A sweet exchange with a lady of Indian background, living in Hong Kong...many lessons here (mostly from HER--very few from me!)...


Sept 8/2003

She wrote:



Dear Mr. Miller:

Thank you for your site. I think I very much needed to see the statement "God is not afraid of questions".

I was born into a 'intellectual' christian family, if there is such a thing..my father is a theologian (Phd.) and was a pastor for many many years (he gave up engineering to join the ministry). So 'blind faith' and the more emotional kinds of christian worship were not something I was taught to prioritise. My earliest memories include family bible studies where we were encouraged and challenged to study, dissect and discuss the bible. Apparently I inherited my father's academic genes, because most of the world does make sense to me - intellectually, spiritually and physically. I find that most things are actually quite simple, once certain 'first principles' are established. E.g. Justice, free will, mercy, cause-effect...i have spent a lot of time thinking about them, and almost all the 'tough questions' you mentioned are simply non-issues to me (and in all humility, I am not 'excessively dumb' either). It really does makes sense to me; I have been called 'naive', 'childlike' and other less flattering synonyms, but I also have a pretty high IQ... Which is maybe why I find the 'deep dark questions' of life so much more comprehensible than everyday human behavior..my own included...lol.

I accepted Christ as my saviour at age six...and for a long long time thereafter wondered if I was just 'coerced' by my father (I mean, what does a 6-year old know, really?), and alternated between quoting the 'little children' verse to myself and resenting my father for pre-empting a more adult decision on my part. I still struggle with this.

I was struck by a statement in your writings, namely that some people have the 'heart for God', but their intellect gets in the way. So true in my case! But here is the paradox: the reverse is also true. Let me explain: Christianity has always satisfied me intellectually. I was taught from the beginning that Christianity is not really a set of rules or even morality/ethics, it is primarily about a personal relationship. And this is why I find Christianity the only acceptable worldwiew. To me, its never been a religion, its always been about a person - a person i now so desperately want to meet/know. No other form of 'spirituality' comes even close. This is further borne out if we were truly made in Gods image...personal relationshpes are the very center of human life, and a personal r/s with God seems to me the only logical extension of an 'ideal' human r/s (or the other way around). On the other hand, I have never yet experienced any particularly 'uplifting' moments, i am not a nicer/gooder/better person, or have known any kind of joy, peace, euphoria that could be not be explained away by purely physically causes..eg. chocolate or the first monsoon (I'm an Indian, living in Hong Kong BTW). so many questions - what is keeping me from hearing God? Did he ever answer, and did I just not hear? Or did I hear him, but failed to recognise his voice? Have I been saved, really?  How will I know? and on and on and on. Also, the temptation to lay down any number of 'fleeces' a la Gideon is often overwhelming - and I'm afraid its not maturity or trust that keeps me from doing so, its simply the fear that my poor little fleeces will be wet in the morning, and that will be a fatal blow to my 'quest'. Isn't it amazing how much misery we humans create for ourselves in our own mixed-up heads? No wonder we need God.

Here I must add another potent sentence I came across in my searchings "you are in a fight for your soul with unseen evil beings more intelligent then yourself that are bent on your destruction!" This comforted me enormously, because my human intellect, regardless of IQ, is limited - therefore the burden of proof, of change, oF ANYTHING - is not on me! It is up to God! Maybe you can understand why I find this so appealing. :-)

Here is where I'm at today - after 20 years of being a 'nominal' christian, 5 odd years of being extremely anti-God (in private!) and 5 more years of inner conflict: I don't think I ever completely stopped believing in God, in the 'truths' of Christianity, but I was certainly (and still am, in some ways!) angry with Him, and at the same time I want to 'kiss-and-make-up' . A part of me is aghast at my own disrespect, but another part is just a mass of bitterness and hurt and anger. But to get to the point (finally!)- so while I cannot truthfully say I'm a believer, I'm a wannabe. I have decided that if this is what it takes to get to know God, so be it. If what the bible says is true, then its only fair..a personal friend and savior, a heavenly father, peace and joy now and eternal salvation ever after etc. seems a fair exchange for all this soul-searching, these emotional upheavals, this crazy yo-yoing back and forth, these horrible doubts, this numbing guilt, alternated with serious phases of 'backsliding' (this is when I just give up in exhaustion and say 'what the h..l, life is too short to spend agonising over something that may be a non-issue in the end). I live in the hope that one day when I get up after such a fall, it will be for keeps - and that then I will at last HEAR him say "Welcome back, Florence- I've missed you".

