Parisian Rambling

Yesterday was a bit of a slow day in terms of getting out and about, but it was a fun day in other ways. I went to a Protestant church and I made some new friends, which is nice. In fact it is a bit of a dilemma, these are nice folk, but I think a big bonus of my time here has been the really alone stuff (unless you count God…maybe).

Today was a different story, clocked up some real k’s. My church today was a pond in a park with a fountain. Everywhere you go in Paris there are these amazing parks, with beautiful sculptures and gardens and water features. Really soul feeding stuff. I sat down beside one of these ponds and gave myself time to ruminate on ….well things that need ruminatin’.

So, a couple of photos. The Arc de Triomphe. It’s big. Built in the early 19th century, it was built to commemorate those who died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. I then walked the Champs-Élysées, actually I did a couple of laps, stopping for coffee a couple of times. Then onto Place de la Concorde, this is the place where most of the guillotine work was done during the French Revolution, around 1300 people were beheaded here. Pays not to get the peasants angry is my feeling. There is a story that the stench of human blood was so strong here, that cattle could not be made to cross this stretch of land.

My friend Michael has asked me to reflect on my spiritual experiences in different places. It’s an interesting question. I found today was a lot of processing things form my past, pondering my future, thinking about purpose and a lot of this business of really trusting God. This faith stuff is really interesting to me. It seems such a big issue in the kingdom of God, phrases like “without faith it is impossible to please God” yikes! It can’t just be about choice of who you will follow I don’t think. If it was just that, why wouldn’t God turn up, spread His arms out wide, yell “TA DAAAA!! Here I am, now choose if you’ll follow me or not.” That would be how I’d do it, of course I’m pretty sure I’m not God. Instead He leaves it so that we have to trust in something not thoroughly apparent, something not material.

Something I find interesting about this life is that, if I have my theology correct, it will be the only time in all of eternity that I will be able to live by faith. Take risks, make choices, spend my days, by faith. I’m guessing after I die there’s probably not going to be much doubt one way or the other about God’s existence. My time now is a different story, don’t get me wrong, I believe in God enough to bet my life on it, but He’s not here like my bed or chair or food, in plain view. So in all of eternity, this will be my only time to make faith based decisions. I think choosing to live by faith takes courage, that perhaps fear is the antithesis of faith living.

In yesterday’s sermon, the preacher talked about belief, he inferred that belief has to be more than intellectual ascension. It has to be making decisions and taking risks consistent with what we claim to believe, perhaps against the “common sense”. I like that thought. Of course it’s scary and confrontational, but I’m guessing that’s faith.

And on that note Beautiful People, I am headed out for my dinner. My love to you and big hugs,

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About timeaside

I'm setting time aside to focus on the things I think are important. A life well lived, taking lessons from the past without carrying their burden, hanging out with God and seeing what He has to say about the whole thing.
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12 Responses to Parisian Rambling

  1. Paul says:

    Kierkegaard said that faith is an objective uncertainty held fast in the passion of absolute commitment – that is, with the commitment appropriate to the absolute – within subjectivity. (This does not make Kierkegaardian faith solipsistic, as even though the passion for the absolute is known only within subjectivity, it is God who transcends everything who is the grounds of our subjective self-hood, and is thus closer to us within subjectivity than we are to ourselves. And this is how we can recognize grandeur, meaning, goodness and beauty outside of our subjectivity.) And any proof of God which pretends to negate the inward and unforced process of faith is a bad idea anyway. As Pseudo-Dionysius and Thomas Aquinas point out (don’t ya love these Syrian orthodox and medieval Catholics types!) God is not a thing amongst things that He might ‘exist’ in any sense of that word in the same way that we exist. As Creator rather than creature He is really not like us (and this is what ‘holy’ means; really not like us). Further, as Paul (quoting a Greek poet) and Augustine point out, it is in God that all things live and move and have their being – God is the grounds of being itself – so as all creatures depend on the Creator for their being, that dependence is central to what it means for anything to exist as a creature. But God is not dependent; God is the source and destiny off all that is (note; God becoming a baby is just an impossible mystery!). So the theme of the hiddeness of God – OK David, Deus in enigmate – is profoundly scriptural and, to quote St Wesley, anyone who tries to tell you differently is selling something. That is, anyone who thinks they can prove to you that God exists on the basis of demonstrable rational or empirical evidence is basically on the same side as anyone who thinks they can prove to you that God does not exist. This does not mean that God does not demonstrate Himself to us as He wills. But He never does so in a closed and repeatable way that would give us God in a bottle (or Heaven on a stick).

