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Aside from my father and two grandfathers no man influenced my life more, and more positively, than C. John Miller.

John was my friend, mentor, and confidant, sometimes amazingly even my fan, and certainly always my most faithful prayer supporter.   

Last week, this twenty-plus year hero in my life went to be with the Lord. He was 82 and as the Scripture said of King David, “He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor” (1 Chron. 29:28).

I think John also fit God’s description of David as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

I met John in 1991 when he was Chairman of the Board at Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary (later Cornerstone University) and I was a young and untested candidate for the institution’s presidency. He and others gave me a chance to run that race and run we did. It was a good run and I enjoyed every minute of it, in part because John was running with me.

I’ve been privileged to work with many trustees and supporters in several nonprofit organizations, including three in which I was charged with a leadership role. John ranks as the best trustee I’ve ever witnessed. He’s the best because of the total package he brought to the task: 

  • faithful—he always showed up
  • optimistic and positive—he was always “up”
  • proactive—he was not only open to new ideas, he looked for initiatives and helped cast vision for what could be
  • spiritual and ethical—he was a Christian who wanted to live and act in a godly manner, personally, professionally, organizationally
  • generous—he gave with an eye toward the good his gifts could do for others.


John was a quintessential leader. He led with respect and love for others. He really never tried to stand out, but he always stepped up and stepped out, and when he did, because of his character and example, others invariably followed.

John liked to say he was “just a kid from Kentucky,” but his affable personality, talent, work ethic, and genuine Bible-based spirituality helped engage his fellow board members and others in a desire to increase the academic quality and spiritual effectiveness of the institution, see it through a tipping point name change, and support the idea that a small school could dare to be more in a transition to university status.

John’s leadership helped reposition the “little school on the East Beltline that wanted to be left alone” into a truly Christian institution of higher learning capable of excellence. Why? For John it was always so students could learn to love and live for the Lord. John’s positive influence upon Cornerstone University lies deep yet today in the university’s DNA and it will for years to come.

John blessed more than the university. His family, friends, and those he touched can tell stories without end about John’s generosity with his time, talent, and treasure. I always believed God entrusted John with much because John was trustworthy. He was a faithful steward who didn’t wait for needs to appear at his door. He went looking for them, without need or desire for recognition. I know of seminary students, missionaries, pastors’ families, Christian educators, family and friends, business associates, and more who benefited from John’s helping heart and hand.

I know people, including me, who visited John primarily so they could unload their cares. He would listen, sometimes at great length, then talk about what could be done and, more importantly, what the Lord was doing or might do. He trusted the Lord and he helped me trust him. John was upbeat in the face of trials and he helped strengthen my resolve. John told stories of drilling several dry oil wells in a row and what God taught him during this stress, and then he helped me learn the same lessons. So it went, John sharing godly insight in a way that fit the situation at hand.

God gave John a sense of humor, a leadership talent he coupled with impeccable timing to disarm potentially volatile or paralyzing discussions. We’d be sitting in a board meeting getting stuck on an issue and John would say something about backing ourselves into a corner where “We had to vote on whether to mow the grass.” Or to put in perspective a group of churchmen’s rather egregious behavior toward the university John wryly observed, “Those guys couldn’t run a two-car funeral.” He laughed easily not because he was always happy but because he was always joyful.

John achieved both vocational and avocational success and received many accolades from a variety of business, political, civic, and religious sources. But he never forgot that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17). I remember John telling me more than once about driving by himself along an interstate, thinking about his life, and suddenly it would hit him anew how much God had blessed him. Then he’d tell me about welling up in tears and praying and praising God for this unmerited favor called grace. If anything, John’s humility became even stronger with age and accomplishment.

John was a good, forever friend. As Board Chairman, the first thing John ever said to me was “I want to be your partner in this.” He never wavered in this commitment.