Anyway, the bottom line is this - I'd rather be lonely-miserable-confused-searching-for-God than a happy-content atheist/agnostic/whatever. And no, I am not insane, although I realise the how absurd the previous statement sounds - it flies in the face of everything society and modern worldview teach. Because if I'm wrong, if you're wrong, if all christians are merely deluding themselves - well, so what? What have I got to lose? Better to live in the hope of finding God than in blissful ignorance  - it can get very lonely on this planet, even when surrounded by loving family, caring friends, and adorable puppies. They're not enough.  'God-shaped-vacuum' and that jazz.

The point of this letter? I do not know. Maybe to ask for your prayers, if you find the time?. (I just asked God to ask you to pray for me, and to give you the time (and inclination!) to do so..you so clearly believe in him, and somehow I think he'll hear and answer THIS request more surely than some of my others. )

Please forgive my incoherence (on re-reading, it sounds slightly hysterical in parts, but better hysteria than hypocrisy, huh?). Writing this has been both rewarding and difficult, but I'm glad I did.

And again, Thank You.

Florence

p.s. I would love to hear from you, but I do understand the demands on your time.

……………………………………….......................................

I wrote back:

Florence, you certainly have my prayers, my respect for your honesty and tender-heart, and my confidence that you are DEFINITELY on the right path for what you and He seek!

I hope to be able to respond more deeply in the coming weeks, but i am NOTORIOUSLY bad at responding to email (i apologize ahead of time). You are clearly not 'insane' (chuckle), but have an admirable grasp of the realities of this 'confused existence'...

You truly sound like the kind of heart in which He delights--no 'sugar coating' of false-euphoria, but no 'sugar coating' of 'convenient agnosticism'...but a heart that yearns for the knowledge/experience (or at least the awareness thereof) of God's activity and relationship in your life...more on this later...

You also sound like a wonderful soul to meet someday!

But i must get back to my Quiet Time (its 7.28am on Saturday over here) before a busy day--but i DID want to encourage you, and tell you that your honest/gracious letter touched my heart, and that you will be on my mind/prayers for the next few weeks (at least)...and actually, your email even encouraged me--I know the work of the Grace-grower when I see it, and every glimpse I get into the strange and convoluted paths He takes His kids through ('been there,done that, more than once, and more in the future' smile) is a vision into this panorama of His quiet work in history.

More later,

Warmly,

Glenn

……………………….................................................................

She wrote back:

Glenn

I very much appreciate your taking the time to respond - it DID encourage and hearten me.

Finding God and 'being saved' are supposed to be joyful experiences - unfortunately for me, this is not true ..so far, at least. If anything, this is the most agonising time I can remember. Maybe this is a good sign...?! :-)

'Yearn' is the perfect word to describe it - I remember telling a friend that I was 'hungry and thirsty' for the TRUTH...and by 'truth' I do NOT mean the watery, vague, feel-good stuff that is so 'in' these days...the all-inclusive brands of spirituality, the ancient Hindu atman-brahman' concepts,  the 'circle-of-life', and similar cant. If truth IS really truth, it MUST be universal, for everbody, absolute, crystal-clear..not some flexible concept that happens to make sense to different people at different times. (But I'm sure this is all old hat to you...excuse the amateur forays into philosophy! :-)

A thought I am exploring : maybe what is keeping me from God (and not vice versa) is my intense fear of 'giving up control' of my life...after all the energy and time I've spent avoiding 'control', the thought of dropping the many 'guards' in my head and heart  (carefully constructed and maintained over the years) and letting someone else into my head - especially an all-powerful Lord of the Universe -  is just plain terrifying. Is this pride/ego? Maybe. (In passing, I think its often mis-called 'self-esteem' ...there is so much insiduous 'false-ness' out there...and its so very seductive! What are we teaching our kids???)  BTW, I read in one of your articles that you long to be completely 'subservient' to God...to my shame, I admit that every cell in my body, mind and spirit rebels against the thought of such subservience/obedience. This may be my biggest challenge..... I'm kinda beginning to see why Satan fell!

Glenn, while I would very much like to hear from you, I do not want to impose on your generosity and time, so please do not apologise if you cannot reply soon - or at all..just writing this down is very helpful to me - you are doing me a HUGE favour by even reading such long, convoluted emails - and from a stranger!

Thank you with all my heart for the assurance that you WILL pray for me - I never needed prayers more.

Maybe someday I will 'pay it forward'? Glorious thought! :-)

Best wishes,

Florence

…………………………………….............


I wrote back (my comments in BLUE)

had just a few minutes here...I've been praying for you daily since you first shared your heart and struggles with me, Florence...

see my brief [and jumbled--sigh/smile] thoughts/comments below...

-----Original Message-----
From: Florence [mailto:@yahoo.com]

Dear Mr. Miller:

Thank you for your site. I think I very much needed to see the statement "God is not afraid of questions".

