December 16, 2000 (Saturday)


I wanted to write an update for a couple of weeks now, but somehow have not been able to find/marshal the time. I have a loose string of comments--some prompted by your questions and requests-- appropriately indicated by no transitions (smile)...


First of all, "how am I doing?"...As you could probably imagine, this holiday seasons presents its challenges...I have never been a very festive person (due more to historical factors than anything else, I suppose), and struggle each Christmas against adopting some persona midway between PuddleGlum and Ziggy (but never the Grinch). The last two or three years have been somewhat improved with "slightly elevated levels of expansiveness" (smile) noticed by me.


But this Christmas is one I have feared since late April. I have played through it in my mind a hundred times, and the fear and dread of that morning has been a constant item of my prayer to my careful Shepherd and Comforter these months. My family decided to hit it head-on this season, instead of skirting the issue by having Christmas elsewhere, or by expanding our Christmas morning circle to include a wider circle of people. And so we march toward it, like soldiers in rain, toward a foe well-known for its unrelenting assaults.


But we started noticing His help about a month ago. As I talked with my oldest daughter about this Christmas, we noted that our joy of anticipation at being together this year was so much higher than ever before--that somehow the "greatness of our gathering" would be sufficient grace for the inevitable memories and concomitant grief. And so, my grief and fear--although seemingly always resident in my throat--is overshadowed by my anticipation of enjoying one another more deeply this year than ever before. We, of course, are not the same people we were last Christmas--God has fashioned new beauties and forged new strengths and melted old ice-holds and softened hard stances and cleared our value-visions more...we will cry, but our laughs will be warmer, louder, and come from deeper depths...we will ache, but we will hug all the more tightly...we will often numb, but our hearts will feel every nuance of love and warmth and joy and closeness and family-bonds...and less love and fewer thoughts of kindness and affection will go unspoken this year...


The day-to-day grief remains the same in intensity, but varies in frequency and duration now. I often feel like I am floating on a tiny air mattress on top of an ocean of grief. I often fall off the raft into the bottomless pain, and the currents sometimes carry the air mattress away from me, and it is hard to swim to it and get back on. I don't like the anesthesia of "staying busy", for that robs me/us of our healing. I am thankful for the work flexibility to be able to lose a half-day in this ocean every now and then...


The weekly visits to the cemetery are getting easier, somehow. I have this distinct sense that her values would say this to me if she could:


"I love you too, dad, and I look forward to seeing you and watching you experience this unbelievable grace someday. You were right to tell us about this, and to spend your discretionary time sharing this with others. Keep going, keep feeling, keep learning of His heart, keep showing that heart to makes such a difference, would be amazed at the heavenly response to the tiniest cracks of goodness and love on the tears in the angel's eyes when that guy in Iceland asked Jesus into his life and his family was the quiet but deep emotion up here when the guy in Stockholm saw His heart of kindness clearly for the first the heavenly party when the German atheist lady stopped denying His fingerprints in her life and surrendered herself to His the smiles of joy at the people who have been encouraged and felt His love and comfort for just five extra minutes because of something said on earth...But the ones I wish you could see are the ones you have no idea happened...You know how much He likes to surprise us with unexpected goodness...There were parties like this when Heno and Donna and Jim shared their experience of God with you (at times when you were finally ready to listen!), and there will be more when those whose lives you touched in some small way turn around and touch yet others...Keep going, Dad--it's worth it...the warmth and wonder and dance up here is beyond your wildest dreams--just you wait and see."


And so I go on, aware that I have my niche in this tapestry of love, in this moral drama of dancing character and community.


Secondly, and this actually IS related to the above point somewhat, is that my reflections on heaven are starting to change my view of this world somewhat. I have noticed that as I reflect on what I imagine Britt's current experience of God's presence must be like --characterized by intensity, incandescence, "numinosity", interpersonal unity, ubiquitous companionship, and abject clarity of perception--this world seems to grow more 'shadowy' and less 'dense'. I have often referred to this world as being a "low resolution" reality (compared to the "beyond" reality), but I am beginning to see it more and more as a 'proving ground' (as some older theologians maintained)--the proverbial 'stage with props'--in which the character of each individual becomes manifest through word and action. Our individual characters are self-molded by countless small choices of ours and by countless responses to the choices of others. We interact with the traces of God and grace and morality, embedded deep within the fabric of human lives and human community. We even interact with the explicit communications of God, through history, conscience, others, natural beauty, and special messengers. We are set into 'odd' scenes of drama that call forth our choices and responses, and which then become defining aspects of our further choices. We see compassion and we enjoy its beauty and aspire to such ourselves, or we complain about "waste", about "encouraging bad behavior", or about not having received such ourselves. The temporary character of this life is a constant message of the cemetery, of the seasons, of crises, of change itself.


