About Me

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I am a pastor and a clinical psychotherapist. My life's passion is defining healthiness from a human perspective and paralleling it to the holiness of God, divine perspective. Shifting perspectives creates a paradigm that is alongside of rather than over and against. The parakalein of God and the paradoxes of humanity are redefined. Humanity is all about winning and yet we are losing ground everywhere. Divinity is all about letting go of the desire to win and the fear of loss. The Divine embraces the world with loving care regardless of anything.

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The End of the World, or not

Posted by Don Paine

Last week the world was suppose to come to an end according to one individual ho did have a lot of followers.  There are some things that never change.  One of them is that people want to believe that the world of hurt and pain will be over and the world millennium of peace and love will be ushered in.  Still others seem to rejoice in the death of people who are un-believers.  Like I mourned a few weeks ago when Osama bib Laden was shot, I mourned that anyone would delight in another’s demise.  Yet rejoice they do and predict they will.

I noticed a billboard in the background when CNN was showing all the bill boards lining the highway about the end of the world.  I thought how thoughtful, creative, true and respectful this person was to put this up as a billboard.  I thought, in the midst of hatred and disrespectfulness sow truth and grace as a contributor to  peace.

I put a made up copy of that billboard below with no comment except thank you to the person who visioned it and did it and to the Spirit of Truth and Grace in him that is the heart and soul of true Christianity.

Memorial Day, in memory of my dad

Posted by Don Paine

Today is Memorial Day a day that we remember that the cost of freedom is high, the cost of war is perennial pain and loss very little gain and joy.  We celebrate victories but still mourn the losses.  I recall my dad thinking about his buddies who never came back from storming the beeches of Normandy.  He was in the third wave while friends were in the first wave all died.  We welcome soldiers home from war.  Some soldiers never come home.

Memorial Day is not a victory parade it is an "honoring of the losses and pain of war".  A remembrance that there is a price tag for freedom.

Memorial Day began in response to the Civil War that ravaged our nation.  Abraham Lincoln said it was the worst of times and the best of times for the nation.  In his second Inaugural Address he stated:.  

With malice toward none, with charity (love) for ALL, with firmness in the right as God gives us to know the right,

  let us strive to finish the work that we are in
  To bind up the nations wounds,
to care for him (them) who shall have born the battle and
for his (their) widows and orphans (victims and villains)
to do all which may achieve and cherish
a just and lasting peace
among ourselves and all nations.
The first Memorial Day was crafted for the reconciliation and healing of the breech and betrayals of war.
Today in honor of my father and all those who fought and survived and others who died in World War II, in honor of all those men and women who have died in any war, fighting for any nation, we honor their loss.  In honor of all those who are fighting and who have recently died and their "widows and orphans", we remember.

Today we commit to do "all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and all nations of earth".

Meeting up with a friend in a small town

Posted by Don Paine

I walked down for a cup of coffee this morning.  A part of me felt I was lazy as I could brew a cup of coffee for myself.  Another part of me said it is not about coffee it is about connections.  So an excusing part, rationalizing part you be the judge or just suspend the judging part.

I was dressed up as I was preaching in a church about 30 miles away.  Two men were sitting on the bench outside the little town market in West Stockbridge, MA. The town welcomers noticed my memorial day tie. I recognized one of them as the former owner who I had not seen for 6 months.  The other the current owner.  Conversations ensued as connections were made and remade.

Bernie Fallon had just written and published a book, "Goodology".  I told him I was ready to blog about waco-ology that the theology and ecclesiology of the religious world was so confining and constrictive no one was caring much anymore about organized church.  It is all good.  It is what we make it.  Bernie's book from his own life adventures and experiences seemed to coalesce with mine.  We shared learning stories, life lessons, and similar conclusions.

We concluded if everyone spun good into everything there would be more goodness in the world.  With more goodness in the world their would be less spinning.  God had spun a tale in both of us that we were finding strangely parallel.  Our shared stories are not important. That their is a shared story in many of us is profound and propelling.  In a world of pretense and pretext this is neither.  It is real and it is about life.  It is good.

I told him the simplest thing I had heard in my travels: "If it is to be it is up to me".  Ten words none bigger than two letters but with deep meaning.

Can't wait to read "Goodology".  I am sure it is good!

So is your judger off or is it all just good.

The coffee was good the connection great!

Walking and Watching and Learning

Posted by Don Paine

I was on my morning walk.  It was 5:45 am.  I was listening to the birds sing as they only do early in the morning.  I was imagining what they were saying.  Al creations seems to have a song in the morning different from the evening.  A violent storm had come through the night before and it was as if nature was celebrating surviving and thriving in the joy of the morning.  Peace and serenity breads peace and serenity as I meditate.  I realize that walking is not just exercise for my body but it is exercise for my meditative soul and spirit.

Then in front of me across the middle of the road making it impossible to pass, I saw a fallen tree.  Struck no doubt by lightening a tree had fallen.  It's life cut down suddenly.  It interrupted my peace and serenity.

I walked through the cemetery, the only way around the fallen tree.  I thought of my brother who two summers ago was cut down suddenly from the land of the living.  It jolted my peace and serenity.  At first yes but over time it actually deepened my peace and serenity over time.  Interestingly later I received from my sister in law the picture of the stone erected in honor of my brother.  "Walking with Jesus" was the script.  I realized that in two different worlds we were both walking with Jesus that day.  I thanked God.

As I passed the fallen tree I noticed that cars and trucks were not yet advised of the fallen tree so I began to try and flag them down to warn them to save them a few 100 feet of travel then a mile, as I kept walking.  Probably about 12 driving machines passed me.  It was still early in the morning.  Some ignored my attempt to help or warn them. Some looked at me like I was a crazy man.  Some waved as if I was a friendly man.  Some honked at me as if I was a rude man in the middle of their road.  I thought how God sends people and events into our lives to warn us and help us and we sometimes drive right by.A few slowed down even stopped.  I informed that that the road was out and they had to turn around.  One person actually on her return by me after she went on and turned around rolled down her window and said, "Thank you very much.  Have a nice day." One in twelve stopped to say thank you.  Human nature is human nature.  We all have one so we all see ourselves in all things and learn and grow.  At first I was upset that no one was listening or thanking me then I realized that I often do not listen or say thank you.

