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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 Giraffe

Posted by Don Paine

Attempting to communicate a new idea and a new way of being is difficult.

Part of the presentation "Parakalein on Violence" presented the idea that all external violence occurs because of internal fracturing and fragmentation between parts, inside all of us, that want to win and hate to lose.  The dual drive of human nature is the desire to win, conquer or control, and the fear of losing, being conquered or being controlled.  Inner parts often feel that it is a winner take all world so they protect and defend.  The attack defend that is automatic in our human nature takes hurts and pains and translate them into justification to act out in attacking and defending ways.  I must act out and kill you because if I do not you will act out and kill me.  War and disputes are a  projection of the fear of loss and the desire for gain.

There is also inside all of us the "image of God".  We can nurture the nature of humanity or the nature of God within.  Jesus said the "kingdom of God is within you".  What is the divine nature? First, it is the willingness to suffer (The I am cannot lose) loss and not defend oneself as a loser but as someone so internally secure that we do not have to prove or win external approval or fear disapproval. Second it is the sereneness of Self (The I am who is I am, need not gain) that is unthreatened by loss and unreduced by power and gain.

So the idea of "going inside" and identifying not justification for action, hatred, attacking, or defending but identifying the serene and sacrificing capacity that retains a "loving compassionate presence and a peaceful calm presence" that transforms inner hurt and pain into a way of caring for that hurt and pain.  The way to speak for the hurt and pain, to refuse to be overwhelmed by hurt and pain as a way of justifying violence, and to present hurt and pain in a healed way that does not condone the aggression but transforms the aggression to the assimilation of validation and valuation vs victimization or villanization.

To summarize I presented the anagram of Giraffe.
Redeem (make what is inside encounter the peace and love that welcomes all things of humanself and transform that thing thru the nurturance of divine Self)
Energizing (positive inclusion and transforming grace that neither condemns or condones but brings compassion to and form all) 

"If you could know the inner hurt and pain of your most ardent enemy it would be enough to disarm all your hostilities and grant peace to all"    Ralph Waldo Emerson

So go inside identify the thing you hate. Identify and accept the thing that triggers your angry and aggressive part and invite that part to let go of the venom and vengeance that mirrors and reflects the hurt as justification for judgment.

There is no such thing as a just war or holy war.  We can justify war and aggression but such justification perpetuates violence and precursors peace.  In any aggression no one really wins and everyone loses innocent life and that is never just.

The giraffe has a long neck and sticks it out for peace.

Bouncing Balls and God's creation

Posted by Don Paine

As I spoke on Parakalein on Violence in the world I focused on the inner violence within us that gets acted out in the world.  James 4:1-2  Where do wars come from? Do they not come from within where parts of us, members within, war against each other.

As an intro and back drop I spoke of how the creator God made everything and imbued all that was made with peace and love.  The world was created with diversity and polarities but all polarities were intentionally made not to create oppositional reaction but all oppositional reactions when held in love and peace work together for the good o fall.  Balance and harmony create and sustain calmness and compassion toward all that God made.  God creates everything with rounded edges, spheres that reflect the roundness and soundness of the qualities of calmness and compassion love and peace.  Frustration and fragmentation result from a point counter point mentality.  In a point counter point world you never know the point except it always causes hurt in pain in someone somewhere.

To illustrate the point I used three shapes: football, baseball, and a box.
All that God's created was in the shape of a a sphere.  The solar system, the planets, the earth, the moon/sun, all plant life, all people, the face, the eyes, the heart, the lungs, the brain etc. God does not create anything as a box.  People and religious systems create boxes but God does not.  God wants us to be free and flowing like a rive of love.  God is not into boxing  us up or out from boxes.

