Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Andy Miller: A Legend and a Legacy

I'll never forget the first time I met Bill Miller. He was a friend of my older brothers. We were heading out to Central Music Institute (a territorial music camp in The Salvation Army Central Territory) to pick my older brothers up (which means I was not yet 14, or old enough to attend the camp myself). During the Sunday morning worship service, Bill Miller got up and gave his testimony. He was nervous. There were lots of ums and pauses, interspersed with outbursts of expression. He told of how the Lord met him while kneeling in a latrine at boot camp. Let me tell you, that kind of story sticks with you.

About a year later, my family moved to Chicago and I had the pleasure of getting to know Bill even more. He is one of the most sincere, intense individuals I've ever known. I'm sure he gets a lot of that from his father, Andy Miller - another sincere and intense individual.

Andy Miller is, indeed, a legend within The Salvation Army and even in some circles outside of the Army. Known by common men and women, as well as the highly influential (presidents, CEOs, Catholic dignitaries and big name reporters), Andy Miller welcomed them equally and encouraged each and every one. The few times I found myself in his presence, I felt an irresistible pull to run to the Mercy Seat (the altar for prayer) and to become a better person than I had ever been. He inspired that in people.

This little book, Andy Miller: A Legend and a Legacy, is only 138 pages in length but it is chock full of anecdotes from the life of this legendary individual. So what made Andy Miller legendary?

I think partly, he was legendary because God gifted him with a charisma that was irresistible. Anyone who met this short power-house of a man knew that he was dynamic and attractive. But, he didn't attract people to himself, he attracted them to the Lord.

Another thing that contributed to his legendary status was his willingness to commit wholeheartedly to his calling. When Andy was a cadet in training to become a Salvation Army officer, one of his instructors asked the cadets, "Who here will witness to one person every day outside The Salvation Army and outside of family?" Andy's was the only hand to go up. He kept that commitment, saying he only probably missed four or five days in the six decades or so after commissioning.

He talked to strangers on the sidewalk. At one point, he was jogging and met up with Robert Kennedy. He gave him a brief word of encouragement and made such an impact in the limited number of encounters they had that he was later asked to be an honor guard at Robert Kennedy's funeral. His older son remarked that when he was out and about with his father, it was like his dad was running for office or something, but he was merely following his commitment to woo as many souls to God as possible.

If he committed to pray for someone he would add their name to his prayer list for a full ten days. Moreover, he never seemed to leave an individual without offering to say a prayer with them. One of my favorite anecdotes recounted a time when Andy was meeting with the CEO of Firestone. Prior to leaving his office, Andy spoke up saying, "Mr. Firestone, our Founder said that we should go for souls and go for the worst, so we would like to pray with you!"

I was especially convicted by his words regarding his own mother, Martha Miller. He said of her, "She was my clearest, dearest idea of God, a God of love, tenderness and grace, leaving an indelible spiritual imprint in the formative years of my life."

In his own parenting, he clearly followed her example. Bill acknowledged that his father called him to be everything that he could possibly be. After one particular bout of trouble, Bill was expecting his father to lower the boom. His father said, "Willy, I love you. I'm only disappointed in you because you're a better boy than this. Go up to your room, know that I love you, know that Jesus loves you, and you better never do that again."

His loving tenderness as a parent was clearly expressed in his affection and dedication to his oldest daughter, Martha (who, because of her Down's Syndrome, lived with them clear into her fifties). Later in life, Martha developed Alzheimer's. The author writes,

"Andy was led to take the measure of sleeping in the same room with Martha, himself tied to her so that if she moved he would know she needed him, and not injure herself during the night. From the time of Martha's incapacity to rest safely through a night, Andy had 1,074 consecutive such nights, all without a full night's sleep for himself."

Several weeks ago, on Facebook, I read with great sadness Bill Miller's post stating that his father had been "Promoted to Glory" (the Army's term for death). It had only been a few months before Christmas that I had picked up this little biography at a Goodwill store. As I read the many stories of Bill's father, it was clear that Andy Miller most certainly left behind a firm legacy for his children. He was a man after God's own heart, calling others to draw nearer to our Lord. Heaven is, no doubt rejoicing over this good and faithful servant!

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