Calvin Miller, Author and Christ-Lover, with the Lord
Five days ago a friend and author, poet, artist, speaker and professor Calvin Miller exited this world and entered a better one. The first time I met Calvin, I told him how his classic Singer trilogy had shaped and influenced me and charged my imagination as a teenager, a brand new Christian in the 70’s. (I’m sure he’d heard that hundreds of times, but seemed as thrilled by it as he’d probably been every other time.)
When I saw him periodically over the decades, and talked on the phone, we spoke of Jesus, his grace and Heaven. I love this man. What a joy to be with.
Years ago at Mount Hermon conference center, Calvin and I shared the keynote sessions at their annual writer’s conference, where I read from some of his writings to those attending , including a favorite poem I’ll cite below, which is included in Heaven and two of my other books. I saw Calvin at various places over the years, and always there was heartfelt warmth, picking up right where we left off. He was a very genuine brother, with a deep love for Jesus (and all the more so now). What higher compliment can I pay?
Five years ago when he asked me to endorse one of his books, I wrote something that didn’t just characterize that book but his life: “Calvin Miller baptized my imagination when, as a young Christian, I read his Singer trilogy. Once Upon a Tree is poetic craftsmanship infused with grace. Miller opens the window. Breathe deeply. He shines the light on Jesus. Open wide your eyes.” (Calvin’s website has a great video of him, a trailer for his latest book Letters to Heaven, which I enjoyed watching.)
In the final book of the Singer Trilogy, The Finale, Calvin wrote: “The world is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of earth.”
I’ll conclude with his poem I quote in Heaven and which I’ve read at several memorial services, and would love to have read at mine:
I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.
Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2000), 139.
Over the years, whenever I’ve thought of Calvin, I always smile. I can’t wait to see him again when, by God’s grace, I make it through that doorway. I look forward to taking long walks with him and others together on the New Earth, laughing and rejoicing, and seeing unfiltered the love of Jesus on Calvin’s face and a myriad of others. And of asking Jesus to walk with us, knowing and celebrating the fact that all we are and have and will ever enjoy, we owe to Him.