 I reflected how events in life can offer us an opportunity to listen to the warning signs the helpful things and people God puts in our path.  We can often take all life for granted. I breathed a deep breath of fresh air and said.

Thank You, brother Phil for helping me to treasure living.

What, this makes no sense? Making sense of it!

Posted by Don Paine

Someone struggling with their sense of God and with the apparent duplicity of a God of Love on the right hand and a God of Hatred and Wrath on the left hand, cited the passage about Elisha the prophet and the malling of children.

II KIngs 2:23-25 records the story:
Elisha went to Bethel (The House of God).  As he was walking along the road some youth came out of the town and jeered (made fun of) him, "Go on up, old baldy, Go on up you bald-head".  He turned around looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.  then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty two of the youths.  He went on to Mount Carmel.

This does not make sense on first reading and as it has been interpreted.  This creates confusion and falsehood.  Therefore my conclusion is two fold, one it is authored for that purpose and we have misunderstood it as God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace.  I see no peace here.

The traditional self serving use and interpretation of this passage is to tell people that they need to fear God and fear mocking or treating God's prophets disrespectfully.  If people speak ill of the prophet God will get them.  This serves the prophets and the prophet's organization allowing them to abuse and misuse their authority and calling.  The use of threat and fear are neither good values or serve any value. Fear and intimidation are not Godly.  If I know that as a parent or leader why would I think that this passage supports if not directs that way of thinking.  We have obviously misread something.   So lets look closer at healthy alternatives not because we know them to be true but because we know the current understanding is not true.  We assume that this is God acting.  Assumptions are by definition that, not truths.

So Elisha is walking down the road on a nice sunny spring day.  He is enjoying quiet time and communion with his God.  He is mediating and so is mindful of spirit and soul, body and mind. Some youth see him and see his bald head shining in the suns rays.  They are youth.  They are being kids.  I have had kids taunt me just to see if they can disturb my peace center.  Adults do this too.  If they unnerve me it is on me being drawn off focus.  If I remain focus I ignore them, send them a blessing or maybe in a kidding way try to scare them.  I might say, "Watch out guys or God will get you, then laugh".  So the kids taunted the prophet and the prophet fired back.  We read anger and hostility into his statement. "He turned to them and called down a curse from the Lord God".  I know there is no proof of how he turned or the tone of his voice or his kidding nature.  At the same time would that not make more sense.  If I can spin a story in the way it makes sense or spin it in a way it does not make sense except to use it for my self-serving end, why would I not choose the good spin!

Then the story gets worse.  It appears that the Lord sent a bear out of the woods to maul the youth to teach them a lesson they and humanity will never forget>  Really?  You think that is God.  God sent his son to die to teach us all to never forget the love and grace of God for all humanity no matter what they do or say.

So what if the enemy of truth and grace, the author of confusion, and the original deceiver saw an opportunity to send a bear out of the woods to maul the children and to maul the belief in a God of love and grace.  That would make sense.  That is his purpose.  The youth, 42 of them, were killed by one bear and it was God doing the killing.  The youth, 42 of them, were killed by a bear.  Elisha, undeterred by their jeering, offered God's love and grace to the families of this tragedy and did not see it or interpret it as God's wrath.  He in fact maybe felt bad for his joking remark. He saw this moment as a moment to extend God's love and grace.  He offered grace then went on to Mt Carmel.

I do not know what happened that day.  I do know that when I react with anger, threat and intimidation it is not God in me acting it is a part of me that is triggered that I have responsibility to control and care for.  I also know that when horrible events happen in the world they do not happen because God is mad at any one or they would be happening daily to all of us.  Threats and fears are not of peace and love.  Grace and truth are of peace and love.

Several years ago I was called to serve a church and the former interim pastor and retired missionary stayed on as a 'helpful presence".  Some tension resulted in my asking him to meet me at the top of a mountain to talk through what was going on between us.  I invited him to be honest with me.  He told me that he felt I was not called of God, that I was ego centric and that my psychology was deceiving me so I could not hear or walk with God".  I did not think about asking a bear to come out of the woods but a gentle wind blew and blew his toupee off his head.  He was bald.  I looked at him and said, "so you are not able to let your bald head be seen so have to cover it up but I am the one with an ego problem."
The truth is we all have ego problems, we use and interpret things in a self-serving way.  The fruit of self-control has us see ourselves and events from love and grace perspectives.  As you can imagine a fruitful discussion occurred with little change except he did begin to show up in church without his toupee.  I also committed to never wear a toupee and to just let my now bald head be what it is.  I have had youth mock it a bit.  I respond with the grace that God put in me.

I think Elisha did as well!  Maybe, who knows?

What we stand for and Who we stand with

Posted by Don Paine

Defining "What we stand for and who we stand with" is a commission challenge to AIPAC by John Boehner a Republican from Ohio and Speaker of the House.

He identified what we stand for as "freedom and justice" and who we stand with as "those nations who yearn and struggle for freedom for their people".   The problem is that when we identify freedom with democracy we set up an arbitrary connection with a particular style of governing rather than aligning with a commitment to "human rights and responsibilities" regardless of the form of the government.  If our agenda and alignment is on a political process rather than human rights and responsibilities we become self serving and self-promoting.

What if we choose to stand for "human rights and responsibilities" and stand with all people and nations who likewise stand for "human rights and responsibilities".  Would we be better able and apt to embrace the divergence forms of government as long as they do not neglect or abuse the human rights and responsibilities of their citizenry.

