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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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A little child, a creative free heart of love and peace

Posted by Don Paine

I have a little boy part inside of me that loves to run, play, dance and generally just "be" without any buzzing of parental interference.

I have another part hat knows that what a little boy thinks of as interference is just other people trying to keep him safe.  When in the name of safety we give up our free creative parts we give up "child aliveness", just the non-worried about issues of safety free loving and living parts.  In our world we give up freedoms for "homeland security" but can be in danger of losing our homeland.

Jesus said, "Unless you become as a little child, and be born all over again, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven".  Maybe if we all practiced just being "fun loving and living children" we would all get along together well.

I am curious why we make "church rules" beyond just "be loving toward all, and live in love yourself".

A child is at peace, with little or no fears, and is just full of smiles of love.

No wonder Jesus said it is what heaven is like.  Like children running an dplaying in a sphere of love and peace forever.

Beauty for Ashes

Posted by Don Paine

On Ash Wednesday, people put ashes on their forehead.  It is a sign of repentance of contrition of humility.   It begins the season of grief turned to joy.  The season of grief is long but Isaiah reminds us that God turns:  "ashes into beauty, mourning into joy, and sadness into garment of praise".

Ash Wednesday is a reminder that God transforms grief and despair into joy and gladness but the presence and power of Grace.

Tragedy of a death, What really matters

Posted by Don Paine

I am grieving this morning. It is an incredible loss when anyone dies especially a child.  In a way it is beyond words.

In all languages of earth there are words for a a parent who dies leaving a child an orphan.  Or a spouse that dies leaving a widow.  There is no word in any language for a child who dies.  It is so unthinkable, unnatural, unacceptable that societies and cultures refuse to give it a word.  Sadness fills all hearts as we hear of the unimaginable.  "a child dies".

Children seem to understand better and simply wan to honor the loss and hold on to good memories.

Adults have deeper questions.  Whose fault was it?  How did the car accident happen? Where was God?

Oh for a child's simple trust that he is in a better place and the only concern is how we all go on, how we honor that space that he once lived in, and will we try to cover it up by filling the space rather that just honoring the vacancy.

Truly any answer to the adult questions do not change anything regardless.  In fact attempting to answer them probably just adds to the grief and loss that this family lives in.

While death takes people from us, we keep a space in our hearts.  We honor and remember in a special way with a special place in our hearts.

God's heart of compassion is wide open to receive all who mourn.  And transform all mourning into gladness as we remember good things about the person who is gone form this world but lives on in the next.

Tolerance or Embrace

Posted by Don Paine

Some people are arguing these days for inherent tolerance of people and religious beliefs.  Tolerance particularly "religious tolerance" may be politically tolerable and comfortable but it misses the real issue.

It is not whether I can tolerate you, work with you, not be scornful, or judgmental toward you.  The issue is can I genuinely embrace you as a fellow human being and can I embrace your right to believe what you believe.  Being right in my heart toward you as a fellow human being while believe in the human rights of all beings is essential.  Behind the veiled posture of religious tolerance is the fundamental belief in right and wrong as justification for moral and religious judgement.  Playing and working with you while believing that my "way of believing about God means you are going to hell" puts me in a double bind.  Either I do not say anything to try to convert you which means I do not care that you are going to be in hell fro eternity.  Or I say something about caring about you as a person share my faith but in the end let you know that I respect your way of believing.

Either integrity or sensitivity are sacrificed.  Those are true human values.

Welcoming all parts and helping them to see how they get stuck in good and bad roles provides a way of embracing while not agreeing with those of different faiths, and it also provides a way of maintaining your faith without condemning or being silent about other faith positions.

Equal moral dignity for all humanity embraces, does not just tolerate, each other's uniqueness of culture, beliefs, and rights regardless of anything we embrace everyones inherent right to be right in different ways.

The right to believe or not believe in some way of faith is to respect human rights with the right that embraces human dignity and divine design.  God made us with the multiplicity of the mind so it follows that there are multiplicitous ways of knowing, experiencing and honoring God.

Grandpa's Smile

Posted by Don Paine

As I was imagining how Adam and Eve must have felt after "they sinned".  I began to imagine how I was not happy as a father when my children did something that really disappointed me.  When I think back I was more concerned for what people would say or think about me than I was understanding that my children were just being kids, just growing up, just challenging everything and my challenge was to love them through it all and watch them grow through their mistakes knowing that regardless of anything their dad would always love them.  It was not about me it was about them.  Father's feel so much of the pressure of providing for their kids and family, protecting them form cruelties in the world, preparing them for disappointments, training them to read and write and to live in God's love and grace.  Protecting, providing, and preparing we can look with a frown when our kids make mistakes.  So I have begun to think that God is more like a Grandfather, a father of all ages, who looks at all of us with a smile of love and grace.  It is not approval as if what Adam and Eve did or what I do or do not do, does not matter.  It is the smile of a Grandfather that says, "you will get it I know you will, your mistakes of today are the things that will help you to learn and grow into tomorrow, just know regardless of anything I love you".

