Book Notes | Life is Mostly Edges

bookI recently read Calvin Miller’s memoir: Life is mostly EdgesI don’t normally like memoirs, because they tend to be filled with stories that I don’t care about. I often find it hard to care about someone’s childhood in a book or the stories about their family they find fascinating. What I appreciated about Miller’s though was how I could relate to it. He was a pastor for decades and then a seminary professor. I found his stories to be fast paced and easy to relate to as a pastor. Also, when you are a pastor, you want to hear from pastors who have retired as pastors, who survived ministry. This is a chance to do that.

Here is some of the wisdom I highlighted:

  • We all like the middle. The middle is safe. You can’t fall off the middle. Only the edges are dangerous. The great lessons, the deep tragedies, the storms of unbearable heart-quakes always happen along the edges.
  • Joy rarely erupts in the safe centers of our lives. Laughter may inhabit the middle, but not joy. Joy rises only along the edges.
  • The bad times are never as memorable the good times, and the best memories live longest.
  • Religion and sexuality are the two strongest drives in the human heart. Of the two, I believe religion is the stronger, for it motivates us from the very center of our lives. It is a slow and steady light. The sexual need, on the other hand, is a matter of appetite gone mad only for brief minutes of indulgence. But religious passion motivates us through a lifetime of difficult and demanding service.
  • All marriages begin with people telling each other how in love they are. Most of those marriages die in divorce courts. I’m going in and making a promise to my woman, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life living up to it. ’Cause if you’ve got honor when you’re making a promise, you can find love just about anywhere. Honor is the bedrock of every real promise, and I believe it is the bedrock of every marriage that lasts. I will never love Barbara any more than the sacredness of my promises. In a minute I’m going to look her in the eyes and say, ‘For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.’ And when I say that, I’m going to mean it as no one standing at any altar has ever meant it. I believe that somewhere out there in the future, I will be more certain about love, but I will never be more certain about integrity than I am right now.
  • Sermons are only noble when they are so “see-through” that the pastor’s need for God is clearly visible through his words.
  • What I specifically learned was that people can forgive a leader whose vision may be errant, but they will never forgive a leader who isn’t visionary.
  • Congregational schisms are never about serious things we agree or disagree on. They are rarely heartfelt quarrels about theology or doctrine. They are nearly always contests about who runs things or would like to.
  • I would never be much good to God until I came to the place where I didn’t need the church.
  • The decision Barbara and I made on that one desperate night, we would prize evermore. We put our love for Christ and for each other above our need to be accepted by anyone. This became our inviolate creed of marriage.
  • Did I as a pastor love the things of God or did I love God?
  • When I dropped my guard and focused on Christ, what I had tried to make happen, happened automatically. The church began to grow.
  • None of the great saints of the church made his or her mark by trying harder.
  • It is impossible to hate your fellow man and pray at the same time.
  • Our lives belong to God, and I suppose it doesn’t much matter what we spend them doing as long as we desire his perfect will to be carried out in our love for him.
  • Bitterness is never appropriate. Hard times are never a matter of personal choice. Bitterness is.
  • Herein lies my greatest fears for the Emergent Church: in its attempt to start where the culture is, it rarely stops and asks, “Is this where the culture should be?”
  • Will somebody please tell me why God’s people, who surfeit under a mighty surge of grace, have so much trouble telling other people they are loved?

If you are a pastor or thinking about becoming a pastor, I would check this book out. To see other book reviews and book notes, click here.

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