I talked about the axis of earth keeping everything in balance and harmony and the equator holding all things in warmth and compassion. So the baseball represented the sphere of God;s love and care that rolls with, into and around us all and rounds off all our rough edges to the glory of the God of love and kindness.  The earth has a point and counter point but is is not an oppositional point counter point but a point counter balance point as in the North OPole and the South Pole.  These poles while representing a polarization do not paralyze or polarize the earth but propel the earth into its rotation and revolution.  It is about counter balancing not counter blasting.  It is not about a win lose world, winner take all world, or an all that matters is winning world.  It is about winning and losing and growing through it all.  The baseball comes in to our box in many ways our responsibility is to keep swinging with confidence that we will keep swinging no matter the round ball comes at us.

The football on the other hand has a point and a counter point. It is like people unpredictable as it really does go in many different directions effected by many different external forces.  Because of its shape it tucks well, fumbles easily, squirms out, and bounces all over in what ever direction it seems to choose. It alone is in control.  The football represents that parts of me that do bounce in different ways depending on different parts of me that get triggered.  

Go dis a sphere and those who truly worship and become as God is become a sphere or calmness and compassion that is predictably constant in honoring all, receiving and giving honesty toward all, and humble in all things.  The sphere that god created us all to be.

The sphere of our living is to be how we live.  God will smooth out all my rough edges as I become more filled with truth and grace inside and out.  Then I will live form the inside out rather than form the outside in.

The parakalein of God sees God as "alongside of" all things and people with the capacity to roll with and within all of us if we can get out of our boxes.  There are no conditions no agendas just the sphere of God's love and grace that invites you inside and is inside of you as the image of God.  More on that tomorrow.

Rolling around, boxing in

Posted by Don Paine

I was presenting a talk about "where do wars, fractions, fights, conflict come from and how to resolve them.  I used a football to illustrate that because it has two points it is unpredictable and can bounce literally in a multiple of directions as impacted by a multiplicity of factors.  In a point counter point world when anyone gets the point it also causes hurt and pain and often cuts into the heart of relating. In a winner take all world everyone wants to be a winner and no one wants to be a loser.

Yet everything that God has made is in a sphere of some kind with no defined point but a rounded flow.  From the oval nature of the universe and the patterns of the orbits, to the planets themselves, to the human body to the face, eyes etc.  So I held up a baseball to symbolize the sphere of God's creative reflection.  Everything God has made that has a point counter point to it is rounded out by the love and grace of the creator.  God does not make boxes but people, religion, social systems etc., do make boxes.  Boxes have corners that hurt and cut, they are hard to get out of, and are used often to box people in as well as box others out.

God created all things to reflect the sphere of the creators love not boxes that constrain and restrain the flow of love.

Let's roll love on all people from the balance and harmony in the sphere of our loving.

Power over under around or through

Posted by Don Paine

The power of political persuasion is not a persuasive as many politicians think.  Most of us see through all the "politicizing, politicking, and pseudo politeness.

My favorite political speech was given by former President Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention in 2007.  He stated:  "the world is not so much impressed by the presence of our power but by the power of our presence".

It is not my ability to impress people with what i know or do not know or how I wield the power I have or do not have.  What really impresses people is "my presence" without a need to impress but with the willingness to make an impression of the truth that "it is not about me", it is about us!"

True power or what Hilary Clinton later referred to as "smart power" is thoughtful, kind, considerate, respectful, humble, honoring, honest, firm and flexible.  I tis not power over, under, or through but power all around all of us.  It is presence.  It is the essence of spirituality: "peaceful and loving presence" that has no agenda and no conditions but all enveloping compassion which harmony and balance within and without.

How do you spell security?

Posted by Don Paine

I watched some birds flying on to our porch looking for a place to build their nest.

They like me are a little confused by mother nature who is messing around with father time.  Is it the first day of spring, is winter still coming, is it summer?  The birds obviously think we should have our planter out but our plants are barely ready to go outside and we do not trust the calendar or how it feels today.

