wanted published. Calvin was honest--brutally honest--and, as a writer (and friend) he sent what I sent him back with comments about my need to keep working on my writing and not to quit my day job.

I guess I worked enough because Calvin wrote the Forward to my first published trade book, Jesus on Leadership. He was more than gracious in his comments about who I was and what I had written. If Calvin believed in you, he'd say so. We traveled some together with LifeWay and B&H promoting our books. I remember that he wrote day and night, and I learned what "prolific" meant by his lifestyle. (Our hearts beat together about servant leadership. His book  The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership and my book echo many of the same themes.) I remain humbled and grateful for his encouragement and partnership in that message of leading like our Leader.

Calvin and Barbara blessed our family, too. When he spoke at Legacy Church once, he signed some of his children's books to our daughters. We still hold those as family treasures. A couple of times when I led a conference at Glorieta Conference Center, Barabara and Calvin, who were there for the summer, had us over for a meal or visit to their home. You knew you were in an artist's and Jesus-lover's home the moment you walked through the door.

I have almost every book he has written and have kept the Christmas cards of his prints he sent Kim and me. Those are even more valuable to me now that he has gone home to be with his friend, Jesus.

Our prayers are with Barbara, his true partner in all he was and did, and his family.

The kingdom of God on earth is one saint less, but heaven has another troubadour to praise the One who gave him the Song.

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