Years later in the midst of a trial John said something I’ll never forget: “I’m walking right beside you.” I cannot put into words what this meant to me other than to say it was one of the most moving moments of my life. I cannot repay him for this, but I’ve tried to pay it forward by writing or calling others in the midst of their trials.

During what turned out to be our final discussion, the last thing John said to me was “How can I help you?”

This was C. John Miller. He was quite simply the finest man I have ever known.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2014   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at         


I grew up on “The Lone Ranger,” and all those other Westerns filmed in the 1950s and early 1960s. Loved them all, “The Roy Rogers Show” (along with Dale Evans), “The Cisco Kid,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” "Hopalong Cassidy," and more.

What I didn’t know then was that many of these programs offered fairly admirable presentations of right versus wrong, moral choices in which the hero, at least, worked things out for the best in the end. This is, for the most part, long gone from television and cinema.

One thing in particular about The Lone Ranger—he never rode alone. His faithful and intrepid friend Tonto, the Ranger’s Indian sidekick, more than once got the Ranger out of trouble. Back in the day Indians-then, Native Americans-now, didn’t get much credit, but Tonto was a man for all seasons, a man “to ride the river with.”

None of us can really go it alone and those of us who try usually if not inevitably fall on our nose. Check this new article for more on the subject: “Even The Lone Ranger Didn’t Go It Alone.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Years ago, when we were 26-yr-old young marrieds, we decided the Lord wanted me to go to graduate school in order to earn a Ph.D. Advanced degrees and possibly working in higher education had been a periodic topic of ours since our dating days, so the decision wasn't new to us. Now, finally, it was time.

I shared our plans with people in our church and the Christian school where we both worked as teachers. We were amazed at the reaction. Rather than something like "Hey, way to go," or "We'll pray for you" (to be fair, we did hear a few like this), several folks responded with minimal enthusiasm at best. When I informed people the only way we could do this financially was for me to lodge in Cincinnati for two semesters while my wife and two children maintained our WV home, many more criticized us, particularly me. I was told that if I did this I would be a bad father and a suspect husband (meanwhile I'm wondering about the traveling businesspeople I knew). I was warned this could undermine our marriage (of course, anything can undermine a marriage if hearts are not right). And the coup de grace, I was told I'd clearly be out of the Lord's will (and I'm wondering how they knew the Lord's will for our lives better than we did).

Yet the Lord blessed us. The two semesters of running back and forth on weekends was time-consuming and expensive, my wife driving a school bus to make ends meet was challenging, and missing the kids and Sarah while I studied during the week wasn't fun. But while we were apart, I became a focused student who accomplished my coursework and more. We were able to do this because we as a husband and wife were in full agreement and because we believed we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do. I still believe this 30 years later.

During grad school at the University of Cincinnati, we experienced something similar when we announced the coming of our third child. At university certainly, and even at church, I made the announcement to at least a dozen people before someone finally congratulated us. Everyone, including believers, made dumb comments about tax deductions, etc. One woman actually asked me, "How will you pay for their education?" I said to her, "You know, the baby isn't even born. His or her higher education is at least 18 years from now. I think maybe the Lord will point the way by then." She wasn't amused. But neither were we. I wonder what those folks would have said had they known the Lord would give us baby #4 about two and one-half years later?

Finally, after six years of teaching and administrative work at our alma mater in OH, we announced that the Lord had given me the opportunity to become an Academic Vice President at a Christian college in NY. Again, some people said "Congrats" and slapped my 34-yr-old back, but many wondered aloud how we could be in the Lord's will leaving a place as wonderful as the Christian college where we'd served the past few years. Interesting. That campus was indeed a wonderful place and we enjoyed every minute we'd lived there, 4 years as students, 6 years as a professor. I literally cut my professional teeth there. But the Lord had more for us.

I don't have a glib answer, even after 25 years, as to why people responded like they did to what for us was wonderful news of the Lord's guidance and blessing in our lives. But I don't think ill of them. Mostly, their motives were good; they were concerned for us. And though I've tried not to do so, somewhere in the journey I've probably come across to others in a similar way.