I mused that we live the most free when we do not trust the think or thing we think we know (the calendar in our head) or the feeling we get from the experience we are having from the outside in (the weather of the day that we feel).  We are the most free and the most ready when we live from the inside out making the best of whatever is: enjoying when it feels good and when we feel secure and confident when it feels badly and shakes our sense of security.

Paul said, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am therein in to let my sense of security be my source of contentment."

Contentment is being "secure inside" regardless of the content of my day or the comments toward me in my day.  Content in this that you are at peace and are surrounded by loving energy regardless of anything.

How do you spell security: "contentment"

Oh and to the birds:  I told them I will get on getting our planters all hung for them by the end of the day!

God loves you no matter what

Posted by Don Paine

Last weeks lectionary couple two messages that seem to polarize the reader.   In Numbers 21 the text presents the story of the people of Israel grumbling about the food and water they so God sent judgment on them and people died which seemed to represent a God of wrath.  In the Gospel (John 3:14-19) God is represented as a God who sent his son "not to condemn the world but to nurture people to true wholeness.

The children's sermons theme was "God loves you no matter what".  The adult sermon presented the theme, that God is angry when we act like the problem is what he is providing or not. God is angry with our feeling entitled a real problem in our world but in Numbers as well.  A youth summarized the conflict to his mother, after church in this way: "So Mom, here is what I learned in church today:  God loves us no matter what but if I whine, or grumble he gets mad and kills me".

Really!  What a polarity.  I heard the polarity and attempted to address it in my children's sermon that day.  I said that my son would sometimes tell me when he was younger that God loves me no matter what after doing something clearly bad.  It was his "entitlement part".  I would say to him that while I love him no matter what we need to have a serious talk with that part.  God loving me no matter what does not entitle me to do whatever I want but rather entitles me to be responsible for the "what that I do".

God loves me no matter what and when I do something that acts like I am entitled he wants me to look up and see his Love and be healed of the burden of entitlement and embrace the blessing of God's love.

St Patricks Day

Posted by Don Paine

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint's religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast--on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Little is known of Patrick's early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthyRomano-British family. His father and grandfather were deacons in the Christian church in Ireland. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave.[12] It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.[citation needed]
In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to Christianise the Irish from their native polytheism. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish church.

St Patrick's Day calls all of humanity to acknowledge how loss is gain, how oppression can create a calling, and how the weed of a "shamrock" can be a symbol of the triune presence of God in, above and around all of us.  Wearing the "green" affirms life all around without us and all around within us.

Easy does it, or not Difficult does it!

Posted by Don Paine

We want easy everywhere.  We invent gadgets and apps to make life easier.  As if easy is what we all need.  But ease causes us to grow complacent and weak.  We stop using muscles in our body and between our ears and wonder why we are left uneasy?

I saw a bumper sticker recently that read, "Where the Hell is Easy Street?"

Truly like the road to hell that is paved with good intentions so easy street lulls us into a hell of regression, oppression, and depression.

I reject the idea that easy is better and embrace the idea that the difficult moments and people in my life are the ones who build real strength and invite true character to come out of me.

Where in heaven is Difficult Street?

The Calvary Road is the Difficult Street that leads us to heaven.

God of all comfort embraced uncomfortableness

Posted by Don Paine

Comfort is an obsession in our society.  As is its companion "ease".  If we can make it easier and more comfortable then we are good.  The problem is that ease and comfort cause us to lose more than we gain.

The following quote os form a pastor in Cleveland Ohio named, Rev. Christina Villa:
"The risk of too much comfort is not so much that you'll become decadent and immoral.  The risk is that you'll become afraid. The more comfort you acquire, the more you fear life's "rough places" and begin to devote your life to smoothing them out." 

Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1:4 "The God of all comfort (the Father of compassion) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort that we ourselves have received".  This comfort faces all fear and offers a prayer that transforms the uncomfortable into stretching us in faith and imbuing us with courage.

