Today we're excited to talk with Bill Paradise, author ofYou and God: How to Build the Most Important Relationship of Your Life.
FQ: In part one you talk about your "great purpose and waking up to your spiritual reality". Would you say that, when your personal relationship with God started taking shape (in 1975), you were keenly aware of that awakening of your spirit, at that time? Or was that a feeling or awareness that needed to be nourished and developed over time?
Unless someone experiences an unusual and dramatic event in their life, the process of waking up to one's spiritual reality is definitely gradual, and shaped by many experiences over time. That was surely true for me. And you most certainly have to work at it. I quote Rick Warren as saying just that. Very few people fall in love instantly. They "work" at building their relationship. For the vast majority of us it's the same with God. We have to work at building our relationship with Him.
FQ: You mentioned that while driving down a stretch of I-64, in West Virginia (in 1996), you were initially inspired to write "You and God". Can you go into a little more detail for your readers?
My wife and I were returning from a brief vacation. (Our kids were young adults by then and not with us.) I was driving, my wife was asleep. I found myself asking God what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life, beyond continuing to work at my career. A few miles down the road I felt an answer was coming, namely, that I should write a book, and the topic should be about relating to Him. Obviously I didn't take it as just another random thought; I took it seriously and acted on it. Now the title didn't come to me until a number of years later. In fact, it took some 13 years to write the book. It went through three major restarts. To me this is analogous to the spiritual life itself, which is rarely a straight line path of progress, but rather full of starts, stops and turns. It's all part of the "great adventure" of having God be a real part of your life.
FQ: You talk about the different images we all have of God. Would you describe or explain what your image of God is?
As kids many of us were supplied with an image of God as a scowling figure with a long grey beard, sitting on a throne. I'm afraid too many adults subconsciously retain this image, and it's so far from the truth. Humans tend to deal only in the physical and mental realms of reality. God is spiritual reality and that's a challenge for us to grasp. I don't think He has any shape or size or visual characteristics, the things that cause us to form images of people. So I try not to create a physical image of God in my mind. Instead, I think of Him as an all-loving Presence. Of course, a major theme of the book involves waking up to one's spiritual reality because we also are spiritual creatures, though not totally spiritual as God is.
FQ: In part three, "tools for your relationship," you talk about giving (emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually). There are natural givers and those needing to take action in their lives. What would you say has been one of your most rewarding acts of giving, thus far?
My wife and I have always tried to maintain a giving mentality. Right now we both do volunteering. I visit patients in the Indianapolis veterans hospital and answer phones in a local organization that assists people who can't pay their rent, utility bills and other basic necessities. I find both activities highly rewarding. A key point stated in the book is that giving is not optional with God. If we want to have a personal relationship with Him, we've got to have a giving mentality - even though the giving may take many different forms.
FQ: You talk a lot about the difficulties that we all face in life, in part four. I think this area in your book really hits home, especially regarding stress, and how it affects each of us differently. Do you have any suggestions, as far as scripture/passages from the Bible, that you could recommend to help your readers understand that God is always with us, to help us cope and grow in Him?
I am not what you would call a student of the Bible, although I do read it. (Currently I'm reading the Psalms and enjoying them a lot.) For me, dealing with stress largely involves my daily relationship with God. When I am in touch with Him I find that stress tends not to be much of a factor. If stress returns for me, I eventually wake up and realize it's because I have drifted away from talking with God. My life happens to be pretty stress-free at this stage, but I'm well aware many people endure unbelievable amounts of stress. The best relief I know of is to start relating to God on a daily basis and start discussing one's stress with Him.
FQ: Part five of your book brings us to another major topic regarding "life issues"; and that is forgiveness. You tell us that it is a "profound virtue and incredibly important to God," and I can't agree more! Is there anything more that you can add to this mini chapter that will help your readers to really grasp the importance of forgiveness? Not only towards others, but towards themselves, also? Is there a specific book, in the Bible, that goes into detail regarding forgiveness? Maybe a special, inspirational reference that you wouldn't mind sharing with your readers?
One of my favorite quotes in the book is from Richard Rohr, who says, "If you look at your life and I look at mine, we'll both see that we have taken delight in holding people in unforgiveness... That is exactly, I believe, what God does not do." I like the quote because it's so honest, so accurate. As human beings we often carry around a lot of unforgiveness in our hearts. In some cases we might even wallow in it. Forgiveness is very important to God. When we harbor unforgiveness we need to sit down with Him and seriously talk about it. It may not happen overnight, but He will give us the grace to forgive. As for the Bible, God's forgiveness is a dominant theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
FQ: "You and God" is such a wonderfully inspirational "how to" book for all of us readers who desire more in life...an intimate relationship with God! Do you have plans for another inspirational book?
The answer is really up to God and I can't tell what He has in mind at the moment. I feel strongly that this first book is God's work much more so than mine. He inspired it originally, and kept it going all along the way. I had a lot of other stuff going on in my life during the thirteen years it took to write it, so if it had been up to me I probably would have given it up at some point. That could easily have happened one of those times when I started it all over. Recently I have had thoughts about a second book on a completely different, non-spiritual topic which I think could benefit a lot of people. That one, if it happens, will be up to God also.
To learn more about You and God: How to Build the Most Important Relationship of Your Life please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.