My best guess is that people make negative comments about another person's sense of God's direction because they superimpose their sense of His direction for their lives onto others. In other words, God isn't calling them to another land so He must not be calling you. God isn't directing them to go to grad school so He must not be directing you. God didn't give them another child, so why in the world would He give one to you?

I may not be right or even perceptive in this assessment. But I think I've seen it play out.

In the end, if you care about the Lord's will, you have to do what we've told our now-young-adult children. "You don't have to do it the way we did it. You don't have to answer to us anymore about what you do. What you need to do is consider the options together, take them to the Lord, and then do what you believe He wishes you to do. Live your life for Him, not others, not even Mom and Dad."

The best critics/friends are those who offer their honest insights and then get in the boat and row with you. Critics/friends who offer critiques and remain on shore aren't ones you need worry about. Ask Job.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The longer I live, the more people I meet, the more I understand that everyone has a backstory.

Of course this is an obvious truism. If people are breathing they had to have been born and lived life somewhere. But that’s not the point.

“Backstory” is a literary device or theatrical word. It refers to the history of characters, or in our instance people, that informs and maybe forms the present personality, emotional make-up, and perhaps circumstances or potential of the character or person of present interest.

Everyone has a story—who he or she is. A backstory is the story behind the story.

So what I’ve learned is that when I meet people, however they seem to me, there’s more to them. Somehow, someway the persons I am meeting are rooted in their own backstory. They didn’t awaken one day fully formed. They—he or she—didn’t become a jerk or a mean girl overnight. Nor did overnight they become a great person you want to get to know better. So while I’m no psychologist, I’ve learned from experience (at least to try) not to judge too quickly.

Of course a person’s backstory however wonderful, not so good, or horrible does not provide a free pass to act self-indulgently. I don’t mean we should overlook questionable behavior or attitudes as soon as we learn people’s backstory. No, I mean that we’re better off not to judge until we learn more about the person’s backstory because such knowledge invariably creates understanding and often with it compassion, or at least tolerance.

One of the things I learned in years of leadership is to always check the facts when I was confronted with an issue. Why? Because “there’s always more to the story.” People filter, put their best foot forward, obfuscate, and lie. People who do their best to tell the truth are still but finite persons who may have forgotten or missed some key detail in the story. Check the facts.

Same is true for people. Engage their present story and in time and as appropriate learn their backstory. Learning their backstory tells you a lot, a whole lot, about them, helps perspective, and maybe suggests how you should interact with them. Same, by the way, can be said about a people group like, say, Palestinians.

Learning the backstory is time well spent.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

At the dawn of time, God looked upon his creation, including a guy named Adam, and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). This suggests a number of jokes like “God created women because he knew men by themselves would make a wreckage of things.” If you look around, that joke isn’t far off the mark.

Really, though, God created men and women for companionship, first with himself, and second with one another. Notice that God’s observation began with “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Being alone can be productive if you get more work done, relaxing without distractions, or simply enjoyable if you spend the time reflecting on whatever seems interesting. But being alone too long or too often can also be lonely or depressing.

Companionship matters because God created us to be companionable people. We’re individuals, but we work best in community. Aristotle was a smart man, but he only got it half right when he said, “Man is a social animal.” Human beings are not animals, but we are social.

Companionship is key to successful marriage and it’s always a great story to read about a couple that’s lived in holy and happy matrimony for more than sixty years. Husbands and wives, rightly matched, balance, reinforce, hold accountable, encourage, and complete one another. When it works as God intended it’s a great thing to experience and to watch.

But some people aren’t and maybe don’t want to be married. They’ve chosen a single person’s life and there’s nothing in Scripture that suggests this is anything other than a different choice or calling. It presents its own challenges and advantages. In terms of challenges, needed companionship must come from someone other than a spouse.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong, per se, with being alone or choosing to live alone. A lot of people live alone for their own reasons or for a time and do so in a healthy manner. More power to them and may they be blessed with many friends.

It’s still rather interesting, though, to note that when you hear media describe someone as “a loner” it’s generally not a good thing. “Loners” can be so idiosyncratic they turn into hermits, recluses, or troglodytes. Howard Hughes, talented and rich though he was, became increasingly neurotic in his withdrawal from others, so his life didn’t end well or happy. “Loners” in this negative sense bring visions of the Unabomber. Companionship might have saved both men from ignominy.

Friends matter whether a person is married or single. Good friends are more difficult to find than one might imagine, and as one grows older, they’re sometimes even more difficult to find. But finding friends is usually possible and always necessary.

Companions must be carefully chosen. In Proverbs, Solomon repeated this refrain often: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). Real companions are loyal to not just you but to truth and your best interest: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born of adversity” (17:17) and “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (27:6). Who our companions are says a lot about us, and who we are attracts companions of a similar worldview, character, and vision: “He who walks with the wise, grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (13:20). Worthy people seek worthy companions.

Companionship can be developed, and in a healthy way, with animals. People who own pets typically live longer. Pets brought into nursing homes can reinforce the wellbeing of the people who live there. Many true stories are told of pets that in their animal instinct and loyalty reached heights of heroism and nobility on behalf of distressed human masters.

Companionship is sometimes best appreciated when it’s not available, i.e., “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Or, “I miss you.”

But companionship is also a warm and precious thing to appreciate when it is available. When a friend stops in unexpectedly. When a pet bounds to the door at the end of a stressful day. When a loved one passes and others sit with you in silent support. When the arrival of grandkids is given away by the noise of their excited chatter, as in “The Marines, er, the grandkids have landed.” When the beloved spouse sits or works quietly nearby. When the Spirit of God communes with your needy heart.

If more people experienced true companionship the world would be a more pleasant place. God grant us more companionship.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Sarah and I have remarked for years how few people seem to invite others, or at least us, into their homes. But I don’t think it’s just us because I’ve heard others make the same lament. I’m not sure if this is something characteristic of West Michigan or whether it’s a lost art in the 21st Century American culture.

In 17 years of university leadership we were invited to someone’s home only on rare occasions. There were, of course, notable exceptions. In particular I’m thinking of three families who invited us to share their home and hospitality many times. They were friendly and became friends, and we value their friendship to this day. But this was by far not the norm.

I recognize that as President I was considered the “Boss,” and social dynamics got in the way of staff members relating to me in any other way, no matter the setting. Personnel in most organizations do not typically invite their boss to their home. So I get that. But I don’t get others for whom this dynamic never existed.

As I said, I don't know if this phenomenon is unique to our region or a lost art nationally. Drawing on other experience I’d guess it’s both, meaning I believe West Michigan has an extra dose of it and that it’s a national trend too. But I also know certain areas of the country, the South for example, are characterized by more open attitudes about inviting people to one’s home.

In the Middle East, inviting people to one’s home is the height of hospitality. When first introduced, Middle Easterners would rather invite you to their home than be invited to yours. By going to their home you show them honor and respect and they, in turn, become better acquainted with you. In the States we don’t seem to do either as much as I remember from my youth.

In Proverbs 18:24 Solomon said, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly,” (KJV). It seems to me that inviting someone to your home is an incredible way to express openness and genuine friendliness. If I invite you and you come to my home you learn more about me because you see me in my natural habitat. The same is true in reverse.

Perhaps this is why people don’t invite others to their homes as much as people used to do. They don’t want others to learn about them. We’ve isolated ourselves in our cocoons and don’t want to be bothered or known.

It’s a free country, I know, so if people choose not to invite others into their home there isn’t much I can say about it. Except that I think they lose an opportunity for friendship, fellowship, connectedness, and community. They lose a chance to know and be known, which is a part of being human.

Inviting people into your home is a blessing that flows in both directions—to your guests and back again to you.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at