It is not about "soft, puffy and fluffy comfort" it is about the comfort that allows you to sleep on the hard ground of adversity or the pointed nails of suffering.  God's comfort is the realization that God holds me in the hollow of good strong hands of comfort that provide a holding that strengthens me from the inside out.   It is the transforming grace of God that exudes comfort from and imbues comfort in the stone on which Jacob laid his head, the nails that held Jesus on the cross, and in the wailing wall of all loss and grief.

During lent we are remind of this kind of comfort.  Not the external comfort of a soft bed or an easy day but the internal comfort of God's presence.  A pillow of grace you can wrap around your head and heart and let your troubled body rest.


Darkness and Light

Posted by Don Paine

Last night I spoke at a Lenten Series regarding the darkness of grief and grace.

Darkness is the primordial existence of all things.  Darkness while used to cloak evil is not itself evil.  The psalmist tells us that "though I walk through the shadow of death, you are with me".  Darkness is not the absence of God for God sees equally in light and darkness and God is in darkness and light.  Moses saw that as he approached the "thick darkness" God was there in the darkness. (Exodus 20:21).

God is all around us in the thick darkness of grief, in the thickets of failure, and in the light, the days of wine and roses when all is well.  God is present always in everything seeing and calling forth the light of new understanding and new experiences of presence.

God's light does not dispel the darkness in the sense that we get rid of the darkness but God takes the negative spin and the spell out of the darkness.

When my brother died it felt like darkness gripped my soul as a spell of hopelessness and despair.  It was not the darkness but the fear of being abandoned left alone in the darkness that gripped my soul and put a spell on me.  When grace came into the darkness, I was no longer afraid.  Grace meets grief in its thick darkness and rests in God's being there.  I could be in the darkness of grief and fear no evil knowing truly knowing that God is with me in the darkness. (Psalm 23)

Winston Churchill once said, "If you find yourself walking in hell, keep going".  I would like to add, "If you find yourself in hell, be there knowing that God is with you there and will lead you in and through the hell of today, on your way to the heaven of tomorrow.

 Know that the gates of hell will not prevail and hold you there for God is present in the darkness and in the light.

A good friend dies, a tribute

Posted by Don Paine

Russ and Anne Sideranko of New Britain CT are two people who have blessed my life.  Russ died on March 11th, 2012.  When he met Jesus and his life was transformed by God's grace this day had already happened as this life, the life in this physical world prepares us for eternity.  Life prepared Russ for eternal peace and love.  They were two people who while not perfect loved God, opened their home to strangers and so entertained angels unaware.  Today I celebrate with Russ and Anne and their families that Russ is in heaven very aware of the angels and meeting some of those who he entertained.

Positive memories fill my heart.  He was always honest even sharp at times but I much prefer that to behind the door and secret words.  His honesty coupled with his kindness to create a generous, forgiving, and compassionate man. Though I am not an angel, I was staying at their home while at a training at CCSU six years ago the weekend that my father died.  It was also a Sunday morning.  I was woken early in the morning with the call that my father died.  I went out for a walk and when I arrived home (their home which they used to host so many people and events over the years) and as I told them, they wept with me prayed with me and made me a great breakfast.  Russ's kindness and honesty were genuine and generously is how he gave.

To God be the Glory.

It is not all about you

Posted by Don Paine

Imagine the Jewish mindset.  They were the called people of God.  They were special because God had called them.  True. So when Jesus challenged their traditions and threatened their sense of being special they rejected the Gospel because it sounded like they were being disposed.  Yet they were not being disposed, there ego "it is all about me being called of God" was just being deposed.  The Jews rejected the Gospel because they felt they were special to God and did not want to share that status with anyone. So to the Jew the Gospel was a stumbling block.  They stumbled over the idea that they were God's special people rather than being God's special people and letting the world be blessed by their humility and courage.  They could not handle, "It is not about you" because they wanted it to be all about them. It is about everyone, you'all as the southerner would say, being loved by God.

