What Comforts a Child comforts the Child in all of us

Comfort and Connection, When Care is Felt!

I had two school age parts (actually probably many more than two but two that I clearly was aware of at the time).  One was a serious “do the work part” and the other was “a clown get attention make people laugh part”.  I did both pretty well.  The entertainer part got a lot of positive feedback and became central in lots of ways that had other parts feel lost or unattended to.  “The entertainer part” got attention as did the “hard worker part”. As a child I never saw them as really two very similar parts striving for acknowledgement of and attendance to me as a person.  They were my persona and they did get good attention.  My person, who I was as a person, was lost in the attempt to be noticed, acknowledged and attended to as a person.  Even as I write that it sounds strange.  Yet it seems strangely correct.  

The other day I was watching my grandson at age 19 months crying uncontrollably in his travel crib.  My son and his wife needed a break so my wife and i had come over for a time of grandson sitting.  I volunteered to go into his room that was dark.  My grandson’s crying was drowning out the sounds of the ocean that were playing on an i pod to help him relax and sleep.  The problem was that his “fear of being alone” was causing his crying which was drowning out the very thing that might give him a sense of serenity and peace  For that to happen he would need to come his fearful part so he could hear it. That he could not do. So the question became:  “what would allow him to be content, to know that the content of his parents love and care for him was present.”  Blocking out  his “fear of being alone”.   I asked my son if he would let me try to help his son to settle down and sleep.  At first hesitant confident that nothing could be done, he was encouraged by his wife to let his dad have “a go of it”.  I went into the darkened room, noticed him standing holding on to the top rung of the “sleeping travel bed”, sorta like a mini playpen! He was holding on for dear life!  There was no way he was letting go, stopping, and forget about me trying to pry his hands off that rung of safety. I closed the door behind me and laid on the floor next to him as his eyes focused on my presence.  At first he screamed all the more.  In a short period of time as he saw I was unaffected by his crying and he heard my rhythmic chanting of “I am so tired, I really have to go to sleep”.  I was speaking for one of his parts, ignoring the fearful one. Actually addressing the fearful one, indirectly. I watched him notice me turn away and then turn back.  I had his attention.  Without picking him up are trying to assure him of my care I was sending him a clear message of my presence, my not being rattled by fear,  and settled by the persistent practicing of my presence in his presence.   Without letting his fearful parts hook my fearful parts that would pick him up to assure him of my care I was sure my presence was all he needed.  If i were to let him control me, and have me pick him up that would make him feel less safe.  Put in words from his internal world, “If I can get this person to do whatever I want him to do then I will know that I have the power and he does not which will make me feel unattended to, in control, and therefore more fearful of being alone. The little boy thought, “If he could be content and sure, stable and secure, unaffected by my fears or controlled by my tears then I can count on his presence, quiet my fears, and feel comforted.  Unnerved by my tears I can feel my fears subside and rest gradually come into my focus.”  As I was clearly unaffected by his crying but stable and secure in my presence,  he gradually let go and sat down.  He looked at me as if to say, “what is wrong with you” but inside he was feeling “there is something right and comforting about this”.  The inner confusion of “am I cared for” was infusion by a quiet and assuring way.  My perfect contentment posture and my resistance of his controlling me, invited him notice my presence and feel comforted.  Gradually he sunk into the comfort of his bed checking to be sure that nothing was changing in my voice, presence, or cadence of care.  Within a very short time he was soundly and serenely asleep.  I thought of a tweet I had tweeted the day before:  “Shit happens in life by accidental events, Shifts happen in life by intentional choices”.  I changed it in this context to: “When we by intention do not let others control us but remain content and caring in our presence, the recipient of that experience feels and internalizes comfort. My choice  sent a subliminal message of care. The quiet reassurance about “presence of care” gradually won out.