I was born into a 'intellectual' christian family, if there is such a thing..my father is a theologian (Phd.) and was a pastor for many many years (he gave up engineering to join the ministry). So 'blind faith' and the more emotional kinds of christian worship were not something I was taught to prioritise. My earliest memories include family bible studies where we were encouraged and challenged to study, dissect and discuss the bible. Apparently I inherited my father's academic genes, because most of the world does make sense to me - intellectually, spiritually and physically. I find that most things are actually quite simple, once certain 'first principles' are established. E.g. Justice, free will, mercy, cause-effect...i have spent a lot of time thinking about them, and almost all the 'tough questions' you mentioned are simply non-issues to me (and in all humility, I am not 'excessively dumb' either). It really does makes sense to me; I have been called 'naive', 'childlike' and other less flattering synonyms, but I also have a pretty high IQ... Which is maybe why I find the 'deep dark questions' of life so much more comprehensible then everyday human behavior..my own included...lol. 

[what a great heritage and family environment...awesome...such a gift, actually] 

I accepted Christ as my saviour at age six...and for a long long time thereafter wondered if I was just 'coerced' by my father (I mean, what does a 6-year old know, really?), and alternated between quoting the 'little children' verse to myself and resenting my father for pre-empting a more adult decision on my part. I still struggle with this.

[you might look at it a little differently: your dad's 'pre-emptive' action has created the ENORMOUS decision you are actually faced with at this point in your life, friend...had you just 'drifted' in some neutral zone, then your challenges of today would not have the 'immense' background of your 'Christian life'... the decision you face now about your understanding of God and of your response to His heart and wisdom is considerably more 'charged' with import and weight, than it would have been had you "simply" been evaluating it all this time...

[I was taught before I had my kids that "God has no grandchildren", and I have always recognized this in my attempts to 'influence my kids' toward the faith...the more I 'influenced', the stronger their God-enabled(!) pushback to me!...seems He wanted their decisions to be fully their own too, so even my firstborn (the most 'institutionalized' and 'evangelicalized' of the 3) has had to go through atheism, some vague deism, and only recently has become a real theist again...she struggles with issues of history and of the historical Jesus still--and now I let her work through it (although now i share MY experiences and learning with her, as a co-travelor)...to be your own, it will require your own dance with Him...and you probably (like many), have to shed and un-do even legitimate and healthy aspects of your past worldview to find that place with Him...

I was struck by a statement in your writings, namely that some people have the 'heart for God', but their intellect gets in the way. So true in my case! But here is the paradox: the reverse is also true. Let me explain: Christianity has always satisfied me intellectually. I was taught from the beginning that Christianity is not really a set of rules or even morality/ethics, it is primarily about a personal relationship. And this is why I find Christianity the only acceptable worldwiew. To me, its never been a religion, its always been about a person - a person i now so desperately want to meet/know. No other form of 'spirituality' comes even close. This is further borne out if we were truly made in Gods image...personal relationshpes are the very center of human life, and a personal r/s with God seems to me the only logical extension of an 'ideal' human r/s (or the other way around).  

[good grief--i am amazed at this clarity...again, what a gift!...so very, very many people wrestle with this CONSTANTLY...

[but everybody must wrestle with SOMETHING (smile), to grow and develop, so I'll keep reading to find your wrestling 'buddy' in the next sentence (having read this already a couple of times)...smile

On the other hand, I have never yet experienced any particularly 'uplifting' moments,  

["any"?! You've never been blown away for 5 seconds in a worship song?--in the quietness, when no one is watching?  You've never been 'amazed' for 5 seconds--before our head cuts in/on and analyses the experience 'away'--at His tenderness toward the little people in the OT? or at some random blessing you received?

[I only have one real numinous experience--of a significantly transcendent kind--once every 5-7 years or so...but I 'see' and am touched frequently by signs of His heart in history, in my family, in His scripture, and especially in the Cross... the life of faith is NOT by 'sight'--it is NOT based on 'SENSING the transcendent directly' but on His tracks, patterns, messages in history and in our present...be careful to not set the criteria too high here, and somehow trivialize-away the grace of the stream of simple joys, acceptance, and gifts of clarity (smile)...i realize this is terse, but i am failing in this communication, i suspect...

 i am not a nicer/gooder/better person 

[than what or than when? this is VERY VERY difficult to ascertain, especially for those raised in a beautiful home/situation such as yours...i personally interpret your STRUGGLES as a sign of a growing honesty and authenticity--'teased out' by God, IMO... be sure to 'measure this' by the goals of the Kingdom ('to worship in spirit and in truth'-- a FULLY authentic, whole-hearted, and with peace-of-mind celebration of His character and warmth toward you... sometimes our 'goodness' is measured SOLELY by how we deal with abject 'badness' in our hearts, our community, and our experience (e.g., Job?!)...

