If you were raised by someone normal, you have my condolences.
My dad, Lew Miller, was one of the pioneer Southern Baptist pastors in the state of Iowa. At one point, Immanuel Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids gave about 70% of the Cooperative Program money in the state. We left Immanuel to go to Taichung, Taiwan, as Foreign Mission Board missionaries for one term. Dad pastored an English language church near CCK Air Force base in Taichung and we saw what amounted to a revival at that base. The Vietnam war ended and the base shut down. During the most tense times at the tail end of the Keith Parks era at the FMB, he chaired one of the key committees and served as a peacemaker, though he was a committed and passionate conservative in every way. He pastored a church in Tequesta, Florida that – get this – built a beautiful new sanctuary with CASH! It wasn’t some kind of rich church. They just decided to build the building as God’s people gave. His first love was traveling the country leading Bible Conferences, which he did for many years until his health failed.
My dad was a pastor, a missionary, a Bible conference speaker. He was not normal.
- Someone once called him eccentric and he took it as a compliment.
- He gave his grandkids Yankees nicknames. My oldest was Steiny (Steinbrenner) and my second was Yogi.
- He was asked to speak at an associational meeting in Memphis during the height of the Conservative Resurgence tension. He looked at Adrian Rogers and his first words were, “I hate Adrian Rogers.” There was a gasp. “Every time I get home from preaching, my wife asks me why I can’t preach like Adrian Rogers and why I don’t have a voice like Adrian Rogers.”
- Back in the 60s, in Cedar Rapids, he used to switch pulpits with the pastor of the Black Baptist church.
- Dad’s love language was teasing. It could be brutal at times, but if you knew him, you knew it came from a heart of love. When I visited recently, he was so proud about a trick he’d played on his hospice nurse. He told me about it several times. He said absolutely awful things to her, and she loved him.
- Dad made sports an essential of the faith. Cheering for the Yankees and hating the Cardinals, the Royals, the Red Sox, and more recently, the Rays, were right up there alongside the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, and inerrancy in his statement of faith. I think he was kidding. Mostly.
- His Christmas cards were works of (modern) art. He kept last years cards and simply crossed out names and wrote in his own. One year, I got the Billy Graham card with my dad’s face glued over Billy’s.
I could go on about my dad. He was a bundle of contradictions. Weird and wonderful. Loving and harsh. Traditional and innovative.
I was talking to a previous state executive for Missouri . I mentioned my granddad, Eugene Pratt. He looked at me and said, “Wait, is your dad Crazy Lew Miller?” Dad wore that as a badge of honor.
He’s been sick for a long time. He got COVID the same time I did (one of us likely gave it to the other, or got it from the same source). I got better but he’s been unresponsive for the last several days.
This morning, my dad opened his eyes and saw Jesus.