 God who is never surprised by anything but responds in love to everything is more like a relaxed grandfather than an uptight stressed father.

Imagine if Adam and Eve knew that regardless, God would never leave them alone, would never stop loving them, that God would love them through and into their tomorrows.  Maybe instead of going int o hiding, instead of grief and loss, blame and shame, they saw the light of God's love rather than the darkness of their own despair.

What if we saw that they fell not from grace but into grace.  They fell not from the hollow of God's hand but into the hole of God's loving arms.  What a different world, a world where we fall into grace rather than blaming others and shaming ourselves.

The Garden of Grace is where the fruit of the Spirit grows.

Thanks Grandpa, for the smile that sees beyond the moment of failure into the movements of grace.

Being alone is scary, until we know we are never alone

Posted by Don Paine

I was preaching today from common lectionary texts:  II KIngs 2:1-14,  Elisha was following close to Elijah who he did not want to be separated from.  In the Gospel reading, Mark 9:2-14, Jesus had told his disciples he was leaving them alone too, and they did not want him to go.  In both instances staying close seemed to make them feel "safe and comforted" being left alone on the other hand would force them to become confident and courageous.  Three times Elisha was told "do you know your master is going to leave you"  Three times he said yes but I do not want to hear it.  The disciples heard it often but they did not want to hear it.  They did not want to hear of or experience "being left alone".

Interestingly, only when we face our aloneness do we realize that we are not alone.  God's presence is inside of us.  When we face the grief of our aloneness we find the grace that strengthens us.

Alone, is when and where we meet the Glory of God, as the presence of God strengthening us from within so we are assured that we are never alone.  We fear alone but when we face alone we find we are not alone!


Posted by Don Paine

“For as long as man continues to be the ruthless 
destroyer of living things, he will never know 
health and peace.  For as long as men massacre 
animals they will kill each other.  Indeed he who 
sows the seeds of murderous pain cannot reap 
joy and love!”
-Pythagoras 600 BC

Gay men are men! Lesbian Women are women.

Posted by Don Paine

We were at a play and there was in the play a scene between a woman and a bisexual man.  In one scene he announces she alone has his heart and he asks her to marry him.  A few scenes later he tells her he has found that he really prefers men.  Her retort, "me too".  While the audience laughed I felt a jab of judgment, and a twinge of twisted thinking.  She had inferred that being gay meant you were not really a man.

Gay men are men just as lesbian women are women.  They choice to not be in a heterosexual relationship doe snot change their gender just their agenda.

Subtle prejudice is more toxic than unabashed prejudice but all prejudice is unjust and unfounded motivated by an agenda of judgment rather than the discipline of compassion.

Heaven and Church Membership

Posted by Don Paine

I was talking to a pastor regarding the issue of the churches response to gay people.  He stated that he would have no problem welcoming them in the church but when it came to membership there are "certain criteria".

So it seemed to me that the church was really a club for members only as other members determine the criteria.  Heaven on the other hand is open to all regardless of anything.  I asked him why he thought that churches make church membership more difficult than God makes membership in heaven.

He really had no answer.

Why do we make membership in any church more difficult than membership in the Kingdom of heaven.
We want to keep the church pure but "restricting membership" does not do it.  Teaching and training the membership to not be a exclusive or excluding club but an inclusive and including club.

All are welcome regardless of anything.

Tattoos and a God of love

Posted by Don Paine

Yesterday in one of these natural conversations after church a women said to us, "I know God does not like my tattoos...."  She said it to the wrong person.  Debbie began to ask her why she thought that.  The response, "Everyone tells me that God hates tattoos because he hates when you treat your body badly".  She was not ready for the response or perhaps a part of her was wanting and needing a different read.

Debbie stated: "First of all did they check with God before they told you that?  Secondly why do you have tattoos?  She, the young woman, began to say how each tattoo memorialized in some way an experience or a person".  So Debbie continued, "you think the God memorializes events and people in the OT would not be open to a new way of memorializing?"  You get the idea.

God loves people without any conditions, regardless of anything, and with only one agenda that of transforming everyone and everything into loving and living in goodness and peace within and without.