 , or have known any kind of joy, peace, euphoria that could be not be explained away by purely physically causes..eg. chocolate or the first monsoon  

[hmmm...you might want to be careful here and consider the 'timing/providence' of such experiences...since God typically (varying only in extreme cases, IMO) uses secondary/physical/holistic causes (like choclate) to generate feelings of blessings (e.g., feast celebrations in the OT included beer and 'strong drink'; and the Final Feast of Isaiah 25 will include "the finest of meats and aged wine"), the MEANS of the experience is less 'revelatorily significant' than perhaps the timing, situation, and other providential aspects of the experience. In other words, what steps led UP to the experience? What alternative experiences were MORE likely to happen than that one? Were there any influences that moved you into that situation? Any prompting of conscience? Any suddenly remembered errand or task? Any person in an 'odd place'? Etc. The older I get, the more I see Him 'hiding' such nuggets for me right out in the open, where ONLY I can see them, but nobody else would agree--like a secret kiss, or a hug in private...

[I know i over-interpret these sometimes, but sometimes the 'coincidence' is just too great...and I have to be quietly amazed and quieted of heart by His subtle overtures of gentle and non-overwhelming affection...the gentle Shepherd...

 (I'm an Indian, living in Hong Kong BTW). so many questions - what is keeping me from hearing God? Did he ever answer, and did I just not hear? Or did I hear him, but failed to recognise his voice? Have I been saved, really?  How will I know? and on and on and on.  

[Although my general impression from your wording is that you MIGHT have framed the question wrong--by setting some answer 'threshold' too high or too narrow in range--it is not at all clear to me that this is the case...the young Samuel served the Lord with a good heart and the Lord waited a considerable time before an 'extra-ordinary' experience occurred...I have noticed so many times in my own life that i have to ask a question or pose a problem to the Lord over a long period of time for ME TO DEVELOP the perceptual grid (through countless hours of turning it over and over and over in my mind and heart) which had to be in place BEFORE the LORD answered...many such learning/listening experiences are 'organic' and/or 'adaptive' and not simply 'epistemic' in character...

[and, of course, there IS the possibility that you raise of you 'not hearing when He spoke', but this would be more reflective of your heart at the time and NOT of some unwillingness of God to repeat the communication in different ways and different times, or of some inability to hear on your part...but He will keep trying to get through to an honest and seeking heart...there is no limitation to the process--it just can take a little longer if our criteria-grid is too unrealistic or artificial or the such like...

 Also, the temptation to lay down any number of 'fleeces' a la Gideon is often overwhelming 

[I know that temptation!!!!!

  - and I'm afraid its not maturity or trust that keeps me from doing so, its simply the fear that my poor little fleeces will be wet in the morning, and that will be a fatal blow to my 'quest'.

[there's an interesting ambiguity in your phrase here (to me)...since i never can remember the sequence of the wet/dry and dry/wet in that story, when I read your wording i wondered "Is she afraid that (a) God will NOT answer her and she will become an ex-believer; or is she afraid that (b) God WILL answer her, so that she is no longer 'justified' to feel 'angry' or 'wrongfully ignored by' God (smile)...I KNOW people in the second category (and have been there myself more than once), who find their very self-esteem in being 'picked on' and 'tormented by being wrongfully ignored' by God...they need some self-righteous justification for their anger toward God, instead of just bringing the anger to God and 'pouring it out before the Lord' (and trying to work through it in honest and disclosive prayer with Him).

[although, frankly, the wet/dry test is SO inconclusive...if its wet-when-you-ask-for-wet, one can feel very, very stupid and immature for doubting (and in my case, I can wonder if I will be 'disciplined', "while the meat is still between my teeth"--if you catch the reference to the quails in the wilderness...smile)...but if its 'dry-when-you-ask-for-wet', then there are a BILLION other reasons it could have been dry--the 'answer' is not specific enough to do the job...singularly ineffective for my needs, i have found...i have, rather, had to fall back on my least-favorite method: living by faith (chuckle)

 Isn't it amazing how much misery we humans create for ourselves in our own mixed-up heads? No wonder we need God.  

[well said, friend!  i tie myself up in knots and conundra (pl of conundrum? chuckle) several times a week, i think...i am SO GLAD His patience, gentleness, and good-humoredness is not laced with pettiness nor tainted by harshness/severity..i wouldnt last a second...

Here I must add another potent sentence I came across in my searchings "you are in a fight for your soul with unseen evil beings more intelligent then yourself that are bent on your destruction!" This comforted me enormously, because my human intellect, regardless of IQ, is limited - therefore the burden of proof, of change, oF ANYTHING - is not on me! It is up to God! Maybe you can understand why I find this so appealing. :-) 

[same here!!!!!!