I have often thought that while we have a "Bill of Rights" we need to formulate a "Bill of Responsibilities".  It is the balance and harmony of rights and responsibilities that create a safe and secure world.  Individual rights and social responsibilities are equally important in developing a polity of peacefulness and justice.

We do not stand with any group against any other group.
We stand with all people of earth who believe in and work for the communion of all people in a balance of and harmony with diversity and distinctiveness.

Religious Pluralism, Universalism, tolerance or Respectfulness

Posted by Don Paine

Malachi the prophet cried out on God's behalf, "Where is the respect due me"

Peter said, "Show proper respect to everyone" (I Peter 1:17).

What we need today is not another truth, or another twist of the truth.  What we need toad is refreshing honesty.  Like cool lemonade on a hot day it would be refreshing in the midst of all the hot issue facing pour world for someone to just be honest and drop the agenda's and attributions that foster war in in the name of peace and community forebear.

Honesty that is not self serving nor self effacing but honesty that is open and welcoming to all truths.

What if all religions would see value and truth in each other by letting go of truths that are self serving and self propagating.  Expanding my kingdom at the expense of others is the old form of kingdom building.  The new form of king-doming building is broadening though respectfulness the parameters of the kingdom to include all people.  The Kingdom of Heave is here and now if we live by the rules of heaven.

Honesty with respectfulness is like Godliness with contentment, it provides great gain.  To achieve it we have to give up our "right faith beliefs" and embrace the faith beliefs of all people.

To do as Peter suggests, "show proper respect to all people".  Perhaps this is the respect due to God to respect all God's people whatever their particular belief system is.

This is not Tolerance, or universalism or pluralism this is "Religious respectfulness" a call to honesty at the deepest level where true Spirit is present in all of us.

The pursuit of happiness

Posted by Don Paine

I read a piece on the "pursuit of happiness" one of the things our fore fathers and mothers had as a concept of what we as human beings have a right to.

I began to think about the things that make me happy and noticed that they all had to do with some action done by me to someone else or to me from someone else.

A group of 7 co-workers in Albany, NY won the lottery and there 7 way split netted them 19 million dollars after taxes.  Everyone talked as they did of how happy this made them.  I get that.  I could pay off all my debts, quit my job give to family and friends and still have money to spare.  So is that not happiness.

A part of me says yes.  Another part says "not so much".  True happiness I think is more when I am out for my walk filled with gratitude, being gracious toward others who are not in as good health, or not in a place of freedom where they can walk in safety, or not wondering where my next meal is coming from, or not  having a friend to visit, or not having faith, hope or love in my inner being.

Happiness is internal and eternal.  It is about peace inside.  It is about faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

If I am loved and have people that I love I am happy regardless of anything.

Free to pursue that kind of happiness.  I am.

Religious tolerance a key, respectfulness too

Posted by Don Paine

President Obama said that "religious tolerance" is a key to peace in the world.

There is part of me that says that is true.  Intolerance of other religions is certainly a trigger for wars between nations and groups.  So it follows that tolerance would decrease the need for such divisiveness and duplicity.  I want the freedom to practice my religious faith but I do not want to give you the same freedom.  That certainly is self-serving and not a community building posture.  Tolerance is a key.

However beyond tolerance there is developing the capacity to embrace in am empathetic and empowering way other religious faiths for other people while not lessening the distinctive and dignity of my own religious faith.  I might call this "religious respectfulness".  It would be a call not just for tolerance but for actually embracing the parallel desire of all religious faith groups to encourage and teach people to live in love and peace with oneself, ones God and one's neighbor.

I do not have to agree with you or impose my beliefs on you.  I can simply and profoundly respect and value other people and other people's faith.  this would be more than tolerance it would be embrace.  An empathetic embrace of all communities of faith by all communities of faith would increase respect and dialogue without tension, desire to control, or the fear of being denied mutual respect.


Posted by Don Paine

Someone asked me to define leadership.  My response was, "a leader is a model of powerful internal self-control that has that person respond not out of a desire to control others or outcomes but as a willingness to lead by example".

Peter said that the elders of the church are to "be an example to the flock" not as lording to over them.

Leadership is not about controlling people or telling them what to do.  It is modeling how to be with people in a loving and caring way that listens.

The best way to mold other people into good behavior or attitudes is model good behavior and attitudes.  It is not the directors chair that I sit in it is the listeners chair.

I had a conversation with someone who was honestly sharing something of her concern upon reading my blog.  I listened and valued her insight, wisdom, and courage.  

Leading people into change may be slower than telling people what to do.  However it doe snot feed my ego or deplete the other persons ego to listen and lead by example.

Maybe that is why the chief shepherd gave his life for his sheep.

Justice what is it, a mirror is the key

Posted by Don Paine

God in Christ announced the gospel of good news.  It has become the gospel of my good news, as the church by any name presents its truth as the truth. 

The church has become the platform of truth to promote a lie.  The truth is all truth comes from God, all who represent God have a story of truth that is not the whole story.  

The whole story is God is in you and God is in me.  When we let stuff any stuff of theology, ecclesiology or science or psychology block the wisdom of Self we lose the pure good news.  This blockage becomes a burden and the result injustice in the name of justice, inequality in the name of equality, bondage in the guise of freedom.

In Jesus' name we need to stop.  If you cannot stop please to not continue to call your actions, attitudes, or attributions christian and I will not call them non-Christian. Who am I to judge.

Then we can receive each other in peace love and joy rather than fighting over who is right or who is wrong.  Perhaps then we will have "liberty and justice for all", peace on earth, and acts of goodwill not self-serving and self-justified violence.  This will be to the glory of God and reflective of the glory of God.  It will simultaneously be to the credit of humanity and to the redemption of humanity.

We will be as God made us free, just and at peace!

The covenant of love will outshine the creed of any church.  The Gospel is covenantal not creedal. This is the Goldmine of Gospel thattheuCC has that needs to be preached from every steeple and seen in every mountain top.  It needs to be seen in the heart of every person

This is the Gospel of the Gospel.  Let us preach it from every steeple and live it in every square until all the world knows and experiences life transforming  mercy and justice.  Then live it out walking into and out of churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and all places of personal or spiritual contemplations with humility.

Humanity walking in step in stride and in sinc with one another because the discipline of loving and being at peace have replaced the dogma and doctrine if the church.

Soren Kirkegaard's vision "to be the truth without embellishing it", without embracing it, without using it for empire building socially, religiously, politically or nationally.  

When any part of a truth is used to advance my cause over your cause. no matter what, it is injustice. There is no just war.  There is not just win without the loser being diminished. No cause at the expense of another persons right to be is a just cause. Conversely if I receive you unjust treatment as an act of discipline with grace and mercy I am living the way that is the "I am the way the truth and the life" way.  It is the only way to the creator who is love.  The way of love is the way of freedom, justice for all.
We place Kirkegaard's challenge to the church: to know the truth and not to be the truth is to embellish that very truth with error". So either there is justice for all or there is no justice at all.

Justice begins inside. The fundamental understandable mistake of human nature is to believe that we must change something outside. So we look in the window to see what we need to change in others when we need to look into a mirror and see and change the injustice the cruely the ignorance of ignoring the work we need to do inside. 

James tells us that wars come from internal conflict between parts inside.  We go inside to heal the hurts and restore the love and peace that we then bring to the outside world.

Duplicity vs Multiplicity

Posted by Don Paine

I was sitting in a room with a person struggling with their understanding of a God who let's tragedies happen in the world.  It reminded me of the left hand of God and the right hand of God debate in seminary days.  Wow that is going back a ways. If God is a loving God and has all power why does God not intervene and keep tragedies from happening in our world.  Is God duplicitous, capricious, disconnected, unaware or just unconcerned?  To maintain a belief in God that is love while experiencing things that hurt like hell makes no sense to most of us.  Duplicity drives some away form God and church while others stay in church and ignore the duplicity of doing.  Is this hell or is this heaven?

Parts of life and the brain seem to point to double bind or duplicity.  In a right wrong world we are set up to think of inconsistencies or consistencies.  Opposing positions on things from how to squeeze the tooth paste to how to bring peace to our divided world are all about the union of opposites.  One side wins while the other loses.  That alone is duplicitous as everyone wants to win, no one wants to lose.  The system that sets up duplicity serves the maintaining of duplicity and the frustration goes on.

The multiplicity of parts maintains that the issue needs not be about winning but stopping to care for all parts without concern for winning, not about union of opposites but of communion of opposites.  When polarized parts that appear duplicitous are equally welcomed, embraced and respected, the multiplicity of parts allows for harmony of oppositional parts not in that one wins and the other loses but in that all are valued.  A balanced system has less competitiveness and more compassion.  Pathologizing duplicity is replaced by empathizing multiplicity.

The God who seems to hate and love me at different times as different things happen to me becomes the God who welcomes all parts, all thoughts and feelings, all experiences and interpretations and interpolations of those experiences as equally respected and respectfully welcomed.  This is an extravagant welcoming of all parts and parallels the UCC (United Church of Christ's current world wide focus of widening the welcome.

Some will judge this "wide welcome of multiplicity" deceptive and misleading.  Just like some of the religious leaders of Jesus' day interpreted Jesu to be of the devil when in fact he was confronting the duplicity of the religious leaders of his day.

The narrow way for those people is the way as they have defined it.   Everyone else is of the wide way of destruction.  Do you hear the duplicity here or there or everywhere.  In multiplicity, all ways are welcome, if they lead to love and peace. This is an unusual, unique, and narrow way of thinking that few people come to believe in.  Is the wide way of "welcoming all ways" really the way that leads to destruction or is the narrow way of rejecting all ways but mine (the right way) the way that really has and continues to lead to destruction.

Are we ready for a new narrow way!  Or will the system continue to destroy itself while resisting to change the systemic problem.

The multiplicity of the mind invites us all to get into our right minds toward each other.  The right mind is not about right verses left but about right attitudes and attributions.  It is about having a "right heart" toward all parts of all people of all groups for all to know and walk in peace.

Is it a narrow way to be the only group calling all people to respectfulness and resiliency.  Multiplicity of parts calls us all to mature responsiveness and mutual respectfulness.   It includes empathetic embracing of all views, all belief systems, all people regardless of anything another with compassion.  It also includes and embracing empathetic responses to all people.  It does not pathologize any person or group for the purpose of negating, denigrating, or devaluing that group.  It is lovingly embracing with empathy all people not in a whimsical indifference to moral or ethical values but due to willful and disciplined  commitment to the covenant of respectfulness and responsibleness toward all.

Multiplicity broadens the welcome to an extensive and extravagant quality and kind of covenant of care that.  As God welcomes all people and invites all people to know and experience love and peace in an internal and eternal way.  God's love is not just unconditional it is also about acceptance-laden, agenda-less amore.

Multiplicity removes duplicity from being a problem into being the reality we all live in.  Multiplicity does not win over duplicity it dissolves the need to win in the embryonic fluid of acceptance and nurturance.  This leads to a rebirth, redemption, and resurgence of energy in the system.

So is is a narrow way that leads to nurturance or is it a wide way that leads to destruction or is it exactly the opposite.  The wide welcome is the narrow way that few embrace.  The narrow way as so many define it results in massive destruction in the name of, you name it.

Open wide!  Do not leave yourself wide open.  They sound duplicitous.  In the multiplicity of all things they are looking at the same thing in different ways and appreciate the value of both.

Multiplicity multiplies the blessing for all.

God bless our world

Two weeks ago Osama was killed, its effect still settling in on us all

Posted by Don Paine

I am a pastor and psychotherapist in the Albany area.  I am concerned with the way people have responded to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A part of me gets the celebration.  I had friends and family touched by the loss of life in the war on terrorism.  I get that in one sense the world is a safer place but in another sense their is increased hostility and less of a sense of safety.  Many say including our president and the prime minister of Pakistan that this killing was an act of justice.  Really.  It seems like an act of understandable and justifiable vengeance but we are kidding ourselves when we call it justice.  Justice is never one sided it is mutually respectful and agreed upon as the healthy way to care for an injustice that is done in the world. The language of what we are saying and the meta messages that are being presented and perceived really concern me.  The prophet Micah intentional connects "justice, mercy and humility" and these are not connected here.

In a nation that is fighting for the removal of capital punishment, there are few voices acknowledging that this is an "eye for and eye" moment which his more about our blindness than about clear vision.  One way thinking is what is at the heart of unresolved differences in our homes and in our world.  No ideology, thought or reaction is in itself the problem, the problem is we live in a social system that does not allow for equity, respectfulness, or peace.  It is about getting the bad guy, killing the enemy only to find our sense of humanity diminished.  We cannot kill one human being without that act lessening our sense of humanness and lowering our standard for mutual respectfulness and world peace.

As religious leaders of and in our communities of faith we need to decide to stand for mutual respectfulness and responsible teaching.  When we teach our particular faith group that we are the better way, the only way, the best way we insult our fellow communicants and insinuate that we are right and they are wrong.  The system that supports a right and wrong world perpetuates un-heathy competitiveness.  Under the pretext of faith, love and peace we sow conflict competition and contradictions.  What is as leaders of respective religious communities of faith we took a bold step forward and embraces our belief system with denigrating or degrading or devaluing the system of others.  Would we then change the un-heathy system that fuels wars and wastelands and into a new respectful and responsible system that nurtures peace and a blossoming earth.

In the new system the key qualities would be mutual compassion, calmness, courage, and creativity that would find ways to be together to promote love and peace in our world because we do not believe anymore that it is us or them that are right.  Ghandi said years ago that an eye for an eye orientation to life results in a blind world.  I say today that an eye for an eye world results in people with only one eye that sees only their way and that is worse.  It is a cyclops that perpetuates war famine and destruction.  When we see with two eyes we see our way in a self-respectful way and we see the ways of others in an equally valuing and validating way, respectfully.  When Christians teach that Jesus, as any Christian or ecclesiastical group proscribes him, is the only way they do an injustice to all other communities of faith.  Part of justice and true spirituality is mutual respectfulness and responsible honesty.  The Jesus way is not an exclusive or excluding way but an inclusive and including way.  The Jesus way is not an ecclesiastical or creedal way it is a life and attitude way.  Jesus welcomes everyone and invites everyone to his table of love and peace. The way of Jesus is a way of self-sacrifice (it does not have to be my way), humility (I see you and your way as better than my way not because it is but because that is the way of humility -Phil 2:4) and openheartedness (God's heart of love and forgiveness is available to all regardless of the particular belief system they endorse or embrace.  Jesus is not the way the Way is Jesus.  Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, etc all teach the way that Jesus lived as the way we all should live.

Imagine a world where there is full mutual respectfulness of all communities of faith, unconditional love and agenda-less respect.  Peace on earth and intentional acts of good will toward all humanity form all humanity.  Sounds like a religious festival!  

To do this we do not need to change our core beliefs just our excluding and exclusive beliefs.  We can all have and maintain, with self respect and respect for others, our beliefs. All we need to do is add a closing belief statement to all our ecclesiastical statements of faith or creeds.  That statement would be that while we believe differently we all believe that what we believe should not separate us from one another in the community of faith or the community of the covenant of love and peace for each other and the world.
Peace, Shalom, Pax

ALS calls all of us to CARE

Posted by Don Paine

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

That is the fact about this disease.  The truth is that it ravages a person's life, his wife, children, bothers, parents, and friends.  A good friend of ours in his forty's with young children has this disease. We are doing the ALS walk in NYC this morning to express our solidarity, our care and our support of him and his family.  In the wake of feeling like there is nothing anyone can do this gives us something to do.  But it is not about doing it is about being with our friend and family.

There is little certainty in this world but one is that caring presence is all we can really offer each other, not wisdom o insights just presence.  Nothing anyone has done caused this tragedy to ascend to Bruce as God does not afflict us with sickness because of anything anyone has done or not done.  I know that because if that were true we would all be sick. God does not cause, direct or allow this kind of pain to come into our lives.  God is present.  God is present through caring acts like walking with our friend.  This is when real faith takes on real action.

So we walk today as an intentional act of kindness and care.

Maybe there is something you can do today not as a random act of kindness but as intentional acts of kindness.  that is when the church is the church, the synagogue is the synagogue, the temple is the temple.  Our Bodies are the temple but inside is the life.

We celebrate the internal and eternal life of our friend as he battles the enemy of the body, ALS.  Supported by family and friends the care of presence wins.

Rob Bell rings a bell, it is not hell

Posted by Don Paine

I listened to Rob Bell talking about his concept of God's primary character of loving and I shouted a huge amen!

Then I heard the vultures attacking him much like the person who attacked Ghandi and is certain he is in hell.  Then I realized I just called a group of God's  children who GOd loves, vultures.   Hmmm! We are all the same only different. Though we are all different in some respects we are the same,

The idea of certainty grabs all of us.  We  want to know.  We then want to tell people what they need to know.  Thankfully God just loves.  Certainty feeds our human self, our disoriented egos,  

I do think "Love wins" is only part of the story but none of us can ever know or tell the whole story, that is certain. Love also has the courage and discipline to lose and not make it a failure.  Another part tells me it is not about winning or losing, as these are human characteristics that set us up to compete and contradict,  God's spirit is loving toward all so is not competitive or contradictory but calm and compassionate.  God is Spirit and God is love and they are not competitive or contradictory.  

Ghandi is in heaven because he lived the way Jesus lived in sacrificial surrender to the needs of humanity before his own needs, in peace and in loving toward all.  After all that is the way the truth and the life.   I have met many in churches who say they are going to heaven and that they are certain.  They do not live the way Jesus did, they do not share the truth of honest reflection that Jesus did, and they do not live the life Jesus lived.

The kicker:  neither Ghandi or I would say of them they are going to hell.  I can disagree with someone and still be loving toward them.

God is would to God we wound be.

Thank you Rob for courage and honesty regardless of error or right.

Loyalty and Truthfulness

Posted by Don Paine

I listened today to an interview with James Stewart the author of a new book, "Tangled Webs" in which he asserts that in the financial world and elsewhere we have sacrificed "speaking the truth" to the idea of loyalty.  We look the other way rather than confronting.  We look at what will better me rather than what will better the community of earth.

The passive and perplexing "going along with" parts of society and the aggressively and egregiously confrontative parts of society condone the deception of society and the individual in service of the community.  Not so much as it endemically and epidemically creates and recreates a false sense of security and community.  In this world, loyalty always triumphs over truth.

I recall a time in which I was a young pastor sitting with a family who was upset over another family member who had left the church in anger.   The family member I was sitting with acknowledged the wrong of her brother but said she had to support him as he was family and "blood was thicker than water".  I recall saying as a young pastor, what about the blood of Christ that makes us all one family in Christ.  The problem of making a God of loyalty and not authenticity is that the sense of community is undermined by the loyalty oath.  The honor code of living with integrity, speaking in integrity, and loving unconditionally i what creates true community.   Loyalty to a cause or an agenda or even a truth at the expense of "speaking the truth in love"inwardly and outwardly creates pseudo community at best.

Emptying ourselves of all agenda, of all dogmas, and all preconceived ideologies creates a loyalty to authenticity, to grace and truth in balance.  this is the open heartedness that nurtures community building.

Tempted in all ways like us but never sinning

Posted by Don Paine

This is a description of Jesus as our high priest.

I used to thing this meant that Jesus never did anything r=wrong that his human nature or human self was never overwhelming of his Spirit or Divine Self.  That makes him a distant high priest.  If he doe snot have the capacity to sin and never sinned how can he know the lure and weight of sin.  Many have maintained that he had to have been sinless to atone for humanities sinfulness.  Who ever said so.  Why do we believe so.

What if it was not my sinfulness that Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for.  What if it was our tendency to not feel loved and not be loving, which is the imago dei in us, that he atoned for.  What if the sin that Jesus never committed was not about not doing a behavioral mistake but not thinking or feeling that God's love was not constantly and consistently available for and in him.

God loves us even while we we yet sinning.  Sinning is rejecting the goodness, kindness and compassion of God in Christ.  Basque in God's love for you and do not sin against the part of yuo that falls into sin by question sign the level kind and quality of God's love for you.

Amazing love how sweet the sound.  Hear it, feel it , know it, believe it.

The Lord is My Shepherd, Our Father

Posted by Don Paine

I was meditating on a devotional thought re: the Lord is My Shepherd and began to feel wonderfully cared for just in the thought of having my personal shepherd.  (Psalm 23)

Then my mind wandered as a sheep mind would to the passage (John 10)that he has "other sheep"and I began to be wonderfully cared for in and with the company of other sheep for whom he is equally the shepherd.  This is I thought the community of faith, sheep grazing together on green pastures in still waters with soul being restored.

Then I thought no wonder Jesus taught us to pray "Our father" not my father.  We are in a solo and communal relationship that has us all equally and wonderfully cared for.

Restored in soul today by the thought of individual and personal connection too the shepherd and communal connection as part of the family of "our father".

Certainty is not the key, openness is the key to true knowledge

Posted by Don Paine

Albert Einstein, who knew many things was directed in his living to the uncertainty of truth not because truth is always changing but because our capacity to receive truth is ever expanding.  Like the universe an expanding sense of truth is more natural while a declaration of certain truth is restrictive and confining.  In the world of science and natural laws there is room for containment of the universe that is neither restrictive or constrictive and allows for the ever expanding quality of true knowing to be contained within the structure of that universe.

Like the uterus is containing of life but ever expanding to allow for life, so the universe is a container of life and yet allowing for an ever expanding experience of that life.

Knowledge is like that.  If I speak with certainty that is confining and restrictive it is knowledge limited by that very certainty.  If I know there are no certainties then I am open to new understandings.

The celebrated knowledge of Einstein was achieved because he embraced this polarity of certainty and uncertainty in a parallel process for propelling growth, increasing knowledge, and sustaining community.

"Teach thy tongue to say, I do not know, and though shalt have knowledge". - Albert Einstein

"The truth I believe to be true may not be as true as I think" is my personal translation of Albert's quote.  It allows me to be open to knew insight while embracing the quality of truth.  Openness is the key to knowing and to seeing all scripture from this perspective of truth rather than form a preconceived perspective of truth.

So is there any certainty.

For me, that God is love, lives in peace, has no agenda except to be loving, and is resourcefully creative
are certain truths.  How they are experienced is wide open and diverse.  Certainty of truth allows for diversity of truth.

This is the truth that sets us free to be loving toward all as God is loving toward all.

This is truth.

Mother's Day Tribute

Posted by Don Paine

God could not be everywhere so he created mothers.  That is both true and not true.  It is not true that God cannot be everywhere at the same time because he or they.  What is true is that God's tangible presence is felt in my life by mothers who can seem to be always there in a perennial and purposeful way. 

My mother, and my two daughters who are mothers reflect this kind of loving presence.  Paul the apostle summarized the gift of a mother's presence in this way, she has "spiritual power, a spirit of love, and a spirit of self discipline" (II Timothy 1:5).  This love dwelt in Grandmother Lois, and Mom Eunice, and in future moms as well according to Paul.

Spiritual power is the power to be there without an agenda, accusation, or attack.  It is not power over your children it is creating a power under and in your children by being along side of them supporting their growth through the ups and downs of childhood.  

