Calvin Miller, educator, preacher and writer, recently died. Dr. Miller was a unique writer who knew few equals. He led two of our Spiritual Renewal Sundays and brought his own brand of insight, humor and theological reality to our church. I read one of his first books in the early 1980’s and was hooked on his style. He was sort of a poor man’s J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.
Phyllis Diller also recently passed away. Ms. Diller, comedienne extraordinaire, was 95 when she died. She was a fixture on the clean by today’s standards television variety shows of the sixties and seventies. She was self-deprecating as a form of comedy and certainly dressed the part. In reality she was an award winning actress, concert pianist and gourmet cook. To say you can’t judge a book by its cover is complete understatement in the case of Phyllis Diller.
Who left the biggest footprint? It’s probably not a fair question but there’s little doubt Ms. Diller would win that competition. For people in my generation she was the first superstar comedian who held her own against the Bob Hope’s of the world. She paved the way for all female comedians who followed. Dr. Miller? In my book he wins due to the way he was able to write, articulate and live his faith. I am a better and stronger believer due to his work. In my life at least, he leaves the biggest mark.
This isn’t to say Phyllis Diller wasn’t a great person, maybe even a great person of faith. I don’t know about her faith. She made me laugh and for that I’m grateful. She helped me find humor as a way to navigate life. I’m appreciative for that too. But her jokes never challenged my faith, nor did her words cause me to consider following God at a deeper level. Calvin Miller led me to want to become a writer way back when. He encouraged me with these words a few years ago: Remember Michael, we don’t do this for the fame or the money, neither will come our way, we do this for God’s Kingdom. He actually said we. I had just admitted to him I was ready to give up and stop writing. I told him I had literally tens of readers and wondered why I was working so hard at it for so seemingly little gain. He put it all into perspective for me. Impact one person and its worth the effort.
I’m not a better writer for getting to know Calvin Miller. He was not a miracle worker. I am simply a better person and believer due to his life. He leaves a massive footprint. And at the end, isn’t that what life is all about?