God sees the heart, no the things we do even if they are bad and putting tattoos for good reasons or even tattoos for bad reasons do not cause God to lose the vision of your and my goodness.  People do and they also try to conform us to their image of God rather than letting God's image speak for itself.

Good sees clearly right through anything and everything we do and that is the defining quality of God's love.  We are called to love people in the same way.

Over a Year Ago I came out of the Valley, Today, New Grace

Posted by Don Paine

I was working with a client who has a firefighter part.  She was focused on the part as a "drinking part" which she liked and disliked at rhe same time.  As she was working inside with her husband at her side, I was inside as well.

My good friend, Karen, who was a co-therapist and co-presenter in IFS, and who died suddenly in a car accident more than 2 years ago seemed present in my internal space.  The woman I was working with had a loving husband who hated her drinking part because he feared for her.  He also loved her drinking part and sometimes would join her drinking part and drink as well.  He had a thinking part that wanted to control her and a non-thinking part that just joined her.  As they were doing their work, I was simultaneously with them as Self present while at the same time, I had a part in me and Karen who was there really wanted to speak.  As they were concluding their good work of being with each other in a new and different way.  Self energy was present in the room.  Some reading this will not know what that means so  I may blog about Self energy tomorrow but for here and now, let it be heard that self energy is the presence of calmness as when there are no agendas, and compassion as when there are no conditions. Perspective, perceptions, and prejudices shift into new insight and understanding that create sacred space for healing.  That was happening for their shared internal injuries.

At the same time something was happening for me.  I knew I had no appointment waiting just a lunch break so asked them if I could speak for a part within me.  They looked at me and said yes in a way that seemed to sense that there was something coming.  I did not know what was coming.  As  I spoke, I was honoring all parts.  I told them that a part in me had been triggered as years ago in an attempt to care and calm a part of a good friend, co-presenter, colleague,who had been drinking before joining me in a training session, in fact she had come late to the session due to drinking the night before.  No one else in the training knew of this part of her but she had shared it with me.  I spoke to her in an embrace in an attempt to offer her the sphere of God's love.  For me God was out of the box and I was out of the box so we were in the sphere of love.  I said to her, "The fruit of the vine is Jesus. He is the wine that satisfies."  My heart was wanting her to know that I had no agenda or judging parts that judge her for drinking.  I also wanted her to know that Jesus wanted to release her burdened parts that wanted to drink without thinking, and invite the non-thinking part that drinks to unburdened itself. A year later, she hit a tree and was killed instantly while driving home for a visit with her parents.  The drinking part that she shared with me had shredded me, with guilt that left no room for grace.  I entered into a deeply depressed space for a long time.  Grace invited me out of that space but i feel her presence and want to say this. I closed my eyes and spoke, "I get that your husband hates the drinking part because he fears as Karen's husband feared that one day you will run into a tree and die, it is all he can think about so he hates that you do not think about that. He loves you so he hates this part in you.  But he is getting, today that when he gets into the box with you or when he tries to box you into feeling guilty that neither helps you.  So he is willing to trust you "to think differently" in the sphere of loving not the box of hating. I also get that your wife hates the "box" so when she drinks she is out of the box.  I also get that when she is out of the box drinking, her firefighter part is trying to put the fire out the alcohol that ignites the box and everything might go up in flames.  I hear my friend telling me she is out of the box as death released her from the box into the sphere of love.  She wants me to tell you to enter the sphere of love, don't play with the box of matches as all will happen is you will be burned."  As I was saying this the guilt that burned in me was released, as a burden that was on me.  I felt unburdened.  As I opened my eyes the wife was looking at me with a huge smile, that at first I thought was Karen smiling and indeed I think it was.  A smile of love (from Karen for me and for her (Karen's) husband even as it was in reality a smile for herself and for her husband.  The husband was overcome with tears of understanding as her smile was an appreciation for being understood.  They both thanked me for speaking for my part and I thanked them for their courage.  She had said earlier in the session that she had no part that thought or felt anything except, I like that drinking part.  She found more. He had said all he knew is he did no want to make her feel guilty for her drinking part. He found more.

I learned that in the sphere of love the boxes of guilt, grief, fear, excuses, and denial are opened and all parts welcomed are freed to feel the rolling love.  Love never steam rolls its way, love is the steam that is always present as energy for change, choice and healing of all burdens.  It is always about the blessing of love rolls when the boxes of burdens, bruises, and betrayals are opened.

Maybe that is why the "stone was rolled away" when the box of the tomb could not stay closed.
(Obviously my thinking, of spiritual parallels, part).

For more info re: IFS, parts, firefighters, managers see www.selfleadership.org

What is the difference between surrender and sacrifice?

Posted by Don Paine

Interesting question?

