Coming of the Kingdom of Heaven

December 10, 2019

  • Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
  • “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
  • “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
  • “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
  • The kingdom of heaven, the realm where Jesus-followers live, exists alongside the rest of the world. It’s not that we’re set aside into separate communities. We live and work and provide a living witness (love your neighbor) alongside everyone else. It’s not us to condemn anyone. That is someone else’s job.

    The Coming of the Realm of God

    December 9, 2019

    “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1

    If Advent is preparation for the celebration of the coming of Jesus, then this must relate to the coming of the “kingdom” of God–or I have seen it translated as “realm”. Over the centuries, the intent has changed a few times from anticipation of the second coming to celebration of the first. In modern times the meaning has become centered as “Jesus’s birthday”, something which it obviously is not, at least not literally, since he was almost certainly not born in December.

    Jesus said it was the “good news” (Greek: gospel) that the realm of God is here. Now.

    The Mediterranean world at the time was filled with spiritual anticipation. The time was ripe for something to happen.

    And Jesus came proclaiming the message that we can now live a different kind of life within the realm of God, with different rules, upending the worldview of the Romans–vestiges of which continue to exist in power politics and rule of violence and power.

    But we can choose to live by Jesus’s example and teaching and live a different kind of life.

    That is something to celebrate this season as we momentarily dust off old concepts like peace and good will and joy. Maybe we try to keep them alive all year.

    You Need To Change

    December 6, 2019

    The first steps to wisdom I wrote about yesterday. About recognizing our own feelings and realizing that we have feelings, but we are not our feelings.

    Often it is someone or something that brings out negative feelings.

    It’s Christmas season. But we hardly feel the optimism of looking forward to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

    We feel pressured. Parties to attend (some good, but always something else). The same old tired seasonal music, which would be good, but we hear 24/7 it seems on every radio and in every store–especially the stores. Expectations of others for presents. How we must be nice to everyone–especially certain everyone’s.

    The most important next step toward having and living wisdom is to realize there is only one variable we can control in all this mess.

    That would be us.

    We can choose to wallow in our role as Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Grinch.

    Or like they did in their stories, we can choose to change our story. Pick a new outlook on life. We can choose to enjoy people, or at least avoid those who seem to go out of their way to annoy us.

    Realizing that we can be the change is the next step to wisdom.

    I Have Feelings, I Am Not Those Feelings

    December 5, 2019

    Yesterday I talked a bit about Advent. That is in the Church Calendar. It’s for “Church People”.

    For most of us, it is “Christmas Season.”

    With the season, come rushes of emotions.

    Melancholy for past experiences.

    Acute feelings of loss of family members.

    Repressed anger for long-simmering family issues.

    Depression (not clinical, or maybe) because everyone else seems to be enjoying the season (they are probably faking it).

    We must dissociate those feelings from our being as individuals. We have feelings, we are not that feeling. We can observe them. Play with them. Pause and breathe mindfully.

    We’ll survive the family gatherings, the business gatherings, the gatherings of friends, too much cakes and candies, worries of buying the wrong presents.

    Real people, those without some sort of happy facade, have fears, and struggles, and doubts, and then also joy, and happiness, and peace. We actually can choose once we recognize where we are.

    Take a deep breath. Pause. Choose to focus on the good parts.


    December 4, 2019

    Advent began Sunday.

    It’s not something we practiced while I was growing up, nor one I’ve practiced since marriage.

    Some think that it is related to Christmas. But, that is a relatively recent linkage in the history of the Christian church.

    Some think Advent was practiced by the 5th Century (400s) as a time of fasting and preparation for baptisms on the Feast of Epiphany.

    Some think that advent (the word comes from the Latin which is a translation of the Greek for coming) related (or relates?) to the second coming of Jesus when he’ll judge the world.

    Looks like it was a time of recognition of God entering the world whatever the theology of the times called for.

    The Celebration of Christ’s Birth (Christmas) is such an ingrained cultural phenomenon globally (even among people not wishing to be called Christian or even Jesus-followers) that Advent necessarily is tied to it today. Until a time when all that changes.

    For me–my wife takes great joy in decorating the house in celebration of Christmas. I’m writing this staring at an accumulation of mugs once filled with mulled wine or hot chocolate from Chicago’s Christkindlmarket that come out every year with the addition of the latest one acquired on “Black Friday.”

