“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

– John 20:21

FAITH INSPIRED BY GRACE FILLED AND INSPIRING LEADERS

Dr. Kevin Miller was my mentor at Drew University as I worked on my doctoral thesis. During this time, Dr. Miller had a busy two semesters while he helped myself and four others complete their work, preparing us for the difficult task of finishing the hardest part of getting a doctorate, our theses. He also taught classes, and was the theological school’s admission director and a pastor of his own church. Dr. Miller was a busy person.

Mentoring us required reading our lengthy work and traveling thousands of miles to visit with us, from New Jersey to Texas to Arizona. All to help us formulate our thoughts and put together a coherent document that would pass the rigid standards required of a doctoral candidate.

Each e-mail or call I received from him was filled with grace. They all started with “Grace and peace, Bruce” and ended with “Remain blessed in the Lord.” Simple words that meant a lot. Words of caring and a certain faith in our Lord. They weren’t said or written mechanically, but with a sincere gesture to remind us of our Lord and his concern for us. When I would see Dr. Miller in person, he looked me in the eye, caring about me and my progress. He didn’t give a superficial handshake, but one of welcoming. When he listened, he listened to learn. He probed to know more. And his listening was never judgmental.

Somewhat terrified that we would not complete the hardest educational task, writing a thesis, all of us would talk with him here and there, by phone, e-mail, or in person. Each of us knew Dr. Miller had the goods and that if we followed him we would be okay. He wasn’t easy, he was hard. Invariably he would discover a spot where we were off track and suggest that we do our best—not in a “command and control” fashion, but through an intellect that was inspiringly deep. Not one of us wanted to let him down.

While he was very tough, he was also equally kind, never forgetting to tell us what he liked about our work, always knowing the context of the thousands of words we had written. Sometimes he would draw out things we should had written but had forgotten. Other times, through his analysis of our work, he showed us there was a different path we should explore. But always the presence of God was with him, bringing to Dr. Miller’s students a comforting knowledge that our work was sacred. He showed that to us, and required of us that we remember it in return.

When he arrived to meet with my thesis advisory board, he had traveled that day over a thousand miles and I was his last meeting. He said few words, but he listened and asked very pointed questions. Never harsh or intimidating, his questions made us all think. His very presence raised up all. Then he was gone to travel many more miles.

We were all left in wonder: who was this man, so sure of himself? So comfortable with listening and helping. His very presence lifted the standards of all in the room. His quiet nature cared more about the task at hand than about his long day. He came to help, but left us all aware of the presence of grace.

In John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Dr. Miller left us with this feeling. He came with the peace of our Lord and passed it on to each of us. Those of us who worked and spent time with him were all left with this sense of grace. There was never any doubt about the certainty of Dr. Miller’s faith, of the grace he brought, not with flowery words or commands, just with his presence. His faith is certain and trusting in the Lord.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman