Miller's book is "about seeing heaven as a place for wrapping up the unfinished business of earth." (xiv) There, all the loose threads are tied up.
This is not a book about pearly gates. It is a book about people, starting with Jesus. This is a book about mentors, loved ones, friends.
Some of his letters are full of thanks. With beautifully crafted words, Miller sends a letter to his mother, telling her how much her support meant to him.
Some of his letters are rather blunt. He writes to a fellow he is not so sure is in heaven, telling of the last time he stopped by, giving one more opportunity to accept Christ. But his friend had been defiant to the end.
He writes to heroes, the individuals to whom so many of us are indebted. He writes to individuals who impacted him greatly, such as the woman professor teaching Bible at college.
Not all of his letters are to people he knows are in heaven. Some of his letters are just loose ends that need to be tied up, such as his letter to the famous movie star, Farrah Fawcett, with whom he shared Thanksgiving dinner in 1969.
Some of his letters bare his heart. He writes to a child, gone from this earth too soon, for those left behind. Miller officiated the funeral. "The service was over. We gathered at your tiny grave, that obscene hole in the earth that seemed too small to suck in all the question marks." (54)
He writes to his older brother who drowned when Miller was three. His brother was ten. "If only you hadn't gone swimming." (131)
Sometimes Miller is sentimental, not wanting the classmate who died in a fire to be in hell. He is sure God could not do that to such a sweet girl because Miller could not have done it himself.
He writes to a winsome man whose wife was a sourpuss (sure they are reunited in heaven). He writes to Jim Elliott, a martyr whom he had never met. He writes to Paul Little, whose books helped him so much.
Sometimes the recipient is really a surprise, such as Oscar Wilde (third in line of earthly influence on Miller).
Miller has such a way with words, when he writes of the recipient's experiences, I almost feel like I'm watching a life, seeing the person, getting to know him.
Miller recently suffered a heart attack and he knows he will be heading to heaven one of these days. (62) He asks a biographer of C. S. Lewis , Did heaven surprise you? Is it like Narnia? Miller, within the letters, lets us know a little more each time what heaven is like. We get a sense of what a comfort it will be to those who have had a hard life on earth. We can feel his ache to be there, to be with Jesus.
Not only is Miller expressing his thoughts to the letter's recipient, he's teaching us too. He's teaching us that death can come in a moment, as it did for the fellow next to him in that small airplane. He's teaching us to express our love and gratitude now. As he wrote to Harold Shaw, "...I wish I had told you this back then. But since I didn't, I am counting on this letter to heaven to get it through to you now." (181)
Miller's book is an encouragement to those who long for heaven. It is also an encouragement for those of us still here on earth to tie up our loose ends now. Express your gratitude and your love now.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Letters to Heaven by Calvin Miller is a book composed of several different letters to deceased people who the author feels has affected his life. The author says he had unfinished business with these people.
Some of the people he wrote letters to were Ethel Miller (his mother), Todd Beamer (person who intervened the terrorists during 9/11 in Pennsylvania), Rowena Stickland (his elder sister), Farrah Fawcett (actress), C.S. Lewis (author), Jim Elliot (missionary), Norman Vincent Peale (author and preacher), Madeleine L'Engle (author), Paul Little (evangelist), Oscar Wilde (poet), Johnny Cash (singer), Dick Miller (his elder brother), and Brittany Gilson (a fifth grade classmate). I haven't mentioned all of the people who he wrote about.
I feel like the one that affected me the most was the letter he wrote to his fifth grade classmate, Brittany Gilson. At first, I couldn't figure out why it had affected me so much. Then, I realized the girl was a lot like me when I was that age (shy and her classmates liked to tease her). He became impressed with her when their teacher said whoever could name all the Great Lakes would receive a dollar. He was able to and she winked at him from across the room. There was a fire in her house and she didn't make it out. Some people in the community said she deserved it because she didn't go to church and she was destined for Hell. The author said that was the only time he doubted God. He worked through it and played a game called "If I were God". He came to the conclusion that a loving God would not have a child die in a fire and then be eternally on fire in Hell.
I think the author had a great idea of writing to the deceased because of unfinished business. My mother and high school girlfriend passed away not too long ago. I think I will try to write them both a letter.
This unbiased review was based on an electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.