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Miller Uses Humor, Poetry to Convey Message: 'TYG'

October 26, 2011

Miller, a noted author, professor, pastor and artist, addressed the OBU community during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, Oct. 26, pulling from Scripture and poetry to encourage OBU students to be thankful to God and their parents -- and to tell both "thank you" often.

He shared the text found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, "Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (HCSB).

To illustrate the point, Miller quoted his poem, "If There Were No B's," from his book, "When the Aardvark Parked the Ark." The poem tells how people can be thankful for something as simple as a single letter of the alphabet. It begins: "If there were no 'B's,' it sure would be sad. We'd have to ride 'ikes and sleep in our 'eds."

"Thanks be to God -- 'TYG' is all I can say," Miller said. "I come back to it again and again and again: a deep, thankful spirit. You know what? I love God. … It's hard for me to contemplate him without saying, 'TYG! Thank you, God, for all you have done in my life.'"

Miller said now in his eighth decade of life, he recalls a lifetime of reasons to be thankful as he considers his memoirs (which are tricky, he notes: "You have to write them when you're old enough to have had some experiences, and young enough to remember what they were."). He has captured his memoirs in his volume titled "Life is Mostly Edges." He said every day when he drives to the market, he is only 18 inches from oncoming traffic, and when he flies, he trusts his life at 30,000 feet to a pilot he has never met. And yet, he is healthy and safe, and thankful for both.

He read the message of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, which instructs Christians to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," a mind of obedience to death on the cross ("TYG," Miller noted) and glory to God. He said the Scripture about a person's mind makes him consider the brain: three pounds, about the size of a softball, in every human.

"The best thing to be said of [a brain] is that it is a place where we may access God, and he lives in this mind when it becomes the mind of Christ," Miller said, thanking God for the complexity of the brain and the mind.

He arrived on a bus on the corner of Kickapoo and MacArthur in Shawnee to attend OBU. Coming from a background of poverty, he said he did not have the $800 to pay his tuition, so his church provided the finances. A split prevented the church from providing his tuition his sophomore year, but he still arrived on campus to ask the treasurer to allow him to attend anyway. The man responded that someone had paid Miller's tuition anonymously.

"I hate anonymous gifts -- they force you to be nice to everyone," Miller joked.

It was nearly two decades later at his mother's funeral when Miller learned the identity of the man who paid his tuition. He was forever grateful not only for the man's financial investment, but also for his response: "I'm so glad I did. You were worth every penny," the man told Miller.

He said he was able to attend OBU for two reasons: because the man graciously paid his tuition and his mother paved the way with her hard work and faith-based instruction. He said if he could live his life over again, he would say "no" more often to work and church duties and "yes" more often to his family. He urged students to go home in three weeks for Thanksgiving break with hearty thanks to their parents and families, for in the retrospect of his own life, he said, "my affection lies with an Oklahoma matriarch who taught me that humanity is the porch of divinity."

Miller was born in Enid, Okla., and he graduated from Enid High School. He earned a bachelor's degree at OBU in 1958. He attended Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., graduating with a master's degree in 1961 and a doctorate in 1975. He and his wife, Barbara Joyce Harman, are the parents of two children, Melanie and Timothy.

His first full-time pastorate was Plattsmouth Baptist Church in Plattsmouth, Neb., from 1961-66. He went to Westside Church in Omaha, Neb., in January 1966, where he served as senior pastor for 25 years. During his pastorate, the congregation grew from 10 members to more than 2,500 members.

From 1991-98, Miller served as professor of communication and ministry studies and writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In January 1999, he joined the faculty of Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., where he served as professor of preaching and pastoral ministry. After retiring in 2007, he assumed the role of research professor and distinguished writer in residence.

Miller is the author of more than 40 books of popular theology and inspiration. His poems and freelance articles have appeared in various journals and magazines such as Christianity Today and Campus Life.