Spirit of love is "love first not because other things do not matter but because when discipline is done in the context and framework of love it feels different and is received differently.

Spirit of self-discipline is the ability and the discipline to control oneself in the modeling of self-control.  One of the cluster of the fruit of the spirit, self-control is at the heart of a loving God.  It is not about controlling others or getting others to be under my control and direction, it is about loving them, my children, into loving surrender.  God in Christ modeled this love for us.  Sometimes I got what I deserved from my mother.  I watch as my daughters try to be good mothers and give their children my grandchildren what they deserve, punishment for what they unintentionally did.  At the same time I thank God that there are times that I do not get what I deserve and I learn to be better because better was done to me.

Mother's love as God loves and that makes them a gift from God.

Thank you all Moms.

Who wears the ring, is loved and loving?

Posted by Don Paine

I wondered how many paid attention to the fact that the royal wedding was a single ring ceremony.

If you have ever lost a wedding ring this is a message for you and your spouse.  Check the origin of the double ring ceremony and the single ring ceremony.  You will find many stories.  One is that the man never wore a wedding ring because he worked in the fields, fought in wars, hunted game and for none of them would a ring be a helpful thing in fact could create harm and danger.  The double ring ceremony became a way of modern society trying to bring mutual commitment to fore in the marriage by inviting both spouses to wear a symbol of their eternal and pure love.  Marriage since the inception of the double rings ceremony, which most men happily and supportively go along with, have suffered a decline in faithfulness in marriage.  If what we do, is not working to get what we want, maybe we need to rethink what we are doing?

Did Prince William think about this and say to Katherine.  Trust my love.  I will not wear a ring but I pledge to you my love.  Trust my words and my heart.  We are no more or less married whether I wear a ring or not.  The reality is more important than the symbol.

Maybe this is why men lose their wedding rings more than women.  It is not because they do not care as a woman may feel in her "sacred heart" it is because they want there spouse to trust their words and there heart and not the symbol of the same.  The men of our day may need to take a lead form Prince William.

I am not saying we as men should not were wedding rings.  I love my wife and love the ring on my finger that is a symbol of that love.  I know that she would not feel less loved and I would not be less loving if I lost that ring tomorrow.

The reality is more important than the symbol.

Stories of the Wounded Head meet Stories of the Healed Heart

Posted by Don Paine

I was with a person who became offended when I checked my cell phone,

I accept that this is a 21st Century version of  "rude behavior" that is rife.

He got really made when my cell phone appeared to interrupt our conversation as I checked it for an incoming call.  He did not care that I had told him that I was expecting an urgent call from my daughter about her sons grandma being in a tragic fire and was in critical condition.  Inside of his head was a story that if I do not have your 100% attention, you do not car for me.  While I get the feeling of not feeling loved or cared for as I have a negative story about that in my head.  What I do not get is that when I was able to help him feel my care most of the time that he had to dismiss "me and all care" for all time. Past actions of care and future actions of care were denied a part in the story. The story in his head was more powerful than any other story.  There was not room for a shared alternative story.  I get that it was rude behavior to grab my cell phone.  I am cautious to not act like I have an excuse as that is the story in my head.  What I think is tragic is that he cannot excuse the story in his head to allow care to be present for him.  So he alienates the very people who would be there for him then concludes one cares for me. The story of a wounded head is powerful.  The story in his head continues to trump all others stories.

Thankfully I could receive his story from my healed heart.  When all my stories of my head can be set aside and really value the story of the other person there is projection of value.  He had felt enough value from my heart to want to meet with me and talk through his hurt heart.  He had said some rude and cruel things to me but I was still willing to meet with him.  Sadly, though my heart was modeling for him an "openheartedness",  his heart was closed to any other story.

Stories of the head hold burdens and beliefs that are relentless and ruthless.  The heart holds the secret that when we are loving toward all our parts, the wounds of head,  they relax their fears of not being loved and their desire to be loves are unburden.  Their false beliefs that a part of them believe to be true, are unburdened and a breath of fresh air of loving presence fills their heart to healing.

Why not just go to work and do your job

Posted by Don Paine

That probably says I am a "grumpy old man" but seriously why is the president of the USA going to ground zero today, four days after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

It may sound like I am not a supporter of the president or of those whose lives were lost in 9/11.  On the contrary, I have supported Barak Obama for President since I first hear him speak at the Synod of UCC in Hartford, CT.  He was a man with the audacity to be himself, trust his instincts and live his Faith and Hope out for his fellow citizens.  It seems he is regressing to listen to the pressure of his peers and the political aspirations of his heart rather than the aspiration of his hope and the beat of his heart.

When I have a really good day, when something I have been working on for  along time comes down and gores out with success written all over it, I say boy that was a good day.  I do not whirl around with the success or wallow in failures.  I go to my job the next day and tackle another problem on my plate.  I do not cancel everything and throw a party even if it seems on the one hand to be appropriate part of my job to celebrate.  I also do not celebrate in a way that triggers the PTSD of a horrible day like 9/11.  I believe if the president just went about doing his job fewer people would be jubilant in the streets and more people would stay focused on changing whatever in them, needs to change, to change the world around me.

Victims of 9/11 would respect that choice as they respected his choice to end the tyranny of Osama bin Laden's life.  All American's would be comforted by the president's focus of working on the economy and injustices at home, and  peace and justice in our world.

We do not want to just sing God Bless America, we also want to work for God to bless our World.

We do not celebrate death, we embrace life.  That is the difference between a civilized society and society living in fear and vengeance.

Speaking Truth into lives

Posted by Don Paine

I was recently at a conference in which one of the speakers challenged the group:  "You have to have someone who will speak truth into your life".

I wondered what that meant as it could be interpreted in at least two different ways.  One way is to speak a particular truth about what the other person is doing to corrector admonish that person.  In effect to speak the truth that you thing this person needs to hear, that he is avoiding dealing with, or is just blind to. The problem I have with this kind of truth telling is that it sets up a superior inferior paradigm when we are told that we are to think of others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:4).