The truth is a child can only trust presence that he cannot control.  Maybe there is a hint here about why when we sense God’s presence even when we feel he/she/they are absent we find our greatest sense of contentment and peace.  When we cannot control God or feel God is not there for us we lose the sense of his presence, and realize God knows to pick us up would send the wrong message. He chooses rather to send the message, “I am here” to keep you from falling or failing to know the power of presence.  It is presence not action that provides contentment and peace.

Waking up to the reality that the practice of my presence is not as powerful as just being present.

When a person feels like they can control you they feel lost.  When they feel they cannot control you, they feel comforted by your presence and confident in your care.

When the keepers of thee Sacred get Scared the Message is Lost

The One Task of the Real Church - For Such a Time as This

What does it mean to Be the Real Church?

Leadership of a Congregation a Community or a Nation demands authentic, audacious, and authoritative presence. They are critically important, as is “Truth” from all perspectives, perceptions, and precepts.  Soren Kierkegaard said, “To know the Truth and not Be the Truth is to embellish that very Truth with error!”

I am concerned, as a member of the community of faith in the United Church of Christ and a church consultant, that churches remain non-partisan.  Just saying you are non-partisan while speaking against the current administration is partisan. Saying you are non-partisan and speaking for eh current administration is partisan.  All voices need to be heard, honored, and honestly and respectfully responded to not reacted to.. The church is called primarily to love all people regardless of anything about them.  The church is called to challenge any position or posture of leadership while respecting the same. We are not called to label people or positions.  When we do we reveal our own institutional bias and prejudice while confronting the bass and prejudice of others. Jesus said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.  How do we as “the real church” do that?

Our primary responsibility in relationship with those in authority and leadership over us is:  to Pray for them.  Pray for Our President!  That is the call that should be going forth from every steeple, dome, or mosque.  Zechariah reminds us that it is “not by might nor by power but by My Spirit” that internal and external change is achieved.   God’s leading and direction has no partisanship associated with it and leaves to God changing what needs to be changed by God. Changing our attitude of political and social action will change our society. Attitudes precede actions and from them.  As a church we simply and profoundly model humility and honesty: “speaking what we believe to be true with compassion and love” before others who believe differently.  It is not declaring that our judgment or position is right and others wrong which reveals our bias and prejudice.  

When Mordecai suggested to Esther that she might be placed in her position of influence for “such a time as this”, it was not lobbying for a political position but to promote the discovery of truth.  The modern day version may be “Speaking truth to power” which is different than speaking in opposition to those in power.  We need to pray for all our congresspeople and justices because they are in their positions for such a time as this.  Please also note that Esther risked everything when she with a vital and vibrant balance of boldness and humility approached the King.  Remember Jesus words, “The meek shall inherit the earth”.

Could it be that we are called “in such a time as this” to pray in massive and momentous gatherings that demonstrates unity from all and of all faiths.  Not great speeches but powerful prayers shook the whole world in the first century because the church prayed.  The church prayed for Saul of Tarsus and all those who persecuted the church.  Saul became Paul.

Please do not misunderstand my point here.  My primary point is not that we should not speak out march or demonstrate (I have and will) but that all we do as the “United Church of Christ” is to be dome in the mindset and humility of Christ.  “in God and in Christ we are all one, we all deserve “liberty and justice”.

Speaking the truth as we see it and respecting the truth as others see it,  is living the Truth. Jesus lived and modeled truth more than trying to direct people to any particular version of the truth.  John reminds us that Jesus was “the Truth and the Grace” of God in dynamic tension and in designated tenderness.  He never addressed the political aristocracy as that was not his focus.  HIs focus was the hearts and minds of people which can be changed in the power of the Spirit. When in peace we express the power of love to transform the most misled of people, we are the church.

Let us Pray for Our President, united together as one, with commitment to the transforming power of prayer and Spirit.

“A proactive church is not a reactive church, love never fails”

Rev. Dr. Don Paine, member of

The United Church of Christ in Stockbridge, MA.