Here is where I'm at today - after 20 years of being a 'nominal' christian, 5 odd years of being extremely anti-God (in private!) and 5 more years of inner conflict: I don't think I ever completely stopped believing in God, in the 'truths' of Christianity, but I was certainly (and still am, in some ways!) angry with Him, and at the same time I want to 'kiss-and-make-up'  

[to MY personal way of looking at things--at this stage of thinking, at least--this sentence ALONE speaks to me of the realitiy of your spiritual life..."real unsaved people" dont care about this this much...they might worry about how they 'look' to their family, church, sub-group, or culture, but they do NOT admit to some mix of affection for God (they will speak, rather, in terms of having affection for the 'idea of God' and/or 'concept of a supreme being' and such--but not in the personal terms of anger and kiss-and-make-up)... I suspect that God is deeply and gently involved in holding your heart safe RIGHT NOW, that His warmth is a simple heartbeat or smile or relaxing moment away...

[so few believers are honest about their anger with God--and honesty is a major developmental goal of His for you...even the extremely anti-God (in private!) years can be seen as contributory (ultimately) to your relationship with Him...

. A part of me is aghast at my own disrespect, but another part is just a mass of bitterness and hurt and anger.  

[but this is what relationships are about--learning, listening, and unloading... your 'disrespect' is quite the opposite: you recognize and respect His interest in you...you feel free to engage in venting with Him, you didnt simply divorce Him, forget Him, and never think about Him again...He is clearly a part of your life--a rather deeply embedded part, I am beginning to sense--and One that welcomes your beating on His chest with your fists in hurt, frustration, and anger...while He holds you in His quiet, yet safe, embrace...

[believe me, that embrace is the ONLY safe place to be when overtaken by hurt, grief, betrayal, and even seeming abandonment by God...

 But to get to the point (finally!) - so while I cannot truthfully say I'm a believer, I'm a wannabe. I have decided that if this is what it takes to get to know God, so be it. If what the bible says is true, then its only fair..a personal friend and savior, a heavenly father, peace and joy now and eternal salvation ever after etc. seems a fair exchange for all this soul-searching, these emotional upheavals, this crazy yo-yoing back and forth, these horrible doubts, this numbing guilt, alternated with serious phases of 'backsliding' (this is when I just give up in exhaustion and say 'what the h..l, life is too short to spend agonising over something that may be a non-issue in the end). I live in the hope that one day when I get up after such a fall, it will be for keeps 

[two comments: (1) this paragraph reflects what i understand to be the "New Testament way". The Christian life is NOT some emotional froth or insensate tranquility, undistrubed by agonizing challenges, mind numbing trauma/grief, uncertainties of many stripes/colors...I think of the author of "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace" (Gal 5)who could also describe his moments of abject despair, paralyzing anxiety, abandonment by friends and comrades, disobedience to God at 'open doors', etc...and of The recipient of Timothy--the 'only one' Paul could recommend as free of self-interest--as troubled by fear and timidity and fear of rejection...or even of our Jesus--betrayal, loneliness, disgrace, agony of heart, being 'troubled of spirit'...a man of sorrows...

[(2) on your last sentence: if your experience ends up a little like mine, it will be that the falls become (a) less frequent; (b) not as deep; (c) not as lengthy; (d) more revelatory; and (e) more easily integrated into your process of growth and insight development... they will NEVER go away--they will simply 'change form' into different assailants, under different guises (some intellectual, some behavioral, some attitudinal)... but they dont get any harder, either--I Cor 10.13: it always scales with where you are...and once you get accustomed to that level of difficulty, then a 'wisdom layer' and 'expectation layer' is superimposed on top of the experience, and the whole thing becomes more bearable, more beatable, and actually, more beauty-making...

  - and that then I will at last HEAR him say "Welcome back, Florence - I've missed you".

Anyway, the bottom line is this - I'd rather be lonely-miserable-confused-searching-for-God than a happy-content atheist/agnostic/whatever. And no, I am not insane, although I realise the how absurd the previous statement sounds 

[not at all insane/absurd to me! it is a model of authenticity, clarity, and soundness...dont let anyone tell you otherwise!

- it flies in the face of everything society and modern worldview teach.  

[yeah, but what do THEY KNOW?! (chuckle) Look where it's gotten THEM in our world affairs and personal affairs, eh?!...



Because if I'm wrong, if you're wrong, if all christians are merely deluding themselves - well, so what? What have I got to lose? Better to live in the hope of finding God than in blissful ignorance  - it can get very lonely on this planet, even when surrounded by loving family, caring friends, and adorable puppies. They're not enough.  'God-shaped-vacuum' and that jazz.  

[you got it... 