The speaker, as I listened, clearly was talking about having the courage to tell someone what truth you know they need to know.  It was about telling the truth not living the truth into peoples lives.

With a slight shift this all changes.  Another way of "speaking truth into another persons life is being truthful about my own failings and my experience of the all gracious grace of God's love."  It is leading with vulnerability and virtue that model for the other person the power of living in grace and loving form grace.
It is not speaking some particular truth or wisdom into another life that I in my wisdom think they need to know.  It is speaking the truth of whom I am, whose I am and who I can be. It makes honesty my leading strength, humility my guiding light, and holiness the source of inner wisdom.

Speaking truth into a persons life encourages them from the honesty of my struggles to be confident that God is always present even when it seems GOd is absent God is the most present.  This will be speaking truth in love which will cause all people to grow and mature into all God wants us to be.

This truth sets you free to love and be loving.  Who the truth sets free shall be truly free.

With Liberty and Justice for All

Posted by Don Paine

At the heart of our nation is the goal to create a world in which there is freedom and justice.

When President Obama announced that bin Laden was dead, he laos sated that justice had been served.
In the sense that the many people who died in 9/11 and in the war in Afghanistan in the decade to follow were victims of war, their deaths were avenged.  But that is vengeance not justice.  There is a sense that injustice was done.

What if the president had said, "Today a great justice was done"  in the name of all the victims of Bin Ladden's attacks, at the same time a great injustice was done.  The injustice was to humanity, as no one can take another persons life and not diminish that persons sense of the global family of humanity.

We are a nation based on Christian principles. One of those principles that have to do with "freedom and justice" is the assurance of trial by peers.  Another is to "love our enemies" unless killing them is our only alternative.

The Christian Principe of "unmerited favor" that is a working definition of grace is half the story at best.  Another half of the story is that while I am freely given grace by God even though nothing I have done deserves it,   It is a willful discipline of the heart that trusts.  When I know God looks at me and sees who I am a with eyes of grace.  When I look at my enemies, do they see grace.  It is one thing as a Christian to receive the unmerited favor of God in the grace that sets us free from bondage while here on earth and preparing us us for heaven.  The other side of grace is that I as a Christian and recipient of grace need to also extend "unmerited favor" to all those who sin against me, including bin Laden.  Grace is not just about getting us to heaven it is also about getting heaven to come to earth in the form of love and grace.

Extending unmerited favor to others is a sign that true redemption of our hearts has happened.

It is when we are free of our thirst for vengeance that our hearts that have a story of love and grace can send the message to all people everywhere.  Then there will delivery and justice for all as all will be treated with grace and respect.  Peace will come in that day.

A Royal Wedding, A Pope beatified, A Terrorist Killed; Part 3 Stories of the Head and Heart

Posted by Don Paine

All of that sounds like a celebration weekend.  But on Monday morning I find my heart very heavy and is sadness and mourning.

I have a part that celebrates with so many others who along with President Obama are jubilant at the death of Osama bin Laden.  He was the master plan of murdering many innocent people even beyond 9/11.  All those who have died in Afghanistan since 9/11, Pakistan and elsewhere are soldiers who for the cause of freedom have given their lives and their families and friends hold the pain of their loss.  That is not just Americans' but all who have died in war.  I grieve their loss.  I celebrate the sense of some justice being served.  President Obama declared that "justice has been served".

This is where I step into a very unpopular opinion:  I do not think justice is served when might makes wiping out several lives good.  Yes, I applaud no US casualties.  I applaud the bold and swift action of the Navy Seals.  However, I am laden with a deep sadness.  It is not because bin Laden is dead.  It is not because I think he was a nice guy, he was a despot and worse.  It is not that no justice was served.  It is that it is a sad day when the only thing we can do is "kill" or "be killed".  In bin Laden's mind there was a story. It went something like this America is evil and all they touch they corrupt with evil.  They must pay for the hurt and pain there power and might have caused in the world.  He thought in only one way and because of that he inflicted pain and hurt on others.  The story in his head was of his wounds.  Our story, the one in our head that says it is okay to do what we did, is the opposite story caused by the same wounds to our head and heart. One way thinking is the cause of perpetual unrest and perennial wars.  Peace is the answer but it must be embraced by all for all.

I mourn today that we cannot seem to find a way of "world peace" because we resort to human power.
I am sad that it came to his for the pain and hurt to the family and friends of Bin Ladden is as deep and as provocative as mine.

One bright hope in Secretary of State's speech, as Hilary Clinton, a woman who understands hurt and pain, stated "our message to the Taliban is you cannot wait us out, you can make a choice to participate in a peaceful political process" to end the violence in our world.

That will be a day that I celebrate with jubilation.  It will be the year of Jubilee!

Stories of the Wounded Head meet Stories of the Healed Heart- Part 2

Posted by Don Paine

I recalled a young man who felt called to the ministry only to later in life slip into a depressive role as life in ministry did not go well.

In his head was a deep wound.  He had been hurt by the very call that had given him hope. His only conclusion was that he was a failure in ministry.

He hated successful people as they pointed what he saw as a sharp accusing finger of failure toward him.
In his head he held the truth that he was a failure.  That he had failed god, his calling, and his family.

Inside his heart was the hope of healing and rebirthing of ministry but it was elusive.

One day he saw what he was unable to see before.  That it was out of his hurt and wounded heart that  gOd was birthing a ministry.  The very thing that he hated became the thing he loved.  The very thing he once loved became loved again.  What changed?

The chains of death became the birth canal of life.  He shifted perspective.  He began to see himself and God not from the tunnel of his own darkness but from light in the tunnel.  The tunnel of darkness became a birth canal of new life and living.

Perhaps this is what Paul and Peter experience that had them living and loving with passion the world so that that would could move from the wounds of the head that debilitate and depress to the healing of the heart that leads to open doors inside and out side.