While the dictionary difference is easy the way we use these two words can be confusing.

If I surrender everything to Jesus, what do I have left.  If I am willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus what do I have left.  Who am I?

There are some things I have to surrender to as I have no choice but to surrender.  Things like the aging process, like the events that happen to me that I do not and cannot control, reality around me.  I do not have to surrender to abuse, neglect, unkindness, etc.  Surrender is what I do when I have no choice and there are things that I have to surrender to.  Perhaps it is like resignation and acceptance.

Other things I can choose to sacrifice or not.  I have every right to tell someone off but I can ask that part of me to step aside and wait to speak until I can speak with more kindness.  If I cannot speak with kindness then I sacrifice, not the right to speak, but the freedom to speak.  I am reminded of Amy Carmichael who was a missionary having chosen to sacrifice the comforts of home and family for the work of ministry.  SHe said the threefold acid test of speaking your mind is:  "Is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary?'  Only if you can answer yes to all three and are mot lying to yourself can you speak.

Both surrender and sacrifice are part of "spiritual paths" in many religious transitions.  In the Christian tradition which I embrace, Jesus embodies the surrender of his will to the Will of God and Man.  Jesus also sacrifices by choice as he laid down his life as no one could take it form him but he laid down his life for me.  He was modeling a life of surrender and sacrifice.  Surrendering to the things you cannot control and sacrificing the things that you want to control that limit your ability to be free of conditions and agendas in your loving and living.

I remind myself that the sovereign God surrendered and sacrificed as a model of true spirituality.

Going inside, opens the box of fear and the sphere of faith shows up

Posted by Don Paine

The idea of "going inside" invites people to shut themselves off from the external world and care for the internal world.  While it is not necessary, I almost always close my eyes and invite people to close their eyes as that shifts the focus from what I can see in the physical world around me to what no oen else but me knows in my internal world. This shift invites internal work as all I can see when I shut my eyes is the internal thoughts feelings memories and experiences that I hold on to inside.

David tells us, or rather leads us into this, in Psalm 139:1.  "Search my innermost thoughts, and lead me in the way everlasting".

Today I was "inside" with a client who had a boxed in part.  The part was holding a "boxed in version of Christianity".  AS she looked at the box and saw that she was fighting to get out of the box rather than shifting.  I asked her if she could put the box outside of herself and look at it.  She did and saw herself in the box.  She did some work around the "boxed in parts" and the "boxed out parts".  I invited her to set the box aside and see if she could see anything else.  She noticed that God was in the box but that that was the God of her mother.  She began to notice that all things that God made and the sphere of life in her and her mother was not a box but a sphere.  She noticed that all living things are more often created in spheres, that the world is a sphere, that the sun is a sphere, that the living organism of life is a sphere not a box. She noticed that God was not in the box but that people had boxed God in and that had made her want to box God out only to leave her boxed out.  She spontaneously released her boxed in part.  Her inner healing began and will continue as the organism of life, lives in her.  When the boxed in parts and the parts that were boxed out were welcome the sphere of Self instantly and spontaneously showed up.

When the boxes of fear and hurt are open in a safe space of calm and a sacred place of compassion the sphere of Self rolls in.

In the internal spaces of our heart and mind seems to be where the eternal work is done.

Shit Happens, Shifts happen

Posted by Don Paine

It is often stated perhaps more at bars than in churches that "Shit Happens".

How true.  I used to think the expression "Holy Shit" was an oxymoron" but due to shifts in my inner spirit, heart and mind I no longer think that.  When fecal matter is present it might smell and be disgusting but it can result in fertilizer for growth and it can be discarded as waste.  It might disgrace me or it might be transformed by grace into sacred space where I grow thru the tough stuff that happens to me.  Stuff that happens to me is not designed by deity for me but God has designed in me the capacity to transform all things that happen into something good in my life regardless how bad.  The holy shift is a shift from being the victim of what happens and the helplessness that emanates from that to being creatively and courageously able to pour good sense into the nonsense that happens.

The shift is a holy shift that creates a prism of light that reveals the colors of compassion in the chaos and craziness that happens.  Holy shit is the fecal matter that get out of by my faith that sees the matter with an eye that sees what no one else might see except for faith.  Shit just happens, it is part of living.  Shifts are intentional created by paying attention to the power to shift from a victim fear complex to a vitality influx of faith.  Shifts are a choice to look with respectfulness on all experiences of rejection.  Shifts do not just happen they happen with a choice that empowers hope and empathy.

That is holy ground. Sacred space invites a shift that moves the shit that happens in my life and around me into that which grows grace in me.  That makes it "Holy Shit".

