Paul W. Meier sat down with me for a second interview. (Please see the first interview here.) This one was as fascinating as the first– we really wanted to expand our conversation and I really want you to know how great this guy is. I discovered that not only was he an excellent writer, he is also a great human being and a very forward thinking and compassionate guy. I present Paul W. Meier to you again and I hope you are all listening for that voice in your gut—that’s the voice you need to hear.
Q) Hi again, Paul! So tell me what did you think of the last interview?
A) Great! It went places I never expected.
Q) That’s the way with me! So let’s talk about you as a person. What do you like to do for recreation?
A) I’m just now trying to find that out. In the last year, I’ve been working on getting four books out. Two were 80% written before the year started, and then two shorter books I put together during the year. Now that I’ve gotten those out of the way, I think I’ll have some time to go fishing – that’s my recreation. My wife and I are also catching up on some movies. We hadn’t seen any new ones in a long time, so they’re still new to us.
Q) How does it feel to have written four books? That’s an achievement in itself.
A) It’s a relief to get them done. I wanted to have several available so that my blogging and other activities might be more useful. The best part is that I learned more than anyone about the stuff I was writing as I wrote them.
Q) How about your congregation? Have they been supportive?
A) Very much so. They are an incredibly loving and generous group of people. It helps that the research I do for my sermons is much of what I include in my books, so the two activities go hand in hand.
Q) Tell me– how are the books doing? Are you reaching a strong audience?
A) I’ve had a good two weeks since the release of my new book. I’ve done some specific marketing for them because Lent begins on Feb. 13 and two of them will make good devotional books for the season – Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther and O Taste and See. I put together a plan on how to use each of them that can be downloaded from my website for free.
Q) I received an interesting question through my Contact Me page that the writer requested be passed onto you. Does God hear every prayer?
A) Of course. According to the New Testament, we are temples of the living God. God dwells within us. How else would God be able to know our heart? We just forget to look for God within…that’s usually where many of the answers to our prayers lie anyway.
Q) How would someone without any religious education find God within?
A) The same way the Himalayan masters find the Source that Christians call God. The same way people who have never been able to read have found God through the centuries– meditation, prayer, spending time in the quiet. Remember that religious education is simply that, teaching about what someone else thinks about God. You still have to choose whether you agree with them or not. Not enough people think they have permission to think for themselves.
Q) It’s interesting that you mention people following rather than thinking. Have you always had the ability to think for yourself? Or have you learnt that quality?
A) I trusted what others told me for fifty years. That’s when I began the practice of centering prayer and it changed my whole theology and life. It did lead me into spiritual leadership in the Christian faith because I had to start where I was. I think that’s how the Spirit teaches us and moves us along at the pace we are willing and able to hear. Writing my first two books was all about my learning who God is and giving myself permission to disagree where religion didn’t make sense.
Q) So what didn’t make sense to you about religion?
A) The question I always had was this: Why does Jesus’ Father not look much like the God of the Old Testament? They don’t have the same characteristics or personality. Jesus said God doesn’t kill people because of their bad actions. Is that a loving God? The New Testament says God is love, God is light – in Him there is no darkness at all. This is the good news!
Christianity has blended the Judaic faith with the New Testament revelation of God and God has a split personality.
Let me quickly say that I am not putting down the Judaic faith. There are many faithful Jews who have become kind, generous people because of their beliefs.
Q) For British readers I’ve got to ask this– What’s the difference between the Church of England (C of E) and Lutheranism?
A) That’s a broad question, and my only real contact with a group I assume to be related to the C of E (however remotely) is the Episcopal Church in the States. The Lutheran church has many more divisions than the C of E and Episcopal groupings. The similarities between us might best be found in the liturgical aspect of worship, with C of E being more “high” church than most Lutheran congregations are today. Liturgy is a treasure for all of us.
On the other side of the coin, I think Lutherans feel a little more freedom to depart from doing everything the same way. You can walk into three Lutheran churches and experience three completely different kinds of worship service. Theologically, most Lutherans “say” they believe we are saved by the grace of God, but in actuality, if you don’t think the same way, you may be suspect.
You might also take note that this is my opinion, and there are some who will disagree with my assessment.
Q) I’m actually fascinated because growing up C of E I was never really exposed to anyone who was Lutheran. It’s a huge learning curve for me. So what is the Lutheran stance on things like rock music, drugs, etc? Is it frowned upon as it is by the C of E community?
A) I’d say that if it’s legal by the standards of the state, who make laws that are hopefully built upon the desire to promote peace, harmony, and justice among large groups of people, then it might be done in moderation and without harm to self or another. Again, this is my dancing on the head of a pin. Let’s just call it the opinion of one Lutheran. Rock music – okay. Drugs – not legal.
Q) You strike me as a very fair, honest and just guy. I’m sure you’re well respected in your community. Do you find people coming to you for guidance and help often?
A) I minister in a relatively small congregation– 75-80 people in worship each week. I’m in a rural, non-farming community in the Bible Belt. It’s surprising to me that not many people in this area know what a Lutheran is either! The Germans and Scandinavians who immigrated to the states settled further north. So I help whoever God brings to me. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to write, to reach a wider audience.
Q) I had a lot of people ask me, “Who is that guy?” They just instantly liked you. I think you are touching a lot of people out there. How does that feel?
A) Anytime someone says you have helped them, it fills that space within you that wants to feel valued, appreciated, and put on this earth to fulfil a need. It’s like the beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they will be filled. We always come away satisfied when we do the right thing that brings peace and hope to others.
Q) Yes, well you certainly helped me a lot. I was grateful for your support when my fiancée went home. It’s a trying time, but I talk to God as much as I can. Have you ever had an experience with an angel?
A) My definition of an angel is “a messenger from God.” I’ve encountered many messengers from God on my journey. Somewhere in the psalms it says a man might make his plans, but God guides his footsteps. I think that means go the direction you think you’re supposed to go until the light shines on another path or a door opens that just makes sense. And most of all, be open to appreciating the moment in which you are in.
- O Taste and See: Discovering God Through Imaginative Meditations is available now!
- Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther: Finding Freedom in Love
- In Living Color: The Lords Prayer
- In Living Color: The Beatitudes