The point of this letter? I do not know. Maybe to ask for your prayers, if you find the time?. (I just asked God to ask you to pray for me, and to give you the time (and inclination!) to do so..you so clearly believe in him, and somehow I think he'll hear and answer THIS request more surely than some of my others. ) 

[hmmm...i didnt notice this the first time, that you prayed to God that I would pray for you...since I have been at this daily for a few weeks now, I think I will start sending MY prayer requests to YOU--since He OBVIOULSY listens to your prayers more than mine--LOL] 

Please forgive my incoherence (on re-reading, it sounds slightly hysterical in parts, but better hysteria than hypocrisy, huh?).  

[absolutely better--although both start with "H", only one reasonates with Honesty...

 Writing this has been both rewarding and difficult, but I'm glad I did.

And again, Thank You.

Florence

p.s. I would love to hear from you, but I do understand the demands on your time. 

[Before I scrambled my thoughts down here, I HAD read your second e-letter, in which you raise other questions of pride, etc...I will have to comment on those when I get a chance to respond to THAT email...

[BTW--by my reckoning, you are in your mid-30's. I have thought at least a dozen times reading this that i would have KILLED to have had the clarity of your CURRENT perspective when I was THAT AGE. I have mentioned more than once that the combination of your unbringing/home, your periods of doubt and withdrawal, and your current "thrashing about" (i visualize the wash cycle on a washing machine here) can easily be seen as a GIFT (if not also a preparation for some future type of service to others...). One VERY important part of ANY personal relationship is the expression of thanks and gratitude to the other party for acts of grace, generosity, forebearance, and 'investment'. You might reflect on to what extent this has been a part of your closer periods with the Lord...? Just a thought...so much begins and grows in the soil of thanks, honest appreciation, and positive expressions/affirmation...for what its worth...

[more later...glenn

...................................................................

She wrote back:

Glenn:

I'm very touched and grateful that you have been praying for me every day. I just wanted to share this with you, to let you know that your prayers ARE working - (in strange ways, to be sure).

You're right about worship.  I have so often been 'blown away' by the inspired-ness, the 'rightness' of some of the grand old hymns, or during quiet moments'alone when for one tiny instant, something clicks and it all makes sense. Unfortunately, not wanting to look foolish in my own eyes, and also afraid of what acknowledgement (of God) might mean, I always forced myself 'back down'. But a few days ago while praying, (the long, lament-y, please-do-this kind) i found myself searching for words to express something...and the lyrics of "Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder...etc." popped into my head. (Yes, I am grateful for my heritage - I am often surprised by how much I remember after so much 'trying to forget'!!! )

Worship IS the only really honest response to God - but it is also a privilege. I didn't know, or had forgotten, how much JOY there is in it. I had also forgotten what praise really means.. when 'sings my soul'. And this has nothing to do with prayers/requests answered, or what God has done/given ...its simply because He IS...who and what He IS.... how can one NOT worship? Its not even 'personal' in one sense - I'd be happy to just add my voice to the throng, to swell it a little more - not because its MY voice, but because there could never be enough voices singing. (This sounds a tad gushy, but that's because human language and beings are so limited, ....I think you know exactly what I mean.)

There's a different, 'lower' (wrong word!) kind of 'praise and thanks' that happens when I see his work in my outward life i.e. work, family, health etc.(which frankly is not much so far). Believe me, from a worldly point of view, I have currently very little to sing about or give thanks for - and YET I DO! I am learning that worship blesses the worshipper - it is uplifting, not debasing - it has healed and comforted me over the past few weeks. I used to dread the thought of eternity, but sometimes, when in prayer, I look forward to a time when I can 'sit at the foot of the throne' and worship without interruption or distraction or guilt or....TIME.

Isn't it strange and wonderful that I can worship AND still be full of doubt, anger, pain, fear ? Because I am. So much of 'beating my fists on His chest' (perfect phrase!), so much still to come.  All the 'practical' problems - very real, very painful - still embitter my life. Not to mention the overwhelming-ness of trying to be 'good'.. for e.g. when I read the gospels of Matt. and Mark, I guess I expected some kind of comfort, or back-patting (hey Lord, the prodigal's back, where's the fatted calf?) but all I got was a sense of utter unworthiness - esp. w.r.t Jesus' teachings (parables and to his disciples). I have the same old vices, but at least I've stopped calling them 'personality traits' :)...after years of struggling with a million shades of gray, I see black and white. And it feels SO GOOD to see clearly - like the first time I got glasses at age 7 and realised to my amazement that the world was NOT all fuzzy and blurry :-) Most wonderful of all, a very deep, very black despair, a very big 'alone-ness' is GONE - and I'm beginning to see just how...well, 'dirty ' I really am - not 'evil' in some grand, fearsome way, but so full of small, petty, cowardly, mean, disgusting stuff. I know its called 'Sin', but so far it was an abstract concept, not so much a personal reality. So here's my latest 'wrestling buddy'  - forgiveness. I do NOT feel forgiven. Its ironic that although I like myself so much less, I like being alive so much more!