    So when I rise from sleep and go downstairs to read, meditate, and pray, I turn on the Christmas tree lights and meditate on the coming of Jesus into the world. I guess that is preparation for the coming.

    Having Skin In The Game

    December 3, 2019

    That means we are risking something by doing something or advising something.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb advises in his latest book, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, that we should beware of advice from financial planners, consultants, and others who do not have skin in the game where they are advising.

    How many people do you know who profess to be Christian (or, for that matter Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist) yet when you look at their life you cannot differentiate it from the life of a pagan or anyone else?

    That is why only part of the Spiritual Disciplines address inner work.

    And only part address gathering with other, like-minded souls.

    Part addresses having “skin in the game”, that is, getting up off your (butt) and serving someone–or many someones.

    The work need not be publicized. However, over time people will reflect “there is a person who actually acts like someone who is spiritually in tune with God”. Or, “she is a genuinely nice person”. Or, “they have skin in the game”.

    Doing, not just saying, puts skin in the game.

    [Oh, I don’t recommend the book unless you’re interested in the mathematics of probability or are into philosophical discussions. If you are, read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable first.]


    December 2, 2019

    In the realm of the soul–walking with God, living the with-God life.

    In the realm of the individual–virtue, don’t do to others that which you don’t want them to do to you.

    In the realm of the social, of the groups of people–justice, construct laws that provide for the greatest justice for the greatest number, aka “Liberty and Justice for all”. Neither the “it’s all about me” or the cynical “reward my friends”.

    Black Friday

    November 29, 2019

    It seems there is no escaping Black Friday.

    The emails began on Wednesday, trickled through yesterday (Thanksgiving), and hit in full force this morning.

    It is the Friday after Thanksgiving and the official start of Christmas shopping (buying) season. Thanksgiving is a US holiday (on this date anyway). Yet, my messages have come from Europe as well as the US. Perhaps even Asia.

    First up this morning was a message from the Polish developers of my “Getting Things Done” app offering four free months with a one-year renewal for Black Friday. I’ve had messages from France, Germany, and the UK. Maybe more.

    I know that retail is a tough business. Unless you’re WalMart, you’re not making large amounts of profits. Business plans are often built around a spike in sales in December.

    Consumer buying supports the country’s economy. It enables worldwide manufacturing and distribution jobs.

    It is your patriotic duty in many countries to buy.

    This all conflicts with my natural inclination toward the spiritual discipline of simplicity. Although, giving is also a spiritual gift. But, how much must we give for Christmas? And there is financial discipline. Don’t spend more than you have.

    We began our Christmas season with the annual watching of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Let the holiday music begin…

    Thank You

    November 28, 2019

    In America, today’s Thanksgiving.

    If only for one day, pause and thank someone for something.

    If for no other reason than it is beneficial for your own physical and mental health.

    Thank you for following.


    November 27, 2019

    My mom was Midwestern traditionalist all the way through. Holidays were to be celebrated according to tradition on the appointed day.

    To my wife, the second time she does something–say visit the Christkindlmarkt in downtown Chicago on “Black Friday”–becomes a tradition.

    Many countries now celebrate some form of Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is the day in the US. Most of the people of the country will be traveling today.

    We celebrate on a day called Thanksgiving thanks originally to a woman who wrote letters to the Presidents for 40 years pleading for a day observing Thanks. Abraham Lincoln looking for a symbol of unity for a divided nation (think it’s bad now, try living in the 1850s and 1860s) proclaimed a holiday for Thanksgiving.

    But it soon became a commercial holiday as retailers jumped on a way to promote sales. By the late 1930s, it was so well known as a commercial holiday that Franklin Roosevelt tried to move it up a week to get people in the buying mood earlier to help spend us out of the Great Depression. But tradition said, leave it alone.

    Tradition and Commerce. The foundation and structure of the holiday.

    We don’t have to wait for one day a year to offer gratitude. It is a spiritual discipline. I have a recurring “to do” in my app that pops up every week that reminds me to slow down for a moment and reflect on everything for which I am, or should be, grateful.

    It’s too bad I need the reminder.