The Greeks and the gentiles felt they were blessed by God with great wisdom, sages of the ages.  The sad news was that the Gospel seemed like foolishness to them. The good news of the Gospel is the wisdom of God is available to all regardless of anything.  The wise could not handle that it was not about them and their wisdom just as the Jews could not handle that it was not about them and their calling.  It is about everyone being loved of God and everyone having the wisdom of God within.

The wisdom of God James tells us is peaceable and loving, humble and courageous, life changing and love transforming.

Today different religious groups think it is "all about them" being right, scientific groups the same, intellectuals the same, psychologist the same.  To all churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, cathedrals or huts the Gospel proclaims the same good news:  "It is not about you", God's love is all around you and within you and around and in all of us and that is the good news.

Whenever I hear the words:  "it is not all about you" I hear an invitation to step aside and affirm God is on none one's side but is alongside all of us! When I am tempted to say "it is not all about you", I am reminded that it is not all about me either!

To God be the Glory to all humanity be the goodness of the good news!  We are all special in different ways which is why it is not "all about anyone" of us but "all about all of us".

International Women's day

Posted by Don Paine

March 9th, 2012 was  National Women's Day.

In church life we have done what society has done that is relegate women to a behind the scene roles.  God is neither male or female so all their (the multiplicity of God evident in the created multiplicity of the mind and of all creation multiplying thru the equal intersection of male and female.  HInt: all things and all people are created with equity and equality.

At Yeshiva University I learned to pray in the Name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of Sara, Rebecca, and Rachel and Leah.

In Biblical Studies I have learned that Jesus while calling twelve men to be his disciples he empowered 20 women to be illustrations of true spirituality.  Eight additional men surface in the New Testament making it a 20-20 tie.

God created them in God's own image, male and female created God them.

Eye to eye

Posted by Don Paine

I met a good friend for breakfast this morning and he shared his discovery that the word for "eye" that Matthew used in Matthew 6:22 carries with it the idea of "generous or abundant".  So he concluded that when Jesus looks at us he looks at us with an eye of generous grace.  "If the eye be generous and gracious it is light" to the soul"(Matthew 6:22).

As friends do, I added my "2 cents".  I had just preached a message form Mark 8:33 where Peter has this incredible high of saying "Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God" only to a few minutes later fall off that high pedestal of pride and Jesus says to him, "Get thee behind me Satan".  I told my friend that I had always thought Jesus was calling Peter "bad man" for getting it wrong but that I have come to see that Jesus was looking right into the eye of Peter with an eye of gentleness and kindness not judgment and condemnation.  Jesus in effect was saying, Peter the one who is whispering in your ear to rebuke me is not the voice of God but the voice of a scared man influenced by the deceiver.  To Peter Jesus eyes were filled with grace and that generously, so he said "Get thee behind me Satan, Satan the one in his ear get behind me let Peter see just my eyes of love and grace, my face of compassion not a frown of disappointment.  I told him I had blogged about this just the other day so here it is again.  Double emphasis.

As we shared my friend was giving himself a hard time actually being a bit harsh.  When we said good bye I gave him a firm hug then whispered in his ear, "I love you man and you are a good man" and my eyes see clearly.

The eye of compassion is what my "I" of my mistakes always needs.

Be Kind

Posted by Don Paine

The compassion that is a legacy blessing form my dad helps me to see things differently even scripture.
Last Sunday as I was preaching on the passage in Mark 8 where Jesus, rebukes Peter with the phrase "Get behind me Satan" I presented a new thought.  Jesus, who is the epitome of and extravagant expression of kindness and compassion, was not being angry and demeaning Peter as a person but rather saying to satan, who had with evil intent influenced Peter to see things form a "human point of view" and not form "God's point of view", "get behind me Satan.  Stop influencing and directing Peter as Peter learns to let God be his influencer.  Jesus was speaking with kindness and compassion to Peter.  Jesus told him, "you do not have the mind of Christ in this matter but the mind of a man".  This is Jesus practicing so that we will get it the art and discipline of "speaking the truth in love".