So you see, Glenn, your prayers are working. And at least one of mine did.

I will certainly pray for you - I'm not very good at it yet, so please let me know if there's anything specific you would like me to pray for.

BTW, I am also the eldest of 4 sisters, (I just turned 30) and can empathise/sympathise with your daughter about being the firstborn of very enthusiastic parents - mine analysed every step, breath, word, burp, gurgle. :-) I think most eldest kids NEED to rebel just to develop an identity...which is why I found a special sweetness in reading God's 'take' on firstborns (exod.)

I read y'day on your site about the death of your daughter Britt. Earlier, when I thought about death, it was with horror. Today, there is still terror, but its more a fear of the unknown, not the unthinkable - that an existence, a person, a consciousnesss, can be simply shut down, snuffed out, and be as if it never was. I find it inexplicable that so many people prefer to believe this. (I'm sorry if I sound terse and unfeeling, but I do not know what to say to help, I'm one of those people who are better at 'weeping-with-those-who-weep' than comforting. Please forgive my ungraciousness and self-centredness - and thank you so much sharing such a personal grief.)

Well, I did want to be brief this time, but again, 'desire outran performance'. I also do feel bad for 'dumping' on you like this. My only defence is that I've finally accepted the fact that I am NOT self-sufficient, and that I DO need to ask for help/support/ashoulder and to appreciate God's grace  when it shines through another human being.

Warm regards
Florence

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Before I had time to respond, she wrote me again:

A few more thoughts - hopefully you will smile indulgently at this 'new broom' and not sigh tiredly at 'old hat'. :-) (ANd of course, I do not expect a reply, its merely an expression of thanks to God, and to you, for your words of wisdom and encouragement.)

New things in my life:

1) HOPE- not 'blind', but certain - It is so wonderfully LIBERATING to live in the knowledge that THIS life is just the beginning, and an opportunity to build and plan and prepare for my eternal walk with God. Isn't it amazing...to see your 'life-view' expand - over and beyond death?? I always thought 70 odd years too little for the depth of even human love, longing, joy...it seemed 'overkill', kinda,..but in the light of 'forever', things look different. besides, I never bought into the whole 'our-dead-are-never-dead-while-we-remember-them' blah blah - our dead are not dead AT ALL!

2) PRAYER . "what peace we often forfeit, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer". Every day, I get more and more answers...I want to laugh sometimes at the huge burdens I stubbornly persisted in carrying, and in effect, causing myself a LOT of 'needless pain'..and yes, I am SO grateful to my Creator for the gift of 'thinking clearly'...God has been very very kind to me ..I see so many people agonising with things that simply don't bother me.

3) UNBLINDNESS (!!!) -  I'm just beginning to see how closely He has been holding me ALL MY LIFE, how often HE walked unseen between me and the cliff-edge, how His love just would NOT let me go...God has been my safety net all along, and I can now truly say, 'call me blessed'. This is not euphoria, BTW, (which I would deeply distrust!)..its a soul-deep CONTENT, a zero-stress sort of thing...annoyances, worries, stings and burns, yes...but no STRESS.

4) GUIDANCE - The Bible (my life manual/userguide) has come to life for me. I see now why I've always preferred to fail high standards than pass low ones. Also, unlike my Indian heritage of philosphy (Upanishads, Gita Vedas, Koran), there is nothing vague or ambiguous about what God wants from us (as described in the Bible)...I think human beings somtimes cloud 'issues' that are actually crystal clear - the 'cloudiness' may be our own not-good natures still rebelling against difficult/unpleasing commands - but the commands themselves are clear. Am I making sense at all? I think we maybe fuss and analyse so much because we're still trying to buy time/indulgence/easier-ness - or maybe I/we 'of this world' are unused to the simplicty and grandeur of God's instructions. Anyway, for my own part, once I surrendered my 'world-taught' set of moral codes and ideals, the 'trust' part became MUCH easier - the 'obey' part is still work-in-progress.

5) Purpose - I know I will soon meet my God face to face...which means that my highest ambition now is to hear Him say 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'


Well, that's it for the update. As you can see, I am truly basking in the 'honeymoon' period you so aptly described.

And since you're probably feeling a bit badgered - understandably - by this barrage of emails:-), I'm going to ease up on the writing...but I'll continue to pray for you, and your work (I'm also in IT, btw, and what a hectic world that can be!) and thank God for your website and your ministry.

Florence

p.s. I've taken the liberty of attaching a photo - I thought you might like to put a face to the name - and the person - you've so graciously been praying for - hope it does't clog up your mailbox TOO much.