But no matter how 'artificial' the stage is, the choices we are called to make are the stuff of eternity, the eternal manifestations of ultimate aspects of human personhood. The bonds of love, the caress of grace, the hearty camaraderie of shared heart-songs--these are eternal "nuggets", embedded in the transitory wisp that is the earthly life of human person. The OT/NT images of our life as day-grass, flourishing in the morning, scorched by noon, and gone by night are so true. Choose the things that last, revel in the eternal-in-the-now, celebrate the Invisible-in-the-face of that child, draw close to the forever-fashioned heart that walks beside you, seek out those eternal Fingerprints of His in your history.



Third, I went out around 6.30 this morning to catch a sale item at a local retailer. It was dark as I drove to the mall (open very early, in hopes of catching 'worms' like me...) to buy a 12-quart stock pot. The transaction took only 7-8 minutes (the stuff a recluse's dreams are made of---smile), and I am on my way home as I notice the early morning sky, all bright-eyed and holding on to fragments of a sweet sunrise. In my grossly theologically-naive way, I express my approval to the Sky-Maker, Sun-Shiner, and Cloud-Arranger (!) with an audible "What a gorgeous day, Lord!"...And what pops into my head is an imagined response (no doubt structured by the lessons He has been teaching me the past 2-3 years post-haste):


"Yes, you're right, and you haven't even seen the REAL beauty...I have already seen thousands of mothers hug their little ones, hordes of busy fathers stop to smile tenderly at their kids...I saw over a dozen sisters, estranged from other sisters finally melt in love over some heartbreak and embrace them anew...I saw a middle-school kid tell a classmate (in words as imprecise as some of yours, glenn--smile) about how he just asked Jesus to become real in his life...I saw two old war buddies weep loudly about having to go their separate ways....I saw one of the 'very tall' stoop down in real compassion (not just the 'sound bite' kind) for one of the 'very small' ones in life...There were even a couple of lovers who moved beyond the "you please me" stage of their relationship, to the "you and me, for pleasing others" stage!...I saw some old men finally celebrate empathy for the first time in their lives...Such incandescent beauty...Such warmth!...From where I sit, Glenn, the brilliant sunrise is only a weak and almost unnoticed  backdrop to the explosions of color and fireworks that you people call 'smiles' and 'embracing' and 'sympathy' and 'encouragement' and 'kindness' and 'charity' and 'compassion' and 'integrity' and 'sharing'...You people are (appropriately) amazed at the beauty of mountains and skies and starry nights and seascapes, but so often don't even notice the inclusive smile of every kid, the tears of proud joy of a father, the dance-of-delight in the faces of lovers, the life-spreading giggles of sisters, the staggering grace of a mother who kisses her little boy's scraped knee--"to make it better", the monument to commitment in the "I appreciate you, dad" on the lips of a young man....but I still have hope for you, and shall not give up...the offer of a free, new heart is always good, and the priceless salve to open the heart's eye has already been purchased by Another for you..."


It's sorta like having "infra-red" vision, with which only sparks of warmth, and fires of heart-flames, and foundry-fires of character forging stand out from the background. Virtue shows up brilliant, and treachery dull and dreary.





Four, I may try the TankTag one-day seminar idea again...I am pricing hotel meeting rooms in Philadelphia PA for March 10 or 17th (an all-day Saturday event) get-together, for friends of the Tank (up to 100max). It would likely be informal, but probably still a little intense (smile) would NOT be 'evangelistic' or 'debate' type stuff, but some 'state of the Union', getting to know the other Tank-friends in the area, and recent resources/ideas I have found. Stay tuned--if the money somehow works outs, I will post an agenda by end of January.