    • timeaside says:

      Lovely stuff, thanks mate for adding that to the conversation (as my friend Jim would say). An “uncertainty held fast”, this makes me happy all over.

  2. Jim Unger says:

    Good stuff Paul, thanks much for sharing.

  3. Jim Unger says:

    I’m reminded of Job’s words at the end of his ordeal; “I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.” I accept faith as the only way to connect with God, but I struggle trying to figure out the faith and relationship work together. How does one really have relationship with out tangible experience? What is the relationship based on? Job’s experience opened a new level of relationship. I pray your walkabout does the same…

    • timeaside says:

      Yeah, that is an interesting tension that I’d not really thought about before. I wonder if there is room in there for relationship to be something even more special, if we can just get our selves less troubled by the need for the material….or something like that.

      • Jim Unger says:

        Although the material seems to scream for my attention, I’m struck by how Job’s lament seemed to be that God wouldn’t talk to him. It’s kinda why I’m struck by his words at the end, “I heard about You, now I’ve seen You”. One of Job’s core complaints during his ordeal was that he couldn’t connect with God. Rings pretty true in my heart. I desire to connect, to have communication with God just as I’m talking to you. I’m not sure where faith fits into that…

  4. Paul says:

    Perhaps its not that we can have a relationship with God without any tangible experience, but rather, if we can believe (this is the faith thing) that ‘behind’ every tangible experience is God, in hiddeness, then God is in relationship with us, more tangibly than any thing else, all the time. This does not mean that God causes all the shit in our lives, but rather that God suffers with us, viscerally (as the grounds of our experience of the world) and equally rejoices with us in every delight. One of the very amazing things about the mystery of the incarnation is that God as a man suffers. God is not ‘at a distance’ from our experience of life, as both we and Job are want to feel in our experiences of suffering and alienation, but is right there in the very center of our human experience of reality.

    • Jim Unger says:

      I think that, until we see Jesus face to face, there will be a tension (at least in my mind) between the tangible and the unseen. Not unlike the tension between free will and predestination. I love your words Paul, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea the hiddeness of God in the reality of our lives. This I choose by faith to believe. Yet I am wired, by my creator, to be in relationship with Him and with people. Relationship, as I understand it, requires tangable contact. Thus the tension. I’m reminded of the scripture that says; “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him”. The faith part is pretty evident; I like to think that the reward part is the tangible. Again I’m reminded of Job. The end of his sincerely seeking God was tangible. THus his words, “I heard about You, now I have seen You”

      I’m enjoying the conversation, I hope David doesn’t mind that we’ve hijacked his blog….

  5. Paul says:

    Hi Jim; its my guess that David is pretty comfortable with hijacking, piracy or any other form of just – though not necessarily voluntary – appropriation for the higher good. So, lets proceed expecting a counter appropriation from the said blog owner at any moment.

    This is a bit tough. I don’t know that I will ever see the face of Jesus in the flesh, though our flesh understands that sort of encounter and clings to the ‘sentiment’ of it with great feeling. But Jesus goes away so that the Spirit might come, so that He can be within each one of us in a manner He could not be were He present amongst us as a man of flesh and blood, in one place at one time. The ‘cosmic’ Christ of revelation (and Collosians) is way bigger than that; and this is the real Christ, the lamb slain before the foundation of the earth, the one out of whose mouth the double edged sword of the Word of God (whom He Himself is) proceeds. So what is so immediate and accessible about the Jesus we imaginatively meet when we read the gospels is that He is just like us. God is not distant, but empties Himself almost totally and becomes a man amongst people. But whilst this really is God in the flesh, God is not a creature, God is not just the man Jesus, and Jesus is not, finally, domesticatable to our oh so human feelings and desires. But that is stating it too strongly. For surely it is the teaching of the Church that where ever two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst of them? So it is in the Church that I meet Christ in the tangible flesh and blood way that we crave. This is why we need fellowship – Christ Himself meets and touches us in the hands and friendship of our brothers and sisters in Christ. What this means for the resurrection God only knows. But whatever it means it will be better than our wildest hopes. So I believe (there is that faith thing again!). But I don’t think it helps us to want to meet God face to face as it were, in the terms of a direct inter-personal encounter like Jesus had with the fishermen of Gallilee. Seeking God’s face is not necessarily the same thing as wanting a personal audience with God. And as Job found out, should we get it, it is not going to be anything like what we wanted! So I think how we seek to find God in His hiddenness is very important. Too easily – alas, I know from experience – we can set Jesus up as our imaginative boyfriend whom we infatuatedly love because he makes us feel good about ourselves in the terms we want. And then, when the love tingles don’t come, we wonder where he has gone, and we wonder were we just generating those love tingles narcissistically, or being manipulated into them by a good emotionally savvy worship leader. And there may be a real point to these questions. Even so, I think the penticostals have a real point about expecting God to intervene concretely and miraculously in our daily lives. So your hunger to see the work and ‘face’ of God for yourself is right, I think Jim. But here is the rub. It seems like we modern Western Christians with our technologies, our wealth, our indulgence, our oh so materialistic way of being alive, our atomistic absence of community (a la church), our rejection of the way of suffering and the disciplines of spiritual growth, are really at a disadvantage spiritually when it comes to believing in and actually seeing the inbreaking miraculous work of God. Its the global south where this seems pretty normal, not in our churches. Is there any hope for us? Hmmm… you raise some really big questions here Jim.