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I briefly responded:

what a blessing!

i am 6 pages deep in writing to a sweet brother who is in such agony over a challenge he is facing about the heart of God. He is being tormented by fears of duplicity in God's heart--"Do as I say, not as I do" kind of duplicity. It is so sweet to see the revelation of His warm, ever-pervasive smile to someone...

and thanks for the Pic!! I LOVE the 'florenceGRINS' title (made ME grin too!).

and dont stop the progess reports! His fingerprints are always a cause of celebration and dancing-of-heart for me! (and i just LOVE the way you write!)

thanks, and dancing with you with our Prince of Peace!,

glenn

(but the daily prayers for you will continue for a few more weeks at least...seasoned smile and chuckle here)

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She commented on my friend:

In your last email, you mentioned someone who has doubts about the heart of God w.r.t duplicity. My heart goes out to him. To have doubts about God's goodness/truthfulness must certainly lead to black despair and anguish - without it, what is left? And while, as you rightly said, everybody must find their own (sometimes torturous) path to Him, I am SO grateful that God has been gentle with me...even during my most anti-God years, I never considered the possibility of a less-than-perfect-God. (Ironic to think that I've been a Christian-in-denial all along - I guess the Holy Spirit, once in, STAYS in!) I pray that God will soon lift his spirit into joyful knowledge of Who He is - as He did mine, and as He will do again the next time I stumble.

I don't know if this works for everyone, but I find it so much easier now to be as a 'little child' who is content to not understand the 'what' and 'how' and 'why' as long as it knows and trusts the 'WHO'. Some day, when I'm 'all growed up', God will talk to me as an 'adult' and explain all the things that I cannot understand today. Something else to look forward to...:-)

Its also possible (out on a limb, here!) that some things are 'hidden' for our own protection, 'lest we be overwhelmed'..I personally would not dare to meet the Living God face to face as I am today -  even the faint shadows of His Glory, His Holiness, His Royalty, make me run and 'hide' in the Love of the Cross - an inexplicable, unfathomable, Love that could not bear to lose me - a Love that sacrificed a beloved, innocent, obedient Son. That Love is the ONLY reason someone like me has even ACCESS to Someone like Him, and the reason I enjoy His mercy and 'escape' His justice. If I doubt Him, or His Perfect Goodness, I am lost. Better to doubt the one who has already proved fallible, and cracked, and untrustworthy - me. That way, there's at least the HOPE that God will 'fix' me, but I'm pretty darn sure I can't 'fix' God! And oh, so much more productive to see MYSELF through God's eyes, warts and all, than try to see GOD through MY imperfect, unaided eyes - although in His mercy, His Spirit did 'accentuate' even my cloudy shortsightedness - on request -  until such time as I learn to let God do the seeing for me.

W.r.t 'Goodness'  and COMPLETE 'Truthfulness', I think we are - potentially - 'upward-compatible, but God is not 'downward-compatible (if you'll pardon a messy analogy :-).

A thought -  I come from a very 'reverent' culture. (India exists largely on fatalism, which is kinda  like faith gone wrong - IMHO), so 'respect' for even a human 'superior' is, well, genetic:-). (This is not always a good idea when dealing with fallible human beings!:-)) Also, Indian philosophy has always valued 'faith' far more than 'intelligence', which is probably why my 'traditional' Indian friends, unlike their western/westernised siblings, tend to deal emotionally rather than intellectually/logically with important issues. (Fascinating thing, culture.:-))

The most 'intelligent' thing I ever did was to stop trusting my intellect and start trusting its Creator. From working with my own misfit-self and the mentally-handicapped (volunteer work), I've learnt that there is no slavery like that which binds a person to the limits of what his mind 'understands' - unlike physical slavery to desires/lusts, it is self-blinding and blinded - a madman does not know that he is mad. Sorry to pontificate,  but I speak as just such an 'ex-con'...it took the Holy spirit about 15 years of patient, tireless work to 'unchain' ME via a 'diviner', more-than-human logic.

Well, just sharing - again. I am currently in a good deal of anguish and frustration about some earth-bound issues like 'wordly wealth' (or lack thereof!), but I'm slowly learning to cry on His shoulder instead of 'grin-and-bear'ing it, and to 'Wait on the Lord', as David did long ago...while through the tears, the indestructible part of me sings soft and clear. .

Thank you for your prayers - one of the many un-wordly things I seem to be rich in!

I also want to say this about your writings: I believe its the TONE as much as the CONTENT that 'nudges' others - like me - towards God. I have read and heard and seen so much that proves that 'the worst thing about Christianity is Christians', and your website goes a long way towards repairing the damage. It really IS all about the PERSON, isn't it?

God bless.

Florence


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