A Tough Loss, a Great Game

Posted by Don Paine

The New York Giants won the Superbowl 21-17 over the New England Patriots.  It was a tough loss and a tough win, but a great game.

So this morning, the morning after I was musing about the fumbling mistakes and the miraculous moves of both teams.  I watched the game with a good friend who is a Giants fan having spent a lot of his life in the NYC/NJ metropolis.  I on the other hand grew up just outside of Boston, and remember youth group activities of cleaning up after the game or rather after the fans who were at the game in Foxboro.  We both watched as our respective teams and individual players did some stupid things and make some amazing passes, tackles, receptions, and defensive moves.  In the end because we have to have a winner, we keep score of points scored not fumbles made, and we keep the clock.  The score keeper and the time keeper are big parts of what we as humans do to the game.

I mused how like life this game was.  We all make mistakes have some great moments and some really dumb moments  We often stumble and fall and sometimes get really hurt.  We often stand tall and let go of hurt and forgive ourselves and those who hurt us.  We make great catches of people in need (compassion).  We keep cool (calmness) under intense pressure and just do our best even if it is not superior.  Perhaps this is why Paul the Apostle said, "Love keeps no score of rights or wrongs".  With grace and forgiveness there is no "score keeper".  In the game of life we all make mistakes, fumble opportunities, miss opportunities, and do "wonderful acts of kindness and compassion".  God has set up a win win situation, where we are invited to live under the oppression of the "score keeper" or "time keeper" but raised up to the acceptation of Love and Grace.

Life is a game but it is not about keeping score or how much time you have to live, it is about that you play the game, that you are in the game, that you are giving your best, and that whatever happens you hold your head up high and thank God that you were in the game.  106 football players and the coaches and owners and fans need to hold their heads up high this morning that they were in this great game.  It is not about "superbowl rings" as much as many think it is, it is about being in "the ring of fire" and coming out a better not best.

With God there are no losers just winners.  There are no rings, just a "well done" enter into happiness for the game is over.

A fan of life! I am.

True Faced

Posted by Don Paine

I came across a group that has been calling the church to a "True Faced" posture and position.
cf www.truefaced.com

It got me thinking what is God's true face.  I think of it as the loving, foot-printed face of a grandfather who looks with a fullness of truth and grace at his grandchild.  Life has taught him the perspective of time.
Things that I thought were important, like what other people thinking, establishing a career, getting respect, owning things, controlling things, people or kids, gaining ground, etc are no longer that important.  What as a grandfather is important is "being present with time, making time to smile an approving smile of love even if my grandson or granddaughter falters or even fails at something", it is not worrying about controlling anything or anyone but being in control so that I always respond with peace and love form the inside out, it is not about gaining anything but losing everything, with grace which is great gain.  Letting go of everything rather than holding on, so that I can hold on to what is pressure treasure:  being with without anything but love.

Living with truth is to be one faced.  To be honest and honoring of all parts inside of me and all parts inside of everyone else.  It is not about imposing "right parts" it is about deposing parts that think they are right but not in the right way of being honest and honoring.

Jesus was always honest and honoring in a balance of knowing peace and love inside and nurturing teh gift of peace and love outside in others.

God has one face a face of truth and grace.  Honesty and honor meet at Calvary and in the heart of the honest and honoring.

I think God is more like a Grandfather than a father.  The face of a Grandfather is a face of assuring love and abiding peace.

Charity and Justice

Posted by Don Paine

"Charity is not a substitute for justice, it never will be." Jonathan Kozol 

Recently on sports radio I heard the story of "Enforcers".  They are hockey players who are hired by their respective professional hockey teams to fight.  To initiate fights in defense of team mates who were "hit" by an opposing defense men, whether intentionally or not.  They are hired to intervene for an attack on his own player or to intimidate the opponent.  When asked how he lives with the fact that he was hired not for his hockey skills but for his fighting skills. He said, "I give a lot to charity and actually volunteer good will services to offset the violence I do on the hockey rink.

While he knows that his internal system needs and calls for balance, to infer that any amount of good will, acts of kindness or benevolence offsets any amount of violence or acts of cruelty or injustice is itself an injustice.

Intentional acts of kindness must be a balanced with intentional acts of justice.  As Micah reminds us, acts of justice are both merciful and humble not a cover up for guilt or a sense of wrongness.

"No acts of goodness or kindness, or charity are a substitute for justice, they may ease the conscience but they leave the heart of the problem untouched and in need of transformation by God's love that surrenders love to injustice to transform that injustice into love and perennial and perpetual acts of kindness."
                                     - Donald L. Paine, UCC minister and Marriage and Family Therapist