    • Jim Unger says:

      Suffering seems to be part of walking with Jesus and is certainly what lacks in the western mindset. In my particular corner of the west when one suffers it’s assumed that sin is hidden somewhere. A sad state to say the least.

      I understand well the need for fellowship. We are the body, we need each other. When we function as the church we sense the rightness that comes from participating in the Way. Just as when we walk in the Spirit we experience the fruit of the Spirit. I believe that these are evidences of God with us. Perhaps part of my angst comes directly from the failure of the organizational church I grew up in to really be the Body of Christ. Again a sad state to say the least.

      So I’m looking to understand Jesus’ words; “Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, My Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal Myself to each of them.” I take Jesus literally when He says he will reveal Himself to me. Understand, I’m not limiting him to standing in front of me as He did his disciples after the resurrection. Nor am I looking for the next emotional fix. My hearts cry is to understand how “revealing Himself to each of them” works tangibly in my life. I’m happy to let Jesus define what that looks like. Up to this point in my journey in the Way, I’ve not come to that moment where, by the Holy Spirit, I’ve been able to connect my experience with this promise.

      I do believe this will look different for every follower. And I’m begining to believe that it is tied to suffering, (or what we perceive as suffering), as those I’ve read about, and those I know personally who would say, “Jesus revealed Himself to me”, have experienced Him in the midst of or after suffering.

  6. timeaside says:

    This is great. I don’t have to write anything. Indeed it is a bit tricky because I want to engage more, but know that if I do that I wont get any more posts up. Or get out of my apartment, which would be a shame. Great reading though, thanks chaps.
    Planning on having some breakfast now and putting up a new post after that.
    Hijack away, my love and respect to you both.

  7. lannalife says:

    I’m enjoying the read to Dave. Thanks Paul & Jim. Some great comments, thoughts and questions!

    I like what you said about the hiddenness of God, Paul. My sense is that we kind of make God more hidden than he needs to be because of our expectations of how we see God must “perform” for us. Suffering (I like what you wrote about that Jim) kind of has the effect of making God more hidden because it seems to be something we are very un-accepting of and uncomfortable with.

    I thinks it’s the mindset of the west which seems to have propagated the thought of prosperity and that this prosperity indicates and certain level of blessing and success. From my personal experience, it’s been in the suffering times where I have met with and experience God the most. It’s where I have grown the most. We seem to accept and believe that prosperity and suffering cannot co-exist because prosperity seems to be the absence of suffering while suffering is the absence of prosperity – this is what I have often heard been preached and taught! This is because we seem to equate prosperity with things going right (God’s blessings) while we equate suffering with things going wrong. I do not see Jesus living out this kind of mindset. In fact, he tried to prepare his disciples for suffering yet he also said they would be blessed (prosperity). I think for Jesus, the two went hand in hand. The sermon on the mount is a great example of this.

    When I started to view this life as a time of preparation for my next life then I started to view things very differently. My attitude has started to change about everything and I am starting to see the hand of God so much more easily in my life. I am slowly staring to enjoy this life so much more and experience and see God so much more in everything that happens. Life is not random nor are my experiences random. In each God wants to reveal more of himself to me.

    I’ve just come back from three weeks in Mozambique and I can tell you, their view of suffering is so much different to ours. I think that when we seek to avoid or soffen the “blows” of suffering we lessen the prospect of experiencing the Lord in the midst of what we are going through and experiencing. I do believe that Jesus wants us to experience him in the midst of what we are going through – the good and the bad, the blessings and the sufferings.

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