Fifth, someone suggested I do a "Wish List" on Amazon for those that want to support the Tank in that way. If I do this, I will try to put it up by end-of-January as well. [REMOVED, see A question about support for the Tank]


Sixth, personal finances are stable. I am working more or less full-time, doing research and writing. (That's why the articles are no faster than they are...of course brain sluggishness is another contributing No success on the video tapes yet, although there are still two big deals cooking that could change that. The Amazon Associates deal yielded $86 the first quarter, and $122 last quarter--not much, but every little bit helps.


Seventh, my plans/priorities for writing priorities currently are:

  1. An update/modification to the CopyCat Savior article
  2. A rewrite of the introductory section on the historicity of Jesus
  3. (Possibly) an update on Thallus, dealing specifically with his dates.
  4. The last section on "Seeking God" (and some private correspondence that is waiting on that piece before it can begin)
  5. A very large piece/series  on the miracles of Jesus, their historicity and literary data
  6. Genesis 1-11 and the literature of the ANE (the borrowing issue in more depth)
  7. Finish the Daniel sections
  8. (possibly) a piece on "white man's religion" type objections
  9. Go back to the James Still, Fabulous-prophecies, Competing Revelation claims, and Canon series
  10. and then back into the backlog...[Somewhere in here I may need to get into the Intelligent Design issue, too]


No doubt I will get shunted off to other issues, and probably have many smaller issues to deal with/post, but this is at least where I am starting from...


Lastly, I cannot tell you how much your kind words of condolence, of encouragement, and of gratitude have meant to me. I will be posting some new feedback letters tonight (hopefully), and over the past year or so, they have begun to look 'different' than before. At first, when these precious expressions came in, they were THE major supports and encouragement to me, that God could still use my life for something beyond an example of failure(smile). They also indicated to me what problems and issues were more acute for the tank-readers. But over time, the thank-you emails referenced just about every piece on the tank (also indicated by the access logs which I looked at back then), so my amazement began to grow at how God would direct individual needs from ALL OVER the world [i.e., some 20-25% of the domains that visit are from overseas] to specific nooks and crannies of the Tank (since my site is not known for its clarity of organization and ease of access--embarrassed smile). During this year, of course, the sympathy feedback was of precious ministry to me (and still is--I still have people only learning of this now, and sending in expressions of sympathy and support), as were the indications of cascading positive impact of this event in our life (e.g., recommitments of parents to their kids, new expressions of confidence in God in facing crisis). But a new element has emerged this past few months or so, and it is one of beauty. I have begun to see in these expressions of response evidence of God's work in the lives of others. We humans are not known for our thankfulness to one other, or in our admissions to other of help received. Often, we believe it makes us 'inferior' or 'in debt' to someone--giving them 'power' over us. The beauty of a humble and generous heart cannot exist within those who will not express thanks and approval and encouragement to others. Remember, in Romans 1, the first step of the downfall what that they were not thankful.


So, in this constant stream of gratitude that issues from the hearts of His friends and followers and lovers, I see the evidence of His sculpting and softening and pruning and nurturing and shepherding. It is your heart that shows the reality of our Lord and the power of His Spirit to create unique replicas and reflections of His grace-grandeur. I get to see this vast panorama of beauty and explosions of color--all different, but all forming a masterpiece of pattern--in the words of these Courier 10 letters...


And the statements of prayer for me--!!! People write in, telling me that they pray for me every night with their spouse and two-year old kid...students that mention me in their prayer groups...pastors that pray in private for this work...I am moved to tears by this very image, of His beautiful Bride, showing such unity of heart in just this one little point...If God truly is fashioning a people to inherit the Future, He has let me see glimpses of that beauty in such a wide variety of people, hearts, situations...His work of "soul-making" is so thorough, so deep, so quiet, and yet so overwhelming...



Well, I have a rough week of work ahead...I have to write a large executive research paper on Microsoft .NET, so I won't likely get to post anything else for a while (unless I do the Copycat thing tonight/tomorrow)...


I hope this holiday season for you is filled with warmth, laughter, beauty-of-life, insights, awareness of His presence, celebration of His active delight, and increased trust in the kindness of His heart and the goodness of His purposes for you...and hug all your loved ones a little longer this year, and speak a little softer to all those hearts in the inner circle of your life, and spend a few more minutes in open-eyed prayer with the One who bore the cost for our access to this warmth and love...whose birth was that ultimate explosion of light in the world so long ago...



Glenn Miller


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