05 Jun Life is Mostly Edges – Book Review
Life is Mostly Edges:
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 3
81 pages, $22.95
Reviewed by Reggie Ogea, Th.D.
Associate Dean, Professional Doctoral Programs
Professor of Leadership and Pastoral Ministry
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, LA
Bestselling author and poet Calvin Miller weaves his life into a masterpiece memoir.
The press release from publisher Thomas Nelson summarized the autobiography as a journey through “a myriad of experiences of a young man coming of age in mid-20th century America.” The memoir follows Miller’s life into college, seminary, a small local church, a large church pastorate, and crescendos to life as an author and seminary professor. Miller has penned more than 40 books, most notable his poetic trilogy of The Singer, The Song and The Finale, and most recently his companion textbooks on Pastoral Ministry and Preaching: O Shepherd, Where Art Thou?, Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition, (2007 Book of the Year by Preaching magazine), and Letters To A Young Pastor.
“Given the size of the universe, the world I have lived in, my life was quite small, and I have lived it out mostly at its edge,” writes Miller. “This is not surprising, for life is mostly edges. It is small – like a postage stamp… and I like the middle of my stamp more than the edges… The middle is safe. Only the edges are dangerous, but it’s also where we learn life’s greatest truth; joy rarely erupts in the safe centers of our lives… Joy lies only along the edges.” (xiii – xv) Life is Mostly Edges is divided into three sections: Part One: The Early Years, 1936 – 1955; Part Two: Staying Human While Being A Pastor, 1956 – 1991; and Part Three: The Professor How Like Teaching But Loved Learning, 1991 – 2007.
Part One is fascinating reading about his growing-up years in Enid, OK – living in a one-room house with his mother and eight siblings, being abandoned by his father at age four, enduring the drowning of his brother Dickie, reconnecting with his father at age fifteen, and admiring the grit and determination of his mother. The chapter about his mother (Mama, as he called her), entitled The Woman Who Was Richer Than She Knew, is some of the most poignant and honorable pages ever written about a mother’s influence. He admired her ingenuity: “My mother owned Rumpelstiltskin’s talent for spinning straw into gold.” (54) He witnessed her faith: “Mama loved God…as the Lord of the free life…the God of sunrise, the God of first snow, the God who a desperate mother might call on when she was out of ideas on how to hold her world together.” (57-58). He cherished her influence: “My mother was a miracle worker… Mama gave dignity to thrift… I realize now after all these years what a wizard Mama was… Mother taught us that it was God who supplied the bread, while we were the ‘managers of heaven’s gifts.’” (71-72).