Be Kind is one of four qualities that my wife who is a teacher sees on the wall of her school every day.  It is on the wall in hopes that people, students and teachers alike, will make it part of their lives and living.  This is in the Gospel in hopes that we who believe will practice the quality of "being kind".

Ephesians 4: 32
"Be Kind, tenderhearted, compassionate toward all. always having forgiveness in your heart toward all humanity....even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you, has forgiveness in his heart toward you!"

Speak and live kindness from your heart.

A Man of Courage and Compassion

Posted by Don Paine

The expression I often hear these days is "Man Up".

Today is the 6th anniversary of my father's passing into the next world and it is March 5th!  I think my Dad had a 6th sense.  A number of times when as a young man I asked him things I am sure he wanted to tell me what to do or what not to do but he usually just said something reflective like, "do you think that is a good idea?"  He allowed me to make my mistakes and to mind my business!  I thank him for that gift.

I wonder what it was like for him as a young man to leave his family and his new wife and get on the "Queen Mary" to ultimately storm the beaches of Normandy with fellow soldiers.  I wonder what he thought about as he wondered if the invasion would be a success and what grief would grip his soul as he watched his comrades killed and felt his own underserved but gracious survival.  I imagine what kept him alive was his courage from knowing God;s presence with him regardless of anything and his compassion for his family, countryman, and world. He never talked about it much. His legacy is one of silent courage and serene compassion.

Thank you, Dad.  You really taught me to "Man Up!"

Love from one of your four sons in honor from all of us,

PS  Mom, we love that you are still with us and know this is a hard day for you!

Broken for healing

Posted by Don Paine

I imagine Jesus looking at his son dying on the cross.  I imagine he hated what he saw, the suffering, the mistreatment by humanity, the insults, all that came against his loving son.  He must have hated that scene.  His heart had to break with compassion and care for his Son.  At the same time his heart was breaking out of love and care for the church.  "Hatred and love flowing mingled down".   As God helps us to see grace in his face regardless of anything so we desire to see all people with grace and from grace.  Even though he hated the moment he loved through the heartache to heal all the heart ache of earth.  When broken hearts meet there is automatic and abundant healing.

Jesus felt alone (Psalm 22:1) but he was never really alone (V.24).

Grief and grace intersect on calvary as the grief in the heart of God and the grace in the heart of God come together in the "breaking of the burden of a broken heart".

Mind Mindfulness

Posted by Don Paine

Mindfulness seems to be a key concept in our day.  Some seem to think it was born out of Buddhist meditation, some give it some other kind of etiology.

I listened, yesterday, as a book writing expert defend it as "awareness".  I recalled a book by a Jesuit priest, Anthony DiMello, entitled "Awareness".

I recalled another point of reference, "being mindful of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you, will continue to perform it".  Sounds like mindfulness.

I went inside (this means closing your eyes so you see nothing except your internal world and all the chaos and harmony of that internal world) and had a sense that being more aware of more of the internal parts of me and how they cause me to act out in the external world is to practice the process of internal awareness which increases awareness of others in the external world.  Even as I write this that actually happened.  I became a ware that by using the work "act out" it stirred up a negative aura.  I became aware if I used just the word "act" omitting the word "out" I would free myself of projective prejudice and negativity.  Being aware of my internal negativity decreases negative and negating responses to my fellow humanity.

Mindfulness then may be the capacity and discipline of the mind to respect all things and seek balance and harmony in the system which mind you will result in inner peace and outer peace.

Mindfulness is not new. It is as old as the internal workings of humanity as created by the eternal work of God.  It does not belong to anyone's credit.  It belongs in all of us.

Balance and harmony are the goals of mindfulness/awareness.